esmaspäev, aprill 12, 2010

Interview with .m u r m e r.

pic taken from here

patrick mcginley (aka murmer) is an american born sound and performance artist who has lived and worked in europe since 1996.
since 2009 he is living and working, based in Mooste/Moks. Artishok wanted to introduce his doings more to Estonian audience and also to ask him how he pictures he`s living here. Interview (questions by Maarin Mürk) bounced back and forth via email quite long time, but now eventually we are happy to present the outcome to readers! Hopefully it will be first part of interview series to introduce Moks residence-artists (although patrick is a special case in terms of his residency is quite fundamental now) to wider public.

introduction information from

from 1996 until 1998 patrick lived in paris, where he studied theatre, and began his sound experiments in the context of those studies. moving to london in 1998, he began a collection of found sounds and found objects that would become the basis of all his work. he has composed works for several theatre performances, including the works of his own company, as well as performing live soundworks for others. in 2002 he co-founded framework, an organisation that produces a weekly radio show based on london's resonancefm, but also airing on several other radio stations, streaming, and podcasting. his work concentrates on the framing of sounds from our environment which normally pass through our ears unnoticed and unremarked, but which out of context become unrecognisable, alien and extraordinary: crackling charcoal, a squeaking escalator, a buzzing insect, or one’s own breath.

current projects:
murmer's most recent solo work, we share a shadow, was published in late 2007 by the helen scarsdale agency in san francisco. in 2008 prele records published the first document of the collective revenant:sound project, entitled revenant:topolo. revenant:sound comprises explorations in site-specific sound action, performances, presentations, and workshops, and has been a main focus over the past two years. please visit the revenant:sound website ( for more information. 2010 should see the publication of several new murmer projects, as well as further solo and revenant:sound activities.

this is a very basic explanation of my work, but i can add a simple history and timeline of how i arrived at my current working practice:

i have always been greatly interested in sound and music, and have always been involved in making it (playing trumpet and drums as a child, and growing up with a mother who sings). and as my teenage musical tastes led my through rock and punk and industrial to more experimental and less 'musical' styles, i began to explore the possibilities of non-instrumental sound. this led me to artists such as illusion of safety, zoviet france, current 93, who were all somehow challenging the 'edges' of music. i relocated to france in 1996 (to attend a physical theatre school) and became enthralled with the new sonic environment around me; it was there that i first began to imagine capturing and using these sounds to create my music. of course, in this time before the currency of the internet, i explored these ideas in solitude, unaware that there was already quite a community of artists (and had been for decades) already exploring these ideas.

in 1998, when i finished my theatre studies in france and relocated to england, i was able to buy my first minidisc recorder and small microphone (the cost of such devices had finally come into consumer range) and i began making recordings, and experimenting with composition on a borrowed cassette 4-track recorder and a few guitar effect pedals. soon after i was able to make contact with a growing community of self-taught young artists, and began exchanging recordings and ideas, and collaborating on various levels. in 2000 i was able to publish some of my early experiments, and in 2002 i began producing the framework radio show on london's resonancefm, in an effort to give a public voice to the community i had become involved with.

of course over the years my interests and focuses have evolved and changed. i have come to realise that an interest that initially manifested in 'field recording', with a number of self-inflicted and overly restrictive rules, in really a much broader interest in acoustic (as opposed to synthesized) sound phenomena as a whole, and an interest in 'passive' field recording has now widened to encompass an interest in 'active' interaction with an environment. indeed, space and social interaction within it has come to play a much greater role in my work, hence the development of the revenant:sound project with colleagues such as john grzinich (here in estonia), maxims šenteļevs, hitoshi kojo, and yannick dauby.

i have come to truly view my work, and that of my colleagues, as a kind of folk music. folk music has long been important in my life (i have played traditional irish music since i was a teenager) and i was led to certain conclusions by one persistent question that people often ask me: how on earth could i be simultaneouly so interested in traditional irish folk music and these strange noises that i seem so intent on making? there are several possible answers (one being a certain level of trance-like meditation, a 'forgetting' of oneself, that can be acheived both in the maddening rhythm of a fast irish reel and in the maddening rhythm of a rushing river), but a very strong one is the production and development of both through a self-sustaining community. music created by and for a community without institutional ties and reliance, that to me is the definition of folk music. the only difference lies in the geographical definition of 'community'; while irish music has a direct link to a specific goegraphic location, the internet has created the possibility of a much more widespread global community of artists working with sound phenomena.

