Name: Kamran Arashnia
Occupation: Producer, sound artist
Nationality: Iranian
Recent release: Kamran Arashnia's Bounds Elimination is out via Flaming Pines.
Recommendations on the topic of sound: There should be many choices out there, but from my own experience I can recommend Music, An Appreciation by Roger Kamien for building a strong general understanding of music and its history.
Also, Techniques of the contemporary composer by David Cope for compositional techniques. David Cope is one of the writers with whom you can safely pick up any of his books without being disappointed.

If you enjoyed these thoughts by Kamran Arashnia and would like to find out more about his work, visit him 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 father, an orthopedic surgeon by trade, was a very good amateur Santur player. He also knew how to play a few other traditional instruments like Setar. I always saw the presence of the instrument in the house, but I'm not sure that was the main reason for my attraction to music.

My interest in music started in high school listening to hard rock and pop music. I hardly could find cassette tapes those years. Living in an isolated country with the rule of theocracy، I would do anything to lay my hands on cassettes of Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Nirvana, Megadeth and many more bands and listening to them thousands of times. Later came CDs and then I started downloading from early music services like AudioGalaxy with dial-up pace. (not sure if it was a legal platform) I was fascinated by the electric guitar, but I still didn't believe that I could own one.

This goes back to the last years of high school. Unlike many others who somehow grow up playing instruments since their childhood, I was about sixteen years old when I heard the A Minor chord and then realized it was different from the A Major on a friend’s guitar, I was like yes I love this.

And exactly the next day I bought a guitar and since then I have been involved with sound and music almost every day of my life.

Which artists, approaches, albums or performances using sound in an unusual or remarkable way captured your imagination in the beginning?

If I want to talk about the beginning, there is not much to say except that I was a teenager listening to hard rock and I had a lot of dreams in my head and I achieved almost none of them. (laughs)

Along the way, I gradually got to know different styles, leading movements and auteur artists, new horizons opened up in front of me. This was the result of curiosity and eagerness to know more and more and of the friendships I had in those days.

In short, this was the time that I jumped right into the new world of music with many wonderful composers and artists, from Terry Riley, Wendy Carlos, Philip Glass, John Adams, Steve Reich to Aphex Twin, Boards Of Canada, Autechre, video Artist Chris Cunninghum and Matthew Barney and many more …

A few people played an effective role and the most important one is Mohammad (Max) Pazhutan. His vast knowledge of music made me able to realize new dimensions in music. Attending some of his classes helped me to get a basic understanding of the music production tools in those days (Guitar Pro - Ableton Live 5, Reason 4, Max/Msp, Pure Data, SuperCollider and more).

What's your take on how your upbringing and cultural surrounding have influenced your sonic preferences?

Of course it had an impact, but completely indirectly and even inversely. I am living in a country that is unconstructively involved in culture and its cultural elements are mixed with politics, affecting the lives of individuals.This caused me to distance my work more and more from the geography where I lived and as a result, it does not sound similar to the traditional music from the culture I was in.

In addition, I grew up in an educated family. My mother knew the pop and rock music of the 60s, 70s and 80s very well, and this was another reason for me to think beyond the geography I am in. I owe her for this.

Working predominantly with field recordings and sound can be an incisive step / transition. Aside from musical considerations, there can also be personal motivations for looking for alternatives. Was this the case for you, and if so, in which way?

True, music is not necessarily a combination of common instruments to reach a standard production. Listening to silence for 4 minutes and 33 seconds is an experience of a musical performance, the sound of the construction of a building, listening to the sound of birds, the sound of a waterfall or water stream, the sound of an engine or a dying light bulb, all and all are sources of music that fortunately can be recorded and heard many times.

These forms and combinations are always unique and inspire the creation of innovative pieces.

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?

Over time and by listening to unique pieces from famous composers and musicians, I always wanted to remain a music listener and just enjoy, because in the best scenario I could only make a copy of their original experience with music.

So I moved more towards creating sound spaces. A kind of painting which uses sounds and frequencies instead of paint on the canvas. Some sort of story telling with sound, or building a structure with the materials of sound.

On “The Field” I tried to create the architecture of the concept and in the second track I tried to create the moment of “I’ll meet you there”. Both are early examples of what I meant by story telling by sound, or creating the space with sound.

