Name: Halina Rice
Occupation: Producer, sound artist, AV artist
Recent release: Halina Rice's Elision is out via Injazero.
If you enjoyed these thoughts by Halina Rice and would like to find out more about her work, visit her official website. She is also on Instagram, Facebook, twitter, and Soundcloud.
Can you talk a bit about your interest in or fascination for sound? What were early experiences which sparked it?
My most treasured possession as a child was a cassette player. I would record music from the television and radio and see if I could reproduce the chords and melodies on the piano.
I used to use two cassette recorders to effectively ‘tape to tape’ and build up tracks using instruments and improvised percussion.
Which artists, approaches, albums or performances using sound in an unusual or remarkable way captured your imagination in the beginning?
I was hugely inspired by the sounds used by Peter Gabriel on his solo albums - there’s a great South Bank documentary on his production methods in the early 80s. He uses sounds that are unusual and haunting but always musical and interesting.
Also the album Les Mysteres Des Voix Bulgaires by the Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir opened a realm of unusual harmonies and their movement from dissonance to resolution.
What's your take on how your upbringing and cultural surrounding have influenced your sonic preferences?
I feel I always had two sides to my upbringing - one very structured and straightforward. I studied instruments and music from a classical perspective - but at the same time growing up I leaned towards contemporary art and subcultures sharing books, movies and music which came out of a more alternative scene.
I often find the music I make is described as ‘dark’ even though I feel I’m expressing a lot of optimism and energy.
How would you describe the shift of moving towards music which places the focus foremost on sound, both from your perspective as a listener and a creator?
I think I’ve always had quite a detailed approach to sound and start with this as the focus as well as a process of discovery. So for a track like “FRACTURE” I spent a long time creating chains of effects and then editing down to build up interlocking patterns of sound.
I think there’s definitely a growing demand for music that includes more detail as the quality of sound recording and reproduction increases and with a range of new immersive formats to experience music in.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and working with sound? Do you see yourself as part of a tradition or historic lineage when it comes to your way of working with sound?
I’m definitely inspired by sound that is created alongside art and art installations - so creators such as Ryoji Ikeda, or visual designers that work with sound such as United Visual Artists. So I’d say I am listening closely to the conversation between visual art and sound and how these two disciplines interplay.
The track “HUNTER” is purely percusssive with no real melody and off -beat hits and impacts. It is enhanced when experienced in line with visuals and lights as a multisensory experience.
What are the sounds that you find yourself most drawn to? Are there sounds you reject – if so, for what reasons?
I love sounds that have an organic and yet unplaceable feel to them. There’s a repeating refrain in “HEY” - where I used a granulator to create something that sounds like an acoustic stringed instrument but is unlike anything real. The vocals are also only half-intelligible and I quite like the dream-like quality this creates.
I don’t think there’s a sound I’d reject - it’s more about the context and the way sounds are used.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, from instruments via software tools and recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you personally starting from your first studio/first instruments and equipment? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
I started with acoustic instruments but I always wanted to learn music production software to create a multi-tracked production.
While I was learning how to use the software this also lent itself to a leaning towards electronic music and influences of artists like Max Cooper and Jon Hopkins - so the two paths intertwined to bring me to where I am now and result in beat-driven tracks like “HELIX” and “THIRD”.
[Read our Max Cooper interview]
My set up is very basic really - I can work with just my laptop, virtual instruments and sampled sounds - but will also record in some instrumentation or my vocals to sample.
For live performance I also programme and run a lightshow along with immersive 360 sound so I try to keep my set-up pretty streamlined and focused so the whole show can be presented using just a couple of laptops and controllers.
Where do you find the sounds you're working with? How do you collect and organise them?
I spend a lot of time looking for samples of interesting foley sounds for an organic and atmospheric feel and I also spend time experimenting with virtual and analogue synths to generate interesting sounds. I also resample tracks I make and haven’t used so the resulting audio can be unrecognisable from where I started.
I tend to create sandpit production files where I have keep snippets of sounds that I like - then I start combining them randomly to get inspiration and some will evolve into finished tracks.
“SHALE” was the result of maybe over a hundred unique pieces of sound that I laid out like a collage in Ableton and then gradually shaped into a track.
How do you see the relationship between sound, space and composition?
This has been really important for me in the development of live immersive experiences using L-ISA by L-Acoustics to present events and installations in 360 sound. The notion of having an extended array of speakers around the audience is that you can “dissolve the frontal image” i.e. you can play with how sounds reach people to create an experience that feels more organic, innovative and detailed.
Since last year when I added this component to the live events I'll now start the process of writing with this in mind - thinking about how people will eventually experience the tracks in different formats and settings.
From the concept of Nada Brahma to "In the Beginning was the Word", many spiritual traditions have regarded sound as the basis of the world. Regardless of whether you're taking a scientific or spiritual angle, what is your own take on the idea of a harmony of the spheres and sound as the foundational element of existence?
The relationships of music and harmony to maths and sciences and patterns in nature are pretty awesome and something I know far too little about.
I think I prefer just to feel whatever those relationships are as a natural human resonance and preserve the mystery!