Welcome back, Julien. Can you tell us what you've been up to since our last interview with you?
Actually, quite a lot of things have occurred.
I develop a lot my own creative processes, and I just built the real first live performance setup with which I am satisfied. This led to ALPHA, an audiovisual live performance I’ve performed 7 times, from sound:frame in Austria to Elektra in Canada. I’ve also now been booked for 3 future dates, including Paris (Transient Festival) to Houston. The whole system is based on a big Max 7 patch analyzing audio coming from Ableton Live in real-time, then generating ‘impossible’ 3D open GL structures. It continues by modulating these structures and firing off bright flashes in order to produce stimulate the brain in a way the causes auditory effects.
I also designed and exhibited some installations, still seeking to further push my artistic research into disruption/interference, complex systems-based emergence and the physic of sound. In addition to my own creations, I collaborated with the research lab LMA-CNRS (standing for Laboratoire de Mécanique et Acoustique, Mechanic & Acoustic Lab) during the last 6 months while also continuing to teach a course about Max at ESADMM (École Supérieure d'Art et de Design Marseille-Méditerranée, a former fine arts school in Marseille). Since I’ve become more and more busy with my own development, I ended these two collaborations and focused on building my own studio.
Currently, I'm involved with London & Marseille based label Bordille Records with François Larini (curator and musician known as S/QU/NC/R with a social-anthropology background and friend of mine), and with the Canada based label Yatra Arts, founded and owned by Praveer Baijal. I'm working on my own album right now.
What are some of the concepts and perspectives you are exploring in your new work?
What I dig the most are the emergence & disruption concepts.
Indeed, in our totalitarian-digital era, everything is a continuum. We are overwhelmed by messages, urban sounds, air based networks. It seems as if we cannot be unplugged or disconnected. It drives society to become absolutely dependent on the wired (as described in the stunning manga/anime serial experiment lain), which is a kind of artificial – and uncontrollable – rhizome containing/supporting all networks on earth. Despite this network, independence and individual isolation increases.
I'm interested in building complex systems: trying and probably hoping to notice something new, unpredictable and beautiful from them. I think this is a consequence of observing society, the world's way of operating and of my own desire to interrupt the continuum. I want the world to stop and to take a break, to slow down, and to create new territories that don't follow the global movement. I think my creation is about that notion.
This quest drove - and still drives me - to modular systems. I designed my own system that is built from eurorack modules, and am still trying to improve it with live performance perspectives in mind. Again, I'm absolutely fascinated by where the constraints of hardware (compared to software) have brought me. My whole process seems to have been changed forever. When I come back to my computer after some intense improvisation and continuous patching sessions, I notice that some mental blocks will have had been broken and removed. Actually, going back and forth from the hardware modular system to my Max patches improves each of these parts. It’s crazy!
From there, I decided to start a new live performance setup, with a laptop-based system that involves taking Max7 and Max for Live several steps further. At its center, I created Max for Live devices acting as context managers. Each device, used in specific tracks, contains a context. A context can be a complex patch system that generates MIDI, or even directly generating audio. The context managers are controllers for content switching and more - directly manipulated by Ableton Live clips - which provides me timing synchronization and smooth switching controls on stage.
I already knew about using this kind of setup of course, but - you know - this comes up anew after having created my first modular system, and I really needed to bring this concept back to my laptop-based work: the patch as the core of my live performance. The ability to patch complex structures, completely breaking the usual and classic rules in music, is the thing that excites me in music.
Generally, I'm thinking about patching a sequencer: one that acts as a strange triggering system inside of itself, using modulation or clock feedback, triggering and changing its own rate according to obscure rules like "tempo increase along that envelope IF the number of beats crossed that threshold" – and actions like that. It allows me to say: "My system is so complex that even I cannot totally be sure and safe about it" which sounds totally uncontrollable in our era of maximum control. But I'm building systems creating sounds and visuals that no one can really control, not even myself.
Julien, in another conversation you also told me about using some large scale datasets. What are you doing with that?
It is a project using the large scale dark matter map dataset from Durham University.
This will be both a music release and an audiovisual installation. Systems will parse density, temperature and other values data, trying to give a consistent, tangible feeling with these antimatter clouds. The artistic research is finding an analogy we can have with big data, omnipresent data and at the same time the intangible character of all data.
Antimatter is a great example. Present everywhere, misunderstood, tangible.
Thanks, Julien for your time. Information about Julien’s work - and his performing schedule - can be found at his website: julienbayle.net.