And now, to the questions:
What have been your recent activites, intrests, art projects, desiers, secret wishes?

my recent activities have been fairly varied; i work with sound, so many of them have been in that domain, but they have also revolved most recently around making this move to estonia, planning how/where i want and am able to live, and trying to make the changes in my life that will make that possible. at this particular moment i am quite tied up in a project related to the weekly radio show i produce, framework, which recently celebrated the airing of it's 250th edition. i am producing 4 cds worth of contributions from artists that have been involved with the program, which will be given to listeners who donate via the framework website. this fund-raising drive is important for me – i've been producing this radio show for over 7 years, and it takes a lot of my time. it's always been a volunteer effort, but now i need it to start paying its way a bit...

meanwhile, i have also been touring for performances and workshops, most recently in the northeastern united states. i have been enjoying giving workshops most of all; it can be much more rewarding to spend a few days with an interested group and create something together than to just come into town for one night, play a concert, and leave. i hope to be doing more of this in the future.

i usually describe my interests in general as being in sonic discovery – found sounds, found objects, found spaces... i like to explore the sonic details of my environment is new ways, see what can be uncovered, perhaps a bit like a zoologist looking for new species. i hope to create situations in which others will also discover their environments in new ways, hear new sounds, or rather, give their attention to sounds that are not new, but to which they have never listened. i also have a strong interest in intersecting these sonic explorations with explorations in group activity and social interaction. my performances always deal with this; i invite my audiences to participate in creating an absolutely unique sonic space – i have described it as an attempt to integrate and resonate found
sounds, found objects, specific spaces, and moments in time, in order to create a direct and visceral link with an audience and location. this is my folk music...

How did your find your way to Moks at the first place? When was it? And how was it?

i first came to moks, and estonia, in the summer of 2005, to participate in the postsovkhoz5 symposium. at the time word was getting around our widespread community of experimental sound artists about this space, due to the involvement of john grzinich, who is also an active participant in that community. it sounded interesting to me and i applied to participate in the symposium. i wasn't really expecting to be affected so much by the experience, but i pretty much instantly fell in love with estonia, its landscapes, its forests, and its population. at the time i was very settled into an urban lifestyle in london, but that visit shook things up and led to many changes that have now, over 4 years later, finally led me here for good.

There has been one tounge-in-cheek line going on years now about „Mooste magic“ - whats so special in Mooste that you keep coming back?

well, i don't think its to do with mooste, per se, but with the fact that mooste is for many people the first experience of a different kind of lifestyle and perspective. your 'mooste magic' is simply to do with the fact that mooste (or rather moks) actively invites and welcomes artists from around the world to come and experience something different from what they are used to. when you are feeling trapped in a certain kind of lifestyle, like i was in 2005, this experience can be an eye-opener and very liberating. so what, then, is so special to me about estonia? funny, but that feels like a very personal question; suffice it to say that i am happy to live amongst a population with what feels like a much stronger connection to and appreciation of their environment, in an atmosphere of ingenuity by necessity, in a space where commercialism and advertising-driven society seem to have, so far, taken less of a hold. there are of course many more reasons (real seasons; access to spaces and landscape; true quiet – very important for a sound recordist; sauna...) and i find new ones everyday, but these are some basics.

