An interview with Preston Beebe and Ryan Packard (4eyes) for the album “Mountain” on Kohlenstoff Records

Kr – How did this project start and what was your first intention?

Ryan: We started in February of 2012.  Preston and I both met at McGill where we were doing our master’s degrees in composition and percussion, respectively. Alexandra Fol, a composer in Montreal, asked us to play on her showcase of various Montréal composers at La Sala Rossa.  That was our first show.  The improv was a collection of little vignettes that were reminiscent of bird songs.  I’m not sure what our first intention really was.  I know we were concerned with how the visceral aspects of improvisation can affect an improvisation.

 Kr – How would you describe this project?

 Preston: Spontaneous and theatrical but concerned with cohesiveness. We try to make our music a visceral experience for the audience.  Each performance is unique and conceptual based on the instruments we bring and the space we play in. We use unusual percussion set-ups, combining found objects, drums, percussion and electronics to create interesting timbres. For some performances we have used visual elements. We set up face to face to share instruments and it also helps with fast communication. It’s great because we have a mutual respect for each other’s personal playing space so we can jump around each others set-ups.

 Ryan: Yea, the set-up is key to the group. By facing Preston dead on, we’re able shape the improvisation with a lot of nuance;  I think one becomes hyper aware when you’re playing straight at someone.  It’s not that one is less communicative in a different set-up, it’s just that this particular set-up has created some pretty unique circumstances.

 Kr – Your music reminds me of Chris Corsano sometimes, maybe because of its radical statement. Did you have any particular previous influences for 4eyes?

Ryan: Corsano is a hero of mine. His dense, rapid fire improvising has definitely influenced me.   And man, his commitment to material!  It’s outstanding! He’s a performer that’s really into extremes too, something I’m very fond of.   It’s funny though, I never talked about Corsano with Preston.  I guess some of his stylistic things may have rubbed off on me.

Preston: Ryan and I work well together because we have similar musical influences. For example, jazz, math rock, and avant-garde contemporary music. Sometimes it was freaky because we somehow knew what the other was going to play, allowing for musical ideas to be decided.

 Kr – How do you two guys work together in studio? Can you explain your composition process and the way the musical development works? Do you mainly write all of it in advance or is improvisation also part of the process?

Preston: The album came together after about a month of regular recording sessions. We would record when our minds were fresh and then listen to each piece critically. We were constantly critiquing our work, ruling out and deciding which pieces would make the final cut. Through this process we were really able to shape the dynamic of the album.

Preston: We like working with concept improvisations based around the sounds of the instruments we use and restrictions. For example, chop suey works with chopsticks and metal bowls. Inswitch, the concept is reminiscent of a light switch, changing from on to off or gradually dimming.

Ryan:  I think we as improvisors are really concerned with form.  I think we both keep tabs on the material we’ve created during an improvisation and how we might bring it back (if we choose to at all that is), but we have never formally planned out any form specifically.

Ryan: Naf which is “fan” backwards consisted of ambient textures and space.  I was interested in the nuances of fan’s different speed settings.  Space was definitely of the highest importance in this one.  Taking the time to let things blend and material to form and solidify naturally was a bit of a challenge for us, but we were stoked with the end result.

Kr – You both seems to be very busy with other projects / collaborations, what’s coming up in the future for Ryan Packard and Preston Beebe?

Ryan:  I currently live in Chicago and have been busy composing and performing in some new music ensembles (Fonema Consort,, playing in some indie and jazz projects, and improvising in a pretty hardcore free group called Paul Mitchell–pretty sure we’re going to get a cease and desist for that name.  I’m really excited to get back to Montréal to finish a free improv record with Ofer Pelz, a brilliant composer and pianist in Montréal.  He’s got a baby on the way so we’ll have to get back in the studio before he’s busy being a dad…wow.

I’ve been dying to build my electronic skills so a little Max/MSP every day or week has been helpful.  I’ve always been pretty obsessed with transducers lately.  I just finished a cello solo with transducer/feedback on snare drums for Jane Chan. Perhaps I could build up to a bigger work for transducers, but I’ve been making smaller works first.

Obviously, 4eyes needs to get on the road!  Preston and I will have to figure that out since he’ll be in Europe.

Preston: I just finished a MMus in composition at McGill University where my thesis, beneath trees, was a piece for string quartet and electronics. I was accepted at IRCAM CUSUS 1 for the 2014-2015 year, so I will be spending the next year in Paris. I have been developing a new digital percussion interface, the SpectraSurface, and plan to compose more pieces for it and possibly integrate the technology into 4eyes in the near future. I also collaborate frequently with visual artist Audrey Larin.

Kr – When will you come and visit us in Montréal?

Preston: I just moved to Paris for a year long training at IRCAM and will be back in Montréal in the late Summer of 2015.

Ryan: Soon.  Very soon.

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