Across Multiple Parks: Jim Haynes Interviews Cheryl E. Leonard & Wobbly

I will keep this short and sweet because Jim’s conversation with Cheryl and Wobbly sheds so much light on their new album, Multiple Park, and I don’t want to distract from that. Read this and buy the record (via Gilgongo) or the digital edition from the link above – it’s fantastic. – BR


Jim Haynes – So, you both have been getting out and making lots of recordings… I’m assuming this new album wasn’t done through Zoom.

Cheryl Leonard – No, today is the first time I’ve ever been on a Zoom call with Jon. Look at you, in your box.

Wobbly – We like to record outdoors anyway, and most of this record was finished before lockdown. Cheryl had been a guest on my radio show in 2016, playing an hour-long solo piece, which we capped off with a duo that definitely turned out well. In 2019, we came back on the show, and suddenly we had four pieces that sounded like a record.  

L – The funniest thing was when you emailed me, and you said, ‘Surprise! I made an album. Of us!’ And I’m like, okay… let me check this out.

W – Consent! What was that like when I sprang that on you?

L – I was totally not expecting that! And then I listened to it, and I was like, wow, I just didn’t think things would go this way… but I like it. Very different than just working on my own, which is what I’ve been doing mostly.

W – Though you’re no stranger to collaboration…

L – Yeah, but those are mostly being in the room together and doing free improvisation.

W – So were these, though radio has always been a bit of a middle ground — a studio environment, but still a public performance. You know the audience is there, so you get a well-engineered recording, but without the awkwardness that can sometimes happen in a studio.  

L – It was also kind of funny for me because the hours of your radio show are late for me, so I’d come home half-awake going… ‘I think that was good…’ And then years later, when I got the recordings, they were absolutely unfamiliar; I had no idea what I’d played.

W – When you’re on from midnight to three in the morning, you might go in with lots of ideas, and then you burn through all of them, look up at the clock, and you’ve still got two hours to go. It forces you out of that conscious state… the best stuff always happens in the last hour.

L – I gave some students the same advice in a recent lecture in regards to experimenting with found objects as instruments. So, you experiment. And first, you do all the things that you can think of. Then you force yourself to keep going, for at least twice as long, so that you have to innovate. And that’s when you usually find the best sounds.  

W – Well, that’s where most of the album came from. You bought in, I shopped it to James at Gilgongo, and then the pandemic happened, and everything paused. Around the summer, he wrote and said lockdown sales weren’t so bad, so let’s proceed. Enough time had passed that Cheryl and I decided we needed something new, so… the title track was performed and recorded entirely outdoors.

H – The fourth track, the big ending?

L – We began by deciding to improvise in Golden Gate Park. It was August, and it was fire season. The skies were orange.

W – It was one of the days that wasn’t quite as bad but still fairly terrifying.

L – It wasn’t good, air-quality-wise. But it was good musically. I have a 6-channel field recorder, and I realized, wait a minute, I can meet people outside; we can play together and record while monitoring on headphones. We don’t even need speakers… I should be doing that.

W – Golden Gate Park is so fascinatingly over-designed… all these little nooks where you feel completely immersed in nature, no lines of sight on buildings, and yet…

L – I once climbed one of the cypress trees in Golden Gate Park all the way to the top and broke through the foliage, which is incredibly dense — you really have to dig through it — then I lay on the top of the tree. And it was such an amazing vantage point to be on top of that tree. If you looked straight out at the ocean, you didn’t really see any manmade structures. Then you’d look to the sides, and… nope, I am right in the middle of this city.

W – It goes on for miles, but it’s only a few blocks wide! I went there in ’94 to decompress when I was new to the city and found the waterfall near the entrance. I was sitting there in front of it, eyes closed, nearly lost in the sound, when… the sound shifted. And I opened my eyes just as the waterfall was being shut off, revealing the concrete behind it. I look down at my watch, and it’s exactly six PM. If they turn off the underground irrigation, it’d all revert to sand in a generation or two… So, it’s fun to record there. You get real birds checking you out, but you also get… real construction sites.

L – They were constructing tennis courts that day. They’re finished now; now you hear the sounds of people playing tennis in that same spot where we recorded. But that hawk is still there. I’ve listened to our album a few times while sitting in the park, and things can get really bizarre when the last piece comes on… I hear the live hawk with our recording of the hawk, and I can’t tell which is which.

H – That’s a success, I would say.

