Interview: Rashad Becker

The avant-garde composer details a life as a mastering engineer and musician, wrapped up in precision and radical listening

In the European experimental electronic scene, Rashad Becker’s name is synonymous with sonic brilliance – a mastering engineer at Basic Channel’s Dubplates & Mastering studio, he has technical credits on over 1,600 of the most renowned underground techno, dub and house records of the past decade. His incisive attention to detail and expansive mindset when it comes to the capturing and manipulation of sonics has seen him work his magic for artists such as Burnt Friedman, Ryoji Ikeda, Richie Hawtin

View all , Ricardo Villalobos, Roman Flügel and Jan Jelinek, among hundreds of others.

Following his work at Dubplates & Mastering, Becker set up his Kreuzberg-based Clunk studio and created his compelling debut and sophomore albums for Bill Kouligas’s PAN label, 2013’s Traditional Music of Notional Species Vol. I and 2016’s Traditional Music of Notional Species Vol. II. Formed as disorienting, three-dimensional thrill rides into Becker’s mind, these productions overlap the abstract and the atmospheric in head-rattling layers, links and elastic audibles.

In this interview from his recent Fireside Chat on Red Bull Radio with Hanna Bächer, Becker gets philosophical, revealing the deeply considered thought process underlying his striking music.

Camille Blake

The most pressing question I have is actually a very general one. One thing that I have always been struggling with is feeling sort of useless, being busy with music. I’m from a quite political family: My parents are in the German left-wing party; there’s no extra decoration in the house that I grew up in. There are books and things that are necessary, but everything else... The path I took in my life is having a lot of thoughts about things that aren’t basic necessities, and I’m not fighting to make this a better world. Maybe being a good example as a woman in sound, but that’s really all. I wanted to ask if you ever need to justify being an artist?

All the time. It’s a dilemma that I can substantially relate to. The fields that I spend a significant part of my time in is the service industry around music, as much as being involved with music on the creative side. Both bring me into a kerfuffle very, very regularly in terms of legitimizing the way I spend my life and asking myself if I grant myself a privilege that furthers escapism on my own behalf and for other people. Also, the realm of recreation that I work in is not one where I feel unquestionably legitimate.

It has many dimensions. Of course there is a social/political dimension to music that has the capability of carrying a lot of outer-musical context, and I believe that music is even quite exposed in the arts in that regard. I think that people bond over outer-musical context through music more than they do in the realm of film or literature, specifically more than in the realm of theater. Music hardly gets into this kerfuffle, where the antagonism that is carried through musical intention gets affirmed by the system that enables music creation just as much as it is in art, for example, where the ultimate kind of refusal to produce anything is totally an acceptable part of art production.

So music has the ability to make people bond over topics that have nothing to do with music and it also has a capability of developing a language that can go beyond a traditional vanity deal with the bourgeoisie, and inspire ways of thinking that ultimately could lead to movements – even if they are microscopic – that bond over topics much more relevant than music itself. The thing is, I do not think that music and art generally are really big things, I think they are quite small things. They play a very definite role in society, but it’s probably difficult to justify if you say, like, “I live for music” or “I live for art,” although obviously they can be host to a lot of informed antagonisms.

But it gets more and more difficult to find a real location within the context of music and art where you can really know what you are doing. And, feeling a general antagonism to the state of the world or how the world is set up, finding a place where you feel like you relate to this in a meaningful matter gets more and more difficult, because the antagonisms that have been a voice within the arts since at least the ’60s have become more and more problematic within the market itself.

Then again, the music market, it’s the same thing – it’s a small thing, a borderline irrelevant thing. If people spend or invest their cultural identity to antagonize the music industry or the music market, I think it’s slightly ridiculous, because most of the time it seems like it’s in a very desperate kind of identitarian grasp and has a very slippery slope towards elitism. It’s very much an identity that gets built ex negativo, so it’s more rejecting any otherness than being built around a shared vision or utopia. When it goes as far as making a claim that’s anti-music, then I’m just kind of amused, because music is just not big enough to build your identity as “anti-music.” Seems like a bit of a waste of resources.

