What's the importance of titles in your work? How do you find or select this one, "Innocent Speller"?
Titles are extremely important to my music, I don't write lyrics or sing so the titles are the only non musical explanation of my intention. Innocent Speller was taken from an interview I read from Flannery O'Connor, one of my favorite writers. She referred to herself as such in reference to her tendency to spell words as they sounded to her - often drawing from dialect. I felt like on some level I related to the term and the concept. I interpreted it as prioritizing the purity of intention over the established means of delivery. These people that I wrote the EP for are some of the most unconventional, courageous, and unflinchingly transparent figures I have had the honor of being touched by. Hearing Flannery use the term, it just seemed like she was answering me after being asked what I should name this record.
Why a solo work for a debut?
All the songs were written as solo pieces, and are often performed that way. However, the songs were also very specifically written as dedications . I realized I needed the voices of people close to what this music is about to express what needed to be said. This lead to me getting Jacob Thro (who engineered and mastered the record as well) on cello/rhodes/bass and my father Robin Rauh on pedal steel.
I was thinking on Conversations with myself, the work that Bill Evans recorded with Glenn Gould's Steinway CD 318 piano. A solo album is a sort of conversation with a non present audience? in whom do you think playing alone?
When I recorded the songs, I played all of them as solos recorded very simply. Just a mic on the amp sitting in the room. My thoughts were on the people that inspired the music. One of my closest friends was murdered in late 2012, the songs "Ryan" and "Reception" are about him. Other than the fact that he is a phenomenal engineer/musician, Jacob Thro was also a close friend of Ryan's - which is why I asked him if he would add any parts to the songs he felt after I recorded the solo arrangements.
Do you use overdub? In what way is important the recording technique to reach the sound you want?
For the guitar parts, there were no overdubs. Jacob recorded the solo guitar parts at his studio in Pennsylvania and we did them in a couple takes each. That is when I asked him to sit with the songs and see if he wanted to add any subtle parts, which he did beautifully over the next two months. Jacob and I went to Virginia next, to record my father’s pedal steel at the home I grew up in. When all the parts were added to the songs, the three of us sat with them for a month discussing the mixes until we reached the point where it was agreed that the music was where it should be. From the outset, I wanted to make a record that sounded very warm spacious. I encouraged Jacob to let the mics be open and pic up room ambience, little movements in the room, etc.
I think Spaces are important actors in the definition of your musical projects, the diferent space interactions. In what way do you think can intervene in the music production the different musical scenarios you work in?
I absolutely agree. As far as recording, I surprisingly find I am less concerned with the physical space I am playing in and more concerned that I am within the creative intention I want to be. When I record in a silent studio, I can be generous with the spaciousness of my intention. That is always a wonderful experience, and I identify this as the space more so than the room I am physically in. When I perform live, I feel that I have a different experience. The physical space has an enormous impact on my expression. Performing in a 700 year old church in Blassac France yields a very different atmosphere and sound than an indie space in Brooklyn. I greatly value both! I suppose in my experience from solo tours in different venues, cities, and countries the most relevant difference is weather or not I feel I am convincing or giving. Is the music I am making expected to win over a space/audience? Or is it being received by a space/audience as a personal expression of intent? I continue to discover new elements to my music, and Id never want to eliminate either experience from my work.
What must I know about New England Plains Drifter, the second song in the EP?
This song was written about my father, Robin Rauh. He is a painter (he painted the album cover as well), and a multi instrumentalist that inspired me to explore creative means of expression, and taught me how to play guitar. I titled it after the fact that he is from New England, but has had a lifelong affinity for the sounds and landscapes of the West. He is also a huge influence on me playing wise - his music is very spacious and lyrical, and most of all patient. I asked him to add his pedal steel to the track, which is some of my favorite playing I've heard from him.
How's the influence in your composition of the reception of the work, the opinion of others, the interaction in a concert, the dialogue in a group?
My composing is very influenced by the feedback I get from people! I often ask people for their thoughts on concerts or recordings. I have learned much from what Ive been told as well. I also have learned over the years that I like to write songs that are complete, but elastic. I love the idea of having a complete song that I can play by myself as a solo piece, as well as having a built in openness to add additional voices. Im very influenced by pop music as well and prefer shorter forms with (hopefully haha) memorable melodic themes.
And so, an edition is always a sort of message in a bottle, a waiting space, something thrown waiting an answer. What are your feelings in our times about the release of a cd?
This is true! I am excited to release the album, and tour in its support. I have no idea what will happen with it of course. I’m grateful that Composers Concordance Records and Naxos of America are putting it out both on CD and digitally, so far the performances of the music have been wonderful. Obviously the music industry is changing, and record sales are not looking good. But the way I see it, as a musician and recording artist I have to find a way to be successful in the current context. So far it seems to be going well, and I am hopeful for the future. I consider it a collasal waste of time to dwell on the difficulties and complain about them. There’s too much great music happening, too many great artists - they won’t all disappear, so somehow there will always be a way to make it work.
What is the process of creation in a song like Ryan, the third one in the EP?
When I was writing this song it was a month or so after Ryan was killed. The process of creating it was not musical, satisfying, or artistic. I was disconnected from any inspiration or desire to play music, but I don't know how to do anything else so I started trying to play one night and wrote out the first thing I played. I left the middle of the melody open to play anything at all so I could try to feel something close to a realtime connection to my friend every time its performed.
