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An Interview with Andrew Pekler


I was deeply engrossed in my research on the phantom island Frisland when I came across Andrew Pekler's work. Frisland is my favorite phantom island--- it appeared on almost all maps of the North Atlantic in the 16th and 17th centuries, and there's something wonderful about the fact that so many people believed it to be real. But it's not real, and there's no way to hear what a place that doesn't exist sounds like, or so I thought. But then I found "Description of Rain (Over Frisland)" off of Andrew's album Sounds From Phantom Islands, and suddenly I felt like I had been to Frisland and felt its gentle rainfall.


I eagerly explored Andrew's sonic atlas of phantom islands-- enjoying his atmospheric tracks that payed tribute to nonexistent places, from Frisland to Los Jardines to Sandy Island. Each composition had the same effect on me. After listening, it was like waking from a dream, hesitatingly shaking off the thick haze of sleep, and exiting a sort of liminal space. I found out that the sonic atlas was a part of the exhibition Fourth Worlds: Imaginary Ethnography in Music and Sound and promptly fell down another digital rabbit hole of unreal places.


I also rifled through the rest of Pekler's work, and was entranced by all of it, from the introspective Sentimental Favourites to the fantastical Entanglements In The Orthopedic Sensorium--- the titles of the albums alone were something to revel in. But Sounds From Phantom Islands will always be especially magical to me.


What work are you most proud of? 

I don't tend to look back all that much on what I've done in the past nor am I really in the habit of ranking things hierarchically so I can't answer this question meaningfully. I can still identify with everything I've ever released, although I might make slightly (or even radically) different choices if I were working on some past project or album now. 

What’s been the most transformative experience of your life? 

Probably the experiences of my family emigrating from the Soviet Union to the US when I was a child and of moving from the US to Germany when I was going to college. I'm sure my life would have turned out quite differently had neither of these things happened. 

Using a metaphor, how would you describe your creative process? 

It's not a metaphor, but the phrase that's constantly looping in my head as I'm working is "Reduce to the max." That is, for something to have maximum effect, you need to take away everything that doesn't absolutely need to be there. 

Who are your biggest inspirations? 

Mostly I'm inspired by some of my contemporaries whose music and sound continues to change and evolving while at the same time they retain their own recognizable voice. Giuseppe Ielasi, Jan Jelinek, Lieven Martens are three examples. 

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life? 

That life is both unpredictable and ultimately meaningless, but that this is no reason to despair. On the contrary, it's all the more reason to learn, enjoy and be kind. 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? 

Make the bass mono. 

How has your work changed over the years? 

I think I've gotten better at listening to that voice in my head that's saying: Reduce to the max. Reduce to the max Reduce to the max. Reduce to the max. etc....