[ interviews ]

Interview for DB magazine (Adelaide, Australia) June 2004
db Magazine: is there at all a sense of euphoria or ecstasy when you document a moment in time through your compostions? do you ever 'lose yourself' in that moment? i am sure that many listeners have been awestruck, confounded by your work (i have been, especially while listening to buildings).�are you ever confounded by it?

Francisco López: Ecstasy sounds good to me as one possible descriptor (there are some other possible ones) of the immersive experience in sound -not document- I'm often involved with in the work with sound, both in the solitude of the field recording or the studio, and in the live performances. I'm definitely engaged on a quest for 'losing myself' and being 'confounded' by that immersion. All of this speaks of an ineffable perception of the sonic/music experience, which was probably best described by the expression 'belle confusion' in the conception of absolute music of some poets of the Romanticism. Music/sound can be foreseen in an amazingly wide variety of ways, especially when the conception of music can include any possible sound and any possible way of using it. From all of these, I find particularly uninteresting those perspectives centered on communication and representation, and particularly appealing those focusing on the instinctive / non-rational aspect of sound. To me, this is precisely the best feature of music, to be away from language and specific meaning. It's a quality of immense potential and strength, and it is sadly dissipated very often by multiple attempts at connecting music with external purposes or unnecessary additional elements, like the multi-media fad. This is actually a historical debate that spans centuries of discussion, and I guess there's something natural in human nature that pulls music to other less-free realms. I naturally do the contrary.

db Magazine: are your works relative to what you are feeling at the time of recording? do they sometimes come about spontaneously? are they expressive or intuitive?

Francisco López: I believe an essential core of my spirit is in all my works (as I think it is for many other composers, despite the Cagean dogma), but never a specific feeling or an expressive instance. There's really nothing specific I want to express or convey with my music. In that sense, it's actually incomplete until a listener has decided what 'to do' with it. It's open for use and interpretation. In fact, I think music only starts to exist when a listener is creating it through his/her dedication and commitment. Before that, there's only raw sound, regardless of the work and efforts of the 'composer'. Or, in other words, the essential act for the creation of music is not the recording or structuring of sonic material, but its appreciation as a musical entity. Anyone can do that.

db Magazine: how does the space you use affect your live performances?

Francisco López: In a dramatic way. Sound doesn't exist until we hear something, and therefore what we call a sound is always the sound-producing source plus the transmission space. This is relatively irrelevant for a symbolic or representational listening mode (like recognizing a familiar tune) but crucial for a phenomenological listening of the actual reality of the physicalized sound. I'm definitely concentrated in the experience of the latter. A frequently overlooked fact for live performances is that the sonic entity we're dealing with is a composite of these two elements with an equal importance, both the sound system and the features of the space. The right combination of both -which requires an empirical testing that is rarely carried out- makes an immense difference for any kind of music, if we're really listening. But you can also turn the question around, because the sonic material can actually affect the perception of the space. I position the audience in the middle of a sound field through surround systems, and one of my goals is to give rise to a feeling of being 'inside' the sound (instead of listening 'to' it), thus transforming the visually-defined space into a space of sound that changes its proportions and dimesions according to the transformations and movements of the sound field.

db Magazine: i understand the adelaide performance will involve blindfolds. have there been instances where audience members have 'lost it', that�is, had to get up�and leave, begin speaking, screaming or crying or something else completely different(blindfold or no blindfold)?

Francisco López: I always do my live performances in complete darkness and providing blindfolds for the audience, in order to promote a profound listening and immersion into the sound matter, and also to avoid the classic annoying distractions of scenic presence of the artist and his technology. When you've done hundreds of performances you usually have a collection of weird anecdotes, including people crawling on the floor, crying, feeling as carried up to heaven by angels or down to hell by demons, and the like. What I find encouraging is not the extreme examples of this, but the astonishing variety of individual experiences / reactions to the same sonic material. I interpret this a sign of openness in the content of the sonic creation, and this is also one of my main concerns: to work towards the development of a 'blank' sonic universe.

db Magazine: i have interviewed some improvising musicians in the past, and they have often remarked that their work is as natural as breathing for them. in some ways avant garde music is shrouded by a wall of academic constructs, and sometimes the humble listener might feel as though only the intelligentsia, those who are truly learned in that field can understand the music on�a particular level. i am totally wrong in saying this? can your music, for example, be enjoyed on different levels by different people�utilising varying degrees of musical appreciation? is�the enjoyment, the satisfaction�concerned as much with the way it makes you feel as it is about the way it makes you think?

Francisco López: Personally, music makes me 'think' only in the most banal sense, i.e., with regards to irrelevant technical questions and things like that. I believe that the 'initiated' listener idea is only relevant to these aspects and others related to the showing off of encyclopedic musical knowledge (that both the classical music and rock/pop aficionados seem to like so much), not to the core of the enjoyment (in a very wide sense) of the sound experience. Actually, I think in many respects people with a lot of previous 'knowledge' have to deal with that as a handicap for the listening experience. One has to find ways to get rid of that accumulation of 'knowledge'. My experience with quite culturally diverse audiences (also in the sense of diverse previous musical 'knowledge') is one of realization of universal instinctive common ground for the essential aspects of the appreciation of sound power as transformer of spirit. The potential for this is immediate in a lot of people. It's a good idea not to ruin it by coating that raw sound core with destructive additions such as specific meanings, trends, technologism or structuralism.