There’s many things in what you’ve just said that I find really interesting, trains of thought that I’d like to continue. But to start with, you’ve said that you feel like people bond over music more than they would over film or literature and theater. I find that interesting, because two opposite poles for me were always music and fine art. I thought that the means of production of music are or have become developed in a way that one person alone can make a product and on the other hand, any consumer could buy a CD – everyone would have enough money. Obviously not everyone, but to go to a concert is a very different amount of money than buying a picture that might be several thousands or even more.

I’ve often liked this sort of democratic quality of music production, where I figured everyone can participate, and to a certain degree people can participate in going to a concert… I find it quite interesting that these aren’t different poles to you, music and art – it’s more like that is one thing as opposed to film and literature and theater.

I never quite could wrap my mind around that, the wording of the “democratization of the means of production.” I don’t really understand what it is supposed to mean or its weird approach to the word “democracy.” I do not fully support the claim that now the means of production are just generally available. I mean, you have to put this into perspective. 50% of the world’s population still have not ever touched a telephone and do not have access to a water toilet, let alone clean water, so having access to a Macbook with Logic or Ableton on it and then an internet line that connects you to SoundCloud is still an insignificant part of the world’s population, and still a very privileged position to be in.

Obviously it is more widespread than it used to be in the ’70s or the ’80s, but… It’s just a gradual shift, not really a qualitative shift. Because also, in the pre-Macbook and internet era in which I was fully socialized, people used the means of production that they did get their hands on, which could just have been a tape recorder at the end of the day, and they would produce exciting musical ideas and build whole genres around a very limited set of means of production. Right now, where a lot of music culture is basically based around binaries, the attitude that people bring to the binary and the entitlement that they confront the binaries with, it’s still quite a limited set of means of production.

There was of course a moment where working with binaries was always a frontier spirit, but I believe that is no longer the spirit that is predominant. I think people just expect stuff to work in a very convenient way and they sift a different sort of entitlement towards the binary and from their use of the binary. It’s very easy to comply to a certain musical idiom, give it half a year and €500 of investment and then you do feel entitled to share, or even to transfer it to other media.

If we speak about the democratization of means of production, even if we assume that there’s a bigger percentage of people in the world now who can get their hands on recording techniques, we’re not talking about making music as such, because the most mobile instrument that we have is our voices. Almost everyone has a voice or any possibility to make a sound, but when it comes to recording, even if we assume that more people have access to that, that doesn’t necessarily make more people with an idea. The idea stage, in my understanding, is often lacking. It’s so easy just to produce something – you press play on a preset or whatever, there’s no moment of visualization or imagining what can be. One thing that I believe in is that you should not make things if you do not have an idea. I do not necessarily believe in the sort of Musikarbeiter approach, where you go to work and regardless what state of mind you’re in, you make something. I do believe in having an idea, and if you don’t have an idea then don’t create. Do something else with that time.

We were talking about existing outside of functional music and the music industry earlier. You said you’d like to elaborate maybe more on that… I mean, the space that the music that you make and work on exists in is definitely a subculture.

It’s a subculture that is not free from the general calamities of the market. It’s a very hostile and forceful environment that music industries live in. It is a bit of a community of fate and they all do kind of suffer from the same circumstance, so if it’s a major or even maybe moreso an independent distributor, they do have the same problems to deal with and they will also pass on the pressure to the labels, they will pass it on the artists, and it doesn’t really matter if they are dealing with 300 copies or 30,000 copies. They follow the same mechanics of market very often. The dilemma that that puts the artist in might be the exact same.

Very often you are forced to feed the market something before you actually had an idea, and very often you have to feed the market a product that is not, in its volume, fully supported by the amount of ideas that you had. Let’s say you had an idea for a 12", but you need to release an album. I think many albums show this.

