The Coordinator of Sound in the School of Art at RMIT University in Melbourne, Philip Samartzis prefers listening to a dripping toilet over mainstream music.
For the layman, can you describe exactly what sound art is? Sound art uses a range of techniques, materials and outcomes to promote the various ways we encounter sound whether within the natural or constructed world. While much music relies on conventions based on pitch, melody and rhythm as frameworks for instrumental articulation and virtuosity, it provides only a narrow way in which we experience sound.
In everyday life, how much do we overlook, under-appreciate the role sound plays in our lives? We do have the tendency to fashion individual responses to our everyday lives through the agency of iPods or media players in which we create our own sound designs to mask the broadband noise surrounding us. It’s these noises though that really interests me, as these are the things that shape our experience of place and informs the way we perceive the worlds that we inhabit.
Given the mainstream acceptance of ‘normal music’, how difficult is it to convince people that the sounds you create are still music? I really think that it’s a moot point given the state of information and communication technologies, and our relatively new ability to reach beyond mainstream media to attract niche or new audiences to sound art. It is the very reason that mainstream media is on its knees as the assumption that it makes on behalf of its readership in what is acceptable or normal is usually formed from a narrow and conservative view point by self appointed arbitrators of taste. Given the choice of listening to a new album by Metallica or U2 or the sound of a dripping cistern, give me the dripping cistern everyday – normal music be damned!
What was the initial attraction you had with this type of music? I grew up during a really interesting time in the mid to late ‘70s where German electronic music, punk, no-wave and post-punk converged to demonstrate that music could be more than what the mainstream promoted ... While the music that I compose and perform may not immediately appear to refer to these origins, the sense of experimentation, independence and community that informed each scene are very much at the heart of what I produce.
Philip Samartzis plays Liquid Architecture which happens at the Brisbane Powerhouse July 4-5.