Name: Moshe Fisher-Rozenberg
Occupations: Drummer, synthesist, producer
Current Release: Memory Pearl's Music For 7 Paintings is out via Atlin Village.
Recommendations: I recommend the following 7 paintings:
Natural Answer, 1976 (Helen Frankenthaler)
Number 28, 1950 (Jackson Pollock)
Untitled #17, 1958 (Robert Ryman)
Untitled, 1948 (Lee Krasner)
Sunflower, 1969 (Joan Mitchell)
Red And Brown Scene, 1961 (Helen Frankenthaler)
Cupola, 1958-1960 (Franz Kline)
If you enjoyed this interview with Memory Pearl, visit his bandcamp store for more music. Or head over to the website of Absolutely Free, Moshe's main band.
[Read our Absolutely Free interview]
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I wrote my first song at the age of 8. It was called “the real world” and I wrote it in the style of Aerosmith … in my young mind I was actually writing it for them (to use someday).
I started playing drums in bands when I was 13 - lots of metal, post-rock, and high-angst music fuelled me at that age. Probably most relevant is when I started experimenting with recordings at 17. I’d mic up half-broken instruments acquired from thrift shops - like old organs and casios. Those days I was pretty obsessed with Talking Heads, Optiganally Yours, Eno, Devo.
For most artists, originality is 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?
I think that emulation is a fine place to build from, but at a certain point you should allow yourself to get lost in the creative process …which hopefully leads you to drift toward yourself.
Drawing from other artists can be helpful in terms of placing your own work within an aesthetic language - but anything more overt is awkward.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
It permeates, but I don’t have words beyond that.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
In the early days, my output didn’t match my intentions. I’d set out to create something weird and beautiful, and it would end up sounding damaged and a bit spooky or something. That disconnect is actually pretty cool in a way, but lately I’ve been able to make music that better matches my musical intentions. I suppose self-awareness was a bigger hurdle in younger days.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
When I started recording, I used a digital 8 track recorder and a simple microphone. It was a pretty cumbersome process and I never fully got comfortable with it - but at that age, it was just cool to listen back to layers of sound. I’m not much of a gearhead – I think excessive gear acquisition can be distracting, can exploit creative insecurities, and just plays into capitalist ideals that are gross.
That said, I do have lots of hardware instruments and synths that empower me to create with confidence. Software is also just awesome now that I’m living in a tiny home.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
DAWs. Over the last 20 years, I migrated from Audacity to Pro Tools to Ableton. I’m a pretty private and patient creative, so having the ability to explore and experiment outside of a formal studio has been huge for me.
I write a lot of music in a band context, which has that jamming in a garage type of workflow - and I like the simplicity and limitations of that workflow. But I’m a pretty patient and decisive person, so I really embrace the endless possibilities of using DAWs to write and refine.
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?
This Memory Pearl record is my first substantial solo work. I mostly identify as a collaborator though – the bulk of my musical output has been collaborating with bands or as a session musician.
For collabs, I like starting out together (in a room), then taking those ideas to my home studio so I can tinker at my own pace, and then bringing those ideas back to the rehersal room. That is my ideal. The talking element can be cool for establishing certain directions, but semantics can also cause a lot of unecessary tension.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. 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?
For years I juggled a straight job with a modest career in music. That worked for a decade, but eventually burned me out. These days I balance writing and recording with a career as a music therapist.
A typical day = wake up, prep a pot of chamomile / lavender tea, blend a smoothie, meditate for 15 – 25 minutes, head out, facilitate music therapy for 3 – 8 hours, return home and look at the time.
What remains of the day will either be spent jamming with my band (Absolutely Free), chipping away at a recording project, or reviewing scraps of recordings and making notes. That’s the general vibe in pandemic times.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
Music for 7 Paintings. I held onto the album concept for years until I felt I had the resources to realize it. The idea was to pay homage to powerful paintings, while allowing space for my own creative / emotional responses to the experience of these works. Visiting art galleries, journalling, and taking a few years to creatively tinker culminated in a body of work that I can stand behind. It’s an accurate snapshot of where my head is @.
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’s just about setting aside the time … If I poke around creatively for long enough, I always get there.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
As a music therapist, there is a lot I can say about this – but I will keep it simple. We so naturally use music therapeutically: to validate how we’re feeling (e.g. sad songs for sad times), to augment how we’re feeling (e.g. happy songs for sad times), to increase our energy, to relax, etc.
Anxieties are off the charts at the moment, I think music for pause, reflection, relaxation, escapism may do some good.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
Have conversations, be respectful, ask questions.
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?
For me, visual art inspires sound. When I resonate with a painting or scultpure, my mind automatically translates images to sound.
The first time I saw Helen Frankenthaler’s Red and Brown Scene, I heard a symphony of textures: an ashy element sounded a soft, noisy backdrop; bold use of red sounded dissonance and alarm; and black brushstrokes added simple harmony and panning. Just as art inspires arts, I find that one sense can inspire another.
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?
I like to create evocative and abstract work that leaves a lot of room for the listener to project their unique perspectives and experiences. I have my intentions, but once music is released into the wild – I’m happiest when people create their own associations.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
For me, it is the most soothing modality – but others may find their greatest comforts in words, sculptures, dance, etc.