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Stillness and improvisation with Lyndsie Alguire

Written by

Leticia Trandafir
March 9th, 2018

“I want to draw the listeners in and let them feel suspended in that moment, altering their experience of the passage of time. The sounds should promote a shift from conscious thought towards a more emotional and physical experience.” This is what artist Lyndsie Alguire wants to achieve with her performance for Practice on March 17th at Never Apart.

“I’ll be improvising with a small group of sounds, building them up harmonically and texturally. The sounds will come together into a whole that becomes increasingly immersive as it progresses through time.”

Lyndsie Alguire is a Montreal based musician, photographer and model. The delicate, sensual and melancholic textures of her photographs is also what I found in her music. It is akin to the memory of a dream that lingers, but effaces itself as the day goes on, only to leave a bittersweet and velvety affect.

We caught up with the artist to learn more about her musical process and universe.

How do you describe your music to people who’ve never heard it before?

My music is often ethereal, textural, and detailed. It’s based on improvisation and a focus on stillness. It’s mostly composed of piano or synths with non-verbal vocals, and some field recordings.

How did you learn music and what was that process like for you?

I begged my parents for piano lessons from a young age, and started around the age of 7. I had a classical training via the Royal Conservatory for Music’s repertoire. I had a piano teacher as well as a theory teacher, and I was encouraged to take the RCM’s exams. The pressure to follow that path, as well as the performance anxiety I experienced during those exams caused me to eventually quit my lessons, and for a while I focused more on the flute which I was learning in high school.

My keyboard at the time had a very limited two-track recording feature, and that was how I first started to write my own music and was my first experience with multi-track recording. My high school music teacher eventually set up a recording studio and started teaching audio engineering, which I got very into, to the point of him letting me take gear home where I would study the manuals and experiment with it.

What does your songwriting and compositional process look like?

It always starts with a mood and with improvisation. I’ll feel something that I can’t express in words, but that I want to describe, document, and share in some way. Often I’ll hit record and just start playing either at my digital piano, or with my synth and pedals making loops. Once I have enough material, I’ll start editing and arranging it. Once it has a “skeleton” I can start overdubbing and adding more details. Vocals and field recordings I save for last.

What instruments, effects and technologies do you use in your music-making, and how?

I have a small, basic setup. I have a Roland HP-2 that I use as a MIDI controller for piano-based music. I still use Propellerhead’s Reason for all my pianos; it’s the first DAW I had and I’ve come to identify with the few piano patches I used in the beginning. They’re a part of my voice. The Zoom H4n for collecting field recordings and other samples. Lately, though, I’ve been using my live set-up for composing, so my voice has been changing for the last year. I use a microKorg, TC Electronics Ditto, Line6 M13 stompbox modeler and loop station, Fairfield Electronics Shallow Water, and a Shure SM57.

Effects-wise I love time-stretching, delays in series, convolution reverb, and fuzz distortion. The first two bring me and my sounds that sense of stillness or suspension. The fuzz distortion is really physical for me.

How does sound affect your mental state? Do you use sound to modulate your mood, if so how?

Sound is everything for me. I’m easily distracted by sound and get very overwhelmed in loud or noisy environments, so I love silence as much as I love sound; I think they go hand in hand. I’m not religious but I love this quote from Arvo Pärt: “Silence is the pause in me when I am near to God. ”

If I’m listening to something, then that’s probably the only thing I’m listening to for a good week or two, because I want to stay in that mood and observe it in detail rather than accept its transience. I want to let it filter everything, overcome my body, and either support or challenge my thoughts and emotions.

When I’m playing or recording is when I’m most at peace. I’m completely focused and present, and everything slows down in the most exhilarating way. It’s mindfulness and escape at the same time. It’s my way of communicating and of controlling my sonic environment.

If I’m feeling particularly anxious, I like to listen to things really loud. So loud I can’t think anymore. It brings me out of my head and into my body.

What is your relationship to your audience, how to relate to them when you perform?

I don’t see myself as a performer and don’t want myself, personally, to be the audience’s focus. My hope is always that the listener will accept my invitation to that moment of stillness and have their own experiences either personally or collectively.

What place does the body have in your artistic practice, whether your music or visual art? Can you elaborate on your relationship with the body, with your body in relation to (your) art?

My relationship with my body, as I’m sure is the case for most, is complicated and always changing. I haven’t yet explored thoughts and feelings about my body when making music at home, but when I perform live, my instrument is an extension of my body and it fills the room. It’s the only time I can take up that much space and feel powerful in that way.

Visual art, on the other hand, has helped me a great deal in feeling connected to and accepting of my body. With modeling and photography I’ve learned more effective ways of asserting my boundaries and respecting those of others. I explore my capacity for trust, intimacy, and vulnerability. I also push the limits of my body’s endurance and flexibility. When I see what my body is capable of it makes me feel powerful and strengthens my connection to it.

When I started modeling I was 19 and at my smallest. Even then, I had collaborators telling me to “suck it in.” Realizing that there is no “small / skinny enough” helped me to focus less on the aesthetics of my body and more on just accepting its unique strengths and weaknesses.

Your practice includes music, photography, modeling: what is the throughline between all those aspects of your practice?

Stillness and improvisation. My process is really the same with all of them: Just start, and when you’re finished, stop. Edit and curate later. Hopefully all three are immersive for the listener / viewer and encourage them to give themselves time to feel that suspended moment.

Photography by Sofia Ajram.

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