S. Peace Nistades is a composer who has scored films in over six countries worldwide, screened in over thirty film festivals including the Cannes Film Festival, and his credits as technical score assistant and engineer include such blockbusters as Justice League and The Greatest Showman! Based in Los Angeles, he has recently released his first solo full length titled In a Forest Dark! Get to know S. Peace Nistades and find out all you need to know regarding the exciting In a Forest Dark project!
What is S. Peace Nistades all about?
I’m most fascinated by the subconscious, the internal workings of the mind and the nature of dreams and memory. Musically and sonically, I try to evoke subconscious connections by taking bits and pieces of reality and reassembling them as we do when we dream. A lot of what I’ve done, particularly on this album, is weave a moving tapestry of organic sounds, recorded bits I’ve collected over the years, and various sound sources both acoustic (rivers, rice fields, etc.) and electronic, to create a collage that can evolve as in a dream through a subconscious.
Who would you say are your biggest musical influences?
My influences vary across multiple genres. My first memory of music was Tchaikovsky. I grew up with Beethoven, Bach, Chopin and Wagner. Mahler’s Fifth Symphony Adagietto has played a huge role in my life as has Trent Reznor, Radiohead and Thom Yorke. However, I’ve always felt that the most stimulating influences tend to come from outside the artistic medium one is currently working in. For example, most of my influences in life (and certainly in this latest album) are literary. Samuel Beckett is perhaps the single artist that has had the biggest influence on me creatively as well as in my life. The writings of Thomas De Quincey rank just about as high as are the works of many others, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, Eugene O’Neill, Martin Amis to name a few. I find that being inspired by art from another medium tends to allow us to see the medium in which we are working in in a new light and avoid the direct copy/paste syndrome where one hears a sound or musical colour one finds attractive then subconsciously tries to emulate that. Being inspired for instance by the staccato movement and overall pointillistic quality of Beckett’s writing and the use of a palimpsest as a metaphor for memories and dreams as in De Quincey’s work can allow one to see the elements of music and sound from a much more interesting perspective and for me anyway, allows the work process to be much more fun.
What inspired you to start making music?
My home base was always storytelling and the first memories I have of music (Tchaikovsky’s ballets) were always tied to stories. Even when I first discovered Beethoven’s Triple Concerto for example, I remember creating my own film in my head to go along with it as I was listening. So telling a story, evoking a sense of journey, an arc, to explore a character over a period of time, has always been my starting point, hence my work in film and scoring for other artforms. I’ve always battled with the opposite nature of music and literature; music being direct but not specific while literature is specific and evokes emotions through the specificity of character, setting, plot etc., therefore not directly. Music of course can never be specific. Music, that is, without language. Of course when one writes a song, the lyrics can be as specific as one wants, but music alone can never describe a boy walking down the street at night in an abandoned city while storm clouds obscure the moonlight above contemplating the fate of his father, for instance. So finding the bridge between these two has been my biggest challenge in creating my own standalone work as opposed to scoring other people’s as I have in the past; and my latest album, In a Forest Dark, is the culmination of that struggle for me.
Tell us about the latest project?
This latest project is my first solo album, In a Forest Dark. I say first as, although I’ve released a number of albums over years including last year’s Los Angeles Pieces, they have all been scores for various films, fashion campaigns, etc. or collections of pieces as was last year’s album. This has been the first time I’ve created a full length album completely my own and it began, as is often the case with the most interesting things in life, as an accident. I’d been trying to explore a new sound for a long time, a sound I wasn’t quite sure how to create or capture, though I’d explored bits and pieces of it through the years, one that felt rooted in the present as opposed to the nostalgia of the past as has been most of my other work. This sound, as it turned out, is an exploration into non-tonality but rooted in contemporary electronic music production techniques. The cut-up method, as William S. Burroughs so beautifully used, of sound; an extension as it were of the form that started electronic music itself in the late 1930s, musique concrète.
I’ve always been fascinated by recording organic sounds whether it’s sampling instruments or tapping pipes or rocks etc. or recording environments and manipulating it to create an inner space that isn’t necessarily our normal reception of that sound in real life. Of course, everything is perception anyway, and I’m sure the influence of Beckett and De Quincey has played a large role in this as their work tends to gravitate towards capturing a certain internal mind and which both do with such profound distinctness. So the album grew from first re-discover PAGE 2 PAGE 2ing these sounds and finding new ways of manipulating them into something that felt fresh to me and slowly the arc began to build and the descent into my own past quickly fused with Dante’s descent following the exile from his home country, my own exile still being something I haven’t really dealt with head on in the ten years I’ve been away until this project.
Is there a particular message you wish to get across through your music?
Ultimately this album is about the struggle between the present and the past and the unyielding pull the past will always have on us, whether as individuals, as a society, as a culture. The past, for the most part, even in pain and anguish, represents a familiarity, familiar, family, and to really leave all that behind, is a feat few of us can truly achieve if it is achievable at all. Music though, devoid of the specificity of language, as is most art that does not contain specificity in its form, stands as a drop of water on a leaf ready for the passerby to imbue it with message and meaning.
For me, this album has been about grappling with my own past and the past of a culture frozen by time, as I believe Thailand to be, and it’s my very humble way of honouring those less lucky than I have been who could not get away and who were brutalised fatally for being who they were. Ultimately art I believe is, as the filmmaker Michael Haneke says, like a ski platform. The aim of the artist is to build the best platform he or she can so the skier has the best shot but ultimately the arc, the curvature, the experience of elation and understanding that the skier may get is up to them. I’ve created the best platform I’ve yet been able to and I hope it can contribute to the overwhelming discussion we are all having right now, one that seems to centre around this question of past and present.
What are your plans for 2019?
This is an exciting year for me. I’m finally wrapping up a long journey on a piano album in collaboration with concert pianist Christopher McKiggan which has taken over three years, I have a few other music collaborations in the studio at the moment and a couple feature films on the horizon with filmmakers I greatly admire and excited to be working with.
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