What kind of medium is the guitar for your creative intention? I think a medium is great when it gains invisibility, like the language in relation with thinking. But, in the other hand, only inside the language there is thinking. So an invisible medium as the guitar has a lot of importance, it's another actor in the play. As far, composition is a king of theater representation with a lot of guests: the compositive intention, the player, the audience, the memory and the tradition, the tools.. Do i forget anything? It seems difficult be alone, and it's terribly neccesary be alone between others to gain a personal sound, a persoanl language, an own room...
I love the guitar as an instrument. I love the possibilities it offers through touch, tone, and harmony. When I compose solo guitar music, I feel completely unrestricted. I can play what I am thinking, what I am feeling, and I can translate my intention the way I feel it should be experienced. In spending time alone, I feel the biggest offering is clarity. I love playing guitar alone - improvising, composing, learning a song by a favorite artist. I love to travel by myself, or spend a day off alone walking around the city. For me, solitude creates the possibility to experience gratitude. Being alone is not difficult for me - I enjoy the spacious thoughts, and the time to contemplate. It is my hope that the music I write embodies how much I value the people I write about.
Is there a scent of melancholy in the sound you sculpt? This is my impression.
I suppose there is yes. For Innocent Speller a large portion of the songs are written about people that have passed, so of course those songs are written from a place of grief and mournfullness. But it has been said before that my general sound is very melancholy. I feel very compelled to make music that is spacious, patient, and deliberate. I wouldn’t consider myself a melancholy person, but its true that there is a general overtone to my music. I read about a Portuguese word once, saudade, that made a lot of sense to me in relation to my music. Its defined as a feeling of nostalgia or incompleteness - a longing for something that may have not even ever existed. That idea is really interesting to me and there are points when I can definitely relate to the feeling. I do also feel though that my music has a sense of an unresolved conclusion, a stopping point waiting for what is next. Something I feel personally that I would ideally wish a listener to pick up on would be that this is the most hopeful way to view an ending.
Well, Saudade is a great and difficult to translate word, in Galicia is morriña, in Grece is nostalgia, the pain for the impossibility of go back..., literally. In any creative wager there's a forward movement, a research path, a risk, a bet... this is the nostalgia one, the necessity and the fear to go ahead... Do you feel any American variation of this feeling? I notice this inclassificable impulse in other american musicians, not directly conected to you, as Ross Hammond or the same Frisell and Ribot...
I actually cannot think of an English word by the same meaning as saudade! Or any American term that is similar enough to what I have read. I do find it a strangely relatable idea though, and absolutely hear a sound that evokes it in players like Frisell, Ribot, and Hammond - all of whom I am a huge fan. I also get this sense from my favorite band, The Innocence Mission. What makes it a difficult thing to define is that to me none of these artists make music i would consider to be generally sad or dark. To me it just sounds honest, encompassing a complex emotional and thoughtful pallette
"It Is Such A Splendid Sunny Day And I Have To Go" has again a terribly sad background, it's a short theme seeming a monumental goodbye, a nice, sweet and bitter resume made over a harsh and story.
"It Is Such A Splendid Sunny Day, And I Have To Go" was written as a dedication to Hans and Sophie Scholl. I read about the siblings some time ago. They were key members in The White Rose, an intellectual resistance group in Munich during WW2 that would leave hand copied leaflets around various cities in Germany calling for the destruction of the nazi party. Eventually they were arrested and promptly executed, the title comes from Sophie Scholl's final words at the age of 22. When I was recording these songs, the impact these people have had on me was my motivation. I wanted to give them all a gift.
What other voices do you recognize listening "Leaving"?
In Leaving, Jacob Thro added electric bass and rhodes piano to the track. I wrote the melody as a transition between Ryan and Reception actually. Those three songs were very important for me to write in accepting and learning to live with what happened.
In what sense works the song Reception, what's the direction of sound? Is it your way to receive music... the way others answer or listen to it? Is music a monologue or tend to be a dialogue?
I wrote Reception 8 months after Ryan's death. I liked to picture him at a huge table surrounded by friends, laughing, telling bad jokes, being completely himself. I began to visualize him understanding how much so many people miss him, and absorbing that grief and brokenness. But then, in his way that only people that knew him can really get, asking that we be patient. Even that we be joyful. It is my hope that I can do that. That music can be more than a monologue, and offer an openness that rivals the deepest dialogue.
It sounds great the synesthetic mix of talk about contemplation in sound. The root of the world comes from Templum, a open space made in the woodland, the forest, to contemplate the sky: "defined area of sky or land within which an augur would perform his auspices". In music, contemplation would be analog value, opening spaces to listen in another way... How do you understand contemplation in sound?, you said "I enjoy the spacious thoughts, and the time to contemplate"
For me contemplation in music is found through experiences : people and places mostly. As I've mentioned, with Innocent Speller, it is written about people that I value greatly. But I find inspiration in places as well. I love to travel, and find great inspiration in experiencing different parts of the world. One of my greatest influences is Hildegard Von Bingen, who often used the term “veriditas” in her written works. From Latin, the translation would be “greenness” "or greening” - it was used to describe evidence of Devine power as seen in nature, symbolyzing physical and spiritual health. I often find ways into contemplation for my music by traveling and thinking about this idea.
EP by Charlie Rauh
Genres: Instrumental, Music
Expected Release: May 26, 2015
℗ 2015 Composers Concordance Records
Charlie Rauh 13 Questions