The Colombian conceptual musician spoke with THUMP ahead of playing Heroines of Sound in Berlin this week.
Photo of Lucrecia Dalt by Catalina Perez Lopez
Conceptual musician Lucrecia Dalt's connection to sound is woven into her family history. Her grandfather would remove the vocal tracks on cassettes and record over them with his own singing to play for guests, her grandmother taught herself to play guitar in a secret hiding spot underneath her bed, and her mother avidly collected and played records throughout her childhood.
These seeds blossomed into a career that's taken Dalt from her home in Pereira, Colombia, to Spain, and now Germany, where she currently works out of Berlin. As well as a musician, Dalt is also a sound artist and radio producer. Her technical prowess with audio adds a distinct depth to her music, and this extensive knowledge of the medium allows Dalt to construct soundscapes where abstraction and accessibility coexist beautifully.
When Dalt first began creating music in Colombia in 2005, armed with just midi instruments and a microphone, she often incorporated her voice into recordings. But in recent years she's moved away from that, favoring more experimental works and unconventional production techniques. Her 2015 album Ou was inspired by German experimental films. She would play the films while making music and let their sounds influence what she was creating. This method morphed into the one Dalt is currently employing, letting different tools in the production process run wild and bleed into one another, then shaping constructive pieces of music from this raw format.
"I like to feed a system within other systems infinitely: the bass into a pedal, into a vocoder, the following left signal to an amplifier, back to the vocoder, the right to another system, the end result is quite unexpected and I like that, it takes a while to build a sound but it's very interesting how much I lose control now of what is going to happen," she explains to THUMP. This organic approach of development gives a certain narrative control and power to the affecting device she chooses, Dalt positions herself as a curator of influences, the dam for many creative streams.
This month Dalt will be taking her experimental music to the stage at Berlin's Heroines of Sound festival. The festival, taking place this week (December 8-10), was organized by three women working in different arenas of audio: theatre musical director Bettina Wackernagel, DJ and producer Mo Loschelder, and sound studies educator Sabine Sanio. The festival was founded last year, with the intent of presenting a genre-crossing mix of female-only pioneers in the electronic music scene.
For Dalt, playing this festival is a step forward in balancing certain inequalities she sees in her field. She believes the best antidote for bias is action, and while many of these discriminatory issues are systemic, we can chip away at such problems with the quality of our art. THUMP caught up with Dalt ahead of the festival—read the Q&A with her below.
THUMP: How has your musical and expression changed now that you've largely removed your literal voice?
Lucrecia Dalt: I don't feel it as a dramatic change. Perhaps, if something it's not having to be worried about singing, I feel more integrated to the architectural spaces where I perform and therefore with the sound experience I have to provide. When I sang I felt too much in my own body, too caged, it wasn't very pleasant. But I'm learning to use my voice now, in a way that I feel comfortable. I needed this space, this break, to understand that what I was doing before was just to force my singing into a "standard".
Can you tell me about the connected audio visual element of your creative process?
The first time happened with a 1962 Japanese film called Daydream. The movie was playing in the background while I was working. Sometimes I put the volume up for a second, and let this interruption feed my workspace. This technique, I used many times. These clusters of info became my creative partners.
And once you found this feeding method through Daydream, what prompted you to move to New German Cinema, making it an integral part of Ou?
It made sense to think I could make this a method to work a whole album. When I came to live in Berlin it also made sense to restrict the sources to German cinema only, I choose New German Cinema because it's what I found most interesting of all. I have to say though that forcing a method in a creative work is tricky, it worked sometimes, other times it just didn't make sense. But forcing myself or restricting myself this way made me have an awareness of cinema and sound worlds in cinema that I never had before and that constantly informs my music. A simple leitmotif in a Wenders film could make me reevaluate a whole record for example.
What did a day in the life of making this album look like as you collaborated with film?
I would go a lot to the Memorial Library to rent DVDs, they have a really amazing selection of films there. I bought a screen and a projector and tried as much as possible to have this in the background while I was working. When I liked something I would watch it in its entirety at night, make notes and let other parts of the film influence my work. For instance the films Die Parallelstrasse by Ferdinand Khittl and Welt am Draht by Rainer Werner Fassbinder were more important than the rest that I screened.
Going back to your work in other aspects of film. Can you tell me more about Una Historia Nunca Contada Desde? What is the film about?
It's an audiovisual piece that works between historical documentary, science/political fiction and psychological portrait. It departs from a very strange case of telecommunications that happened in Chile during the government of Salvador Allende in the 70s called Cybersyn.The film meditates around utopias and their failures, the use of technology, gender.
Do you find the ways you approach sound design versus making music differ greatly?
Yes. When you have images just one note could be as powerful as a whole arrangement. Decision making and tensions differ greatly. There's more responsibility deciding how much sound should there be, its volume, its proximity, if it should carry the images or rather be present as a counterpoint, to originate new tensions. Also time operates in a very different way than when you are making music.
What are you working on now?
My main focus is to develop a new live set and gather performative skills, I want to become a good scientific lecturer. My monthly radio show called Pli which operates between feature and radiophonic. I'm also gathering the very first ideas for a new record. And a soundtrack for a new audiovisual project with [the visual artist] Regina de Miguel of material she filmed in Deception Island in Antarctica.
What can people expect from your live set at Heroines of Sound?
A science fiction sound lab operated by a dysfunctional professor.
Heroines of Sound takes place December 8-10 in Berlin. Tickets available here.