HoneyDripper 2016

Michelle Lou in interview with Weston Olencki

Many of your recent works such as untitled three part construction and crocodiles 1b, you’ve increasingly used more electronic elements aside from conventional amplification and digital processing. What has driven your move towards more DIY setups, and does this manifest itself in HoneyDripper?

— It’s being driven by a need to be as pragmatic as possible in addition to preferring the more warm sound quality in electricity/analog setups. I’ve always found digital processing to have that sheen that covers everything, no matter whose music it is. There’s this extra layer of abstraction for the user when they have to deal with a computer interface, whereas smashing guitar pedals, turning knobs, and playing with faulty input signals on jacks and inputs have this immediate and tactile quality. It also solves the constant fear of your computer crashing before or during a performance. These DIY set ups also came about from wanting to have portable and manageable means of sound processing that wouldn’t require a fancy sound person or sound system. It’s been my way of dealing with wanting to augment acoustic material in ways that are, for lack of a better term, simple…rather than going full board with the possibilities of something like maxmsp (which I have used for myself doing the laptop performance thing), I’m intentionally putting myself in a place where the materials are unadorned or bald in a way, so that they can better define my structures. HoneyDripper is massive. It is the current culmination of the ultimate DIY animal. The set up, which began as possibly using a couple effects pedals and a couple transducers, morphed into what’s basically a trombonist- as-octopus brain, controlling multiple arms of electronic signals. It’s a tangle of cables and a dance of arms and legs. Yes, it’s questionably portable…assuming one doesn’t mind dragging a suitcase around, but I’m really happy that I’ve been able to push it to become what it’s become: a trombone-octopus-rave party.

One of the most striking things about HoneyDripper is how integrated all of the instrumental and technological machines are with each other, and how they coexist and change identities throughout the piece. Could you speak a little bit on how you conceive and conceptualize this massive piece structurally/temporally, and how you sustain, form, and develop the ‘world’ of the piece?

— Form is essential to giving shape and what I hope is perceived experientially as an identity that is inhabiting space. The task I’ve given myself is to try to push duration and scale to see how far I can really allow my materials to speak. Through experience, I’ve found that as I sit composing with my materials in my inner ear, I can get bored or tired of them and might cut them off too soon. So I attempt to calibrate what I think are the listener’s ears with my out of time composing ears. So I add more time for the materials to stretch out. The electronic arms of this piece are treated as contrapuntal elements. They are each a sound object with a discrete identity. I introduce them each slowly and meanwhile, the piece grows exponentially until everything is happening almost always simultaneously. I’ve recently decided that I need rather simple or stupid structures to mediate my more wild and organic sounds. I call them organic because they have granularity and they transform and have their own phenomena. So I create blocks of material that cut sharply against one another. Although it moves in one direction (quiet and minimal to loud and maximal) the materials occur within that are in more off-kilter ways. This is intentional to throw off the sense of proportion or forward moving time. I’m trying to subvert the “dumb” form that I’ve created for myself.