For his exhibition, Awful Things, Alex Lockwood collaborated with young composer Annalyse Clark on a soundtrack for the show. You can see the show at Zeitgeist through February 25th, and hear the soundtrack again at the reception February 4, 6-9pm.
Zeitgeist: How did you connect with Alex Lockwood for this collaboration?
Annalyse: I connected with Alex because I had worked with Paul Collins on a string quartet for his “Soft Bark” collection back in spring 2016. Alex knows Paul and that’s how Alex ended up getting in touch with me.
What themes in his work did you respond to?
As far as themes go, one of the biggest things that Alex and I talked about (and one of the main things I wanted to connect to with this) was the juxtaposition in his work of these incredibly friendly, commercial, and colorful characters that are just having awful, violent things done to them. I tried to reflect this in the soundtrack by juxtaposing really bright, child-like, commercial, and whimsical sounds (children laughing, cartoon/TV commercial samples, etc.) with really harsh and uneasy sounds. I also tried to connect with different emotional angles on the whole scene Alex created with every piece, so there’s one that goes into the wrath and anger of the tormentor, one centered around the general sense of unease and horror that pervades the collection, one that reflects the anxiety and fear of the tortured, and one that reflects on the human sadness of the fact that these types of these types of atrocities actually have happened and continue to happen to so many people.
What was the process like for this collaboration?
Alex originally approached me in August to see if I would be interested, which of course I was. We met up and talked about some of his ideas about the show and how he was approaching it. Around that time I started working on the soundtrack, but the first pieces were almost more of an imitation of the types of timbres and musical structures one would expect to hear in a classic horror soundtrack – big John Carpenter-esque synths, bells, and the like. Then I started talking about the project with one of my professors and I quickly realized that the work I was doing at that time was really just signifying horror to the listener rather than actually generating horror and discomfort with the music itself, and that realization changed the way I approached the rest of the project. With the idea of trying to create a sense of fear and unease with the music itself, I scrapped what I had and started again and Alex and I kept in touch over text and email. Closer to the show, Alex and I met up a couple of times to talk about the project as it was starting to take shape and I started shooting him demos over email, which we discussed and I tweaked according to our ideas. Just about a week before the opening night I finished the soundtrack.
Do you usually try to find things outside music to be inspired by?
I really love to look at things outside of music for inspiration in pretty much any project. Working with visual art is something I really like to do, which I guess is apparent since I’ve collaborated with two visual artists in one year, but I also really love literature in particular. I’m actually a Music Composition and English Literature double major because those are my two biggest passions. I love to set texts from literary works or even to just find other ways of incorporating inspiration from literature into what I do.
You collaborated with an artist at Zeitgeist before, how was this time different?
I would say the biggest difference this time around was the emotions and feelings of the works with which I was working. With “Soft Bark,” the work was quite a bit more playful for the most part, certainly more playful than the gruesome violence of “Awful Things.” Also, the intent of my participation in each of these projects was different. For “Soft Bark” my work was meant as a response to the work, but my participation in “Awful Things” was more of a true soundtrack; it was meant to go along with the visual art and to really color the perception of the pieces themselves when viewed alongside my music playing. On a purely technical level, though, the process was very different in that with “Soft Bark” I was working with a string quartet and had to think of the limitations of what players could and could not physically achieve, which is not something I really had to worry about at all in a mostly electronic, pre-recorded medium.
What is your musical background?
I started playing guitar at 11, and started playing in rock bands at around 12 or 13. Also, when I was about 12, I got involved in my school’s band program on bass. I just stuck with playing in bands and playing in school band all throughout high school. In the middle of high school, though, I took a music theory course with one of my favorite teachers and kind of started to figure out that I had a knack for, and a real enjoyment of, music theory and composition/arranging. I started staying around after school to work on the composition software we had at school and then just kept writing more music and eventually applied to Vanderbilt, where I currently study composition.
What are your main musical influences?
My biggest musical influence is David Bowie. I’ve loved Bowie since I was in middle school and his music has probably made the biggest impact on me of anything. In terms of stuff in the pop idiom I also really love and am influenced pretty heavily by Elliott Smith, Sonic Youth, Swans, The National, Sufjan Stevens, The Smiths, Death Grips, Danny Brown, Bjork, Oneohtrix Point Never, FKA twigs, MF DOOM, The Stooges, Sleep, Sunn O))), William Basinski, The Body, and more than I can really list here. I actually try to take as much influence as a composer from popular music as I do from the types of stuff we learn about in school (the serious, “composer-types”). In terms of “classical”/art music, my biggest influences are Philip Glass, Erik Satie, Franz Schubert, John Adams, Steve Reich, Claude Debussy, and Arnold Schoenberg.
What are the benefits as a student of getting involved in projects outside your school?
I think getting involved in projects outside of school is pretty beneficial for a number of reasons. One is that it just helps me to get outside of the “Vandy Bubble” and participate in the Nashville art scene in general. Another important thing is that it really helps as far as getting hands-on, non-structured experience in my field goes. It’s also really important in terms of networking and trying to get yourself out there as a young artist, because there are a lot of opportunities at Vanderbilt, sure, but there’s also so much more out there.