Italian composer, sound artist and performer Sofia Hultquist works under the name Drum & Lace. Her projects range from music for TV and film to immersive spatial audio performances to beat-driven soundscapes. We spoke with Hultquist about her love of field recording, the involved pedal rig she uses for live ambient performances, and new projects on the horizon.
The HUB: Why do you gravitate towards field recording in your work?
D&L: I'm always trying to find ways of making electronic music more organic, which is why I like the idea of bringing field recordings in— knowing that a whole set is based off of the sound of one animal, or one place in particular. I also love the idea of sound preservation, and the idea of capturing moments in time and seeing how they evolve.
The HUB: You give workshops on this subject— what do you think everyone should know about field recordings?
D&L: I think it’s important for people to understand where the idea of field recordings came from, the concept of it, and why we do it. Starting with the work of Luigi Russolo all the way down to Pierre Shaffer and R. Murray Schafer. We take the concept of using found sounds and noise as a musical language for granted now that it’s been utilized for the past century. These early innovators were really doing something new, and often times doing it for preservation/ethnomusicology purposes. Or as was the case with Schafer for what he coined Acoustic Ecology. All of these concepts mixed together helped create this idea that sounds found anywhere outside of the recording studio could be musical and have a place in the contemporary idiom. The ambient music scene and field recording scene has really taken off, especially with the affordability of portable recorders— iPhone, Zoom recorders, vs. more old school A-DAT and bulkier recorders.
Drum & Lace performing live at Moogfest 2019 in Durham, NC.
The HUB: What creative field recording techniques interest you most?
D&L: Recording in multichannel or spatial audio— using Soundfield microphones to record in ambisonic and full 360 spatial, or using different microphone arrays— like with B-native ambisonic formats.
The HUB: Can you give us a tour of your pedalboard?
D&L: For vocal chain, I have an Earthquaker Devices Arpanoid to create weird scaly-type things, but mainly I use it as an octave-doubler which goes into two Meris pedals. One is the Enzo— it's essentially a synth engine that I can use on my voice, and I'll usually use it with a pitch up two octaves or down two octaves to add some shimmer. That feeds into a Meris Polymoon, which honestly might be one of my favorite pedals— it's not really a delay, it's not really a reverb. It's just kind of like a crazy effects pedal, and that helps me achieve some of the weird doublings, that then I feed into a TC Electronic Ditto Looper, which helps me to build textures. Having the Ditto as a support is really great, because often my ambient stuff has a lot of vocals that are looped. That then all goes into a Strymon Blue Sky, which always makes things sound massive and wonderful. The Elektron Digitakt 8-Voice Digital Drum Sampler is a new addition, but I've been loving it, because it's so easy to use, and you can load in sounds, which have allowed me to be able to load in field recordings to make beats, and it's really great with the MIDI in and MIDI out. It's stereo, and sounds really, really good and it feels really sturdy. So, that's holding down the rhythm section of the board. I love the SP404. It's an old, old staple, and the one that I have is essentially 10 banks of field recordings that are mapped out into scenes. One of them I call ‘Natura', and it's just a bunch of farm sounds from Italy. Another one of the banks I call ‘Big Bear Birdsong’, because it's all birds that were recorded on a trip to Big Bear. Within these banks I’ll also have instruments that are sequenced that I don't feel like bringing on the road. For example I have a few sequences from the Moog Mother32 because to me the Mother32 is not as easy to travel with. That also helps give these banks some more structure, and I will base things off of that. I just use it as a straightforward sampler. The Teenage Engineering OP-1 is incredible, and I feel like I'll always bring it everywhere since it’s so portable, and that feeds into a Meris Mercury 7 and another TC Electronic Ditto. Then one of my newest favorite additions is the ElectroFaustus Drone Thing, which is essentially just a bunch of oscillators that you can tune, and I have that feeding into an Earthquaker Devices Dispatch Master and Earthquaker Devices Hummingbird V4 Tremolo. I mainly use this so I can create different pulses at different frequencies and tones to complement my sets and to transition in and out of the different scenes. When I’m performing my super ambient stuff I’ll usually use just this pedalboard set-up, and the mix of all those things will usually work out. I have two mixers I use, depending on what setup I’m performing and how many ins I need. Right now, I have a Yamaha MG-06 6-Channel Mixer on the board as I’m feeding some of the components of the board into an interface.
Drum & Lace's touring pedalboard.
The HUB: Can you tell us about your current projects?
D&L: I just released a chamber-electronic record called ‘semi songs’ on July 19th that I'm really excited about. It's a bit of a departure from my normal releases, and more in line with my scoring work and the neoclassical experimental side of me. The record is out now on all digital platforms, and if you're a fan of 'physical' release type stuff you can find CDs and a Graphic Score Book of the score (interpreted by Jeremiah Chiu of Some All None) on my Bandcamp. On the scoring side I’m finishing up a psychological-thriller documentary called "The Penny Black" and have just finished working on a few other shorts and projects, which has been great! Coming up soon, I’m also really excited for people to see “Dickinson”, a new AppleTV+ series coming in the fall, that I co-scored.
Keep up with Drum & Lace at www.drumandlacemusic.com.