[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] 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]
Even when technology is part of the creative process it is not necessarily the goal of work and reflection. The technology, from ancient to contemporary, plays the role of mediator in an experience for which there is no thing such as predefined methods or default structures. It’s an inner question, a permanent inquiry to the spirit, to the act of creation as such, its most intimate and expansive manifestation.
Located in such a depth of methodological and perceptual implementation, Italian artist Franz Rosati seeks to question both the tool and its language, for appropriating it,to the point of reaching a meeting which transcends the dichotomy of the cybernetic, making way for an alchemy of the signal, reflected not only in his way of transforming sound materials, but above all, in the transmutation of his own creative process, his activity of listening, his silence.
This process is reflected in the search for a dialogue with the tool, not necessarily in terms of a disembodied rejected virtuosity or in a need for complexity, but quite the opposite: opening up to the reality of creation itself, unpredictable and simple, placed between natural chance and the artist’s self-questioning attitude. It becomes possible within a refined and open control from the algorithm, speaking the language of the data towards sound, and so to the image and imagination, allowing Rosati a unique poetic ability where what is directed gets mixed with incomplete deliberation, merging vastness and simplicity, leading the sound to find its place, not over a fixed line, but in an always open continuum, dancing over a projected network of resonant relations.
Such a network is established as an intimacy that breaks to go deep inside the listener and the experience of intertwining the science, thinking, and planning found in technology, with the sensation, affection, expression found in the aesthetic sphere. A search which, as he says, lies between the spiritual and the scientific, mediated by a personal language that could be defined as pure sonic chemistry and as a direct experimentation of the behaviour of sound, where the artists changes in order to let the work change as well, thus breaking schemes and reflecting the experimentation right in the course of the creative procedures in which macrosound and microsound are one: openness in listening which, in the contrast between calmed and stressful, granular and massive, what is created and destroyed, what is affected and what is examined, reaches a point in which detail, structure, and the spacetime fluency meet in a very unique point both in terms of the sonic manifestation as in the listener agency.
Hey franz, what are you currently listening at this moment?
I’m a very open listener but I like to focus on topics, composers and musicians. In the last six months I used to listen to Benjamin Britten more carefully. In the past I was really impressed by some of his works and his approach but for one reason or another I’ve never focused…so it’s probably the right time.
Then I’m also listening to the first release from Wiegedood – De Doden Hebben Het Goed, a really great black metal band from Belgium and MMXIV by Dark Circles another black metal project I’ve discovered recently. I’m a huge crust punk and black metal fan since when I was a teenager.
I’m also listening to some old stuff I loved like Pattern of Plants I-II by Mamoru Fujieda and lot of Renaissance Music from Josquin Des Prez, Adrian Willaert, Palestrina, Orlande de Lassus or Gesualdo da Venosa, it’s a musical genre I really listen to very frequently.
How was your encounter with sound and how has that evolved over the years? What keeps you interested on working with it?
I can’t figure out exactly when I was engaged with sounds at a creative level. I’ve ever been interested in progression and transformation of natural and mechanical sounds from an early age; something almost every children do.
I can say I’m deeply fascinated with the liminal aspect between what you can perceive as “musical” (in a very wide sense) and what you can perceive as just “sound” or “structural” and probably I can reduce my work on giving to the listener a set of uncomplete but organic landmarks to fill with his own perception and figure out what the hell is happening on the piece.
The live situation is a very central part of this; the use of dynamic gradients from very subtle to very loud sounds, broking a tension with sudden changes, or bury nice harmonies and melodies with harsh loads of sounds, working with the venue resonances are the ways which I try to interact with audience, to broke expectations and cloud the issue between what is structural and what is narrative.
This is probably one of my own favorite tracks, it’s a “rework” I’ve made for a tribute compilation of Laghetto, one of my fav italian HC/Punk bands ever. All the sounds comes from the original track and it’s live-recorded with Honegumi, as usual. It’s a simple track but I feel it clearly document the way I grind all the music I listen beyond genres, and I make mine and put in my own musical vision.
How did you start exploring technology and how do you think it has affected the way you conceive sound, art and even reality as such?
I didn’t start exploring technology; all those digital instruments and languages was just there while I was growing up so it became natural to have a close relashionship with them and with rising digital technologies.
This quotation by Giulio Carlo Argan, intellectual, art critic and politician, probably reflects at best my thoughts about the use of technology in general: “those who refuse to design and plan accept to be designed and planned. As in politics so in all the other disciplines.”
I think it’s pretty actual, above all nowadays that everything seems to be normalized and averaged around few accepted procedures, paradigms and approaches almost in every discipline and in social life with the restricted ways of interaction we have with social media.
