Sawako: Fifteen Questions

Sawako talks Sound

“We may be able to compose in 5D. But our 4D brain can’t recognize that world.”

Name: Sawako Kato aka Sawako
Occupation: Composer, producer, sound artist 
Nationality: Japanese
Recent release: Sawako’s Stella Epoca is out via 12k.

If you enjoyed these thoughts by Sawako and would like to find out more about her work, visit her official website. She is also on Instagram, and Facebook.

Can you talk a bit about your interest in or fascination for sound? What were early experiences which sparked it?

When I was in high school, my bandmate had guitar effects. I started random experiments with my voice, a cassette multi-track recorder and effects. At that time, I didn’t know about the existence of sound art and experimental music at all, and I was listening to punk rock and techno music. The experiments were so fun for me, but none of my friends in high school understood the music.

At university, I encountered a computer music class and started working with sound waves in Super Collider. I was so fascinated with it, because waveforms are so cute, like tiny creatures in a petri dish. I also enjoyed experimenting with feedback and resonances of several hundred tiny sound waves with Max/MSP. My professor called the data for sound synthesis “woods and trees.” 

I felt that sound synthesis was something like a sci-fi garden to create a convoluted pomato (potato + tomato) or chimera of time and space. 

It was the time of glitch, lowercase sound and microsound (both the mailing list and the book). At the same time, I started to work at an art gallery, and the gallery manager introduced me to the works of Fluxus, Felix Hess, Steve Roden, Brandon LaBelle, Alvin Lucier and so on. 

Frequencies and sound waves are cute. I am interested in inaudible sound (for human beings) as well as wave shapes in general. The theme of my thesis for my master’s degree was a sonification & visualization of wi-fi signal data, and the thesis title is “no[w]here.”

Additionally, I was interested in artistic fieldwork with a video camera when I was a student. At that time, the CPUs of PCs were not enough to realize my ideas for using moving images. So I started artworks only with field recording sounds – without any visuals. 

I like traveling, and I thought the artworks would help me travel to many different places. I like walking around in cities and woods with recording gear. It feels like I become an invisible woman – only with ears wrapped up in the sound cocoon. 

What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and working with sound?

All things in everyday life. Especially sparkles of ephemeral things.

Each story which is woven by collaborators and me on the planet.

Things which are told by sound. The world which sound shows us.

What are the sounds that you find yourself most drawn to?

Invisible. Intangible. In-betweenness. Fluid. Like a fog or smoke. Sounds that create an ambience both consciously and subconsciously. As an artistic medium, I can simultaneously use both controls and intentions and let-things-go and indeterminacy. 

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?

I am a person who can enjoy both cheap and expensive and old and new technology and equipment. All things have a unique character, so I am happy to work with them. 

However, recently I have had the chance to meet amazing engineers who can create custom-made software, speakers and hardware for me. They expand my sound world with a fresh viewpoint and give me much inspiration.

About my memory of my first studio gear, when I was a student, MOTU was the Mark of the Unicorn, with a logo of a unicorn illustration on the gear. I put a sticker of a unicorn on my gear and was thinking, “I will get the cute logo gear when I grow up.” Several years later, when I had actually grown up, MOTU’s logo had changed, without the unicorn. It was really a sad thing. So I still put stickers of unicorns on my gear. 

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

The 0.1-second sound which embraces and condenses all emotions in the universe. If I am able to realize and to listen to the sound, maybe my mind and existence itself will collapse.

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

Composition in 2D is pictures, 3D is sculptures, and then 4D is sound – or something with space and time. With technologies like XR/VR, we may be able to create compositions in 5D or higher dimensions. We may be able to create a 5D composition only with sound, but our 4D brain can’t recognize the world in the correct way. 

Since I was a child, I have been interested in topology, multidimensional geometry, nonhuman spatial cognition, layers and matrixes. If you are not familiar with the differences of dimensions and can’t visualize a 4D object in the 2D world, the novel Flatland is a good book to start. 

From the concept of Nada Brahma to “the Beginning was the Word,” many spiritual traditions have regarded sound as the basis of the world. Regardless of whether you are 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?

From the viewpoint of sound as vibration, we can say the Big Bang was sound. Expanding outside the cognitive limit of the ears of human beings, the world is filled with various frequencies, waves and vibrations. I think many spiritual traditions and old myths express the same thing about these vibrations based on the beliefs and languages of each culture. 

For example, there is a Tibetan practice using sound, color, character, image, mudra and body posture simultaneously. Modern people think, “I need to do so many things simultaneously,” but the practitioner feels it (and become) as one vibration. 

“Scientific” things of 2022 may become “ancient spiritual” things in 3033. The reality of the world captured by the sensory organs of primordial people may be totally different from the modern human body. The possibilities are so open.

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?

First of all, since there are so many different viewpoints, research methods, and approaches of artists, activists, and researchers in different areas of the world, it is difficult to talk about “a movement in general.” 

