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Cherishing Sensitivity in the Age Of Kali

words T.
27 October 2022
Kali Malone by Joshua Hourigan

Cherishing Sensitivity in the Age Of Kali

Texy by T.

“If circumstances allow, I usually meditate before playing an organ concert because it is essential to be in a meditative state to achieve the intense level of focus required for the counting system I use.”

Kali Malone

English playwright Bill Congreve quipped ever so eloquently that "music hath charms to soothe the savage breast, to soften rocks or bend a knotted oak".

Great compositions heighten your senses and sensitivity to the complexities of life and of individuals.

It prevents you from the self-righteousness that sees morality in fixed formulas about good and evil, with the cherishing of sensitivity being the fabric that keeps things alive in a world that has essentially become dysfunctional, chronically dissatisfied and emotionally disabled.

There is something gorgeous about the conception of the music Kali Malone creates.

The aforementioned sensitivity to the promises of life is hard-wired into her oeuvre as if she were related to one of those intricate seismographs that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away.

With the creation of both sensory and emotional resonances being a central tenet of her creative process, Kali balances a carefully calibrated rational, disciplined cornucopian application to creating music with the tumultuous nature that is equally present in the lion’s share of her compositions.

The form of Kali Malone’s compositions seems to follow function organically in a stochastic fashion fuelled by an inherent urge to uncover a musical expression that reveals something intimate and touching in both, the creator and the recipient, through osmosis.

The result enables the recipient’s mind to become an integral constituent that is encouraged to actively discover, interpret and interact with the music every time afresh, thereby adding layered, incalculable new dimensions that unveil themselves not unlike an afterthought.

This approach and subtle involvement of the listener allows the respective pieces to ferment, evolve, permutate and serve as a source of inspiration for new pieces, opening new worlds to amalgamations of concepts, meanings and connotations forming around it.

A meditative, mindful post-cathartic state is not merely one of the intended outcomes but appears to be the prerequisite for the channelling of her alchemy, down to the alignment of her breathing with the rhythmical structure of the pieces, which creates an organic transcending congruence with the music.

As far as instrumentation is concerned, apart from Brutalist unadorned blocks of sounds and austere drones that are flanked by minimalist melodies, the pipe organ holds a significant reference point in Kali Malone’s oeuvre. An instrument that is more often than not found within the congregation places of religious communities and culturally linked to the church, which for secular artists at times can result in the necessity to engaging in challenging, diplomatic processes to access it. Never falling prey to adopting such contexts thematically, Kali often addresses such connotations with critique through the titling of her sonic emissions.

T: What would you consider as being fundamental for the conception of the music you create?

Kali Malone: Cherish sensitivity.

T: How do you balance a rational, disciplined generative approach to creating music versus the free form and at times chaotic nature that seems to be equally inherent in some of your musical productions?

KM: There are many unexpected expressions and consequences to using rational and generative approaches, and many outcomes that fall outside the projected scope of control. If I have the discipline to follow the structure, there’s potential for incredible moments to happen that I couldn't have predicted, but it all depends if I am open to perceiving those moments when they occur. If I am so focused on achieving a preordained endpoint, I can miss these instances and only notice them later when reviewing shelved sketches with a fresh mind. While I generally have this structuralist and generative approach to composition, I constantly chisel away at that structure to uncover a musical expression that reveals something sincere and personal to me. Technology and mathematics are just a means to self-discovery. It's a tool I use but not the defining theme of the work.

T: Coming from a background of improvised music, how important is it for you these days to base your composition on structured frameworks? Is it more important to create something new or achieve an intended outcome?

KM: I can never fully understand the outcome of the structure until it's finished and sounding. I must listen many times to begin to understand all of the nuances. So when it finally locks into place, it sounds new and fresh to me. It is usually more surprising to me than if I was improvising and linearly creating moment by moment. The technique I use unfolds in a non-linear way, where the sound world is suddenly in existence. Then through listening and observation, I can identify the meaning, syntax, depths, and connections.

T: Given the at times highly conceptual and mathematical character of your compositions and the intense concentration that is needed to perform them accurately in a live environment, does the intense focus aid in achieving a meditative state?

