Canadian electronic musician Michael Silver aka CFCF released his new EP Music for Objects. While his previous EP Exercises was inspired by brutalist architecture, the new one focuses on the inexpressible of everyday things. NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION talked with CFCF to find out more about his conceptual approach and Silver’s perspective on the anthropocentric understanding of music. Furthermore we spoke about CFCF‘s influences, the discipline of minimal composer STEVE REICH, his experience as DJ at Montreal’s first Boiler Room party and of course hope and passion.
Your previous EP ‘Exercises’ was much inspired by the 1960s brutalist architecture. On your new EP ‘Music For Objects’ you focus on everyday things and you’ve said that both releases act as companion pieces. In what way do you see these two releases affiliated with each other?
Conceptually they seem to flip sides of similar themes. Exercises was about finding little feelings in grand, oppressive spaces, and it was somewhat sad and melancholy. Objects is a bit more romantic, and it’s about using the small things in life to express something larger and life-affirming.
How did this shift in perspective from monumental architecture to everyday objects has an effect on your method of developing the tracks?
I tried to imbue them more romance, a more upbeat character, in both the tranquil moments and the chaotic ones. Instead of feelings of loss or nostalgia which were present in the last record, this one is more about those moments when your heart is full and even the small, silly things fill your world up with joy.
As one can hear on your new EP as well as on previous releases you’re highly influenced by composers of minimal music such as Steve Reich and Philip Glass. What fascinates you about their work and aesthetics? And what do you think is the importance of the minimalist aesthetics nowadays, for instance regarding to the musical perception of time?
I just appreciate the discipline that goes into their work. With Reich, each piece was really only ever ‘about’ that piece, at least as far as he would publicly state. He’d go into detail about the process of writing it and performing it, about the different melodies interplay, about the chord and key structures etc. But obviously the music expresses so much more than just ‘music’, you know? It’s filled to the brim with drama and images. So that’s what I like to tap into when I invoke their influence.
Next to minimalist musicians, were there further artists which have a bearing on your work on ‘Music for Objects’?
Ryuichi Sakamoto again. His discography is so diverse, honestly I’d be happy in 20 years to have half as much variety in such a volume of work as him. Also, a Japanese composer and saxophonist named Yasuaki Shimizu was really influential on this record — his album Music for Commercials especially was crucial. Non-musicians: Wim Wenders, Yohji Yamamoto, Charles and Ray Eames.
You’ve said that there was something kind of inexpressible about the everyday objects which inspired you and you wanted to convey this inexpressible musically. This term of the inexpressible repeatedly played an important role in the history of art, for example for the Romantics, the Surrealists and the Postmodernists. Although you correlate the inexpressible not with the sublime, the unconscious or the like, but with the ostensible familiar of everyday objects… Is there any kind of relationship to these artistic movements within your work or regarding to your method?
Haha wow, I couldn’t really say. I don’t have an answer for that question! I appreciate all those movements but honestly it wasn’t something I was thinking about.
CFCF: “‘Hope’ would probably be just a basic desire to be better”
There’s a lot of music made with everyday objects. And there’s also, for instance, music for animals or for landscapes. But I’ve never heard music for objects. It’s a very radical idea I think. I don’t want to get too theoretical but: Does this approach to focus on the – to speak with French philosopher Bruno Latour – ‘interobjective’ relationship between human and objects for you imply the attempt to break away from the western, anthropocentric understanding of music?
No, well, the thing is the music is using objects as a central theme but in reality the music is obviously about humans. I can’t say that a bowl or a glass really has this emotional element to them, it just doesn’t happen until a human being enters the room. So I wouldn’t say I’m trying to break away from any typical understanding of music – it’s still very human-centric – but it’s about shifting the focus away from our thoughts and feelings and looking at our surroundings, appreciating them, and seeing how our feelings might shape our perception of them. That probably sounds silly, but that’s great. I wish this record was sillier, to be honest!
How did you select the eight objects of your EP?
Very much at random. I don’t place a particular importance on any of the specific objects. It was really just trying to think of some commonplace and also evocative objects which would express the idea as a whole as well as obviously match the music contained therein. But it could have been eight completely different objects and said the same thing, I think.
Quite recently you played at Boiler Room’s first party in Montreal next to D’EON, PURITY RING, GROWN FOLK and DOLDRUMS. The folks of Boiler Room are very successful with their concept of exclusive private parties on the one hand and tens of thousands online participants at each live show on the other hand. Was it something special for you to play there?
I had a great time! It was a first for me, at least as far as being broadcast anywhere. Watching it afterwards though, the vibe was a lot better actually being there than it looks on the video. The comments on the video are hilarious, but it really was a great, inclusive vibe at the party. I tried to make a set that expressed a bunch of the things I’m doing my own music as well as some of my current and classic favourites. I think the set was a bit messy but everyone was a bit messy at that point.
Any idea where CFCF will be heading next, thematically and musically?
Haha yes, well I have some records in the bag that are pretty much done and all very different musically. Thematically they cover a lot of similar territory, which is basically environment and separation from nature, but the approach is different in each case, and I’m excited to share them when the time comes!
What do “hope” and “passion” mean to you?
Hmm. ‘Hope’ would probably be just a basic desire to be better. ‘Passion’ I guess is thing that drives you to act on that.