On the topic of “how much are we affected by the sound surrounding us,” most people tend not to perceive the sound surrounding us very much, so when I hold a sound walk workshop, participants often say, “I was really surprised that so many birds were singing in the city. I didn’t realize it at all!” 

On the other hand, artists and engineers have sensitive ears. When I create a recorded work or a soundscape, I design it while thinking about the subconscious effects for both regular and sensitive ears.

Personally, I am interested in not only sound but also other waves and frequencies – electromagnetic waves, sunlight, infrared beams, inaudible sound (for human beings) and so on. The senses and “ears” of human beings in the future might be able to catch the frequencies which we can’t capture now.

Arovane: Fifteen Questions

Arovane about Collaboration

Name: Uwe Zahn aka Arovane
Nationality: German
Occupation: Producer, sound artist, composer
Current release:Skal_Ghost, Arovane’s collaboration with Taylor Deupree is out November 4th 2022 via 12k.

[Read our Taylor Deupree interview
[Read our Taylor Deupree interview about collaboration]

If you enjoyed this interview with Arovane and would like to know more about his music, visit his official soundshop. He is also on Facebook, and twitter

Over the course of his career, Arovane has collaborated with a wide range of artists, including Porya Hatami and Mike Lazarev of Headphone Commute.

For many artists, a solitary phase of creative development precedes collaborative work. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your first collaborations?

My first collaboration was a long time ago. 2003 Kazumi sent me a DAT tape from London, with her singing along to one of my tracks. I invited her to come to my Berlin studio. 

It was a very interesting experience for me to work with her. On the one hand because of the different languages and the exchange of ideas between us. On the other hand, to adapt my workflow to the production. To integrate the singing into my existing concept. 

With this collaboration and all following ones, I have developed significantly as an artist, as a person. It made me look at myself and my workflow differently. I have become more critical of myself and have refined my workflow.

Tell me a bit, about your current instruments and tools, please. In which way do they support creative exchange and collaborations with others? Are there obstacles and what are potential solutions towards making collaborations easier?

I work with the computer and software. I see the computer and a DAW more as a digital tape machine and the possibility of editing and arranging audio. In the studio I use hardware and software equally. 

Loopers and samplers are used, various pedals, hardware synthesizers and sequencers. I love to use delays in my music. Both software and hardware delays are incredibly flexible and feature-rich these days. Asynchronous looping is an important technique that I like to use quite often. The EHX 22500 a dual stereo looper and Monome’s Norns Shield are used here. 

In relation to the collaboration with Taylor, it was nice to use the same tools and exchange ideas. For example, we exchanged presets for the Nonlinear Labs C15 synthesizer or we both used the same pedals, e.g. the Strymon Volante to create loops.

[Read our feature about the Strymon Magneto]

One obstacle was the incompatibility of the different audio DAWs we use in our studios. But we found a way to exchange our ideas as audio files. It is important to think outside the box here.

What were some of your earliest collaborations? How do you look back on them with hindsight?

One of the first collaborations was working with Kazumi for the album Lilies and then a collaboration with Phonem (Elliot Perkins) for Vertical Forms

The collaboration with Elliot in particular was characterized by technical difficulties in the studio. It failed to sync the computer and software (reactor) with my MIDI hardware equipment. So we decided to break away from the MIDI clock and to develop rhythmic and musical structures independently of each other.

It was a great experience working with Elliot and Kazumi. They enriched my music with their character and ideas.

Besides the aforementioned early collaborations, can you talk about one particular collaboration that was important for you? Why did it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?

One particular collaboration is the first thing that comes to mind here. The album Resonance on Eter Recordings with Porya Hatami and later Kaziwa (n5MD/ Time Released Sound). 

Kaziwa was very special. Porya sent me a short, very melancholic piano improvisation. It inspired me a lot to create more piano recordings and to send them back to him. It was very special because his recordings touched me deeply emotionally. 

Another very important collaboration is the album by Taylor and me, Skal_Ghost

The idea of a collaboration came up after Taylor mastered some of my albums. At the end of 2021, long conversations made it clear that we share a common love for unusual sounds, art and music. The motivation was to let our sound expertise flow into an album. 

Taylor had the idea of swapping presets for the C15 synthesizer (Nonlinear Labs) that we both own and to use these sounds as a basis and starting point to record an album.

What are some of the things you learned from your collaborations over the years?

I have learned to taking myself back, leaving space for the other person. To allow a balance and to have patience. To listen very well and put myself in the other person’s music. 

How do you feel your sense of identity influences your collaborations? Do you feel as though you are able to express yourself more fully in solo mode or, conversely, through the interaction with other musicians? Are you “gaining” or “sacrificing” something in a collaboration?

