Adam Basanta is a Montreal-based sound artist, composer, and performer of experimental music. His work traverses sound installations, electroacoustic and instrumental composition, site-specific interventions, and laptop performance. Across disciplines and media, he interrogates intersections between conceptual and sensorial dimensions of listening, instabilities of instrumentality, and means with which site and space can be articulated.
KR: This is your second album out on Kohlenstoff records, how does this one differ from the previous one?
It’s very different than my last release on Kohlenstoff, both stylistically and formally. https://kohlenstoffrecords.com/artists/adam-basanta/
The last album was a collection of works created between 2009-2014, and although there are many influences in these works, they can be grouped under the acousmatic genre. In contrast, from here to there in one straight line is a single, continuous composition which has more in common with noise and drone music than “classic acousmatic” works.
A big difference in terms of sound materials is the absence of field recordings, which very much defined the last album. Rather, the sound materials are always in relation to pitched, harmonic, and rhythmic structures. Formally, the sharp contrasts found in Memory is the residue of thought are largely absent in favour of slow, patience-testing musical lines.
KR: Can you describe how you went about compositing this album?
I started writing the piece at the end of 2014, mostly with unused sound files from my piece when you’re looking for something, all you can find is yourself (which is found on my last Kohlenstoff release). It was very much a side-project, something fun to do “on the side”. The rhythmic structures in the first section of the work were developed by manually copying and pasting little bits of glitchy recording errors in Pro Tools, and then copying and pasting short rhythmic sections on top of one another in an almost improvisational play with the software. It really wasn’t very serious.
I performed an early version of the work in 2015 once, alongside a video performance a made at the time, but I wasn’t very happy with it. It was going to stay in a back up hard-drive forever. Earlier this year I listened to it again, and this time I heard a lot of potential! It’s funny how things change. I ended up reworking some sections, as well as a fair bit of re-arranging and re-mixing. It was very important to figure out a balance between stasis and slow evolution of the two main drone sections, so most of the detailed re-working of the material occurred in the musical “background”: giving these sounds more depth, slight changes in timbre and arrangement.
KR: How did the concept of album come about? What interests you in this idea?
I think at the time I had just discovered the legendary American composer Phil Niblock, especially the microtonal drone piece Five more string quartets. I was fascinated by how interesting the piece was even though not much changes in it. Its a very intense listening experience which relies on excessive continuity for its impact, rather than the use of dramatic climax or musical ruptures and contrasts. It is monumental in its anti-drama.
This is really something I was never interested in until I heard that piece, and so I never cared to learn how to create this sort of music. From here to there in one straight line came out of this challenge, how to create something slow, nearly-static and structurally simple, but which I still find interesting.
The piece announces itself: from here to there in one straight line, a movement from point A to B without much deviation in direction. It is clear what ‘type’ of piece this is from the get-go. And yet, it hopefully remains an intriguing journey. Drones evolve timbrally almost without noticing. A persistent cyclical rhythmic structure goes on, shifting accents slightly with no warning or preparation, almost as if it isn’t aware of the dominant linear structures. Motifs are presented, but only re-appear when we’ve nearly forgotten about them. We arrive at endings that announced themselves minutes ago, endings that arrive so late that we are relieved at reaching them.
These kind of works can coax a very different listening dynamic for me. It’s a kind of getting lost, a sense of forgetting that you are listening to “music”, moments of ecstasy that only occur after the boredom of excessive repetition.
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