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Musician Fiona Soe Paing discusses her creative process

Musician Fiona Soe Paing (Photo by George Mackie)

Fiona Soe Paing is an Aberdeenshire based music producer and vocalist, making experimental, song-based electronica performed alongside projected animations created by New Zealand based artist Zennor Alexander.

In our Connecting series, artists, venues and creative projects talk about their work, their audiences and their plans for the future...

About my work

My music is very textural and atmospheric, and I do a lot of experimentation with the vocal textures too, as well as playing around with language, singing in a mixture of English, phrasebook Burmese and improvised vocalisations. (I'm half Burmese, but never had any of that culture around me when i was growing up in rural Aberdeenshire).

In the beginning

After I'd finished writing my first few songs in Logic on my laptop, I wanted to find a way to perform that would be more interesting to watch than just a singer and a laptop, so I started looking for visuals collaborators to help develop ideas for a live show. The first person I worked with was the photographer and graphic artist Daniel Burman, who created a complete alphabet and font to accompany my "invented language".

Having this concrete visual element really pulled the concept of my music together. I then met Zennor Alexander, who started working on the first animated video for one of my tracks. Zennor and I have been collaborating on music and visuals for about eight years now, and he makes all the animations for my music videos and live shows. I've also collaborated with graphic designer Philip Thompson who made a new version of the alphabet and font, which features on the EP cover and new videos.

    The process

    In practical terms, the creative process works with Zennor and I collaborating online via Skype and email, I come up with rough drafts of new songs, which I send to Zennor, and he makes animations from whatever images the music sparks off for him.

    After the initial discussions, I pretty much leave all the aspects of the visuals up to Zennor.

    Inspiration

    The background inspiration is purely a desire to experiment and see what  happens - there is no preconceived plans or agenda to pursue, apart from just following our curiosity and to take the next obvious steps in the process. The overall concepts and ideas only emerge through making the work itself - when we are in the process, it's all pretty much blind exploration.

    It's exciting watching it all unfold! The most exciting parts are the videos or ideas that just seemed to "create themselves" without much intervention on our part at all.

    Collaborating on Roller Ghoster

    Roller Ghoster had an added collaborative element - I was involved in a project run by Aberdeen Arts Development, where my music was played at a workshop session, and visual artists were invited to create new work inspired by my music. One of the finished pieces was the painting "No Man's Land" by Heather Wilson - Zennor then took images and textural elements from the painting and created a new animation piece, bringing everything full circle.

    Response

    The live shows are a cross between a cinema performance and a live gig and I've had some really great feedback from the performances I've done so far. After saying that initially they didn't knowing what to expect, from a musical cinematic vocal electronica animation hybrid, audience reactions have been incredibly positive. People have said that it's like being taken off on a journey to a completely different place, and they've been completely mesmerised!

    My favourite audience quote to date has been "Now I think I know what it must feel like to be standing right out at the edge of the universe!"

    What's next?

    The next step is to compile all the tracks and videos that we've created so far, into a DVD/CD album and to work with a label to release that, and then do a small tour. I'm just about to start remixing some of the tracks ready for mastering, and I hope to have a launch event for the album in the next few months.

    More Info

    To listen to more of  Fiona's music and find out more about her work, visit fionasoepaing.co.uk. Fiona received support from Creative Scotland's Quality Production programme in 2012 to help with creating videos to accompany her work.

    This article was published on 23 Apr 2014