Name: Maria Teriaeva
Occupation: Producer, sound artist
Current Release: Conservatory of Flowers on Hidden Harmony Recordings
Recommendations: MT: Alone in the Ocean: by Slava Kurilov; Sergei Prokofiev – Peter and the Wolf
If you enjoyed this interview with Maria Teriaeva, visit her website or Facebook profile for everything you ever wanted to know about her and her music.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What is it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
My first musical instrument was a guitar. I was obsessed with the idea of gathering a real rock band in school. My small homeland is a Siberian city in the middle of Russia, so for a start I just dreamed of holding a real electric guitar in my hands.
While I was learning to play the acoustic, the electric guitar was the dream of my life. I was fascinated by rock bands. During my first year of university, I finally got a band and was responsible for writing music on the guitar.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
Yes, of course, that was the case with me too. Learning to play guitar, we would play other people's songs, analyse harmonies, (finger)pick melodies. But I remember from the very beginning that I was more interested in composing, and less interested in the technique or copying someone’s style. It was more about finding sound combinations. I think this phase is perfectly acceptable. For me, finding your voice is also related to self-confidence.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
From the moment I started as a guitarist in a band, the creative process and work was collective. Everyone in the group was responsible for their own instrument and the general decision regarding the arrangements. At that time, it was a convenient form of cooperation, when no one had enough knowledge to make a musical composition on their own.
Over time, this form of creativity became not that interesting for me; besides when I switched to the Buchla synthesizer I had enough knowledge to make music on my own. Nevertheless it was difficult, unusual, and yet much more natural.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
What I can call my music studio, I got it 4 years ago, and the Buchla system immediately became its center. Until that moment, I did not have my own studio.
The Buchla is very self-sufficient - I only need a computer, speakers, a sound card and the Buchla, so all my studio expansions are connected with the replenishment of the system. Sometimes I also resort to recording electric guitars, because I have enough equipment left from my previous guitar life.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
For me, of course, the height of technological and engineering sophistication is the Buchla system I’ve been working with for the past 4 years. Studying this instrument inspires me; there are a lot of opportunities and a lot of space for creativity. I also follow other developments, communicate with engineers, and whenever it is possible introduce the new things I like into my musical ecosystem.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
The Buchla system is a smart instrument. To start extracting sound from it, you need to make an effort, such as to patch it - and this is equally part of the creative process. I also need some time and certain tuning to this instrument, something like meditation, or deep immersion.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
All forms of collaboration are acceptable if you are dealing with people you want to work with. I have a wonderful collaboration experience with producer and friend Sapphire Slows from Japan, who recently switched to the Buchla as well. Once we even played a concert together in Moscow with the support of Red Bull Music. We are currently working on new material. We’ve had jams, and as a remote form of collaboration we are exchanging files. The main thing is to have desire and inspiration.
I also had an interesting experience working with drummer Alex Zinger where the main focus was on technical connection to synchronise, as well as on working with timbres. In that case, a jam was the only possible format.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I like morning and breakfast, this is the most productive part of the day for me. Every morning I try to approach the instrument in order to make a catchy sketch, and then work on it during the day. When this happens, I'm a happy person.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
My process is partially visualised in my latest SØS video: from the moment when you get carried away and soar somewhere until the moment you recollect yourself 6 hours later.
Every composition begins with improvisation, the basis of my songs is 30-100% improvisation, I like to record music in one go, without having to edit it later on the computer.
But I've tried other approaches. For example, the track "Conjury": Its rhythmic structure, bass, effects – they were made with the Buchla then later compiled in Logic. Separately I composed parts for saxophone, trumpet and cello, because the Buchla has a nice acoustic sound friendly to the wind and string instruments.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
For me it is being surrounded by nature in the Summer - it is always a productive combination. But I also noticed that deadlines, or a sudden idea that needs to be implemented right away, just as easily can put me into that state.
How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
I have a rule to start each concert with improvisation and plan it in accordance with the place and the environment. Places can be really unexpected, I’ve got to play both in the church in the Russian village and at the opening of the artist's exhibition in Tokyo.
How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?
The sound itself is paramount for me, I spend a lot of time behind the instrument in search of that very timbre, only after that I proceed to work on the composition. It was the sound of the Buchla that became an incredible discovery for me and still remains the richest timbrally, despite the fact that it is an electronic instrument.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
I’m just now experimenting with the sense of smell; we often associate time, place, or situation with it. So I had the idea to involve an olfactory artist to work on my new album Conservatory of Flowers. My friend, olfactory artist Neumann, created a special scent, and we are going to include incense paper sheets with the limited vinyl edition - a person can light those sheets up while listening to the record and experience one more sensation.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
Perhaps it sounds trite/corny, but this is my means of expression, my means of communication with the world in another language, through the language of music. I think that I need this first of all for myself, something like therapy or balancing.
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21 st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
I’m answering this question while the whole world is caught by this virus pandemic, the world is changing rapidly and in an unpredictable manner, and that will inevitably affect music as well. I dream of a day when music gets more varied.