Name: Christopher Hoffman
Occupation: Father, sound & light manipulator
Bands & Projects: Company of Selves, Silver Cord Quintet, Henry Threadgill & Pale Horse
Labels: Hundred Pockets Records
Musical Recommendations: Robert Gomez & Christina Courtin
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences?
At the behest of my parents, I wrote a piece for piano when I was in 3rd grade for an arts competition. I had already been playing cello for 3 years and spent a lot of time with the Fisher Price turntable listening to 45s of the Beach Boys, Henry Mancini, Elvis, George Carlin and my parent’s vinyl collection. The early passion came from wanting to play drums like my older brother and father.
What do you personally consider to be the incisive moments in your artistic work and/or career?
Hearing the recordings of John Coltrane, John Zorn, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Radiohead, my brother Ian, Fantomas and playing with Henry Threadgill. I feel like I’ve had many incisive moments and I’m sure there are more to come.
What are currently your main compositional- and production-challenges?
Making music that I think is great after repeated listens and worthy of sharing with my friends. It requires both the writing and the production of the recording. There is so much to learn there and it is always changing.
What do you usually start with when working on a new piece?
It could be an ensemble, an image, a phrase, a set of intervals, a rhythmic pattern or the search for a sound.
How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
I think the term improvise is misused a lot. What is commonly accepted to mean improvise is not really improvising. There are structural, tonal and rhythmic differences between a rehearsed ensemble playing a piece of notated music and an ensemble of people playing together who have never met before that performance. However, all of those “improvisers” have developed a lexicon of sounds, structures and gestures that are hardly improvised. I think the term play or make is preferable to improvise. It’s all about choices and you make them when improvising and composing. Composing is committing to your choices.
How do you see the relationship between sound, space and composition?
It’s a challenging relationship. There is always an ideal space for a sound. It can be quite elusive at times. When you realize that you are in the right space for the right sound, it’s very gratifying.
Do you feel it important that an audience is able to deduct the processes and ideas behind a work purely on the basis of the music? If so, how do you make them transparent?
Sometimes. If I want the audience to know something, I tell it to them … with words. They still might not understand.
In how much, do you feel, are creative decisions shaped by cultural differences – and in how much, vice versa, is the perception of sound influenced by cultural differences?
I think culture influences everything and it is impossible to distinguish between influencing and being influenced by culture.