A conversation with Guro Moe

 

    We spoke with Guro Moe (MoE, Sult, Conrad Sound) about the relationship between dance and oceanic movement, how music helps us remember we’re human beings, the whale-song overtones of the octobass and her emotional connection to the solar system.

     

    It was a combination of reward and escape, this total presence and bodily experience, nothing but me and the water, especially in cold temperatures.


    We asked Guro what each of the eight planets in our solar system evokes in her mind.


    I think aliens live there eating chocolate.


    Fog. From a historic perspective, we are close to extinguishing ourselves. I don’t feel the Earth needs to give us more chances. We have screwed up by using the Earth like it’s for free.


    Sea god. The ocean. I love the ocean.


    Excitement, something fresh, young. I think the next news will happen on Jupiter.


    It sounds like something dangerous could happen here.


    I think of it as a fundament of femininity, which we need more of here on Earth regardless of genders. It´s about feminine and masculine energies, motivations for taking choices. In creative processes I find the aspect of embracing the unknown to be motivated by female energy. To know the answer before any choice can be taken resonates more with masculine energies to me.


    Hot. You cannot live there.


    When I was 28, I got a fund for writing lyrics for the next MoE album and I had a residency in San Francisco, CA, staying with my relatives there. There were strange occurrences then where it felt like the Earth was taken away form under my feet, a feeling I had never experienced before. My cousin told me that when you reach around 30 years old, Saturn ends up in the same path as when you where born, and that this was a normal reaction. So thanks to Saturn, the lyrics of the song “David Yow” came to life. It’s not not about him, I just feel like I am him when singing it. Or the lyrics make me become David Yow when I sing them.

    1

    Julien Fernandez

    When I was a kid I was fascinated by the idea of morphological transformation – in other words, animals or other organic forms changing into others. I began to question the frontier of dreams and reality in my own life. What were you fascinated with as a child?

    Guro Skumsnes Moe

    I had so much energy as a kid and a strong imagination. My best friend for some time was an imaginary girl named Mona Berg. She lived in the forest right behind our house with her friend named Gerald. My memory of myself as a kid it was all a light and bright exploration. I remember being interested in stuff I think most kids would have had no interest in. My dad made music for kids when I was a kid myself, and once in a while he would receive these big cardboard boxes filled with 500 cassette tapes of new releases. I’m not sure if my two sisters felt the same way, but I found it meditative and joyful to help my dad put barcode stickers on all these endless cassettes.

    My obsession with the ocean has followed me since I was a kid. I swam all year round and still do. It was a combination of reward and escape, this total presence and bodily experience, nothing but me and the water, especially in cold temperatures. I always had to challenge myself. This also transcended into dance. I did not understand this as a kid, but expressing myself through movement was natural to me and also necessary, not only a source of recreation. I got completely lost in the movement whether I was in my room, our living room or wherever, like I was transcending into movement.

    Of course, as age passed and my bodily awareness grew, this freedom grew more tamed and bound. So now I am working on finding this same natural motivation for movement. I remember on many occasions walking home from school and having a whole choreography ready in my brain while walking. I think it must have been fun to watch me dance my way home from school.

    2

    What was the first point of contact with your own creative abilities? Was there a single flashpoint of wanting to do music for the rest of your life? Please describe this moment or series of moments.

    In Montaigu, France, at a great festival called Aïnu where we played on this tour, I sat in the merch area sowing my favorite shirt from when I was 16-17 years old, which I found just before leaving for this tour. I know I could not, in my wildest subconscious thought have dared to believe I would be in a position of only doing music, being a musician, sitting behind a table selling my music and merchandise at a festival in France. Even when I studied music, I was so careful to not tell anyone I was a musician and kind of apologized for even thinking could be my life, just doing music. But I wanted nothing else.

    Some years ago, I accidentally found my diaries from when I was 12-13 years old. One sentence caught my attention – “I wonder if anyone experiences music as powerfully as I do.” The wanting to play, listen to and to dance to music was such a natural and important part of my daily life, thinking back, it was just always there. Being shy and not wanting any attention from not being like the rest, I never acknowledged my abilities nor considered them to have value. I began writing songs when I was 11 or 12, then my dad bought me a bass because my school had some Christmas concert and needed someone to play the instrument. Since the bass has only four strings, one plays, more or less, just one tone at a time, so I was qualified to play bass.

