Interview with Visionary Voyager Radio Show
Robert with Alexei Krupski “Visionary Voyager”, Misk, Belarus, June 6, 2000
The questions are presented as they were written. Please forgive Alexei’s english.
My inspiration mostly comes from a place inside myself, which is not closely linked to any one sensory mode. It could be shaped into anything. It’s a sort of energy, a combination of an almost electric physical/spiritual charge, and a mental landscape, a Gestalt. I simply seek a way to communicate this energy back to myself and therefore to others, like a feedback loop. Regarding your last question, It is not always easy for me to compose. If I do not feel this energy that I refer to, then I spend my time working on other things or practicing. I would rather release fewer albums, but make each one important. Sometimes I am not even sure how it is that I create my own music. When I am in a creative phase, then the process takes care of itself, and I don’t think so much about the tools. All that matters is the world of sound that wishes to make itself heard. Sometimes, when I listen back to my best work, I can’t imagine myself creating it. That’s when I know that the process has worked well.
2.There is an opinion on the fact that, for being able to create a real music, a composer needs a particular state in which that music comes into his mind. In what way does it come to You? What kind of events and situations of your life precede and promote your creative work?
It doesn’t seem closely related to specific events. It is important for me to find quiet solitary time to develop new ideas, and often it helps to go on long walks in the mountains nearby, but I don’t have any specific formula or ritual that helps me to create. There is usually something bubbling underneath the surface all the time, and sometimes it wants to bubble up into the light, other times it needs to grow and develop in the dark. I try to respect these intervals for gestation. Usually I have so much work to keep me busy during the gestation periods that I have more trouble finding enough time to work on new music when the inspiration is there.
3. It is known, that you give night Sleep Concerts . Whether it is possible to know about it show more detail . Whose idea it was? What was maximum quantity of the listeners on there? Is the recording it on a video?
I don’t think there are any videos of a sleep concert. It would be very boring to watch, in any case! Nine hours with me sitting at a mixer and many people sleeping on the ground. The sound is very slow and quiet, barely enough to call music. A mixture of cloudy drones and natural environments. The sound creates a hypnotic focus, and creates the illusion of removing the walls, relocating the room to a surreal outdoor space. A typical audience might be 30-40 people. I have also done many sleep concerts on radio stations, to much larger audiences at home. There are some recordings of these radio concerts. I began playing these all-night concerts in 1982, when I was a student. I was influenced a lot by some of the all-night performances among some non-western cultures, such as the wayang performances in Indonesia (these are all-night puppet shows that tell the story of the Ramayana) or various long healing ceremonies of the Navaho and other native American people. I wasn’t the first to play all-night concerts, but maybe I was the first to actually make music that was aimed at listening while asleep. The time scale and dynamics are different from a normal style of listening. I am releasing a sleep-music DVD this year, called Somnium, with 7 hours of continuous music. DVD is the first technology that allows such long durations of music to be played continously.
4. On the album Seven Veils, one of compositions called as Book of Ecstasy. What book you have in view of ?
The title refers to a classic Sufi allegory written in the 15th century by Arifi of Herat. Many of the ideas that weave through Seven Veils actually refer to Alchemy and the transmission of a certain mystical-scientific world view from the Islamic world into Medieval Europe, which helped create the Rennaisance. This transmission occurred through the libraries in Spain (at the Alhambra and elsewhere) and through the contact that Europeans made with Islam during the Crusades. The Medieval European interpretation of mysticism was to completely turn away from the world and deny its existence; while during the same time, the Islamic world was making great discoveries in mathematics, medicine and chemistry. These discoveries grew out of a search for understanding of the signs of God within the world, which included the realms of physical and sensual existence.
5. In the last interviews you speak about your preference to east tools before western because of their greater expressiveness. What can you tell about tools from huge Russian plain, which is between East and West. Have you ever listehed three-string Russian balalaika? What do you think of opportunities of this tool?
