At the end of our conversation, Daniel Wohl took a moment to reflect. "I've been really lucky about the collaborators on this," the composer and soundsmith said of new album Holographic. "That's my favorite thing."
Lucky indeed: The multiplicity of high-profile performers and contributors informs Holographic's vision from top to bottom, and he pulled in some of the most progressive and talented vocalists and ensembles to create it. Wohl, who has released a variety of works combining chamber and electronic performances and styles, says each piece has a strong link to the contributing performers, and were each written for a specific reason while being kept in mind for a future album.
The album itself was funded by a group: MASS MoCA, St Paul Chamber Orchestra's Liquid Music Series, Indianapolis Museum of Art and the Baryshnikov Art Center commissioned the release together — and starting last week, Wohl began a performance series where he brought a live version to each venue. That performance series lands in Indy on Saturday, complete with corresponding visual elements.
There's many more collaborators and contributors to the recorded and live versions than can be named below, but a few more important ones to name are Daniel Schwarz, who conceptualized visuals, and Mantra Percussion and Holographic String Quartet (with members of Flux Quartet and String Noise), who will perform live.
Wohl walked me through some of the contributors to Holographic.
"We premiered "Source" at the Sound / Source festival that I was doing. We performed it there first, then recorded it. When we recorded it I wasn't totally happy with the piece so I kind of changed some stuff up. Part of the sounds in the piece are the things that I wrote for them, but then I used that recording and re-manipulated it, so it had a two-part process of recording the music that's written and then reprocessing that recording. ... A lot of the vocals in there are also my voice, so [there was] a lot of manipulating my voice, then asking Caroline to react to those, and do her own versions, then using those in tandem with the pre-recorded stuff."
Working with Bang on a Can All-Stars:
"They commissioned the piece that they're playing on for this album. This was for a project they have called Field Recordings, where you use a field recording – and that can be a recording of anything, so I actually used recordings of the instruments themselves – and use that as a basis for the electronics. Then they perform with those recordings of themselves."
Working with Lucky Dragons:
"I've always wanted to work with them. They've been one of my favorites. I think they just have stunning sound and [are] some really amazing people. The way they work is really smart, disciplined and really creative. I love getting into their process. We worked with Mivos Quartet and created a list of, [sounds] Whistles were one them. ... They reacted to those, then we reworked it into an entire piece, just these small snippets of sounds."
Working with Iktus Percussion:
"[It was a] similar thing. I had been working with them on this piece. It was actually part of a grant we had applied for to work together. They performed it a couple of times. Every piece, I feel like, needs several iterations, just to get it right, to get all the sounds right. It's good that all of these had been performed, then I really got a chance to see how they would feel live, then rework as a recording, then redo live at the end in the new format."
Working with producer Paul Corley:
"I did all the recordings at this studio called Virtue and Vice in Brooklyn. We did all the recordings of the instruments, I brought in everybody to record. We edited down those recordings, and I had all the electronics. Everything was done, essentially, then a month out of mixing, Paul and I — again, he was in New York, I was in France — set up these sessions and [sent music] back and forth. Each track, he EQ'd, or added some reverb, or processed in a certain way. He would send it back, then we would work on that back and forth. Finally after a month, we got together in New York and mixed for about a week, then sent it out to Valgeir [Sigurdsson, of Bedroom Community], who mastered it."
"It's hard for labels to fund a project. Often you have to repay the advance through album sales. And since album sales are pretty much non-existent — not completely, but especially for experimental work — it's not a good source of funding anymore. The fact that museums or presenting organizations are interested in funding an album is really special and kind of unique. I was really fortunate. ... Museums are a place where [the worlds of pop and classical worlds] can come together, because they have a built-in audience for the work they're presenting already; they have a venue; they're interested in new, challenging art, and are able to bring it all together."