Ottawa New Music Creators


Five Questions: Adam Saikaley

Two weeks tomorrow (August 1st), Adam Saikaley and a host of others present Sound/Tracks – an awesome spectacle where film and music are artistic compatriots in the quest for meaning. We were able to catch up with Adam (somehow) between his many gigs...

1) SAW describes Sound/Tracks as a means to "redefine the very idea of the film soundtrack." In what ways might this be true, and what was the impetus for this?

I think the intention is to explore different ways audio and video can work together, creating a codependent art form, outside of the traditional sense of music as dramatization, as it is in cinema. That is how Matthieu and I have decided to approach this project.


2) How was it, working with Matthieu Hallé?

Working with Matthieu has been fantastic. He's incredibly motivated, organized, skilled, talented, and knows the beauty of simplicity. I couldn't have asked for a better collaborator and I consider myself very fortunate to have met this artist.


3) You're very active as a performer these days, with a wide range of acts. Does your creative work in any one project, such as Silkken Laumann, directly influence another such as Ceremony in a conscious way? Or are they more segregated creative outlets?

I love performing music for people, so I try and do it as often as possible. I've been able to perform as much as I do in a city like Ottawa because I'm involved in a lot different projects and musical avenues. Spreading myself like this wasn't a conscious decision, it just happened this way over the years. I can do it because can hear the stylistic differences between different genres, and then I can imitate them and later absorb them. But genres are just like languages from the same family with nuanced differences. Just like a tongue can say red, or rouge, vermelho, or rojo, an instrument can do the same. I take something from every project I'm in and apply to everything else. Learning how to DJ techno and house with vinyl records develops my sense of pulse, which helps me when I'm performing solo piano in restaurants. That kind of thing.

4) You say you write for no-input mixers and speakercones. I find that's delightfully abstract, but I was wondering if you could expand on that phrasing. 

I never realized until now how pompous that sounds, ha, because technically in a live amplified setting everyone is writing music for speaker cones, but I mean it very literally. A few years ago I looked at a bare speaker cone in my basement and had the idea of turning that into an instrument that could make its own sound, an instrument that could be played acoustically or mic'd and amplified through speaker cones. I feed the output audio signal of the amplifier back into its own input (as you do with no-input mixers). This causes the cone to vibrate incredibly fast, which can crash hi-hat cymbals together just like a drummer's left foot, for example.


5) On a different note – the CBC has been subject to some frustrating budget cuts, resulting in some (in our opinion, insensible) reductions in programming such as Amanda Putz' Bandwidth. You've had a stint at the CBC (2008-2013) before turning to performance full time. What can readers do to support Canadian radio programming, particularly with respect to new music?

The best thing they can do is to tune in. It's a numbers game and if the numbers look good, then radio music has a chance at surviving. That's the truth. If you want to know why I think Radio 2's numbers were declining, it's because Canada does not have a culture of music education, from childhood to adult hood. Not everyone is capable of playing and making music, but everybody studies authors and poets in school, and I think we should also study composers and songwriters. Understanding what came before helps in the creation and appreciation of new music. I think a good way to support new music is to attend concerts. It's the only way musicians make money now and it's really the best way to hear music.