L – And then, Lassen comes in on top…

W – Well, that was the next trip. Clearly, distanced wilderness hiking was one of the safest things either of us could be doing.

L – We’d been planning to go backpacking, but fire season and park closures… we kept having to push the trip back until it was early Fall.

W – We weren’t sure we were going even the night before; new fires were popping up day by day. And you do not skimp when it comes to the amount of technical equipment you bring with you for field recordings, even while backpacking…

L – I didn’t bring a kitchen sink.  

W – You brought the parabolic microphone all the way to Lassen, but at the last minute, you didn’t pack it.

L – Yeah, you really have to train to carry all that gear. My backpack was already fairly full and heavy before adding in ten to fifteen pounds of audio gear. And backup batteries. It gets even more complicated when I want to go record a glacier, and I’ve got backpacking gear, mountaineering equipment, including ropes and crampons and ice axes… AND recording gear.

W – The opposite of Golden Gate Park. Extreme dynamic range. We’d hear a sound that was intriguing, and we’d have no idea if it was half a mile or four miles away. So here’s where your engineering experience comes into play…

L – Well, that’s been my last twenty years, and I’ve gradually gotten better at it. It’s all because it’s so quiet there, in terms of human sounds… there are almost none. Even normally, there’s not a lot of air traffic up there, but this year… even less. So, it’s a great place to do field recording, which is not usually the case for, say, Yosemite.

H – Did you record at Bumpass Hell? Did you record any of the thermal vents there?

L – No — just not enough time. We did record the Sulfur Works, which were easily reachable, on the way out.

H – Those are always so amazing. Those environments are so peculiar — an ecosystem that’s just a scar rising out of the earth, pouring its guts out in the form of bacteria, insects, things that thrive specifically in those spots that are just so fascinating… I’ve not done much in the way of recording there, but getting out from this somewhat remote place where I live in Grass Valley, we went to some places in Nevada, the middle of the desert… nobody around, literal ghost towns… in a pandemic, that felt like we didn’t have to worry about anything…

L – We mostly had that at Lassen… we made it to a remote lake, off-trail… I was sure we would see no one there, and yet within the hour, these rangers hiked right up… one with a handlebar mustache, to tell us we needed to be more than 100 feet away from the lake.

W – Once we got off the trail, those two were the only people we saw. All four days.

L – You should describe what you were hearing in those two valleys.

W – Right above the lake, there was an outcropping leading to a cliff with a different valley on each side. At the end of each day (or: around sunset each day), the wind… You really could hear the underlying resonant frequency of each valley responding to the wind. Beneath the rising and the falling of the wind, you could hear two fundamentals. You heard the interval. And… it was loud.

L – I think I heard that in ocean waves on a solo camping trip this fall… Everyone else in the campground had gone to sleep. It wasn’t even late, only 9pm, and I went out to the beach with my microphones… The waves weren’t huge… but there was definitely a resonant pitch. I don’t know if it was from the microphones, or the beach, or the size of the waves… but it was very interesting.

W – You were wearing headphones while capturing? You usually leave them on, right?

L – I don’t have to, but it’s more fun.

W – There’s such a disconnect between everything a mic captures and what your ears are hearing when you’re in the thick of it.

L – It’s different… but as you get more skilled with field recording, you’re able to bring those two experiences closer together. You learn something about levels and positioning the microphones… it’s this idea that you’re trying to get to but never quite reach, to make the recording reproduce your experience of having been there. An unachievable goal, but you have to try.

W – It’s fun watching you take 20-30 minutes to find just the right spot to place the microphones to record a stream.

L – Oh, it really should be more than that; you should spend a week there, see what happens at different times of day, then figure out when that right moment really is.

W – One of the real starring roles was the recording you made of the mule’s Ears (Wyethia mollis) on the hillside.

L – I was wondering if you were going to say that or the grasshoppers.

W – Well, same location, same recording! We’d been hearing the grasshoppers all over on the hike back and failing to record them, and of course, once we found the perfect patch of mule’s ears, the grasshoppers were clicking up a storm there too.

H – Describe the mule’s ears.

L – It’s a plant with a large leaf that pretty much looks like a mule’s ear. It being Autumn, they were completely dried — so, as they caught the wind, they were extremely crispy sounding… Aren’t they normally soft?

H – Normally, they’re somewhat velvety.

W – Definitely called ears for a reason.

L – They were like pieces of thin paper.

