A note about this interview: This interview was modeled after Pitchfork’s 5-10-15-20 interview series. I had initially asked Jim O’Rourke to pick something that defined his life at five year intervals. He told me that everything that had largest impact on him happened earlier in his life, so I agreed to have him choose 10 events or pieces of art (music or otherwise) regardless of his age at the time. The following interview is presented with these ten events that O’Rourke emailed me as headers. While we used these topics to guide our discussion, other stories are mentioned as well. Please read chronologically. At the end of the interview please find a list of 25 albums that Jim personally recommends people check out.
Joshua Minsoo Kim: Hello?
Jim O’Rourke: Hello! Hi, how are you?
I'm good. How are you?
I’m doing fine.
This is a bit funny, but 20 minutes ago my SD card got corrupted,which is kind of horrifying because I had to reformat it and I lost some—
Do you need some time?
Oh, no, it’s fine! It’s fine now. It's just a bummer because I lost a couple interviews that I failed to backup, which, lesson learned now.
Are they things that hadn’t been published yet?
Yeah, they hadn't been published yet. So I'm gonna have to talk with the artists again, and I’d really hate to burden them with that.
(in a playful tone like that of a psychic) Do I see another interview in my future? (laughter).
No, no, we should be good! The SD card is good now and the whole memory is wiped, so we can talk for dozens of hours if you want.
Oh, goodness. I see a long interview in my future (laughter).
Ha, it doesn't need to be super long.
Where do you live?
I'm actually in a suburb of Chicago.
Oh, goodness gracious. Don't tell me Elgin!
(laughs) Ah, not in Elgin, no.
God, not Schaumburg.
Ha, I live around Schaumburg!
NOOO! You’re doomed, get the hell out of there!
(laughs) Well, I’m a teacher and also teach in the North Shore, in Skokie.
Oh, God almighty! You're hitting all the hot spots. Schaumburg!
(laughs) Do you have any specific thoughts on Schaumburg?
I spent way too much time in Schaumburg. Oh boy oh boy oh boy.
What sort of stuff do you associate with Schaumburg?
Schaumburg was sort of the center of the tape, cassette noise scene in the ‘80s. That's where all the noise bands from Chicago kind of… what would you call something that grows like a mold? (laughter).
happy birthday Oren
What felt impossible has become thinkable. The spring of 2020 is suggestive of how much, and how quickly, we can change as a civilization.
The critic Raymond Williams once wrote that every historical period has its own “structure of feeling.” How everything seemed in the nineteen-sixties, the way the Victorians understood one another, the chivalry of the Middle Ages, the world view of Tang-dynasty China: each period, Williams thought, had a distinct way of organizing basic human emotions into an overarching cultural system. Each had its own way of experiencing being alive.
In mid-March, in a prior age, I spent a week rafting down the Grand Canyon. When I left for the trip, the United States was still beginning to grapple with the reality of the coronavirus pandemic. Italy was suffering; the N.B.A. had just suspended its season; Tom Hanks had been reported ill. When I hiked back up, on March 19th, it was into a different world. I’ve spent my life writing science-fiction novels that try to convey some of the strangeness of the future. But I was still shocked by how much had changed, and how quickly.
Schools and borders had closed; the governor of California, like governors elsewhere, had asked residents to begin staying at home. But the change that struck me seemed more abstract and internal. It was a change in the way we were looking at things, and it is still ongoing. The virus is rewriting our imaginations. What felt impossible has become thinkable. We’re getting a different sense of our place in history. We know we’re entering a new world, a new era. We seem to be learning our way into a new structure of feeling.
Through this open call, ARGOS strongly seeks to support atypical audiovisual works that might otherwise be difficult or impossible to realise. We hope that our unique institutional context, one that engages the entire life cycle of audiovisual artworks, from their inception to their archiving, provides a stimulating framework for artists to work in.
The format of an open call is a new one for ARGOS, but we are trying to organise it as straightforwardly as possible.
We look forward to reading your submissions!
Deadline: 30 June 2020, 14:00, BXL time.
View all guidelines here.
EXPERIMENT 120 is a YouTube playlist proposed by the artist and curator Marie-Pierre Bonniol, presenting 120 years of experimental films for children and young people in 22 films, most of them being very short (between 1 and 4 minutes), and which can be watched from the age of 7. The films can be enjoyed by people of all languages.
Intended for a primary school and a creative centre for young people in the Berlin district of Neukölln during the schools closure period April 2020, as it can be watched from any home, this playlist explores several researches of the experimental abstract cinema, essentially in animation, whether in the form of arrangements and compositions of forms (René Jodoin), or shorter stories, with a magical treatment, where humour is present (Georges Melies, La Linea). Film, the mythical cinematographic medium, is also present, with experiments carried out by several artists directly on tapes in the 40s, 50s and 60s (Harry Smith, Stan Brakhage).
