Eero Epner, Interview with Raul Keller. – Estonian Art 2011/1
Eero Epner (EE): Raul Keller, you have been active in the Estonian music scene for years and it seems that one topic that keeps cropping up for you is the mutual reflection of (urban) space and sounds. Are you inspired by seeking a different experience of space and sound, or is it something else entirely?
Raul Keller (RK): I have mostly worked in place-specific situations and this requires a careful consideration of how to use the material at my disposal. Before the work process gets going, I establish what is already there and how it relates to my experience of space. Only after that do I start thinking about what should be added or augmented. With sound, we can talk about both the temporal and spatial dimensions, and their linguistic and social character. Sound is usually a rejected and not consciously perceived background in an environment, focusing via various signs, such as a police siren or music. If we bring the background to the fore, actually listen to it, human perception typically starts to create linguistic structures and sign systems, and tries to establish repetitions, recognisable sounds etc. We could call it personal composing in real time, approaching what we know as musical practice. I have always been fascinated by the phenomenological border where the phenomena change, as does our thinking about it. All these processes can be made to operate in place-specific practice, improvisation etc. I prefer the principle in which I do not create a new composition, but produce preconditions for activating cognisant listeners, who are able to form an experience themselves. These, of course, are maxims which require a cognisant public.
At what point does experimental music become music proper? Does the difference matter to you at all?
In certain practices, the border does not exist and I have no desire to draw it; it is a question of aesthetic preferences, spatial specifics and listening habits. For me, the transition point is the place-specific group improvisation, where the existing material is not included. The emphasis in contemporary music is on the author, and performers personify it. Even in ‘experimental’ electronic music the focus is still on the author. I am more interested in collective work and activating the creativity of the public. In reality, as I mentioned above, such ideal situations occur only rarely, but fortunately they do occur sometimes and it is occasionally possible even to document them. Radio created artistically can be interpreted in several ideological contexts. It can be a means to spread ‘experimental sounds’, but it can also be a political statement and a particular opposition to commercial radio stations; it can be an engineering-technical journey of discovery etc.
What kind of ideas are essential at Local Radio – locally working art radio? (See also lokaalraadio.ee)
I can only give my own opinion. For me, all the contexts you have mentioned have been in focus at some point or another, and they do not exclude one another. I would again like to mention the possibility of collective experience, and the visual character of radio as an environment. We see everything more clearly if we compare the production of commercial channels (FM) and short wave (AM). In one case, the choices made by the heads of the radio stations can lead to a short circuit with the marketed image of performers and trademarks and, in the second case, we are cast into a dim world of blending signals. Radio can also be a means of moving around in space, which fills the sounds with images.
What else would you like to do that you haven’t yet done?
I am thinking about re-issuing some existing recordings and documentations, e.g Projekt Unison’s Trainpulse, which are difficult to track down now, but perhaps deserve to be rediscovered. As for future plans – there are enough challenges.