Osamu Sakamoto Interview
re. The Science Group
1a. What is the theme of the album?
Most texts are derived from ideas current in various disciplines of science: cosmology, particle physics, quantum theory, mathematics, complexity theory and so on. The remainder concern technologies (engineering), psychology (lab notes). My technique - as with Winter Songs, Domestic Stories &c. - is to use descriptive language in such a way that, whatever the surface meaning, the text is equally 'about' some human or philosophical problem. I usually write about one thing and think about another, so as to stretch and exploit the ambiguity and suggestiveness of language and its juxtapositions.
1b. Why did you choose Science?
I have always been interested in the discourse and practice of the sciences: its method, rigour, and scope. It seems to me that sometimes that there is more poetry in science today than in poetry, or at least as much; and, for imagination, there are concepts in the sciences that can compete with any contemporary literary work. Moreover, it is surely time to be done with that old, meaningless separation between the 'sciences' and 'the humanities'? Of course, there are different kinds of knowledge, as there are different kinds of question to answer but I think, to grasp the world more roundly, epistemologies should come together where they can?
1c. From when have you ever been interested in Science?
Since I can remember.
2a. What does the album title mean?
Only what it says
2b. Is it about the coincidence of the ratio which Paul Dirac found?
It could be, among many other things.
3a. I can't understand the lyric of "Lab Note".
It's a description of a psychology experiment; it is meant to be mysterious and unclear.
3b. What is "AM" or "Am"? - is it Americium?
No, but that's a nice idea! I mean it to be the same word as 'am' in 'I AM, she is, we are', signifying a state of being.
3c. What is the meaning of "Half-full bodies"?
Incomplete, nascent, forming...
4. What means the titles of the songs "Mnemonic" and "Love"? 4b. I feel that both titles are different from each text. 4c. Why did you chose the title "Love" to the song about Chaos and Butterfly Effect?
A mnemonic is an easy way to remember something. 'Mnemonic' is a kind of mnemonic. The title belongs to it directly.
'Love' - you are right, the song is 'about' attractors and chaos theory - but attraction can take many forms, and emotions are nothing if not chaotic.. The title is a suggestion to read the text in different ways..
5a. Is the text earlier than Stevan's composing?
5b.What was the reason to call him to join this project?
I met Stevan many years ago in Novi Sad (Jugoslavia). We kept in touch. He moved to France some years later to work with choreographer Josef Nadj. I released a CD of his ensemble around this time and soon after we worked together on one of Josef's dance programmes. We did some recording and I asked him if he would be interested to collaborate on a new song CD. He agreed. I thought his way of composing would bring something new, he is trained and thinks as a contemporary composer but is equally happy with electronics - and he understands folk music and rock also from the inside.
6. How were the musicians gathered?
Stevan, Bob and I put down all the basic tracks in France. Stevan you know. Bob because I have worked a lot with him, he is great engineer and one of the only bass players I know who could play this music convincingly. He is a consummate musician. After this, I invited Fred to add guitar parts and then Amy came. Fred, obviously because he is a master, Amy because she is one of the few people I have met who could overcome the complexity of the music and sing it as if it were simple. Stevan's writing for winds is extremely complex and demanded a trained contemporary music interpreter, so I asked Claudio with whom I had already worked with in Fred's 'Tense Serenity'.
6a.What was the reason to call 2 singers, Bob Drake and Amy Denio? Do they have different roles?
No. It was not so specific as that. It depended only on the suitability of the range for each voice.
7. How are you feeling to complete this album?
It's always exiting to work on a project - and this one stretched over about three years, so it was also good to be finished with it! I think it is unlike anything else I have ever heard? Now it is out of our hands. I think about other projects, but we are all interested to see how this one gets on in the world.
the science group...
1) The credits for your lyrics to the album (1992-96) suggests that this project has been a long time in the writing. When and in what circumstances did you first start to work on it?
I have been writing texts on science related subjects for a long time, some appear on other CD's (starting with News from Babel). I began to work toward a whole project somewhere around 1992, slowly accumulating texts. I seem to work that way at the moment, there are several other projects growing in the same way.
2) The press release mentions that Stevan Tickmayer is a "contemporary classical composer from the ex-Yugoslavia". But the music on "...A Mere Coincidence..." is certainly rock-based, and Stevan himself plays the keyboard parts. Is working in a rock group something new for him?
Stevan was trained in composition, piano and contrabass. He has written numerous contemporary pieces and has a standing ensemble (The Tickmayer Formatio) to perform them. He studied, amongst others, with Louis Andreissen in Amsterdam and then moved to France as composer for choreographer Josef Nadj at the Centre Choreographique National d’Orleans. I met him first in Novi Sad in the early Eighties. There was a memorable concert with the Black Sheep in the garden of a local sculptor there, where Stevan and some other Hungarian musicians joined us. After that, I saw him on and off, eventually working with him - with Josef Nadj (Stevan played the piano), on a circus piece and in a trio with Erno Kiraly. I offered him the Science texts, by then a record’s worth, and proposed we make a CD. As far as I know he never worked in a Rock group and I’m not sure if he would call this a rock record either.
3) The music on this album is extremely complicated and the listener's only possible way of explaining that human beings are able to play this music is to believe there's probably a lot of studio trickery involved. Well... Could this work be performed live? (BTW, any such plans?)
Yes, it the compositions are extremely complicated, though the played parts were of course really played. Not all together though, and not in real time. Steven and I put our parts on first. Then Fred came to France and added his. Claudio was sent an A-Dats and a score and he added his parts in Germany, after which Amy arrived and sang. Bob added his bass parts as we went along, as well as singing and overdubbing guitars, percussion and whatever else he thought was necessary in the course of the mixing. There was a great deal of production work involved but, I would say, the compositions are certainly performable. It would take at least 10 days of rehearsal though and we would need our own mixing engineer and probably some outboard equipment. In fact we were invited to Victoriaville this year, but Amy was already engaged at that time. However, because of the rehearsal time and travel costs, only a festival or tour could afford to invite us and it would not be cheap. The same was true of t‘Domestic Stories’, which we were never invited to perform. P53 only ever got two invitations., both from major festivals. So, unless there is serious interest I doubt whether the Science material will ever actually be performed. Which, I think, is a great pity.
4) Fred Frith and Amy Denio make very significant contributions to almost all the tracks on the album. Why aren't they credited as full members of the project?
As with 'Domestic', this was not really a group project, it was Stevan and my project with invited musicians. Bob produced the record, as well as playing and singing. He did all the mixing alone, so his was a full and equal part. The others came for a day or two days and overdubbed parts. Their imput, though vital was of a different order. As I wrote it, they are all credited as members of the project, but the 'authors' of the record were Stevan (music), Bob (production) and myself (texts). Does that make sense?
6) It is tempting to see The Science Group as a particularly successful attempt at modern "progressive" rock. What music do you (or would like to) associate the word "progressive" to nowadays?
I guess that could be said; it has enough in common with the language of 'progressive' rock to be seen as fitting into it. Nevertheless 'progressive' seems to me to a historical label - to refer to styles that matured in the 1970's. To say a group is progressive today seems to mean that their music refers back somehow to that period. Which is why I am equivocal about the term, and myself no longer use it, except historically. And why, when all is said, I'm not sure if this CD is really a progressive rock record. There are some parts that definitely use that language, but far more which do not. Perhaps the familiar bits are just easier to recognise and label? I prefer to think there is something else going on on this record, but I am happy when anyone has a good word to say for it!
text and images chris cutler; site squidco 5586