When Mute first suggested I start a written project based on the STUMM433 boxset, their suggestion was that I aim to interview everyone who contributed a piece, everyone who worked on the box, everyone who designed an image, current Mute employees, former Mute employees, and those Mute artists that didn’t contribute a version of John Cage’s 4’33”.
I hadn’t perhaps appreciated the audaciousness of the suggestion, which, as I now I reflect on its scale and almost certain impossibility, has a certain Cage-iness about it.
Alessandro Cortini released his first album for Mute, Volume Massimo, in 2019, long after STUMM433 had been completed, but, as the next artist to join the label after K Á R Y Y N, if he’d recorded a version, it could have been track number 59 on the album.
Interview: September 18 2019
I’m familiar with 4’33”, but I never really thought of it as a piece in itself. I always saw it as more of an exercise.
I love the philosophy behind it because it’s so open-ended. And while I think it’s very interesting to see everyone’s take on something like that, I haven’t spent too much time thinking what I would do if I performed it. It would probably require some research and some thinking about how the set of instructions would influence me, in a way where I feel like I’m following them, but at the same time where I’m not enslaved to them.
What I like is that it definitely puts the player in a situation of over-sensitive listening, almost an amplified listening to what you do. It’s somewhat unnatural when it comes to performing, and so I think, once you’ve encountered the piece, it brings out an approach to playing that’s unlike any other. It makes musicians realise the importance of silence and also how their instruments, when not played in a conventional way, could be part of that silence in one way or another.
Where do you go when you want silence?
I think that the silence that I look for, and that I struggle to find at times, is more of an internal silence.
It’s a silence that, to a certain extent, is independent from audio silence. It’s almost a mindstate that is actually sometimes aided by having a certain amount of sound to accompany you on that journey.
Sonic silence is interesting but it’s almost a by-product, in a way. What I’m looking for is my own internal silence where I can listen to myself and what I actually have to say – it’s a place where I can feel at ease with who I am, and feel excited about being on this planet and having a life to live, and finding a way to live it in a productive way.
Meditation is very helpful to me. It’s funny because the more I know it’s good for me, the less I do it. There’s almost a part of me that is fighting it. It’s kinda crazy when you think about it, because you almost have part of the solution in front of you, but you ignore it because you know that it’s going to change you. This is all subconscious – I don’t think about it, and that’s why I force myself to meditate twice a day, but it’s good. I love meditating. I’ve started it. It came from an audiobook by David Lynch called Catching The Big Fish, and that’s how I got into it.
The way that Lynch relates meditation to creativity really sparked an interest in me, and then I took a course in transcendental meditation. I think any kind of meditation that works for someone is the right kind of meditation, but for me, that’s what pulled me in, and that’s what I practice. And that, along with suggestions from Steve Vai, reading Eckhart Tolle books – those were very revelatory about the now, and and how past and future are just fabrications of our mind: they don’t exist. They’re just a way to worry about things that are not important, not in an irresponsible way, but everything is about what you’re doing right now and how you’re feeling right now. The past you can’t do anything about, and it shouldn’t be influencing your present in a negative way, and the future you’ll never know. The best way to manufacture your future is by living in the now. And to me silence is that. Silence is the ability of just living in the now, in a way, not having everyday life or your own emotional baggage to get in the way of every single step of your day.
Going to a specific place to get silence is beautiful. I love that, but what is silence doing to you if you, in the end reach a place of sonic silence but inside of you there’s a constant set of voices telling you to to fuck off? Silence, and what it might do to me, is a very personal thing. All that going to a particular place to find sonic silence might do to me is make it even more obvious to me that it’s an issue.
Interview: Mat Smith
(c) 2020 Documentary Evidence