I have a strong personality. To be honest I prefer to work solo in the studio. But certain constellations, certain collaborations, challenge me. It pleases me how a certain collaboration brings out its very own musical aspects. In „solo mode“ I can of course express myself freely musically, but working together brings completely unexpected sides to the light. 

Whether I “gain“ or “sacrifice“ a certain aspect of the musical collaboration depends very much on the composition, the project, the partner and the goal that is being pursued. But basically I work very spontaneously and concentrated.

When it comes to the collaboration with Taylor, there was of course a large back catalog from 12k with many top-class artists and releases in the background. There was a certain amount of pressure (on my side) at the beginning, but I was able to relieve it very quickly while working with Taylor.

There are many potential models for collaboration, from live performances and jamming via producing in the same room together up to file sharing. Which of these do you prefer – and why?

During the pandemic, there was no other model or option than file sharing in remote collaboration. 

I often discussed with Taylor whether our album would have sounded different if we had been in the studio together. I think so, since a personal exchange has more quality than a chat on the Internet.

I would have loved to fly over to the US to work with Taylor on the studio album, yes. We have planned live performances for a longer time, but the Covid situation has made this impossible again and again.

Is there typically a planning phase for your collaborations? If so, what happens in this phase and how does it contribute to the results?

Sometimes a longer planning phase precedes the collaboration, yes. But that is not typical. Usually everything happens very spontaneously and quickly. 

Planning can sometimes be helpful when working remotely to clarify technical aspects, for example. But mostly it is a flowing process in the development of the collaboration.

What tend to be the best collaborations in your opinion – those with artists you have a lot in common with or those where you have more differences? What happens when another musician take you outside of your comfort zone?

It can be very exciting and challenging to work with an artist that you don’t share very much with. But I have found that the best results come when there is at least a common basis in terms of musical taste. 

I like to be taken out of my comfort zone in order to have new experiences. I leave my beaten path and deal with things that I have never considered before.

Do you need to have a good relationship with your collaborator? Or can there be a benefit to working with someone you may not get along with on a personal level?

I personally need a good relationship with another person with whom I make music. 

Some artists feel as though the creative process should not be a democratic one. What are your thoughts on the interaction with other musicians, the need for compromise and the decision making process?

I think in a collaboration it’s important to strike a balance between the creative process and the weighing up of decisions. 

Personally, I would also like to be able to make compromises. I want to give my partner as much space as I do myself. 

What’s your take on cross-over collaborations between different genres?

That can be very interesting, but I haven’t done it personally. 

The only exception was a remix for a Japanese rock/ pop band, Sangatsu.

In a live situation, decisions between creatives often work without words. How does this process work – and how does it change your performance compared to a solo performance?

That is very interesting indeed. The wordless communication during a session. 

I think it has a lot to do with your own behavior. Am I listening carefully to what the other is doing? Does he show me something to react to? Something I can respond to musically.

There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you as part of a collaboration? In which way is it different between your solo work and collaborations?

It is inspiring in itself to work with another artist. It makes me leave the beaten track and try new things.

When I make music solo, it’s more of a self-absorption, a self-contemplation.

Collaborating with one’s heroes can be a thrill or a cause for panic. Do you have any practical experience with this and what was it like?

What matters to me when working together is the quality of the interaction and the music. Names, even famous names, are not important to me. 

I give equal respect and attention to every artist, whether well known or not.

Taylor Deupree: Fifteen Questions

Taylor Deupree About Collaboration, Friends, Story and Place.

Name: Taylor Deupree
Nationality: American
Occupation: Producer, sound artist, composer, mastering engineer, label founder at 12k
Current release:Skal_Ghost, Taylor Deupree’s collaboration with Arovane aka Uwe Zahn is out November 4th 2022 via 12k.

[Read our Arovane interview]

If you enjoyed this interview with Taylor Deupree and would like to know more, visit his official website or his accounts on Instagram, and twitter. He also has a dedicated website for his mastering services

To keep reading, we recommend our earlier Taylor Deupree interview, in which he expands on a wider range of topics. 

Over the course of his career, Taylor Deupree has collaborated with a wide range of artists, including Ryuichi Sakamoto, David Sylvian, Richard Chartier, Frank Bretschneider, Kenneth Kirschner.

For many artists, a solitary phase of creative development precedes collaborative work. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your first collaborations? 

It’s a bit hazy to map. 

My first music project ever was a duo with my best friend in high school when I was 15. We both got synthesizers and immediately started to record through keyboard amps across the room into a boombox. Through high school I worked with a couple of friends and it wasn’t until college years that I started to really work on solo material. 

I think these early years of partnerships and collaborations were important and the reason I cherish collaborations now.  

Tell me a bit about your current instruments and tools, please. In which way do they support creative exchange and collaborations with others? Are there obstacles and what are potential solutions towards making collaborations easier?   

