“An omniscient narrator”
The sleep-talking stories of American performance artist Bryan Lewis Saunders and the dream-like minimal music of Belgian drone band Razen blend well once again on The Night Receptionist.
How did you got to know the people from Razen?
Brian Lewis Saunders: I don’t remember how I first met Brecht online but I will never forget meeting the entire band in real life. We had done a couple releases together over the internet and then came together for KRAAK ‘15 in Aalst. It was magical! When we practiced we discussed our ideas for the performance together and the practice was pretty intense but during the performance, during the climax of my emotional purging, Kim walked up behind me in front of the crowd and took his shawm instrument and aimed it at the back of my head and then took turns playing it at the back of my head and aiming it at the sky creating this extra physical dynamic or dimension of expression for the release and transmission of my feelings up to the heavens! That was one of the most powerful performances of my life. An exorcism.
What attracts you to the music of Razen?
Their albums can be quite different but the recordings of their’s that I am drawn to the most are the ones that I feel with my skin. Their music is really physical. And at times it creates these kinesthetic sensations that move around and are stimulating to the surface of my body while at the same time inspiring the energy inside of me to move.
What do you have in common with the people from Razen?
I think what solidifies us together so perfectly is that all of us see art as a powerful tool for transformation and health. Each of us use art, music, drawing…, as a way of guiding or steering our experiences for the better. Now we all may have different ideas about what ‘consciousness’ is or isn’t and the potential for human beings to expand it, but we all believe in the transformational power of art and use our art to physically engage with the consciousness of ourselves and others. That is the bond, the universal glue that we each connect with.
What would be the link, the connection between your text and the music of Razen ?
My text comes from a dream. It’s a mixture of uncensored audio recordings of me entering the hypnagogic state, sleep talking, and my description of the dream as I’m becoming awake but not in that particular order. Apart from the ‘story’ of the dream, all of these vocal fragments capture the changing shifts in my consciousness and subconsciousness. But to me what is even more important is that they contain changes in biological awareness too. Now on one level the music is the vessel, like a gas or some strange ethereal containment system that holds these changing states of consciousness together and moves them through space and time. Kind of like the way a cloud can transport fumes. But on a deeper level their music is the medium which possesses this great dynamic power to manipulate (elevating and deflating) states of arousal including the biological awareness of the listener too. When they are combined together text and music, a new experience can emerge. It’s very strange. Its like the conscious/subconscious continuum becomes the prism through which the body can be refracted through. The opposite of our true nature I think. I don’t know. It opens up a lot of questions and ideas for me.
Do you see yourself as ‘part of the band’, or more as an external person who adds something to the music?
Oh I definitely feel like I am a part of the band on these experimental sleep/dream releases that we’ve done.
Did you already have the text before you heard the music? Or did it go the other way around?
Yes, I think so. I may have listened to one sample music track right from the start even before getting the ideas about what to do. But if that’s the case it was changed a lot as time went on. The idea behind this release began with me trying to see how much I’m able to prime my subconscious with repetition. By repeating the words ‘To be’ while falling asleep I wanted to see what I would become in my dream. I wanted to see if I could force my subconscious into transforming me and on top of that give my subconscious the total freedom to choose who or what I would be. I tried this one and other open phrases over many weeks. One thing I found interesting was that if the words had soft consonant letters in them which would seem to be more conducive to falling asleep (for example, ‘As if’) my speech would slur and my vocals would be too soft and indecipherable to be of any use. In the end ‘To be -’ ended up having the greatest potential. So after many attempts with different tweaks to the experiment, this was the night that produced the most to work with both conceptually and narratively and with the least technical difficulties. See, you have to get recordings like this all in one event because the recording quality can change so wildly in bed, especially when you’re asleep. The covers may fall partially over the recorder, or the recorder may find its way under a pillow. The mic might get repositioned and turned to face a corner of the room changing the reverb or repositioned in a place where it gets breathed on heavily and so on. Any of those changes can take place in a single night and can be disruptive to the listening experience but over multiple nights the likelihood of disruption increases tremendously. I wanted there to be a consistency of vocal quality so my physical presence seemed consistent while my physical arousal was changing. It’s interesting how we relate vocal tone to consciousness like that.
Should writing be musical (too)?
I think it is.
Do you feel like The Night Receptionist is about someone who’s hiding? Someone who’s not living the live she could (maybe even: should) live?
Well in the narrative, in the story I don’t think that there is anything hidden because you are hearing my subconscious tell all about it. At one point I’m a tough gymnastics coach of this little girl and then at another time I transform into the little girl as an adult failure longing for her lost childhood. At another point I’m practically an answering machine system. And I’m also an omniscient narrator. I find it incredibly fascinating how our subconscious can just suddenly jump perspectives and transform our self-identity so drastically like that. It’s amazing. I wonder, is that what creates empathy?
– Joeri Bruyninckx
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