What I said before about the professionalization of the arts that is imminent, if you aim to bring your personal economy in accordance or base that on your creative output, then you are in a dilemma from the very, very beginning. It’s also an idea that I can’t really support. It’s very important, because I think that the way capitalist societies have evolved, non-alienated work is something you can’t really offer anymore. I think it’s reasonable to support your creative work with alienated work and to try for economic independence from your artistic work. Otherwise, ultimately you’ll have to capitalize on your personality, on your cultural background, on your identity, on your friends, and you will find yourself in a position that is very welcomed by all markets, and that is where you as a private entity are inseparable from yourself as an economic entity.

This is something that I believe was pretty much tested in creative industries, but changed the image of labor for all industries. Many artists have in that regard done a lot of damage just by the eagerness to finance their lives through something that they love. They have set the rules for everyone else who now don’t have the right to not love what they do. That is basically a qualification in many branches of production that you’re just, like, committing to what you’re working on with your culture and with your identity.

In the days where MiniDisc was a thing, I thought that would be a great format for me to release on.

I agree with that so much. I think it’s a real problem now that it has become almost unacceptable to have an identity that is removed from how you make money. Like, the job that you have has become people’s identity. The first question people ask is, “What do you do?” It’s synonymous with who you are, and I think it’s a problem because maybe being unemployed for a while means complete personal failure – a failure of your character, of your body, everything. There’s very limited space for imagining or seeing that there is something besides that.

I do often feel like a fossil from another time where the music economy worked in another way and there was another, different understanding of who we are in that. For example, I feel like when I came up in my mid-teenage years I first found a sort of spiritual home in music, that it was a lot more acceptable to do some sort of labor that would support you, and then not everybody in the club was there for a professional reason, which I feel is now the case.

You moved to Berlin in the late ’80s, right? How did you experience then this sort of intangible, underlying, different vibe than there is now?

I think the most crucial qualifier in this is just the way that you could lead your life without necessarily surviving. You could just live in Berlin these days – there was so much less economic pressure on a single entity and there was more a community of choices, as opposed to the modernist community of fate that creative people are in. Basically, because people could support their lives with very little effort, the social and cultural spaces that they chose and maintained together were pretty much free of economic qualification.

You could just grab a space and follow your special interest there and conspire with others over that same special interest or a slightly broader approach, and that shaped the individual journey through that phenomenon just as much as the resident culture in these places. These were places that really, in my understanding, deserved the title “clubs,” because they were actual clubs of people that came there with a shared momentum, and if you would enter those clubs you would sense what that momentum was. This is something that is difficult for me nowadays in most things that are conceived as clubs, to understand what the actual shared momentum is.

It’s more branded now. Then there would be an obvious window of ideas or vision that people pass through to be part of that club. Also, for infrastructural reasons, there were just a lot of outcasts in these clubs. When we’re speaking of East Berlin, that was just an abandoned city infrastructure that got filled with people who could not identify with other infrastructures of other cities. I mean there were just outcasts everywhere, and so they were in the clubs, and to me, in the early days of clubbing – in Europe, I mean; I’ve not been to North America, but I know it’s a different thing in New York and maybe in Chicago or something - but here it felt much more like a continuation of the punk and squatter scene than actual, genuine dance culture. Dancing was involved, but that didn’t seem to be the main momentum. It seemed more like the fun part of a life that you share around other things.

In regards to the question of how can I keep peace with doing what I’m doing, and how I can appease the constant evaluation that I might be wasting my life to something that is hardly significant, I think, for example, that not too long ago I played in a very, very small venue in Italy that has had big longevity. It’s running for 25 years… It’s a place where people kind of stumble in or come in for the first time when they are 13 or 14, are confronted with this sort of specialist culture, and then they keep coming back over the years and grow into that, and have a very, very evident community that you sense immediately when you enter, sharing ideas beyond the musical program and, in that case, kind of anarcho-syndicalist ideas. I think the question has to be regarded in terms of live music, which is pretty much push media into social realms that mean something to people, but that you are not really a part of, because you just fly through. But you still add something to the momentum that makes them a community, and that’s something very precious and reflects on what music and art basically can do the best, which is not necessarily inform people, but still create some sort of carrier that makes people maybe question something and go on and research beyond just cultural questions.

