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Creating Organic and Inorganic Soundscapes


Jordan Reyne, whose music graces a funeral scene in The Lord of the Rings, takes us into her musical confidence.

Many artists define their music as “genre-defying”; in the case of Jordan Reyne, the definition truly fits.

Hers is a soundscape of factory drones, acoustic loops, Celtic vocals, machine noise, and lyrics that read like a modern version of Grimms’ fairytales.

We asked Jordan to take us inside her creative world and relate her creative process to singers and musicians keen to contribute their own unique voice to the world.

What kinds of things help/hinder your creative output?
People don’t guess this when they meet me, but I am an introvert. So being alone, and some place quiet is what recharges me. If I can be near the sea, it recharges me the most.

Reynetext01So, what saps you?
For me creativity comes from having a quiet headspace. There is a lot of reflective time goes into creating, so it’s things that jar me out of that that hinder. To properly create I need to know I have at least several hours to myself where I won’t be jarred out of it by phones, emails, or requirement to immediately respond.

That’s a tall order.
It’s hard for me in a day and age where people do expect you to be constantly reachable and available. A lot of people think “well an email only takes a few seconds” but it’s the context where you have to switch mentally that hinders my being creative – so I shut off my phone and computer.

You’re known for being media savvy – so how do you find your “space”?
A big part of being a musician today IS being connected with listeners, friends, the industry and I know how vital it is. For me, real connection is not about being instantly accessible, or making everything you or think do public. It’s quiet and more personal. The hectic public accessibility part is something I need to be able to take a pause from in order to be able to do the creative side as they are two very different mind sets for me.

ReyneFea395Let’s speak of your inspirations – you’ve already mentioned the sea.
I grew up on the west coast of the south island in New Zealand. It was a wild place, on an isthmus about 3 hours drive from anywhere significant. There was the boom of surf on all sides, and the mountains and forest seemed to plunge straight into ocean with no space between the earth, sea and sky.

How early was this a part of your music?
Even as a kid, I’d always sung, but it felt like my voice was inextricable from the context of where I was – it was tied up with other sounds – the surf, seagulls, the sigh of rain. I sang with those sounds in mind.

What would you say to a vocal artist who grew up in an apartment on a lifeless desert plain filled with soulless commercial architecture?
I’d say that they at least had something to rail against. I think that coming face to face with a lack can be as powerful an inspiration as coming face to face with a something that is openly oppressive.

Reynetext02But your music has less organic sounds as well…
When I started writing, it was mostly tales about characters that existed at certain times and places – often pioneers, sailors, and the quietly courageous who got on with their lot. I knew that certain sounds would have been part of the fabric of their lives too. Be it transport noise, factory drones, or simple agricultural machinery.

We often don’t think of machine “noise” as music.
Those things all have rhythm and/or tone. I’ve always loves using those sounds as part of the instrumentation and to give a sense of time and place and show how peoples lives are always intertwined with their surroundings.

The ocean. The Factory. Any more factors behind your musical alchemy?
The other big factor was the idea of repetition. In doing some of the Arts Council pieces – following the lives of early pioneers or factory workers – I became aware of the comfort people sought in patterns, especially if their lives were difficult or dangerous, or they had been moved to a place far away from their families. I already loved iterative harmonies and the build up of rounds in singing, but seeing that this element was a feature of how human beings deal with discomfort – or to soothe themselves – made it more magnetic still.

Is this what led you to using looping?
Yes. As a soloist you can have the effect of a lone voice, but build into harmonies into it without losing that quailtiy via the layering of sampling yourself as you sing. Being able to retain that feeling of isolation yet with harmony and fullness was a great thing to discover. It’s wonderful to be able to do it live as well as each performance will be unique in some way, as you sample yourself as you go.

ReyneProfileJordan Reyne has been hailed by Radio New Zealand as the author of a new sound and has 3 Tui Award (NZ Grammy) nominations. Her voice is featured on tracks by Cafe Del Mar and a funeral scene on Lord of the Rings. She has produced 7 albums of her own music anyone who signs up to her monthly newsletter will receive two free albums – simply go here.