Friday, January 28, 2011

It Depends If It's Good Or Bad Chaos - Silent Strangers, Part One of Two

Silent Strangers is a musician who’s work has been published on the IDMf netlabel. His interview has been split into two installments.

Obscure Robot: Do you define yourself more by your music or your day job / studies?

Silent Strangers: Both, music has always been a huge part of my life. My parents put me in piano lessons at age 6, so its a part of me. My day job/studies intertwine, I attend the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale majoring in Visual Effects. I got into that to make animation/visual art to compliment my music. So music and my work are one in the same.

Left Cold Sampler by SilentStrangers




Obscure Robot: Is the piano still a major part of how you do music?

Silent Strangers: It depends on that track. If I’m aiming for some obscure maddening craziness thats more percussive then melodic, then no, I don’t touch the keys at all for melodic purposes. However, if I’m working for a melodic or ambient piece, it almost always starts on piano. Working on piano for so long (I'm 22 right now) has given me classical training, so music theory (when its applicable) is only a tool I use to get what I want out of a melody. Regardless, going from a traditional background to digital environments and machines is a bizarre transition. Suddenly all the things you’ve known don’t apply in the same way. In summation, yes, the piano (and musical training) do affect how I work in a crucial way.

Obscure Robot: Do you find that melody flows directly, physically from the keys, or is melody making more of an intellectual-theoretical process for you?

Silent Strangers: Definitely flows without thinking. I’ve always been able to sit at a piano and just play, without thinking or mental processing. Beat making and the algorithmic/generative side of my music is the more theoretical aspect. I’ve always viewed melody as the heart of the music, while the beats and textures and everything in between as the more mental side.

01 Silent Strangers - Focal Shift by SilentStrangers

Obscure Robot: How do generative processes figure in to your music?

Silent Strangers: Max/MSP has really thrown me into a new world. It all comes full circle, I’ll often make generative melodic, or rhythmic systems to accompany myself play, or let the computer create by itself. My musical training plays a part in planning my generative systems. Sometimes I’ll write a track that is only a generative experiment. Its very freeing to be able to create controlled chaos. Whether it be a Max/MSP experiment purely inside the computer, using MSP oscillators or DSP, or send it out to a synth and just jam along side the computer. I find I get best results by treating my computers like a band member to play with.

Obscure Robot: Do you ever collaborative with other humans in real time?

Silent Strangers: On occasion, the Monome has really opened up that door. I have some buddies I like to play music with from school. But being in high school turned me off to bands, so it would never be a long term thing, unless I found another producer/composer to collaborate with. Every so often me and some guys will get together, sync up the computers with Ableton and just jam with whatever we can get our hands on in the room. I’ll build some Max sequencers so everyones doing a different thing but in sync.

Playing with a guitarist, bassist or drummer tends to get a bit chaotic. The human is error, the computer is perfect.

Obscure Robot: It sounds like there are different varieties of chaos out there.

Silent Strangers: Of course. I enjoy chaos, but it depends if its good or bad chaos. A few semesters ago me and the music club at the Art Institute did this sound experiment. We have this stairwell in school, the most incredible reverb and echos come out of it. You could jingle keys in it and it sound absolutely massive. We had metal pipes, bats, chairs, boxes, footsteps, anything really; we just free-formed in it. People played un-syncopated rhythms, random bangs and sounds. That was great chaos. But when a guitarist cant keep up, or a drummer doesn’t understand a counter rhythm in 19/4 (my favorite timing for counter rhythms) it gets frustrating, because i find that the human is limited. I don't like limits or restrictions.

Obscure Robot: A guitarist that can't keep up is like a note that is out of tune. But it seems easier to make interesting textures out of detuned notes.

Silent Strangers: I agree. More often then not though, a guitarist I play with wont be open to working with a computer. Or even being sampled. Its rare I come across a guitarist that has the willingness to experiment. Perhaps they only want to play metal, or rock. I’ve got no issue against it, but its tough to bridge that gap.

However, when I do find someone who can break out of their shell and do something new, we tend to be musical mates for a while.

02 Silent Strangers - 5icicle by SilentStrangers

Obscure Robot: Who are your musical / artistic influences?

Silent Strangers: Visual artists: Hans Bellmer, H.R. Giger, Gustave Dore, Jackson Pollock, Francis Bacon, Man Ray, Feng Zhu. Film directors: Chris Cunningham, Candas Sisman, David Lynch, Martin Scorcese. Music: Bach, Iannis Xenaxis, Stochausen, Autechre, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath, Nine Inch Nails, Walt Disney - Fantasia specifically, Rezső Seress, Billie Holiday, Sinatra, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones (classic rock in general), Grandmaster Flash, Cannibal Corpse, Deicide, Erdem Helvacıoğlu. There are literally tons more, but I’ve been collecting music and art since a young age, I’d hate to bore you with them!

Obscure Robot: That is a huge list. Can you pick one and explain how they influenced you?

Silent Strangers: Walt Disney. I remember watching Fantasia as a tiny little guy. Thinking “I need to make music, and I need to make art that compliments it.” I asked for music lessons soon after comprehending the scope of that film. When I got into college I took History of Animation as a course, realizing how incredible of an animation Fantasia was. It sort of pulled it all into focus for me.

It might be a bit bizarre to think Walt Disney, I’m sure when someone hears my music, the happiest place on earth isn’t what comes to mind, LOL.

Obscure Robot: Fantasia was an incredible combination of music and visuals. There was a lot of freedom to experiment with music and animation.

Silent Strangers: An unbelievable combination. We saw the animation plates from the film. It was paintings. full fledged paintings, slowly being repainted 30 times per second.

03 Silent Strangers - Notion4 by SilentStrangers

Obscure Robot: What genres do your work span?

Silent Strangers: I do whatever I feel like when I open up a DAW. Having that classical training comes in handy sometimes. I’ve made jazzy drum n bass tracks, completely abstract noise, classical, piano solo, rock, industrial (high school band), death metal, anything really. But I keep Silent Strangers as my outlet. Its sort of like a filter. I’ll do some nutty genre far removed from what I put out, and filter that through Silent Strangers to give it my sense of unease and abstractness.

Continued next week...

Silent Strangers' Christopher Lombardo was born September 12th, 1988.
He has been involved with music since an early age. His parents
enrolled him in piano lessons at age 6. In highschool he was involved
with numerous bands, playing synth and keyboards, growing weary of the
dispassionate and uninspired, he traded the human band mate, for the
cold calculation of the computer.
Started by Christopher Lombardo in 2008, Silent Strangers (Si.St) has
since gone on to produce a collection of albums, Finger Breather [self
released via torrent networks], and the four part Anagram series
(released on IDMf and Section Twentyseven netlabel).
Although commonly categorized as IDM or Experimental Electronica, the
stated goal of Silent Strangers' music is to bring non-conventional
elements into music, creating music that challenges the listen from
the mainstream conventions of modern music.
Hailed as “Complex, Sequenced and Evolving Synthetic Music”, the music
of Silent Strangers is hard to define in it's experimental nature.
Taking multiple elements of music, sound design, and live recordings,
Silent Strangers seems to create a strange fusion of digitalized
experimental music, painstakingly assembled, piece by piece into a
complex and multi-layered overture of synthetic music.

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