Matt Pond has graced these pages a number of times now in one way or another. We’re longtime fans of his music and he’s generally just a really nice, interesting dude who’s been around long enough in the creative realm to see it shift dramatically in myriad ways.
So our interest was understandably piqued when Matt announced a new collaboration last fall between he, his longtime musical partner, Chris Hansen, and Atlanta-based visual artist Eva Magill-Oliver.
The project, titled An Orchestrated Impulse, comprises twelve paintings and twelve instrumental compositions across twelve keys. As they describe the piece on their website: “The artists have responded to each other’s work over time and across wireless miles in the languages they speak most fluently, adding to the collection as a reaction to what they’ve seen and heard from each other. In its completed state, An Orchestrated Impulse is intended to be interactively experienced in a way that allows the observer to choose what they see and hear most intensely.”
We got a chance to talk with Matt to find out a little bit more about the whole thing—which debuts next month at Kingston, NY’s O+ Festival—and see what else he’s up to these days. Feel free to stream the audio to An Orchestrated Impulse below; you can also pre-order the audio via their bandcamp page and/or donate directly through their site to support the project. If you’re in the Kingston area the weekend of October 11, definitely check out the O+ Festival; and visit the O+ site to find out more about the non-profit behind the festival that works to works to support the health of underinsured artists + musicians.
raven + crow: So, first I heard about this project was when you announced it last fall—can you catch us up? Who is Eva Magill-Oliver? How do you all know each other and how did An Orchestrated Impulse come to be?
Matt Pond: Last fall, we were brewing the thoughts. Now the thoughts have hatched and will appear fully-feathered at the O+ Festival in Kingston.
Eva-Magill Oliver is a mindblowing artist I met electronically. I think we quietly knew each other, as mutual admirers over the internet.
I wanted to tell her that I appreciated her in work in a meaningful way. But these days, words and intentions are hard to trust. So I thought — why not try to create a dialog with what we do, with what we make? (A part of me believes that this is the greatest angle of our existence — conversational collaboration.)
Is the project collaborative between both the visual side and the aural? Like, do you discuss approach with Eva before she’s put brush to canvas or does she show you the work and you react musically? Describe the process, if you could.
This is medium-crossing exquisite corpse. We’re actually in the process right now.
Everything so far is skeletal and unfinished. We have outlines, we have some frames to be able to see and share what we’re doing.
We’re waiting for the next piece. We’ll write and build off of what Eva creates and what we hear. This, until we hit the finish line.
It isn’t perfect or absolute. It’s human and often clunky. Which is why I love it — it’s real.
I’ve been playing music for years but don’t have a background in music theory at all—that said, I’ve been reading about the circle of fifths and it makes some intuitive sense to me. But it also kind of strikes me as musical witch craft in a way—do you feel like music theory, or even this project, are more summoning tools for something bigger than us and ever-present or is this all just essentially another human-made language or sorts?
On the musical side, I am the simpleton and Chris is the theorist. He went to music school, he likes to shred in his free time.
While I can knock myself on a variety of topics, I believe in my simplicity. I hum and speak in shapes and color. But Chris makes sure we’re adhering to the technical requirements.
In fact, Chris has begun to intermittently hum and speak in shapes in color, just like me. Whereas theory will sometimes create a finite series of possibilities.
I’m free to skip through the melodic wilderness, willfully clueless, unaware of the electric fences, the quicksand and the collective, critical bear.
Totally starting a new band called Critical Bear.
Have you ever been to or are you at all familiar with the Integratron out near the Yucca Valley in the California desert? This progressive tonal interpretation and even some of the sounds remind me of their playing these giant quartz bowls and thoughts on how tones affect us.
I’ve never heard of this. It looks amazing.
I think tones have an impact. At this point, it may be neither scientifically or spiritually quantifiable.
Birdsong, whale noises, howling dogs. Even the day-to-day music in footsteps and conversation. Or my favorite — silence. There’s a wooly, comforting tone to silence.
So, stepping from the ether to the more corporeal for a bit, instrumentally, what’s going on in the music? From the little bit I’ve heard, I can pull out piano, ambient droning keys, maybe some guitar?
Pedals, effects, feedback. We’re not precious, we are not beholden to one way.
Sometimes the instrument is there to fulfill the need for frequency, sometimes for melody. There’s something freeing about being open to anything on the floor, anything in the box.
There are those with strict aesthetics — and I get it — some people are particular about their paintbrush, their whiskey, their posture when they put pen to paper.
For us, there are no rules except to make something we love.
There was a time, long ago when almost every song required a cello and guitar solos were forbidden. I believe some people appreciated our strict lines in the sand.
Whereas I’m at my best when I dive into the surf without thinking.
On the music side, is it just you and Chris or do you have any guest musicians on these instrumentals?
It’s just me and Chris. This music is difficult to explain. In some ways it’s completely complex, in other ways it’s like finger-painting, even in the same gulp of air.
Like asking, “Count to a hundred. Without breathing.”
So this is something that, from the beginning, was meant to exist in the real world—maybe as an exhibit that you can walk around and interact with visually and aurally—and as something virtual. Do you have more clarity yet on either of those two existences? A gallery that will be hosting or a traveling exhibition as with the fest? An interactive site or—better yet—virtual reality experience? I feel like the latter could be really lovely, just picturing walking around your living room and seeing this virtual gallery that you can explore.
We want to make this VR! It would be amazing! But that might be out of our price range and probably isn’t a simple favor we could call in from a friend.
I’m hoping for the best when we premiere it at the O+ Festival. With that, we can prove it’s not merely voodoo. With that, we can have video and photographic proof of our efforts.
We’d love to continue to promote and build these types of collaborations for other people — it’s a thrilling way to truly listen to someone else — what they’re saying through what they create.
No, it sounds really awesome. We’d originally thought we were going to be in the area around the time of the festival but since changed up some plans, so we’re sadly going to miss it.
But how are your other projects going? Can you talk briefly about the In Dreams podcast you two do, how it was born, and how it’s going so many episodes later?
We’re working on An Orchestrated Impulse, a book, and a new band.
As far as radio, In Dreams was a frenetic blast. It took too much work and too much time to make it feasible. Now, we’re going to simplify the concept into a dreamy interpretation of life in Kingston, NY. Like a metaphysical news updates with music in between.
In some ways, all these ideas are winding roots that lead back to the crux. Which is this:
I don’t trust my mind, my mouth, or my words in a finite moment. Instead, I’ve relied on music to explain myself, to linger on an unsolved mystery and try to connect with other human beings.
I like it. And you’re doing something new with a cartoonist or illustrator, yeah?
Yes! That’s the book. Doug Salati, a brilliant illustrator, an amazing person.
The book is both exciting and a test of my patience — all these projects need advocacy. Yet all these projects fall outside the realm of normalcy or immediate acceptance.
It’s all a constant queue. A line-up on aisle seven that leads all the way back to the produce.
Grocery store analogies are my favorite kinds of analogies.
So what’s the story with this new band? Will it be called “Matt Pond something something”?
Yes! A new band! I have seen enough of my own name for a million lifetimes. Still, I don’t want to spill all the beans just yet.
With all these projects, I want to be more egalitarian. To be political in my personal actions, rather than in my rants. I prefer to keep my rants limited to bad drivers and cold winters.
I remember those. The cold winters—Los Angeles has plenty of bad drivers.
Well, thanks for keeping this continuing conversation alive, Matt. And let us know next time you’re in Los Angeles.