For quite a few years now I’ve really shied away from software synths and processing. Having mostly a hardware-based setup means I can’t simply exchange DAW sessions with a collaborator but must record everything as audio first … which is totally fine, but it does dictate a certain workflow. 

With Uwe [Zahn, aka Arovane] we did initiate this project on the C15 synthesizer from NonLinear Labs. It’s a hardware synth, but we both own one and were able to easily exchange patches and load them into our respective machines. I find in general, though, everyone seems to have fairly idiosyncratic workflows, setups and gear so there really is no one-way to approach any project. 

I do really enjoy the mixing process though and with a nice analogue console in the studio I like to finish up the projects with a mix here.  

What were some of your earliest collaborations? How do you look back on them with hindsight?   

The aforementioned high school collaborations as as early as it gets and I really cherish those times and recordings. 

We have many, many recordings on cassette tapes, all very well organized and labeled by date. It is music that I don’t think anyone will ever hear and I want to keep it that way. Not that it’s terrible … of course, some is quite naive, but it is so intensely formative for me it doesn’t matter how “good” the material is … it was all about learning. 

Starting with two synthesizers and a boombox and moving and learning, piece by piece through 4-tracks, MIDI, sequencers, DAT machines … as the technology unfolded we followed along and learned it all by ourselves by reading magazines (pre-internet) and immersing ourselves in it. 

I am fairly amazed that for 35 years I have pretty literally spent every day of my life obsessing over music creation.   

Besides the aforementioned early collaborations, can you talk about one particular collaboration that was important for you? Why did it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?  

I think the collaboration I did with a few fellow 12k artists, the first Between album (with Simon Scott, Marcus Fischer, Corey Fuller and Tomoyoshi Date) is really the blueprint and perfect example of a collaboration for me. It has the three most important ingredients: friends, story and place. 

This was an impromptu recording session on a free day in Kyoto among five friends in a very old ryokan (an old japanese inn) full of character and history. I think we all vividly remember the day. Having left our equipment set up from the previous night’s concert we invited any audience members to come back and hang out while we recorded and we proceeded to make a very sensitive longform recording with all of us very carefully listening to each other. 

That night we brought the recording upstairs, set it in the middle of the room, laid on the tatami and listened to the results. We immediately knew we had somethig special. It was a time shared by friends, amidst a tour already filled with memories and will forever cement that day in our heads. 

All collaborations should strive for this, in my opinion.  

What are some of the things you learned from your collaborations over the years? 

Collaborations for me, at the core, are learning experiences. The chance to work with another artists who, naturally, will approach writing and creating differently from me. 

I especially love it when artists are in my studio using my own equipment in new ways that never occurred to me. The chance to break from our solo-artist habits and embrace new perspectives is very important.  

How do you feel your sense of identity influences your collaborations? Do you feel as though you are able to express yourself more fully in solo mode or, conversely, through the interaction with other musicians? Are you “gaining” or “sacrificing” something in a collaboration? 

I am extremely hard on myself when it comes to my music, very critical. As a result, I cannot ever listen to my own music because I will only hear the flaws. It takes maybe 2-5 years before I can listen to my own work after its release. This is the amount of time it takes me to forget the specifics of how I made it and to be able to engage with it more as a “listener.” 

However, with collaborations I don’t feel this way nearly as much because there is already another opinion in the room when its being created. Someone else to say “this is good” so it makes me feel more confident about the work.  

In terms of expressing myself I think solo works, by nature, are more personal and more reflective of my identity. Collaborations are supposed to be about sharing and creating a new identity. I always use the idea when working with someone of: 1 + 1 = 3. You want two people to come together and make something that’s not just a sum of their two parts, but something different entirely … if possible! 

It’s a goal, sometimes more successful than others.  

There are many potential models for collaboration, from live performances and jamming via producing in the same room together up to file sharing. Which of these do you prefer – and why?

Always prefer in the same room. It is the most personal, interactive and inspiring … And it’s a time to hang out, geek out and be with friends! 

Of course, this is not always possible, especially during the pandemic, so sometimes you have to do it by exchanging files. I’m working on a project now where we’re recording via software called Audiomovers while we meet over a zoom call between New York and Italy. It has worked out pretty well. Live performance is perhaps my least favorite just because I much prefer the control and precise sound of a studio environment. 

Uwe and I were unable to get together in person for this new album because of travel restrictions. But it is also wonderful that we do have the option to work with people remotely. If this is the only option then it is better than nothing! 

However, we vowed to make our next album together in person.  

Is there typically a planning phase for your collaborations? If so, what happens in this phase and how does it contribute to the results?   

Yes, I should say most collaborations start with a concept and planning. It’s important for focus. 

Sometimes the inspiration comes from a particular instrument or set of instruments, such as this work with Uwe and the C15 synthesizer, or sometimes there is a particular production technique that is the centerpiece. Marcus Fischer and I often work exclusively with tape loops, for example. Cameron Webb (Seaworthy) and I based our project (Wood, Winter, Hollow(12k)) on a hike in the woods.  

