Darwin: Darwin: Okay. Today, I have the great opportunity to speak to someone new to me. His name is Peder Simonsen and he's a recording artist, composer, producer, engineer - practically everything you can imagine, based out of Norway. I have gotten a chance to immerse myself in both his music, as well as the music of people that he's been producing, and it's just gorgeous. It's right up my alley and so I'm very excited to speak with Peder. Hey, man, how's it going?
Peder: I'm well, how are you?
Darwin: I'm great. Thanks a lot for taking time out of your schedule to have this discussion. I really appreciate it.
Peder: Well, thanks for having me. It's great to be on here.
Darwin: Yeah. So I gave the two-penny tour of what all you do. Why don't you actually fill in the blanks? I know you're involved in a lot of different groups as well as a lot of different instrumentation work and stuff. So why don't you tell us, in your own words, what your body of work is all about?
Peder: Right. Well, I'm very interested in music that works with tuning and time, repetition... and with space, I guess, both harmonic space and also physical space. And it all stems from my background as a tuba player. I'm originally educated as a jazz tuba player. And for the last few years I've been playing a lot of microtonal tuba and I've gotten into just intonation and microtonal music, which has been now a long standing interest and has opened up a lot of great collaborations and I've met a lot of interesting people in that world. And I've also been recording a lot of music and producing stuff. It's all working together in a way, recording something and creating something, because to me, it feels connected how you portray a sound.
If you're recording a sound, you're portraying it, but you're also choosing how to present it. So you're designing the sound in the same way as if you're creating one on the synthesizer or producing one on the tuba - on a certain level, at least.
Darwin: Right. Now, I find it fascinating that you got your start in jazz tuba. Quite frankly, when I was younger, I didn't know such a thing even existed, but I went to school at University of North Texas and Rich Matteson was one of the instructors and he was one of the early bebop jazz tuba players. And I was really quite amazed by what real facility on the instrument sounded like. What was it that drew you to the tuba in the first place? And then what is it about working with the tuba that led you into working with modular synths? That seems like a pretty big leap.
Peder: Yeah, well, actually I started out playing in the local marching band when I was a kid, because my best friend wanted to start in the marching band because his older brother was, so it was random. And as I started in the marching band, I don't know, I just wanted to have a really large instrument. It looked really cool to me. And I tried it and it felt good right away, got a sound, and almost all the kids want to play drums or saxophone or whatever. So if you're a marching band director and you have a kid that wants to play the tuba, you're basically just throwing positive reinforcement at that kid.
Peder: So that was nice. And I mean the tuba, it's an instrument that's weird in the sense that, as you mentioned, you have people who are amazing at that. But for me, I didn't really know anything about that when I was playing in the marching band, but I had a teacher via the marching band who was called David Gald, who's still a tuba player in Norway today. And he was a jazz player and still is, a fantastic musician. And I didn't know until I was 13 or something that he was good at music on that level. He was just teaching me to play basic stuff.
And then I'd gotten into blues and improvisation and that was what kept me in music. It wasn't per se the fact that I was playing tuba. It was that music opened up in the sense that it could be freer and you could connect what you were hearing and what you were imagining to your instrument. And it could have been any instrument, but since I was playing tuba and he was a great jazz player, he set up all these great things for me, like getting me and my friends to have a little band and instructing us. And so that was a big thing. And from that, music became freer because as you learn to improvise, then you connect your ear to your music creation. And it doesn't necessarily even become dependent on the instrument you're playing. You can be anything.
Darwin: Yeah, so true. That's actually a really interesting point. It's no longer about replicating the notes on a piece of paper. It's more about getting what you hear in your head out of whatever instrument you happen to be using.
Peder: Yes. And I mean, improvisation can be so many things and there are so many great improvisers who will be able to tell you so much about what that process can encompass as you grow even more familiar with it. It doesn't have to be improvisation in the jazz understanding of it. Even though, I mean, improvisation has been around probably as long as music has, I would imagine, so it can mean anything. But actually, I studied jazz tuba because I got very, very into jazz music. And then after a while, I didn't fall out of love with jazz music, but I felt limited by what the tuba was normally doing in jazz music, because with tuba, you would imagine more New Orleans jazz kind of stuff or that kind of era.
