Ninth Piece: Aengus Hackett
Following the international success of the series Piece By Piece in April-May 2020, IMC returns with a second season of this unique musical ‘chain letter’ of online improvisation, with eight exciting new artists from Ireland creating new work in sequence.
With a fresh impetus for this second season of Piece by Piece, the principle of interconnectedness will continue, with each artist’s performance influencing or inspiring the next. Piece by piece, artists will create new improvised work, based on the preceding work.
This series opens with a performance from Galway guitarist, composer, and producer Aengus Hackett. Aengus’ creative projects include explorations of Irish and Turkish folk music, Javanese Gamelan and post-rock. Giving into a lifelong passion for electronic music, this year Aengus released his acclaimed debut EP as ‘Penji’. His most recent EP ‘Shimmer’ was released on 24th November. Aengus told us a bit about his thoughts on improvising as a way of life, and engaging with the previous series of Piece by Piece, ahead of his performance on Friday 27th December, 8:00pm GMT.
Q 1. What does improvisation mean to you?
Improvisation is such a broad term and for me it has gotten even more broad the longer I am making music.
It encompasses everything to me. For me it is not only a way of making music but a way of life, an identity. I'm quite an open-minded person, and I think improvisation taps into that for me. Music-wise I'm satisfied whether it's improvising in a straightahead jazz way or making weird sounds with electronics, or making electronic beats, or even playing gamelan! It's all music and it's all inspiration.
Q 2. How do you think about engaging with material or ideas from another artist when improvising?
Well for this piece I tried to embrace all the multiple facets of improvisation and keep an open approach to it. The obvious thing was to play something on my instrument, which I did do, but I also took a more direct approach and sampled the work of the artists in the past series. This really comes from a hip-hop approach, where you grab the bits you like from records and then improvise with them. Almost like the way you transcribe solos, as a jazz musician, and internalise those influences to create your own sound. Hip-hop has improv at its core and that inspires me greatly.
Using instruments other than your primary one is a great way to change up the things you normally do, and I find that playing samples on my Maschine, an MPC-style sequencer/sampler, helps me keep it fresh. I found the words from Nick Roth and Olesya Zdorovetska's video really inspiring, so I started with those as well as samples from Paul Dunlea and Cormac McCarthy's video and ended up with a wonky hip-hop track. I also played an improv response to a chord sequence from Izumi Kimura's video, and then sampled her piano to create a sort of electro-jazz track.
Q 3. How do you think the world of music is changing or will change as result of the COVID-19 crisis?
It's fascinating to see the amount of creation and inspiration that has been sparked by the pandemic. So many people are releasing music, it's amazing. Of course a lot of this is through necessity in order to try and eke a living in an industry that quite frankly, to use a Galway colloquialism, is pretty 'goosed'! But if you step back for a minute you see that as humans, there is such a compulsion to create.
Art is deeply ingrained in us, and I find it encouraging and inspiring to see that it is keeping everyone sane and fulfilled in a time that is so scary and unsettling for people.
I like to think that this massive grassroots drive to produce work in an independent way will create a new order in the music industry that enables more musicians to make a living. But being totally honest, support from the government is key. And it's great to see that this is forthcoming, in Ireland at least. Without that, in the short term at least, we really would be 'goosed'. I hope that people take note, not only politicians, but also taxpayers, that the money we pay goes towards not only paying the bills of artists, but it's keeping the world going in a larger sense.
Now more than ever, the importance of investment in the arts is clear. It's socialism in art, and I think that is a great thing and the way forward through these dark times.
Aengus's piece was premiered on Friday 27th November. Watch it HERE.
Follow the rest of the series by subscribing to IMC's YouTube channel or Facebook.
Read more about the Piece by Piece series HERE