Followers of Whitelabrecs in the last couple of years will likely be familiar with the work of anonymous composer Glåsbird, whose works embark on a sonic travel from one perilously cold location to the next. This year, all being well, there will be an expedition to Sardinia to retrace the steps of writer D.H Lawrence and this will culminate into a documentary film.
The project is being run by photographer and film director Daniele Marzeddu and Glåsbird has agreed to write the music as a soundtrack. The pairing is a great fit, with Glåsbird showing an ability to capture the essence of a place, to channel the environment into the senses of the listener.
Glåsbird has kept a pretty low profile, allowing the mystery and rumours to circulate. Recently they gave their first interview after being active for a couple of years and this was with Italian site AW Artmag: https://www.awartmag.com/en/node/253
We’ve translated the interview for you to read and hopefully gain a little insight into Glåsbird and their work with Return to Sea and Sardinia:
(1).Noticing that you are inspired by imaginary trips and, especially trips to remote islands, I’d like to know more about your background as composer?
From the beginning, my journey creating music goes back many years. I started experimenting with electronic music. It was a noisy, musique concrete sound, as I messed about with handheld recorders, field recordings and anything that made a sound. Over the years I’ve collected lots of instruments and built an extensive collection of digital sound libraries. My music has already been released on a few labels before I started working with Whitelabrecs in 2018 and I decided to just do something completely new and completely anonymous. The whole idea to complete a series of travel based albums just came to me, the name for the artist and everything else just seemed to fall into place one day. My approach to making music changed completely too as I wanted to sound different to my more renowned artist name. I wanted to focus more on creating the stirring moods one can hear in film music. I think a big thing central to Glåsbird projects is all the research I do into my themes. For an album on a location I’ll look at film, photography and maps as well as explore Google Earth for a few hours. I’ll try to understand the culture too and will look to see if I can buy cheap acoustic instruments specific to the area. I don’t think I’ll ever get to visit these sorts of places, so making a soundtrack is my way of connecting with these wonderful places and help bring them closer to me and others too. Maybe it can bring to life the fact that there’s an enormous world out there, full of delicate eco systems which are being damaged.
In terms of composing, so far my work has been used in some documentaries and film as well as a short advert. But I did not compose something new for these. So the Return to Sea and Sardinia project is my first opportunity to do this.
2) How would you describe the influence of travel literature and visual arts on your music?
I must admit, I’m not much of a reader. I certainly don’t tend to read fiction books. Not because I don’t like them, I guess I’ve always got something else to do with music and don’t get much time to get my head into a book. That being said, I do find geography and the Earth to be so fascinating and all of this plays a part in my work. I’m currently reading Sea and Sardinia for the first time and I love how descriptive Lawrence is in his writing. He brings it all to life – if I can get anywhere near as evocative with the compositions I make then it will be a real achievement.
Visual art for me is something which definitely inspires me. Both film and photography; particularly landscape photography. I remember in the early 2000s many ambient album artwork covers were landscape images and I really loved these! People started to get a bit fed up of them but I’m pleased that Whitelabrecs have been able to find some wonderful photographers who capture beautiful landscapes! We wanted to use scenes that the listener could really put themselves into as a window into each location.
As for film, I find that I am able to draw inspiration from most top quality movies. Particularly slow moving crime dramas. However, I do tend to get lost in a sense of atmosphere and the sound too, so I often miss the point of a storyline!
3) How much, in your opinion, Ennio Morricone’s work has marked a boundary in music compositing?
I think the bar that Morricone has set is extraordinary. He was so prolific and devoted his whole life to composing but what makes his work all the more impressive, is that he seems to have been able to have turned his hand to anything. Each time, with new ideas which are still unmistakably his. He was able to score for westerns and became a signature sound in this movie genre, he was at home writing music for comedy – yet he could produce haunting or beautiful compositions too. I think he had the background of performing and being a student of music which many modern composers do not always start from these days (me included). He used that as a platform to have an incredible career which has covered so much ground. To answer the question, the one boundary he has shown us, is that there aren’t boundaries or limits to what you can achieve.
4) What did you find particularly attractive when you took the decision to take on this assignment following the legacy of DH Lawrence?
I had already been really keen to compose music for a film from scratch, to test myself in this regard. But when Daniele first contacted me, the fact that the composition will be based around retracing a journey from history, in a curious island named Sardinia it just seemed too perfect to turn down. I find a clear concept or idea to be really important when I am writing music and this gives me the passion and energy to create. What’s more, I am able to approach this in a way which almost feels like a part of the ‘sonic expedition’ series I am working my way through. I am not likely to be able to visit Sardinia any time soon. Whilst I’ve been to Italy, I don’t know much about Sardinia so this is a chance to put in motion my thirst to learn and I am already making good progress in transcribing my thoughts into music.
5) How can you describe your cinematic sounds of Sea, Sicily and Sardinia (Ennio’s Muse) and what’s your perception of an imaginary trip across those lands in 2021?
Daniele and Harry (from Whitelabrecs) came up with the theme of making cinematic music, based around an image taken near to Sardinia. I like how the artists invited will all have their own ideas and interpretations of the same theme and I imagine this album will be a kind of imaginary soundtrack to the journey taken to get to the beginning of the actual journey. The piece I’ve created makes use of silence in places, as the strings and piano keys fade down. I am more than a bit influenced by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson it’s fair to say and he’d often talk about what happens in the space between notes. I used these rises and falls in places on my most recent album Novaya Zemlya, so this felt like a good place to pick up from.
The title of the track is Lavender Sea in Italian and it takes on a term Lawrence used to describe the sea as he set off on his journey towards Sardinia. This compilation album feels like the start of an exciting journey ahead of us in which we hope to create a beautiful work of art and it’s a great idea to try to raise a bit of money to hopefully make this happen. The sea is more than a bit fierce at times and its scale and enormity can be very unnerving. Especially for me as I can’t swim! I hope some of the drama in Lavanda di Mare gets this across. Lawrence referred to this particular stretch of sea as ‘Lavender Sea’ also suggesting a hope, promise or beauty. So I tried to contrast the drama in the track with a bitter sweetness. I also thought that I would really limit the use of electronics or ambient soundscaping effects in this piece, as I wanted to try to make it into more of a classical feel, to think back to 1921 before we had synthesisers and sine waves.