Interview: Anna Friz

Interview: Anna Friz


Anna Friz
is a sound and radio artist based in Montreal.

  • artist biography
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    Interviw: 10 questions

    1. When did you start making music, what is/was your motivation to do it?

    I first started making music very spontaneously– singing along to my parents’ records when I was five years old, and making up new words and variations on the tune. Through most of my teens I played music more formally (flute lessons, high school band). I reclaimed the spontanaeity of music and improvisation when I taught myself to play blues harmonica on a ferry between Prince Rupert and the Haida Gwaii Islands on the northwest coast of Canada, and this still characterizes the kind of informal expressive approach I still use.

    2. Tell me something about your living environment and the musical education.

    As mentioned above, I did take music lessons, learned basic music theory and notation, but I didn’t learn to really tune my ear through improvisation until I was in my 20s, playing “folk” instruments and combining folk elements with abstract sounds, field recordings, noise, etc. At the moment I live in a large city, and my work tends to reflect that in terms of themes and sonic density. When I escape to the wilderness I return to singing, but have no urge to make other music.

    3.Is making music your profession? What is the context in which you practice music nowadays?

    For the past 3 or 4 years I have been earning most of my living through sound creation. That includes radio art programmes for public radio, live performances, installations, and community radio interventions. I have recently returned to graduate school to do a Ph.D. at York University, Toronto, where I am making art among social scientists. This situates my work somewhere between artist-run culture, community radio, pirate radio, public radio and academe.

    4. How do you compose or create music or sound? Have you certain principles, use certain styles etc?

    Each project is different. I do try to manipulate sound as much as possible outside of a computer– that is, to use analogue means to affect voices, filter or degrade the signal. This might include recording through baby monitors or walkie-talkies, using old reel-to-reel tape, adding effects with various old guitar pedals, recording in the bathtub, etc. I make a lot of sound from radio static, so I spend hours listening to shortwave and composing by flipping and “scratching” the dial.

    5. Tell me something about the instruments, technical equipment or tools you use?

    Ever since I put pick-ups in my accordion, the accordion has really become a source of sound for me– melodic, rhythmic, or abstract. I also use a theremin to generate thick tones to complement the radio material. Once I have some interesting sounds to work with, I digitize them and work with ProTools to sequence, mix and master. I personally don’t like performing with a computer, so I often have to find odd ways to trigger pre-composed material to accompany sound I create live in a performance setting.

    6. What are the chances of New Media for the music production in general and you personally?

    I can see how recent software allows for a whole new level of personalization of sound-making tools. I’m particularly keen to learn Pure Data this year. Having said that, I’m pretty thoroughly ensconced in the old trailing-edge media like radio and radio transmission, so I tend to approach new media through ongoing practice of the old.

    7. How about producing and financing your musical productions?

    Artist fees, grants, my own random jobs finance my work. Going back to school means I have a steady paycheque, so it’s easier to go forward with projects without chasing after the funding first.

    8. Do you work individually as a musician/soundartist or in a group or collective? If you have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer?

    I work both alone and in collaborative collectives. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. I generally have more than one project on the go, and will always be doing some work alone and some with others. I love the energy of working collectively, but you must all be dedicated to clear communication and patience with one another. Performing alone was scary for me– but exhilerating as well. It’s easier to change direction in the middle of a piece when you’re the only one working on it.

    9. Is there any group, composer, style or movement which has a lasting influence on making music?

    I owe allegiance to feminist innovators whom I have listened to for years: people like Laurie Anderson or more recently Miranda July. Certainly Fluxus has been an ongoing influence on how I think about art and what is possible. Certainly traditional Eastern European music (including klezmer and Romany styles) have influenced the tone of music I play.

    10. What are your future plans or dreams as a soundartist or musician?

    To develop work over a much longer period of time and to really deepen my musical expertise.

  • List some links & resources
  • Radio works can be found online at ORF Kunstradio: