Goh Lee Kwang (Malaysia) is perhaps best known in the UK for his work with the no-input mixing desk, acoustic laptop and for the label he runs, Herbal records (including releases by GLK himself, Eric Cordier, Tetuzi Akiyama, Tim Blechmann, Lucio Capece, Jean-Luc Guionnet & more). However his work as a sound artist is wide ranging and involves elements of installation, performance and intervention. Hopefully he will visit the UK in September to play a few concerts and to join me on a field recording trip.
The track submitted to accompany the interview is exclusive to this blog and both the mp3 and his answers to these four questions show that, thankfully, here is one artist whose interest remains with the sounds and not always with the technology.
JrF: when & why did you become interested in field recording ?
GLK: Around 6 - 7 years ago, when i got into recording. What I was interested in at the time was to record something (sound source), and play around with it with digital software (plug-in), I manipulated any sound source I could get, guitar, drums etc. Rain was the first natural event which captured my attention then. During the rain season,sometimes the rain can go on for a week. When that happens no recording is possible unless you have a fancy sound proof recording studio, or do direct line-in). Instead of sitting there and waiting for who know whens, I began to record the raindrops on the window, the thunderstorm...
JrF: how do you use your field recordings in your own artistic output ?
GLK: in the early years I used the field recordings as a sound source, playing around with them, adding auto-wah, delay and whatever effect to make it sound like sound from another planet. Then it came to a certain stage where I began to reduce the effect, listen more carefully to the sound. But i'm still doing a lot of multi tracks to create a piece of work. One of the reason was (still my main problem now) I did not have good recording equipment, most parts of my recorded sound was wasted. However this experience of doing the manipulation on the natural sound led me to think about what can I do with these sound files ? Some of them are good but most of them sound very poor (in term ofquality). Since I cannot use the natural sound in the "natural" way, I use the sound source to experiment with different concepts, ideas andpresentations. I used the sound sources as part of my sound installation (on "Vibrate Weather" , the inaudible low humming vibrating the surface of the big mirror ) and I also dj the natural radio broadcast with multi-channel speakers...
JrF: do you regard 'natural' sounds as a musical element (bearing inmind that the conventional definition of 'music' is rapidly becoming obsolete) or as sound ? is this definition important to you ? does itmatter ?
GLK: As with most of my works, i'm more about sound than music. The gesture of sound is where my focus is. I mean the multichannel field recording / live DJ set can be an interesting musical event, but it is based on sound appreciation. During the presentation/ concert, I DJ the natural sounds on an improvised basis, I play back the cds but I did not label those cds, no track list and such, I just play the cd then another cd going though different channels... it is just a matter of sound (and space).
JrF: has the act of making field recording had an effect (positive ornegative) on the way you listen to your everyday surroundings and howhas it affected the way you listen to other music and sound (if atall) ?
GLK: The "unstructuredness" of natural sound opens up a lot of new possibility for composition. It has shown that somehow it is no just a mess or chaotic noise rumbling around. The natural sound event HAPPENS, as it is. Thewind, the waving of grass and the bird singing in the forest. I don't have a musical background, I cannot study a composition via reading the notation or analysis of a piece of composition though the understanding of musical languages, so I learn from the natural.