Of course, these are only guiding points and an initial place to jump off from. It’s always important to remain open and flexible because more often than not the processes change as you go, but as long as you can at least set up enough structure at first to not get lost in the sea of too many possibilities.  

What tend to be the best collaborations in your opinion – those with artists you have a lot in common with or those where you have more differences? What happens when another musician take you outside of your comfort zone?  

I think generally artists I have a lot of common with tend to produce smoother, or at least easier, collaborations. That being said, I really do love working with vocalists, such as I’ve done with S. Carey or various remixes. Because I am a terrible singer so it gives me an opportunity to work with this instrument that I don’t get a chance to work with on my own. 

But even in these cases the artists and I always have plenty in common. I think it would be quite difficult to work with someone you have a lot of differences with. Musical differences often equate to personality differences and it’s all about personality and how you get along and interact in the intimate and often stressful place of a recording studio!  

Some artists feel as though the creative process should not be a democratic one. What are your thoughts on the interaction with other musicians, the need for compromise and the decision making process?    

I’ve never had any issues with decision making or compromising. Both have happened and always for the sake of the album integrity. I’m not precious about any of my music or sounds or instrumentation. 

If it’s not working I’d hope my collaborator would speak up and tell me. There’s no point in harming an album for the sake of ego.  

What’s your take on cross-over collaborations between different genres?  

It can be difficult, but it’s so rewarding. I make a really specific kind of music so when I get a chance to work with a musician outside my circle, such as my work with S. Carey, it opens up a lot of freedom for me. I love to work with drums and vocals, instruments I don’t often (or ever) use in my own work. 

Of course, all parties of the collaboration have to be adventurous enough to work outside their comfort zone. Accept the strangeness of experimental music or the structure of pop music. But… exciting things can happen!  

In a live situation, decisions between creatives often work without words. How does this process work – and how does it change your performance compared to a solo performance?   

I much prefer collaborative live performance as I am not a big fan of performing live anyway … having someone else up there to do half the work takes a lot of stress off of me. 

Everyone I’ve played live with has been in a sufficiently similar headspace that the wordless communication feels natural. It is really all about listening and not getting in each other’s way. 

Probably the most difficult, but very successful, live collaborations I’ve done are those with the Japanese singer/songwriter Ichiko Aoba. She sings and plays acoustic guitar and has so much more inherent musical talent than I do. 

Because of the nature of my performance rigs, sound processing and such it is difficult for me to follow her playing musically. I cannot always specify or follow exact scales or chords that she is playing so when we have performed together it is often her following what I do because she has the advantage of being 100% control of every note with her voice or guitar … so she has the ability to follow along to my strange loops and things. 

We have performed together a number of times and it is always quite special because we come from fairly different musical genres.  

There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you as part of a collaboration? In which way is it different between your solo work and collaborations?

It’s easy for me to get in a state of mine to work collaboratively, especially in person, because the energy is there and we’re among friends, and the clock is often ticking! So you just do it … you get the work done. 

Working solo, for better or worse, has no time limits or deadlines. I can take 3 years to make a record. It’s also a bit more difficult to get in the headspace with solo work because I can be more easily distracted or set back by personal matters, family life, etc.  

Collaborating with one’s heroes can be a thrill or a cause for panic. Do you have any practical experience with this and what was it like? 

I can say working with someone like David Sylvian whose music guided me through my teenage years in the 80s has been thrilling and maybe at first a little bit of a panic. But I have spent time with David in a recording studio and even my own kitchen and and found the panic quickly went away as I realize we are both just artists trying to do the best we can. 

Same goes for someone like Sakamoto who is really such a gentle person and there was never any feeling that I was lesser or didn’t deserve to be in a room with him. I find we all look at each other as equals even if they have obviously had far greater successes than I have. Everyone has something interesting to bring to the table and I find I can even teach these veterans something new or at least have something exciting to offer them. 

There is really no end to learning or exploring in music. I find it completely limitless in the best way possible.

Sawako “Stella Epoca”

Sawako’s sound has always been fragile and amorphous. Watercolor paint sublimating and fading.

Arovane & Taylor Deupree “Skal_Ghost”

A new collaboration, haunting and textured.

Federico Durand – IndieHoy (2022)

Interview with Indie Hoy (Argentina)
SITE LINK

Federico Durand: “La música es la forma que tengo de hacer florecer algo”

Hablamos con el artista argentino sobre cómo usa la sencillez y la repetición para crear sus hipnóticas piezas de ambient.

