Recorded: November 2018
Place: Los Angeles apartment
Interview: April 3 2019
I recorded my piece in my living room and kitchen, which is one room. Actually – am I even supposed to give this away? Yeah, I should be saying it, right? Or should we do four minutes and thirty-seconds of a silent interview? Oh, that could be fun. Anyway, I was in my living room in my apartment in LA which is open to the kitchen. It’s this tiny little space. What I wasn’t playing was my Juno 60.
I knew I was doing something very special by performing 4’33”. For me this piece was really important because when I was at Mills College I saw this performed by someone – I forgot who it was, to be honest, but it was a talented student. It was a full concert hall and he was at a piano. He was playing the piano but not playing the piano – actually he was air-playing the piano, and it wasn’t pretend playing. It was so dramatic and so awesome, and I didn’t know what this was. I was so mesmerised by it. That was the first time I ever saw and heard this piece, back when I was sixteen in my first year at college.
So for me it was like, what am I going to do to perform this? I felt like I should make it this big thing, but I realised that my kitchen is such a beautiful sounding place, and I could just sit here where I have my synthesizers and just do it here. I don’t like anything contrived. I like things quite natural and intuitive, and this felt right. I discovered that the kitchen is very loud when nothing much is happening.
I recorded it all on my phone. I actually record a lot of ideas on it. I record the room that way when I’m writing and composing, because I do that through improvisation. I noticed that the refrigerator was really loud, and there’s also an oven that’s quite buzzy. I mean, listen to the oven right now… Can you hear that hissing sound? That’s a salmon cooking. It sounds like waves. It makes we want to go to the beach.
My girlfriend put on the kettle while I was recording, and then the kettle started to make a noise which sounded like a train. I couldn’t have prepared or set that up any better. It just made this whining sound and I was like, ‘Oh my god this is amazing!’ So I just sort of recorded the kitchen. I hate to say it, but it’s not that much more interesting! However, these sounds are very interesting to me – it’s the kind of music that I like to listen to.
I used to live in New York City, which is obviously a very loud city. You’ve got big trucks thundering past you. You’ve got someone’s car alarm going off. You’ve got an ambulance coming toward you. You’ve got the way it sounds far away, then gets closer, and then passes you. There’s just so much music everywhere – it’s just like an immense collage of sounds. When I did my version of 4’33”, I just thought, ‘Wow, there’s some amazing sounds that I don’t even notice.’ Later on I re-recorded the kettle sound and I put it in ‘Tilt’, the track I did with Actress.
Where do you go when you want silence?
I’m going to answer you in what probably seems like an obnoxious way. I’ve been training myself to be able to go into a silent place no matter where I am. I am a massive meditator, and I’ve been a huge believer in neuroplasticity, since the year before I started work on my album The Quanta Series. So I can always go into silence – I just close my eyes, slow my breath down and just really focus on my breathing.
Silence is so important to me. Because I’m unable to live in the woods away from technology and people, I have to find a way to accept the sounds and the constant, energetic noise in the world. But when I was out in the woods for as long as I was, and working on my album, I think that’s when I was finally able to shed all my hang-ups that I think I had – as a young person – about making art. And because I could hear myself, I could feel myself, and I think that’s why I need silence. I feel like I’m constantly accosted by the sound of the world.
When I write, and when I compose, I just close my eyes and I go somewhere. I become so present that in some ways I’m not here anymore. It’s kind of an interesting process, and I think that it’s a sort of meditation. I have to go to a place like that to create. The collaging of sound is being able to control my sound environment, because it’s not something I can usually control. Your ears are always open. You can’t shut it out unless you put earplugs in, and I think it’s a really fascinating feature of our anatomy that we’re constantly hearing things.
That said, I don’t know that we were made to be surrounded by so many sounds, like electricity and beeps and buzzing. I really wonder how that affects our nervous system, and our health. So for me, when I compose, it really is vibrational, and it really is like I’m trying to make sounds that can be pleasing instead of accosting.
Interview: Mat Smith
Documentary Evidence review: K Á R Y Y N – The Quanta Series
(c) 2019 Documentary Evidence