Leave IT to write music and become a sound artist on the electronic scene. Explore different music genres from heavy metal to Japanese noise, take an interest in classical music and develop an original creative method that literally reboots medieval polyphony on a modular synthesizer. For roughly 20 years, Oleh Shpudeiko (Heinali) has been composing and performing electronic music, specialising in modular synthesis for the past several years. But only recently in 2020, with the release of the “Madrigals”, the composer’s name appears in The Guardian’s contemporary album of the month review, and in 2021 Oleh Shpudeiko becomes a nominee for the Shevchenko National Prize in Ukraine.
This unique path to widespread media recognition has already been highlighted by all sorts of Ukrainian publications. However, in this interview, Oleh — “in a little nook with a little book” tells about the personal side of his story, unexpected turns on the creative path and his search for a unique compositional method.
From heavy metal to classical and Early Music
You call yourself a person who is “outside the academic, with a quite contingent musical self-education and somewhat marginal musical practice”. How did you come up with such self-identification? You connected your life with writing music just when you were 18, what was the context before that?
Oleh Shpudeiko: I absolutely loved listening to music. Though, this love first revealed itself when I was a teenager, at about 14 years old. I had trouble socializing at school until metalheads kindly took me into their clique, and so I started listening to heavy metal. Then I gradually became more and more interested in other musical subcultures. I was curious: “Well, if this is music — which at that time seemed to be quite risky, weird, somewhat unusual — what else is music?”.
In high school, I joined the “Ukrainian Gothic Portal” — hooked on gothic and industrial music. Although it is called the “Ukrainian Gothic Portal”, though by and large, it was a melting pot of people who listened to rather strange hard to find music and could not identify themselves with any of the existing Ukrainian subcultures. I listened to Psychic TV, Nurse With Wound, The Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus, Joy Division and a bunch of other music that was then recorded and exchanged on CDRs and tapes. Including gothic rock, of course, but it’s a pretty peculiar term. Bands such as The Sisters of Mercy played gloomy rock with philosophical lyrics, often performing in all black. But what does gothic rock have in common with the gothic cathedrals? Well, not much, though it’s rock ‘n’ roll, after all, so why the hell not (smiles). In general, I really liked listening to music, I was really passionate about it.
Did your hobby remain after school? What did you study at the University?
I studied computer science. My passion for music grew, I moved from gothic music to industrial music, experimental electronics and, at the same time, extreme genres of metal. I remember being into Viking metal for quite some time — and now it feels a bit odd recalling that (smiles). Every time, I remember, I get a new CDR with mp3s from friends with a good Internet connection and adventurous tastes in music — I start listening, and my brain is blown away: “Wow, so that’s music too?”. Thus, my first encounter with the Japanese noise took place, such artists like Merzbow and Kazumoto Endo, who recorded the sounds of train brakes in Japan. So my boundaries of understanding and acceptance of what music is have been gradually expanding.
Kazumoto Endo – Hernia
The music our parents listen to influences us as well. Since your father is a step dancer, did you feel the influence of his music on yourself?
I don’t think that’s the case. Honestly, until I became a teenager, I wasn’t quite into music. I remember my father had computer audio software that he used extensively, and that I took no interest in it back then. And the CDs he brought… Sometimes I could listen to the Queen — I liked it. But my father was more interested in traditional jazz. And I also had a traditional jazz stage, if you will, in my life. However, it happened much later and out of my own volition, I think.
At what point did you realize you want to be not just a listener of this music, but also the one who writes it?
The thing is that I don’t know how it happened. It transpired gradually — there was no sudden revelation, such as: “All right then, I am hereby announcing myself a music composer, farewell, my bountiful career in IT”. The more I was involved in music, the more it engrossed me, and the more I identified with a person who deals with sound, with music.
I remember one particular story that is rather amusing (laughs). In 2009 or 2010, the Soloma art group I was a part of back then asked me to compose music for the art installation. At that time I was already releasing tracks, even doing live shows. By then I had already quit, rather fatuously, all of my jobs to pursue a full-time career in music. An utterly miserable and quite dark period, because nothing has been happening professionally for many years, and it took its toll on my mental health. And here I am walking the streets of Kyiv, and they (Soloma art group — ed.) say: “We write you down as a music composer, ok?”. Me: “A composer? I never thought of myself as a composer”. It was an odd new self-identification, which I did not accept at first, somehow I did not like it. The term “composer” was so significant that it was hard for me to just get used to it. But then it overwhelmed me, I began to think of myself as a composer, the one who composes music professionally.
