All Songs +1: Electronic Artist Tim Hecker On How He Bends Sound

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 (Todd Cole)
(Todd Cole)

Electronic musician Tim Hecker has been dismantling sounds, turning traditional song structures inside out and bending sonic worlds for nearly 20 years. For his latest album, Love Streams, he applies his unique vision to the human voice, making it the centerpiece of a deeply textured and profoundly warped collection of songs.

On this week's +1 Podcast All Songs Considered hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton talk with Hecker about his approach to music, what he calls his "deeply ambivalent" relationship with technology and how he breathes life into an artificial world of sound.

You can hear the whole interview with the link above, or read edited highlights below.


On making music with synths in the 21st century

"For me, a synth is great, you know, as a beginning, as a sound source. But performed on its own in a bare state is boring. So I break it apart and turn it into fog or granulate it ... work with the grains of sound, work with sound in this microscopic way, almost like a spray gun."

On making existing sounds your own

"I think it's a feeling more than anything. Like a feeling that guides how the music should sound. And it questions the idea of composition. It questions the idea of originally writing something.

"The foundation of a lot of these pieces are medieval choral works that I took and rewrote for synthesizers, and then worked on them pretty thoroughly. But their origins are rooted in appropriation or rooted in reference that has been transformed or pitched or changed or stretched longer. So at a point it becomes a legitimate act of composition.

"It's like you go about using materials in your own process and at some point you do enough work to it where it becomes a legitimate piece that you've created. And it undermines the idea of originally writing music on sheet paper and then having that executed by performers or whatever."

On using an Icelandic choral group

"I wanted to denature the voice from a bunch of different meaning sources like male/female, 'Icelandic voice.' I didn't want that kind of stereotypical, what is for me, Icelandic way of singing something. And I wanted to transform that and I think I got it there. So I kind of rode a line between it being fully transformed or disfigured and this kind of bare recording that you can actually hear the voice still bubbling up."

On working with limits in a limitless sonic world

"I work destructively where I [mix] things out when I work in a day and I can barely come back and revisit and question any of those choices I make, so that I'm not left with these 400 channels of recordings that I want to tinker with endlessly. I'm stuck [with] these decisions I've already made and it helps move things forward."

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright NPR. View this article on npr.org.