[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]
Richard Chartier needs no introduction. His work has been traveling across the ears of many people. He is well known for his reductive, intimate and minimalist way of treating sound (and silence), which has led him to not only build a plethora of works, but also to run a label that has become a clear reference in terms of contemporary sound art, that is LINE.
His way of composing and proposing the listening experience is meticulous and precise, often expansive and immersive, placed in a point between the mysterious and contemplative territories of perception. One may think his work is simple and minimalist, but by cause of that, is also complex and pretty full of energy and space. That is perhaps because of his way of dealing with microsound processes and the value of the silence between them, which together create a profound and wide spectrum that actually take perception out of common states and establishes a new relationship of time and space.
Chartier’s pieces are often full of sonic energy, but placed in frontiers of the audible/inaudible that makes it possible to not hear anything, or maybe, to listen to everything, since what’s supposed to be a silence, is just a place for the listener to put his sonic imagination at work, like living in a universe of incompletion and ghostly figures to live with. As Will Montgomery states, Chartier makes “extremely reticent work, with sounds often pitched at one or other end of the audible spectrum and mastered at such low volume that it is hard to make the compositions fully present to the ears”, which triggers new states of awareness and conception of the sonic art itself.
As you would expect from listening to his works, he’s not a man of lots of words, but he kindly agreed to answer some questions, that you can read below.
Richard, thank you for accepting this interview. Could you tell us what are you listening right now?
Some of my favorite recent releases: “Andøya” by Eric Holm, “Psychic 9-5 Club” by HTRK. “Ett” by Klara Lewis, “Sirene” by Robert Curgenven, “LA Spark” by Wrangler
Currently I am listening to a mix by LINE artist and good friend France Jobin. it’s really gorgeous. (listen)
How much relationship, difference, similarity or importance between sound and silence is present in your work?
It depends on the work/release. some are very dense, some are very open. a work like “recurrence” has a lot of space.
How would you define the concept of “implied silence”?
In a very loud world, perception of quiet or physical can be that implied silence. perhaps… comparative silence.
When listening to your works, I often feel like if you’re composing inaudible sound and not just audible shapes. I wonder how’s your opinion towards what’s audible and what’s not in the way you work.
It’s all for the listener to find, ghost patterns…
Is there a reason for your exploration of microsound and audio minimalism? What leads you to develop those aesthetic interests and what do you think is special in them?
I have always been attracted to small discrete or singular sounds. It’s easy to work with something you are attracted to.
When talking about your installation work, how do you approach the relation between sound, space and the listener?
When I create and installation it just about the listener being in a space. I am not interested in creating a sculptural object that sound emanates from. Sound to me is a sculptural experience. I like to set up spaces that shift the sound, and sound that shifts the space.
How do you think is the best way to listen to your work and what would be the optimal condition for experiencing it?
I have realized there is no way to tell people HOW to listen to something. I do love the experience of headphones. I hate when people say you HAVE to have the highest quality system to enjoy music or sound work.
How have you seen the relationship between your art and the states of consciousness or experiences that listeners have had when listening to it. Perhaps is there a “listening story” you would like to share?
I have had many audience members come up to me after a live performance or diffusion and ask “why was it so short… why did you only play 15 minutes” and i remind them that the performance was almost an hour-long. People have told me that it has stopped or slowed their perception of time. To me that is the best compliment. I hate when you can really tell that an experimental music performance is just going on toooooooo long.
Thomas Phillips says in a book that a minimalist and micro way of approaching sound feeds perception and opens a path for “embodied listening and self-awareness”. Do you think Line’s work over the years has contributed to that? How?
I would love to think so, it would be a great compliment to my work on the label. The artists and releases on LINE are carefully selected.
Finally, you recently gave a headphone concert. How it went? I wonder how different is it to a speaker based one.
It went very well. the only difficulty was that people not on the headphones continued to talk. the best part of a headphone performance is knowing that what i am hearing spatially is what the audience is hearing.
Dance piece with sound by Richard Chartier
Interview conducted by Miguel Isaza in June, 2014.