BEYOND THE GAIN METER
As an exceptional keyplayer Coverdale has mixed it up with experimental electronic that often blurs the line between traditional composition and innovative and forward-thinking modernism in sound.
Interview with Kara-Lis Coverdale by Sandra S. Borch
With your own words, how would you term your music? “Don’t listen to words! They lie. Sometimes!” Perhaps it is misunderstood to ask an artist to be dictatorial on her music. However, it is no lie to describe Coverdale’s music as subtle electronic manipulated fairytale. Her latest EP entitled Grafts released on Boomkat Editions is described by some as a masterpiece. It is built with the pearlescent sound palette of the American composer-legend Steve Reich’s most famous ECM recordings and carefully layered. Coverdale adds “I will say though, that people should less often compare things to what they know, and more often consider them as what they are.”
There were a handful of musicians that creates her foundational inspiration for that refined Coverdale-sound, and that the list includes artist such like Jay Hodgson, Tim Hecker and Glenn Gould. But when it comes to defining her greatest inspiration her answer is close to heart: her mother and then her first piano teacher Joyce Silverthorne. Coverdale explains “she was brilliant and very outside the box when it comes to academy – she was great, had me learning ragtime, 21st century new music, a lot of Canadian composers, pop music, Cruella de Ville and other things alongside the typical Haydn, Beethoven, Bach noise. She also got me into festivals really early.”
Coverdale started playing piano at the age of five, and she has shred everyday ever since “I am learning from people and things every day”. She later on joined fellow students such as Gwen Beamish, Omar Daniel, David Myska, and Jay Hodgson at the University of Western Ontario, studying piano, composition and musicology. It was here she derived her unique approach to composing music. “It starts at the first note. I see composition as a series of micro-improvisations that you can rearrange and organize until they make a whole that makes sense. It ends when you don’t hate the work anymore, and when what was once chaos and confusion is sanded into a distinct sculpture that moves you,” Coverdale explain. To describe Coverdale’s composition as clean and pure would do a disservice to her craftsmanship and sound. Coverdale’s sublime and quietly hypnotic work have earned her a rep as a minimalist composer, even though she wish to go beyond the gainmater and amplify to the sky,
“the gain meter is definitely a limit. This artificial ceiling is a constant concern and always makes me imagine the world as a box. There is nothing like it in real life, and yet real life sounds are unlikely to injure you in the way that limited musics can. Fascinating irony, wild diffusion ecology.”
Studying classical music alongside her immersion in technology opened new possibilities in both concept and execution, that firmly resonates with Coverdale’s deeply established roots as an improvisational virtuoso and accomplished pianist as much as her academically informed approach to electroacoustic composition that showcases a distinct omnivorous appetite for the digital information,
“music is a messaging system, isn’t it? She hypothetic ask herself and continues, “we all love messaging systems. We also need them to make sense of ourselves and the world.” Coverdale continues, “music is mathematics, information condensation, processing, also catharsis and outpouring of emotion into sound; for instance a reactive cry, a pure laugh. Also there is lots of learned about the nature of objects through their resonance. Learning to read frequency is physics!” And she concludes “but anyway, the oscillation between calculated edifice and raw existence exists in all great music.
It’s the struggle of life!
The future remain busy for Coverdale. And she is already working on new projects with Vanemuine National Estonian Theatre for Dance, Mutek Festival and preparing for her next solo-album.
––––––––– Kara-Lis Coverdal will play at PHONO main stage Thursday the 13th at 19:00 CET