H – And the grasshopper was flying among them? Which one were you really trying to capture?

L – There had been an amazing grasshopper moment on an earlier day, higher up on that same peak, but I hadn’t carried my microphones up there.

W – Yeah, as you put it, that was a no fuck-up zone…

L – A little scrambly. Near the top of the peak, looking down, the geography formed a natural amphitheater, and it funneled all the grasshopper sounds below straight up at us. But that moment went unrecorded. On our way back down, on the south-facing slope, we found them both (mule’s ears and grasshoppers)…

W – Perfect patch, a couple hundred of the plants, and you mic’d one right in the center of the patch so you could hear the wind cascading through from both sides, the rising and falling of that sound… you did a couple takes, first without the blimp…

L – And yeah, I had to put its fur coat on. Too much wind noise.

W – Even the final recording had to be carefully edited to crossfade out the more egregious wind noise. Realism is a lie.

– I spent my stimulus check on the very best windscreen one can get. So maybe we won’t have this problem again. I bought a one thousand dollar windscreen. Ridiculous. You were there, you see why I need it.

W – So, there are several aesthetics you can take with field recording. There’s the concept of the biophony — where the goal of the recordist is to go as wide-angle as possible — the notion that every sound you can hear is actually interacting with and listening to all the other sounds, so you need a wide field sonic capture to be true to it. And then there’s the more fetishistic approach, boom mics, parabolic mics, careful EQing or baffling, to isolate just the one aspect of interest, the individual creature you want under the sonic microscope…

– Why is that a fetish?

– Feels like trainspotting… I have a hard time listening to compositions that use bird songs in them because I’ll hear it, and I’ll go, ‘Oh! That’s a mountain chickadee. Oh! That’s a junco, and that’s a robin…’  

L – Was our piece like that for you?

H – Well, I mistook the hawk for a raven, so there was a species jump there…

L – Oh, that might be the Clark’s Nutcracker… the really prominent bird you hear a lot towards the beginning. That one was from Lassen.

H – I had a good interaction with those birds at Lassen. There were a number of them near a lake you had to climb up to, which was surrounded by these little red frogs the same color as the dirt. The frogs would occasionally make the mistake of leaping onto darker rocks that would give them away, at which point the Nutcrackers would swoop down. So I’d hear those sounds, and I’d be, ‘Oh, they’re committing genocide.’

W – Schaeffer coined the term ‘reduced listening’ to suggest that sounds no longer have to refer to the world in which they were recorded. But that kind of abstract, aesthetic pleasure, of course, is always going to be much more difficult to reach for those who know damn well the original contexts for any of those sounds. Birdsong is so often used in a concrète piece to signify ‘nature,’ and yet if the juxtaposition of such sounds is done too carelessly… then those pieces are definitely going to sound careless to people who know those sounds well. Or, in your specific case, they’ll evoke memories of frogs being eaten…

H – Well, there was a TV show… a remake of a Scandinavian show, done in Seattle, The Killing… Throughout the entire show, there was this very intentional recording of a mountain chickadee… I heard it this morning, living in the Sierras. And this show, taking place in Seattle… why did they intentionally put that particular bird song, one that is wrong, in that environment?

L – Because the foley artist clearly did not know what they were doing.

H – Well… the show’s a mystery, so I was running through these surrealistic rubrics of the puzzle I’m supposed to be solving, like a Hafler Trio record…

W – That’s just it; art’sArt’s great to prompt the question ‘why’… but the side effect of all these parabolic recordings that capture individual beasts is that foley artists can now randomly juxtapose them… well, that’s a form of context collapse. There’s total freedom in intentionally creating impossible juxtapositions — and I’m actually a big fan of those recordists who engineer these unbelievably isolated recordings, no-noising out all the water so it sounds like you’re actually hanging out in a gymnasium twenty feet away from, like, a humpback whale. And the whole purpose of those Snopes bird guides is to help you identify individual birds, so they are designed as these beautiful, serviceable study guides. But even when these recordings are used carelessly in foley or art… well, the meanings are still there whether you meant them or not. Listening is actually never entirely reduced. Cheryl’s probably thought through this more, the approach between isolationist capture and wide-angle biophony, the aesthetic choices there…

L – I don’t really do super isolated studies. Because it’s almost impossible to do, really. You can do stuff later on on your computer. But unless you’re using a parabolic dish… and even then, you’re going to get the background. What I’ve realized is I have a parabolic dish with a mono microphone, and I find it really irritating listening to mono recordings. I get a low noise level, the ‘thing’ is featured, and yet… without stereo, it seems so bland. And that’s part of the reason I bought a field recorder with more channels, so I can set up a stereo microphone and have a parabolic mic as well, so I can have a featured ‘thing’ while still getting the rest… so you can feel like you’re in the environment, and not be stuck with one-dimensional sound.