How did you identify yourself before?
As a musician. It was a rather abstract identification, like “I’m playing music”. On the amateur scene, it is uncommon to say “composer”, since it is a word from a parallel classically trained universe. And, usually, if you are a “composer”, you have to answer (laughs) for it: “Do you have an education? You, a composer?” This, of course, is all in your head, because no one really asks that.
Yes, internal censorship. How crucial do you think the composers’ education in Music Academies is?
It depends on the specific practice, really. Crucial for what? If you want to write contemporary classical music, in a dialogue with the tradition… I reckon you could probably do without it, perhaps, but it’ll be much easier and effective to just go and study it.
But you were composing electronic music, where did you start?
I started with electronic music software due to my background in computer science, probably because I loved programming at school. It was easier to get myself familiar with software that is written specifically for electronic music (where knowledge of music theory is optional) than to write music by hand or play on an instrument that you do not know from which angle to approach. I would even say that I did not choose the instrument, but the instrument chose me.
The modular synthesizer was a conscious choice. I once asked myself why I ended up with it and came to the conclusion that it reminded me very much of the workflow I got used to in the very beginning. It’s a complex system that can surprise you — this moment of sheer wonder is important. There is a significant difference between amateur electronic musicians and classically trained composers: we work with sounds as phenomenons of sensory perception, not with symbols representing sounds. There are pros and cons. When you work with symbols representing sounds, you can come up with remarkably complex structures. When you work with sound as a physical phenomenon — we hear a sound that suggests to us what to do with it next — it is much more difficult to build complex structures. But you feel its features and details much better, you approach the whole process phenomenologically.
How did you come to Early Music polyphony: from modular synthesizer algorithms or from classical music? In one interview, you interestingly described your impressions of the “Nostri Temporis” concert program, they played contemporary classical music. “When I came to the first concert, I couldn’t understand: people are really listening to it now, or has everyone agreed that they will just suffer in silence?”
Turning to classical music is a natural continuation of my interest in music in general as a listener. At some point, I realised I know close to nothing about classical music. I started watching lectures, reading articles about it. When I had a rough idea of what was going on in classical music, I felt suddenly enlightened: “And now what?”. I went to a concert of contemporary classical or, if you will, new music to get a general idea of what is happening now, at least in Kyiv, Ukraine. There I had an inner conflict, a misapprehension — there was something there I did not quite manage to catch. After all, it was obvious that something was happening that I lacked understanding of. So I went again and listened again and again and again.
How did you study classical music?
The most important were Robert Greenberg’s lectures for The Teaching Company / The Great Courses, where he begins in Ancient Greece and wades through the history of music until the 1970s and does it rather engagingly and accessible for a wide audience. He kind of scampered through Early Music, but it seems it was in his lectures that I discovered there was music before music (that is, before classical tradition). Hildegard, Leonin, Perotin, Palestrina, Ockeghem — a massive wealth of incredibly fascinating music, which I did not understand how to listen to at all.
Then I turned my attention to polyphonic music. I really liked the idea of how an extraordinarily complex outcome can be accomplished with extremely simple means. The idea is that you have several melodies that sound simultaneously, and none of them is more important than the other, and all this creates a very complex (at least for my ear) texture in which you could get lost easily. It comes close to almost a mystical experience when you try to grasp several stories at once, you start to fall apart as if you are splitting up, with all these voices, and you lose yourself in an entirely new space.
All this time, before I got my modular system, I was thinking about how I could work with polyphony. I tried to learn counterpoint with a teacher from the United States, who helped me a lot, but it didn’t quite work out. I was not that interested in writing it by hand, since it has already been done before. I couldn’t find what I could bring from myself, how I could make this practice my own. Besides, at that time, I already lost any joy in performing pre-recorded compositions in Cubase live. I didn’t understand why I was doing this, why I’m playing this music here and now, if I don’t feel the magical moment that gave me the impetus to work on this composition in the first place. Why then should the listener feel something? Probably this powerful moment of discovery made me focus on improvised or generative polyphony specifically.
Were the counterpoint lessons happening alongside with your study of contemporary classical music?
I think it was earlier. When I became interested in classical music in general and polyphonic music in particular. I realized that I had to master some basics. The fundamentals of counterpoint. We went through Johann Fux’s “Gradus Ad Parnassum”. And that’s the end of it (laughs). But ultimately, Fux’s classification helped me to do more in-depth work with a modular patch, with generative polyphony.