And I love playing New Orleans jazz. I still do sometimes, but it wasn't kind of connecting to the music I was listening to or the music I was interested in that was more experimental, but luckily there's at the time... And there was a lot of great creative tuba players in Scandinavia that were doing other stuff and with electronics. And I started studying at this place called NTNU, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, that has a jazz program at a conservatory, but they also have music technology program and the teachers there go a bit back and forth. So I was able to then get a bit more into the technical side of stuff, more effects or play the tuba through pedals or whatever.
And a lot of other tube players were doing that there. And I guess around then when I was working, then I fell out of love with the tuba for a while, because then I couldn't make it work with the music I was hearing at all. I had started getting a computer where I could use sequencers and I could program a bit of stuff. But in the end it was actually getting the microtonal tuba that got me back into tuba, because then the tuba is suddenly connecting with how I hear music in a much more profound way. And so now I feel great about playing tuba. Now it feels like one part of what I'm doing. And then I can also record or produce or I can make a symphony. It doesn't matter what it is, but I still like playing tuba. I don't feel guilty about not playing bebop on tuba anymore, which I did at some point in my education.
Darwin: Yeah. So can you explain what a microtonal tuba even is? I mean, what is the mechanism that makes it microtonal?
Peder: Well, firstly, the fully microtone tuba was invented by Robin Hayward, a British tuba player who lives in Berlin, who I work with in Microtub. And to me, it's just I think every brass instrument should be designed like that, like his system, because what he's done is that he's recognized that every brass instrument is inherently microtonal in the sense that a brass instrument is tube that you overblow, and then you blow the harmonic series with one finger in. And you depress the valve, and as you're depress the valve, you get on a harmonic series from that standpoint. You make the tube a bit longer because the air is passing through a bit more tubing.
Darwin: Right? Yeah.
Peder: That's how valves work.
Peder: And for years, years and years brass instruments has been about approximating the tempered system, the twelve-tone equal tempered system, which it isn't inherently good at because that's not how the instruments are constructed actually. So what you end up doing is that you use your lips a lot to compensate. I mean, if you hear an orchestral brass section, they're fantastic at that, both at approximating tones if they have to, but also at actually locking together in slightly more justly tuned intervals, but without talking about it.
But what Robin did was that he changed the valve system. And what he then did was that firstly he added two shorter valves than the normal one. Normally on the tuba, the shortest valve, and on a trumpet, on every brass instrument, the shortest valve is the second valve, which is approximately a semitone. But Robin added one that is a quarter tone and one that is an eighth tone.
And then he added a trigger on the main slide, which is the main tuning slide, which, which was the same length as the shortest valve, another eighth tone. Then from there, he made every valve twice long as the previous valve. And I mean, it becomes very nerdy quickly and Robin can explain this far better than I can.
Darwin: But nerdy is what we love talking about, so let's dive in.
Peder: Well, that's the best. So with Robin's new system, what's so brilliant about it is that it makes the tuba able to play the tempered system more precisely, makes it able to play almost any theoretical pitch within its range precisely. So you can play just intonation, you can play whatever. You can play Indian music, you can play whatever you want to do. And you can do it with having ... instead of having to bend notes and approximate them, you can actually have confidence that the valve system enables you to do this.
Peder: And I just think the brilliance of it is that it's a tube. Any brass system is basically a brass tube, so it is harmonic.
Darwin: Right. I guess in my mind, I never really broke down the fact that the overblowing is you're working with harmonics. And so then you're constantly fighting to make them fit in the equal temperament system, but of course that's how it works. Yeah.
Peder: Yeah. So I had been doing tuba, droning tuba stuff with electronics where I was ... I don't know, I was very inspired by Ornam Bart at the time. I wanted to play these like deep, droning things and I was trying to make it interesting on ... If you're playing a long piece and it's very minimal, it's hard to ... at least I found it hard for it to stay harmonically interesting. One of the reasons for that was of course because all the chords and stuff I was imagining, or harmonic places it could go where in my mind back then still the tempered system, which isn't actually how ... If you play a long tuba tone, you're basically just hearing the harmonic scale, the harmonic series. It's a very harmonic thing. It's not necessarily a piano thing.
So I abandoned that and did a lot of other stuff. I was playing techno with a friend who was doing different things. But then when I got invited into playing in Microtub with Robin Hayward and Martin Taxt and getting the microtone tuba, it just opened up so much more fun stuff for me. And firstly, I recommend everyone to check out Robin's invention there and read his article about the full microtonal tuba. And I think it's so weird that not more brass players are into this, aren't getting that kind of system because it's ...