    I started junior high school at the theatre department because I knew that was the most frightening. I felt too exposed. I remember joining the music class on one hearing lesson, or some theory class and it all felt so easy, like “Of course! I hear how that tone is connected to that one and it becomes this chord!” But I had kind of a “Hallelujah” experience. I just felt something strong, and I realized I had to do music for real, the best I could, not just do it halfway as I did up until then with music, dance and theatre. I made a duo with a girl in my class, percussionist Ane Marthe Sørlien Holen. We made quite out-there music and recorded it ourselves. But then again, we were shy girls and to believe our music was something for others and not just ourselves was not in our frame.

    I remember how strongly I felt that I had to start playing double bass at the age of 20, listening to Scott LaFaro, Henry Grimes, Fernando Grillo and Ingebrigt Håker Flaten. I was also influenced by free jazz and noise music – Lasse Marhaug, SPUNK. I clearly remember a class I had with the awesome Joëlle Léandre. She was tough on me. And as I ran through all kinds of excuses as to why I didn’t play better, why I could not give my instrument this much time, I remember crying because I realized there were no possible excuses to not arrive at where I wanted to be and what I wanted to achieve. I had to just bloody go there.

             

    3

    Do you have any recurring thoughts these days? If so, what are they? Why are they repeating themselves?

    Sustainability, goddamnit. How music, in these inhuman times – sure, we have always killed each other in all eras, but the apathy! – makes us remember we are human beings. How can I help make it sustainable for me and my fellow musicians to tour? I often consider how giving and receiving all this trust and energy from promoters and audiences is like ecology. It feeds my reason to live, that these connections are possible. This is the hippie side of me talking, yet that is what music is made of. Perhaps it’s like dreams, something without substance. Then there’s all the logistics. When doing everything ourselves – I would not say DIY, because I am looking for a better word to describe it than that – at times, it’s so heavy it slows down the dream, the sensation of what music is and my motivation. Yet there is no way around the logistical part either, although I always want to work better.

    There are many chains of course in this ecosystem – different ways of doing music, different ways of doing business – which grows what we consider as capital and growth towards humanity, towards economy. There are times I feel stuck because I don’t see my view of music and art resonating in my surroundings, especially in Norway. This tour has been an interesting one, the first European tour for DEAD. They feel they are treated so well there. There are good conditions for the concerts, great food and drink, coming from Australia where the main role of music is to entertain, as they say. Yet, in some places, they questioned themselves. “Was it necessary that we played?” “Did it make a difference?”

    I consider dreams and reality on a daily basis. Some might say I’m living my dream, but it feels like a brutal dose of reality, especially on a long tour like this. My reality is living my dream, living a life I think most people would not dream about or know of. To me it does not appear isolated, like an island, but as an equal contribution to this other reality who consider me partly one lucky bastard to be living my dream and partly an idiot (in its original meaning, as a non-contributor) for not contributing to the real world. I am grateful to the top of my lungs, in all depths of my being, that along with the people I work with, I have made this possible.

    I am questioning if my reality is being looked upon as a dream and hence not worth consideration as an equal contribution. I think about this quite a lot and want to make something from it that is conducive to energy and possibility. I recently read an interview with Ian MacKaye in which he talked about how we should look upon ourselves as navigators, not to endure the situation we are in, but to take action.

    I have always been drawn towards this in-between everything, when something is neither this or that. To me, that’s a nutritious approach to life.

    4

    I’d like you to briefly meditate on these three words: classification, surrender and habitat. What does each evoke for you?

    Classification

    I have always been drawn towards this in-between everything, when something is neither this or that. To me, that’s a nutritious approach to life. I don’t want to know. That not-knowing appears to me as a feminine approach or feminine value, allowing an ambiguity to the creative process (being life, art or music) as a driving force to explore what is hidden, yet learn all parameters of what one has chosen to be is part of life and the creative process. So to me, classification is not the goal, it’s a parameter among many and it is always changing.

    Surrender

    I surrender to the moment, to expand the moment with sound, movement or shadow.

    Habitat

    “Where do I come from?” I ask myself that daily. Sometimes it is not important to know. Sometimes it feels like a burden. Sometimes I hold it very tight.

    5

    I’m often confused by the use of music in movies. I feel that it’s an easy trick for filmmakers to evoke an emotional response, regardless of what’s happening onscreen. If it were up to me, I’d avoid mixing music and film together unless it was very necessary to a scene, like a band playing or a song on the radio. What’s your approach to theatre, and how does it connect with song and live performance?

    My backbone as a composer has been developed through composing music for figure theatre by Plexus Polaire. My focus is the present moment, deepening what the eye sees with sound. Following an emotional logic which is not logic on that sense. When I work with music for figure theatre, the visual and sound are equal and the body of the sound has to stand by itself, not leaning vainly on what is presented on stage.