How was your further familiarity with contemporary classical music developed?
Oleg Shpudeiko: The more concerts I attended, the more, on a fundamental sensory level, I managed to fill in the vocabulary necessary for understanding this music. We, of course, have a vocabulary from birth. According to science, we have a preference for consonant (specifically — fifths, octaves, and major thirds) intervals, which our brain is hardwired to process rather quickly and easily, and it rewards us for it. But it’s biology, culture can change everything. Also, I had difficulty with the comprehension of the form. I have never encountered such a complex structure of music because we are generally used to, from our births to a besieging abundance of much simpler popular music.
At the “Nostri Temporis” concerts, I met Lesha Shmurak (Oleksii Shmurak, Ukrainian composer — ed.), he led all the concerts and took part in them. Intellectually, I did not make any effort to understand this music before talking to him. And when we met, I asked him to explain why they do what they do. Oleksii gave a brief lecture on the music of the 20th century and told me about the local context, and then slowly everything started to fall into place. Lachenmann was mentioned, about whom I knew almost nothing before. He was essential for understanding the new music context. In fact, what he does is a direct legacy of Beethoven. But the material he uses has nothing to do with Beethoven or even 19th-century music.
Because of this, I had troubles with Stockhausen, with his early electronic sketches. Instead of utilising all the novel untapped power of electronic sound, he caged it in existing serial structures, confining his material. Later he must have figured it out, and he’s done some amazing things. “Gesang der Jünglinge” is my favourite work of his, I’m just a fan of this song.
Do you like rationality in composing music?
I think not anymore. The atmosphere and the state that the music evokes is essential to me.
But it seems to be achieved through rational, intellectual “anguish”.
It was necessary to get there emotionally, to find a way to listen so that I could feel this music. So that I do not just have a rational understanding — so it wouldn’t become just a reading of a text, if you will.
Although, sometimes music is a very interesting text.
If we talk about professional analysis — yes, but I speak from a listener’s perspective. I recently attempted to study Perotin, I found a lot of things there that I simply had not heard. Like his columns of fifths and octaves, numerous tritones — you look at the score and see the Gothic cathedral.
It turns out that your immersion in classical music — cognitive and practical — makes you also a follower of the classical music traditions?
I see it more as a gap: 10th–16th centuries, then a break and the second half of the 20th century, since modular synthesis and electronic music are also close to me, where I feel adequate. Anything that is traditionally part of the classical convention — I love this music, but it does not affect my practice directly (at least consciously).
Do you have any guilty pleasures in the classical, Romantic music? Like Chopin, maybe?
(laughs) Chopin? Why not? In fact, he’s not bad at all. I have been listening to Chopin’s waltzes quite recently — and I had a lot of fun. The toughest thing for me is to engage myself with the music of the 19th century: I seem to understand everything, but purely emotionally it is difficult for me to find the point of contact. Maybe except for Chopin and Mahler and some other exceptions. I do have guilty pleasures in visual arts — William-Adolf Bouguereau, for example — but with music… There’s no guilt.
How do you continue the polyphonic tradition in modular synthesis? Tell us about the instrument itself.
It is believed that the first commercially available synthesizers were modular. The idea was that any musician, composer, sound art practitioner can assemble a system for their specific creative needs. I started my pilgrimage by ordering a small system called “System Concrete” from Make Noise. It was inspired by Schaeffer and Henry. This system did not synthesize sounds but could process them, and it was particularly well suited for contemporary neo-concrete music. However, later, while I was gradually adding new modules and learning to use them, I realized that the system could be patched (set up) to generate something similar to polyphonic music.
The technique of Early Music polyphony on a modular synthesizer
Explain how to implement polyphonic techniques using modular synthesis. Let’s start with how to make a melody.
First of all, we need a module that generates sound — an oscillator. I have four of them, because of organum quadruplum. To generate a melody, the synthesizer needs to know when and which pitch to play, so there are two sources: the first will tell it at what point in time the pitch needs to be played, the second — which pitch to play.
Are there rhythm and pitch?
Yes. A module that creates a melody from a complex continuous signal is called a quantizer. Every time it receives a signal at the input, he looks at it and slightly changes this signal according to the grid you chose, that is, simplifies the signal. Say, if you have something between D and D sharp, but a little closer to D sharp, the quantizer will turn it into a D sharp.