How and why you did made the decision to move to Estonia? Was it more moving to Estonia or moving to Mooste?

well, i think i've already answered that question, although i don't know exactly when i decided to move to estonia (and yes, it is definitely estonia, and not simply mooste). the seed was sewn on that very first visit, but i guess i saw it first as somewhat of an infatuation (can you have a crush on a nation?). i wanted to take the time to step back from the experience and see if what i had felt wore off with time. but it persisted, over 4 years, and so now i'm here.

How do you picture your life here? Whats your expectations, wishes, goals?

essentially i see my life here as not so different from the life i've been living since i left london 3 years ago. at that point i moved to the countryside, but in france, where i had the opportunity to look after a big empty house. my work essentially happens on the road, and i expect that to remain the same. i travel a lot of the time (i enjoy it) and when i am home i have my own projects to work on. and i always have the radio show to produce. if i tell you my unrealistic long term goals for my life here, it would be to be involved in the development of an intentional community somewhere here in the countryside in the southeast, to have a family, to brew my own beer, to earn a reasonable living from my work, to have framework broadcast on estonian radio, to be accepted by my adoptive landscape and population.

Have you been in contact with contemporary art scene in other locations in Estonia besides Mooste? Whats your impressions, what here intrests you and what isnt so exciting? Do you something could be done differently/more?

i have been in contact with many people outside of mooste; whether or not this means i have been in contact with a contemporary art 'scene' i don't know. i am interested in individuals and communities and exchanges between them, but i've never felt comfortable with anything that can be identified as a 'scene'. but perhaps i'm just being pedantic...

i am new here, and as such my observations are still too fresh for constructive criticism. i can say that what i appreciate is a sense of free exploration, without the weight of trend and preconceptions that i have experienced in other artistic communities. many things are very new here, and it seems that many people have taken the conscious decision, at the risk of appearing naive, to make their exploration themselves and draw their own conclusions rather than accept the hand-me-downs of past generations. on the other hand, the community is small; nepotism and the tediousness of a microcosm must surely play a part at times. i'm sure i'll find out...

You have been participating in Moks activities for some years now and will probably do it now even more intensively – how would you describe Moks and why have you choosen this as a initiative to contribute to?

i didn't exactly choose moks so much as a natural relationship developed. like i said, as a foreign artist moks is important because it provides a point of contact and entry. it is also, of course, a wonderful space run by generous and professional hosts without their own agendas for their visiting artists and their output. an artist's time at moks is truly his or her own to make explorations or discoveries as he or she sees fit. i now hope to contribute to this particular initiative because i have formed a personal relationship with the people in and around the organisation, and it's development has become important to me, as would the development of a family. but this is not a judgment – i did not choose x because it is better than y or z, but because it's where my path led me and i will continue to follow it. i would hope that the development of a project like moks will lead to more such endeavors around estonia...

How do you see your role in Moks?

we'll see. again, i am the new arrival, and it is not for me to make demands. i am here now and have made my enthusiasm and my willingness to be involved clear, so what my 'role' becomes will again be a natural development. my role will be to do whatever needs doing that i am best placed to do.

How could Moks improve its self? Could something be different/better?

moks is of course constantly trying to improve itself. hopefully having a new perspective on things can help that, and maybe that will be part of what i can bring here. but it wouldn't be clever, tasteful, or productive for me to make my initial list of criticisms and observations in a public forum. this organisation ran for many years before my arrival, and i don't think i can necessarily make the most constructive comments on how best to run it after being here for one month. ask me again in a year...

in any case, i did not only come here to be involved with moks. first and foremost i hope to develop my own work and collaborations as a musician and sound artist, to develop framework radio further, and to create the type of living situation that i have hoped for for many years. i am proud and happy to be associated with moks, but i hope that the estonian art 'scene', or community, or whoever reads this blog, or whoever is interested in what i am doing, will see me as as individual with many and various interests and goals. one of these goals, of course, is to get my head round this beautiful language, aga praegu, ma saan aru ainult natuke eesti keelt...

links to m u r m e r work:

sound-space installation executed during Postsovkhoz 6 (pic taken from here)

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