So, technology to me is from one side just the right tool to make music or do something, like scissors or screwdriver could be, but is also something you have to constantly question and not just use at random because it’s cool and everybody use it, otherwise you could risk to be used by technology.
That’s the case of some commercial software that dictate the paradigm and the way of making music nowadays. I love technology when it’s simple, effective and deliver knowledge, because it’s the way it produce real progress and quality.
I think quality and progress are human traits that can be augmented by technological progress, but technological progress without those human trait is useless shit nobody should care about in most of the cases, besides it can be dangerous.
Following that, what about algorithms? How the possibilities of programming your own tools changed the way you work with sound and what kind of aesthetic implications you see on that?
Working with your own tools is mainly about define limits. With the computer you have potentially unlimited solutions, the effort in developing your own tools is to give that some peculiar aspects based on the sound you need and the kind of control you want on it. It’s not just an instrument but an emanation of your compositional paradigm set up on a specific aesthetic and structural profile.
I’m really fascinated with some algorithms and mathematical equations used in other fields to describe physical phenomena, probably it’s a sort of Xenakis heritage I have, but it’s also the reason why I loved Xenakis so much at a first glance and his music and theories left such a strong imprint on me.
Since my beginnings I wanted to avoid the paradigm of loop, sequencing and repetition, and the generative and stochastic approach was perfect to do that. Then during the years I’ve grown a less radical approach about process, but the basis of my technical approach have been pretty constant.
In Theory of Vortex Sound for example, I used some stochastic distributions and functions mutuated from the Dynamics of Fluids to generate sound particles and textures through my Honegumi software. You can find that also in Ruins, even if it’s the most composed sound work I’ve released, for example inside track 05.
I want my stuff sounds like “broken organic sound” and keeps the same quality of incompleteness present in nature. The poetic in this is about to use the perfection of math to bring into sound and visuals the imperfection and unpredictability of nature.
I don’t know if I’m one of those artists who really like to express the aesthetic of the code they use. I start with an idea and the most direct way to obtain some sounds and forms are the use of specific algorithms. Sometimes I don’t need them, so I just skip them.
What motivates you to be an artist? What is the intention behind your work and how do you think it reflects in the way you relate with your audience?
The basic intention behind my work is to tell a story around aural perceptions with an emotional and not just perceptive or experimental content. I can’t exhibit a work made of just aesthetic statements, experiments and studies…that’s a study, a private stuff, not a complete work to show. I feel the need to expose my vision and not to get applause because I’ve done a shitperfect stuff, I’ve done the home works and all the random people are entertained for 40 minutes.
To take it shortly, it’s pretty clear to state as “sound & visual artist”. it’s easy, people get it and I’m fine with that but I’ve any particular affection to the “artist” statement; define a method, express a clear vision and put a lot of effort in it is the only thing I care about what I do, I think it’s the same for a painter, a craftsman a woodworker or a sound engineer.
Anybody who just care about their own work.
And what about your interest on field recording? I know the majority of your works are entirely based on field recordings. Why doing you work with other sources such as electronic generators/synths? What do you find special on the field recordings compared to other sources?
My soundworks are grounded on the use of field recordings because it’s the way I prefere to obtain this sense of incompleteness, the same you can find in nature. I do that both using mathematical equations as natural or mechanical sound sources and extracting the aspects I want to preserve from the sources I use. When I use field recordings I don’t use complex processing or a gigantic chain of effects, Theory of Vortex Sound, for example is just granular synthesis and distortions. It’s a selection from three hours recording, after a couple of days of rehearsal made with my software HONEGUMI
The Field serie of studies for example, is one of the few works where I only used synthesized sounds coming from the GENDYN (Dynamic Stochastic Synthesis) algorithm and with a very strong use of math. Also the “Field of Immanence” project, is based on something similar to the GENDYN I’ve developed to make sounds and to control the Lasers beam with the same waveform you hear, to translate the concept of filling the auditory space also with light structures surrounding the audience.
In both cases the math can provide the organicity in what you listen and what you see. I don’t like to use hardware synths so much because they are huge and can’t be trasported easily, thery’re expensive and I really don’t get any difference in terms of quality between the most commercial hardware stuff I could afford and the results I obtain with digital techniques.
Since I can’t afford expensive modular synthesizers like the buchla and the serge, I’ve developed my own tools. I’ve started working on my own musical paradigms in late 2007 and I feel really comfortable with it. I still love the timbre of some synthesizers I still own like the TX81z or the Nord Modular by Clavia, and I cannot exclude to start using back again. Changing is not bad and going back in time or play nice instruments can be fun but at the moment I’m not interested in. I’d need a reason to do that, “fun” and “nice” is not enough to make a choice for my instruments.
