SIP - SoundLAB Interview Project

Zykov, Vladimir

Vladimir Zykov
US soundartist



1. When did you start making music, what is/was your motivation to do it?

My first formal musical project was called The Commission on Mountain
Cartography. I was asked to participate in a show of “21 bands in 21
minutes”, which meant that I had to be a band. At the time I was
writing synthesizers that output raw audio files, generating hundreds
of overlapping sine waves derived from arbitrary data inputs. One data
input that I found very poetic was a photograph of the peaks and
valleys of a city’s skyline, converted to a table of numbers
corresponding to the heights of buildings. So I made a “Cities” series
and released it on MySpace as the Commission on Mountain Cartography:
the transportation of data through the senses, from sight to hearing,
and through mass-energy equivalence, from matter across space to
energy across time, as an open metaphor.

2. Tell me something about your living environment and the musical education.

I have been in many, many living environments and they have all been
very different, so that study of contrasts is unmistakably a part of
my work. When I lived in the Ukraine for a summer there were three
very catchy pop songs on the radio that were the entire soundtrack for
that summer. The next summer I was there again and there were three
completely different pop songs. Everything changes but nothing
changes. There’s something beautiful about that. Land-line phones have
very different rings in different countries, as well as different
dialtones, different busy signals, different kinds of static, and
there you arrive at nostalgia, memories of waking up on overnight
trains. As far as formal musical education, I did take a theory and
composition class, an introduction to what I think of as a wonderfully
generative set of constraints and an extended conversation, and taught
myself all the tunes from Fiddler on the Roof on the piano around the
same time. I’ve also had the pleasure of being introduced to the
thought of Satie, Cage, La Monte Young, Pauline Oliveros.

3.Is making music your profession? What is the context in which you practice music nowadays?

Sound and music are important aspects of my engagement with the world.
I am an amateur in everything. I am learning how to listen.

I’ve just been accepted to a poetry program, even though I don’t know
a great deal about poetry. Zukofsky said that the upper limit is
music, and the lower limit is speech. I am interested in all three.

4. How do you compose or create music or sound? Have you certain principles, use certain styles etc?

I often use found recordings, without listening to them during the
composition process; relying on textual descriptions to think about
what something might sound like. Or to not think about what it might
sound like, until I actually hear it. Part of the reason for this is
that I want to hear something I’ve put together and be as surprised as
any other first-time listener would be.

5. Tell me something about the instruments, technical equipment or tools you use?

At one point I was interested in certain conditions of sound which
made it my practice to hand-code synthesizers. This would take place
in Visual Basic and they would output raw audio files. I am now more
interested in other conditions of sound, which leads me to use
readymade sounds and to ask people to find sounds and to make

6. What are the chances of New Media for the music production in general and you personally?

The meaning of distance changes. But does it really? It’s a lot to think about.

7. How about producing and financing your musical productions?

There are a few large-scale projects that are on hold until I can get
serious dedicated funding for them.

8. Do you work individually as a musician/soundartist or in a group or collaborative? If you have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer?

A lot of my work comes about as a result of being closely in dialogue
with other artists. On a different level, some compositions are
created by asking people to perform a score.

9. Is there any group, composer, style or movement which has a lasting influence on making music?

I am influenced by everything I hear. Liturgical chanting and dance
music, which approach the same limit from two opposite directions, are
always good to keep in mind. I am fascinated to observe practices like
hanging wind chimes outside one’s window, leaving a TV or radio on in
the background, choosing a ringtone: ways in which people shape their
sound environments and are, consciously or not, composers. Similarly,
whenever we use our voices we are making music, or even when we simply
occupy space, because we are changing the acoustics of that space
through the presence of our bodies. I am interested in that music.

10. What are your future plans or dreams as a soundartist or musician?

Genres. Because they are dialogues, where one is entering and moving
through a field of historical specificities and narrative structures,
like a city.