Todas los días, Federico Durand sube las escaleras hacia al altillo de su casa y se sienta a hacer música. Las mesas están llenas de instrumentos, las paredes de dibujos, y desde la ventana se ven algunas plantas de su pequeño jardín en el pueblo de La Cumbre, al norte de Córdoba. Toda una vida parece transcurrir allá afuera, donde vive junto a su familia, pasa horas perdiéndose en las sierras forestales, cuidando su jardín y atendiendo la librería de su mujer. Arriba en el ático existe otra vida, un refugio musical, un universo de sonidos sutiles que hablan de ese mundo exterior, pero también señalan algo más allá.

Durante los últimos doce años, la música de Durand ha encontrado la forma de salir de su habitación y recorrer el mundo. Los más de quince discos que lleva publicado fueron editados por sellos discográficos japoneses, europeos y estadounidenses, y lo llevaron a dar numerosas giras por el exterior. Su firme trayectoria y su estilo inimitable lo han convertido en un referente dentro de la escena global de música ambient. Sin embargo, la música de Durand mantiene la intimidad de ese altillo en La Cumbre, una calidez susurrada de melodías al borde del silencio.

Parte de esa intimidad proviene del lugar que la música ocupaba en su vida desde antes de empezar a publicar discos. Oriundo de Muñiz, barrio de casas bajas y caras amables en el Conurbano bonaerense donde nació y vivió hasta hace siete años, sus primeros discos fueron cassettes o CD-Rs de entre diez copias que repartía a sus amigos íntimos y su madre. Así nació su forma de entender la música como una invitación a compartir un momento preciado con alguien, un regalo que solo se da a personas muy cercanas, un secreto.

Esta cosa de hacer música constantemente la tengo desde chico -cuenta Durand en conversación con Indie Hoy-. En los noventa hacía collages con una grabadora de cassette, una portaestudio Tascam, y me di cuenta que esa era una forma de tocar”. Con los años fue coleccionando sintetizadores, pedales de efectos, instrumentos de juguete, cajitas de música, guitarras, liras; pero su sonido nunca se despegó del minimalismo, la repetición y las pequeños sonidos.

Sus primeras canciones subidas a MySpace atravesaron el mundo hasta llegar a los oídos de Nao Sugimoto, editor del sello Spekk en Tokio, quien le ofreció publicar su primer disco fuera de su círculo íntimo de amigos. Publicado en abril de 2010, el hoy clásico La siesta del ciprés contiene muchos de los sonidos que Durand venía explorando desde chico y que profundizaría a lo largo de su discografía, como las grabaciones de campo y la repetición.

Siempre me atrajo la sencillez -agrega-. Es algo que no solo me conmueve sino que me da mucha paz. La repetición siempre me pareció un recurso estético fascinante. Me dan mucho placer las variaciones sutiles, sobre todo cuando los loops son asimétricos y aparecen combinaciones azarosas. Hay algo ahí que me parece muy ancestral. No sé cómo era la música en el paleolítico, pero seguramente había loops”.

La música de Durand produce esa sensación propia del género ambient de inducir a perderse en la espacialidad del sonido hasta habitarlo, incluso olvidándose por un momento de estar escuchando música. Hay emoción en sus canciones, pero más que nada hay calma, ese estado en la mente que se logra al meditar o mirar un paisaje profundo, cuando se despierta minutos antes del alba o se percibe la luz de la tarde entrar por la casa.

“Sucede algo con la repetición musical en un nivel físico y espiritual que te conecta con algo muy misterioso -afirma el artista-. Entredormido podés tener experiencias asombrosas escuchando música cuya estética recaiga en la repetición”. El tiempo parece volverse más lento, casi detenerse. Los sonidos aparecen y se esfuman con suavidad, algunos se estiran hasta convertirse en un silencio enriquecido.

En uno de sus primeros viajes a Europa, Durand conoció al músico japonés Tomoyoshi Date y juntos decidieron grabar un disco durante los momentos libres de la gira. Desde entonces, Durand comenzó a hacerse un tiempo en sus viajes para conocer músicos locales y juntarse a improvisar juntos. “Si escuchás detenidamente las colaboraciones, hay elementos de cada músico, pero no suena como a ninguno de los dos -dice sobre Melodía, el dúo que formó junto a Date-. Eso me interesa de tocar con alguien, es como charlar”.

Entre otras de sus colaboraciones se distingue el meditativo disco Magical Imaginary Child, grabado en 2014 junto a Chihei Hatakeyama, y el más reciente In the Open, grabado en 2017 junto a Date y el artista sonoro japonés Asuna durante un día libre de su gira en la ciudad antigua de Kanazawa. “Ese disco lo recuerdo con mucho cariño porque está embebido de amistad -admite Durand-. Estaba muy feliz de estar ahí, tocando con amigos, que encima son músicos excepcionales, en Japón, haciendo sight-seeing y grabando un disco. Era todo increíble“.