In that way I wonder how do you deal with processing those materials. How is your workflow in that stage and what kind of process you use to apply? looking for what kind of things?
My workflow is based on three steps:
- Preparing software, refining, test it, “tune” the sound
- 2 Rehearsal and Multitrack Live Recording, usually up to 10-12 hours music
- 3 Select, cut, mix and master the stuff
Ruins is the only release where I added a 4th step between 2nd and 3rd, adding old material, mixing with the newly recorded one, record additional material, and basically change everything but the macro structure.
In remember a talk where Brian Eno mentions how “plastic” we could understood music given the recording possibilities. Also remember Trevor Whishart calling for an analogy change between music composition as “architecture” to “chemistry” as sounds can be understood as compounds, some kind of substances you can mix. I wonder what’s your perspective towards that and if you approach sound in a concrete or sculptural way? Do you think sound as some kind of “matter” or “chemistry”? I notice that so present in your “theory of vortex sound” release…
It could seems a naive aswer but to me is more related to “Alchemy”. Something in between of a scientific and spiritual approach.
I need control of your instruments, that I can acquire after a period of experimentation, but also dealing with an emotional aspects that, for me, portray the cause of the unexpected results and it’s strictly connected with the personal path and the spiritual side.
When I’m inside the studio I can refine, cut something, balance the structure, mix, equalize and master, but I need to maintain the emotive aspect and the liveness of everything, not only working on compounds to obtain expected results.
Like Niels Bohr would have said, there’s a big difference between thinking and “just being logical”.
I think that work also let us to talk about how microsound theories and practices have influenced you. I mean, how is this time scale exploration present in your work? You seem to be concerned about this macro-micro relationship and how “Macrostructures are compared to a fluid like the rippling effect in the sea, the increasing velocity of a magmatic flux or the steady state of water in an artificial lake” and micro structures can be understood in terms of quantum data, particles, etc. How those notions and things like texture, grain, time are present in the way you conceive sound and in the way you work with it?
At the beginning I was more technical about that. Between 2002 and 2007 I was used to read some great texts by Dannis Smalley, Simon Emmerson (probably one of the finest intellectuals about electronic music I know), Stockhausen and obviously Curtis Roads, Kim Cascone and Iannis Xenakis that definitely shaped my approach more than others on a theoretical level.
At the same time during the years of the Conservatory I used to compose a lot of formal studies that became very relevant for my growth.
I was really attracted to work on sound in a very technical way but then I’ve found that all those stuff I’ve learnt was just too much to fit inside my music and what I need to express with; after a long process, I’ve just started to simplify.
At some point I think I just started using all those formal notions and structural paradigms in a more instinctive way. I’ve played martial art for a big part of my life and in my opinion it’s very the same. You learn to give the same kick one thousand times, you learn forms and structures, you learn how to train your body but when you’re in a real fight, you just use the techniques you need and the techniques that your body and mind feel more comfortable. If you think the best way to win a fight is to use all the techniques you learnt, you fail.
With music you don’t need to win or fight against anyone, so it’s even better than martial arts…!
Following that, how do you manage the relationship between complexity and simplicity in your work? Do you think in some way about that contrast between objects and structures? I get that sense in several of your pieces.
I try to avoid very complex and articulated structures; it’s a job I mostly do when I need to study new forms and define ideas, then I start to simplify. Complexity in my work resides on the details and in the microscopic level.
I think about a tree, it’s easy to identify a tree, you need just few structural elements, but if you look at the motion of its leafs, it’s very complex, it’s never the same, it’s an evolving pattern going from left to right but never in the same way and there’s no leaf that has the same motion with another. So in music using a crescendo to create tension, it’s very usual, but it’s not banal or stupid; it depends on how it’s developed, when it’s used and what this form is conveying in terms of content and matter. And as a three is part of the landscape, a crescendo/diminuendo can be a part of a sonic landscape you can choose to just expose or tell a story about it.
I think about the work of Paul Dolden, that is made of Crescendo/Diminunendo, but has a so strong timbral study that needs this particular form to be exposed as well.
Anybody with a lot of method and exercise could be able to make very complex music, but I think that’s not the point where me and lot of artists which still uses “complex” forms are focused.
The transitory nature of sound and the fact that the sonic silhouettes are radically altered by time is actually something you seem to be very aware of, some kind of deep interest in the way sounds evolve over time, which is reflected both in the dynamics and sequences you built but also on how sonic forms/timbres are radically affected with that. Is there a narrative behind? Or is it just a way of exposing the aesthetics (poetics?) of sound and its transformation over time? What’s your take on that compositional process?
