SAUN SANTIPREECHA'S 'DANDELYE'
SAUN SANTIPREECHA is a composer and sound artist from Thailand whose work often explores the inescapable interiority of experience and those singular moments which cast a shadow across the plain of one’s existence, examining and questioning this from a multitude of angles. On a thematic level, these inquiries resonate outwards towards exploring the relationship between ourselves and nature through technology, creating a sonic womb within which opposites, reflections and refractions bounce back and forth, often juxtaposing moments in time to create an impression of timelessness and allowing the audience to engage in both internal and external dialogue. Aside from his solo work, he often collaborates with artists from various fields including filmmakers, singer-songwriters, fashion designers and writers.
What is your favorite part from your latest single?
My latest single Dandelye, like all my pieces thus far, is instrumental. I’m still grappling with how I would want to interact with lyrics in my practice. I have recorded my mother reciting her poetry so I’d like to involve that in a work, or rather create a work that would become one with that but I doubt that it will be sung in the traditional manner.
What kind of pull did you feel about making the single?
Dandelye, which takes its name from the album title, is in many ways the centerpiece of the album, or the culmination. I tend to conceive of albums, at least In a Forest Dark and Dandelye, as multi-movement pieces, like a symphonic poem of sorts. There’s usually always a trajectory within the work that connects the pieces though not always internally narrative. In a Forest Dark was more narrative as that’s a large part of where I come from but Dandelye was more figurative. The piece Dandelye is a culmination of various threads that have been woven previously in the album, such as the growth of the vocal percussive elements into a more choral effect. The ‘sculptures’ from Among Broken Sculptures returns and is developed in this piece. Also the piano motif from Conjoined Time returns at the end. In terms of pull, it’s just a general feeling I had in mind while working on the album. I’m interested in threads coming together, or remaining isolated, being contorted, distorted and juxtaposed. So really it came out of those notions and a kind of gut feeling.
Are all your sessions collaborative or do you go off on your own? Do you have a preference?
No, most of them, particularly for all my solo work, is done on my own though not necessarily in the studio. Wandering, driving, doing other things—life in general—is a very important part of letting ideas gestate and is a crucial counterbalance to working in the studio. In the case of Dandelye, I did a number of field recordings up in the Angeles Crest mountains which played a big role, both sonically and artistically, in the growth and development of this album. Discussions with friends and other artists is also a big part of the process. It’s part of that being within and without which is so important I think. The work comes in layers and the more you allow it to gestate and yourself to also grow as a person and artist, the more layers you can hopefully work into the piece. I do enjoy collaborations as well but those tend to be a different type of project and process. I’m currently working with a few different artists on various collaborations and of course it depends on the artist and project but it can range from having a musical dialogue back and forth to me responding to a finished song and creating/producing a world for it, or creating an entirely new imagining of a song, like a remix but not necessarily with the genre trappings of what remix usually implies.
Do you ever compare the work you bring to the table?
Oh inevitably but I try not to let it bother me too much. Of course it’s natural for us to compare and see where our work fits into general forms or genres but I try to not overthink that and focus on what I’m trying to convey and express with the work. In terms of comparing it with my previous work, it’s more interesting just to look back and see what I’ve done, how my thought process or thought system has changed, or not, etc. Evaluating it, seeing what I can do better now, where I want to develop and grow. Particularly useful is seeing what wasn’t working or wasn’t working as well with an old work. It’s a big part of being able to grow from them. It’s very tempting to compare one’s work now with something in the past, particularly if that had some kind of success, and want to work within that mold or to replicate it in some way and that is disastrous. I spent a year after In a Forest Dark trying to create more work ‘within that world’ but it ultimately led nowhere and was derivative. So I had to leave it and go off to do other things, work on my then-book, read, grow, before I was able to return to music with a fresher perspective. Now I would say I’ve developed a system that can allow me to move forward more quickly so I’m grateful for that. But it’s still always a kind of shedding with each project. Once it’s done, it’s about finding your way further, somewhere else, though inevitably of course there will always be things one is preoccupied with that remains somewhere within one’s work.
What is standard practice when it comes to if the song is really finished?
Usually an escalating sense of tension and anxiety in the minutiae of the work. I get very obsessed and paranoid with details which tends to signify I’m close to finishing the work because then I start asking myself, ‘is this change really going to improve the piece? Is it helping me get closer to the initial ideas of the piece or simply changing it?’. Once I can answer that the changes are only going to change it and not help hone it in to clarifying the presentation of the idea then I know I’m done.
What was the goal for making the latest track?
A lot of what I’m interested in is the juxtaposition of opposites, even extremes at times. I’m interested in evoking something that I can imagine an intense gaze can evoke or capture, or like looking at a painting that is staring straight at you or perhaps even through you. The artist Maggi Hambling I think put it best that the purpose of art is ‘to bring life and death together’. It’s not to say that Dandelye achieves this, or necessarily was trying to do that, but it’s an evocative and compelling expression of art which has really struck me and captures that sense of containing opposites within a piece. I think that is the continued search with each project.
Challenges to the new music that no one would know about?
Each piece has its challenges. This particular one was interesting in that I was trying to find a space to settle into, at least for the project. I was trying to find a place that could house the opposites, or seemingly opposites I had and felt within and which I think we all feel and go through. It’s still something I’m searching for musically and sonically and with some hindsight to Dandelye I’ve recognized things I would change or I think I could do better now, or conceive of better.
Favorite memory in the making of this music?
Playing the fragments for my mother. It was wonderful to get to share the fragments with her throughout the process and play it for her here in the studio. Of course no one else would have been able to hear the development from the beginning to where it ended up, though like I said, things tend to develop in layers so I think it was mostly the layering and finessing of things. The project also grew from what was originally a kind of triptych into the six tracks that are there now.
Is there anything off the table when it comes to bringing yourselves into your music?
No not at all. Everything goes into it and I think it has to. But of course there’s also a fine line in whether you’re able to find an external focus to hang things on or whether it’s completely internalized. I think there really has to be both in co-existence—the internal and external—something external to oneself on which to hang one’s artistic exploration.
Leave us on a high note! And share some good news!
I’ve begun on my next project which is a series of musical/sound portraits of people I know. I’ve had this idea for a long time now, having a deep love of Francis Bacon and in particular his portraits. I’d been wondering and wanting to explore what a portrait would sound like, approaching it in perhaps a similar or inspired way to how he was able to capture so incredibly the essence of his subject but also retain resemblances of their physicality somewhere within as well. Of course there are major differences in the medium of visual art and music, particularly in the temporal sense, but nonetheless, it’s an exciting starting point for me. It’s also particularly personal for me as my background was originally in the visual arts and I’ve always thought of music and sound in painting terms so diving more fully into it through these lenses is very exciting.