An Interview with Adnan Marquez

To further expand on the NI Science Festival, Thom interviewed another musician who will be performing on the 28th of February in the Black Box.

Adnan Marquez is a saxophonist, improviser, researcher, computer musician, composer, and sound artist. He received his PhD from the Sonic Arts Research Centre, Queen’s University Belfast. His research mainly focuses on the development of skill with digital musical interactions and how this process informs the design of new musical devices. His music involves improvisation and electronic manipulation of sounds in real-time. His first recording, “The Paradox of Continuity”, was released in 2007 under the Californian label, Circumvention Music. As a producer under the alias duplex helix, he released the “Bonds EP” in 2011. He has participated in numerous projects with musicians from California, Mexico and Northern Ireland. He is a co-founder of the Mexican improvisation collective Generacion Espontanea and the multimedia collective N0R73 (now OpenL4B.Norte_Hackerspace).

Picture by Sofia Gonzalez
                               Picture by Sofia Gonzalez

1) Adnan, can you tell me a bit about yourself and your musical background?

Well, I’m a Mexican native that landed in Belfast to start a PhD in sonic arts some 4 years ago. Now, I’m a postdoc at the Sonic Arts Research Centre (SARC). I am trained as a saxophonist, both Jazz and Classical, but I’ve always had improvisation as a focus in my practice. In my university studies I began doing Free Jazz/improvisation. I have also a master’s degree in music technology from CCRMA. So I’m very keen in exploring the spaces between a lot of musical practices, particularly those involving technology and improvisation.

2) How would you describe the music you make?

It’s a hard question to answer, to be honest. I think that I have a lot of musical facets. I mean, I can do straight ahead Jazz and properly written Classical music. But in recent times I’ve also developed a persona for beat-making (February is Dilla month!). That’s in addition to my improvisational music. So I guess it come down to trying to somehow blend some, if not all, of these elements into my own music. It can be noisy and loud or it can be soft and contemplative. Or it can be neither, it depends.

3) What would you say have been your biggest influences on the music you make?

It’s another hard question, since I’ve had different influences at different points in my life. Reducing this to a single person or work would do injustice to all parties involved.

4) Could you briefly describe your setup and instruments you use?

I will use both of my homemade bass clarinets. One uses an embedded speaker and microphone to create feedback and process that with an outboard FX unit. The second clarinet has multiple pipes, so it’s a weird one to play because it’s so unstable. But because they are keyless, the music is drone-like. In addition to this, I use a small (4-8 chan) mixer, as well as a few homemade sound making circuits.

5) Do the instruments/setup you use influenced your compositional approach?

Definitely. As I mentioned before, the keyless nature of the wind instruments makes playing drones easy. But I also want to add a bit of variety so that there’s more motion to that. There’s where the other trinkets come into play. Not sure if I will play the saxophone, but you never know. That adds another layer of sound and of ideas.

6) Do certain elements of your setup allow greater or less freedom when improvising?

Sure. Some of my instruments are very limited in terms of the things they do. But at the same time, being limited in that sense gives me the challenge to make something interesting out of very simple means. I subscribe to the idea of being free by having very strict constraints.

7) Are you looking forward to playing the Blackbox as part of the NI Science Festival on Sat 28th Feb?

Definitely! I love the space and the crowds there. I’m also keen on meeting the other people performing in the event and see/hear what they do. I think it’s an exciting opportunity, so I’m glad for the invite.

If you fancy learning a bit more about Adnan, you can have a read of his website here:

Oh, and don’t forget! On February 28th Maker present a night of handmade music in The Black Box, Hill Street in Belfast. It’s £8 in and you’d be crazy to miss it. (Geographically depending, of course.)