INTERVIEW: JODI CAVE: TOKAFI (2008)
15 QUESTIONS TO JODI CAVE
When does a term like "unobtrusive" turn into a compliment? With Jodi Caves "For Myria", it has happened quite naturally. The result of years of studying and experimenting, this fragile and tender work is as short as it was amazing, as precise as it is touching. In just seven tracks, most of them barely touching the four minute mark, Cave sets musical objects into motion, sending them off into a sleepwalking mode of naive exploration: The pieces on "For Myria" are little landscapes, small islands of sound on an infinite playground. Their peace, harmony and tranquility is a direct result of a positively restricted instrumentation - each track is built using a carefully selected array of sources, which are often held and played in close proximity of the microphone. Despite the dreamy character of his music, Jodi Cave is not a New Age shaman, but an academic with a heart instead, led on by an insatiable curiosity: You can almost see him smiling while listening to "For Myria". As a consequence, it has ended up a work which will gladly fade into the background if necessary, filling the room with a soft mood of positivity. Some may call it unobtrusive for that reason, but as you should have gathered by now: In this case, that is a recommendation.
Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Hi. I'm in my flat in Glasgow. Feeling pretty good thanks.
What's on your schedule right now?
Not working on any new recordings, but I have started producing some instrumental scores - something that I haven't done for a while now and hope to spend a lot more time on. I'm helping my friend produce some of his songs, and also preparing my live setup for a few shows around Europe in February.
What's your view on the music scene at present? Is there a crisis?
No, I don't really see any crisis! I listen to all sorts of music, and can usually find something new that interests me, even if it doesn't directly relate to what I do.
Do you see yourself as part of a certain tradition or as part of a movement?
Not really. Saying that, I am using a laptop, which has a huge impact upon the way that I think about sound, and performance. I suppose that alone would help categorize me somehow, and of course I don't mind because it is a tool I'm using almost every day.
What, would you say, are the factors of your creativity? What "inspires" you?
This changes all the time, depending what I'm reading, looking at, listening to. The scores I am working have a strong visual component, and I guess they are informed by various approaches to form in the visual arts. This is creeping into my recorded work too, a kind of organic organization you can hear on 'for myria'.
How would you describe your method of composing?
On the computer, I'm usually starting with some recorded sound, and trying to draw whatever music is already present in the material, by means of improvisation, and experimentation in the studio. I see it as an attempt to tune into, or articulate an organic/dynamic form, letting the sounds arrange themselves. The real challenge is to inject just the right amount of my own will on the piece, something I feel that I will struggle with for a long time.
How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?
I guess that a composition will always have some sort of human fingerprint. Even if that is only setting up a process, giving an instruction, or recording/selecting sound.
How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
As I said earlier, when it comes to electro-acoustic composition, they are part of the same process for me. I spend most my time listening, and very little time playing/doing, and in that sense I suppose that some of my favourite improvisers are approaching sound in a similar way. But obviously, I am more of a composer, not an improviser.
What does the term “new" mean to you in connection with music?
What is recent? Or now? I think that a lot of people interested in new (or at least experimental) music, are searching for something ground-breaking, or totally different, which of course is very difficult to imagine, what with the developments of past century behind us. For me the only way to produce something new is with from within, with a clear and open-mind, and with total dedication and personal integrity.
Do you personally enjoy multimedia as an enrichment or do you feel that it is leading away from the essence of what you want to achieve?
Recently, I'm more interested in the possibilities of pure-sound. I guess that seeing my scores, because of the way they are conceived, may help a greater appreciation of the piece. When it comes to computer music in concert, I want the sound to speak for itself.
What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What's your approach to performing on stage?
This depends entirely on the music being performed. I saw a whole bunch of late-period Feldman concerts last year, by John Tilbury and members of the Smith quartet. The playing was so sensitive, with only the most necessary movementS¹absolutely beautiful. So I guess, when it comes to appreciating a good performance, it is a matter of necessity: If you are going to watch a band play lively music, then a lot of energy on-stage is entirely necessary.
My performances are hardly performative, but I feel this is the best way to present my work. Laptop shows are commonly met with criticism, because people expect something to watch when they go to an event. But for me (and other artists I have spoken to) it is the most effective way to present sound work in a standard live concert setting, encouraging the audience to listen first.
Do you feel an artist has a certain duty towards anyone but himself? Or to put it differently: Should art have a political/social or any other aspect apart from a personal sensation?
I can't answer that in full here, but I'm interested in the total-abstract nature of sound, and so suppose it is an entirely personal experience. At the same time, because my own political beliefs, I wouldn't criticise any artwork that might advocate positive change or expose social injustice.
How, would you say, could non-mainstream forms of music reach wider audiences without sacrificing their soul?
Well obviously, mainstream music is just that because it fits neatly in our day-to-day lives. Most people don't have the time to immerse themselves in something different, and so maybe some music will only reach a smaller audience, and occasionally those middle-brow, middle-class, 'cultured' types.
There is always that intriguing middle ground between pop and experimentalism, which has its fair share of media exposure. I suppose it is from here that some people decide to dig a little deeper and look for something more challenging. So maybe we needn't try too hard - I suppose that I'm most grateful for those individuals running independent, smaller scale labels/websites/magazines that people can find if they want to.
You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
Ohh, that would be fantastic..! A bit of anything, and everything that I like. Which I guess would make me the wrong person for the job.
Many artists dream of a "magnum opus". Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?
No, not at all! I'm too young to have ambitions like that!