photo courtesy of Amanda Berlind
“I’ve always wanted to go to some remote icy place and gather field recordings of frozen dripping things,” Amanda Berlind said. “Then I would eat a maple candy and draw shells all night. That would be ideal.”
Berlind’s dream project doesn’t seem like a far stretch of the imagination after diving into her psyche and feeling her all-encompassing creations wrap around you.
At the beginning of 2020, Berlind came to a wider public prominence - her piece, “Bird Chart,” made an appearance at the first Bang on a Can’s People’s Commissioning Fund concert of the new year, alongside works from Quasim Naqvi, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Alvin Curran, and Phil Kline. Amanda composed a piece for The Bang on a Can All-Stars that married homemade footage and visuals of New York City and birds together with a whimsical bird-themed fixed media track and a tight instrumental arrangement that could feel at home in a packed club. This work felt like a breath of fresh air for art music.
The evolution of Berlind’s artistic breadth led her to this very collaboration. Her work pairing homemade visuals with lush, hazy musical tapestries that drape over the listener stretches back for years.
“I’ve been combining the two mediums for a while (to varying degrees of success and total fiasco),” Berlind said. “It’s important to me insomuch as it’s a part of a process that I like… If I am thinking about fish, I want to draw fish, I want to listen to fish, I want a portrait of a fish to hang above my bed, I want to wear a little jewel in the shape of an eel, I want a lobster to help me fasten my seatbelt. I want to be in a world that is entirely about fish. I get very monolithic and uncompromising about these things. I sort of like my life to be about one thing at a time. If I am in a fish mood, I want every experience to be about fish. I don’t have the strongest sense of reality, and I have instead become obsessed with creating little worlds for my imagination to stretch out in.”
The microcosms that Berlind brings to life evoke a blend of early Animal Collective and Frederick Rzewski. The intermingling of sound and music blends seamlessly into one another and is unlike anything out there in the North American art music world.
“I think everything I do artistically is the shape of a long, low puddle,” Berlind said. “Both musically and visually, I really think that applies. It’s possible that if I didn’t have that shape gliding around my brain all day, like a big green boat, nothing would make any sense to me. So I think the answer here is a Venn diagram with the middle sliver shaded to reflect that puddle-shape mentality. Visual art and music… they both meet in my brain at the inflection point where a puddle appears and dissipates.”
The intermingling of visuals and music doesn’t solely exist in the final artistic product. During the Bang on a Can experience, Berlind brought her overarching vision directly to the musicians and refined her musical language through the collaboration.
“There were logistical lessons and procedures that were new to me, but really what I learned is that they are all wonderful people,” Berlind said. “I was so scared of looking like a kid, or of seeming inexperienced, young, whatever— they could not have been cooler to work with. They were so respectful of my work, and so fun to hang out with. I had assigned each of them a bird character (this aligned with the bird visuals I had created for the piece I wrote for their ensemble), and upon meeting Mark Stewart, he said right away to me, ‘I made everyone hold up their bird yesterday to see what we got!’ I feel so lucky to have worked with such incredible musicians, but moreover I feel so lucky to have worked with a group that was so welcoming of me and my birds.”
With the All-Stars project finally complete, Berlind has a host of exciting projects on her horizon.
“I have a few ambient experiments that are in the works, awaiting the completion of my line-drawing canvases so I can pair everything together. It all got sidelined during this coronavirus mess because I decided I wanted to spend all of my time making a comic about bugs. I’ve finished that now, and I think it’s about time to refocus, so that ambient music should be available in the coming weeks. My bug comic is available on my site for purchase.”
No matter what the situation, Berlind’s drive to create beautiful worlds for us to rest in or fall through should keep her on your radar. Her sonic world’s stem from a place of comfort and guarantee to provide a welcome space for you.
“For me, music is a companion,” Berlind said. “It is there encouraging me to experience beautiful things. It has seen me through turbulence. It is one of the best friends I’ve ever had.”
Amanda Berlind’s music and art can be found on her website and on Vimeo.
Erich is a musician and writer living between Montreal and New York whose work appears on Best Life, Eat This, Not That!, MSN, and more and has represented artists for years as a PR rep. He likes weird music. If you want to find his music, it's over here.