Here at SPP we think we’re probably pretty…you know…in the know, finger-on-the-pulse type people. Reuben Ingall is also one of these bright (albeit not quite so young anymore) things. He makes subtle and enveloping arrangements of sound.
He’s also, like George Rose, one of the artists in the Next Gen Artists Forum, on at 3pm this Sunday, August 5 @ Belconnen Arts Centre. We spoke to him via his instrument –the humble laptop – about being ahead of the pack. So far ahead, in fact, that you frequently find yourself in your own backyard.
SPP: What does it mean to you to be classified as a Next-Gen artist?
Reuben Ingall: Well it’s flattering to be thought of as on the vanguard of something, and I suppose I’m employing some newish technology in ways that aren’t widely practised, much less in Canberra. And I guess I’m fairly young, but then again I just had a birthday that thrust me into a new age-bracket – so I’m not welcome in youth centres anymore!
SPP: Tell us about experimental music in Canberra, is it a sort of “bedroom studio scene”?
RI: If rock and punk bands have their genesis in garages and sheds, I reckon it’s fair to say most computer-based music originates from bedrooms, especially solo artists. Being a smaller city, Canberra’s weird music gigs tend to recur in the same small venues, usually cafes, bookshops and backyards, and there’s a crowd of familiar faces that turn out to see them.
SPP: What does it mean to be “experimental”? Do you even like/use that word to describe yourself and others, and the way you work?
RI: To me, in the context of music, to be experimental at its purest means to be trying something totally new, or to be composing or performing in such a way that the outcome is unforseeable. But really I think anything that departs from traditional norms or codified genres can qualify. So I do use the word ‘experimental’ to describe my music and a bunch of the music I love, and while I think it isn’t really the most accurate word (along with other vague terms like ‘alternative’, ‘electro-acoustic’, ‘computer-music’), it gets most people in the ballpark.
SPP: Where does a piece of music start for you? And where does it finish?
RI: It usually starts with a concept of a process or an arrangement, with rough ideas about timbre, which is the reverse of how I used to make music a few years ago, and how I imagine most musicians work – ie starting with a melody or a lyric or a chord progression. That’s not to say a piece will pop into my head fully formed, but these days my inspiration is more driven by a method or a structural idea, with the choice of sound sources and any tonal composition coming after. Now that I’m working full-time I tend to create in short bursts: a song will be written and some software designed, months later I’ll record most of the parts in one day, another month later I’ll get around to refining it and mixing it. Lately this last stage has stretched out into many many months. When working on your own music at home, essentially as a hobby with no deadline, not paying for studio time, etc, it’s difficult to know when something is finished – it’s kind of a trap.
SPP: Have you done any collaborations recently and/or who are your favourite people/tracks/programs/beats to work with?
RI: In March I collaborated with dancer and choreographer Adelina Larsson to produce a series of sound/dance installation-performances in the You Are Here festival. We’re now working with dancer and film-maker Sarah Kaur on a dance-film set in the burnt-out Mt Stromlo observatory, it’s still in the concept/research stage. I’ve recently been trying out the role of producer and recording-engineer for a musician friend Matthew Arnaudon. We’re making an album of his songs in our loungerooms, layering guitars and vocals as well as a plethora of other instruments: piano, harmonica, xylophone, assorted percussion, etc. It’s been really fun to apply my passion for recording and arrangement to somebody else’s songs. Through the ARTillery project I had the chance to work with a young poet and rapper John Dout – previously covered on this very blog. I’ve been playing ‘laptop’ in an improvisational sextet called Silver Spine Arkestra, a mixture of electric noise-makers and jazz-school players. And I gotta give a shout out to my software of choice: Ableton Live and PureData, both very versatile with really usable interfaces.