Interview at Hamburg Luxury Hotel

David's solo career interviews

Interview at Hamburg Luxury Hotel

Postby baht habit on Thu Oct 01, 2009 4:09 pm

I've attempted to translate this recent David Sylvian interview conducted in Germany. Certain parts come across as slightly hackneyed - my apologies.

Q: How did you approach the writing of the lyrics, which are equally as unique as the music on Manafon?

DS: The lyrics were written according to the principle of "first thought, best thought" ala Alan Ginsberg.
I gave myself largely to this automatic writing, and the lyrics are probably more revealing than I
had imagined they would be. Yet I do feel that the audience can make a connection of their own with
the lyrics. I hope they will establish a real contact with the lyrics in which they fill it with
their own associations. Fundamental questions of poetic imagination emerge as an issue, as well as feelings of disillusionment. There is no sense of resolution, but rather a process of questioning.

Q: Many fans have observed a divide between your older albums and such work as Blemish and Manafon. Your
voice, however, is a constant. But your older work also featured elements of free improvisation, correct?

DS: That's true. I would even go back to my first solo album, Brilliant Trees, when I worked on the piece
Weathered Wall with Holger Czukay, who used the dictophone as a sampler. The subtle random sounds that
emerged from this little machine, which we accommodated in the song, seemed to develop a special emotional
impact. I have worked with such possibilities for many years.

Q: The sound on the new album is entirely clear, in every note and gesture. Likewise, every aspect of your
voice is in the foreground, revealing all of this - there is nothing behind which one can hide...

DS: I began this work as something that can be compared with a modern chamber ensemble. As often occurs, a
narrator exists, in the center of the stage. And every action of the stage director, as the oscillation
of the light from green to blue, changes the perception of spoken words. And this happens as well on
Manafon. There is the central voice and the players, the musicians change with every little gesture of
sound, the nuances of the story, which add something to give it a particular emotional weight.

Q: This sounds very visual, as you describe your music. Have visualizations of these kind always played a
special role in the formation of older songs?

DS: Mental images helped me with previous work in maintaining a continuity within a project. If the idea
for an album is being sorted out, it is possible to put certain ideas into words and mental images certainly
helped. Often it was a landscape without people, and the landscape staked out the emotional terrain in which
the music would move. I used these images to distinguish what is appropriate for the music, what was misplaced
for the music and what works.
But with these new songs, the method has changed. There is still a feeling before going in the studio, which
will take some shape. But I have no conscious pictures anymore, only feelings. This is enough to make
decisions. When I sit down and write the first two or three lines, then everything suddenly opens up before
me, the world of poetry, and then again it's very visual and evocative, almost simultaneously created with
the lyrics and melodies.

Q: Nevertheless, the lyrics don't seem to be as romantic as previous work. A little cruelty plays into it, there
is cynicism, as well as dark humor and irony.

DS: Christian Fennesz, Evan Parker and others had transparently performed the music, knowing that I would add
voice later. And this became fascinating. I was able to work with everday language as well as with a poetic
language, without sounding flat or pretentious. In the body of the musical material, the language could include

Q: This purely instrumental improvisation inspired all of the lyrics and melodies?

DS: Other influences processed over the years probably began to appear and enter into strange relationships with
each other. Sudden hints of folk melodies may arise where they are not really expected. Someone told me that
they could hear traces of bluegrass at one point. You hear a distant echo of something out of classical music.
It is quite interesting that such minimal pieces may suggest so much. In this milieu of free improvised music,
you can break so many rules and thereby bring together elements that would not even exist in an other form.

Q: It is certainly not easy to sing the songs of these instrumental tracks. There is indeed no clearly defined

DS: In the process of writing, I follow a unique path. I write and write until everything has found its true
form. And the melody has to occupy a particular place in the body of improvised sounds. On the first attempt, I
could not find the perfect tone for the pieces. I overemphasized words at times. I played down certain passages.
Sometimes I was found resorting to spoken text instead of melody. Since it is a delicate balance, I took on the
vocals often ten or fifteen times before I found what was the right way to approach the music with the voice.

Q: In the song 'Emily Dickinson', you bring into play the famous poet who led a very lonely life...

DS: The song itself is not directly related to Emily Dickinson. It is about a young teenager, a young girl who
overcomes an addiction and then completely withdraws. It has the fixed idea that her life is very much similar
to that of the poet. It's a romantic notion, but there is the danger of being driven even more into the isolation -
to the point of self-destruction. The theme of the song is probably the inability of many young people, and even
older people of course, to produce real social contact. The Internet and other technologies make them believe they
are experiencing a much more social life than they actually are. In truth, these people feel a lack of physical and
emotional tenderness.
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Re: Interview at Hamburg Luxury Hotel

Postby inkinthewell on Fri Oct 02, 2009 1:18 pm

I like the way he points out that "in this milieu of free improvised music, you can break so many rules", but then he "took on the vocals often ten or fifteen times before I found what was the right way to approach the music with the voice". His art is not about breaking rules, it's about having a goal in mind and doing all he can to reach it.
Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans - JL 1940-1980
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Re: Interview at Hamburg Luxury Hotel

Postby zen42 on Mon Oct 05, 2009 8:42 am

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Re: Interview at Hamburg Luxury Hotel

Postby Simonp on Mon Oct 05, 2009 8:47 am

Thanks for that Baht
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