Interview with Seán Carpio

Seán Carpio is a multi-instrumentalist from Dublin, Ireland whose practice incorporates song, sound and improvisation. Carpio is a regular collaborator with The Model, having performed alongside various musicians in A Winter Light music project by Mark Garry. Carpio returned to The Model this April for a music residency in which he created Bog Bodies along with musicians and composers Robert Stillman, Anders Holst and filmmaker Ben Rowley. Ahead of his return to The Model, Erin Fox got the chance to ask Seán about his influences and his connection with The Model.

EF: Who are your musical influences?
SC: Right, this minute I’m spending a lot of time listening to Dr. Garcia Zarate. He is a musicologist and lawyer who transcribes traditional harp and vocal music from Ayacucho in southern Peru for the guitar. For me, his music is from space. Even knowing the origins and influences, his performances of these traditional songs remain utterly mysterious to me.

EF: Which musician would you love to collaborate with?
SC: Not to sound too “cottage industry” but I love working with my colleagues, family and friends. Most of the long-standing groups I play with are from close relationships. As for the residency in the Model, this new group Bog Bodies comprises of Anders Holst whom I’ve known for ten years, saxophonist Robert Stillman who has been a very close colleague in various groups and projects, but also a new collaborator, film maker Benjamin Rowley. I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing what we make together in this focused period as we’ve made some interesting pieces already after only meeting once over a short weekend.

EF: Who has been your favourite musician to collaborate with?
SC: I’ve had a great partnership with Mark Garry for the past six years that I’m very proud of. Although he’d say he’s not really a musician, he sees a potential for music that is greater than anyone I’ve ever met and that’s always a joy to be a part of.

EF: How do you compose?
SC: I really like music that stays in a singular zone, that doesn’t change or move too much but instead subtly covers its tracks or plays with the memory of what has just been heard. I usually gravitate to writing pieces like that. I keep the performers very much in the forefront of my mind. The practical nature of that can reveal a lot of possibilities as to what the music can be and ultimately reduces stress in performance. I would prefer everyone to feel comfortable enough to improvise suitable to their disposition and without it becoming a discussion point. If I can supply music that makes the performers feel comfortably lost and inspired at the same time than I’m happy.

EF: How do you decide or plan your next project?
SC: It’s never been an outright decision on my part to start something new as I’ve mostly been a sideman in my career. Often times it’s a collaborative spark that brings it about. And once again it’s back to colleagues, friends and family that help to know what’s next. Right now I’m working on starting a label with my sister Eileen (Eilo), her partner Dara Smith (Arad/Lakker) and Mark Garry. This is a really exciting venture for us to be able to create and release disparate musics under one banner.

EF: How important are your surroundings to your compositions?
SC: Just like considering the performers, the space where it is performed is as influential and reveals as many possibilities. Most often for projects I’m a part of, venues are quite similar. Any changes in size or sound quality are circumnavigated through improvisation. There’s rarely a preciousness about sound quality in the groups I’m in, so we’re happier to find a way to become more a part of that space. I’m part of a new group called Coven that attempts to become the room in this way, to fill it in through various dynamics, and only that. With this residency in Sligo, I have a feeling that we won’t be so much working with the acoustics of the space as with the nature and the people outside. It’s very difficult to avoid being taken by the dramatic nature of the area and the people that live there.

EF: Can you tell me why you chose Sligo for your current project?
SC: This residency came about after myself and Robert Stillman worked on Mark Garry’s recording project A Winter’s Light, in February of 2014. We were preemptively planning this project at that time and felt that The Model was a remarkably supportive institution that would be ideal to work with. Thankfully they were willing partners in making this a reality. I’m really excited about this project as it’s a very new and unknown venture for us all and so having the Model supporting us is fantastic.

An audience is invited to share the initial results of this ten-day collaboration on Wednesday 15 July from 4pm.