Interview: Michaela Antalová

Interview: Michaela Antalová

Michaela Antalová is a drummer from Slovakia, currently based in Oslo. Her new EP Oblak Oblek Oblúk was recorded in the corridors and hallways of the Norwegian Academy Of Music, manifesting as the intersection between real and manipulated resonances. At one moment Michaela is using snare drums and cymbals to explore the acoustic profile of a particular space; the next, she’s scrambling chronology and twisting timbres through studio post-processing. Listening is always at the centre: listening to spaces to inform future percussive gestures, listening back to recordings to inform acts of past-self sabotage.

Below, Michaela and I discuss the advantages of recording in corridors, the creation of curves and narrowly avoiding geese attacks.

You played at All Ears festival in Oslo the other week. How was the experience for you?

I enjoyed being part of All Ears festival a lot, both performing and meeting musicians from abroad and my friends from the city at one place. I played together with the drummers Marshall Trammel, Matilde Rolfson and Ståle Liarvik Solberg. We met for the first time on the day of the concert, and even though we all had experienced playing purely percussion music before, we didn’t know what was gonna happen in this particular setting. It made me become very focused and present in the music from the very first moment. I enjoyed all the sounds, rhythms and energy from each one of us. I think it was a special meeting.

I understand that Oblak Oblek Oblúk was recorded in the corridors and hallways at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo, where you’re currently studying improvisation and jazz. Why did you choose this location, and what led you to position yourself in the hallways/corridors rather than in the rooms themselves?

There are different reasons for each of the pieces. In “Oblak” I was looking for a wet room so the snare drum could get a natural hall effect, so we recorded in a long corridor with a lot of reverb. Initially the idea was to record in some stairs, but there was no plug-in for electricity.

“Oblúk” has a funny story. The reason of recording in a hallway was just a lack of time. I organised a table tennis tournament in school and I set up my drum kit in there so we could have live music that evening. The only time I could record was the same day in the afternoon so we used that space. It felt better than playing in a studio. I am not that skilled in recording and working with a computer, so I decided to do it in my own way and chose to not be in a studio, which better fit the way I work.

How did the acoustic “nature” of each recording space – as in, the characteristic of the reverberation – influence the way you interacted with your instrument on each track? I get the sensation that these pieces are, in some senses, “duets” between you and your chosen space.

The duet with a room is one aspect. The first act in a way. The second was the process of making a composition out of it.

The EP seems to utilise distance and texture in a strange, fluctuating way. Some sounds feel crisp and in close proximity; others seem to loiter at the back of the frame like murky shadows. I go back and forth between perceiving the EP as a real-time performance and as a collage of disparate perspectives. How was the EP recorded, and what draws you to this “patchwork” inconsistency?

I guess it is a collage, but each track had different approaches.

In “Oblak” there was a little idea: recording, working on composition, cutting, recording again snare drum and one more session recording a grand cassa to get the low tone and then working on the whole form and sound.

“Oblek” had a clearer idea: to record a drum solo, cut it in small pieces and put it together in a new order.

One of the ideas in “Oblúk” was to make a curve, in the literal meaning of the word. I made my own samples of cymbals, bells and some drums. I always had the idea of curves and waves on my mind when I worked on it.

I wanted to ask you about one sound in particular. “Obluk” contains these gigantic, extended booms of bass frequency, the depth and duration of which feels almost surreal. How was this sound generated?

I don’t remember for sure, but I think I played a mallet on a floor tom, and then put the sample in a lower frequency.

The cover art is great. Each goose seems almost deliberately arranged into position. Where and when was the picture taken, and why did you decide to use it as the cover of Oblak Oblek Oblúk?

I took the picture during a vacation at my family’s cottage in Slovakia. I went for a hike and the gooses were protecting their area and goats on a farm I passed by. I was lucky with the picture. I was also lucky that they didn’t attack me while walking backwards and observing them in my camera. I chose this photo because of the number of geese and because I simply like the picture.

Am I correct in thinking that you only recently moved to Oslo from the Czech Republic? How have you found the experience of moving from one improvisatory music scene to the other?

I moved one and a half year ago. It is great to get to know the music scenes in each country quite well and be part of both. It gives you perspectives each time you move. It is more than meeting new people; you also find new friendships and become part of new communities. It is nice to see all the similarities and differences. It makes me become more open.

Having listened to various pieces on your SoundCloud, it seems that you collaborate with a broad variety of musicians across a whole spectrum of atmospheres and moods. How easy do you find the experience of adapting your approach to different contexts and different collaborative company? Do you enjoy engaging with the unfamiliar?

Yes, I like to play different styles of music. It is the same as with the different countries. Different people and approaches. I do music I like and have a strong relationship to, and then it’s no problem for me to switch between the styles.

What records have you been listening to recently?

I have been listening to Alice In Chains in the mornings to make me wake up, and today I listened to Steve Reich’s Double Sextet.

What’s next for you and your music?

I’ve started to play with classically trained musicians and we’re doing some different projects. My friend recently organised a few concerts with Steve Reich’s Music For 18 Musicians. I think we are also going to practice Drumming with another ensemble in school. That has been the new thing for me musically. We are working on a new song with the alternative pop band Bye Victoria. In February I will travel to Czech Republic to rehearse and play an opera composed by my great friend Lucie Páchová.

Me, Chris Corsano, Anja Jacobsen and Øyvind Skarbø are going to perform a  piece we made together at Borealis festival in March. I still studying at Norwegian Academy of Music and playing and in different projects, and I also want to write more music for my band called Mikoo. There is so much music to get inspired by.