Interview with Frank Clare


The title of your album, Admiratio Magna, translates to “The Big Surprise” in Latin.  Could you elaborate on the concept behind this title 

For me, the fact that anything exists at all is mind-blowing.  This life, this planet, this universe.  Absolute perfection would be absolute nothingness.  But even absolute  nothingness would be something.  Either absolute nothingness or absolute everythingness.  Or both. Or neither.  Or both and neither at the same time.   And it  turns out that we have this world, this life.  Kind of surprising when you think about  it.

The album draws inspiration from Italian, French, and German musical traditions.  Was it always your intent to infuse such an eclectic cultural approach, or did it arise naturally? 

It arose naturally.  The pieces are related musically, but each have elements that  tend towards those traditions.  Once I recognized that, I went for it and had fun with  it.

Your approach to leaving ample space in each composition is unique and impactful.  Did any particular artist or release inspire this choice? 

The piano part of Brian Eno’s Music for Airports introduced a world of slowness  and simplicity to me.  Japanese shakuhachi flute music: slow, centered, personal.

The idea of walking alone on a deserted cliff near the ocean and hearing someone in  the distance singing.  It’s a cliff, the wind is stong.  Sometimes the wind carries the  song, sometimes it obsures it.  The voice comes and goes.  Or maybe the singer just  sings at random intervals.  It’s haunting, this disjointed voice out of nowhere and  everywhere, flying across the ocean, the cliff and me.

What’s your favorite venue to perform at? 

I prefer small venues.  There’s a focus in that can be symbiotic, energetic and personal at the same time.

Do you have a specific process or ritual when creating new music?

I don’t sit at the piano with the intention of writing music.  What happens is that I’m  improvising for fun and I hear something that I like.  It’s just a few seconds, but it  catches me.  Now I’ve got this atom of music.  It can react with another atom.  Or it  can lie dormant.  Lets say it reacts.  That’s when it gets fun.  I’m drawn in, captivated,  compelled to see where it goes.

Any favorite artists or albums you’re listening to at the moment?

Lately I’ve been listening to Kurt Weill and old German cabaret music sung by Ute  Lemper and others.

If you could collaborate with any artist, alive or dead, who would it be?

I think improvising with Ravi Shankar and his tabla player Alla Rakha would be  incredible.

What do you find is the most satisfying part of being an artist? 

For me the most satisfying part is taking a combination of notes, and sometimes  words, that haven’t met before and throwing them together. It’s physics, chemistry, taking diverse elements, particles that have existed forever, but not necessarily with  each other, and smashing them into one another.  Could end up with an explosion.   Could end up with sights, insights, feelings, agitation, sadness, anger, joy, hate, love   …  could end up with music.

What is the biggest challenge you find in today’s music industry?

In spite of my substantial age, I’m a novice in today’s music industry. I haven’t  found out what the challenges are.  I haven’t been around long enough to have my  soul crushed.   What to say?  I don’t know.  Maybe too many green M&M’s not enough  red ones?

What’s upcoming for the project? 

I’m going to do something different from Admiratio Magna.  It’ll be shorter and  comprised of small, diverse pieces.  They’ll be jazz-ish, punk-ish, Americana-ish,  Classical-ish.  Some will have words, most won’t.  What will unify them will be the  energy flow from one to the next.

Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine.

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