The other branch is recorded music, which is not push media and gets dragged into all sorts of circumstances of your lives. This is a bit of a stretch, but people bring recorded music to their working place, they use it on their commute, they bring it into all kinds of scenarios which they don’t really enjoy to kind of salvage a private... I don’t want to say refuge, but a place that maybe makes them more functional in environments that may be hostile to them. This is the stretch part: I think secrecy is a very, very important part of antagonism. Not necessarily clandestine structures, but something that you are protectionist about.

Listening to music in public spaces can carry that. To illustrate that drastically, if you are in jail and you have a Walkman, this will probably help you cope with your sentence. Of course, this is a very small fraction of application of your music, but I think it’s just to illustrate the role recorded music can play beyond being exploited for your feelings. I do think that this can be important and crucial and help people far beyond what you program your music to be or how you want your music to live in other people’s lives, if you can make any claim on that at all.

I think that very much needs to be on offer in the fabric of the actual music that you’re dealing with and for me, ideally, music lives in a triangle between certain content and a certain method and the actual artifact, which is the piece of music that is sitting there for the world to grab. While making music, if you consider all of these corners of the triangle as equally important, I think this will speak through your music and this will add value to how your music can potentially be of any significance in people’s lives.

In regards to the music that you’re making, specifically the two albums on PAN, and also in regards to what we can actually add to a listener’s perception of the world, one thing that I find very intriguing is the way you’re approaching time. I would say that music can be made in an effort to structure time, and I also think that in some cases music is made in an effort to get a hold on time when time might feel almost frightening. I think the passage of time has always had an aspect of being frightening, eventually leading to death. It passes on, you can’t stop it. It makes you confront your necessities – sleep, eat, etc… Especially with rhythmic music, like in techno, stuff you’re working with a lot, I listen to it and feel like people are trying to do that, structure time in order to understand it and be in control of something that is continuing so overwhelmingly. What I find striking in your two albums on PAN is that the music feels like it doesn’t have that at all. I listen to the pieces and they do not give me an idea of how much time has passed. They don’t interfere with my perception of time, which makes them interfere with my perception of time more than anything else, you know? I wanted to present this thought to you and ask how you consciously approach the issue of time.

I relate to this, what I’m going to call some sort of horizontal narrative – not because I really know what that means, or that I don’t have any aspiration towards the significance of this. Still, I’m going to use it as an analogy to people speaking of maps as horizontal narrative or a horizontal way to inform, which means like a non-causal, non-sequential way of putting information in order. You can browse it in a non-sequential way and in a certain way I think of my pieces being this in auditive form. Obviously, music is time-based media, maybe the most time-based media, but I do not feel that the narrative I present, or at least that I want to present, is a time-based one.

It doesn’t start with an indeterminate situation then leads to a climax, stuff like that. But because these pieces are, with varying consistency, conceived as sociograms, I think of them more as a certain habitat in which sonic entities respond to each other and express a limited set of parameters that I inform them with to start with. But then I do always vainly like to see myself as a supervisor rather than a conductor for these sonic entities, mainly because I don’t feel quite at home in the role of an author, but also because I want to portray social dynamics that are not necessarily easily captured in a time-based narrative.

There’s precedence to this method in books or literature. I think it’s very difficult to produce that sort of narrative in film, but I want to get as close as possible to that in music. When I start working on pieces, I always consider them potentially indefinite, like these are pieces that could live on endlessly and would probably not really repeat themselves. Still, after like four minutes max, I feel like, “OK, this narrative is established, let’s move on to a different one.” But I do not think that you have to listen to the pieces beginning to end to capture what they are. I test them in having them play for quite a long time, but when I record them, it’s actually difficult for me to get to four minutes.

I always feel like after two minutes, that’s kind of established, so I struggle to make pieces four minutes long. Ideally I would release in a format that is probably binary, where you could just execute an algorithm and that would run for as long as you desire. I used to write music like that when I was still programming SuperCollider. It was just difficult for me to hold onto it methodologically. It’s not the right thing for me to script and I never felt like I was actually making music. I was more strategizing on music, and at the end of the day building instruments rather than making music pieces.

