This is an email interview for Inpress that I did with West Australian Matt Rosner, who’s just released a superb new album Morning Tones on Apestaartje. He’s launching it in Melbourne next week – check out the live dates at the bottom.
Bob: What elements do you take into account in the way you arrange your sounds?
Matt: Acoustic and organic elements always come first. I like to use digital processing to enhance and then add to the acoustic sounds. For me it’s important to leave a certain level of freeform live performance in each piece, be it imperfections in the playing or room noise. I don’ try to make it too structured as the sounds need to have space to move in.
Bob: Tones, resonances, space all seem incredibly important to your compositions in lieu of some of the more traditional tenets like rhythm or melody. Did you make a conscious decision to explore this?
Matt: It’s the quieter and more restrained moments in music that always inspire me. I came to minimal music after years of experimenting with folk, post rock and electronics, and about five years ago I made the decision to concentrate on a more intimate and focused look at what constitutes each sound and how different frequencies and tones interact with each other. I feel that melody and rhythm still play a part in what I do but they are more understated and not the focal point of each track.
Bob: Are you interested in the integration of musical elements, notes etc with non musical field recordings, electronic processing etc – or do you view it all as music or all as sound objects?
Matt: My compositions are sound objects. There is a musical element in them which comes from the instruments but to me it’s all sound. I view music as a series of sounds that are carefully placed together to form a structure. When I think of the sounds from acoustic instruments I feel a sense of humanity, the player injecting their soul into the sound. Whereas it could be said, and I don’ particularly agree to this viewpoint, that digitally processed sound is void of soul. Its always been a goal of mine to inject a human element into my pieces, this is very important.
Bob: Did you approach Morning Tones much differently to Alluvial? Did your approach or intentions change much during its creation?
Matt: Both Alluvial and Morning Tones are products of the time and spaces in which they we made. Alluvial was made during a time of change; I got married and moved house to quiet place near the sea. The majority of the record was written in an acoustically designed studio, so I had the space and environment to have a lot of instruments setup with a lot of freedom to experiment. By the time the recording of Morning Tones came around I had a much smaller recording space which forced a more stripped back approach. I made a conscious decision to record Morning Tones first thing in the morning. As soon as I woke, I would be out of bed and recording, sometimes before the sun came up.
Bob: What have you learnt from Morning Tones?
Matt: When I look back on it now Morning Tones was really a refinement of ideas that I initially started working on with Alluvial. Though both records sound different, each had a very defined concept that took patience and discipline to adhere to. When I started recording I hadn’ spoken to Apestaartje or other labels about releasing this record. In a way this worked well as I could concentrate on immersing myself in the recording rather than worry about what the label would think of it.
Bob: How important is process to you?
Matt: Process is very important to what I do, as I do have quite a structured way of recording. In some pieces I actually feel that if the listener actually knew the process involved in arriving at the finished track they might have a better understanding and appreciation of what I am trying to achieve. That’s why I like to use part of my live set to build up parts made completely from live acoustic guitar, found objects or other instruments. The audience then gets to see the process in action.
Bob: Your music seems very much like something that rewards active listening or using headphones. Do you think much about the way in which you believe your music is best delivered?
Matt: My music works better in certain environments and this is something that I have spent a lot of time considering over the past 6 months. Headphone listening is definitely one of them. A quiet room with nice speakers is another. In terms of a live performance, I prefer a gallery space, somewhere the listener can be comfortable and without distraction. The listener is rewarded if they concentrate and focus fully on the sound.
Bob: How do you approach playing live?
Matt: When I play live I like to improvise as much as possible, as I enjoy the challenge of not knowing where the sounds will end up. Some parts are re-workings of recorded material and other pieces are built on-the-fly. For a laptop only set I will load up sounds that I know will work together, there is no real structure and pattern, I trigger and process the sounds ad-lib. When I use guitar I will sample, edit and process parts as I go. I like this approach, it gives me a chance to try out new material before refine it in the studio.
Saturday 20th January @ West Space
Doors open 4pm, $7
Symbiosis Listening Focus .03 – An early show from 4pm with Joe Talia & Simon Hampson
Sunday 21st January @ East Brunswick Club
Doors open 8pm, $8.
with: Robin Fox & Shoeb Ahmad