Darwin: Yeah. Maybe it's just one of those things where you get familiar with the instrument and then those kinds of extensions then feel, I don't know, like someone's trespassing on your property or something. I don't know.
Peder: The fingerings changed a little bit. So of course, if you have 30 years of muscle memory put into something, it is really hard to change that. But I mean, for me it was surprisingly fast actually, so I think people tend to underestimate how quickly we adapt to a new system on our instruments.
Darwin: Now I jumped the gun and we jumped right into how your background and how you got what you're doing. But I am curious about the second part of that, which is how did you begin incorporating a modular synth? So the stuff that you were doing with Microtub, very clearly tuba oriented. It's this beautiful droney and deep sounding things, but a lot of what you do and a lot of the work that you shared with me is very much electronic, very rhythmic. You enjoy playing with rhythms a lot. And I'm just curious, what was your entree into modular synthesis? And what is it that draws you to that while you're still a very active and prolific player with the tuba?
Peder: Well, it happened during that time when I was searching more for what to do with the tuba. I had started playing microtonal tuba barely, but I was getting into recording. I was getting into studio stuff. I was working a bit in a recording studio in Oslo. And me and my brother was building our recording studio at our residency for art and music in Italy, which we run, so there's a lot of stuff happening at the same time there. And then I just decided I wanted to get a nice analog synth. And I decided that because both, I wanted to learn more about it, but also because I wanted to have something that people could use when they were in the studio, because I have a lot of friends who are great synth players and having a great analog synth just brings such a beautiful warmth to a recording. And I was really lucky. I found on the internet, on this used ... I don't know what you call it. In Norway, it's a market place, almost like eBay, but just in Norway.
Peder: And someone was selling a Minimoog really cheaply, and I was just baffled by that. I mean, that was really weird to me. And I didn't know anything about the Minimoog, so I messaged a friend who was a synth player and was like ... I was like, so Minimoog, is that a good synth? And he was like, yeah, it's amazing. It's like this and this and this and this and this. So I drove out there and he was out in the countryside and drove out to meet him. And he was this young kid. He was 18 something and he had an original, beautiful, perfect conditioned Minimoog in his room. He was going to sell it and it broke my heart when I heard it, because he was going to sell it so he could afford to get a driver's license.
So to me, it was just like, "Oh man, you have this wonderful instrument..." and you basically just need a driver's license to get out of here. It wasn't that it wasn't beautiful where he was. He was probably feeling a bit cooped up with his parents. Yeah. You need a car when you live in the countryside, so it was a necessity thing. And I almost felt I was taking advantage of the situation, but I bought it. And then what clicked for me, that was the first time I felt with a synthesizer the same that I feel with the tuba, because the Minimoog, at least when you have an old one, it has a bit of personality to it.
Peder: In order to start carving the sounds you're interested in, you have to work it a bit. And you start playing it and it feels in the same way to play that as it feels to play an acoustic instrument. With the tuba, it's so much that has to align.
You have your breath, you have whatever fingering you're playing, and you have to adjust to the right amount of air that goes into there, and the lips have to be coordinated, and you have to sit properly. There's all these things that goes into playing a nice, coherent tone and crafting the sound you want. And the Minimoog was the first time with a synth when it felt like that, that I could quite quickly get it to feel like an instrument I was playing, especially since the filter is so amazing.
Darwin: Right. Yeah.
Peder: That filter feels incredible. And you can really subtly work it in the same way that you do with your mouth when you're suddenly changing the timbre of a tuba, so that's how I like ... And then as I had that way in all of a sudden, I got really into ReaKtor and virtual modular sense and I got more into ... and I got a little Dark Energy, like a Doepfer Dark Energy, which is, I think, a gateway drug for a lot of many people.
Darwin: I think so too.
Peder: And suddenly it was all opening up. And of course, as you're working with that kind of synthesis when you have a low pass filter, essentially you're deciding the amount of harmonics of a note. That's how you craft your ... And then with the minimum, you have the contour button. You can shape a little bit where you put the emphasis, and where you're going to be with the resonance, but essentially, you're doing the same as you are with another instrument. It's a bit different kind of control to it. So I don't know, that started it. And then another gateway drug for many, I think, is visiting Schneidersladen in Berlin.
Darwin: Yeah. I have never been, but everybody that goes there comes out with boxes and be like, "Wow, this is my future now."
