Up last July, Jorge Bastes’ The Amplified Sounds of Tiny Insects (2039, Huge Acoustics), has been on top of world media charts for a record 7 months with no sign of rips letting up. Since Hsu Chien Hui’s seminal Hale Bop recording, Tracing Eggs Everywhere (2036, SonyDisney), the popularity of macro and micro sound arrangements have been growing steadily. But Bastes’ new work has catapulted the colored music movement firmly into the mainstream. Many, myself included, are hoping Insects is the long awaited deathblow to a melodic age grown stale.

I had a chance to sit down with Bastes a couple days ago while he was touring India. The full interview is available to subs, just think it.

How do you react to critics who say TASTI is nothing more than a nature recording multiplied by hype?

People really say that? Wow. I wonder if they have even listened to it, let alone used the different ears it comes with.

Well it is hard to avoid these days.

{laughs} Yes, I suppose it is. Well, I certainly considered traditional nature recordings while engineering it, but I find the differences quite stark. Nature recordings, even when they were still recorded outdoors, were always about nostalgia, about some yearning we still harbor to, like, sleep in trees and hear creatures buzzing around us. Tiny Insects is devoid of such nostalgia since people have never been able, at least unassisted, to listen to the creaking of an ant’s mandible or the booming poof of a pheromonal release. So while the sounds are indeed from nature, they are fantastic at the same time.

When you say “from nature” you don’t mean literally, right? Some subs might be new to how something like Insects is made.

Well, all the sounds you hear are the result of programs written by the good folks at Huge Acoustics. The sounds are modeled after careful observation of live insects and their parts. It is impossible for anyone, even someone who spent a lifetime studying these sounds, to tell the difference between a real insect and what Huge was able to create. What I do is play these programs using Knott tips and a ball I fabbed myself.

Have you ever wanted to make a work without modeling, to do something like Tracing Eggs?

Everyone looks up to Hsu. She is the one who showed us how working with a good lab really opens up the possibilities of a, you know, what’s possible {laughs}. She is the Venter of this whole Massive Art Movement. However, I would argue that her work is not quite as natural as her reps present it. Tracing Eggs was promoted as though it was the result of a tiny microphone following Bop around. But, I mean, the sound of the comet is still being captured by a microphone, which has its own idiosyncrasies, and of course she had to drastically pitch up the frequencies for it to be audible at all. I think, if you want to talk natural, Paul Blades' Capillary Room installation is more transparent, like technologically. I don’t want to give the wrong impression, I am a big fan of Hsu.

As for working without modeling, I don’t see why I would. Nothing is lost with modeling and you have all the flexibility. I guess there is a randomness in nonmodeled works that is charming but at the end of the day you are selecting the randomness anyway. And it's not like programs don't produce random results.

How are you liking India?

So far it has been great. It is amazing how many people tune into a show, we had nearly half a billion a couple nights ago, with nearly ten thousand at the actual show.

What’s the live show like?

Well it is different every night. It never comes off the same. I am working with an incredible freestyle animator, Douglas Abtahi. What he does is so awesome, sometimes I have to look away while I am performing or else I forget what’s going on, like where I am. It's not easy to keep working when you feel like you are falling into a spider's spigots. Abtahi's partner, Maiko Tanaka, who does the sensory stuff, is pretty amazing as well. People seem to dig her work.

So you are on while you perform?

I tune in to Abtahi's visuals, since we are playing off each other, but I haven’t had a chance to have the full experience of one my India shows yet. Even the visuals are only sent to one eye. I am pretty jealous of the audience really. They have all this great stuff just soaking them and I am just trying to keep the sound portion coming. It can be a lot of work. I really look forward to when the tour is done, when I can just sit down in my apartment and get to see what I have been a part of this past month {laughs}.

That sounds like quite a show, any chance of you bringing it up to America?

I would love to, I really would. But America, while producing some great work, doesn’t really have facilities for a proper performance. We would have to scale it down too much for it to be worth it. But you know, Huge will make all this available very soon, I am sure on the day the tour is finished. And then people with Blue Systems will be able to a have a pretty comparable experience to what is going on in India.

One more question Jorge, I know you are a busy guy. A couple years back you were quoted as saying, “Melody is Dead”. Is that something you still feel today?

Ah, the Melody is Dead question. Usually you folks lead with that. Look, it is not for me to say how someone expresses themselves. If you feel there is something to be said using the tempered European scale, then I say do it. Personally, it is not for me. These scales were always forced and it's obvious that our brains are not keying into them in the same way as they used to. The brain expansion, while not fully understood, is definitely happening and it makes sense that the world's tastes are going to change along with the expansion. This is a good thing, to have a more flexible concept of harmony. To find harmonies instead of reacting to them. This is a freedom we should all be happy about. And really, I think raising children on outmoded sound scapes, through lullabies or “classical” music, is a little cruel. It stunts their potential to appreciate all the harmonies they will come across in their lives.

I couldn’t agree more Jorge. Thank you for your time. Thanks a lot.

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