David Sylvian: To Blow the Heart Wide Open
DS: Installation work was another arena in which to explore established interests under specific guidelines which could/should prove challenging, potentially resulting in the kind of solutions which help develop this area of work in new and interesting directions.
I was commissioned by the Benesse Foundation to produce a work for the Standards 2 festival within minutes of my landing on the island. This allowed me to explore the landscape with the possible commission in mind. The remit stated that, on reaching the Foundation's offices, the public would be handed an iPod with which to explore the surrounding villages, museums, and 'arthouses' whilst absorbing the audio accompaniment. In effect, it was to be a work that tied these contrasting elements together in some fashion. I attempted to create a work that increased the awareness of other dimensions of reality whilst complimenting, contrasting, and extending the one physically at hand. A multiple exposure, a layering, mapping reference points both real and imagined. The 'loud weather' referred to in the title was in reference to the emotional life of the island, complimented by its spiritual ancestry and its influence on everyday life. There's repeated reference to labor, creative endeavor, an affirmation of life or its possible futility. Then there are the associative landscapes (e.g., Monet's early 20th century French landscape housed beneath the Naoshima soil) that pull in a wider web of connections from around the world, alluding to a greater wealth of resources and cultural exchange. Through it all blows the winds of pollination, cleansing, eradicating, alive with the voices of generations... The intention was that the audio be played at low levels so that the sounds of the environment merged with the recorded elements.
AAJ: Dead Bees On A Cake is an incredibly diverse record. Was it a challenge to make its myriad of various influences fit together?
DS: At the time I felt these compositions belonged together. They dealt with similar issues, were created in the same spirit over the same period. There was no shortage of material and, in the end, the decision as to which pieces should be included in the album appeared obvious to me. Sequencing the album didn't prove an issue, either.
AAJ: Your interest in Eastern culture is well established and evident. Elements of Eastern spirituality are also present in your work. How closely do you identify with those traditions? Also, eastern musicespecially from India seems to be one of the most important influences on you. Which aspect of this music is the most fascinating to you?
DS: Aspects of Hinduism and Buddhism are part of my discipline/practice, so inevitably the answer has to be that I identify with these traditions in a fundamental way. I appear to have grown into them over time, though; they weren't always an entirely comfortable fit but have become more so. I can't say that Eastern music has a particular hold on me. I've been exposed to a considerable amount of Indian devotional music for the past nine years or so, and that has been absorbed and digested over time. I have enjoyed the living spirit of devotional music (in other words, hearing it performed live rather than recorded) and have been incredibly moved by it. However, it would be wrong to say that I'm drawn to this, or any music emanating from the East, more so than any other.
AAJ: How important is spirituality to you and your music?
DS: It can't fail to be anything other than fundamentally important in life, and therefore work.
AAJ: You are heralded for your collaborative work as much as for your solo work. You worked with premier avant/jazz musicians (Czukay, Fripp, Hassell, Ribot, Sakamoto, etc.) Does working with these gifted musicians grant you a confidence that you can challenge or transcend your own capacity and ability as a composer/arranger?
DS: A challenge is a good thing and something I often request of my collaborators. Ultimately, as a composer you're simply trying to do the work justice, nothing more. I have been fortunate, as you say, to work with talented musicians, but I tend to regard the composition as the benefactor. I'm trying to bring it alive, to give it substance.
AAJ: Your work with Holger Czukay has produced some of the most interesting ambient albums. Was there a concept behind these two albums?