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The Forest in the City

Carlos Andrés Rico
Carlos Andrés Rico | © Marius Land

Carlos spends his Bangalore days slowly, between the seclusion of his temporary home and the many parks around Bangalore. “I take my time at home in the mornings”, Carlos says, “I shower, make breakfast…in the day, I mostly work from home”. The evenings, though, take Carlos to public spaces, an integral part of his work. “I go to parks and make recordings” he says, “or I meet up with some musicians and just play in parks to see where we can perform”.

Performance is not exactly familiar terrain for Carlos. On November 25th he performed at The Courtyard, a cafe and cultural space in the city, but “that is really not something I do often”, Carlos insisted. “I am a composer, I usually write scores for other musicians to perform but here my way of working has changed because of where I am”.

Not wanting to impose his own ideas in a place with which he has no past connection, he has now adapted his process, organically. “I wanted to collaborate with Maraa (where he is in residence) and its artists and work with what they already have going on”, he said.

In Bangalore, rather than scripting a score for musicians to perform, he has been improvising with musicians to find certain ideas to develop into structured improvisations. In particular, he has been collaborating with a violinist named, Veecheet Dhakal of the band Gauley Bhai. “It’s a like friendship”, Carlos explained, “we meet, hang out, and the music sort of happens”.

A sample from what Carlos performed live at The Courtyard:

From a jam with Veecheet:
“In the beginning it was difficult to find anything other than traffic”, Carlos laughed, when asked about the sounds of Bangalore. “But this also became an opportunity to find more concrete sounds and situations”. Each park, Carlos has realised, has its own peculiar sounds. Even though every park has families, children, shouting people and the buzz of traffic in the background, “their nature”, Carlos has found, is different. This peculiarity of the natural world within each park fascinates him.
“I think nature plays an important role in what I do as a musician, as a composer. I have an interest in the sounds of the aboriginal people in South America and they have a strong relationship with nature. That has made me find nature in my work. I am a city guy but for some years I have been trying to find nature within my city life. I guess I am looking for a balance between the city and nature. In my music I try to bring in nature, and offer it the audience so that they think about nature not as something far away but closer… that we are living with nature even in the city. I try to imitate nature sometimes with what I compose.”

From a track that Carlos has been working on while in Bangalore:

Carlos’ residency culminates in a mock radio intervention in a park in the heart of the city. Interventions, or disruptions, are a way in which Carlos likes to approach his audiences – to make his work public and accessible to most people. In Bangalore, he was intrigued by the idea of intervening in a space he didn’t know.  Initially, he thought he’d simply interview people at various sites to learn about those places. But in working with Maraa, the idea has evolved. Along with local musicians, he is now performing a live radio script (in Kannada, Hindi, and English) at a park. “It’s like a fake radio show”, Carlos said, “and the text has music in between”. The theme of this radio script revolves around censorship, an idea Carlos zeroed in on while working with Maraa’s artists. “They helped with the topic and the idea of recording in different languages. I take decisions about structure and do the artistic direction”.
Expectations aren’t something Carlos avoids; he toys with them intentionally. His compositions often build many layers before distilling down to what might seem like a singular sound. It’s like walking through a forest and eventually arriving a clearing, when in fact the clearing is the forest, too. Carlos is well aware of this deception. “I am interested in how to keep the attention of the audience all the time”, he said, “I create expectations with repetitions and layers and then change those expectations by pulling out sounds and giving new energy to the place… I try to find the calm space you don’t often find in the city”.

This track is an evolving piece, with sounds from Germany, Colombia, Mexico and India. Carlos keeps tweaking it along his travels, almost like an audio travelogue: