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Five Sound Questions to Machinefabriek

Picture by Michel Mees.
Last November I wrote about Stay Tuned, an installation by Rutger Zuydervelt who operates under the name Machinefabriek. Besides making sound installations, he’s been making lots and lots of music for the last fifteen years or so. Lately I’ve been really fond of his latest collaboration with Michel Banabila, called Travelog. I decided to ask Rutger some questions. 

More sounds can be found on his website:

1. What sound from your childhood made the most impression on you? 

It might be the rattling sound of pieces of carton in the spokes of my BMX-bike. You know, the trick of attaching pieces of heavy paper (or playing cards) to the fork, just touching the spokes to make the bicycle sound like a motorcycle. It took quite some experimenting with the right size and weight of the paper to get the best sound (obviously with the roar of a Harley Davidson in mind). It’s amazing how such a small intervention can work the imagination. 

2. How do you listen to the world around you?

I must confess: a lot the time I walk around with headphones on. Whatever I listen to becomes the soundtrack to what I’m seeing and blends in with the environmental sounds. 

When I don’t have the headphones on, I’m easily distracted, especially in an urban environment. Sometimes I can’t hear the world around me without giving the sounds a musical, ‘compositional purpose’. It’s like a occupational disability and can actually be a bit tiring.

But I love to go hunting for sounds. Portable recorder in hand, capturing sounds that interest me. Then the environment comes to life. It’s with this listening mode that the sounds around us show their musicality.

3. Which place in the world do you favor for its sound?

I don’t really have one favorite place but one place that comes to mind is Gdansk, particularly the abandoned bunkers and industrial buildings at the outskirts. I was there last years, and there were a bunch of empty silos with a tremendous reverb. Just like with the old bunkers, there was nothing blocking the entrance, so you could just walk in and, in my case, make recordings.

4. How could we make sound improve our lives?

Less sound would actually be a big improvement…


5. What sound would you like to wake up to?

Fuck it, I’m going to answer with the most cliché answer ever: the sound of singing birds. I live in the center of Rotterdam, and the only birds I can hear are seagulls and pigeons, which both don’t have much talent for singing. A blackbird would be nice for a change.

Thanks Rutger! Also read the answers of other artists in the Five Sound Questions section.

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