Name: David Jarrín-Zabala and Roxane Métayer
Nationality: Ecuadorian / French
Occupation: David is a musician / Roxane is a multi disciplinary artist and musician
Current Release: Paume de pierre on Vlek
Recommendations: David: La Maldición del Practicismo (The Curse of Practicalism) by Rudolf Rocker and Lemarrcootya (Grey Thrush) by Ron Nagorcka / Roxane: Le Tempestaire by Jean Epstein, 1947 and The Book of Days by Meredith Monk, 1990
To listen and buy the music of Sage Alyte, visit their Bandcamp page.
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?
Roxane: I wanted to learn the violin when I was a child. I do not remember why I chose this instrument. I took lessons in my village, and afterwards wanted to go further and studied at the conservatory. Then I had a long break with the violin until I started making music again by creating soundtracks for my films about six years ago.
Singing with my family was commonplace. My father often listened to music, and it was often his music that lingered in the car. On our journeys, we would sing along to the tracks that he played. Music is for me, I think, among other reasons, connected to movement, to something aerial, to physical and mental travel. And at the same time, it has a very strong connection with a feeling of security, since the songs we have in our memory can summon up a kind of reassuring mental space. Also, by singing with my father and sister, we could bond, the music functioned as some kind of a coagulant.
David: I do not have a clear memory of when and how I started making music. I remember certain moments of my childhood games accompanying myself with imaginary epic soundtracks or inventing silly songs that I would sing for hours and made me laugh. I come from a very literary household so my relationship with music stems also from spoken word. My mother was a radio journalist and had this soothing velvety voice with sudden dramatic intonations. She used to read me a lot of fairy tales, which made me very conscious of the musicality of language pretty early. At 12, I wrote short stories and poetry and read myself out loud and looked for strange and unexpected consonances. At the same time, I became an avid record collector and got really obsessed with all kinds of music. I thought that I would never be able to play an instrument decently, that I could only touch the realm of music through literature even though I used to daydream about concerts, imaginary bands, and tunes. That was the beginning: a slow metamorphosis from writing to music making, which finally came to my life when I was 22 or 23 with very basic computer software and plastic toys.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. 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?
David: I see my artistic work as the result of a cyclical process of sowing and harvesting. I am constantly tending to the field in one way or another. The question of achieving a personal voice seems to me very foreign. I think that my identity precedes everything I do and cannot be sought or refined because it was never lost or altered. In a way, my solo work as Disposición Asoleada and my collaborations are all part of one ecosystem with intertwined cycles where the games of mirroring, mimicking, and learning all bear fruit. To me originality and authenticity are very problematic concepts that require permanent redefinition and are impossible to grasp. In a nightmarish world where universal consciousness would be programed by a supercomputer, that machine will have to define those ideas every second. And even then, a rebellious poet will shatter that modelled edifice into pieces with a combination of three or four words of unexpected and innocent beauty.
Roxane: At the conservatory, I learned to decipher classical music scores, as well as some contemporary music. As a teenager, I had a penchant for Irish dances. So, my violin teacher moved away from the academic programme for a while and we worked on some scores that could be played on two violins. My parents listened to bands that sounded medieval as well as other more New Wave bands (like Dead Can Dance or Klaus Nomi). These influences came out at first unconsciously, but when I listened again to these somewhat forgotten bands, I realised that they appeared in touches and fragments in my own playing sessions.
I then detached myself from interpreted music, scores, and lessons, and began to improvise and felt more at ease with this form of expression. At first, I kept a concern for harmony that undoubtedly came from my classical training, then I went on to explore more dissonant and arrhythmic melodies and sounds.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Roxane: As a solo artist my music was first linked to film making. It was important that it did not overwhelm the image. Both had to dialogue in a balanced way. I had to find a harmony that did not overplay what was happening on the screen, while avoiding any hierarchy between each medium. Then I started to play by detaching myself from video, but the link to space (the places where I shot my videos) was somehow maintained as I wanted to create environments through sound and melodies.
With David, learning to communicate with our instruments was done instinctively. Oral communication and our understanding was already fluid. I had a great affinity with the banjo. The violin and the banjo can evoke certain musical genres, but during our improvisations it seemed to me that we escaped from what is usually expected of our instruments. We came up with a very clear and simple working method, moving from improvisation to writing systems which enabled us to replay the main themes of our discoveries.
