Elegance and distortion collide in David Morneau‘s Five Step. A mystery narrator, a garbled message, an insistent beat propelling Five Step into an as-yet-unexplored zone.
Below, see David Morneau’s answers to our questions about the track, music-making, and his approach to sound. Don’t sleep, all the contributors to THE ENTERTAINMENT will be featured here in the coming weeks.
1) Tell us a bit about your contribution to The Entertainment. Is it typical of your music? Are there any sounds/processes/elements in it that you haven’t included before? Were you trying to go for any specific listener reaction?
I like to think that it’s hard to define what’s typical of my music. I think that everything I create is closely related way down in the depths of pieces. The surface elements can vary quite radically. My background is that of a composer trained at universities. I hesitate to call myself a classical composer, but that’s a label that is a convenient reference in this context. My interests in what I listen to are broader than “contemporary classical” music. My composing reflects these broad interests. I hear this kind of sentiment from other composers too. We grew up listening to so much music that isn’t from the traditions that we study, and we’re looking for ways to include all of these sounds in what we do.
I try to approach everything I make, no matter what style or genre or category, with the same openness. It’s always about trying to express something musical. This carries into how I present my music. I don’t segregate my work. I don’t release here under an assumed name. Everything I do comes fro the same nebulous place in my psyche. That’s where whatever patterns that are typical for me emerge.
2) Are you better off in your music than you are walking around in life?
The music is always in my head. I tend to live in my head. I’m definitely better off in my music, but I’m getting better at the whole life thing too.
3) What is noise? What role does “noise” have in your work?
This is such an interesting question. I think that most people have a very specific idea of what noise is (speaking generally rather than of any genre label). And I think it’s safe to say that generally noise is viewed as a bad or unpleasant thing. Against this generalized preconception there is a substantial group of people making and listening to music that includes deliberately noisy elements. My own suspicion is that the attraction to noise is a little like the attraction to hot sauce. It can be abrasive and painful and exhilarating all at once. On repeated listening and exposure, the effect is diminished and the more subtle qualities of the noise become more evident. When one can begin to appreciate the subtlety of noise elements in their music, one can begin to see that noise is like any other element. In some cases noisy sounds can provide a sharp edge to a sound. In others, it can create a nostalgic blur. Henry Cowell writes about noise in a way that I find interesting and instructive. In breaking music down into its basic elements (melody, harmony and rhythm) he suggests that a further distinction is first needed: tone and noise. Tone is sound produced with a periodic vibration and noise is non-periodic vibration. He further suggests that pure tone is largely non existent outside of electrically generated waveforms. A singer creates an almost pure tone when singing a vowel sound, the consonants are irregular, and thus noise. Sonic analysis shows that every musical instrument creates sounds that are a mix of periodic and non-periodic sounds (tone and noise at once). “As a musical sound grows louder, the noise in it is accentuated and the tone element reduced…. Under the best circumstances, the emotions are aroused by musical noise and lulled by musical tone.”When I approach noise in my own work, its use and role is determined by the needs of the piece I’m working on. Very often in music I create for I.B.N., I’m inclined to make it more noisy. This is because there’s a cultural expectation of noisy,”wrecked” sounds here. That difference, for me, doesn’t make the music inherently any better or worse. We can’t have music without noise. How much noise is a matter of preference.
4) Did you intentionally want to make something the listener could only speculate about, rather than be certain of?
I believe that music can only ever be speculative. There’s a common trope in our culture that music is an emotional expression, but I don’t really buy that. Music can evoke an emotional response in a listener. So much of that response depends on the context of the listener (where they hear the music, and also their own history of listening to music). Something that I have a “happy” emotional reaction to may be because it sounds like music that I remember from my childhood. The same piece may very well leave you indifferent because you don’t share that association.Because of our shared cultural heritage, there are general kinds of musical sounds and gestures that can evoke general kinds of emotional responses in many of us. This is why we repeatedly hear the same kinds of music underscoring emotional moments in film and television and advertising and news montage. I don’t think that this fact makes the music itself emotionally certain. Knowing, as I do firsthand, these kinds of musical moments can be crafted out of calculation rather than honest emotional experience, bolsters my confidence in asserting that music does not communicate emotion.Beyond emotion, there’s not much else that could be considered part of a musical communication. Music ideas, such as form and patterns, can certainly be communicated, but they don’t really mean anything outside of music. We have rich and subtle language, capable of all kinds of ideas. If that’s what I were interested in doing, then I would be a writer.
So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t think my own intention really enters into it. I make music that I enjoy and hope that others enjoy it in whatever fashion that they choose. To me, all music (and art) is speculative.
5) What’s next for David Morneau? Anything you want to tell people about?
More music. Always more. My new EP, Killer Copz, drops this month on I.B.N. I’m setting up a two Gameboy rig right now for twice the lo-fi fun. This will be my main beat maker for a while. I’ll develop new material for shows and future releases. And I’m working on a project with New Thread Quartet for four saxophones and electronic playback inspired by Thoreau’s Walden. The playback will include field recordings from Walden Pond and readings of text sampled from the book. There will be more stuff too, probably.
Thanks, David Morneau! We look forward to dropping Killer Copz (stay tuned, I.B.N. faithful), your upcoming Gameboy explorations, saxophone madness, and all of the other “exclusive unprecedented experiments” we know you have in store.
-Derek Tibs (CEO, Immigrant Breast Nest)