[infinite grain is a series of interviews inspired on microsound procedures, exploring a wide variety of topics in dialogue with artists who work with sound on installation, composition and improvisation]
Shay Nassi born and lives in Tel-Aviv, Israel. He’s most known in the music spheres as mise_en_scene, although is also member of the ket3m project, created in duo with Tom Kemeny.
As mise_en_scene, Shay has developed a wide palette of sound works, ranging from performances and exhibitions to sound design projects (for dance and film) and publications coming from his solo project but also from interesting collaborations with other artists. Such spectrum of possibilities has allowed him to publish his compositions in recognized labels, such as mAtter, Leerraum , Crónica, White_Line, Dragon’s Eye Recordings, among others.
The sonic world of mise_en_scene is one of a kind; mysterious, engaging, full of depth and characterized for showing a very special reflection towards sound, going into the depths of silence, small sounds and sonic minimalism but also getting into complex territories of noise and massive process audio data, developing an exploration which actually links both the subtle and the loud, the quiet and the extreme, resulting in a pretty unique way of dealing with sound matter and finding authentic ways of intertwining the notions of space, time and form. In that sense, his work is a universe of microsonic details and textures, a source of unknown realities found between massive clouds and delicate grains, a special convergence of both the acoustic and the acousmatic phenomena right from the experimental procedures.
Below is a quick interview with Nassi, aiming to explore a bit more about his perspective towards sound and the different guidelines of his work, along some sounds that, in my opinion, speak for themselves.
Shay, thanks for taking your time to answer this. What are you currently listening?
Currently I came back to my old school death metal archive.
Also, I’m listening to my work with Shinkei: Shinkei + Mise_en_scene Leftovers (Reworked) on crónica electronica label. Really enjoy this release. (link)
Could you tell how did you get introduced to sound and what attracts you to it?
From the artistic aspect, I always listen to music, especially to experimental music.
From my day job aspect, I’m a sound engineer and deal with sound everyday.
And what about the aspect of microsound specifically?
I was always enthusiastic about small sounds or the “small parts and forms that assemble” sounds/chords/notes etc. I like the rawness of sound.
What kind of relationship do you think you could establish between the subtle and the loud aspects of sound? I sense this kind of attention to spatial depth and sound limits in your pieces and wonder what’s your opinion towards that.
To my opinion, subtle is one component or aspect in loud aspects of sound, and you can’t separate one from another.
How do you think the engineering and artistic aspects of sound get related in your work? What do you think about this multi-disciplinary way of working with sound?
Through my studies, I’ve learned about sonic phenomena and sometimes it’s like how to avoid these phenomenon. These sonic phenomena really attracted me and it’s the basis to my creations.
Your work is based on a minimalist point of view, being able to get very subtle and delicate but also strong and inclined to a particular aesthetic exploration of noise. I wonder how you manage to relate both aspects of saturation and stillness?
It’s something that is hard for me to explain, I guess it’s intuition.
There you also talk about sound art as sculpting. How that idea has been present in your work over the years and how do you conceive the materiality and malleability of sound.
This is done by reducing material from the sound(s) I work with, manipulate it by stomping and bending it. Then, I blend the results back to the original one.
That process goes on and on until I satisfied with the result.
What is your ideal listening situation both in terms of material space and mental disposition? How do you think we can establish a more direct connection with sound? Any particular listening way you recommend?
I have no particular way of listening, sometimes I prefer doing it with my monitors and sometimes with headphones.
Since we talk about experimental music and personal experience I can’t tell how to do it.
How do you like to approach performance in terms of methods, conditions and process?
My performance includes full live set with my Eurorack modular. I did rehearsal a lot before and it’s quite clearly what and how I’m going to play. And with that said, there is always a room for improvisation.
I play in small rooms and large as well, and I always would prefer play indoors.
What’s behind the ket3m project? what kind of aspects of sound driven you to that project?
I was always missing some beats and recognized patterns in my music and from that reason ket3m was born.
Also it’s only me as mise_en_scene and I looked to work with another person.
How is silence “present” or important in your work?
Silence has an important place in my composition but not more or less than other material I use, of course, it depends on what I’m working on.
Interview conducted by Miguel Isaza in August, 2014.