David: I agree with Roxane. We understood each other instantly and instinctively and immediately created a very fluid dynamic of improvisation and composition. Our first challenges were more related to little gear issues. For instance, we worked with one amplifier, instead of two, or we did not have enough cables at one moment and we had to borrow them. With time, we evolved into a very fluent creative unit. We worked fast and felt really happy with it. In my own work, my challenges were related to the access of proper gear for recording. At the very first stages, I was very poor and recorded everything on cassette. It took me a lot of time to have a decent computer or an amplifier for my guitar and field recordings. I am slowly mutating from a lo-fi musician to something else.
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?
David: My studio has always been the space between my bed and the living room with instruments popping up everywhere. At first, I had lots of plastic toys, a guitar with 3 strings and an old computer to edit and record everything. My set up evolved following my interest in different ethnic traditions and electronic music. I have become a collector of weird flutes, whistles, bells, percussions, and stringed instruments. My most cherished pieces of equipment are my hands. I have the habit of looking for interesting sounds everywhere. I am always tapping on stuff with my fingers or with my long nails and sometimes record all that absent-minded racket with my phone.
Roxane: My studio is most often set up in my bedroom, notably because I need privacy, to be alone. At best, not to be heard by anyone so that I can immerse myself.
The most important element of my set-up is of course my violin. Then comes my zoom recorder, the first "machine" piece that allowed me to record melodic fragments on the violin and other instruments such as flutes, small instruments found in flea markets or during travels. It allowed me to record the forests sounds and other environments, which are an integral part of my compositions.
Later came the effects and my looper. It was first with the Sage Alyte set-up that I was able to acquaintance myself with certain effects pedals. Before that, I used my video editing software, Adobe Premier, to work on my music. Actually, my first solo tape was mixed with it.
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?
Roxane: I use equipment in different ways, for live and for composition. The live set is more spontaneous, more fluid, while the composition is done through an infinite number of collages of tracks and recorded improvisations. I am less inside the music at that moment, but rather situated outside to orchestrate the whole thing.
Machines such as the looper, the mixing desk and the effects allow me to play alone, live, to multiply myself. Computer editing is almost a practice in its own right. The idea, for each of the two practices, is to be able to make the sound circulate physically, to create a distortion of space-time, to make it come back closer to you, through a more acoustic sound for example.
David: I use conventional modern technology to make music for myself and my collaborative projects. I perceive all this equipment as extensions of my body, and sometimes, my body can feel external to itself. So, what I look for is the fusion of all these elements in one single being like the archer that must bond completely with his bow and arrow to make the perfect shot. Artists and their tools cannot be understood apart from each other. They exist as a web of connections, a very close one sometimes, but always in relationship to one another. It is very difficult to split them and say who is better in doing what.
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?
David: I see my work as a process that exists in a living environment. Technology and instruments are a part of it along with my mental and physical condition, the books I read, the records I listen to, etc. My creative endeavour happens in the interaction of these elements. There is even a ritual aspect that precedes the construction of these bridges. I must enter in a mild meditative state to be open to the accidental, serendipitous influences that might come from my tools, but not exclusively.
Roxane: I draw my inspiration from the things that touch me and that I come across by chance. These are the sort of visions that nourish my work. They can be in very different places. I isolate them, transform them, pick small fragments, and capture details to create a whole that will exist in the space of a composition. These fragments drawn from the outside world (different types of environments, fauna, flora, sounds, voices, readings, words, moments) are tools that I consciously use in my work. They come to mingle and connect with things that no longer have a determined origin in myself and resonate with parts and features of my creations that are more obscure and appear without a precise explanation.
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?
Roxane: I see collaborations as real dialogues that take place in the dimension of play, in the sense of playing a game, even if these games can be very serious and profound because they keep a very strong link with our sensations and what we experience. Collaborations sharpen the way we listen and are very enriching, because we discover the expression, the language, and the methods of someone else, and allow us to get to know hidden parts of ourselves. And if they are done through improvisation, I see them as spaces where stories can be told by several voices.
David: I love collaborating with people and my process does not change very much between my solo or collective projects. Of course, every relationship has its own rhythms, cycles, and methods. What counts for me is the emotional ties they create. Mirroring: by knowing someone, I discover myself. In the case of Sage Alyte, we used to hang out together a lot, talking and playing. Our music came about naturally from our interaction.