KM: If circumstances allow, I usually meditate before playing an organ concert because it is essential to be in a meditative state to achieve the intense level of focus required for the counting system I use. While playing these pieces I need to be observant but not emotionally affected or swept away in a deep listening state. I try to regulate my breathing with the rhythmical structures of the pieces. This helps to keep calm and oxygenated while playing, and it also helps me stay connected to the pattern. When I notice outside thoughts sneaking in, I know it's time to wrap up the piece before making a mistake.

The lengths of the pieces are adjustable and generally determined by how long I can stay in that headspace. 

“If I have the discipline to follow the structure, there’s potential for incredible moments to happen that I couldn't have predicted, but it all depends if I am open to perceiving those moments when they occur.”

Kali Malone

T: While there might be no preordained endpoint for your compositions, how do you decide when they are ready to be unleashed to the public?

KM: There's a moment quite quickly after the structure comes together when I know it's locked in. This sometimes happens on the first day of writing, before I have recorded or made sonic tests of anything. Once that part is settled, I can be very patient and even wait years before getting the correct recording and instrument for a piece. During this period, the piece brews and starts to permutate and inspire new pieces, then suddenly a hybrid system of music forms around it. One thing that I often obsess over until the music is released is the tempo. I have to listen a lot and experiment with my own sense of memory to figure out how slow or fast a piece can be before the pattern and energy momentum become too explicit. I want the listener to actively discover the music every time they listen and feel that it is a miracle of their own mind when they identify the keystone moments.

Kali Malone’s recently released album Living Torch was incepted before the onset of the pandemic and finalised a year later at the historical electroacoustic Ina GRM Studio in Paris.

The piece was originally a multichannel commission for GRM Studio’s Acousmoniom, i.e. a sound diffusion system comprised of eighty loudspeakers of differing size and shape designed for tape playback devoted to pure listening arranged with a view to immersion in sound.

True premonitions tend to grow in profundities where our thoughts rarely venture and sometimes they make us do things with significance that we totally misconstrue.

Holding significance as a personal landmark, Living Torch feels more than ever like harbouring a wealth of premonitions in that everything is revealed beforehand but only to those with ears to hear.

In this case, premonitions become the stimulus to novelty of experience in the compositional process which is no swift-burning spark but a sun continuously exploding into a joyous dawn before the shade deepens; merging everything into lunacy for those who do not flee from the thought of death into triviality.

Informed by the gravitational pull of premonitions, fine-tuning follows in humility and the awareness of that what is past may not be forever lost to compose things into existence.

Living Torch feels like it was formed from hallucinations and obsessional images only Kali Malone can see, which she sculpts not unlike an archaeologist, dusting it off to reveal its mass.

With archaeology and music, context is everything. With tunes being all around, Kali’s skills as a musician are enhanced by computational and algorithmic tools to pick them out without breaking them.

Through distressing geometries, a unique structural form and harmonies at the crux of the spiritual and sensual, Living Torch sheds light on silence to create something that may be salvaged from the wreck of ages, modern music, minimalism, musique concrète and Kali’s idiosyncratic own worlds to reveal a wealth of knowledge and experience.

Featuring a complex electroacoustic ensemble and leafing through recordings from conventional instruments to more experimental machines like the boîte à bourdon, which are subsequently passed through sinewave generators and synthesizers, Living Torch weaves its own intense history, its own genealogy at the crossroads of tuned harmony, canonical structures and one informed by the DNA of its architect, which evokes through repetitive motions a stunning depth of focus culminating in the polyphony of unique timbres.

Photography Joshua Hourigan

Makeup Yulya Zalesskaya

Hair Maxime Allegro

Producer Annabel Blue

Words T.

Archival Comme des Garçons and Issey Miyake from dot COMME

A special thank you to Hampus at Saint Esprit Church, Paris

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SEE ISSUE #06 HERE. The theme for this issue, Revelations, delves into the unfiltered aspects of life. It’s an appreciation and exploration of raw beauty, where authenticity reigns supreme; the unconventional is not just accepted but celebrated. In a world of manufactured perfection, this issue chooses to validate our quirks and idiosyncrasies. After all, they are what make us inimitable.

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