AFUM 09 Interview

I am performing at the upcoming Adelaide Festival of Unpopular Music (for details see the Upcoming page/tab on this blog.)  The ever-venerable Luke Altmann has done the great job of curating a wonderful program, including articles and interviews with the artists.  My interview is below.  Follow the following link to the De La Catessen blog which features an array of AFUM wonderments, the program and a comprehensive archive of past events:


Tristan Louth-Robins is a sound artist, writer, and curated the Tyndall Assembly experimental music series in 2006 and 2007.

TLR/ My approach to making music usually begins with wanting to investigate something via a system or process.  This might involve a curiosity about a certain sounding process or technology that governs or informs that process.  In either case, the sound itself is the most important part! Implementing a process and/or a technology gives me the means to situate the sound in an art context.  I could use my recent vinyl compositions as an example of this – the sounding process of a vinyl record (artifacts: crackle, hiss), the turntable itself (a tactile instrument) and the manipulation of the sounding process using additional tools (such as a laptop.)  In short, I like using systems and processes.

LA/ What are the ideas that obsess you? How do those obsessions inform the direction your music takes? Do you welcome or resist them?

TLR/ I am chiefly concerned (at the moment anyway) with sound and its signification in various contexts.  For example, for the past couple of years I have been very interested in what Rolf Julius calls ’small sounds’ and sounds that evade conventional forms of listening.  To the average punter this might sound like clouds of quiet noise, but I’m trying to endorse a close form of attentiveness and heightened sensitivity to the condition of sound.  By framing this in an art/music context, I think I’ve got a reasonable chance of achieving this.  Again, the example of my vinyl compositions comes to mind, especially in the case of the very minimal tracks – adding layer upon layer of crackle and static with a few treatments here and there.  Getting back to the ’small sounds’ and their signification, I see these sort of sounds as an analog of natural sounds – the sound of insects, wind through trees, dripping water, etc.  I guess you could call that something like abstract romantic zen impressionism. Probably best not to though.

LA/ What do you aim to communicate through your music? Is it concerned with politics, religion, the environment, or purely conceptual problems? What are the concepts you explore musically? Are you looking for answers, or problems?

TLR/ Picking up from my last sentence, the natural world plays a significant part in my work at the moment; its condition combined with omnipresence of technology – whether that involves drawing an analogy to natural phenomena or a certain environment, the interaction of nature and technology (whether they complement or oppose each other) and mainly addressing the challenge of how I can present such esoteric investigations as an art form!  If one considers musings on natural environments and the presence of technology, then political and environmental themes are present in my work.   In a performance context since I started working with vinyl and a turntable, this has given me a new lease on performing music.  For a while, I was a bit stuck on how I might express such interests through performance and on occasion I felt it came across too dry, clinical or completely unlistenable!  Working with vinyl since mid-last year has provided me with a platform to express similar things, though I have thankfully progressed from investigating sole sine waves and resonant bodies.  It provides a tactile interaction for myself as a performer and is probably more visually interesting to the audience too.  Though using vinyl doesn’t really relate to the natural world, that analog to natural sounds is still there in the crackles and hiss.  The live set-up has progressed to point presently where I feel more confident to incorporate other elements into a given performance, such as other electronic instruments and field recordings.  Actual melodies are beginning to come back into my music – whether via ‘other people’s music’ (i.e. vinyl) or the use of simple unintrusive soft synths.

LA/ What has your own experience of organising and writing about experimental music events taught you about the field? And about the attitudes of your peers?

TLR/ That despite your best intentions people might walk out or immolate you in criticism in the comments section! Curating the two years of Tyndall taught me a lot about how performers and audiences work in the context of experimental music.  In given situations it is a very exciting, confusing, frustrating, beguiling and rewarding position to be in.  Writing about the esoteric tenets and backwaters of music can also be appropriately summed up by those words too.  Off topic a bit, the other night as I was recording sound on a mobile phone in cardboard postpak strategically placed in the backyard to capture the howl of the city, I remarked to Lauren how much I love doing what I do.

LA/ What are your specific plans for the AFUM performance?

TLR/ I’ll be using a combination of turntable/vinyl, laptop, iPod Touch (soft synth, oscillator) and maybe electric guitar.  I’m undecided about the definitive structure of the performance at the moment, but it will consist of recreating tracks from the recent releases of mine with sections of improvisation as well.  Recreating the tracks gives me a good framework to work from in performance situations.  I am leaning towards a ‘quiet’ performance, not so much inaudible but restrained.  But I’m sure to throw in a couple of noisy gestures here and there to shake the punters out of their ambient stupor.


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