Could you tell us a little about your background? How did your practice end up being so focused on natural environments, and in particular the sounds associated with those environments?
I have always liked oscillating between art and science. My father is a doctor who plays in a heavy metal band… His guitar would stare at me in the living room, asking simple unanswerable questions such as: What is music? How does the listening apparatus work? Where does sound come from in the cosmos? I studied physics as part of a growing fascination for sound. However If I go back to studying science one day I would definitely go for biology to expand my listening. Collaborating with living organisms is the future of music. The history of science is full of fascinating stories about how the world can be explored through listening, such as how the speed of the wingbeat of bees was measured by tuning violins to their sound. I am a curious listener, I like the idea of throwing your ears out there, into the polyrhythm of how things are interwoven from the centre of the earth to the edge of the universe. I am intrigued by the line humans draw between nature and themselves. My practice currently focuses on exploring this line and looking into how to articulate it differently.
I first discovered your work through your NTS show, ’The Edge Of The Forest.’ It offered a real respite from the more intense and abrasive residencies that I naturally gravitate towards on NTS! An online radio station is perhaps not the most expected of platforms for someone such as yourself to present their work through. How did that come about?
I am indeed interested in combining all sorts of skills together, from casting ears to building a boat or GPS tracking of animals. But I like to think that all I do now can be traced back to radio. I grew up listening and recording stories on tape. Nothing can transport you more than a simple audio narrative: a voice, a soundscape, music. These are the basic ingredients of all I do.
I met with NTS when I was working at Café Oto, a few blocks away from Gillet square [in Dalston], where the studio is located. I immediately fell in love with the fact you could just open the door of the studio and be out in the street. When sound studios generally stay hidden in buildings, the way NTS connects with its surrounding was and is still very inspiring to reconcile my interest for sound making with my interest for being outdoors. The Edge of the Forest sprouted from these ideas, it is a show exploring the connections between forest and city, technology and plants, animals and music.
The music you pick for the shows is pretty eclectic yet somehow always seems to fit with the overarching themes of flora and fauna - whether that’s Youth Lagoon, Of Montreal or Flying Lotus… How do you decide on which artists/songs fit the concept?
I am interested in how artists see themselves and their music as part of the fauna and flora. It usually starts with a banal reference to nature in the artist’s name or in a song title as the starting point to creating the musical atmosphere of the show. I am interested in organic and repetitive song structures, almost like Lindenmayer Systems. It’s aired in the morning so I try to find music that’s gentle as a leaf to the ear while simultaneously making you want to dive into a sea of pine needles (which I embrace quite literally as part of creating sounds for the show).
When I get the chance I interview the artist about his relationship with animals or plants. Forests are often used as metaphors for the unconscious or imagination: I remember especially the interview with Kevin Barnes [Of Montreal]. His music is populated with animals from Earth and forests from other worlds. Have you seen the documentary called The Secret Life of Plants? My dream would be to interview Stevie Wonder as part of the show. Maybe I should invite him with flowers next time he is around!