Interview: Marta De Pascalis

Interview: Marta De Pascalis

Were it not for the durational limits of the cassette tape, I’m sure that the latest release by Marta De Pascalis – a musician originally from Rome, currently residing in Berlin – would go on forever. Using a couple of synthesisers and a tape loop system, Anzar generates the musical equivalent of a downward spiral: a series of melodic loops constantly amassing, renewing, decaying, changing, like different structures and landmarks rolling over the top of a horizon line. Her own description of Anzar’s two pieces are just perfect:

“I see these pieces as tied in a cyclical motion with their sounds moving in different directions. In ‘Anzar’, sounds are constantly ‘falling’ from the source, landing gently and staying on the tape’s surface until they fade out to be replaced by other sounds, finally reaching an austere resolution. In ‘Emerso’, there’s a different scenario: a persistent theme in the background with sounds that slowly emerge, interact and then dissolve, ending with an abrupt change of tone. Where is the centre of this cycle? Where is the centre of this tape? The centre is moving constantly; the centre is missing. Switch sides. Repeat.”

Below, Marta and I discuss incessant decentralisation, the disrupted flux of cassette and the artwork of her father.

Part of the reason I love this release is that the creation process feels very transparent and elegant. What can you tell me about the process of composing and recording Anzar?

Anzar is composed of two improvised pieces, spontaneously played, recorded in two days and two takes. I was not thinking much about composition. Once the instruments were set I was playing and as I felt a good flow I gently slipped into it. The setup is minimal and the synths are very simple ones: a Yamaha CS5 and a Siel Orchestra.

I love your own description of Anzar, and I’m compelled by this absence of a static root within your music. There’s a sense of stillness, but it manifests from this state of eternal movement – just how our planet generates the illusion of stillness as it hurtles through space. Is there anything in particular that draws you to music that behaves like this?

The constantly moving matter…moving with an incessant decentralization, living in a fugitive, fleeing form…the cosmic energy, iridescent matter! This is something that inspires me a lot. I like to see music as iridescent matter too, that fills up the space to become space itself. My very own space.

The cassette tape makes for an interesting format for a record like this. The sense of eternity and liberty within your music seems to contrast to the concrete, durational restrictions of the format. Do you think the decision to house Anzar on tape has an impact on the experience?

Well, since I have been using the tape loop system, I find tape just perfect as a format! I also like the fact that the two pieces, that have sounds that follow different geometries, are on different sides and that a little pause, a manual gesture, is necessary when switching from one to another. The moment of the placement and the side-switching of a cassette or a vinyl is a unique and concrete moment of breath within music listening. In that moment you can focus about what you have just listened to, or what you will listened to. The digital, with its continuous data flux, doesn’t allow that.

On a similar note, what draws you to tape echo? I love the way each repeat on Anzar is a subtle reshaping of a previous gesture, and I imagine it’s easy to become obsessed with the intricacies of the delay.

The tape echo has a beautiful and peculiar sound, and the tape loop system is a way to compose that I find inspiring. Improvising on the ever-dissolving phrases captured by the tape head leads easily to create a dynamic and cathartic sound layering.

Is there a time and/or place that you find to be most conducive to the creation of this music?

Having a home studio and being not confident with the use of headphones, I don’t have much of a choice…I play basically during the afternoon/evening.

Coincidentally, my first listen to Anzar came just a day after I revisited Boards Of Canada’s “Jacquard’s Causeway”: a track which seems to share your process of improvising over an ever- shifting cycle of tape loops, with a centre that seems to eternally dissolve and renew itself. Are there any artists that have particularly influenced the way you interact with sound?

Lovely BoC track. It has definitely been made with the same technique. I can recognize the special sound and the typical duration of the tape loop.
 For this work in particular I was inspired by the works on tape loop system and repetitive music by Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Theatre of Eternal Music, by the long improvisatory works of The Necks, and by the 70s Italian visionary music of Franco Battiato, Egisto Macchi, Piero Umiliani, Giusto Pio…

Are there any artists with whom you feel a creative kinship?

One I’d like to mention in particular is Daniele De Santis (GRÜN; MDF). He is a long-time friend, and a person who has always pushed my creative limits, a great source of inspiration, a brilliant electronic music explorer and performer, and an amazing drummer.

The artwork is from a series of paintings by your father in the 70s. What can you tell me about his work, and what made it a suitable accompaniment to Anzar?

My father used to draw when he was a student and he was selling his painting on the street in Rome. He doesn’t talk about it much, but what he has always said is that he never wanted to focus on a subject in particular, but something in that everybody could see what they wanted to see. I find that so nice, but instead I’d rather people come as close as they can to what I intend to communicate. This in order to contain the solitude I guess.

Anyway, I have always found them really beautiful. And as Philip Marshall [The Tapeworm] asked me for an illustration for the graphic project, I thought it would have fit. Also the instruments I used have the same vintage as the paintings.

What music have you been listening to recently?

Last records that I’ve bought are: Paul H Williams 7” on The Tapeworm, Sea Urchin debut vinyl on Kraak, My Dear Killer’s Clynical Shyness cassette on Boring Machines, David Grubb’s Prismrose. The last concert I went to was The Cure. I love The Cure.

What’s next for you and your music?

More music…

Anzar on The Tapeworm –
Marta De Pascalis on BandCamp –
Marta De Pascalis on SoundCloud –