Interview with Doron Sadja for iii’s No Patent Pending program
iii’s No Patent Pending is a nomadic performance series presenting radical interdisciplinary practices that engage with sound, image, space and the body. Imagining new tools to articulate everyday phenomena, extending the body, remapping sense perceptions, hacking and reinventing existing media and codes, creating time and space for events which find their preferred storage medium in the memory of participants.
iii is an artist-run platform based in The Hague which supports idiosyncratic research trajectories that zigzag between disciplines and distribution channels. iii operates as a production house, artist residency and distribution agency, promoting radical interdisciplinary work crossing between the fields of music, visual arts, theatre and media design. Their current resident Doron Sadja talks about his residency and upcoming performance at Quartair on Sunday, May 29th @ 19.00. (For more information and the complete program please go to the bottom of the post)
Location: Originally from Los Angeles, lived in New York for 10 years, currently living in Berlin for the last 1.5 years
Studied Technology in Music and Related Arts Study at Oberlin College, Ohio
Cybil Scott: How did your artistic practice start to manifest?
Doron Sadja: Growing up I started to experiment with electronics when I was 13 or 14 with really simple stuff. I was making bootleg mixers and four-tracks out of things I found in the school dumpster, and then I started getting into making computer music soon after that.They were really dorky beats and I would rap over it and stuff and then when I got to college I was introduced to contemporary electronic music and started to learn things like Max/MSP and that kinda stuff.
Your music isn’t made up of typical sounding compositions, what are you after when you are making sound, are you looking for an immersive experience?
I do like to use a lot of harmonies, but I think it’s a little bit different than other people because the experimental electronic scene doesn’t like to use harmonies.
Why is that?
A few things- I feel like most people who make experimental electronic noise music still listen to a lot of pop music and classical music and they make a very conscious choice to exclude all their influences within the music that they make and I don’t necessarily want to do that. I love Top 40 pop music and things like that so I think it’s important to include harmony or other aspects that move me. I really just like all different kinds of noises and I like to incorporate those things; it’s just as important as harmony or things like that to me. That’s the thing I really love about music. It has a power to move people and a power to manipulate your emotions and make you feel certain ways and a lot of that is tied to the history of music. Maybe there are other reasons too, but music is really powerful and emotional and it’s important to tap into that aspect of music even if you are just making noises.
How do you think music and sound are advancing, what do you think about the future of music or art using technology as an extension of ourselves?
I think everything with sound-based music and technology that we’re using is still so new, but, you could say all instruments are some form of technology. A violin is a piece of technology and it took a long time to develop what we now have as the violin or piano- I just think it’s a really awkward stage of development that we’re in. I feel like we’re awkward 13 year olds right now, the way that we’re dealing with it. I think part of why a lot of people tend to make the decision not to include things like harmony or traditional forms in contemporary electronic music is because they feel like they have to take a stance against the past to move forwards. But, I think the future will be a more inclusive – you won’t need to feel like you need to take as a big of a stance against the past – which is I think is already happening in music.
People like John Cage who thought all sound is music – all of these early 20th century composers had to really deconstruct harmony and break away from tradition, but I don’t think we really need to do that. It’s not a political act anymore, whereas it used to be. So I think it’s more about inclusivity and being able to use anything – all tools and all sounds should just be just another paint color on your palette that you can use to construct a work of art.
Who are your influences, who are you inspired by, not necessarily musically speaking?
Recently in Berlin, I started teaching these lecture-listening series once a month where the focus is on iconic electronic music composers, and that’s been great because it’s helped me realize who my influences are. A few people heavily influenced me like, Maryanne Amacher, who is someone I studied with at Bard college. Also Laurie Spiegel, I just really love her music. Also, Autechre was a huge influence on me – they were who first got me interested in electronic music. They are in the category of IDM or ‘intelligent dance music’, it’s a really obnoxiously named category. Aphex Twin is one of the leaders of that kind of music- really spazzy showy electronic dance music, but with Autechre there’s so much space in the music, it feels a lot more architectural. And that’s something I really strive for in my music: to use sound as a way of engaging with space, but also creating new space with sound.
One of the ways that we understand our surroundings is through sound. In really subtle ways – just the acoustics of a room immediately tell us what kind of space we’re in and affects how we behave and things like that, so I think dealing with sound and architecture is definitely a primary interest of mine. Some of the things I think about with sound and architecture is how much the way you listen is affected by the room you’re in, objects, layout, light, and things like that. I became more interested in controlling the surroundings of the performance a bit more, or at least thinking about it; you don’t have to do that much to change the feeling in a room. Light also plays into that in a way. I tend to use light in almost most of my performances, but not all of them. James Turrell is a big influence. I saw the retrospective of his work in LA recently, which was one of the most amazing shows I’ve ever seen. Non-musically speaking, Paul McCarthy and Mike Kelley and that school of LA performance artists, even though I don’t use it much in my current work, it was a huge influence on me when I was 18.
