Extremities: Maryanne Amacher

Extremities: Maryanne Amacher

5. The Problem with Recordings

Frank J. Oteri: You played us some excerpts and they were these cyclical things that happened and we didn’t hear it in its entirety. Is it important to hear the entire thing?

Maryanne Amacher: Well I don’t know if it is on the CD. It certainly is in the actual hall. Some people relate to CDs better than me. I have a little problem with it.

Frank J. Oteri: Let’s talk then about live performances where people will go and hear this work that exists in four rooms. Does this work then have a beginning, middle, and end? Do people show up at a certain time?

Maryanne Amacher: No, they show up at the beginning. For a while I did another series called the Mini-Sound Series. It got more and more interesting the more I did it in different places because the idea was like television where the story continues the next week, and it was a fascinating involvement with the audience. It was not continuous music. We can make sounds go on for as long as we want. I’m more interested in making appearances and things like that.

The end you spoke of with David’s piece, I’ve experienced that a number of times, I mean with my own work.

Frank J. Oteri: So there is an ending, there’s an actual ending?

Maryanne Amacher: Oh, yes. My first work was doing more or less pure installation work with these City Links pieces in which I brought in remote sounds. I had microphones in different remote environments and brought up those sounds in the gallery or museum or wherever. It also involved performance. The sound was alive and it came through high quality telephone lines—people always thought I was playing a cassette. It was just hard for them to realize at that time that this was actually live sound. It was also very interesting to have more than one location and the kind of simultaneous synchronic things that would happen. You know, there are no laws.

Frank J. Oteri: Well, let’s talk about connecting to the music world. There is this CD out on Tzadik which is fantastic and it’s gotten rave reviews all over the place, yet somehow it doesn’t represent your work. To use a visual analogy, it’s only a photograph of it. We’re living in a society where recordings are the way people’s work gets transmitted. I’ve been to a lot of concerts, yet most of the music I have heard I have not heard live. I’ve heard it because of an LP or a CD or a radio broadcast or from the Web. It’s a blessing and a curse. It means that we can hear more music now than we’ve ever been able to hear anywhere. We have a wider vocabulary, but it’s also limiting because we only get these “photographs” of music…

Maryanne Amacher: Well, I think a lot of music is much more thrilling live. But it doesn’t bother other people making music. It’s just my thing because as I say I can’t even listen to my own studio when I come back from having wonderful architecture where I’m able to make my music. If I were doing just purely beat music, or even those ear effects, that’s only a question of playing them. But my music is so dense and has so many parts that to me it sounds like all these spirits are trapped in these boxes [gestures to a speaker] trying to get out and it sounds very harsh. Right now I’m very excited because I’ve never heard any of my music at the higher sampling rates and I think that will make a difference. It’s never going to be the same as architecture but at least maybe these parts won’t be so trapped and you’ll be hearing some of the dimension.

We were talking earlier about what I’m doing when I’m actually creating and of course I talked about the perceptual things, but it’s a mystery because when I go somewhere, like de Maastunnel in Holand, I had this music that I didn’t understand half of until I worked with it in the place. But why did I make it here? It’s a mystery, so what am I doing? It’s so dense because it has a lot of parts. Maybe my brain just can’t deal with it and I’m imagining the sound that I get when it’s in one of these architectures. I think that’s also what people do that enjoy some of this dense music on CD because they’re imagining, which in itself is very interesting because I would like to dream that I could make music that triggered another music in the listener’s mind. I think to me it’s almost more interesting than the music itself really.

Frank J. Oteri: A few years ago everybody though the hot thing was going to be 5.1 surround sound. Starkland asked a bunch of composers to write new pieces for 5.1 surround sound and they put them out on a CD. Pamela Z did a piece; Meredith Monk did a piece… But, in a way, if two speakers trap ghosts of your sounds in a box, 5.1 gives you three more speakers…

Maryanne Amacher: But still you get the dregs. A lot of people say you need over 20 or something like that. I don’t think I would like that. I wish you could just spray it. Just get into the ions, excite the ions.

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