Francisco López is internationally recognized as one of the major figures of the sound art and experimental music scene. Over the past 30 years he has developed an astonishing sonic universe, absolutely personal and iconoclastic, based on a profound listening of the world. Destroying boundaries between industrial sounds and wilderness sound environments, shifting with passion from the limits of perception to the most dreadful abyss of sonic power, proposing a blind, profound and transcendental listening, freed from the imperatives of knowledge and open to sensory and spiritual expansion. For comprehensive information please visit www.franciscolopez.net
ER. Can you remember where your interest in sound came from, can you pinpoint
a certain memory or moment?
FL. Not really. I’ve always been intuitively drawn to sound. When I started doing field recordings I wasn’t aware of other people / artists with similar interests. Instead, I was simply fascinated by the presence of sound. Sound as space, sound as a world in itself. Nothing to do with
documentation or representation.
ER. What made you train in entomology and ecology and has this training influenced any particular elements of your practice?
FL. My fascination for insects and nature began when I was a kid. Not the training itself but rather the extended experience in many natural environments that comes with the field work in Biology and Ecology. That brought my attention to the complexity, the intricacy and the different layers of sonic “reality”. And this had the most dramatic impact and influence on the way I understand how to deal creatively with sound, more than any other sonic or musical influences.
ER. You were heavily involved in early cassette networks, how did this influence your development as an artist?
FL. Well, that was my learning in sound making. Through the international home-music or “cassette network”. One of the main features of this network was the exchange and collaboration with other artists, so naturally (and very quickly) you’d find yourself involved in a number of collective projects. You’d also receive tons of music / sounds by so many different people with such diverse aesthetics and ideas that the field of experience was amazingly rich and, I suppose, somehow influential. At that time, there was not such a rush to be updated with everything in real time, and thus we had time to reflect and let things seep in, in a probably more reasonable manner.
ER. Your works predominantly feature environmental sounds from specific locations but they are not necessarily a typical phonographic representation. Where do you position your practice?
FL. As I mentioned before, I’ve never been interested in representation. To me, field recordings are fascinating not as “documents”, representation or simulations of “reality”, but rather as separated worlds in themselves. For most people the fact that a recording cannot convey “the real thing” is a shortcoming of the medium. For me it’s precisely the opposite: this recording medium is in fact richer than reality, since it has been gathered by non-cognitive entities, i.e. the recording devices we use.
ER. And this ‘non representation’ relates to how you approach live performance and your concept of ‘absolute music’?
FL. “Absolute music” is an idea from Romanticism, in which music was considered as the ineffable art. This idea didn’t exist in this explicit form before and didn’t survive long into the XXth century. In essence, it’s the vision of music as a non-referential world, with its own rules, logic, and sets of possibilities for the listener. Not a tool for story telling or self-expression. In my live performances I try to convey this through an immersive experience in sound with its own internal “geography”, in which every listener is free to roam around and find his/her own meanings and values.
ER. This sense of acousmatic listening carries through with much of your published works, often clear cased with little or no source information given. Could you expand a little on this sense of confusion and freedom for a listener?
FL. It’s very straightforward, really. My belief is that by not giving certain types of information the listener is drawn to create his/her own listening experience, freed from any impositions on my side. From what I’ve seen so far in my experience, it works. People focus on the sounds/music, instead of the covers, references or explicitly expressed intentions by the artist.
ER. Do you have any particular performance spaces’ you are fond of and how
Important is the ‘experience’ of space in your live shows?
FL. Sound doesn’t exist without space. In the recordings or in whatever other devices for real-time generation we have no sound, but code for storage or for generation. From a performance point of view, sound is the perceptible sonic entity we happen to create by the combination of sound system and space. Therefore, in essence, we are -or we should- always performing with space itself. This is a main focus of my work live, as my performances are site-specific, with real-time reaction, in both the choices of materials and the live operations of processing/spatialization of sound.
ER. Can you talk a little about your Amazon workshops and the importance of sharing/facilitating others?
FL. It’s an amazing experience combining intense field work and intense adventure in a wonderfully rich environment. Sharing that with other people interested in sound (and a number of other things related to that kind of environment) is, of course, a great learning experience. I try to facilitate the interaction with such a place and with all the virtual, “unreal” places that we naturally construct from vivid and rich experiences of “reality”.
ER. You have obviously traveled the world with you work, are there any particular soundscapes that stand out for you?
FL. Rainforests are particularly rich in their complexity and variety but I have a very broad taste for sound and, in my experience, you never know where you’re going to find an amazing surprise. And that’s the beauty of the exploration.
FL. Many! I always work in parallel with many different ongoing projects in the making. For example, right now I’m finishing a new piece made by a thorough complete mutation/evolution from my first recordings/compositions, from 1980 (this will be a double CD release). In the making also I have several projects/pieces with so-called “straight” field recordings (not so
“Straight” for me for the reasons explained above) from different environments in Cuba & USA, Argentina & Paraguay, South Africa & Namibia, Australia & New Zealand, South Holland, the Basque Country, South Spain… Then a lot of collaborations with other artists like Asmus Tietchens, Slavek Kwi, Aernoudt Jacobs, Esplendor Geométrico, Daniel Menche, and Brandon
LaBelle… and a bunch of other things that go in new directions.
ER. And finally, as always Ear Room asks, what does the term sound art mean to you?
FL. I don’t really care about terms. That’s actually the way music was often called in the XVIIIth and XIXth centuries, so go figure! 😉
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