Five Queries with… Stephanie Merchak

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Stephanie Merchak is a prizewinning sound designer, composer and producer based in Batroun, Lebanon. With years of academic and professional musical expertise already behind her, she began working with electronic music in 2004. Since then, she has completed many works and shown proficiency in numerous styles. Her recent piece Impacts, Reflections and Feedback (Arell, 2017) is a restless crawl through many strange, concrète vignettes. With all the sound originating in processed field recordings, the work’s nonrepeating, disorientating texture and ambiguous representations give it unusual depth and evocative range. Over twenty minutes, it becomes really engrossing. Elsewhere, Merchak’s material reaches from intense expressionism to wam, early 2000s IDM/electronica.

We got in touch with Stephanie to find out what she’s currently up to.

Irregular Crates: At present, what sorts of musical adventures (hardware, software or otherwise) are you having?

Stephanie Merchak: My work has been a mix of both software and hardware for the past 2 years. I use any combination of the following: a Moog Mother-32, a Korg Volca keys and a Volca Sample, a Nord Drum 2. I sometimes process those with guitar pedals (Boss DF-2, Electro-harmonix Memory Toy and Superego and Zoom MS-70CDR). The latest hardware addition to my setup was a Novation Circuit.
In my music, I also use a lot of field recordings that I record in my hometown or on the road or when I travel. I also use Ableton Live instruments and some VSTs. All the final editing, production, recording of the instruments, mixing etc happens in Ableton Live.


IC: How would you describe your relationship with your own music? In other words, what sorts of meanings has your own music to you (e.g. aesthetic, political, metaphorical…)?

SM: I consider music as a way of expression, a way of conveying a certain mood through which I’d like the listener to travel (my album Sounds From Outerspace), it can sometimes also be cathartic and therapeutic (my album Collapsing Structures), sometimes political (my single Beware the Monsters and my track Dark Times). Sometimes, it’s just music for the sake of music and sound, it takes then a purely aesthetic meaning (Exploration of The Invisible and Impacts, Reflections and Feedback)


IC: How would you describe your local music scenes? Do they accommodate the styles of electronic music in which you work, or styles of music that interest you as a listener?

SM: We have pretty varied local music scenes but most of them are underground. For example, only a few dozens of people will attend a drone/noise/ambient concert or an indie pop/rock concert. The most popular style is Arabic pop. Then you have the techno/house/EDM scene with all the clubs and a few festivals.
I struggle a lot to get people to know and listen to my music, most people that do are not based in my country. I get feedback, mentions, reviews from sites and individuals in Europe and the US mostly, very rarely in my own country, just a handful have heard of me where I live.


IC: Have you any interest in performing your work in concert?

SM: I do. I have been performing my music occasionally since 2009. Last time I did, was a live hardware improvised Noise/Drone/Ambient concert on the 21st of September in a small venue in Beirut called Dawawine.


IC: Have you any projects in the pipeline that you’d like to mention?

SM: I have a noise/glitch EP coming out before the end of the year on a US label and three other projects (two collaborations and a track for a compilation). Stay tuned for more details in the future; I can’t say more for the time being, those projects are supposed to be surprises.

 

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