David Sylvian: To Blow the Heart Wide Open
David Sylvian: I can only deduct certain truths regarding the audience for my work, in the same way that anyone else closely observing the situation might. There are a number of travelers who have undertaken the long journey from pop stardom to the present with me. You could say we've been maturing together. You might also be willing to admit that, in their listening habits if in nothing else, they enjoy a good challenge. There are other listeners that tend to jump on and off the wagon when it suits them, possibly tuning in for the vocal work and out for the instrumental (or, in some rare instances, vice versa). (There are) still others whose curiosity is piqued by a particular recording. I come face to face with the audience (I won't be presumptuous and call them 'mine') in the arena of the concert venue. In this respect I've almost universally found them to be the most generous, respectful, gracious audience an artist has any reasonable right to expect. More than this I cannot say.
AAJ: The music you create has a long-lasting beauty, and in a way it reflects a lot about you. What would you like people to take away from your music? What sort of response or feeling do you hope is evoked in your listeners?
DS: I have often said that the desire is to blow the listeners' hearts wide open. By this, I mean I want them to be moved to the point of abandonment. This would be beautiful, an ideal, but it is too much to expect. That the work might resonate in the lives of others is no lesser achievement, and one I might more modestly aspire to.
AAJ: The artwork on your album covers has been like an art gallery exhibition with works by Russell Mills, Anton Corbijn and Yuka Fuji. Being a painter (and photographer) yourself, do you think cover art adds anything to the music when it's released?
DS: The artwork might resonate, enter into dialogue with the music, elucidate possibly? If nothing else, it can allude to the contents therein.
AAJ: Can you describe the philosophical intersection where art and music meet for you?
DS: I don't think it is a case of one intersection, but many. Simply put, in the realm of the heart, or possibly wherever it pushes up against a truth of sorts.
AAJ: Can you contrast the creative catharsis of the finished aural product to when you finish a piece of visual art?
DS: I only feel eloquent enough in my work in music to achieve what might be called a state of catharsis. The visual work (such as it is) doesn't function on a comparable level.
AAJ: Do you believe the evolution of digital music downloads is substantially impacting the perceived importance of album artwork?
DS: Yes, of course. But this will change and evolve in ways that will prove interesting and satisfying. I fully expect the visual component to become more elaborate, more an integral element of the entire experience. Once the physical product is all but obsolete, we will see dramatic developments in this area. The digital download also does away with the notion of format. As composers, we are now at liberty to offer up work that isn't defined by medium, from a piece that lasts literally seconds to one that may run for hours if not indefinitely.
AAJ: Could you describe the genesis of the new record, Manafon, and the creative process?
DS: I continued with the approach that I developed on the album Blemish, which involved improvisational performances accompanied by a process of automatic writing. I expanded this approach by embracing the input of larger ensembles recorded live in studios in Europe and Japan. At the outset, I wasn't sure if, or how, this was going to work in practice. But after the first sessions, which were recorded in Vienna in '04, and which resulted in a number of the pieces you'll find on Manafon, I knew I had unearthed an exchange which could yield fascinating results. That first session ran for seven and a half days. There was a lot of exploratory work done during that time.
Many beautiful improvisations were captured but, as I was looking for something specific, something I wasn't able to verbally communicate to the musicians involved, I had to gently nudge or cajole, make hints and suggestions, bring individuals into and out of the studio so as to change the internal chemistry of the ensemble, until I finally heard what it was I was looking for. This happened on the seventh day of the sessions, the last full day of work. The ensemble at that point in time was a quartet consisting of Werner Dafeldecker on double bass, Michael Moser on cello, Christian Fennesz on guitar and laptop, and Keith Rowe on guitar. I've described this and the resulting work as a form of modern chamber music.