Löis Lancaster, the 2014/2015 1st prize winner in our annual composition competition, hails from Brazil. He won for his excellent composition, Sintonia do Ocidente. He describes himself quite briefly: "I'm a Brazilian composer and bass player, making weird music since the eighties." Here he is in an interview with questions drawn up by Chris Vaisvil.
UnTwelve: When you compose microtonally what are your methods and approaches?
Löis Lancaster: I normally find some acoustic or symbollic relation between the theme I'll explore (lyrics, melodic mood and so) and the tuning I'll use. For example, in a song with a high potential for modulation (goes with change of mood and expectation in the lyrics), the Blackwood temperament will be the choice. When I want to be totally oddball, normally dealing with ontological questions, I choose the scale with a curiously close relation between the atonal potential of melodies and the perfect different sense that harmony makes once you give them time in your ear: the BP scale. And so on...
The rest is composing with a controller and a piano roll in FL Studio, and try to bring real musicians to replace the synths.
UnTwelve: For a potentially electronic-only work, do you think there is a reason to commit music to paper anymore or has excellent modern recording equipment, sequencers, and digital audio workstations has made this activity less important?
Löis Lancaster: I don't know... for me it's definitely less important. I only used scores to exchange music with some fellow musicians. And now, with microtonality, even this ceased to happen.
Now I'm having my first experience in notation for a player other than me: a friend of mine is learning how to play my BP songs in the BP guitar made by Ron Sword, and he uses my MIDI files to build a sort of tab.
UnTwelve: Is live performance of microtonal music important?
Löis Lancaster: Live performance of music is important.
UnTwelve: Is there a microtonal culture or tradition that you look to for inspiration?
Löis Lancaster: No, you see - that's the point. I embrace a kind of 'artistic cause', mockingly speaking; the song that got (thank you once again!) the first place in the UnTwelve competition talks about that.
For me the most interesting potential of microtonality is to open new doors to the future. The past is like carbohydrate, that we don't have to even worry, we'll get them in our food anyway. We can take it unconscioulsy the past with us, thinking about the future, how we'll colonize this brave new land... of course the tradition approach is also fine, but some people can think it's the only way - it's not, you can go the western way :)
UnTwelve: Do you still use 12 equal?
Löis Lancaster: Last month I made a try in 12 equal, just for fun... and the result was like I've just been listening to Debussy and Messiaen all this time! I think that's because patterns hidden in modulations have been my big harmonic goal.
UnTwelve: Do you think the album is dead with the buying of single songs with a click?
Löis Lancaster: No I don't. I think the physical thing will always be important. And the bigger the better, I still have my vinyls.
UnTwelve: Should music be free?
Löis Lancaster: Yes. I can't force other people to take the same approach, but the only thing I want is people to hear my music. Nothing else matters.
That's because it was the same effort that I did, you see? I took the time to pursue something and record it so that you, in turn, can pursue and record it in your head. Knowing that it's never the same thing, of course. this something is always changing! But a song is a certain arrangement of things. Some pattern or another always goes on.
UnTwelve: As you know UnTwelve promotes the use of microtonality in popular music in any genre -how do you envision the way microtonality will be integrated in music? Note: for practical purposes this means western music...
Löis Lancaster: I think it will come fast if it become a trend, embraced by some big independent artist or so. But it's not a big thing, it's like learning to like new colors when you get older. When I first heard Sonic Youth, it was like that discovery in harmony. Guitar players could do that because they wanted it that way?In one way or another, here or in another very close parallel universe, microtonality will spread again in the west. Give it time, maybe in 300 years. Technology is on our side! And predictions are comfortable because they elude death!
UnTwelve: What are your future plans for Microtonal exploring?
Löis Lancaster: I plan to record an album or two with the improvement of the material I eventually put on my SoundCloud site and see what happens!
UnTwelve: Are you a fan of subtle or "in your face" use of alternative tunings or how do you use these extremes?
Löis Lancaster: I think I already answered that in the first question... I like to see the mood of what I think will be the song, and then pursue it someway in the tuning. The song can call for extremes or not.
UnTwelve: What is your most memorable microtonal experience?
Löis Lancaster: You're kidding, right? THIS PRIZE, of course!! :D
UnTwelve: Should microtonal music be promoted as such or simply as music without calling special attention to tuning?
Löis Lancaster: I think promotion can draw attention for the thing in the first moment, which is good because there's a lot of inertia to drag out. A trend should be fine, maybe we people should try some press agency, I don't know.
UnTwelve: What would be your dream microtonal situation?
Löis Lancaster: To have enough funds to produce a tour of my work, with these extremely talented people: Alexl, crafty guitar player and the first composer with a working method I've met in my life; the sopranos and mezzos I've been recording for quite a while: Ana Maura Araujo, Clara Salim, Luciana Lazulli, Laila Oazem, Karen Giraldi - they all are so talented, technically great and sing with their hearts, which is important to summon back the listener's proximity that strangeness may have cast away -; and Sidney Honigsztejn, great all time fellow and brilliant musician and witty mixing engineer.