San Diego’s Trummerflora Collective is intended to “provide a network of support for San Diego’s experimental and improvised music community.” The musicians seem very sincere, and most have extensive academic credits, but I confess I don’t always “get” the more experimental and outré Trummerflora “sound artists,” as they call themselves.
I’ve tried listening to stuff like “The Whisper Chipper” (syncopated loops of a wood chipper, chipping wood), but I’m always left scratching my head. It can’t be that I’m too old to appreciate the music — most Trummerflorans seem older than me. I like experimental pre-Trummerflora musicians like John Zorn, Captain Beefheart, John Cage, and even Philip Glass (in small doses) and Brian Eno (even smaller doses).
Is the secret in seeing it performed live? If you’ve caught a show by someone in the Trummerflora Collective, please let me know: Was it sweetly sublime, akin to the music of the spheres? Or did it sound like bees living in your head? And what is a “sound artist” exactly? Does making armpit noises or burping the alphabet qualify you as one?
Born in Yokohama, Japan, Marcos Fernandes is a founding member of the Trummerflora Collective (and co-creator of “The Whisper Chipper”). He’s long been active in San Diego as a performer, producer, and curator. He’s performed in Japan, Hong Kong, Mexico, Canada, and all over the U.S. as a solo improviser, phonographer, and percussionist/sound artist with various ensembles. Fernandes also runs the artist-based independent label Accretions, home to some of today’s more innovative (if often inscrutable) experimentalists.
WHAT’S IN YOUR CD PLAYER?
1. Hoahio, Peek-ara-boo: “This trio of Japanese women artists presents highly inventive and entertaining music that ranges from new wave-tinged pop to open improvisations.”
2. Robert Wyatt, Comic Opera: “Wyatt’s been a favorite of mine as percussionist, singer, composer, and progressive for many years. This is his newest, and I’m glad he’s putting out stuff more regularly again.”
3. K.K. Null, Chris Watson, Z’ev, Number One: “A beautiful collaboration by three artists who are masters of their respective genres: noise, phonography field recordings, and percussion. They create some amazing spaces using unexpected combinations of textures.”
4. Sketch Show, Audio Sponge: “Haruomi Hosono and Yukihiro Takahashi [ex-YMO] reunite to serve up some sweet synth-pop that is both nostalgic and up-to-date with tons of warm and rich analog sounds. There’s even a nice tribute to Brian Wilson and a cool video on YouTube.”
5. Phew, Our Likeness: “One of my favorite female voices. Phew paints fractured images in collaboration with Jaki Liebezeit and others in another of her stark ’90s albums recorded at Conny Plank’s famed studio. Very urban and existential.”
“A Clockwork Orange and Blade Runner are two insightful works, as any good speculative fiction ought to be. Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams is poetry in motion. Pier Paolo Pasolini’s The Canterbury Tales captures the bawdiness of Chaucer’s classic. And Down by Law, because it’s a sad and beautiful world.”
MOST UNDERRATED EXPERIMENTAL MUSICIAN?
“Aren’t all experimental musicians underrated? I guess I’ll have to go with Robert Wyatt, who’s definitely underrated here in the U.S. From his work with Soft Machine and Matching Mole to his continuing solo works, he’s created so much incredibly humane and personal music.”
LAST BOOK READ?
“The Cat That Lived a Million Times by Yoko Sano. This is a children’s book about a proud cat who finds happiness in love and humility.”
“The Wire. It covers the gamut, as far as music is concerned.”
MOST VISITED WEBSITES?
“I must admit I’m a YouTube junkie. I visit MySpace a lot more than I care to admit, since I have to maintain all my pages. For my news I go to the L.A. Times website and Wikipedia for random information. And Netflix, to add movies to my queue.”
INSTRUMENT YOU MOST WISH YOU PLAYED?
“I wish I played the piano. Like, really play it, because there’s such incredible harmonic and rhythmic complexity in there.”
FINISH THIS SENTENCE: “I LIVE IN SAN DIEGO BECAUSE…”
“…I’m complacent, and inertia has set in.”
“Playing background music at some event because your job is to be sonic wallpaper.”
BIGGEST POLITICAL CONCERN?
“Lack of political concern; i.e., why we’re in this quagmire to begin with. Why should your country take care of you when you don’t take care of your country? As one foreigner said to me recently, ‘You have an American passport, but you know America’s not going to protect you.’”