Often, the treatment of the image with sound is extremely important, as in the compositions of Norman McLaren. The poems are optical (Oskar Fischinger), the colours are hypnotic (Len Lye) and with the apparition of the computer, new forms of works are appearing in the 70s.
This playlist, which is historical and established with the collaboration of a 7 years old child, goes right up to the most recent years in a panorama showing many varieties of writings and treatments which is, we hope, poetic and inspiring, inviting in turn to make one’s own films, offering another relationship to images.
EXPERIMENT 120 is a playlist established by Marie-Pierre Bonniol (ZKM entry), in collaboration with Walter Duncan, April 2020. It’s presented by Studio Walter, a creative structure based in Berlin Neukölln, in partnership with Cool Marbles Stuff, computer animation creative programme for children.
This playlist Experiment 120 is a not-for-profit proposition.
MEAKUSMA FESTIVAL 2020
Given the current global Corona crisis, we have decided to cancel the Meakusma Festival 2020 that was supposed to take place from September 4th to September 6th. It is not easy to take such a decision, but we feel we have no choice.
Although the reasons for canceling seem obvious, we would like to quickly touch upon some of the thoughts behind the decision we have taken.
The Belgian government has decided to forbid all big festivals this summer up to August 31st. The Meakusma Festival does not categorize as a big festival, but since our festival site features many small rooms for concerts and performances, rooms that do not allow social distancing, we feel it unwise to go ahead. Small, packed rooms to experience an intimate concert or a club set are very much part of the Meakusma Festival. It is still unclear whether the ban imposed by the Belgian government will also be applied to smaller festivals, but our focus is on the safety of our audience and performing artists. We feel we cannot guarantee their well-being in the current circumstances, so we prefer not to put them at risk.
Another aspect is that it is still unclear which measures will be taken by other countries. Our audience and artist roster have always been very international, as they would have again been this year. Depending on whether people can travel from their country to Belgium and on sudden changes that might take place in the measures taken by countries all over the world, is a liability too big to take for us as a festival. All measures taken worldwide right now also make organizing a festival aiming at international appeal close to impossible.
We are working on some alternatives to the festival. We will inform you about those in due time.
Not to dwell on the past or surrender to melancholy, but we would like to share with you the Meakusma Festival 2019 film made by Thomas Tourtellier. The film takes an impressionist and highly personal stance on the what the Meakusma Festival is. We feel it captures its spirit.
When it comes to ticket refunds, there are a few options. People who have already purchased a ticket can get a full ticket refund through the ticketing website, ticket booking fee included. It is also possible to carry over tickets bought for the 2020 festival to 2021. The 2021 Meakusma Festival will take place from September 3rd to September 5th. We would of course appreciate tickets being carried over to 2021, for financial and other reasons, but for those of you who find 2021 too far ahead to plan, the full ticket refund is of course available.
Our sympathy goes to those fighting this global crisis and to people whose health and economic situation have been impacted by it. We would also like to mention our appreciation for all those people in jobs providing services, from the postal service to shops and more. It is thanks to those people that the music industry in general, and the more underground part of it specifically,
are managing to at least generate an income, allowing many people to still see a future for themselves in music and art.
Although we are deeply saddened not to be able to organize a festival this year, we feel that given the current situation, organizing a festival is not a priority.
Here is to hoping that things go back to normal soon and that we can all see each other at the Meakusma Festival in 2021. Stay safe! Be well!
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
During my childhood, music was omnipresent at home. I learned to play the violin and the clarinet from an early age and I started going to concerts with my parents when I was very young. All of this made me curious and made me want to invent music: I have always considered the world of sounds as a space of freedom.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
I spent a lot of time working on my instrument (bass clarinet) while studying classical music. During these years, I had the chance to approach a wide range of music (from classical music in orchestra to improvisation through chamber music and music with electronics) and to play the music of many composers (Morton Feldman, Steve Reich, Luc Ferrari, Terry Riley, David Lang, Henri Pousseur, Stockhausen ...). I also had the opportunity to take music analysis courses. These courses allowed me to understand what tools composers use to create music.
Once the conservatory was over, I started wanting to make electronic music only using my bass clarinet. So I started to work with effect pedals and loops - and there I discovered a world. By mixing these sounds and different composition techniques, I found myself making the music that I had always dreamt of making.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
In the beginning, I was looking into the possibilities of using effect pedals. The more time advances, the more I am focused on the music itself. I still use effect pedals, but I try to use them as a full-fledged instrument, not as something that I add to my instrument.