W – It is true that most isolationist techniques are realized in post-production.

L – I don’t think any of these approaches are wrong; it depends on what you’re trying to do. As long as you use the sounds thoughtfully, right? You choose them, it’s intentional, your choices are respectful to the material… how is that really much different than any other sonic raw material? It’s a different thing if you’re studying soundscape ecology, but… we’re artists, right? If you’re not being disrespectful, it’s okay to be experimental. Isolate sounds; just don’t be a jerk about it.

W – Technology makes it really easy to be a jerk.

– That’s true.

– David Attenborough’s last film ends with this heartbreaking realization that all the documentation he meant as an act of love is just as much a documentation of destruction… 

L – That doesn’t even address the carbon footprint of traveling around…

W – That’s what he was getting at. He looks at his footage now, and while he was usually the first Westerner there, he now realizes he was the first wave and not entirely separable from the technology he was using to document.

L – The recordings I made in Antarctica — they’re documents of an ecosystem that has changed in the twelve years since I was there. I wasn’t fully conscious of that when I made them; I was just making them because I loved the sounds. Now, it’s this record of a soundscape that doesn’t really exist anymore. It’s changing so rapidly.

– I struggle with that all the time, whether or not recording is, in and of itself, a bit violent. But, of course, recordings are tools. And if they document this change, that lets us make an argument that there is still time to fight, at least for the bacteria. Anyway, the structure of our studio piece involved one final, third location — at Marin Headlands, right on the coast.

L – Just north of San Francisco, about a twenty-minute drive for me…

W – Good for lockdown sanity breaks.

H – Any particular spots, like Rodeo Beach, or Tennessee Valley, or the bunkers, or…

L – It’s all about the landslide zone for me, the wildest, sketchiest place you could go. It’s near Tennessee Point; you know where the labyrinth is? Just north of that, there’s a huge landslide, and the roads and several bunkers have slid down towards the ocean. You really shouldn’t go there when it’s raining, and you wouldn’t want to be there during an earthquake. That’s the best; it feels the most wild.

W – So, the picture you took for the back cover was shot from within one of the military bunker lookouts, which were built during World War II to triangulate the angle of the anti-aircraft cannons slightly further up the hill. It’s in the erosion zone and has sunk halfway down the hill and settled at a 25-degree angle… so the flat slotted window now forms the strangest shape against its view of the Pacific Ocean’s horizon line… pure derangement standing upon smooth concrete that’s slanted at that kind of angle, it just doesn’t happen, feels so wrong…

L – I call it the Tilted Octopus Bunker. When I’m in there for a while, I readjust my internal horizon line to the surface tilt. I’ll be in there playing the kelp flute, as one does, and then I look up at the ocean, and the sea has tilted somehow…

W – Stare at a waterfall long enough, then look away, and the whole world is rising. So we found a fifty-pound steel door in that bunker, hanging at a weird angle on a hinge, unusually suspended and free to resonate… We took turns banging on it, dragging stones against it, and of course, it’s already in a highly reverberant concrete space… and you got it at a high sampling rate, so those recordings sounded great at half and quarter speed…

L – And don’t forget the mermaid cave with the booming surf.

W – So we had three parks worth of recordings and began asking… how do any of these sounds even relate? And it was kind of the picture of that Pacific horizon line set against the bunker window, where I realized… we’ve recorded in Golden Gate Park, totally manmade. We’ve recorded in Lassen, utterly protected, no men for miles, including straight up. And the Headlands, a military installation slowly reverting to wilderness. So we’ve got three parks on a continuum — the structure is bound to come out no matter what. Not a literal narrative, but the sounds still all point back to one reality.

L – We need to let Jim ask some questions!

