Name: Kristin Oppenheim
Occupation: Sound artist, visual artist
Recent release: Kristin Oppenheim's Voices Fill My Head is out via INFO.
If you enjoyed these thoughts by Kristin Oppenheim and would like to hear more of her work, visit her bandcamp store.
What draws you to the human voice, would you say – and how would you describe your relationship with your own?
Ever since I thought of my self as an artist, I identified my voice as a tool for making art. This awareness first came around in my early 20s while I was in Art school experimenting with a variety of art materials.
For me, these vocal recordings that I did as a student, were a way for me to experiment with both spoken word and performance.
I thought the title of the album was very interesting – we usually associate the idea of voices in our head with illness, but these pieces don't feel that way at all.
I’ve never really associated the idea of “voices in our heads” as illness. For me, these voices are simply interior dialogs that we all experience.
We all hear voices in our head. They are private moments, some darker than others. Some disturbing, some not.
Beside the human voice, what are some of the sounds that you find yourself most drawn to? Are there sounds you reject – if so, for what reasons?
I’m usually drawn to working with just my voice, but I’ve always enjoyed working with all kinds of musicians as well! I’d say I’m happy to experiment, and so far I haven’t really rejected anything!
Voices Fill My Head was recorded at KO Studio, Brooklyn, NY between 1993 and 1999 – tell me a bit about this time and the sessions, please.
My daughter was born in late 1993. Her father and I had a music studio in the apartment we all shared. We did a lot of experimenting.
I did my vocal recordings in a private room, and then sampled the best vocal lines onto a keyboard to work out the compositions.
Sound, space and composition all play a role in these pieces. How do you see the relationship between them?
All the works on this record were originally created for gallery exhibition spaces. Sound, space, and composition all play apart of the immersive experience of listening to one of these works as a sound installation.
Listening to Voices Fill My Head makes me want to put the LP on and keep them spinning, spending an entire day inside these songs. What's your thought on the idea of living inside of music and the spatial qualities of sound?
Yes I agree!
I generally work out the arrangements to have a swirling effect, or a sound that “moves” through the gallery space. The sound pieces are choreographed in this way to become more and more spacial the longer you listen.
The immersive quality of these recordings have first of all much to do with the composition of the piece, and how the narratives are broken up and layered. I try to compose the work with the idea of telling a story in fragments that repeat and swirl around the composition. The feelings and sensations I associate with being surrounded by all this, is usually quite hypnotic and emotionally charged!
There are points in your pieces when the repetition of the words leads me to lose myself in their sound and forget about their meaning. At other moments, I suddenly realise to great effect what it is you're actually saying.
I’m happy to hear that you’ve experienced this!
I’d say that I’m very drawn to the sounds of words, and how I can use these sounds to shape the story line. For me, the more abstract I can make the story, the better.
I personally get lost in this work as well! I see this as an absolute success when this happens!
On these recordings, we can hear your voice mostly the way it is - how do you look at the trend towards autotuning voices in modern song production?
I think auto tuning can be useful for a perfect pitch vocal, but I’ve always been drawn to working with a more private, somewhat abstract voice ... a voice you might only hear in your head!