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“A veritable sonic buffet. Unlike anything that most people have heard. A delightful mix of ideas, and sound sculpture.”

These are just a few of the words used to describe the recent collaboration between Simon Fraser University (SFU) faculty member Mauricio Pauly and pianist Eve Egoyan.

Their album, Hopeful Monster, released this past October, was met with wide acclaim and added to radio playlists around the world. A video of the artists can also be found on YouTube.

Mauricio Pauly is a composer, improviser and producer of hybrid instrumental/electronic/amplified music. As a cross-disciplinary collaborator, his work includes numerous projects with writers, designers, programmers and theatre-makers. He was an artist in residence in Civitella Ranieri, Italy; composer in residence at Villa Romana, Italy; Fellow at Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study; and his music has been featured by festivals around the world. He is a professor in SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts music & sound program, where he teaches an innovative and experimental approach to music creation.

The collaboration that created Hopeful Monster began in 2018 when Pauly visited Egoyan's Toronto studio to improvise informally. The two artists immediately clicked—the mutual sense of trust, curiosity and reciprocity was so potent that it carried them through four years of remote audio-file-swapping until they were able to meet in person again. During their second meeting they recorded this album.

Hopeful Monster delivers a transformative, otherworldly soundscape evoking curiosity and reflection. To create their musical journey Egoyan uses augmented piano, a unique blend of several different technologies she developed to extend the piano’s sonic scope, while Pauly performs on battery of electronic tools as well as idiosyncratic acoustic instruments ranging from a wooden plank to a repurposed autoharp. The resulting collaboration invites listeners to open their minds and contemplate the sounds they are experiencing.

We spoke with Mauricio Pauly about his recent work.

How do you hope listeners experience this work? What kind of ideas or feelings are you hoping to evoke?

I do not speak of a specific thing I would like a listener to experience. My desire is perhaps more general. My hope is that some listeners will have an experience. Their own poetic experience.

Are the tracks on this album all improvised or do you follow a plan or outline as you perform?

The album—and our shows—are fully improvised. No outline—not even a sense of how we would begin. However, the process of curating the album— of selecting, of discarding, of deciding what is a beginning and what is a start—was in many ways a collaborative composition process. Listening back to it, and this seems to be an impression left of many of those who wrote a review for it, its sense of form, of proportion and direction seems somewhat composed. In truth it was an emergent, longitudinal, iterative process.

How do you approach experimental music—and how do you inspire or instruct your students in the making of music?

I resist a bit the idea that any output—music or other—can be called experimental. Experimental are perhaps the processes that lead to it, but these do not contain or describe the variety of work than can emerge from them. We speak of experimentation as a methodology, as a creative approach. Experimentalism as an attitude. One that one can apply across genres. This is how we approach experimentalism at the School for the Contemporary Arts music & sound program. Our students produce work across a very wide field of genres and contexts. What brings us together is that we engage in making processes that are fueled by rigorous curiosity and aimed at discovery.

Tell us more about the collaboration with Eve.

Regarding my practice, and more specifically this project, sharing an improvisatory space with Eve has brought to light something I can now trace across my music-making life. I enjoy being lost and I enjoy making sense of lostness, navigating not towards the familiar, but rather to where lostness flips into sense and into poetic experience. When I first played with Eve back in 2018, not having discussed any strategies or proposed any plans, we collectively jumped into an unknown space from the start. Our first joint gesture was already a reciprocal invitation to dive—a wayfinding project. Four years and a whole lot of changes—in our lives, in the world—later, this dynamic carried through in our recording sessions. I know no other musician like Eve—her musical choices and how these choices illuminate and recontextualize the musical present and foreshadow its future come at me as a generous gift that gives me permission to play—to make choices, to wayfind!—with a never-before-experienced sense of profoundly engaged abandon. Style, genre, reference, harmonic syntax or orchestration disappear from conscious consideration and are dialed indirectly by an intimate urgency to articulate and serve the emerging moment as a piece of the resulting form.

Will you produce more music or live shows together in the new year?


For more about Hopeful Monster and Mauricio Pauly, visit his personal web page:

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