This non-computer-based way of working suits me way better, and in the days where MiniDisc was a thing, I thought that would be a great format for me to release on, because MiniDisc could loop flawlessly. Unfortunately, before I finished anything the medium disappeared. It was a fascinating medium – very few people took the challenge to do something that was actually media-specific, but the ones who did made great use of it.

For people who know your day job, one of the first questions that maybe comes to mind is how listening so much changes your work as a musician. How do you leave the position of being a listener? Listening to someone else’s music while working in, as you call it, “the service industry,” are you the same listener as when you make music? Is it two very separated ways of listening? Are there other kinds of listening in your life that you consider very important to allow the two ones that you have anyways?

I would claim that it is entirely independent. I do believe that I benefit as a composer from the training that I get in terms of analytical hearing, because it helps me program the sounds more decisively. I am so used to scrutinizing a harmonic spectre of a certain sound, and I’m used to denouncing redundancy in the sound. All the psychoacoustic kerfuffles that you get in dealing with audio, I’m just very much in training to spot them and avoid them from scratch.

In that regard I benefit from my day job in terms of a musical mind. The position of the listener or the mode of listening that that produces, I want to claim that it’s entirely independent. I don’t have the same questions regarding the material when I work on my own music that I would have with music that I’m working on. When I’m working on music there is a defined set of axes that I scrutinize, and when I write music it’s just a whole different set of axes.

I think I was having the same questions towards music from an author’s side way before I started working in the service industry. The things that motivate me or that make it possible for me to hold on to creating music didn’t change much since I was 15. I want to find specific approaches, specific methods to compose and specific strategies to inform music with something that is important to me, and I want to find a language that gives me the feeling that I live outside of a vanity deal, a musical language that might be radical in a certain way. This is what I am hoping for, what I’m longing for, and this has been the case when I was 13 and playing in a punk band, or 15 when I was doing industrial music with a tape recorder. It’s pretty much the same.

I don’t think that my aesthetics changed much through dealing with a lot of other people’s music, because other people’s music has always been in my life, as in most people’s lives. The only difference is that I have not been listening to any music that wasn’t of my own choice outside of a club, maybe, but even there I could just leave if I don’t like the music. But now I’m surrounded by music that I don’t choose and it doesn’t really matter if I like it or not at all. I don’t choose it, and I still dedicate a significant part of my attention towards it. The modes of listening and the modes of hearing that go into these two realms are entirely different.

On the second part of your question, I’m very intrigued by the question of how reality constitutes auditive phenomena or what we conceive as causality in sound, and how much of non-causal sonic structures around us slip our attention. I find it very difficult to define for myself – I’m on that question since about 15 years. I have been addressing those questions to other people in in varying levels of abstractness, like straightforward catalogue structure – how much of your social life is informed by natural sounds, by social sounds, by technical sounds? How do these ratios change when you go into production or into professional environments? Just the basic question – what do you accept as real within auditive environments? – is one that most people are totally incapable of answering, including myself.

I ask myself this question when I step out and move through the streets and when I’m in a different city. Obviously it sounds very different, or when the weather is different stuff sounds different and I’m constantly scrutinizing that. That’s why I have never had a Walkman in my life, because I’m just way too busy using my ears as actual ears. I think many people use their ears as bad eyes, and not with the kind of unifying qualities that the auditive sense offers. As with all perception it is mainly an effort to reject information, and the level of rejection with our ears is tragic, although they are cognitively or neurologically truer to what’s going on than our eyes are, because our brains are not bothered much by what our eyes take in.