En paralelo a su discografía editada en sellos internacionales, Durand mantuvo el hábito de grabar pequeñas tiradas de cassettes que regala a modo de suvenirespara el público que se acerca a verlo tocar. “En vivo está siempre el frenesí de querer llenar un vacío -agrega sobre su experiencia tocando para otras personas-. La primera nota es fundamental, es como el primer paso que marca cómo va a continuar: podés ir hacia la izquierda, hacia la derecha, hacia atrás o hacia adelante. Un amigo una vez me dijo que esa primera nota es sagrada. Antes de tocarla no hay nada, después está todo. Es mágico eso. Disfruto mucho de tocar y me produce mucho vértigo también”.

Al igual que le sucedió al resto del mundo, el privilegio de viajar y tocar en vivo se pausó hace dos años para Durand. Aislado de vuelta en su altillo en La Cumbre, el artista posó la mirada en su entorno más cercano y encontró inspiración en la flora de su propio jardín. Herbario, su disco publicado en junio de 2021, es un catálogo musical de sus plantas favoritas, a las que le dedica quebradizas melodías de sintetizador y frecuencias hipnóticas. Como un ejercicio de alquimia botánica, Durand destila la esencia sonora de hierbas como el cedrón, la menta y el romero, en pequeñas canciones de ensueño minimalista.

Herbario es un disco de la pandemia -reflexiona-. Fue como una balsa a la cual me subí y me llevó a casa. Una de las cosas que me sostuvo durante ese tiempo fue concentrarme en lo que tenía y en cosas más inmanentes, como mis plantas. El jardín de mi casa es muy lindo, crece salvajemente, es tupido. Así que me puse a pensar en qué plantas me gustan más. En líneas generales me gustan todas, o casi todas. Las palmeras no, hay algo con las plantas tropicales, una exuberancia, que a veces me agobia. Por eso me gustan las más modestas, las más pequeñas”.

Las plantas son frecuentes protagonistas de los títulos de los discos y canciones de Durand desde sus inicios, junto con los nombres de pequeños animales, insectos, montañas, estanques y paisajes propios de mitos fantásticos y cuentos infantiles. La literatura es otro de sus más grandes intereses; durante años, mientras vivía en Muñiz, estudió antropología y enseñó literatura en algunas escuelas de la provincia de Buenos Aires.

El entrerriano Juan L. Ortiz y el alemán Friedrich Hölderlin son los primeros referentes que nombra al pensar en los poetas que lo acompañaron y, a su manera, inspiraron su sensibilidad desde adolescente. Siglos y continentes separan a Juan L. y Hölderlin, pero no sería una comparación remota señalar que ambos escritores comparten una búsqueda por retratar lo bello en la naturaleza, por encontrar una hermosura en lo frágil y perecedero. Muchos de sus poemas, así como gran parte del repertorio de Durand, construyen escenas que duran un instante, como un sentimiento fugaz o un atardecer, y al mismo tiempo revelan algo trascendental.

Herbario me pareció que era un jardín que se podía compartir -concluye Durand-. No soy jardinero, pero hago canciones. La música es la forma que tengo de hacer florecer algo”.

Con sus más de diez años de carrera, Durand se ha consolidado como uno de los músicos más respetables en su género, y un referente esencial dentro de la incipiente escena de música ambient en Argentina. Sin embargo, el artista es reticente a identificar un progreso lineal en su discografía, o a pensar en una evolución en sus habilidades. Si bien se puede escuchar una transición de las guitarras acústicas y los pianos que caracterizaron sus inicios hacia los sintetizadores envolventes de sus discos más recientes, esta sería solo una distinción técnica. No hay una transformación perceptible entre su último disco y el primero: la música de Durand es un movimiento en cámara lenta, una sucesión de instantes de eternidad.

Creo que hay un esplendor en la sencillez -dice el artista sobre su estilo-. Como un haiku que dice todo en tan pocas palabras. ¿Qué te regala un haiku? Una sensación, cuenta un camino, abre algo. No hay ninguna moraleja, ni siquiera hay un yo a pesar de que a veces puede haber una primera persona. Hay un vacío, una inclinación benevolente. Te cuenta algo, que había un estanque, había una rana, y cuando saltó hizo ‘plop’. Pero ese sonido te queda resonando por siempre. Ahí se abren unas puertas que en definitiva apuntan al misterio de todos los misterios: ¿qué diablos es todo esto? Yo estoy acá, hablando con vos, pero esto en realidad es un gran sueño que estamos compartiendo. Y ahí aparece la libertad, no hay nada definitivo. Estamos construyendo sobre el vacío: mundos, sociedades, teléfonos, lenguaje, sistema. Pero todo esto podría ser completamente diferente. Entonces, esa rana saltando te pone los pies no en el más allá sino en el más acá. Es maravilloso. Y la música opera ahí, es una forma de despertar la conciencia”.

