Data in the Details is the latest piece from M. Sage, the visual and sound artist and writer out of Fort Collins, Colorado. Both his writing, and sonic work create very tangible settings; although worlds we may not be familiar with, they are based off of the very real experiences of M. Sage.
His work pays attention to every musical altitude, utilizing foreground, middle ground, and background to its fullest potential. Nothing is flat or sparse, but gracefully layered, resulting in a fascinating three-dimensional collage of textures and ambiences. The B-side of the piece contains a dub edit; a sprawling rhythmic interpretation of the original piece, it sounds like a techno club submerged underwater. The key word to M. Sage is collage, as he samples from his surroundings in order to create vast landscapes of sonic worlds representative of tangible ones. Read a Q & A with the artist below.
There is definitely a sense of setting and space in the piece. How does setting relate to sound in this instance?
Much of what I do is based on creating spaces. Generally they are spaces that I desire from my setting. These two things are not always in unity. In this case, while working on this material, I was doing either data entry in an office, or driving around in a moving truck as my day job. I wanted to create something I wanted to listen to while doing data entry, or processing digital data, or while driving around in a highly visceral sensory environment. I wanted to make these spaces for either processing in, or moving through.
What are you looking for when you do your field recordings? Are there particular types of sounds that you’re drawn to?
I am constantly collecting sounds on my phone. My wife kind of knows like… when we are walking around, she will see me pull out my phone to start recording a sound and know to not speak for a moment. She has become aware of my collecting practice. Sometimes I notice her hearing things and wondering if I will capture them or not.
I love watery sounds and use those quite a bit. I also love pedestrian sounds, in both uses of the word; people in public places, or walking around, and also innocuous day to day sounds like my dog’s collar jingling when she runs past me. I guess what I look for in a field recording is either something that I think is sonically/texturally interesting, or otherwise just fascinating. Even if you can’t decipher what the sound means, it means something to me, and I use it to layer meaning into these abstract sound collages.
Can you talk about what the title, Data in the Details, means?
A lot of the title comes from doing the data entry job, and thinking about inputting data into a system about the details of physical objects. About this data set being attributed to details on a physical object. Code aligning with textural details.
Also, how the meaning is not always the message. Form is a message sometimes, but sometimes meaning is inconspicuous.
On the Mover Isuzu Dub Edit we are still presented with a sense of space, but in a slightly more controlled and accessible environment. What inspired you to create a more rhythmic interpretation?
A lot of that was inspired by my daily listening. I am a big fan of dub. Not incredibly well-versed or anything, but I really enjoy the production style, and was listening to a lot of it while moving furniture, driving around in a moving truck. I realized that the first block of material was quantitized, and that I could use dub studio techniques on top of it in really interesting ways. It all kind of came from just playing with the material in this way and enjoying it. In essence, the dub edit was created for the moving truck, the heads up edit was made for doing data entry. Dynamic and mobile space versus insular data expanse. I guess that means “drums” somehow, and drums mean accessible.
Your photography and collage work correlates with your sound work in that they both produce ambient and textural results; both are a reflection of setting as well as paying attention to foreground, middle-ground and background. Do you believe the mediums go hand in hand? When constructing a visual work verses constructing a sonic work how do the processes of creation collide and where do they differ?
With visual work, as well as poetry and writing, I use a lot of the same techniques I use in making music or sound. I collect materials that I find fascinating, be it words from language I hear in passing, the sound of a shortwave radio stuck between two signals, or a geology college text book that has great diagrams. I then use these materials and kind of “sample” until I have a collage, or a poem, or a song. Texture is a huge element that draws me to materials. In a highly digital world, I think physical textures in works are something that maintains ecstatic human essence.
I think the photography is different in a way, because it is capturing a moment in a very raw state, just light captured on film, which I like to do when recording improvisations or instrumentation, just me with a guitar captured to tape. There is still texture there, but in those cases it is more about composition and also happy accidents.
I capture things though, that is my practice. I hoard materials. My writing/creating process is more like cataloguing. I implement these materials I have gathered to create spaces, or actualize ideas I have about what it means to live in a world full of all these materials. Ultimately, I think they all differ in their form, the sound, the collage, the poetry, the photos, but the ideas behind their content are all from a similar curiosity. These are all investigations into the wonders of operating a human apparatus in all this weirdness.