Peder: I mean, you're going to love it. They have been really nice actually in helping me because I wanted to get a modular system because I wanted to do some ... I've been playing with tuba and tuba effects before. I wanted to do that, but on playing tuba into a modular, because I felt that on the guitar pedal, you actually don't have very high quality filters. I mean, it doesn't really sound that great on all of those effects. Some do, but a lot of them don't. But if I could build a modular effect in it with that kind of quality builds, then I just assumed I could to do that. But as I got the system, I also just got so into synths that suddenly I wasn't really playing so much tuba into the modular. I was just starting to create this instrument. And I was so thrilled with how it can be so surprising to you, how you can change things all the time. And you suddenly have a little bit of a different configuration and the whole thing sounds completely different, but you react to it. So actually it's an experience close to improvising with people. It gives you feedback as you've been patching things differently. And sometimes it reacts in unexpected ways and if you choose to...
Darwin: I was going to say, sometimes there's accidents that end up becoming the piece, right? Yeah.
Peder: Exactly. Yeah, and that felt really good to me. And at Schneidersladen, the stuff is really friendly in this Berlin friendly way. They're really aloof and cool, but also really friendly. And one of the people there, I told him that I was into microtonality and he showed me a module that has just changed so much for me, because there's this amazing module from some Germans. I think it's Berlin-based, from a company called Tubbutec, and they make this quantizer that's really precise at doing microtonal tunings on analogs oscillators, and it does that by listening to the output of the synthesizer continuously retuning it.
Darwin: Oh. I was going to ask you how given really ... In all of your music, you have a real connection to microtonal work, but there hasn't been a lot of allowance for that in the modular world. Either you just give up on tuning completely and you do whatever it's going to do, or you get a quantizer and you lock things into something that is generally an equal temperament version of "in key" and you live with that. And so I was wondering how you could live in the gap between those two extremes.
Peder: Yeah. Well, you could hand tune everything one note at a time, which I did with my Minimoog at the start.
Peder: Or you could record a sample with Minimoog and build sampling synths digitally, that was tuned to different systems. But after I got that module, then ... I mean, it's just such a great thing because you can change scales really quickly. You can make your own scales, or you can just listen to this database of ... I mean, the other day I was playing with this jazz orchestra and I was bringing my modular to just add some spice into the freely improvised parts. And then I just flicked up the module and got up and programmed in one of Harry Partch's scale, which is ... Is it 42 note scale? I can't remember. It's just such a big scale with lots of mini-scale steps and it sounds really cool, but it was great because I didn't really have to spend that much time planning that. I could in an improvising manner, just select it and just react to it.
Darwin: So then what do you use as an input to this? Because obviously using some kind of keyboard on a 37 or 42 note scale is going to be ridiculous. There's not going to be any match up. So do you to use a joystick? Do you just arbitrarily turn some voltages?
Peder: Well, sometimes when I'm in the studio, I just send out MIDI without using a keyboard because then I've decided which pictures I want.
Darwin: Oh, right, right.
Peder: But I was improvising with the jazz orchestra. I just used the keyboard and it was weird because you didn't have a lot of range there at all, and you had no connection to which pitch you were playing. But I mean, it doesn't really matter. If you're not really looking at which pitches you are playing, you can just listen and see if it fits. You don't really have to worry about whether it's an A just because you press an A.
Darwin: Sure. So I have a related question now, which is - so you are, Peder, the microtonal tuba and synth player. How do you show up at a place where a jazz orchestra is playing and say, "I want to sit in and play some Harry Partch scales. Is that cool?" How do you get that to happen?
Peder: Well, I mean, in this case that was with a jazz orchestra called the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, which is a very ... let's say, it's a very open minded jazz orchestra.
Peder: So it's part of a national thing here in Norway where they're like ... it's different people playing in it all the time for different projects. They do a wide variety of things. Some stuff start very more traditionally jazzy. And they've had projects with a lot of American jazz greats and then sometimes they do much more experimental stuff. So in this case, it was a very experimental project. I think I would probably not have been invited in if it wasn't, so I think it was expected of me to do something like that anyway.
Darwin: Sure. Got it. All right. That makes a lot of sense.
Darwin: Thanks for helping me get into that. Now let's go back to working with Microtub because there's details about that, that I'm curious about too. So that group is three players, right?
Peder: Yes. It's Robin Hayward and Martin Taxt and me.