H – Oh, I’m crossing out everything I was going to ask as you get to them. My questions involved hearing your record without any of this context. Wondering if this was done with graphical notation, if it was pure improvisation, or done in situ, then taken into the computer and then edited and pulled apart and put back together? And, of course, the first time I heard it, I was going back and forth, thinking, ‘This sounds like one of Cheryl’s records,’ and then ‘No, this part sounds like Jon,’… knowing both of your aesthetics, trying to tell the sounds apart. Learning its improvisations cut together, I think, is absolutely charming. Those were my initial thoughts about it, but… as Cheryl had mentioned, I am very curious about the electronic and digital processes… it’s never been important to me to know what piece of gear does what; it’s more curious about how filtering and processing impact the sound at hand and the listening experience…

W – I have a very high tolerance for discussion of gear when it comes to electronic music… I’m a fan of pulling back the curtain on what these instruments actually are since they’re used in virtually all the music we listen to these days. I dunno. Cheryl?

L – What? Do you want me to talk about your electronics? I have no clue what you’re doing.

H – Could it be something in which the division of labor was reversed, where Jon was bowing the cactus spines, or rubbing the obsidian, or playing the kelp flute, and then Cheryl had the mixer…

L – I get to play with the iPads! We could do that on the next record.

W – As a long-time fan of Cheryl’s records and what she does compositionally with her sounds, I was happy at how this ended up sounding like both of us. Before we talk about the electronics, which are indeed using machine listening to react to your instruments, we do need to talk about what in the world your instruments are. Those first three tracks are all radio improvisations — edited down but still showing the curve of both of us playing your instruments and processing them in real time. 

L – I like it when you play my instruments. I play them by myself all the time; it’s nice to see what someone else does with them.

W – You created the electroacoustic-sounding device, but… yeah, it’s a duo throughout. On the radio shows, we’re usually both sounding at once on the same object; you’re hearing four hands… Cheryl, pretend no one knows what your instruments even are; pretend no one knows what you do; how would you describe them?

L – I take natural objects and make them into sculptural musical instruments. But they don’t model traditional instruments, so I’m not trying to make some version of a violin or a xylophone. I’m more interested in whatever sounds the objects themselves produce. So I might have bones, whatever bones I can find, and then I mount them, usually in driftwood, so that they’re easy to play and in a way that’s aesthetically pleasing because I don’t like them to be ugly. And they end up looking like sculptures, kind of. Then I amplify them, using contact or condenser microphones, and I play the bones, or shells, or sticks, or bark, or whatever, using a range of methods — bowing, tapping, rubbing, wobbling, brushing… anything I can think of.  

W – What you do with transducers and microphones is heavily informed by electroacoustic music — like putting the mics directly inside logs of wood or immersing them within sand… the instruments look pretty organic, but the sounds connect readily to the electronic and abstract.  

L – It’s a lot of sounds that are not audible or only barely audible to the naked ear, so you need the technology to even access these sounds.  

W – It’s still an acoustic source.

L – It’s an interesting quandary because the instruments could be perceived as very old — I’m just playing shells, or rocks, or bones. But they’re also super modern because you really wouldn’t be able to hear these sounds without microphones and amplification. So there’s this weird zen koan thing going on there.

W – Simultaneously experimental, but as you just said… really, what are the earliest musical instruments?

L – Well, the voice. But then, the bone flute, right? And, probably… hitting stuff.

H – Cheryl, we put on a show of yours at 23five where you were playing slowly melting icicles, which I’m guessing is reprised here on the second track.  

L – Yes, Jon asked for a very long piece for radio, so in 2016, we broadcast an hour-long version of that…

W – From one to two AM in the morning. Perfect radio! We condensed and layered it a bit for the record.

L – It’s good; you made it quite a different piece, so I can still put out my original version.

W – I’m a big fan of Toshi Tsuchitori’s ‘Sounds of Prehistoric Painted Cave’ and Walter and Luce Maori’s ‘Art Of Primitive Sound.’ Projects reconstructing what music on early instruments might have sounded like…

L – I was emailing a paleontologist who was digging up giant penguin bones in Antarctica. He found me because of my penguin bone instruments, and I asked, ‘What kinds of sounds do you think the giant penguins made?’ And I was trying to imagine that. These people-sized penguins. We can’t really know; there’s no real archeology of sound.

W – No. But the thing I find most fascinating is that all the ways in which avant-garde and new music expanded technique, inventing new vocabulary and performance notations for new sounds… in reality, evolved side by side with the emergence of ethnomusicological field recordings, in direct parallel. That’s the real notation, the West’s discovery of the oldest music. Listen to New Guinea pygmy music side by side with minimalism or electronic music working with the overtone series… there’s nothing new here at all.

