Columbus Makes Art: Alexander Paquet on Diving into Experimental Music
On Feb. 3, Alexander Paquet will be performing as Field Sleeper at the It Looks Like Its Open gallery in Clintonville as part of the Fuse Factory Electronic and Digital Arts Lab’s Frequency Fridays experimental music and sound art monthly series. In spite of being a relative newcomer to Columbus’ underground music community, he has already established a reputation as a talented, versatile performer and collaborator, as well as an all-around good guy.
Alison Colman: How did Field Sleeper come about?
Alexander Paquet: I started writing and performing songs as Field Sleeper in 2012 during my freshman year of college at Ohio Wesleyan University. While it began as a simple songwriting and voice project, over the past two years I have taken the opportunity to musically explore a variety of genres, including ambient, drone, indie rock and folk.
Alison: The genres ambient and drone might be unfamiliar to some Columbus Underground readers. I would personally define ambient as music that emphasizes tone, atmosphere and sound patterns and timbre, rather than melody, rhythm and traditional musical structures. As far as drone, if one has ever listened to bagpipes, the didgeridoo or the tambura, those are great examples. In the context of experimental music, I would describe drone as minimalist music that is often electronic (but not always) and is based on the use of sustained or repeated sounds, notes or tone clusters. So, in a similar vein, how would you describe experimental music to someone unfamiliar with the genre?
Alexander: I would describe experimental music as a genre that examines and re-imagines the basic axioms of how “music” works and how it impacts listeners. To give an example, popular music generally builds forward momentum from verse to verse; experimental music often guides the listener into focusing on a collection of sonic “scenes” – more akin to visiting a museum as opposed to reading a story.
Alison: Can you describe your performance set up?
Alexander: The gear I use, as well as the musicians with whom I collaborate on stage, changes from performance to performance. However, my primary instruments are the electric guitar and voice. I also use a microkorg, which I run through various pedals to create drones and loops, and I use a volume pedal to shift these drones in and out of the mix. Depending on the show, the drones may serve as a foundation, resting subtly below the other instruments. Other times I will put them front and center. I enjoy reimagining my songs in various genres and styles based on which parts of the music I choose to accentuate.
Alison: Who are your influences, and why?
Alexander: My first exposure to music performance was playing the viola in grade school. I believe that my involvement in orchestral music – a style of music that emphasizes harmonic development and sound layering – heavily influenced the way I have approached music since.
In high school and college, I became influenced by indie rock bands such as The National or Tindersticks because I was compelled by the way they overlaid guitars atop layers of brass, strings, woodwinds and synthesizers. When it comes to experimental music, Benoit Pioulard, Grouper and Tim Hecker are all strong influences. I’m especially intrigued by Grouper’s use of vocal melodies to create a sound that infuses the organic with otherworldly sonification.
In addition, I’ve lately been drawn to hip hop for inspiration. The way producers create beats that are engaging, yet spacious enough for the rappers to add their personal voice, greatly influences my approach to my music’s ambient elements.
Alison: What are some of your most memorable performances?
Alexander: In January 2016, I played at It Looks Likes it Open as a part of a mixed media show. My friend Kyle Kerley played keyboard and flugelhorn alongside me. It was the first time I had ever performed my songs with brass accompaniment, and that performance unleashed a realm of possibilities that I have continued to explore to the present.
Alison: What thoughts about experimental music do you bring to bear on your performance style?
Alexander: As I mentioned, how much ambient material I bring to the performance varies from show to show. And although my songs contain traditional guitar and voice elements, thinking of them as scenes allows me to vary how long I spend focusing and examining each part of the track. This improvisatory element celebrates the “experiments” musicians of the genre execute with every performance.
Joining Alexander on the bill is experimental musician/video artist Camilla Padgitt-Coles, experimental electronic musician Bbob Drake and experimental electronic musician J Bryan Parks. The February 2017 Frequency Fridays concert will take place on Friday, Feb. 3 at the It Looks Like Its Open gallery (13 E. Tulane Rd, Columbus Ohio 43202). Doors open at 8:00 p.m. Admission is $10 for one, $15 for two.
Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting art and advancing culture in Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art. Each column will be written by a different local arts organization to give you an insiders look at how #artmakescbus.