Name: Native Instrument
Members: Felicity Mangan, Stine Janvin Motland
Nationality: Australian, Norwegian
Occupation: Producers, Field Recorders, Improvisers
Current Release: Cameo on Shelter Press
Recommendations: The lyrebird. “Give us a poem” by Glenn Ligon.
Website/ Contact: If you enjoyed this interview with Native Instrument, visit their duo website for further information. Stine Janvin Motland also has a personal website, as does Felicity Mangan.
When did you start playing your instrument, and what or who were your early passions or influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Felicity: I am mainly using an archive of found Australian animal sounds l collected several years ago. I found that these sounds referred to electronic or computer music I was listening to, through the sound textures and pitches the animals make. Since there are so many native Australian animals, I was instantly provided with an extensive vocabulary of sounds to work with.
Stine: I have been singing for as long as I can remember, but I got interested in extended vocal techniques when I started listening to experimental music in my late teens, and this was also when I decided I wanted to be a musician.
I got into noise and improvised music and was fascinated by the way instrumentalists would play their instruments in the “wrong” way, and how this would create new and unexpected sounds that could not longer be associated with the original instrument. These ideas of breaking the rules and dislocating sounds from it’s source is very much connected to the way we make music as Native Instrument.
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 the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
F: I am ‘borrowing’ the voice of animals and reshaping the sounds to be able to create my own ‘voice’ to work with Stine’s vocabulary. We make a lot of references in our music, for example we have been playing with the idea of ‘bug beats’ by referring to techno like patterns by taking samples from the animal sounds then constructing beats.
S: I think imitation is a very important tool for development. Everything we perceive influences our choices. Of course, what we do as artists or musicians is to re-shape the material we imitate, so it identifies as something that is slightly or completely different from what inspired us.
What were some of your main artistic challenges when starting out as an artist and in which way have they changed over the years?
S: We started playing together as Native Instrument in 2014, so our story is still relatively short, so I’m not sure if we had any major artistic challenges yet. If anything, it could be our different educational backgrounds, and how I as a trained musician and Felicity as a trained visual artist, sometimes speak different languages.
Tell me about your instrument, please. How would you describe the relationship with it? What are its most important qualities and how do they influence the musical results – and possibly even your own performance?
F: Using a sampler in Native Instrument has allowed me the easiest way to improvise and shape my sounds in real time.
S: The voice is a very loaded instrument, so I always tried to have a technical and non-theatrical approach to it. In a way, you can say that I try to detach myself from it. I started working with the sampler when we started Native Instrument cause I wanted something to accompany my live voice sounds with, and to be able to use my voice more sparsely. The sampler has become my second voice.
Derek Bailey defined improvising as the search for material which is endlessly transformable. Regardless of whether or not you agree with his perspective, what kind of materials have turned to be particularly transformable and stimulating for you?
F: Ah yeah, I can totally agree with that. The animal sounds presents material that can be transformed over and over.
S: Sure, there are infinite possibilities, and it can be so thrilling to play along with your intuition. I don’t think I have a particular favorite material, in general. I just like to make sounds that sound like something else.
How is playing live in front of an audience and 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?
F: I am interested in how as we can improvise within our semi-structured tracks, while adapting them to the space.
S: Yeah, the time we spend preparing in the studio, enables us to dance around the material when we play live, and the live situation gives inspiration to further development.
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?
F: I also work as an Art teacher in an International school in Berlin. I often insert sound art lessons into the curriculum, like field recording workshops and prepared record projects. Children are very free with how they talk and make associations to art, this is very inspiring and enlightening.
S: I just roll around in bed all day.
Could you take me through the process of improvisation on the basis of one of your performances 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?
S: It’s hard to pick one specific performance, but the excitement of presenting new material always brings this extra tension, and the best thing is when we manage to cut loose from the planned structure without losing tightness and direction. It might start with a recorded jam in the studio, go through a process of editing and then taking it back into the studio to rehearse it before we include it in our live set.