Darwin: Okay. It's a very curious instrumentation and it's an entrancing sound. For those listeners that are curious about this, I'll put some notes on some Bandcamp things for y'all to listen to, to just get a sense of what's what's going on. But how do you get pieces done for this? And then I'm also curious ... I mean, I'm asking a lot of questions about the details. You're seriously into microtonalism, so I'm going pepper you with a lot of questions. How do you get stuff written for you in a way that's produceable? I mean, is there a way to produce microtonal scores like you would a traditional score or do you have to use non-traditional scoring techniques that are ...
Peder: No, I mean, we've basically been using Robin's scores. Most of the music that scored that we play has been up until this point composed by Robin, and then the stuff that I showed you with more synths added. Then really I've made the piece in the computer after recording stuff and it was recorded. That's the Chromic Shift piece was recorded in this huge water reservoir in Berlin. I mean, actually we were going to record a piece that we had written for that old water tank, and Robin had written a piece for it that was notated and it was for a festival that we were playing there, a site specific music festival, curated by the label that published the record called Bohemian Drips, a really lovely Berlin group.
But we didn't play the piece well enough to release it, the recording of it, because it was new to us. And I feel with a lot of contemporary music, this is a thing that we keep - I'm not saying doing wrong, but we don't always have time to learn the advanced music well enough that it's really communicating before we record it, because we have to tour with it. So we have to record it to be able to get gigs. So then suddenly after the 50th gig, then the piece is really opening up and that's when you should record it.
But what happened there was that the sound was just amazing. It was a mesmerizing sound in there. So the whole piece is just based on this one dyad that I heard in the recording, that's just a snippet and which you can later ... you can find that exact dyad in our recording of the piece, which is called Sonic Drift and came out last year on Sofa, the label that Martin Taxt runs.
And that dyad in that room, one harmonic, it was sticking out in this amazing way or it was emerging in almost like a laser out of the timbre of the tubas. So then I was using that one clear room harmonic to design the piece around and drawing on ... I was inspired a bit by Eliane Radigue's synth works where she would use the ARP 2500 gets these subtly vibrating chords where she's introducing one on one pitch that's working with the harmonics of a previous one. And so that was basically what I was doing with that piece. But with other pieces, yeah, we notate stuff. We haven't really worked with a lot of outside composers at all, so that's also been ... I mean, Robin knows tuba very well, so when writing for a tuba ensemble, it's natural for him to do that because he knows how tuba works.
But we're now working with two composers this year, which will be Ellen Arkbro, a Swedish composer and Catherine Lamb, an American composer. And they've both written pieces for us, in Cat's case, with also trombones added. This is going to be a really big brass thing.
And they both compose in just intonation, but they're both really great composers. So when we've been trying out workshopping the pieces, I mean, it worked straight away. They got the ensemble sound. So I don't know if it is easier than we think to write for three tuba players, but I think it mostly just might be because they're great at what they do, and attentive composers.
Darwin: That sounds amazing. It actually sounds like it would be really both challenging but enjoyable to write for that group, because I'll tell you ... You talked about a lot of your work deals with space, both harmonic space and physical space. But to me, when I hear Microtub in action, what it feels like is it feels like these instruments filling space. Right?
Peder: Right, right.
Darwin: There's something about the tone and tonality of this stuff that just ... Even when you're just listening to it in a set of headphones, it has a physicality to it that's really, really beautiful. And so it doesn't surprise me then that you also would've connected with the Minimoog so much because to me, the Minimoog, the sound of it also has that physical nature to it, right?
Peder: Yeah. Yeah, perhaps. I have the same feeling with the Minimoog. It feels solid and it feels ... Even though you're just recording into a computer, it still feels like it has a gravitas and space to it somehow.
Darwin: It's really quite amazing. Now in addition to working with Microtub, you also do solo work, and you have a release coming out this March called Repetitive Rhythm. You were nice enough to share an early release of that, and it's really quite amazing. It's going to be on the ACE Tunes label. This one is really modular focused. Although, what I'll say is that on the page that I was looking at, it also listed a number of additional musicians on each track. And I would say that I was actually surprised because the sound of the tracks didn't make me think it was that. It made me think it was a very complicated, modular setup.
Peder: Right, right. Yeah.
Darwin: And so I think you must have done a lot with processing, but also a lot in the arrangement of the work to make things intertwine a lot.
