Here’s an interview with label head Guglielmo (Gill) Arno conducted by Melissa Clarke in December 2009:
Tell me about your development as a sound artist…
Arno: “Music was a big part of my life since early on. Some of my earliest memories involve music, musical instruments, the image of an electric guitar on a book. Nothing extraordinary for someone who turned out to work with it as an adult. My parents sent me to piano school at the age of six, but as it turned out it was all about flute and solfeggio instead. I started over as a teenager with an electric guitar and punk rock bands. With the realization that rock music was hopelessly derivative I began searching for a new approach— as the other side of my interests was in the visual arts, I decided to try and play light as if it were music. Then it hit me: any cultural form has to be somewhat derivative. So I stopped worrying and began the ‘mpld’ project, in which I use a couple of old modified slide projectors as an electro-acoustic instrument. I find discarded slides and manipulate them. Then I play them in a live setting, transforming the projectors’ mechanical sounds into something I call music.”
Tell me about the history of sound in the arts, then more specifically the use of field recordings and other ways of collecting sound pieces that are later re-contextualized or reintroduced in new contexts …
Arno: “I took a little bit out of each from a very long list of artists and also from many people whom I’ve met in person and who are not known or relevant on an academic level. Of course I am aware of the work of the Futurists and Dadaists, Fluxus, Cage and so on. Without them my work would probably be completely different. And yet, such a list would also require a lot of distinctions and side notes which I don’t think I can discuss as in deep here as would be needed. Anyway, a lot of what I do is just the continuation of what my parents and their parents, and their parents, and so on did in their time. I often think that I am just doing what they would have done had they lived in this place and time.
Something shifted for good when I stopped looking to create something new, and instead began to look and listen to things in a new way. Like looking at the back of a tv set instead than at the screen, or finding an out of focus photograph on the sidewalk in front of a photography print lab, or closing my eyes and start to mentally disassemble the sounds in an airplane cabin before taking off, or paying attention to the overtones-rich sounds from old refrigerator and fluorescent tubes in the kitchen, after everyone has left the room and is getting ready for sleep (there is also a characteristic flickering light attached to this memory).”
Field recordings and the theme of sound journal often meet in a strive toward authenticity – a strategic resistance to the media-scape’s endemic deceitfulness. However, the approach I chose for the Sleepwalk series aims rather at engaging the subjectivity of recollection, as I find myself fascinated by how memory and perception reconstruct, distort, somehow always intervene against pure factuality.”
Where do you think this practice, or art form, is headed…
Arno: “This is a huge topic which I can only address in a few lines here, so I will bring up one single example. Just a few years ago I have started a record label that releases limited editioned vinyl records, among other objects. I did it against the almost unanimous advice from several friends who had been scrambling to keep their dance music-oriented labels going. But I am interested in a different public – I publish limited editions of records that have tactile packages, over-sized prints, hand-made impressions and so on. My reasoning is that as mainstream culture has moved more and more towards de-materialization, demand will also grow for alternative pockets. Such islands will be concerned with another type of experience – the physical and personal. They will be addressing authenticity rather than the eternally disappointing trappings of ‘modernity’. That being said, I believe that digital media is certainly useful also for the so-called experimental niche’s sake. The label maintains a little studio where people meet and where private sessions and small public events are hosted. To meet in person, to exchange in the setting of improvisation is fundamental. And then the studio extends over the internet through a blog where recordings are distributed as free files. So there is a circular dynamic, where each stage feeds the next. I have seen it grow and hope it will keep growing in the coming years. It may seem not much futuristic to bet over the survival of physical media when all major companies producing them (from Kodak to Technics) have been withdrawing. The key for me is to keep out of the mainstream – to quote Marshall Mc Luhan, once a technology has become obsolete it turns into art.”
Do you feel the sound community, especially in the collaborations and the in the relationships of the artists often work in a way that transcends market interests; and do you think this creates a better sense of interpersonal community?
Arno: “Absolutely. A conclusive negation of this would mean the end of the creative impulse.”
Do you have an interest in the history of phenomenology in the arts, or how do you feel sound is able to shape our sense of space and time as an immediate physical?
Arno: “I have an interest in the theories that surround art and communication in general, however my approach as an artist has to be empirical rather than theoretical. The relationship between an artist and the world at large is based on exchange, and yet the elements of such exchange do vary in nature, time and other relative instances. This is obvious in regards to my understanding and appreciation of hip-hop or gregorian chant or jajouka, but also significant in relation to [electro-acoustic improvisation collective] EA itself.”