A snapshot from my stage setup with pulp.noir. I haven’t yet come up with an “instant epicness” preset, unfortunately. But one part of our “signal to noise” performance has the code name “epic”, and this my master fader for that part of the show. Next performances at Tojo Theater, Bern on April 9, 11 and 12 - with hopefully more to come.
I’ve been very busy these last few weeks - many photos to go through and many things that I could write about, but so little time to condense it into blog posts. Until I get around to doing that please visit my Facebook profile if you take an interest in more frequent updates.
A few weeks ago my music was the subject of Spanish radio show “Un lugar en el tiempo - la vanguardia del sonido”. The show was accompanied by a blog post with a short interview that Juan Dahmen, creator of the show, had conducted with me and translated into Spanish. Juan has now kindly given me permission to post the English version here - you can find it below. More infos on the show, along with links to all the episodes, can be found here, and here is the show’s Facebook page. If you are interested in further reading about my views on composing with computers you may also want to read this interiew from 2010 and this essay from 2012.
Interview with Tobias Reber
December 8, 2013
When and how did you begin to feel music?
I don’t remember a specific event or piece, but I remember when I consciously began to listen to recordings again and again for the emotional effect they had on me, and for the goosebumps. That must have started around age eight or nine.
Did you begin directly with computers or was there anything before?
I played recorder for two years as a child and then took classical guitar lessons as a teenager. I got an electric guitar, played in a couple of bands and was very much into various rock musics. I always loved music but I didn’t practice with any ambition until around the age of sixteen, when I got interested in prog rock, jazz, then improvised music and from there got into electronic music. I was twenty by that time, so I was very late to the party. There had just never been anyone or anything in my life that would have brought me into contact with that world until I discovered it for myself.
Which is your approach when making it? I mean, how do you use technology and what are you looking for in your pieces (sound wise, apart from the technology used).
I think I use technology very much as a feedback system and a catalyst. Computer technology allows me to model ideas in code, see if and how they work, listen, adjust, listen again, adjust again, and so on. To me, all computer-aided and rule-based composition is also ear training because you get to hear new structures in sound, and learn to listen to results of your compositional choices that you may not have anticipated, and this feeds back into your imagination. I was always unhappy with applying music theory to composition - all my attempts at this ended in the reproduction of other people’s ideas. At some point I realized that generative systems could play by their own rules rather than by theory that was synthesized from an accepted canon.
How do you hear music? What do you feel or care of when doing it?
That’s a very difficult question! I hear music as a quality - I know when music “happens” - it changes how I feel, and the way I perceive what I feel. It’s also of course an experience, and real music affects your very being. I try to not have any expectations when I hear new music and be open to being moved in ways I haven’t been moved before.
As for the second question: I often devise new processes for new projects, so the focus varies. With generative composition - the creation of musical structure through systems of rules - I always try to let myself play without too many preconceptions, following my intuition, guiding the process and ensuring the musicality of the results. It’s often a bit like a slow motion improvisational process. A track on my latest album is called “Piñata" - sometimes composition feels like you beat around in the dark a lot until you get all the parameters right - and suddenly, marvelous wonders start to pour out.
What has changed in your approach between your two albums?
Whereas Backup Aura was a very conceptual work and was created over a long time, Kola happend more or less by accident. I coupled a generative software I had created with a set of percussion sounds that I’d made, and the pieces were composed and recorded over the course of three consecutive evenings. Kola is also exclusively created with sound synthesis while Backup Aura was mostly sample based.
What do you do as solo artist that you can’t do in an ensemble or band?
When I collaborate I want the various personalities of the people involved to meet and create something neither of us could have done on their own. When I work alone, I react only to my own output. There are all the practical things as well, such as not having to travel, of course. I enjoy both situations in equal parts and regard them as necessary for my development as a musician and person - venturing into the unknown all alone or fusing my input with that of others.
Recommend some artists/bands you like (may them be of whatever the genre).
I’m going for three very different choices here: I’m a big fan of Renaissance-era vocal music. Guillaume de Machaut’s “Messe de Nostre Dame” as sung by Marcel Pérèz and Ensemble Organum is deliriously good. The latest album by Depeche Mode, “Delta Machine”, is brilliant. The songwriting is better than just about any pop music that still passes as “mainstream”, the lyrics are great and the sound design is just fantastic. Lastly, I am a huge fan of Burial’s “Ashtray Wasp” EP from 2012. It’s brilliant on so many levels and even by his standards it’s by far the best thing he’s released so far.
The “signal to noise” shows with pulp.noir were wonderful and very well received. Next up is an audio-visual live remix of Stanley Kubrik’s “A Clockwork Orange” at ewz.stattkino, Zürich on February 25th (Info and Tickets here) before we regroup in April to play “signal to noise” in Bern.
The premiere of pulp.noir’s “signal to noise” went very well. Here’s a photograph of part of my stage setup for the show:
My pre-gig checklist includes items such as:
- re-fill and tune wine glass
- refill newspaper and book stock
- rewind camera, metronome, tape machine
- refill water boiler with 1 cup
- reset all loopers & FX, load samples
- check printer, fan, theremin, file shredder (etc) power
- clean away paper and general mess
…and quite a bit more. It takes about 45-60 minutes for me to comfortably get my parts of the stage ready for the show, and I’ve come to like this process as my ritual for getting into the performance headspace.
Second show tonight (Tickets here).
Flyer and description for the upcoming pulp.noir performances at Rote Fabrik, Zürich. (click image to enlarge)
Today we concluded Part I of the three part educational project “Irritationen” in Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland. We started on October 14th when I introduced Max Neuhaus’ “Listen” (see here and here), and over the course of six Mondays, approximately 60 pupils were treated to an introduction to experimental music and sound art. The project featured three guests and included a trip to a professional recording studio. Pupils interacted with live electronic setups, iPad music apps, turntables, stethoscopes and various sound installations. They got to hear and discuss many pieces of music and learned about listening, hearing, notation, sound technology and much more. Today we ended where we began, in a way, but we returned there with an expanded sense hearing: we performed our own impermanent adaptations of Akio Suzuki’s Otodate (“listening point”).
The project will continue in January 2014, when six musicians and sound artists will create projects with the pupils over an extended period of time.
I have a new album, Kola, out today as a download release on Unsung Records! It features seven percussion heavy tracks that I composed and recorded over the course of three evenings in August (discussed in this blog entry). Mixed by Markus Reuter in September and mastered by Lee Fletcher just last week. Artwork by Ritxi Ostáriz (see here for more Kola-related art by Ritxi).
You can listen and purchase it here - for the price of two cups of coffee (or more, if you like).
I’ve been invited to join the audiovisual performance project pulp.noir for their next production “signal to noise”. Individual video shoots for on stage projection have begun last week, and this week we’ve had four days of tryout rehearsals with the full team - a great group of people. I now have a clearer idea of what my role in the project will be and how I need to set up for that. Rehearsals will continue in mid November.
From left to right (click image to enlarge): Thomas Winkler, Thomas Fischer, Julia Morf, Joana Aderi, Christian Rösli, Ralph Tristan Engelmann and Marius Peyer.
Confirmed shows so far:
17.01.2014 Fabriktheater, Zürich
18.01.2014 Fabriktheater, Zürich
21.01.2014 Fabriktheater, Zürich
23.01.2014 Fabriktheater, Zürich
24.01.2014 Fabriktheater, Zürich
25.01.2014 Fabriktheater, Zürich
25.02.2014 EWZ, Tanzstudio Rote Fabrik, Zürich
09.04.2014 Tojo, Bern
11.04.2014 Tojo, Bern
12.04.2014 Tojo, Bern