A lot of the things that we claim to see are made up from memory - our central vision is really, really small and everything beyond the field of focus is something that our brains just make up from memory to keep us entertained. In that regard, the ears are more true but are also much more rejective. So it is a tiring effort to go through the streets and try to hear everything. It’s much more tiring than trying to see everything, because your field of vision is always already an excerpt, and your ears are pretty much 360 degrees. There is so much more information to take in terms of distance, reverberation and all of these things, and there’s a lot of empirical evaluation that goes into this. Like, no natural reverberation that we hear lives in its own right – it’s always informed with empirical judgment on our behalf, highly customized and “psychologicalized,” and so to deal with all of that is very tiring and keeps you quite busy, just walking outside.

I would like to connect what you just spoke about to what we started our conversation with, and see if is related to the possibility of social or political change. A thought that entered my life only recently is that change is maybe made less through making sounds, making music, than is possible through radical listening. I find that quite interesting in regards to what you just said about listening, as such, being the basis of understanding, and then also reflecting on our listening. I think that many people cannot even reflect on it, and it’s strongly tied to ideas, like the idea of things being real… I quite like this idea that through radical listening we can overcome these concepts, and that that is actually where, being a musician, an artist, but also being a listener, is where your potential is. It’s quite contradictory at first because we don’t perceive listening as action, but I think it can be?

It is. It is always. It’s never not, like all of our sensory usage. The usage of our senses is always active. There’s no passive perception – it just doesn’t exist. This is true for listening in a different way than it is for looking. Both acts are assembled from a catalogue structure, from our memory and from comparison and from difference. But the comprehension process is different when looking at stuff than when listening to stuff, because we use more precedence when we are listening than when we are looking. When we are looking we make a judgment instantly, like, “This is a glass, this is a spoon.” But we make that classification from a catalogue of spoons or from a catalogue of glasses. We capture the whole phenomenon of the spoon in a glance, literally, and the sound has to unfold over time, so we have to dedicate our attention to it over time, and we are not quite willing to do that most of the time. So we more actively introduce precedence in that case than we do with visual classification, and I think that also heavily leans into the way we approach music or we make music. We make up musical structures on the receiving end of precedence. That’s why we are prone to genres, I guess.

There’s always a certain vanity deal involved. We want to understand what we encounter and that’s why we are, in listening to music, looking for precedence and looking for that entitlement, for that informed judgment on it. That doesn’t quite relate to your proposition of radical listening, but it does on a certain level. I think certain musical artifacts are more rewarding to the idea of radical listening than others. Some musical art forms are just very decisively built from a catalogue structure. Like, for example, Baroque music. And some musical structures just want to evoke a very, very specific categorization or classification. “We want this to sound like court music, we want it to sound like a military march,” and, for example, military marches wouldn’t reward radical listening as much as Automatic Writing from Robert Ashley, you know?

Robert Ashley - Automatic Writing

How do you avoid, or do you usually have an urge, to renew yourself? Because I find you to be very steady. Where do you think the urge to renew themselves comes from in other artists or for other musicians, and where are you in that?

What keeps me able to make music is that I can hold on to a certain strategy in terms of knowing what kind of fiction I actually want to produce. I get lost if I just put structures and sounds together – then I don’t know what I’m doing or why I’m doing it. If I have a certain strategy of composition, then I can hold on to that and actually evaluate the quality of the outcome. I don’t have a very strong will to design in it’s own right. I don’t have to express myself, necessarily.

That’s just not an urge that I have and I would feel very uncomfortable, actually, if I would sense that. If I would feel like, “I just want to express myself,” my own vanity would get in the way and I wouldn’t like that person, so I would stop doing what I’m doing. So I need strategy in terms of knowing, “What do I want to assemble and why do I want to assemble that?” And, “What kind of role could that play in other people’s lives?” because ultimately, of course, I’m making music for other people and not for myself.

I was releasing music a long time ago and I have been playing in bands a long time ago, and I was following completely other strategies back then. Now, these two records that came out recently are like volume one and volume two for a reason, because it follows the same strategy. I recently started a new cycle of works that follow an entirely different strategy, and it’s called “Based On A True Story.” It is, in a simplified way – maybe I can’t really express it in a more complex way yet – sort of a sonic staging of historical occurrences, or of historical contexts that led to occurrences that I deem relevant for social history.

