Interview with Manuel Mota (July 2014)
The first question is always the classic one: how does it start your love and interest for guitar and what instruments do you play or have you played?
I’m not sure, sincerely. Like in a lot of important things that occur in my life, I just felt pushed towards it and went ahead. Anyway, I have always been more attracted to the sound and looks of the guitar, probably like most of the youngsters since the 50’s, no? I was just another one, nothing special about it. This interest and love just got stronger with time. I had piano lessons with an old woman, a neighbor. That was boring but didn’t traumatized me, I guess. I was around 8 or 9 years old, then.
What was your musical training, with which teachers have you studied and what impression they left in your music? I asked for it because, I don’t know if it’s true, listening to you music I immediately think about Derek Bailey …
My real teachers were the records I listened, records that made me think, that intrigued me, that helped me to develop as a musician and person. Later, my practice and experience. I was fortunate to discover the music of Derek Bailey, and that is an essential source of inspiration and knowledge since then. I’d never be who I am without him, I’m sure.
I know that you have worked with Phill Niblock, I like his guitar drone music, how you met him?
He was connected to Ernesto de Sousa- an important portuguese experimental artist, pioneer in intermedia art- since the seventies. After Ernesto’s death, a fellowship was created by his widow, Isabel Alves, as a tribute to him, and that involved taking a young Portuguese artist to NY, to Experimental Intermedia, for a couple of months. I got this fellowship in 1995. We became good friends since then, never lost contact, and I’ve been glad to play his music regularly for these already 19 (!) years.
What does improvisation mean for your music research? Do you think it’s possible to talk about improvisation for classical music or we have to turn to other repertories like jazz, contemporary music, etc.?
Only machines don’t improvise. Improvisation is dealing with the moment. So, if you’re playing an instrument, It will be always present, just in different “dosages”.
What’s the role of the “Error” in your musical vision? For “error” I mean an incorrect procedure, an irregularity in the normal operation of a mechanism, a discontinuity on an otherwise uniform surface that can lead to new developments and unexpected surprises…
Error is what you have wanted not to happen or exist? Something you regretted doing? It’s part of life and makes you move forward on the pursuit to make/be better, I think.
I have, sometimes, the feeling that in our times music’s history flows without a particular interest in its chronological course, in our discotheque before and after, past and future become interchangeable elements, shall this be a risk of a uniform vision for an interpreter and a composer? The risk of a musical “globalization”?
A lot of music is easily available to everyone right now. It’s so complex. Each person deals with it on his own way or possibility. How it better suits oneself. Listeners, artists, theoreticians.
Let’s talk about marketing. How much do you think it’s important for a modern musician? I mean: how much is crucial to be good promoters of themselves and their works in music today?
If you speak about music, I don’t think marketing is relevant. But if one wants/needs to make money or get attention, or play a lot of shows, then being a good seller of oneself might be helpful.
Which composer (or which historical movement or genre) do you think is easiest for the non-musician listener to appreciate? Do you think they enjoy pieces that are more technically difficult or just more “flashy”?
I can’t put all the non-musicians in the same bag, so I can’t answer that. There’s audience for everything, I guess. And it depends on so many things… What’s the role of music in people’s lives? Some to grow as persons, some to study, some to be inspired, some to have fun, some to be alienated, some to be relaxed, and on and on… It depends, no?
Big festivals always have flashy, loud, technically difficult, circus-like music (and beer), so I guess a big majority is open to that combo.
Please tell us five essential records, to have always with you .. the classic five discs for the desert island …
Billie Holiday – Lady in Satin
Laura Nyro – New York Tendaberry
Derek Bailey – Solo Guitar Volume 2
Berlioz – Requiem
Derek and the Dominos – Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs
What are your five favorite scores?
I don’t read music. Don’t know anything about it.
With who would you like to play? What kind of music do you listen to usually?
I don’t have any name to give you, despite being open to play with others.
I like to play solo and with my friends, to be honest. Some of them happen to be wonderful and inspiring musicians, so I’m privileged, I think. I just miss to play with them when it takes a long time. I have a profound admiration for a lot of musicians, but wouldn’t specially dream about playing with them because of that. I don’t listen to a lot of music nowadays. I live now near the sea
and I love to listen to it.
Your next projects? When we will see you playing in Italy?
My next project is a collaboration with Margarida Garcia and Bjorn Schmelzer’s Graindelavoix. We’ll work together for some time in a church in Maastricht, and play a concert in the end of July.
I hope I can be back in Italy next September or October 2014. And hope to meet you then, Andrea!