I use several modules to create complex melodies. The main module is a Stochastic Function Generator, which sounds scary, but in fact, it is just a generator of basic functions that can rise and fall. There is a knob that determines the speed at which the function should rise or fall. There’s also an option to add randomness to these functions. Then the signal from this module can be combined with the signals of other similar modules and will proceed into the quantizer, which in turn creates melodies in a certain mode and tuning.
In what tuning do you work?
I have not yet decided how reasonable it would be to use the Pythagorean tuning simply because we read in Medieval theoretical treatises that someone used it or should’ve used it back then. Because when it comes to organum, it’s vocal music in its essence, where tuning doesn’t really matter. Maybe I should use the modern equal-tempered tuning instead.
It seems to be a historically informed electronics.
Yeah. As for the mode, I don’t use all the steps, only the first five. So I avoid those dissonances that would not be characteristic of the period music. But two of my four oscillators are tuned to a fifth. It was important for me to address the Perotin columns with fifths and octaves.
That is, you determine the synthesizer mode (Lydian, Dorian, Pythagorean), mode, range, and speed of function. But its final chooses do not depend on you?
I know the general form of the melody, I can determine where it should go, approximately.
If you use only five steps of the mode, and they are taken randomly, then it turns out that you use the scale, not the mode?
Yes, a scale that is emphasized by a tonic. But not quite randomly. As I said before, the quantizer gets the pitch information from the stochastic function generator combined with other modules.
Is it the same voice, just its melody becomes more complex because two functions overlap?
Exactly. The rhythm can also be very simple as a pulse, but we will hear it as a more complex one because sometimes the synthesizer quantizes the same note twice. That is, two frequencies in a row are close to one specific pitch.
It turns out that you can adjust the most basic parameters, but it won’t be just one sound that is repeated at the same frequency per beat, will it?
There is always a coincidence, yes. I can only anticipate and control this at the macro level. The most interesting thing is what we can do with rhythm. The Tempi module allows you to, first, multiply and divide the pulse (make durations shorter or longer). You can also switch all of its six channels automatically, and the rhythm of the first voice will switch to a second voice, etc. However, due to the quirks of quantization, it will still be different. That is, programmatically it is an isorhythm, but not by ear.
You also talked about the possibility of creating even isorhythmic motets: cyclic repetition of the melody and cyclic repetition of rhythm in the melody, didn’t you?
It is possible. You have to use sequences: a melody is programmed into a sequencer beforehand — Gregorian chant, for example — and an external rhythmic grid is superimposed on this melody. Oleksii and I used this technique in the “Queen of the Night” performance at St. Paul’s in Odesa.
In fact, it is more difficult to achieve dependence than independence in a modular synthesizer. The voices are set up in such a way that they will always be in a slightly complicated relationship, and at the basic, technical level they are independent.
How to make them dependent if it shows polyphonic ingenuity?
If you want to make them dependent, you can do it through imitative polyphony. This is possible through the so-called Sequential Switch, a module that can make two or more voices imitate each other. The module stores a fragment of a sequence of pitches and sends it, every time, after receiving a trigger, to a consecutive voice in a row. But before I figured out imitative polyphony, I worked with an independent one. In which the only polyphonic principle that holds is that the voices are independent of each other, and none of them is more significant than any other.
Is it possible to set such values so that everything can be completely controlled?
There will always be an element of surprise. Even if you try your best — the analogue synthesizer is not a very reliable machine, it sometimes neglects or distorts some signals. It has its own life, which flourishes with the deterioration of the modules, so sometimes certain elements of the patch become entirely inconsistent. This also happens during live performances, and I enjoy it. I was thinking of repair the modules, cleaning the pots, but decided against fixing some modules because the synthesizer starts to live its own life.
Has the synthesizer become subjective?
It gets traumatised. After all, subjectivity is produced through trauma, just like with us, humans.
It sounds cruel. Does the synthesizer have a name?
No. Moreover, it looks like this now, and in a few months, it will probably look different. But we are really changing too, our body is being constantly renewed.
Is it really alive?
Kind of. It can also get out of tune as any acoustic instrument. Therefore, before you perform, all the oscillators must be tuned manually (for example, in fifths, octaves or unison) and left after the soundcheck so that the synthesizer warms up and somewhat stabilises. And then, about 15 minutes before the performance, I check the tuning again. So analogue oscillators do not drift too much in the course of the show, but it can still happen, and the worst thing is accidentally touching the oscillator pitch knob during the performance.
Speaking of the organums you are working on now, you should also think about the structure: the organum purum section and the discant section. How is this possible on a modular synthesizer?
