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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Snow Palms, Intervals: an interview with Dave Sheppard

Illustrators interpret the tunes that make up a beautiful new instrumental album by Dave Sheppard.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Snow Palms by Grace Coombes
Snow Palms by Grace Coombes.

If, like me, you are partial to a bit of modern classical music, then your must buy album for 2012 must be Intervals by Snow Palms, a collaborative project between musician/composer David Sheppard and numerous other creative types. Channelling the repetitive strains of Philip Glass and intricate, polyrhythmic bleeps and glitches, Intervals is an eerily beautiful and hypnotic album that you will want to play over and over again. Just don’t call it World Music.

david sheppard Snow Palms
There is a dizzying array of instruments featured in your album… who played them all and which was the one you fell most in love with, perhaps surprisingly?
The multi-instrumental Christopher Leary (from Ochre) contributed lots of woodwind, additonal electronics and percussion and wrote and played some of the string parts. Josh Hillman (from Willard Grant Conspiracy, etc) played violins and violas and I played all the mallet instruments (glockenspiels, marimbas, xylophones, etc), as well as classical and electric guitar, piano, harmonium, drums and so on… One of the most resonant sounds is based on a little faux electric harp effect on an old Suzuki Omnichord (it’s on ‘Index of Rivers‘) which we ran though tons of effects to create this big, sepia ‘cloud’. It’s sort of sonic Proust; it billows up here and there over the track like bursts of nostalgia. 

Snow Palms by Mireille Fauchon
You’ve mixed genres and styles from different countries. Have you travelled a lot and if so what place has inspired you most musically?
I’m not sure if there was a delibarate mixing of specific national or ethnic ‘styles’ – that sounds too much like, shudder, ‘world music‘. It was more about trying to recontextualise different types of ‘exotic’ or ‘elevating’ musical approaches, like alloying vaguely Eastern Gamelan-type percussion with Western baroque strings. But it was less scientific and far more intuitive and spontaneous than that sounds.
 
Snow Palms by Mireille Fauchon
I have travelled a fair bit, I guess, but the music that consistently excites me at the moment comes mainly from West Africa, and I have yet to visit… Sometimes just the vaguest impression of a ‘foreign’ music can be a more potent influence than thorough immersion in it.

Snow Palms by Mireille Fauchon
Snow Palms 1,2,3 by Mireille Fauchon. I wanted to create imagery which could capture the enigmatic quality of Snow Palms – Intervals, it seemed appropriate to respond using colour and pattern in order to create illustrations which, much like the compositions, are multi layered and textural and open to interpretation.

How did you ‘sort the wheat from the chaff‘ with producer and arranger Chris Leary?
I’d begun a lot of tracks on my own and there were some that wanted to be left spare and minimal, others that begged for additional arrangement and still others that needed shelving. Chris helped with the general winnowing process.

Snow Palms Intervals cover
What inspired the polyrhythmic structures? Were you listening to anything else particular when you created the album?
A lot of the influences weren’t specifically musical. I was definitely thinking architecturally and about map contours, wave patterns on the ocean, trees growing up through city grids… all kinds of vaguely moiré things. I was also listening to various Gamelan records someone brought back for me from Indonesia, and Moondog‘s ‘Elpmas‘ recordings for marimbas. Of course, once you start layerig up idiophones it’s almost impossible to evade the pervasive influence of Messrs Riley, Reich, Glass, Nyman, etc… I was also bending an ear to old ‘exotica’ records, Arthur Lyman in particular, to Carl Orff‘s ‘Schulwerk‘ music for children, and to lots of European film soundtracks, specifically those by Krzysztof Komeda.

Snow Palms by Alexa Coe
Snow Palms by Alexa Coe. Whenever I listen to music I often retreat to a fantasyland. I found the music hypnotic, unable to really describe what really came to mind, I found myself in a state of automatic drawing, which is why I’ve presented here my inner child, like a doll waiting to wound up and spring into action,

Will you be performing the album live? if so How will that happen?
Almost certainly not, unless the Arts Council get heavily involved! It will require a very dextrous ten-to-fifteen piece band!

Dave Cartoon Snow Palms
How did this comic strip image of you (above) by Darren Hayman come about?
Because Darren and I are working together on an instrumental album, called Semmering, about the eponymous ‘cure house’ retreat in the Austrian Alps. Also, I play a little bit on some of his more recent albums.

Snow Palms by Margaux Cannon
Snow Palms by Margaux Cannon. I ran with the childlike quality of the music, the chimes and the idea of winter.

Darren says you like to hide, hence we didn’t get many images of you to work from, what is the best environment for you to create your music in?
I’m hardly J.D. Salinger, but I do believe mystery, shyness and inaccessibility are underrated qualities in these hyper-connected, self-aggrandizing times. Anyway, I prefer the cloistered laboratory envrionment of the recording studio to the ‘showbiz’ of the stage. I like to be surrounded by lovely musical instruments, especially ones I have no idea how to play. 

Snow Palms – Motion Capture

What are you working on next?
An album by Ellis Island Sound (aka Pete Astor and me) which explores some of those African influences, and the aformentioned Semmering instrumental album. If the planets align, I’ll also be embarking on an entirely solo album in the New Year.

Intervals by Snow Palms is out now on Village Green.

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