Peder: Yeah. I mean, the people who are playing on this record are people from the Norwegian experimental music scene that are really fantastic musicians. So I basically had these sketches with synths that I've made, and one with piano. And then I invited them in to just play around with it. And they all had this ability to create sounds that aren't necessarily always how their instrument would sound. They're great at extended techniques, and they're also great at merging with other stuff. So a lot of that work was done by the musicians as they were playing on the stuff I had made. And then it was basically a matter of choosing what to keep of that, so it was like curating their improvisations around what I'd made.
In the case of the one track with Ingasake, then actually I was just sampling him. He wasn't really playing on the tune at all, but I love his work. And I stole this recording of him playing live. It was recorded just with a video camera at a venue in Norway. And it had this great sound to it, the video camera, because it was brittle and like ... He's doing a lot of stuff with transducers on snare drums and bass drums, so they all resonate really beautifully and it puts objects on top of this. So his world is not how you would normally perceive percussion, but it's really beautiful. But as we were recording it with this little camera microphone, it became compressed and nice.
Darwin: Yeah, super compressed. Right.
Peder: Yes. And then I just added that, and then I added my modular on top of that. So I was doing the microtonal stuff on that particular tune. It's actually me just hand tuning my oscillators to fit the harmonics that's going on in the resonance as in his snare drum.
Darwin: I see. I see.
Peder: And for some reason it just perfectly fit with the tune, so I was just lucky, I guess.
Darwin: Well, one of the things I would say that's actually interesting too is, and this is ... I would say when I listen to everything, so whether it's the Chronic Shift piece with Microtub or some of these pieces from Repetitive Rhythm or some of the other pieces that you've released in other circumstances, they all have one similarity, which is that they start off fairly simple. I mean, you would almost hear it and say, okay, this is a minimalist work. Right? But over time, it's like they reveal. It's like you reveal little pieces of the composition over time. And every bit of work that I heard of yours had that nature to it, that nature of a constant revelation of something new or something enhanced or a previous phrase extended a bit. Is that how you think about it? Or do you not think about that and that's just what I happened to hear?
Peder: Well, no, I mean, that's precise. Actually, it's a very good analysis. Not that it's always super conscious because sometimes I try to compose something and not judge the direction it's heading in at all, and just let it flow and see what comes natural to me. And whenever I do that, it tends to become a bit like that, that it just does one thing for a long time and things slowly emerge around it. But it's also how I feel about a lot of topics and stuff in general, both in music, but also in life that that's how ...
I mean, imagine what I started learning about synths. I thought it was just pressing a key and you get a sound, but as you are learning something about anything, it just reveals these steps that stuff has to... And I like music that has the patience to keep just doing something with something, because it might emerge something more and you might give the listener - or yourself, mainly myself - something more to dive into in that. Or put something that you were originally doing in a context that makes you think differently about it. And there's so much material there in quite small gesture and phrases, so it seems weird to me to just keep adding all these different ideas and things, because it's nothing wrong about that. But what you're essentially doing is that you're not using your material to the maximum in a way. And to be honest, I would love to keep exploring that even more.
Sometimes I love when people make music that's so minimalistic in their gestures that the process is happening within me as a listener, not so much in the music, which can be even more interesting than me growing impatient and adding something here and there. But also, yeah, sometimes actually I really enjoy using some subtle ... you add something subtle because then there's a nugget to discover there for someone who listens deeply to it. It sounds like not a lot is happening, but if you listen deeply, stuff opens up and it becomes that there's more there than meets the eye or the ear at first sight, too.
Darwin: Right. The other thing though, too, is that the musical form you end up with then is a very linear one, as opposed to anything that has ... whether it's a verse-chorus repetition framework, or even just, I would say even in techno and other dancing moves where there's short and long form repetitions, but you're always coming back. Your stuff tends to grow linearly and change. It actually morphs it shape over time, which was really funny because the first time I listened to something, I was just super distracted. I put it on and I was listening for a moment. I was like, "Oh, okay. I think I get what this is." And I jumped 10 minutes further in just wondering like, how much is it going to change over 10 minutes? It sounded like a completely different song! And so then I went back and listened and I heard how things were built and some other things were taken away. And then this thing that was initially added on all of a sudden became the central voice of the next thing that was going to happen. And it just ended up being this really linear flow that I found really fascinating as a compositional form.
Peder: Thanks. Yeah, I think it's because, well, I really like to think about composition in a way that you can both add something, but can also just take something away, as an equally big decision.
