Interview on Votive Landscapes

This is the original English interview with Sergey Kudelin from the Votive Landscapes blog on VK, where it was posted in Russian in January 2020.

Q: How did your musical path begin and why did you come to ambient?

A: I think it began in a church, in the village where I used to spend my summer holidays when I was a child. I played an old pump organ with permission of the parish priest. I loved the sound and the instrument and I used to play for hours, every summer in my youth. The acoustics were a dream and all this started to grow my love for mystical sounds and harmonies. Soon after discovering the organ, I had classical training as a pianist. For years I just played alone, having these long sessions that eventually became drone improvisations. My interest in ambient music begun very early though, when I listened to classic electronic and new age music as a child. From my mid twenties on I listened to a lot of psychedelic folk and drone, and eventually I met the underground ambient scene. Little by little I realized I needed to make music like that. In 2015 this became a real urge to compose and record music, so I began exploring synthesizers and recorded my first album All Is Dream in a few months, trying to reconnect to my early musical sensations.

Q: What is the meaning of your music? What do you share with the audience?

A: I think it's mainly about a journey into the realm of Imagination. The kind of music that really moves me is that which makes me feel like I'm dreaming or traveling to other worlds and evokes psychedelic sensations and wonder in me. I find inspiration in meditation, in mystical and philosophical readings, and also in the liminal states of consciousness between vigil and sleep, like lucid dreaming. I think all this is there with me when creating music. Above all, I feel freedom and joy when I let go into the flow of creativity, and just try to be receptive to my inner world.

Q: Let's talk about mystical experiences and philosophical readings. Can you describe your mystical experience that made an indelible impression on you?

A: Everything can be a gate to the mystery if you still your mind and let it be what it is. Regarding music, I have always been fascinated by certain harmonies that evoke some sense of transcendence. Likewise, the pure perception of sound has been very important in my developing as a human and as a musician. There are many kinds of so called mystical experiences, and the deeper ones cannot be told about because they transcend words, but I think all we experience wholeness in a way or another, just most of us are not aware of that all the time. For me, living a spiritual life is far more important than talking about spiritual experiences, which can easily be appropriated by ego. But I can tell that in every sound there is silence.

Q: What do you think gives a person meditation?

A: There are many kinds of meditation practices, and each one does different things to people. I am a Zen practitioner and this has shaped my way of looking at things. Basically, a good meditation practice enhances your awareness and makes you a more sensitive and sensible person. Beneficials are countless. As a musician, meditation helps me to clear my mind and connect to an inner source of creativity that transcends my self-imposed limits and flows into my work. In the highest level, meditation is a way that let us realize who we really are.

Q: Which of the philosophers or philosophical currents is closest in spirit to you and why?

A: I have dived more into spiritual and esoteric traditions than to what we usually understand by philosophy in a modern sense. I have learned a lot from Buddhism and Christian mysticism. I think all spiritual traditions are rooted in the same essence, so you can be enriched by all of them. When it comes to philosophers and thinkers, I'm more in the neoplatonic/hermetic/gnostic side of things. A present-day author that has recently had a great influence on me and my way of looking at my artistic practice is Patrick Harpur. He talks about Imagination as the primary way of knowledge and the force that shapes our reality, in relation to Alchemy, Jung and the Hermetic tradition. Maybe the idea that has influenced me the most in my approach to creation is that all is mind, that reality is like a dream. I have always had a need to transcend conventional reality, to see and reach other worlds and possibilities beyond rationalism and materialism. In that sense, all these traditions and philosophies share the premise that everything can change because it's not what it seems. You just have to learn a new way of looking at things.

Q: Why haven’t any of your albums been released by Spanish labels?

A: When I began recording music, I was quite familiar with the underground cassette scene, which as you know has a very global, non-local character. Submitting my music to certain labels from the USA was natural for me since I was a great fan and my favourite artists back then were releasing their music on them. My first album was released by Sounds of the Dawn, a label that had been an important reference at the recovery of old classic new age cassettes. From then on, relationships with other artists and labels developed naturally and my next albums were released on small labels from the USA, Russia and Japan. However, I would love to have my music released on Spanish labels since there are some really good ones and ambient is becoming more popular here. Labels such as Archives, El Muelle Records and Abstrakce, to name a few, are doing a great work. I have a couple of tracks on a new Spanish ambient music compilation to be released by Altera Orbe soon, so that's a first step in this direction.

Q: How do you feel about joint musical creativity and do you plan to collaborate with anyone?

A: I love to collaborate with other artists. It is a challenge because it forces you to explore new paths beyond your comfort zone. I made two tracks with Meta Mora and one with City of Dawn, and always had fun and learnt a lot. Of course these collaborations in the distance are based on working on some audio the other artist sent you. I have never done it in an improvisation real-life setting, and I would really like that too. Anyway, I am working on a collaborative album with a friend from the USA and we are really excited about how it is going. I think it gathers and synthesizes our respective styles bearing something new. Very fun and rewarding.

Q: In conclusion, a wish or parting words for the audience?

A: Thanks Sergey for the interview and everyone for your reading and interest. I always feel grateful for every person who takes the time to sit and listen to my music. It gives me the message that what I do is valuable for some people and inspires me to continue this journey. Music is a wonderful path to walk, both as an artist and a listener. Thanks and keep exploring!