I don’t make a distiction between the tools of East and West. East and West is an artificial separation. We are all one world, and a simple instrument like a flute or a drum has just as much validity as a complex modern creation. I like the expressive range of some of these more simple instruments. They are closer to the heart, to the body, to the muscles which convey emotion at a level before translation, before thought. The voice is the closest of all. In the same way that the muscles of your face can form a smile without your knowledge, the muscles that control the sound of a musical instrument can communicate more than you are aware when you play. I have not played the balalaika, and I am not an expert with stringed instruments, but I do like the sound of it very much. It’s a beautiful instrument, and it could work well in a new musical context, in the right hands.
6.You speak that the listener should be in ecstasy, trance at hearing music.Have you a fear that music for many already became a drug and its influence in our life is underestimated? What do you think about music written specially for healing any part of a body using the special rhythms working on subconsciousness?
It is important that we do not lump all mental states together as good or bad. There are many types of trance, many levels of awareness. The trance induced by television or computer games is as potentially destructive as the imbalances than can arise from the overuse of mind-altering chemicals. A person can use altered states to escape from reality, or to awaken to reality. I am interested in removing filters from my own perceptions. I do not tell other people how they “should” listen to music or how they should experience their lives, but I think it is sad that many people are more interested in finding anaesthetics to numb themselves to the world, rather than learn how to be more awake. I have no power to change this situation. The best that I can do is try to make a kind of art that has a positive energy, and encourages a useful mode of experience. In any case, it will probably only attract people who already want such things, and it certainly won’t change the world.
Regarding “healing music”…. I think many kinds of art can have healing qualities, but I am skeptical when people claim that a certain rhythm, tone, or harmony will affect the body in a certain way. Most of these people are just trying to sell something, or they are innocently expanding from their own personal experience to an assumption about “universals.” Something that one person finds relaxing might just be annoying to someone else.
7.You speak that you like creativity of A. Tarkovski., which worked with the composer Artemii Artemiev much. Have you ever listened his electronic passages. Do you know him?
I like the music that I have heard of Artemiev, and I think his scores fit Tarkovky’s films very well. I don’t know much of his music outside of the films, though. I understand his son is also doing some nice work now.
8.What kind of music do you listen to in your own everyday life? And whose music has recently fascinated you?
I listen to a wide range, from Indian, Indonesian, North African and Persian music to American and European Jazz and modern underground music. Lately I listen to a lot of songwriters, like Lori Carson, Beth Orton, Grant Lee Phillips, Elliot Smith, or back to the beautiful work by Nick Drake, John Martyn, and others. I loved the last Massive Attack CD “Mezzanine” and Bjork’s “Homogenic.” As you can see, I don’t have strong borders with my tastes.
9.How do you imagine the listener of your music? How old is he? What kind of opinions and principals must he hold for percepting your music as one of his own?
I don’t imagine any of these things. My work covers a wide territory, and some CDs appeal to some more than others. My audience includes young industrial/dark music listeners, college professors, grandmothers and technophiles. Each person seems to hear something different. That’s fine with me.
10.If you give black and white colours to grief and pleasure conditionally ,what colours would be basic to describe your music?
All of them, but it includes shadows as well as light. You can communicate things with art that include emotion but also go beyond emotion, to a memory of why we are here. What color is that?
11. Some listeners consider that the names of compositions, of an album and even the colour in which is made out a disk already induce on images, the moods and therefore limit them in their flights and dreams. Some of people consider that the best music is silence. Is it close to you?
Yes. But it’s all an open book. What we need is always in front of us. Sometimes it is good to imply that there is something hidden beneath the surface, in a way that makes people want to look harder. Sometimes we spend so much time thinking about the works of humanity that we forget the world we live in, the non-human life, the whispers of experience that constantly envelope us. We imagine silence to be the moment someone stops doing something. Our concept of silence still refers to the actions of people. True silence does not exist, since everything is in motion, except perhaps in the form that the Buddhists refer to as “Emptiness.” I have often wanted to create a music which would weave such a spell, that when it stops it awakens the listener’s ears to the sounds all around them. True listening should make human music unnecessary, because there is music all around us. Everything else is mud in the stream. Yet sometimes that mud can reveal the flow of the currents within the stream, it can remind us, it can communicate something about transparent reality which we otherwise forget. We need a balance between the mud and the clear stream, between talking and listening, creativity and humility.