Darwin: A big movement, right.
Peder: Yeah. So in some of those pieces, I have taken one riff for one thing dramatically and just done that for a very, very long time, and I've been slowly building up stuff around it. And when I then take away that original thing, it turns out that it's a completely different thing going on, but it's also the same, because you're just keeping this shell around the thing. So it's almost like there's a riff shaped hole there that's tells you what used to be going on in a way, but I don't know. I like a lot of music that has other forms and use more verse quarters for different themes and different sections. It's just more that whenever I try to write music, it always seems to come out more as like a slow journey of emerging things. And I also really enjoy listening to music that has that sometimes. Robin writes pieces like that, too. So I don't know, but since I've been working a lot in the recording studio, I sometimes work a lot with pop musicians or different kinds of stuff that has completely different forms. And I do really enjoy that music as well. It's just that I don't really know how to write that.
Darwin: Well, doing that linear stuff, for you, is that primarily a recording studio practice? Or do you find that when you do live performances and even improvisations that they also look like that as well?
Peder: I like very much when that happens with an improvisation as well. I think when improvising, it's such a risk as a group or as a ... I don't know how to this in a way where I'm not sounding like there's something I don't like. I don't really like to talk about music in that way, but sometimes I will hear people improvising together, or I'll even be part of a group improving, and it feels like we're just like throwing out thousands of ideas - until we land on something where someone feels comfortable enough to do something. To me, it's more interesting if someone just does one little thing and just stays with it for a while, because then if they do it for long enough, something changes within, something starts happening.
Darwin: And other people can latch into it and groove off of it..
Peder: I mean, if you listen to The Necks, for instance, that's a fantastic example of improvise, so just stick with a theme and then slowly does small, small things with it.
Darwin: Who is this?
Peder: The Necks, the Australian piano trio.
Darwin: Oh, okay.
Peder: It's fantastic. It's piano, bass and drums. And they just start playing something and you just stick with it. And that thing is just really, really strong because you, as listeners start to be like, "Aren't you going to change what you're playing soon?" They create this wanting and a longing and use the listener instead of underestimating the listener and thinking that they need something new all the time. I'd love to improvise like that, but I guess I'm doing far less improvisation now than I used to when I was a jazz student, mainly because, I don't know, I love sitting in the recording studio and composing and writing things. And of course, a lot of these tracks on the Repetitive Rhythm record is an inherent improvisation. They're just happening and I'm recording them. And I just try not to judge them, but then I select the most efficient ones or the ones I like the best.
Darwin: Got it.
Peder: Composing and improvising is very much the same thing in a way. You're not going to be able to compose anything that comes from nowhere. You're not going to be able to improvise anything that comes from nowhere. You can improvise something you were surprised by, but then suddenly it's part of your thing and you keep reacting to it. And it's like that was composition as well. I mean, they're the same thing in a way.
Darwin: So unfortunately our time is already up, but I have more question I want to ask of you. Earlier in our discussion, you talked about a residency that you and I think your brother have in Italy. What's that about?
Peder: It's actually - our family even has it. My mother owns it and runs it. She's an artist that used to work in the gallery business. And then she decided to close standard galleries and open up this old farmhouse on the countryside of Italy and make it into a residency place for artists and musicians and writers and everything. And then me and my brother, who's also a musician, we decided to create a recording studio there. And so the place is called Palazzo Stabile. You can find it online and basically it's a beautiful old winery, turned into a residency where you have a lot of beautiful rooms, like this old Cantina under the house where they used to make wine with this really long reverb, so we built lines down to that. And we have this big space where artists can paint, but we can also record in there. So it's multifunctional rooms and it's room for a lot of people.
And there's lots of exciting stuff happening there. We've had great musicians, bands, and artists coming there to play and record or write. And we have contact with interesting, young, Italian musicians who are around and are going to try to help us be even more of a resource for the Italian music community.
Peder: And we also have a friend of ours. Some artists and musicians bought a house in the same village now, so they are also going to be involved, a close friend who's also music producer who'll be joining us in the studio and doing stuff. So there's a lot of exciting stuff coming up there.
Darwin: That sounds amazing. Boy, that's incredible. What a great opportunity. Well, Peder, I want to thank you so much for taking the time and having this discussion. It's been really great to speak with you.
Peder: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Darwin: All right. Have a good one.
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