Monday, July 9, 2012

Catching Up With Maria Neckam The Unison Interview!

 Unison is a magnificent release, incredibly original and inventive while sidestepping every possible sub genre known to mankind. Tell us about the origin of Unison. While making Unison were you conscious of any commercial pressure or was this more of a creative labor of love as it would appear to be?

M.N. - "Unison is my 2nd Sunnyside release and the 2nd album I recorded here in the US. Some of the songs already existed when I recorded Deeper, some of them were written later. It reflects my life and the changes I’ve gone through ever since I moved to New York in 2005, and also the different genres of music I’ve been exploring. That’s why this album is probably even harder to fit into any category than the ones before, and I didn’t try to make it fit either. In the past I might have thought that you could plan things logically, and if you figured out the perfect strategy, you would get the specific results you hoped for. I realized, though, that life is much more complicated than this and that our minds can’t comprehend every aspect of how things are interrelated. Therefore, I decided to simply follow my guts this time and record the music the way it felt right to me.
I guess if you wanted a classification, it would be alternative pop meets jazz & contemporary classical."

There are "spiritual" overtones given in some of the material on Unison.  As a Buddhist, did they come into play in either your lyrics or in the music or creative process in any way? There is a very positive spiritual sound mixed with an incredibly organic musical presentation, while still retaining a sense of grandeur and mystery.

M.N - "My Buddhist practice makes me reflect on why I do things. As an artist, it’s very  tempting to live in my own little cosmos and create out of suffering. We artists like to suffer, because for some reason it helps us create something that feels honest and profound. But in daily life, it’s not very pleasant to be suffering all the time. Buddhism is about transforming “poison into medicine”, suffering into joy, creating value out of every situation. So at some point you have to ask yourself, ‘Am I creating value here?’ and ‘Do I want to live my whole life like this, longing for something or someone I don’t have, feeling pity for myself?’. My answer was no. I realized that what we experience as “real” and “sincere” a lot of times is based on our emotions, but our emotions are based on how we view the world, which is based on our experiences, upbringing etc. … karma. What is “real” is actually deeper than our emotions. So my attitude has shifted, and my goal is now to always give something – hope, inspiration, a fresh perspective – for people to feel enriched and empowered through my music. That is why it’s become hard for me to write something that’s defeatist or dark. Of course we all experience darkness too, but I don’t ever want to send off my audience without at least one beam of light to hold on to. I sincerely believe that there is nothing we cannot transform into something positive."

 Your vocal blend with the musicians is "as one".Normally the band is an afterthought with most vocalists. With you it seems instinctive. Does this come naturally with the right people or is it simply the result of some really hard work or ... maybe both?

M.N. - "I think it is mostly about awareness, paying attention to details (listening) and being in the moment. I really care about a musician’s personal sound, style and energy. That’s how I choose who to ask for my band. My own voice is just one more personal sound, a piece of the whole. That is something my composition teacher, Nils Vigeland, has been emphasizing with me a lot. “Don’t just write a note, only write a note if you know who’s going to play it.” This is something he has learned from his teacher, Morton Feldman.
I was also very inspired by Schönberg’s concept of writing parts for instruments in an unusual (uncomfortable) range, in order to create a different sound. I like to switch up the roles of instruments and make people stretch their boundaries. It brings out something raw and honest, and it brings the band members closer together, because we’re all struggling equally."