There is a very precise narrative at the end, I really like to keep in mind some of the most common Western Classical Music structures, such as the Symphony, when I perform live. It’s a kind of compass to not get lost in a live performance and go straight to the point.
I can divide the structural aspects of my works in three parallel steps, subcategories of the 2nd part of my workflow:
1st Final Structure, taking care of beginning, developement, end.
2nd Macro Structure, all the stuff about progression, slow transformations, broken tension
3rd Micro Struture, the math and the process I need to shape sound and timbral aspects
In your “ruins” work you establish the exploration around a concept which integrates “social, physical and psychic meaning”. I wonder how this influenced your process of composing, listening and actually developing the materials for this work. How conceptual aspects of your pieces relate to the techniques, methods and objectives you use to have with your pieces?
Ruins is a very different work from all the others. It’s based on live recordings made with Honegumi but totally reworked until only the final structures survived to the most of the timbral content. During the process I’ve added lot of materials, erased some parts, and for example added a guitar line made by Bof from Vonneumann and Routine.
So the timbral elements coming from the original recording of Ruins are not lost but really different and mixed with other sounds. I acted the same as time and society acts on buildings, streets, cultures, people. It’s a process of creation, destruction and evaluation of what lasts after time and events. It’s a work about different levels of “transformation in time”.
All the social, physical and psychic meaning I’ve integrated in Ruins is just emotive content related to the alchemical process I was writing before. It’s strictly related to the personal level, made of leaving back the past and start from what was remained. The book from Marc Augè, suggested to me by my friend and dancer Anna Basti, was determining for the conceptual part of the work and catalysed all the meaning behind what I was doing for the preceding two years.
And what do you think are the ideal listening conditions for presenting your work and how much concerned are you with space and audience disposal?
It depends on. I still find really engaging and challenging the classical stereo setup with the audience in front of the stage, very classic. Multichannel setup is ok but I don’t like to deliver “special sound effects” so I’m not interested in as long as I really feel I need it. I just feel very confortable when the audience is focused. At the same time I’m interested in relationship with the space I’m performing, working with the sound capacity of the venue and its resonances. I like to work with very good sound systems as with cheap ones, it’s just a matter of what you can do with what you have.
What led you to start Nephogram Editions and what’s your objective with it? How do you do the curatorial process for it?
Just passion for music, the strive to diffuse work made by clever guys I’ve listened during the years. In this moment I’m not working on Nephogram Editions anymore, it is not dead.
Probably I’ll start something new or keep on working on Nephogram but it’s not the right time for me.
How you conceive silence and how is it present in your work?
During my daily life, I try to be in silent places as much as possibile. I don’t like so much to listen to music while I’m driving or while I’m at home cooking, reading or doing random stuff.
When I want to listen to music I just put on the record I want to listen and I decide to pledge some amount of time to the listening.
I can’t stand shit like Spotify or iTunes. We usually feel confused just because we’re surrounded by confusion and sometimes we need some chaos to stimulate ourself in some ways. But in my opinion, what we call “silence” is the tool to keep contact with our inner side.
What we culturally define as silence is not quietness or total absence of sound, music, speech and noises, and it is instead the presence of the subtle aspect of our aural perception and the awareness of a sudden change in that. So when we are in silence, we focus on very small details, we are ready for something suddenly happens. For that reason I gave the same importance to silence of perspective for images.
In music, covering all the dynamic range, from very loud sounds to very quiet, do not means that quietness is representative of silence and loud is representative of noise, a quiet sound can be invasive, harsh and hurting and a loud sound can be comforting, epic or just steady. Silence can be meditative, can be scary, can be anxious, can be pleasant and intriguing.
Last but not least, could you please share some things to read or listen that you think our community would enjoy?
− Marc Augè – Le temps en ruines
− James Gleick – Chaos
− Deleuze/Guattari – Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia
− Mystic, Geometer, and Intuitionist: The Life of L. E. J. Brouwer
− Gershom Scholem – On the Kabbalah and its Symbolism
− Abel Ferrara – Pasolini
− Leos Carax – Pola X
− Shin’ya Tsukamoto – Vital
− Les Revenants – TV Serie
− Iannis Xenakis – Dämmerschein, 1994
− Zbigniew Karkowski – One and Many, 2005
− Pita – Get out, 1999
− Anton Webern, Passacaglia Op. 1, 1908
− Ornette Coleman – The Shape of Jazz to come
− Mamoru Fujieda – Pattern of Plants I-II
Interview by Miguel Isaza, October, 2015