Sunday, May 7, 2017

interview: olivier alary

With this posting, I was really far too fortunate to be granted an exclusive interview with OLIVIER ALARY. His newly released album, FICTION/NON-FICTION from 130701, is above and beyond a truly flawless work of musical art. The facets of musical depth go beyond any sort of cliched genres of post-classical or ambient, and instead delve into a realm of pure musical art with the highest regard to emotional impact, all the while staying true to this artist's intentions and integrity. You can read the review of the album HERE. When I come across musical masterpieces such as this (with an absolutely astounding roster of support musicians), I can't help but wonder the who, why, and how. Being a musician myself, getting inside the minds of musician/composers such as Olivier is the kind of insight that is as inspiring as the music that he's presented with this release. That said, take in a really great read from the mind of Olivier Alary. 

TONEPOET: Hello, Olivier. Congratulations on such a powerful release. Fiction/Non-Fiction is a deep journey and a beautifully conceived release. The compositions are minimal yet intense, and each song presents such a diversity in instrumental color that is effectively drawn from each individual musician. Did you play a big role with meticulous guidance of the musicians to your final compositions, or did you allow them to explore their parts with the intention of a pleasant surprise as an outcome?

OLIVIER: Thanks for your kind words! Regarding this process, it’s really a lot of back and forth.

I’ve developed personal techniques with many musicians for the past ten years.

I am always obsessed with the idea of expanding the sound of acoustic instruments, so when I meet with a musician, I show him what I’ve written and try to find ways of playing it in a different manner. We then experiment and this process can expand what’s written. Collaborating with other musicians is always fascinating and is often my favourite part of the musical process.

TONEPOET: There are so many sparse colors that effectively complete each compositional tapestry, and any single instrument performed by itself could more than likely seem out of context. The melding of each part is so well conceived, and it's something that the average listener would take for granted. How do you go about realizing the big picture of your compositions before they are brought to life? Or do you start with a bare, single compositional idea and just add layers upon it until it represents something different than you intended?

OLIVIER: It generally starts with a simple idea, a motif, or an image. I work on it in order to clarify it, then I think about the general structure to lay the foundation of the piece. Then I gradually build it after determining which instruments to use.

TONEPOET: This release sounds and feels very much like a soundtrack, in that it is developing a picture at all times. There is no clutter or unnecessary content, and every deliberate sound and movement is intentional. This allows the listener the opportunity to take in everything much more effectively. Do you think that composing soundtracks has helped you realize the importance of restraint as an valuable tool for creating a 'less is more' scenario?

OLIVIER: Absolutely! Image is so powerful that you need to have a certain form of restraint when you compose for it, otherwise your music can sound very quickly overdramatic.

On the other hand, too much restraint can create ‘tepid’ music, so it’s important to find a fine balance!

TONEPOET: Were there any inspirational artists or releases that were influential in helping you create ideas or giving any sort of direction for this release? Or are there some influences that just seem to live as a constant inspiration for any musical direction you might find yourself traveling in?

OLIVIER: I have so many inspirational artists belonging to many genres and eras but they all have one thing in common: they all pushed boundaries and experimented in one way or another. For me, this is where it gets exciting.

TONEPOET: I find it interesting that artists are able to rely on each other to bring about such delicate compositions with so much focus, and all the while keeping with the initial intention intact. I feel that finding the right individuals to be sensitive to your vision can be quite a task. Can you tell us a little bit about the guest musicians on this release, and how and why you chose them to supplement your compositions on Fiction/Non-Fiction?

OLIVIER: I’ve known the most precious guests on the album for quite a long time now. Most of them worked on the different ensemble releases I did. When I compose for winds (Flutes, Clarinet, Saxophone), I always think about Erik Hove who’s an amazing Jazz player and a great friend. We’ve been working together for 12 years and we developed together a sound that I always come back to. It’s the same for Jean Christophe Lizotte and John Corban (Strings) who come from a classical / contemporary background. I know that they will transcend the music I’ve written. When I compose for people I trust, I leave space for them to express their vision on my material. Johannes Malfatti (Piano, percussion, mixing) is also a very important friend and collaborator for the past 16 years. He lives in Berlin and we share the exact same microphones and studio. We complement each other and it’s really important for me to work with people that I trust.

Also Montreal is a great place to find interesting musicians. The level is high because there are great conservatories and music programs here but also it’s less competitive then cities like New York, Paris or London. Also, due to its dynamic music scenes, there’s a lot of cross-pollination between Classical, Jazz and Indie. It creates a perfect platform for open-mindedness. Therefore musicians can be confronted to different schools of thought and it can really expand their vision, versatility and technique. Finally, due to the very good quality of life here , musicians have more time to meet, experiment and reflect on their practice.

TONEPOET: Outside of music, are there any activities or hobbies that directly or indirectly contribute to you creating your music, or that allow you to have a creative life? Are there any non-artists (or non-musicians), that seem to inspire your artistic life?

OLIVIER: For Sure! The list is endless really. I love artists that allow me to perceive the world in a different manner, in a conceptual or visceral way. The same thing that applies to music applies to art; it’s important for me to push boundaries and experiment in one way or another.

TONEPOET: Are there any musicians or artists, living or non-living, that you would love to create music with, and why?

OLIVIER: I don’t have anyone particular in mind, really. I am more interested to write for instruments I never wrote for, in order to expand my knowledge. And I just love being surprised by meeting and experimenting with new musicians.

TONEPOET: It is quite obvious that you keep busy with creating sounds, compositions, and staying musically very active. Musicians seem to never reach the end of their journey, and that's the good thing about living in art; the fantastic ideas that develop and mutate along the path for the quest to make the perfect piece of art. What are your future plans, both musically and non-musically?

OLIVIER: More film music. I just finished a fiction film for Netflix, which will be released in the coming months. I am also writing instrumental pieces for several ensembles.

There will be also a new release on the LINE label of compositions I did for a system of 64 sine oscillators.

Finally, I just got invited to do a composition master at the university of Montreal in order to research the intersection of electronic and orchestral music. It’ll give me the space to focus on personal work there. Hopefully, I should have a new release soon.

Beside music, I’ll be taking care of my lovely son and my dearest wife.

TONEPOET: Thank you so very much, not only for allowing me to get a glimpse into your mind, but for creating amazing tapestries of unique colors with such a careful consideration to the intensity of each piece, all the while allowing the dynamic range of each instrument the ability to breathe. I really hope to hear more of your compositional magic in the very near future. Peace.

OLIVIER: Thank for you kind words again! Take care. //Olivier//

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