Interview: snd

2008 is a year of returning for Sheffield’s snd, with the release of “4, 5, 6” – the first edition in six years under this project – and a recent tour with Autechre. In a brief e-mail conversation with GPInformation, Mark Fell and Mat Steel talk on their newest creation, as well on the perspective they have on their own work.

What can you say on “4, 5, 6”?
About the last three 12 inches that were released recently, we conceived of these as three separate records that were intended to be released on different dates. For us, the 12" format is a good format to work on – for some reason we feel most comfortable with it. And then, as we got to the editing stage, we made a decision to release them all in one go as a three pack 12". We're happy with the project, as it shows our path over recent years.

And as for you other projects, like Blir, what's on preparation?
Right now we have no plans for any new Blir material, but this will probably change in the future, when we find some time to devote to this project again.
What are the main evolutions you would point in your last works, regarding aspects like composition or software innovation?
Looking back to our first project on Mille Plateaux, "makesnd cassette", it was a particular approach to how to deal with change in music – change in terms of how a piece develops over its duration, or how an album changes over it course.
For us, at that time we were unhappy about timeline based approaches to structuring music. We found it hard to make the changes feel right...
So we had non, or few. A track simply played and the sounds were changed slightly. "Tenderlove" (our third album) was a departure from this. Here, there were far more real time processes involved. We had spend two or maybe three years developing ways of changing music data in real time, so that we could transform patterns in a number of ways.
At this stage, we were very much working with processes that were dynamically engaging – where you could sense what you were doing but not quantify it or provide a theory of how it worked. I was reading lots of Heidegger at the time, and the two things seemed to complement one another. But once we had achieved a level of success with this method (both technically and musically), we grew tired of it.
Our current approach is different again. It employs a kind of non real time list based process to pattern generation. And we deliberately have very little real time control of this... There's quite a "distance" between us and our tools... intentionally.
You started making music in a time when electronic sound was still close to an avant-garde aesthetic, materialized in projects like Mille Plateaux…
…How do you see the current scenario? Is technological massification killing creativity?
That’s a bit like saying if more people speak a language then the more mundane the words become. I think the opposite is true. Once you give the tools to people, the activity starts to evolve and take on a life of its own. For me, it’s the people who were properly trained in how to use musical tools that killed creativity, Not the people who just pick it up and have a go. I never studied music or computing, so to extend your argument, am I one of the people killing creativity? No... But something is being changed… Namely the supposed superiority of proper music over any kind of music.

Nuno Loureiro
Photo: Joe Gilmore

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