    There was a big difference between working on my first music together with Lasse Marhaug, to my first movie ever, Amat Escalante’s The Untamed. An honesty and nakedness was required not to disturb the image, so my method of understanding every move of the characters in the context of the film’s action did not work. The body of the sound could not have all these layers as I am used to working with the figure theatre.

    It’s not always an equilibrium, though. Sometimes I wonder if I kill the true connection between the sound and the visual with my thorough work on mapping all emotional motivations into sound. But then again, I find verification in my method in the rehearsals. I try out sounds purely with inspiration from research I have done prior to rehearsals as to what the sounds are for each relation and which layers of consciousness are operating at the same time. And it works so well! But as the dramaturgy evolves, so does my composition, and sounds I was sure belonged to one person or scene suddenly belong to something else for the fulfillment of the interaction and coherence between the sound and the visual. So then I am, in a way, reversing what I told you was my method, but you often have to let go of what you thought was right.

    In my work with both Plexus Polaire and in the films of Amat Escalante, I recognize a sensitivity towards being human in which I search for myself through what I do.

    6

    Do you have any interest in crosswords, Sudoku or any other puzzles? If not, in what field do you flex your strategic abilities?

    Food. Making food is like meditation to me, always creating new structures which evolve as I make a dish or when I think of a dish I want to make. Making many dishes at the same time for a lot of people, like I do for the All Ears festival or other concerts where I cook for the musicians and volunteers, satisfies my brain. That my self-therapy can be of joy and use to others makes me happy. Of course, that goes for the music as well.

    The octobass is a beautiful monster. Its sound resonates in your whole body, your skeleton, on the inside.

    7

    Can you grab the nearest book to you, open a random page and tell me what you read first? Is it applicable to your own existence in any way?

    I’m in the car and the book nearest to me is the owner’s manual. It is the section about which oil this car needs. The car had some trouble before we left for this tour where it looked like oil was leaking, but the mechanic said it was only condensation from where the oil is contained.

    I need to give myself the right oil for sure, especially while I’m on such a dense tour and being challenged on many levels at the same time. We have had one day off. To recognize you are “leaking oil” is a challenge under these circumstances, as there is not really time to fix it. I run and do exercises to stretch my voice and my body every morning. I swim whenever there is a chance. I write. I try and eat good food. To me, that would be giving myself the right oil.

    8

    Finally, how would you describe the octobass to someone unfamiliar with the instrument?

    The octobass is a beautiful monster. Its sound resonates in your whole body, your skeleton, on the inside. If I play it for a long while I feel an unease, an insecurity that is hard to describe. The lowest tone, which is a C, goes down to 16 hz. It has three strings, C, G, and D, and was first built by Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume in France around 1850. The richness of its overtones are a whole ocean to explore. Its made of these big pieces of wood put together by Wolfgang Stab in Kleinwaldstadt, Germany, the first instrument he ever built.

    The instrument has a seductive power. I just want to be close to it, look at it, play it. It fucks with my listening, as it looks like a well-known instrument yet it doesn’t sound like you think it would. Every room is (as to every instrument, but stronger with the octobass) an extended body and makes the low frequencies resonate differently. Me and the other two who own it, the brilliant violinists Ole-Henrik Moe and Kari Rønnekleiv, created the chamber orchestra The Touchables, exploring infra/ultrasound and really probing deeply into the sound of a chamber orchestra, which is altogether different from how other octobasses have been used up until now. We also have a picoletto violin in the orchestra, so our frequency range goes from 16 to over 20,000 hz.

    I have been filmed playing a self-composed “giraffe” score inspired by their sounds, which have been shown to a living giraffe which is filmed listening and watching. This is the work of Annika Kahrs. Great adventures come from owning an octobass!

    Thank you.

    Data


    Conversation: 63
    Curated by: Julien Fernandez
    Conducted by: Email
    Published: November 8, 2017
    Total questions: 8 + 8
    Word count: 2928
    Reading time: Eleven minutes
    Hyperlinks: 14
    Imagery: 8
    Ocean: Movement
    Experience: Hallelujah
    Origin: Burden
    Nutrition: Meditation
    Hz: Octobass
    Navigation: Action
    Femininity: Ambiguity
    Fog: Extinguishment

    Relation


    About the curator


    Julien Fernandez was born in Mayenne, France in 1976. He currently lives and works in Pescara, Italy with his wife, two kids and a dog, Lenny. He is captivated by structural relations between objects, animal behavior, contagion and magic, and is currently working on a mechanism that would classify mental images in the physical world. He also designs and envisions the day-to-day architecture of North of the Internet.


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