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Artist Focus – Sepehr Haghighi – #IranUKSonics


As part of our #IranUKSonics residency running until Dec 20th, we feature a series of interviews with each of the five selected participants.

A composer with an active background in prog-rock guitar and composition, Sepehr Haghighi’s music crosses over into experimental digital music production while his work and general ethos is heavily informed by the years he spent studying Theatre Production at university. He produces music mainly under the moniker “Butterfly Project” and acknowledges influences by artists including Massive Attack, Steven Wilson and Ólafur ArnaldsWorking with guitar, synth and vocals, Haghighi’s work tends to have a narrative quality to it and comes from the music scene in the large province of Rasht, North of Iran.

Can you remember what was the first piece of music you became fascinated with?
As a teenager it was some pop music I heard on the radio, around 1995 I guess but nothing of much note.
Who were your influences as a teenager, what were you listening to?
In the beginning I listened to loads of 90s British and American pop bands, but as I grew older it changed to hard rock and then heavy metal.
On a day to day basis, what motivates you to work with sound rather than any other art form?
I work with sound without thinking about it, it’s just me.  
What is about prog-rock that you love so much?
Actually I’d say I like it rather than really love it, it’s about ‘what’s in a name?’. What I like could be progressive even in its form or conceptm but in prog-rock it’s the structure allows so much to space in which to perform ones creative ideas that appeals to me.
Would you say you identify with prog-rock music and culture? In which ways?
Overall there is no genre that I’d put my music into. I just create music and it just goes on and on. What I come up with could be put into different genres.
Tell us about your production process. Is sound and music different to you? In which ways?
Sound and music are separate from each other, considering the routine definition of them. There are some elements that make music different from sound – these might be rhythm, harmony and… actually there could be a line between them, but that’s something to debate. The lack of definition here might allow us to create a new phenomenon which could be called both sound or music or neither of them. I think one should not find him or herself trapped in definitions that are made by others or in the past.
As a sensory experience, how does sound ignite your/the imagination now?
You know, sound itself is a very abstract phenomenon. It has the potential to rid us of any pre-defined signs, symbols and structures. Sound acts as a platform from which one can let go of his or herself and explore more.
What do you think the developmental and DIY approach to learning to make sound?
Actually this method of learning is all about experiencing and during the experience, if one lets go of one’s own creativity, innovative things can happen. In this approach to sound design, there’s absolutely nothing nothing that can effect and limit the making of the sounds.
What do you think of what’s being made in Iran at the moment in terms of music?
Right now many people play and make music of different genres in Iran (not to mention the ones who are dealing with traditional music); from rock to metal to electronic. Music being produced in Europe or USA tends to be decently produced (technically), but there are some issues that I think may have negative effects on this process and those are: the lack of cultural basis and history, the lack of knowledge and experience in many artistic, cultural and humanistic theories. Actually I think there is a chance these issues could affect artists, no matter where they are in the world, in their productivity, creativity and effectiveness.
What music from outside of Iran are you loving at the moment?
For now I’m really exploring electronic/experimental/post-progressive rock music, such as NiN, MUM, Massive Attack, Steven Wilson, Thom Yorke, Puscifer, APC, OSI, Pink Floyd, Nils Frahm, Olafur Arnalds and more.
Which are the classical pieces you have ever appreciated, if any?
I don’t listen to classic music that much but of those I’ve heard, I was interested in certain pieces by Mahler, Rachmaninov, Paganini and Arvo Parts.
Some people consider music made in the past as outdated, what would you say to them?
Actually from a more radical perspective there is no expiry date for an artwork. It’s all about someone hearing a piece of music and responding or not. I admit there are different waves of music coming and going through history, but this doesn’t mean that we should obey anything that these waves are feeding us. We shouldn’t consider art, aesthetics as something fashionable. So I guess the fact that a piece of music is from the past and isn’t up to date, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t listen to it.
There is still a much debated question and possibly still without any definitive answer, but where do you personally see the difference between sound and music?
We are moving forward. Our definition of sound and music may differ from one age to another because we’ve never really successfully addressed this question, some unexplored things that are still in the dark about this. A subject, not just a symbolic subject (according to Lacans definition of subject), but a subject that is beyond what one defines through the symbols and signs and structures, may conquer them. That’s when new definitions may be born and structures may grow. What I am doing could be (I’m not saying it is certainly) something like that. There could be a line between sound and music normally, but making that line leaves one open to criticism, while the definition may change or grow. We could be the ones that are doing this.
Catch Sepehr live in London at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre at 6pm, Friday 14th December 2013.