Also in “Bounds Eliminations”, what I was looking to do was audio-dramatizing the definition of ‘Error’ using the titles of most common errors in the computer world.

What are the sounds that you find yourself most drawn to? Are there sounds you reject – if so, for what reasons?

The more sustain and continuity the sound has, the more I like it. Because it is more likely that there are textures in such sounds that contain musical characteristics. There is music hidden in the sound of water steam, boiling water and burning firewood، Attractive forms and different frequency ranges that we can better hear and analyze when we record them.

I don't think there’s a sound that I reject other than the starting sound of the MacOS when you turn it on. (laughs)

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?

Back in 2006, we used to have a rock band with my friends in which I was the guitarist and co-song writer, and the only thing I used the computer for was writing the guitar tabs related to the band's songs, using the Guitarpro software.

Later, when I was in America, I bought a fender Stratocaster and a Motu Ultralite interface which was the first generation of the Line, and I was using them with my desktop PC running Windows XP and the DAW I was using at that time was Cakewalk Sonar alongside Reason 4.

In recent years, I have continued to use this set-up, which includes a computer, a sound card, and my guitar. I've merely added a couple of microphones and changed my computer to a Macbook Pro. Needless to say I have had a Beyerdynamic dt-770 pro headphones since 2008 and I still enjoy using it for both listening and production.

Where do you find the sounds you're working with? How do you collect and organise them?

There is no specific path and everything depends on the project I am working on at that moment. Sometimes I'll start with default presets, then I keep working on that simple sound to reach what I really want to hear. At other times, I'll use my recorder to capture a sound that is almost perfect for the final production.

I can say that sometimes I converted a snare drum sound to an atmospheric pad sound and I was completely satisfied with the result. These kind of experimentations to a source of sound are much important to me than where the sound came from. The final result matters.

From the point of view of your creative process, how do you work with sounds? Can you take me through your process on the basis of a project or album that's particularly dear to you?

These days, I prefer to always have Ableton open in front of me like a white painting canvas, and having some sound sources available in the corner like the colors used in a painting. So my working process is similar to a painter who wants to start painting.

One point is that Ableton can give you this possibility to work with sounds as you work on a sketch book.

I love the process of working on the audio files, using hundreds of cuts and fades to reach the smoothness that I’m looking for, and then using the equalizer to polish the final sound. It takes up almost 90 percent of the process each time I start a project.

The possibilities of modern production tools have allowed artists to realise ever more refined or extreme sounds. Is there a sound you would personally like to create but haven't been able to yet?

More than the sound itself, I can say that there are forms of compositions that I like to experience. And the sound is an inseparable part of these experiences.

But in general, I try to work with ‘possibles’ and make the most of my abilities at the moment.

How do you see the relationship between sound, space and composition?

Architecture is building in place, and music is architecture in time, the material of which is the presence and absence of ‘sound’.

Sound in its basic definition is a physical vibration that needs space to unfold and modulate depending on the material of that space. So it is very hard to  separate acoustic experiences from spatial ones.

Composition is the order (and disorder) of the arrangement of materials that you have.

The idea of acoustic ecology has drawn a lot of attention to the question of how much we are affected by the sound surrounding us. What's your take on this and on acoustic ecology as a movement in general?

I think it is very interesting when mankind decides to get deeper into a subject for understanding more and revealing unknown dimensions. Acoustic Ecology is one of those interesting topics.

From the ‘noise’ itself that is a by-product of urbanization and development of human society, to ‘soundscape’ that is made up of geophony and biophony of a particular environment and is subject to change over time.

Acoustic Ecologists are kind of sound artists who aim to find complex relationships inside this broad topic. I would love to see where they’re going to lead us in the future.

We can listen to a pop song or open our window and simply take in the noises of the environment. Without going into the semantics of 'music vs field recordings', in which way are these experiences different and / or connected, do you feel?

I’d love to practice listening and try to get better at it day by day. For this reason, I believe that taking in the surrounding noises brings a unique experience than listening to a pop music, although listening to your favorite music is also enjoyable.

I personally prefer to discover hidden patterns and deeper non-obvious rhythms by listening to the sound of my environment and also enjoying the meditative aspect of such an exercise.