Is that also a form a curating for you?
I guess the term I like to somewhat jokingly use is DJ’ing. DJ’ing as a way of collaging and mixing elements that are already there with your own materials and interventions. DJ’ing experience rather than just music. Thinking about the space and the environment has lead me more to working with light. Specifically, I’ve tried things with projections but I feel like that flattens the sound a lot, so I don’t like to use a screen. One of the things that’s so great about music is that the vibrations are all around you- you’re completely enveloped in sound, but then if you throw a little rectangle on the wall too, you don’t listen in the same way anymore.
What programs do you use?
I mostly use a program called Reaktor, it’s similar to Max/MSP – allowing you to build all your own instruments – but it’s a bit simpler and I like how it sounds. I produce all my music in Logic, but for performances I use Ableton. Call me crazy, but I feel like it doesn’t sound as good as Logic, so I don’t write music in it, but it’s an amazing piece of software and works really well for performance. I use projectors as a source of light, but never so you can see the imagery, and I use a program called Arena to trigger clips and for simple generative textures or lines.
So you are here for a month, what’s your plan for your residency with iii?
One of the great things about this residency is that I don’t have any distractions, I have one thing to do here. It’s always nice to make a piece that’s somehow specific to a place, so I don’t know yet what will make it specific to the Hague, but it will be and it’s nice that I have a lot of time to be here and figure that out. I brought my own equipment and I’m ordering some lights and organizing some sound equipment.
My original proposal was probably a bit too ambitious, but then I simplified it and now it’s more of a performance. It doesn’t make sense to have an elaborate installation set up for only one night.
The piece is called We Are Never Ever Ever Getting Back Together, I took the title from a Taylor Swift song. It’s almost like a rhetorical question about sound, drawing a parallel between white noise and white light. White light is what we see from the sun and is the presence of all color frequencies of the visible spectrum, and white noise is like the same thing but with sound. It’s the presence of all frequencies in the audible spectrum at the same decibel level. The ways that our minds interpret sounds is that higher frequencies are perceived as being louder even if they are at the same technical volume as a low frequency.
The material to make any song in the history of existence is all within a fraction of a second of white noise. I was thinking about a prism, which is a tool that divides white light into the full color spectrum so that it’s visible – and I was curious if you could do the same with white noise. If you could create an environment with a lot of speakers and each speaker is playing something completely different, and certain speakers could be completely tonal and quiet, but if you’re at a certain location in a room and all the speakers combine and turn it into white noise, or if you could take white noise and break it up spatially… if there’s a way to do that. Ultimately, maybe there is a way to do that technically, with acoustical prisms, but it’s not something I would be able to make, nor am I that interested in too scientific of an approach. I’m more interested in thinking about this conceptually and using it as a launching pad for developing a composition.
In terms of light, if you mix a bunch of paint together you get black, and if you mix light together you get white, which is still so fascinating to me. You can’t evenly go from one color to another, because you get other colors in between.
One of the other things I find so interesting about white light and white noise is this kind of simultaneous sense of complexity and simplicity. By definition, they are a maximum density of frequencies, but at the same time they’re as basic and simple as can be – they’re almost invisible to us.
So, with all this in mind, at the Quartair gallery I’ll be setting up a system of motorized speakers and lights and working to deconstruct ‘white’, spatially and compositionally. While it’s a performance rather than an installation, the piece is meant to be experience walking around, exploring the space and how sound, light, bodies, and shadows interact with it.
Do you have any advice for emerging artists?
My biggest piece of advice is to make sure that you’re uncomfortable a lot of the time, and to constantly do the things that you don’t necessarily want to do. That’s the only way to push your work forward. I feel like you learn a lot more about yourself by doing things that you don’t feel comfortable doing. Collaborations are also really important especially as a younger artist, it pushes you to do thing you wouldn’t necessarily do. It allows you to do things you’re slightly interested in but not necessarily totally committed to, and then you team with someone else who is kind of interested, and then you experiment together. I did this collaboration where we would like, shit in speakers and do all these things that were just so weird and uncomfortable, and I think it’s so important to do that. Everybody should shit in a speaker at some point in their life! (For more on the project the Original Stink go here. )
This edition of No Patent Pending at Quartair is presented as part of iii’s guest residency program supported by the Creative Industries Fund NL and Stroom Den Haag.
Sunday, May 29th 2016
With Doron Sadja, Yoneda Lemma, Yolanda Uriz and Jeroen Uyttendaele
Quartair, Toussaintkade 55, The Hague
Doors open at 19:00, starts at 19:30
presented by iii in cooperation with Quartair.
Jeroen Uyttendaele: Vonkveld, performative installation with electrical short circuit’s
Yolanda Uriz: Transitory Presences, AV performance with cymatic smoke patterns
Doron Sadja: We Are Never Ever Ever Getting Back Together, spatial composition deconstructing white light and white noise
Yoneda Lemma: digital sound compositions