I have a separate module — a sequencer, where fragments of Gregorian chants are stored, they go to the bass, organum tenor. I dial in the melodies of Gregorian chants manually. It’s quite an arduous process at times, but then you just get through and remember it as a nightmare (laughs). This is for the organum purum section. And I usually make discant fully generative. This section was in the structure of the performance at Bouquet Kyiv Stage at first, but a day or two before the show I reconsidered and took it away. At the moment, it is quite risky to switch from the organum purum section to discant, it does not happen swiftly enough.
In general, I come from a different perspective, which is alien to traditional music theory, although there are points of intersection. I am not interested in getting too close to the organa, because these practices were defined by the context of their time. It is more important for me to convey the spirit, my sensation of this music, although, of course, I build an organum with a Gregorian chant in the tenor, with several quickly moving generative voices above it, and so on, as is tradition.
The meaning and value of this music are not in its rules. As Brian Eno said about generative music: it exists within certain boundaries and is not completely random. The composer sets the boundaries, but the result could be very complex and unexpected.
Heinali in angello cum libello
It seems that modular synthesis has enough technical limitations. If art is ingenuity, then it seems that the more limited the system, the more interesting it is to work with it?
Modular systems are a fine limitation, true, especially if you don’t have enough money for it. In addition, there are constraints in the internal logic. And every time you work with them, you try to overcome the limitations that you have set up yourself. An odd practice, which, nonetheless, works. Ideal psychotherapy: you suffer, you suffer, but then you discover something, and — catharsis.
In the organa we found some intersections with the genre, but Madrigals seem closer to the motets in technique?
Motets have a religious tinge, and the madrigal is Renaissance music that focuses on the human. Much closer to what I had in mind. Although I didn’t really think of naming the album “Madrigals” at first. I had several options, including Beatrice, which would work well, but would shift the focus too much towards Dante. And I wanted subtle references, such as in Vita Nova and Beatrice.
How did you come up with the characters in “Madrigals”?
I faced the problem of communication with classically trained musicians, since I had to convey what I wanted in terms that Igor (violinist Ihor Zavhorodnii — ed.) would understand — because we have entirely different backgrounds. The only thing that worked was making up a myth, inventing it. When I was working on Rondine, I didn’t know it was going to be about mythology, but as a result, we came up with a certain narrative, a tale.
In Beatrice, I had an idea of a medieval garden and millefleur. Here we invented a story during our recording session, but then it became an integral part of the composition. This is the story of the immaculate garden you’d enjoy finding yourself in. Wild birds are singing there, a great deal of them, but there is also a caged bird (the character of Ihor Zavhorodnii), which is fluttering fiercely but can not fly, so her song is radically different in nature. It’s not program music at all, but it’s not absolute music either.
Certain voices — parts of the modular synthesizer patch overtime started accumulating a kind of subjectivity. The more I worked with the voice, which usually consists of several modules patched together, the more extrinsic meanings clung to it, and it began to gather its own history.
So I couldn’t treat it as pure technology, a machine, after a while, it acquired subjectivity. I know that it can no longer, say, go that way, because it lives hereabouts — “the resistance of the material”. I don’t seem to have communicated this during the recording, but it helped to come up with the album description and during the live performances. I began to think not of the system as a whole, but of it as a variety of separate beings: what they can do, what they want, how they can interact in specific parts of the composition. Some got along pretty well, some didn’t (laughs).
It appears that you went from immanent-musical, and came to program music?
And back. Now the system is different, these creatures are not here anymore. The core — the one that generates melodies — remained, but the superstructure has changed. I gave up digital modules. Why? As we know, organa were performed by singers, and vocal is the most timeless timbre there is. But when it comes to electronic music it’s a complete mess since electronic timbres can’t help sticking to their time and contexts.
However, there is also a chance to rectify this situation in electronic music. There are basic waveforms from which sounds are synthesized: triangle, square, saw, pulse, sine wave. I came to the conclusion that I will base my organa on them. And use the filter to control the amount of light, the energy that comes. In the Notre Dame cathedral, there were stained-glass windows, and the performance of the organa was, most likely, medieval multimedia performances as we would understand them today, an elaborate light and sound show. So, to me, a filter is something that reveals light, like refracting light through multicoloured stained glass, changing its course with the movement of the sun. The more the filter is opened, the more “light” appears in the music. I just want to make sure that the timbres I use are not associated with a certain time. Of course, I’m bound to lose, because no matter how basic your waveforms are, say, Terry Riley and the minimalists already used something similar. So one way or another, it’s still a reference.
