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Interview: Dawn of Midi’s Amino Belyamani

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The Liquid Music Series’ Sam Tygiel recently interviewed Amino Belyamani, pianist and composer with the trio Dawn of Midi. The group will be featured on a concert co-presented with the Walker Art Center on the evening of November 15. Tickets + Info


Listen to “Nix” from Dawn of Midi’s Dynomia:

 

Dysnomia, Dawn of Midi’s critically acclaimed 2013 release, seems to come from another realm entirely. The trio calls upon the full expressive and technical range of their acoustic instruments to create sounds that evoke a delicately woven electronic composition. The result is something undeniably unique and irresistible, music charged with an immediacy and purpose that hypnotizes and engages not just the ears but the body of its listeners. Dawn of Midi will perform Dysnomia in its entirety alongside a set by virtuosic keyboard improviser Nils Frahm at Amsterdam Bar and Hall on November 15.

I had a chance to talk with Dawn of Midi pianist and composer Amino Belyamani about their mysterious and arresting album, and the challenges of performing the music live.

How did Dawn of Midi start? Can you talk a little bit about your journey as collaborators and how you arrived at the music that you will be performing for the Liquid Music Series? 

Dawn of Midi started out because of our failure to progress as tennis mates. We decided to play completely improvised music in complete darkness instead. We’re still not sure if abandoning tennis was the right choice.

What are some of the biggest challenges in performing your music? What makes a performance particularly exciting or rewarding for you?

The biggest challenge in any musical performance, we believe, is to deliver a near-perfect execution of an aural story in real-time. Every note needs to be played at its fullest intention and every duration, whether of a note or of a silence, must be respected at its correct quantum value. We are not satisfied and the audience will not be satisfied with a performance that is mathematically correct in terms of the time intervals. It is the collective ‘swing’ of each rhythmic phrase that allows for the music to sound right and breathe naturally.

This ‘swing’ cannot be given any fixed value, hence the use of the word ‘quantum.’ It can only be learned through first hearing and understanding it in the body, then practicing it until you feel like abandoning all music endeavors and end up as a goat herder.

I understand that some of your music is created through improvisation but Dysnomia now exists in a structured, composed format. Why did you decide to move in a more composed direction and what was the process of cementing the musical details like?

Dysnomia started with the idea that the whole piece would be through-composed, note for note. However, prior to the making of, we did experiment with partially improvised formats that eventually led to Dysnomia. We felt that we needed to control our musical ideas in their total form, in order to reduce the risk of the music sounding like s***. The process involved a lot of trial and error, over 150 rehearsals that were all archived for compositional use.

Many reviewers talk about the hypnotic and trancelike qualities of your music, what draws you to such effects and how do you achieve them musically?

I am from Morocco where  dancing as a way to induce trance is very common, whether in shamanistic-like rituals like the Gnawa Lila, or in casual gatherings and wedding parties. A lot of Moroccan music is based in polyrhythms that are heavily swung which makes the music and effect even more complex. When the body dances to music that never plays or outlines the regular pulse (the one you would be dancing on), trance is facilitated as the body becomes a complementary instrument to the experience by completing the circuit in time. Dysnomia is heavily based on these swung polyrhythmic ideas and creates different degrees of hypnosis and trance depending on the listener.

Why are you looking forward to performing on a bill with Nils Frahm? 

We are excited to go on tour with Nils Frahm as both acts represent this idea that humans can play and emulate what machines do, or let us say, what we taught machines to do.