Social networks’ signal-to-noise ratio is, well, embarrassing to say the least. A few months ago though, a little miracle happened. Someone recommended a new electronic music artist and her new album. I clicked on that link, and it turned out to be one of the most exciting discoveries I made this year.
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith is an American sound designer and composer. She studied composition and sound engineering at Berklee, to later focus on electronic music.
Her latest album, Euclid, is a playful yet soothing kaleidoscopic collection of electronic tunes (some of them featuring vocals). A genre-defying sound collage made of rich textures, exotic loops and analog creaminess, where retro and modern influences often meet in unexpected ways.
We asked Kaitlyn to tell us more her work and her creative process. Here’s our short Q&A (and make sure to visit her website).
Your latest album, Euclid, is based on very detailed geometrical processes. At the same time, it has a certain ‘pop’ vibe, and here and there it reminds me of the most playful moments by Raymond Scott and other pioneers like Perrey and Kingsley. Would you like to tell us more about this work and if you feel some connection with these artists?
I do like those artists. :). I find it is easiest for me to create if I am using music as a language and try to communicate with it. When I made “Euclid” it was really a bunch of exercises to see how sound could convey an image or a feeling. I have always been interested in film scoring and figuring out how a sound can create a vibe. A lot of Euclid was made to silent visuals I edited together to practice this.
Can you share with us your typical workflow when working on a new piece?
Ideas come from lots of different places: new patch ideas on the modular synthesizer, a new tool, music theory concepts I get curious about, rhythm stacking, harmonies. I am most inspired by figuring out how very different things can relate to each other. I like creating two different sounds, rhythms, harmonies and finding what they have in common or how they can get along.
When composing, do you always start with a clear process/idea in mind (i.e. trying to reproduce a concept/image/object, etc.), do you rely on improvisation or…?
I am a very visual person and more often than not I am composing to a picture I see in my mind, an action, motion, or a sensation and then improvise on top of it. I also equally use music theory, counterpoint, orchestration concepts when I need to.
Any good advice you’d like to share with our readers about the creative process? How do you approach creative blocks and those moments when it seems your work is going nowhere?
For me, a lot of my creative inspiration comes from life outside of music. If I hit a spot in the creative process that isn’t enjoyable, I usually stop and do something else and then come back to it.
Spending time studying the overtone series is very beneficial. There is so much harmonic information in one note through the overtone series.
I believe patience is key, as well as working on whatever you are creating every day.
Lots of baby steps equal up.
Learn as much music theory as you can and then forget it.
You’ve often used Buchla instruments in your works. The Buchla Music Easel is a dream instrument for many synth buffs. How did you fall in love with it, and what are its pros and cons in your opinion?
I fell in love with Buchla instruments at a very serendipitous time in my life. I studied classical guitar in school and had just decided I would give up music. The next day my neighbor introduce me to Buchla instruments. He lent me a Buchla 100 for about a year.
I would leave it on — set up a patch- and listen to it while going about my day. It always changed within 10 min, and I never had a dull moment with it. It made me feel like it was alive and playing music with me. I have always loved that about Buchla instruments. They keep you on your toes.
What’s your opinion on software (virtual) instruments? And, if you also use VSTs or iOS music app in your setup, can you name a few favorite of yours?
I like the combo of hardware and software instruments. There are so many great software instruments available. If I use them I usually map them to a piece of hardware. My favorite is Aalto from Madrona Lab.
What should we expect after Euclid? Next performances you’d like to tell us about?
I just finished the next album and it’s coming out soon. It incorporates orchestral instruments. I will be performing on Sept 13th at the San Francisco Electronic Music Festival and October 15 at Bowery Ballroom opening for Panda Bear.