“Across three decades and over 30 albums, Robert Rich has helped define the genres of ambient music, dark-ambient, tribal and trance, yet his music remains hard to categorize. Part of his unique sound comes from using home-made acoustic and electronic instruments, microtonal harmonies, computer-based signal processing, chaotic systems and feedback networks. Rich began building his own analog synthesizers in 1976, when he was 13 years old, and later studied for a year at Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA).” (via robertrich.com)
How would you summarize this past year on an artistic and personal level?
It has been a very good year for me personally. I feel that I am passing through one of those rare times in life of low turmoil, when things go smoothly and feel easy. I feel some confidence about my abilities, and I remain curious to discover new questions. On the other hand, there have been some setbacks. My wife was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome earlier this year, so that casts a bit of a shadow on the future; and my concern increases about the overall direction of humanity on this planet, about how we treat our environment and each other.
Which album have you listened to most often this year (not necessarily released in 2014)?
By far, I have listened most to my next solo album “Filaments” which has been in constant development all year, and when I am not working on music I often don’t listen to music. I need to rest my ears. However, my favorite album of the year might be Elbow’s “The Take-off and Landing of Everything.”
What was the best gig you’ve attended?
This year? In my own work, probably the sleep concert I performed in Tokyo for Red Bull Music Academy. As a listener, perhaps the King Crimson tour passing through in San Francisco.
What was the best non-music related cultural experience you’ve had?
I was very excited by a new museum gallery that opened at Stanford University to house the Anderson Collection, which might be one of the best private collections of 20th century abstract art in the USA. I have been there four times since it opened in October. There is a Robert Irwin orb that appears to float in the air in a pool of light. They have two Rothkos, Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, Ellsworth Kelly, Clifford Stijl, Deibenkorn, so much more.
Was there an event within this past year that has significantly influenced your philosophy and outlook on life, or your perception of the world around you? For instance some specific place you visited, people you met and so on?
My outlook remains rather consistent despite any specific events. I have trouble putting it into words, which is why I make music, I suppose. With music I can somehow convey my sense of wonder and curiosity, even though I have a lingering undercurrent of sadness and foreboding about human activities. Music is one of the few things I know how to do well enough to make a difference: it can inspire small moments of awareness in the face of all the noise. Western culture is getting so inundated with noise, and I feel we are in a state of hypercaptialism, increasingly out of balance. The more we listen to news media the less we perceive, the more confused we become. Direct human contact is an antidote of sorts, especially when we meet people from around the world, all different cultures. I am very lucky to have a life that allows me to do that.
What was your greatest disappointment in 2014?
Perhaps the state of the little edible garden at our home, where we have several fruit trees and grow different vegetables throughout the year. California has had a bad drought for the last few years, and the trees are showing some stress.
Your plans, hopes and expectations for 2015?
I aim to release my next album “Filaments” in January, and then go on tour in April and May. If I survive that, I’ll start working on something new, for which I already have ideas. I am enjoying this period of productivity, as I become increasingly aware of how short life really is. Outside of work, there are very few things that I can control, so I only hope that we can collectively improve our presence here as a species.