Five Questions to Nayla Mehdi, Sound Artist

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I knew it was time to approach Nayla Mehdi about writing a piece for solo violin after I heard her Five Scenes performed by Third Angle in November 2014. The piece beckoned the audience and the performers into a calm, meditative space that immersed us in a world of her imagination.

The instrumental parts cooed and fluttered in such a natural way, that I felt like I was in an old growth forest by the ocean, glowing with electric colors. It wasn’t long before I asked Nayla to write a piece I could play with a new ensemble I was eager to participate in: Sound Of Late.

Nayla’s piece, Quiet Mindfulness, explores our inner nature. The violin line slowly drifts upward into its own character in an exploration of itself before drifting back down to…“reality.” The exploration seems to resolve and clash between feelings of strength and helplessness in a clean and very honest sonic setting. By the time we emerge, something truly special has taken place.

You can read the transcript of a short conversation I had with Nayla below:

When did you first start composing? How did it feel to hear something you wrote performed?

My first work was an experimental electronic piece featuring a borrowed electromagnetic pickup, a microphone, and live speech that I performed myself in 2009. It had a slow moving pace, and so it felt pleasant to be able to convey a calm, patient message, allowing me to push aside my typically nervous state. This seems to be a trend in my pieces.

How do you approach writing a piece: what inspires you?

Sounds inspire my music. Since I mostly work in sound art, the field recordings that I collect typically dictate my music. That includes the harmonic content as well: you can find a lot of wonderful harmonic material in sounds, urban or natural.

For many people in the audience, this will be the first time they hear your music. What would you want them to know?

The work that I do is mostly sound based, and my work is currently in search of quietude, patience, and simplicity. As you listen, I hope you find that, too.

What are your favorite sounds?

My favorite sounds are: mourning dove coo, analog audio crackles, distant train horn, gentle rain, pitched clicks (expression attributed to my dear friend, Carlos Dominguez).

Anything else you want to add?

Please ask people to share their favorite sounds. I find the intimacy of listening inspiring, and I would love to know what sounds are special to other people.

Editors note: Please leave a comment listing your favorite sounds. If you have a recording of the sound, we strongly encourage you to share a link to it as well!

Bryce C. Caster
Bryce C. Caster is a violinist who loves bubbles, loathes green bananas, and is a lost cause when around cute furry animals.