Right now I’m working on a piece for documenta, and it’s going to be part of a documenta-curated broadcast program, so it is specifically dealing with broadcast idioms. There are problems with radio. They are hardly ever touched upon because radio is such a strong dogma of undogmatic people. Like, radio uses a lot of very strong sonic markers that flood private and public social realms, and they leave very little room for interpretation, although they are of course also received on a totally empirical note. To give practical examples, public radio will have probably no reverberation on the voice of a narrator, whereas commercially ambitious radio will use reverberation, and in student radio you will hear room modes, and talk radio in Europe or in Germany specifically makes very excessive use of an enforced fundamental range of the voice, whereas talk radio in the US is built around the part of the voice that cuts through a turbulent sonic environment.

Radios with more commercial aspiration have a more limited dynamic range than publicly funded radio, and so on, which leads to a situation where when you open the door of a cab and you listen to the radio that is playing in the cab for less than two seconds, you will probably already make a judgment on the person who is driving the cab. All social realms are pretty much invaded and informed by radio broadcasts, and it shapes the social landscape that is being invaded by that radio, and it informs the visitor. The unifying aspect of radio as opposed to other push media is that it heavily invades the realms of production, too. TV classically focuses on the realm of recreation of the work force, while radio is playing at the workplace very often. It’s also the original push media, so that is something that for me already qualifies as “Based On A True Story.”

Rashad Becker - Dances V

In this case I’m working on historical recordings of a certain occurrence between 1975 and 1977, that then inform synthetic sounds that follow radio idioms in varying levels of abstraction, in the way that I was laying out right now. This will ultimately be a piece of music, but it will sound very different from Traditional Music Of Notional Species, because it follows a totally different strategy. Also in that circle, “Based On A True Story,” I’m currently writing a piece for a string ensemble here in Berlin, and also for a new music ensemble in the US, so this will not even be synthetic music, and hence also will sound very different.

Having said all this, I still find myself in a position that, whatever instrument I touch, most of them electronic, but also with quite dilettantish abilities to play natural instruments, I do tend to create the same kind of structures and sounds on them. I’m not quite sure if this really speaks for me, but it might. It’s not like I’m touching a different synthesizer and it leads to entirely different results – that’s not happening. I will look for the same qualities in all instruments that I have the opportunity to use. That might be contradictory to what I said before, but it’s both true.

I want to elaborate on one thing from when I spoke about “opposing to the music industry.” The music industry is obviously a messed-up place in many regards, and it doesn’t really matter if you are talking about major companies, or the independent music market in that regard, and I denounced identifying yourself or building your identity in parts in opposition to that, as a potential road that might lead to elitism. I still don’t think that’s generally wrong, to oppose the music industry, but I would just like to see the same kind of passion in dealing with the food industry, for example. Ultimately, my point is I think there are a lot of double-standards.

For example, the copyleft claim, that cultural objects have to be free of ownership and free of monetary economy, is a righteous one in the regard that society as a whole should take responsibility for cultural techniques to evolve and should take responsibility for artists to live their lives independent of evaluation of their oeuvre, because it might evolve into something that is not even judge-able in their lifetime. But the unifying momentum for cultural products is for me difficult to accept, and I’d like to see that attitude directed to every form of property at the end of the day. Property is the problem, and not that music costs money and that CDs cost money. There’s a rightful idea of rejecting a society that is based around property, but I have a problem with that claim being addressed towards music while people are happy to pay for their trousers and their vacuum cleaners.

This is a frustration that I have in a lot of counter-culture and specifically when it comes to music, that it focuses on a music market that at the end of the day is not a market that is worth dedicating your rebellious life against. People that live in the realm of musical production or that earn in the music industry are facing the same dilemma as everyone within a capitalist society, so while the physical product might be abandoned, and hence a different claim towards ownership can be voiced, people still have to pay their rents in a life that is overall wrong. You can’t cherry-pick what you reject within a society that is entirely to be rejected.

By Hanna Bächer on April 7, 2017

On a different note