Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Loss, grief, and acceptance in music

I recently interviewed the brilliant writer behind Headphone Commute for Wusik Sound Magazine, it was published today in their last issue of 2012. Safe to say, I'd want as many people as possible to take part of this, so therefore you can treat yourself to reading it via this blog as well. It's all about a very special album that HC put together...

… and darkness came

Wusik Sound Magazine is honored to feature an interview with HC, the anonymous writer of Headphone Commute, who’ve just released the massive benefit album … and darkness came, with all income going straight towards benefit-organizations that among other things help American continental victims of hurricane Sandy.

First listening to the album, it comes by as hard to describe. There is nothing orthodox about it. Being a collaborative album which features a whole lot of composers, this transcends rigidly defined genres, but many pieces could be said to go by definitions such as neo-classical, experimental and ambient music. It could be seen as a coherent sound image of more than six hours of music, which contains acoustic interpretations on grieving, loss, melancholia and finally, of a strong sense of renewal, acceptance and peacefulness.

First of, let me congratulate you to the release of … and darkness came

How does it feel to finally see this work released unto the public?
- It's a bit unreal, very elating, and a little sad at the same time. I mean, how am I ever going to top this accomplishment? I've worked so long on this project that I can not imagine myself doing anything else. On the other hand, I don't feel like I chose to do this - the project chose me. From the second that I had the idea of creating a benefit compilation I was already dreading a little (to be honest) all of the hard work that I had to do to make it happen - but at the same time I knew that only I could do this, and it's something that had to be done. At the end it became an obsession, and I'm happy to finally having an opportunity to know that it's as good as it will ever get, and let the public decide the rest. And from reading this particular response you should gather that it's a pretty complicated mixed feeling, one which I still haven't been able to clinically define. I'm riding this wave, and I'm letting it toss me...

Benefit-albums are not usually associated with ambient, experimental and neo-classical composers; do you think this might be a step in broadening the conception of musical aid?
- I would say that artists of all walks of life come together to help each other on a usual basis. Musicians revolve in family oriented communities where they constantly rely on each other's aid. Perhaps music of more commercial genres is more prominent, but benefit albums of all styles exist. A compilation by ambient, experimental, and neo-classical composers only showcases a fraction of this particular world, but it's a very tight circle of like-minded friends, and together we hope to broaden everyone's horizons through music.

What are your thoughts on the role of artists in times of social trouble and natural disasters?
- I've been involved in music for many years now in various incarnations and forms. At the end, I've learned a very basic lesson: artists are people too. No matter how "big" a particular name may be, behind the alias is another being, full of emotion, ideas, a bit of ego, and all those other funny human things. Everyone wants to feel their importance, and everyone wants to cheat death. It's morbid, but it's true. We haven't found a way to do that yet, so the only way to deal with mortality is to leave something behind. Artists create art. Musicians create music. All in hopes that they'll connect with someone on the other side, and hopefully be remembered in the process. If there is an opportunity to make a difference, every single person will step up. It's nice to know that some of us can help through music. So in short, we are all honored to be able to contribute, especially when our work benefits social trouble.


And darkness came spans a monumental amount of 87 tracks, did you conceive the interest and response you would receive from producers and musicians when you began planning for this work?
- No. I'll be honest, I had no idea if I would even receive ten responses. I have literally emailed some of my friends in the industry in hopes that they'll contribute towards this humanitarian cause. I was incredibly impressed, humbled, and honored by the response I have received. More than anything, I was also proud of how well everything came together - I've had every single submission by the deadline in my mailbox, giving me plenty of time to work out the kinks. I was hoping to split up the compilation into multiple parts, but I chose the simpler route, making it easy for a potential buyer to make the decision. I could have easily gone to a hundred, but I finally had to draw the line.

You have a huge amount of folks in the artist roster, is there any specific artist(s) which you find especially pleasing to include on the album in question?
- There are a few of my personal idols that I'm honored to have had contributed. Clint Mansell is definitely one of them, as are Max Richter, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Nils Frahm, Hauschka, Dustin O'Halloran, Ólafur Arnalds and many, many others. As you can see (and hopefully hear), I really enjoy cinematic orchestral music with a piano at the center stage. I've been a fan of all of the above artists for years, and own every single one of their releases, so it is a true honor to see Headphone Commute (as a label) be part of their catalog.

The spirit of the work goes against the grain of an explicit positiveness associated with benefit-albums. What are your thoughts on the emotive aspects of the album?
- The entire compilation follows a particular trajectory of a natural disaster. Although not explicitly positive, there is a narrative throughout the tracks (and their arrangement) that deals with loss, grief, and finally acceptance. At the same time it touches on resurrection and rebuilding of the life we've known. This is something to do with a circle of life, as we all live through these cycles. I don't think that the work is particularly sad, but rather meditative, contemplating and calm.

Listening to the work front to back, what is your own emotional response to the work in question?
- The 6+ hour journey is meant to trace the feelings of the devastating events by those who’ve experienced it, and those who’ve reacted to it from afar. All of the pieces are emotionally charged and are meant to evoke a particular feeling as communicated by the artist on the other side. I tend to connect with each track on a different level. And if a particular piece makes me feel… if it makes me feel _anything_ at all… then the goal has been accomplished.

The benefits will go to Doctors without borders and The Humane Society. Why did you choose these specific organizations in question?
- I’ve spent some time researching the charitable organizations that would properly use the funds across the globe. In particular, I didn’t want this to be just about New York or United States. Hurricane Sandy has devastated portions of the Caribbean, Mid-Atlantic and, of course, the US. But I would hate for the world to think, “oh, we’ve had natural disasters and no one cared, but now that it’s America, everyone is paying attention!” That part may be true – but why not take that particular thought and make something bigger, and allow our voices to be heard across the globe. The organizations selected have been approved by the artists contributing towards the cause as the ones that provide relief services worldwide. I am hoping that although the compilation focuses on Hurricane Sandy, the funds will go towards any and all humanitarian causes. And of course animals are covered as well!

Last but not least, what are your goals and hopes when it comes to …and darkness came?
- I want it to create positive vibes in the world on multiple levels. Sure, I want it to raise money and benefit the charities. But I also want the world be introduced to some wonderful music and the artists behind each track. I really want it to be a win-win for everyone and fail to see how it could possibly go wrong! I have no other hidden agenda, no ego, and no financial gain behind this project. Removing those particular evils from anything I've been involved with has really been working for me till this day, and hope to continue and deliver projects in unprecedented quality that speak for themselves. I hope the world will agree...

Text: Robert Halvarsson

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