Issue 10: Conversation With Poppy Ackroyd
By Daniel J. Kushner
The compositions of multi-instrumentalist Poppy Ackroyd have a way of sneaking up on a listener. A single crystalline melody is often introduced in the piano, before it is quickly enveloped in swirling textures and cyclical rhythmic structures, making the ability to extract individual timbres of keyboards and violins from the wash of atmospheric reverb increasingly more difficult. On the Brighton, UK-based Ackroyd's latest album Feathers--released on November 14 by the experimental German label Denovali Records--the composer succeeds in creating sonic paradigms in which time feels as if it has been slowed or suspended entirely.
Objects that may have previously appeared in the aural landscape as mere blurs become suddenly well-defined, if only momentarily. And yet the feeling of clarity and finality is ultimately illusory, as the subtly melancholic musical moments seem to drift away from the listener at steady, syncopated clip, to usher in yet another tantalizing and ethereal melody.
In a detailed email interview, Ackroyd recently opened up about the differences in compositional motivation between Feathers and her 2012 debut album Escapement, the role that increased instrumentation played on Feathers, and talked about how a single revelatory composition changed her approach to piano performance.
Beyond the familiarity that you have with the violin and piano, are there other aesthetic/practical reasons why you have decided to focus your instrumentation as such?
After studying and performing 20th century and contemporary classical music, I became really interested in approaching the piano in new ways and exploring the different sounds I could make with it. I realised it might be possible to create everything on an album from just one instrument. Finding the violin offered a similarly intriguing range of sounds, I decided to try working with a combination of the two instruments together. I found that working with just these two instruments, in combination with some field recordings created a unified, cohesive and organic sound.
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