L – I’m totally influenced by Korean traditional music.  

– All of your instruments look kind of ancient. We didn’t use it on this record, but your bowl of sand, where you throw a hydrophone into a bowl of sand…

L – Well, it’s just a bowl of sand.  

W – It’s so tonal! The velocity at which you push your hands through the sand becomes a specific low-end pitch, direct vibration, and pressure…

L – We still haven’t answered the electronics question. I want to know, philosophically, what are you thinking about with your approach? The electronic sounds… are they distorted mirrors? Are they counterpoint? Are they commentary? What are you thinking about for their role?

W – Well… it isn’t music if it’s not happening live, basically. But where’s the dividing line between the ideas you prepare before and what the actual performance ends up being? The West has gotten pretty confused about confusing the artifact with the art. Anyway, I never played live with laptops, but when those hyper-touchable iPads showed up, those seemed all right. And the real hook was those pitch-tracking apps. You send them an acoustic signal, and they sing back in unison in real-time. If an audience sees an acoustic player making a sound and hears a synthetic voice mirroring them note for note in real-time… well, historically, if two people are playing in unison, that automatically means it’s a composition, right? That means they rehearsed, it implies literacy, it means you’re hearing something prepared. But these machines, by automating that reflex to under 30ms, close a feedback loop so tightly that it liquidates that critical distinction humans have counted on to distinguish improvisation and composition. You train these little pitch trackers on an acoustic source, and… they try and match it. And they make errors, they fail, but… that’s amazing too. The sounds your instruments make are frequently too complex to turn into easy melodies, but it’s still astounding to hear them try; the textures are always interesting and always sound kind of organic. And, I also just have a natural taste for synth sounds that evoke birdsong and animal voices, and so… to answer your question, I train the pitch trackers on your instruments, then have them drive synths aspiring to life noises, and you’ve got the basic idea.

L – So, aspirational birds. Basically.

W – Blackout everything I just said and just put that in. ‘Aspirational Birds.’

H – This goes back to a conversation I might be misremembering… Jon, you and I were talking at Aquarius Records a long, long time ago, and you were commenting on seeking technology that was trying to do just that… I think you had mentioned Francois Bayle as someone doing something similar?

W – Maybe not pitch tracking, but the SYTER system developed at GRM (Groupe de Recherches Musicales) allowed for real-time granular synthesis and waveform processing that allowed for improvisation. Which, of course, we now take for granted. His album’ Erosphere’ is all time for me. How could something so utterly synthesized sound so organic? Ask yourself what only electronics can do, but… find ways to keep the human in the loop. Hopefully, most of our record sounds live… Cheryl and I were jamming!

– It does sound live, and then there is a shift with the fourth piece, a different feel. Very assembled and put together, but still both of y’all. I don’t know if I have any other questions!

W – The record just happened! And Cheryl, you saved that final piece, your comments about the flow in the final third; I was totally lost and couldn’t even hear the obvious rhythms and forms being set up by the ocean waves… you saved it.

– I’m kind of a classicist; I use the same form a lot… I should break out of that more.

W – Just to close… you’re totally a master editor; you know Pro Tools as well as I do the last twenty years… I was aspiring to your forms on your solo records. I have a problem with moving too quickly, being too ADD, and your stuff is so patient…

L – I can credit my undergrad composition teacher with that… Salvatore Macchia, who I studied with at UMass Amherst… I was a student at Hampshire College, but I studied with him towards the end of my undergraduate time, and he said I had a lot of really cool ideas, but I needed to develop them more. Pick one, and develop it. And now, I do that. I totally blame him. In a good way. And what’s super funny is that I gave a talk for his composition class last week… and he mentioned that he’s always telling his students to develop their ideas, stretch them out, not jump around to all these different things… and I said ‘you told me the exact same thing! And I actually did it!’ It is interesting to take some focused material and see how far you can mutate it, where it ends up if you give that one idea enough time… It’s the opposite of everything our culture tells us to do. And given the last year… well, there’s never been a better time to go somewhere and just listen.

W – I’ve always loved the disconnect between the visual beauty of your instruments and the unbelievably uncompromised, un-new-age sounds they often produce. Nature can be terrifying.

L – Nature is often terrifying. Even when we think it’s pretty, like birdsong… the birds are often not talking about pretty stuff. It’s territorial, competitive. We’re usually not listening carefully enough to it.

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