Pradžia / Garsas / Sound

PHIL VON (Okarukas, Underclouds, Meta Meat, Von Magnet): When there is no sound, life ends

PHIL VON (Okarukas, Underclouds, Meta Meat, Von Magnet; born Philippe Fontez, 1961, Paris, is one of the greatest artists of our times. Now he lives and works in Lithuania. We talked about his experimental art (2018 01 19).

Mindaugas Peleckis
2018 m. Vasario 28 d., 12:54
Skaityta: 156 k.
PHIL VON (Okarukas, Underclouds, Meta Meat, Von Magnet): When there is no sound, life ends

You worked with a plethora of artists over the years. What collaborations were/are the most interesting and important to You and why?

In the mid-eighties, the unexpected encounter with flamenco masters transformed my artistic life. They shared with me their knowledge, taught me how to stamp and dance, to use rhythms and patterns which became the foundations of the music of my band Von Magnet. In 2000, during a 6 months residence in the Medina of Fès (Morocco) I was accepted amongst a tribe of Gnawa musicians, listening, learning and participating actively to their daily practise, accompanying them to the rituals (which it is very rare for a non-member of the fellowship) in private houses, witnessing the trance sacrificial ceremonies. We together released a record and performed a fusion show “L’Autre Nuit” which embodied this encounter. The year following a major earthquake in Izmit (an industrial Turkish city), I was invited there to direct a street performance multidisciplinary piece for an improvised collective of Turkish and Kurdish artists (dancers, actors and musicians). It was a real challenge to present together this work in a country where street demonstrations are forbidden and can be stopped by the police. The collaborations with artists coming from very different cultural backgrounds opened doors to amazing explorations and broadened my horizons. Also the collaborations with choreographers (Sakurako, Otomo) and theatre directors (Neil Bartlett, Mathias Beyler) pushed me out of my boundaries. Both triggered self-questionning and re-inventing. Thanks to them my music has changed, my dance kept evolving.

Can You tell me, in short, the main ideas behind Your music? Could You name Your favorite  compositions / albums / collaborations? What about the new album?

My different attempts to music composition - either with or without lyrics – have been wishes to embark on miniature journeys across human aspiration;  from darkness to light. Starting from the depth of oneself and reaching out somehow towards the others and the ethers. In Flamenco what is known as “Jondo” (Deep) needs to be transcended and shared through singing or dancing because it is too heavy to carry, during that “alchemical” process, “Duende” or “Tarab” (in Arabic music) - which could mean “this fleeting & rare moment of grace”- might or might not occur… it does sometimes appear on stage but almost impossible to capture on recording.                                   

The conceptual approach is important but I do also cherish experimenting and testing odd combinations and mixtures as well as allowing incidents to arise. In the end what will really decide of the validity of a piece is its poetical breath. I had in the past a maximalist tendency using many layers and elements. I wish more and more to strip down to the essence of the vibration of the piece. This is what I tried to achieve with my solo album “Blind Ballet”.

Some works which might resist against time. With Von Magnet : “Neither predator nor Prey” or “Buddahlike” on the album “Mezclador”, “How to Breathe” on “De L’Aimant”.  On “Blind Ballet” I particularly cherish “Bleeding Caress” and “Lost Ballet”. About collaborations I affectionate “L’Autre Nuit” the album written with the Gnawa musicians. The new duet with drummer and electronic musician Somekilos called “Meta Meat” is a new challenge towards a more direct rhythmical approach which reveals its ritualistic nature live.

The sound is magic. You‘ve proved it. But, what ends, when there‘s no sound?

It is the impossible experience of non-existent Silence which can make the perception of sound even more magical. If you meditate, you will perceive the sonic world all around you as well as inside yourself in a multidimensional “acousmatic” space. All musicians are merely trying to recreate this  sensation artificially. When there is no sound, life ends, because it means that even the sound of your own heartbeat and thoughts has vanished.

Sakurako. Photo by Fabrice Pairault.
What is and what is not a Sound Art?

I would say that Sound Art like any form of Art is about transcending our realities and our vision of the world. A metaphysical alchemy.

What do You think about relations between the old art and computer art? Are they compatible?

They are definitely compatible. Acoustic meets Digital. Neurones meets Sensors. They can enhance each other’s potential. Although I feel that computer art can touch one’s heart & soul when the “computerized” aspect becomes invisible, hence universal. Otherwise computer art might date as quickly as its exponential evolution. We should bare in mind that art should not be time-bound.

What do You think about thousands of neofolk/industrial/ambient/tribal/electroacoustic/avant-garde etc. bands/projects? Is it a kind of trend, or just a tendency towards better music?

Only a few artists set the pace as innovators and manage to invent a style, all the rest are following along. I guess there is room for expression for every one - hopefully at least with sincerity - but very few understand that creation in art is about revolution of self and that doesn’t come easy with a recipe, a technical mastery or an attitude.

But what is “better music” really? As at the end of the day it is all about what music represents intimately for each one of us : a company against loneliness, a window to escape reality, a spiritual journey, a background noise, a trigger of memories, a way to access our emotions, a release of energy, a melody to sing along… There is always a “good enough music” to accompany each scene of our personal life’s movie.

What do You know about Lithuania? How and when did You come to it? What Lithuanian and foreign musicians do You value most?

I do not know much yet but I am curious and eager to discover, especially about Lithuanian pagan roots and folklore. Sakurako introduced me to Sutartinės and I really find its Canon sequentiality very inspiring, it reminds me of tribal trance as well as Steve Reich phasing works. I also came across the work of the group Kūlgrinda and shared CDs with Saulius Petreikis and Antanas Jasenka. I appreciate the creativity of Adas from Sheep Got Waxed. Dovydas Bluvšteinas invited to do a remix of the Folk group Vydraga which I enjoyed very much. As foreign is concerned, I have special affection for Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Arvo Pärt, Biosphere, Murcof, Stefan Micus…

What inspires You most?

Metamorphosis & Poetry in any shape or form… The intensity of the presence of the dancers of the dance-theatre company Okarukas, the sounds of Andreï Tarkovski which do not illustrate the image composition on screen but arise from distant memories, the list of increasing numbers which Roman Opalka painted stubbornly throughout his life, the drawings on soot inside wine glasses from Patrick Neu, the ever changing landscape of the ocean dancing with the wind…

Merci beaucoup.