Yannis Kyriakides: “I translate my dreams into music.”

Composer Yannis Kyriakides based his Hypnokaséta for string quartet and electronics on the dream diary he kept during the first corona lockdown. On March 16, Hypnokaséta will be performed by Quatuor Bozzini and Andy Moor. Yannis: “I dreamed a lot about composing: whether I would still have assignments, who I actually do it for, and why.” In this interview Yannis tells us about these dreams and his work process.

What were your corona dreams about?
“About all sorts of things. There was the classic recurring dream about needing to go somewhere but not being able to get there; that is what the part ‘All roads to the airport are blocked‘ refers to. I also dreamed a lot about composing: whether I would still have commissions, who I was actually doing it for, and why. A composer’s first world problems, so to speak. I also had dreams about pieces by other composers, pieces that didn’t really exist, but that I could hear or see very clearly. The memory of dreamed songs for voice and harpsichord forms the basis for the final part, ‘Songs for a derelict palace‘. I saw four people playing a harpsichord, two at the keyboard and two at the interior. I translated the sound I heard into a string quartet.”

Did you immediately know that you would incorporate the dreams into a composition?
“No, I had no assignment and I had no intention of writing a large piece about dreams. At some point I started making short sketches to keep myself busy. In the back of my mind I had the string quartet that I wanted to write for one day: the Bozzini’s. But that collection of preliminary studies ultimately became the piece itself.”

What’s so interesting about dreams?
“I have written pieces about dreams before and I knew the cassette theory of philosopher Daniel Dennett. According to Dennett, the images and ideas that play in our heads during sleep are recorded on a kind of cassette tape, which is then played at high speed when you wake up. I don’t know if it’s correct, but I think it’s a beautiful image. And a cassette tape also has a certain emotional value for people of my generation, and perhaps for others too.”

How did you transform the dreams into instrumental music?
“In dreams you sometimes hear a voice, without being able to understand what that voice is saying. But you know there is a voice. I recorded my dream diary on cassette tapes, digitized the tapes and then made a spectrum analysis of my voice. I reversed the outcome, and that reversal forms the basis for the notes that the Bozzini’s play. So the voice is there, but coded.”

Will we also hear the original voice recording?
“Yes, that is certainly something I like to do in my pieces, to show the original source on which the notes are based, as a kind of key to the code. In this case, the voice recordings form the basis for the electronic layer. The analogue cassettes are also played by Andy Moor – he is the DJ, so to speak.”

Andy Moor is a guitarist – what exactly does that mean?
“The idea to ask Andy came quite late in the composing process. We are a duo together and we toured Quebec with the Bozzini’s, as a double bill: Cassettes before the break, Andy and I after. Then I thought: Andy should also join the quartet. I really like the way he makes electronic sound substantial, gives it substance. Andy plays the cassettes with his guitar, so that they are picked up by the guitar pickups and cause the strings to vibrate. The recordings sound distorted from his amplifier. Andy doesn’t read notes, the score contains descriptions of the type of sound he has to make – how busy or how thin, etc. – and the mood associated with each part. By tuning his strings differently he always gets different resonances.”

Interview by Joep Stapel

Hypnokaséta by Yannis Kyriakides performed by Quatuor Bozzini and Andy Moor can be seen in Amare on March 16 at 9:00 PM. Buy tickets now!

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