Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Interview with BILL SHARP (MNEMONISTS,BIOTA) from ADN 2 1982

Could you tell us something about your history?

Mnemonist Orchestra came together in March 1979 as a simple experiment on my part. The idea was to bring together an assortment of people: visual artists,scientists, musicians from diverse backgrounds rock, traditional jazz, improvisation, trained, untrained etc., place them in a spontaneous environment with simple arrangements suggesting only mood, dynamics and running time, initiate the improvisation and see where it leads. Many of the participants had never worked together before and none had seen the arrangements until shortly before the improvisation occurred.In order to best illustrate the images that went into the conception of the orchestra, I mixed pre-taped environmental material live as the improvisations proceeded. The results of this experiment were eventually released as DYS 01 on our label DYS RECORDS.The four pieces were recorded without rehearsal or retakes.

By fall of 1979 I had devised a plan to further dissect and manipulate improvisation in a more concentrated and pre-determined way. From approximately 150 minutes of material recorded during October 1979 to February 1980, 22 fragments were extracted and edited together to define a structure or "story line" having traditionally unstructured (improvisational) music as its source.The result is the second LP "Some Attributes of a living System" also released on DYS RECORDS. Once again we attempted to integrate visual art with music. The prints accompanying DYS 02 were done by Torger Hongen, Randy Yeates and Tom Katsimpalis all of whom contributed to the music as well. The project involved our first significant use of electronics, in this case as an illustrative tool primarily. The.The electronic instrumentation ranged from primitive home-fashioned devices to the DeltaLab acoustic computer, a digital delay processing computer.

I feel our third LP/visual package "Horde",was a great step forward for us in several respects. Begun in June 1980 and completed in May 1981, it represented our most effective and concentrated merging of modern and early music instrumentation with extensive electronic processing techniques. The extreme effect of such processing on the acoustic and electric instruments subjected to it gave us the "visual/illustrative" tool we needed to symbolize certain destructive tendencies in modern, industrial society. With Horde we also achieved a more effective unity between the visual and aural aspects of our work. 

My personal approach to composition does indeed begin with visual imagery, of a mental sort, and ends with a sublimation of such images in form of sound collages.This approach is not shared by all Mnemonist members, but as a totality we seem to balance each other out with our differing approaches to composition. The source instrumentation is documented in Horde notes included with the package,however details of electronic processing are not.No synthesizers were utilized. All electronic sounds resulted from the processing of the source instruments.The processing devices included tapes manipulation,extreme equalization and digital delay work(the Delta Lab computer again). The folder of 10 visual pieces included with the Horde LP was and will probably remain the most elaborate packaging for our work, as it was an expensive inclusion and I suspect that economic factors  may force us into simplifying our visual presentation in the future. This is unfortunate but it seems that many distributors don't want to pay extra for such things!

Since Horde was released, we have distributed another set of material, entitle "Roto-Limbs", on cassette only.This approximately 75 minutes of material recorded utilizing massed, primitive, battery-powered electronic devices as well as standard instrumentation:The cassette includes visual fold-out and is available from AEON Colorado. AEON serves for original distributor for all DYS releases.Our next LP is planned for release this summer.The sound material is completed...we are presently working on the visual aspect of the work,which will continue certain Horde themes.

Are you involved in other artistic fields?

Mnemonists involves member working with both visual and sound media.We try to stress these 2 aspects of our work equally with each release. The DYS label founded by myself also applies this philosophy to other Mnemonist releases.Our future live events will equally stress the sound and the visuals. For the future, I can certainly envision into the dance and literary media.

What kind of organization do you have concerning concerts and record production?

Although our focus has been studio work,we plan sound/vision live events for May and late fall 1982. Within summer 82 we expect to accomplish the majority of the studio work for LP number 5. The label DYs plans releases by French multi-instrumentalist Pascal Comelade and Italy's Maurizio Bianchi, in addition to Mnemonist LP's number 4 and 5 (early 1983). We welcome correspondence from artists interested in releasing their material in the U.S.

Is there an alternative musical in the USA' Are you in contact with other American musicians?

There is a great deal of new music being produced and released independently here in the U.S., although the scene as a whole might not be most accurately described as a movement.That's because there really is not a whole lot of communication between the various factions and groups. Each is off on its own in a way, just taking care of its own business matters. And ,off course, there is a competitive tension ever present. I guess it goes along with the tiresome "free enterprise" mentality. We enjoy communicating with other musicians here and abroad and we have difficulty keeping up with it, as we all keep standard working jobs, most full-time,and when we're not at work, we're usually in studio,or managing the label and distribution.Our communications with other musicians are thus very limited.

Do you feel influenced by European music?

Most definitely.As a group, a great diversity of influences come into Mnemonists music..... European,American,Eastern,folk artists: both music and visual. Speaking for myself,the influences range from European and American folk musics( eg. American Indian chants and dances,traditional Macedonian singing etc.) to diverse electronic composers such as Pascal Comelade,Costin Mierenau,Gilbert Artman and the Groupe Reserches Musicales of France. At the same time I must admit that I constantly try to distance myself from musical influences in an attempt to approach my work most openly. But the will always creep in! I don't think any composer can isolate him or herself completely!As for visual artists I am obviously most influenced by my fellow Mnemonist visual colleagues,as we try to maintain a constant flow of inspiration between music and visuals. Outside of the group share, I also encounter a great deal of power in the visual work of Ernst,Bacon,Klimt,Goya,Klee,De Chirico and numerous others.

How would you describe your music?
As a group Mnemonists achieve a rather odd blend of the intuitive "romantic" compositional tendencies of certain members(eg. myself and Steve Scholbe) and the "absolute" music of others, such as Mark Derbyshire.This contrast results in a very tenuous and stimulating studio environment. We always seem to be on the edge of disaster, so consequently the final work either succeeds or fails,there's a very little between these extremes.The diversity  of influences ,musical background, training and compositional approaches of our members probably explain the difficulty in classifying the group's music. I can speak more specifically and accurately about my own intentions as a group member. I approach the compositions from a pictorial/visual perspective; I see the music as a "landscape" even before I hear it. I propose to illustrate powerful aspects of our planetary environment that we, as species, tend to avoid, ignore,overlook or simply take for granted.In essence,I feel we must emphasize a sensitivity to all life forms. It is that devastating imposition of great power by a handful of individuals that could ultimately destroy all life on this planet. We, as species, as a global collection of rich and diverse cultures must first recognize this power that is used against us by a select few,and similarly, I feel we must recognize all of the richness: the art,the tradition,the culture that we stand to loose.If my music is violent,that is because violence is a phenomenon that must be confronted through understanding rather than through escapism or ignorance.My music deals with reality , not fantasy; it advocates observation,understanding and confrontation of a problem in order to solve it.


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