What then determines the structure you use for compositions and improvisations?
If I have a choice between being conceptually consistent, or picking something that works well musically — I will choose the latter (contrasts, musical dramaturgy). My biggest problem has always been the form. To be conceptually consistent and perform a piece of proper generative music, I’d just have to leave the modular system on stage and leave it be. But I’m not interested in that, since there will be no communication with the audience, and it’s important for me to convey some things, my understanding of Early Music.
It seems to me that any meaning in music is only attainable through the form. The form is what allows us to draw meaning from music. And meaning emerges in a language only through its structure. If I leave the synthesizer playing all by itself, it will be a babble, similar to what Barthes meant, but a babble of a machine, not a human babble. It’s also fascinating in its own way, but it’s not something that serves my values. And this is an issue for me. There are artists on a modular scene who, even if they perform live, either make the slightest adjustments or change virtually nothing — a piece of proper generative music that plays itself. And I have to come up with the narrative instead, and it’s getting dangerously close to symphonism. I don’t really like it, but I have to do it.
And what is the problem with the symphonism?
I have a few issues with the 19th-century music, and with classical music as well. I am sometimes confused by the extra musical narrative that is usually implied there: whether you like it or not, it will still be a story about something. This is the form that is best suited for the functional harmony conveying a journey.
Here I am trapped in my own perception. But I see a way out for myself — employing the form of a Catholic Mass. It won’t untie my hands entirely. However, at a fundamental level, the Mass will define the framework and macrostructure within which I will feel free enough, and I will not have to constantly look for weird justifications for my music.
What kind of audience do you see as yours?
I have a perpetual problem with the audience. I was constantly jumping from one style or genre to another during my career, and just a small number of listeners migrated with me. Therefore, I do not have a holistic audience I can tell my story to. Another concern is that I do not understand where I am exactly. In the past, when I was involved in ambient electronic music, I understood what the audience was, what music they listened to, what venues there were, how I should speak to them. Now it’s much harder.
Yes, because your music is no longer electronics, but it is not quite classical as well if we’re talking about the logic of working with the material.
This is not music for raves, as well as not for big electronic events. On the one hand, I like that I am in my niche, as if “in angello cum libello”, in a little nook with a little book. Although there are Western festivals that are open to such… not even interdisciplinary — inter-scene blends. In Ukraine, for example, we have the Next Sound festival that’s ideologically not that far off.
Another question is, do you need an integral audience?
I need it for my mental health (laughs). When you have an audience, when you can communicate with it, when people keep track of what you do, you feel more content. I’m using nearly every opportunity to talk about my music, but I’m yet to know who exactly am I talking to. In the case of “Madrigals”, we wrote a press release aimed at the electronic scene. Luckily, The Guardian noticed something of interest and reviewed it. But I feel like the Western electronic music media, in general, did not understand at all what that was about and ignored the release. “Early music on a synthesizer”, really?
This is probably a creative interpretation, a reboot of the old practice in cooperation with the synthesizer. So you need an understanding?
It is not necessarily an understanding per se that I need, but rather a community that I know of, that I know what language I should speak in. It turns out that my language is too complex for the electronic scene (simply because I use borrowed vocabulary) and too simple for the contemporary classical scene.
However, you are thinking about how to articulate your music, so that is PR, isn’t it?
PR is the most crucial thing in the whole release cycle nowadays. You can release music on a potato but spend all the money on a decent PR campaign, because otherwise, no one will hear it, unless maybe if you’re really lucky. We live in times of musical overproduction, when there is more music than ever have been before.
Yes, in one of the interviews you agreed with Yampolsky that there is no music from the end of the 19th century, there are only practices. What do you mean by that?
I meant that the Western European musical tradition determined what music should be like. And when the dominance of this tradition ended, it turned out that the world consists of a tremendous number of various musical practices, which we can, of course, dismiss as non-music, but we will only lose by doing this.
In fact, you can’t write non-music right now. No matter how marginal you are, you can form your own musical practice that will obtain a listener. The world has changed — politics, economics, social structure. The Soviet Union and the United States were the last empires that could produce “great composers”, although China may still succeed. However, the one and only grand narrative of Western art has been shattered, now there is a grand diversity of practices instead — do whatever the hell you want. You can no longer be a great artist, but, at the same time, you can no longer be excluded from art entirely, no matter how hard you try. The same holds with music: you can no longer become a great composer legitimized in a shared narrative, but, at the same time, you can’t be altogether excluded from music.