Lente Kabinet: A Lesson In Experimentation
Black Zone Myth Chant
What is your definition of “experimental”?
Well for me experimental music is adventurous music, when the creator(s) took a risk, tried something different, unexpected. Experimental is quite a vague term so it can be applied to really weird music, free improv, sound design kind of stuff, as well as some less radical creations, like what I do. I think it’s like getting out of the comfort zone. Not taking the easy way. It’s about being alive.
Describe you own approach towards experimentation within your own work?
It’s all about curiosity, explorations, trying lots of things, which would fail for the most part, but keep on trying until you find something interesting. Like old gold diggers. When you make music almost every day for so many years, like me, what keeps it interesting is this quest for new sounds, new ideas, something you haven’t done before. The unknown. This is my way of creating. Keep the excitement alive,being excited about trying things, in a very childish way. And it is not forced, it is a natural feeling. Experimentation is tied with joy I think, it has a playful side, which maybe is not so obvious when a lot of experimental music can sound harsh to new ears.
Where do the lines of experimentation begin/end? Do they end?
I guess not. You could experiment within a very tight frame, within strict rules like in folk music or something. Every time a genre hits a wall and you think it’s done someone comes and renew it. Think Ornette Coleman in jazz for instance. He kept the instrumentation but changed it a bit, he kept some of the rules, but he destroyed it. It is still jazz but it isn’t anymore. Not that he alone did the whole revolution, but he is a striking point. You are an experimental musician if you do YOUR thing. People who strictly copied Ornate Coleman were not experimenting. But then came some other musicians like Albert Ayler for instance who had his own take on free jazz. He was influenced, but he wasn’t copying. So it’s not “the most crazy your sounds are the most experimental you are”. It has to include honesty, sincerity and singularity.
Describe your own personal creative path and how it led you to the place, and with the approach to music, you have now?
I think I already mentioned it in a previous question. It’s natural. I feel like it’s an approach to life in general, it’s not just with music. I’m excited about stuff, trying things, discovering things, it can be a location, a person, an art piece, a knowledge. Baudelaire said something like “the under appreciated form of pleasure that is astonishment”. I feel that. I like to be astonished by a fact, a rule of nature for example, a biological or cosmological discovery, and also of course with art. Both as a spectator and as a creator.
Chance and accidents are part of my process and are related to experimentation for me, because you try things and serendipity is never far away. You try something with an estimation of a result, sometimes you’re disappointed, sometimes you’re happily surprised and it leads to something great. Another thing I could say about experimentation : it is extremely tied to a sense of judgment. How to select ideas that work and ideas that doesn’t. There are hundreds of small decisions along the way of any creation where subjective tastes, or esthetic concepts, is important too. While I experiment I could end up with some sounds some other musician with different goals is really trying to achieve, but from my point of view it would not be interesting and therefore I’d pass on it. Maybe I did pass on an idea years ago that was extremely good but I wasn’t ready for it, who knows. Maybe I wasn’t ready, or maybe it wasn’t mine to explore. And the opposite is the same, I spend my life looking for something that maybe someone else found right away but felt it wasn’t worth digging.
What are some vital aspects of maintaining an experimental approach to art?
Don’t let yourself influenced by the desire of success. Keep the goal of the art piece being what it should be as opposed to being what people would like it to be. It’s easy to make compromises in the process, like “if I do that it becomes more accessible to people so potentially more successful”. As I was just saying there are hundred of decisions to be made while creating and for each choice there is a mistake to be done, in the sense of taking the easy way, or the “corrupted” way. It is almost impossible to fully eradicate that temptation to do something to please (not necessarily mainstream listeners but it could be your pears, or the media, or a girl or boy you like ha ha). But we have to do our best resisting that.
How do you reconcile with the marketing and branding aspect of the creative industry?
I don’t know about that. I’m not sure I’m the best at this game. And my humble level of success makes it that I’m not really a part of this world. I strongly reject everything that is not true to the art. I have no interest in commercial music and commercial events. It is pretty obvious if your goal is to make art or to make money. I’m interested in art and only art, the sincere attempts from an artist to speak their true voice.
Is an experimental approach to creativity conducive towards financial benefit?
That’s a weird question, but very interesting. There is no rule to it. Of course the easier the music is the more it can be successful. But even in bigger spheres, and in the biggest of spheres, some people do experiment a bit and stand out because of that. People like Kendrick or Solange for instance. I don’t listen to them but I recognize the effort. And they’re rewarded for this I feel like. In the past you had people like Jimi Hendrix who was very successful, and he was for sure experimental in his own way. On a lesser scale, Autechre has never stop trying weird things and are still very popular. So I would answer the opposite of your question : experimental approach is not a definitive obstacle. But it is far more in music than in other form of arts. Think Picasso or Dali being monuments in painting, think contemporary art or dance, experimentation is way more appreciated and recognized there I feel like. Well you could argue that Stravinsky was also very popular when Picasso was. But nowadays I don’t think we have the equivalent of a Damien Hirst or a Jeff Koons in music, which would be someone who does experimental-ish music and plays the biggest stage at Coachella or something and makes millions of dollars.