¿Cómo mantenés esa simpleza a la hora de componer?
No compongo en el sentido hermenéutico de tener una idea y seguirla, sino que son cosas que voy encontrando. No podría hacerlo de otra manera, yo hago la música que me sale. Y no es nada loable, es una limitación, es lo que sé hacer. Nunca tuve mucho interés en estudiar música, más allá del estudio particular y de indagar en la práctica. Disfruto muchísimo de tocar porque es un espacio de inmensa libertad, hago lo que quiero.

Tu música suele ser descrita como lo-fi, frágil y delicada, en relación a los métodos de grabación que usás…
En mi casa tengo varios bordados. Me gustan mucho, mi mujer es ilustradora y gracias a ella conocí a muchos artistas que hacen bordado. Pero a mí me gusta mirar la parte de atrás de los bordados. A lo prístino le huyo un poco, me gusta más que se noten las costuras. Más allá de que mi música está grabada con cassettes o con lo que fuere, no trato de ocultar esas imperfecciones. En un punto son mis límites, como músico y como persona que se graba, así que no tengo problema con eso.

Muchas de tus canciones provienen de grabaciones de una sola toma. ¿Qué tanto editás de esas improvisaciones?
Mi amiga Cecilia [Alfonso Esteves], que es ilustradora, siempre dice que uno tiene que tender a lo que tiende. Si uno tiende a lo prístino y ultra arreglado está bien, pero si uno tiende a otra cosa también está bien. Las herramientas con las que uno hace música son con las que uno se comunica. Es tu sonido, es el sonido que lográs. Un riesgo de sobreproducir la música es la pérdida de personalidad. Me interesa más tener un sonido malo entre comillas, pero personal, que un sonido prístino e impersonal. Hay algo en la rusticidad, en esas costuras, que está lleno de vida, que está por fuera de la voluntad.

¿Notás una progresión en tus discos más recientes?
En mi discografía no hay una evolución formal muy importante. Es como que estoy todo el tiempo tratando de indagar en lo mismo. Y conforme van pasando los años voy encontrando la forma de hacerlo más depurado, de simplificarlo aún más. Ahora construyo música con menos elementos y eso es algo que me da mucha felicidad.

Te estás sintetizando cada vez más…
Yo creo que sí. Terminaré con muy pocas notas o en el silencio.

Federico Durand se presenta el viernes 9 de septiembre a las 21 h en Artlab Studio (Roseti 93, CABA) junto a Guillermo Ueno en el marco del festival Mutekentradas disponibles a través de Passline. Escuchá Herbario en plataformas de streaming (BandcampSpotifyTidalApple Music).

Minamo & Asuna “Tail of Diffraction”

glittering hybrids of acoustic and electronic sound.
CD / Digital.

Giuseppe Ielasi “The Prospect”

Work for solo guitar.
CD/Digital out now.

Pjusk “Salt og Vind”

With Salt og Vind Pjusk retums from an eight year album hiatus. This release is also the first seeing Pjusk as a solo project consisting of Jostein Dahl Gjelsvik. Salt og Vind (Salt and Wind) is, not surprisingly, about the forces of nature and the contrast between the volatile and the existing. In a wider sense it is about man’s inability or struggle to grasp the eternal and instead seek temporary fulfillment.

CD / DIGITAL AVAILABLE NOW.

Tomasz Bednarczyk “Windy Weather Always Makes Me Think Of You”

Tomasz Bednarczyk makes a long-awaited return to 12k after his 2009 debut Let’s Make Better Mistakes Tomorrow (12k1055, 2009) and a couple of follow-up releases on Australia’s Room40. On Windy Weather Always Makes Me Think Of You Bednarczyk has collected sounds via a smartphone dictaphone and Sony field recorder over the past 10 years with a goal to transform all gathered recordings into new, multilayered harmonies. Field recordings come from voyages around the globe and originally consisted of melodies interwoven by multilayered sounds of the environment.

CD / DIGITAL NOW AVAILABLE

Arovane “Reihen”

12k welcomes its newest member to the family… Arovane, with his explorations into emotion and dust.

Please note: we are at the mercy of vinyl manufacturing which, as you’re probably aware, is backed up for months. We were supposed to get the LPs this month but it may extend into next year. We will ship the vinyl orders as soon as we have it. In the meantime enjoy the digital release.

vinyl will be available in the UK via Juno and Norman Records, and throughout EU via A-Musik.

PRE ORDER ON BANDCAMP.

Seaworthy & Matt Rösner “Snowmelt”

The Australian duo of Seaworthy and Matt Rösner are back with a haunting sonic journey through the Kosciuszko National Park.

Available on vinyl and digital formats, November 19th.

Please note: we are at the mercy of vinyl manufacturing which, as you’re probably aware, is backed up for months. We were supposed to get the LPs this month but it may extend into next year. We will ship the vinyl orders as soon as we have it. In the meantime enjoy the digital release.

vinyl will be available in the UK via Juno and Norman Records, and throughout EU via A-Musik.

PRE ORDER ON BANDCAMP.