Troum, Droning Mind (Interview with Troum)

The rea­son for writ­ing this fore­word is because after get­ting an email with Ste­fan Knappe and Mar­tin Gitschel’s answers I had a feel­ing I should have asked them about total­ly dif­fer­ent things; I should have engaged in the con­ver­sa­tion in a dif­fer­ent man­ner to know some­thing dif­fer­ent about Troum. I guess the unset­tling sen­sa­tion of elu­so­ry point («oh, if only a bit more, ah, if only a lit­tle more») is a symp­tom not only of per­son­al neu­ro­sis, but also of a con­tact with an accom­plished work of art. The art draws forth a will­ing­ness to speak.

How­ev­er, con­ver­sa­tions about drone music (or ambi­ent music in gen­er­al) often slip towards jug­gling def­i­n­i­tions like «tran­scen­den­tal», «atmos­pher­ic», «ethe­re­al», that basi­cal­ly have no mean­ing. Troum is by all means no excep­tion here. As a result we stop at stat­ing «an effect» – and tell, for exam­ple, about «imprint­ings», about a sound that «encom­pass­es», «hyp­no­tizes» and the oth­er spe­cif­ic solip­sist things. I think Troum’s case deserves some more respect, some more effort – even for a short lit­er­ary sketch for­mat. a3095237175_10[1] Sure, the ambi­ent invites state­ments like «it’s atmos­pher­ic» itself: by eras­ing the dis­tinc­tions with­in musi­cal form it takes out the thing our speech can get hold of. This form­less­ness becomes fol­lowed by a claim to its total­i­ty. Tra­di­tion­al pro­to-forms of drone music (from Indi­an ragas to Japan­ese gagaku) fol­low designs inte­grat­ed in a sacred social order. But does it mean that «nada brah­man» for­mu­la stays mean­ing­ful in anoth­er age, in a dif­fer­ent soci­ety? Ancient total­i­ty – how much does it cor­re­spond the total­i­ty of a glob­al­ized soci­ety per­me­at­ed by IT-communications?Should we believe that mod­ern drone ambi­ent music is a sacred tech­nol­o­gy, i.e. an instru­ment, dis­posed of a con­text of its ori­gin (just like drugs, sex­u­al exper­i­ments and so on), which can be used to pro­duce a cer­tain sacred expe­ri­ence?

a3095237175_10[1] Of course it is: drone ambi­ent is a tech­nol­o­gy for pro­duc­ing expe­ri­ences of a cer­tain kind; it’s obvi­ous­ly engaged in a dia­logue with archa­ic con­texts, suc­cess­ing them. Nev­er­the­less, the ques­tion remains: what kind of «sacred» do we mean nowa­days, when the fact of defin­ing this phe­nom­e­non itself is prob­lem­at­ic? The def­i­n­i­tion becomes emas­cu­late: «sacred» for ambi­ent music is just as emp­ty word as «atmos­pher­ic», unable to make any­thing clear. Due to these emp­ty words lis­ten­ers” atten­tion becomes focused on «per­cepts» instead of «con­cepts»: a piece of art is reduced to sen­so­ry expe­ri­ence («an encom­pass­ing sound»), which has basi­cal­ly no rela­tions to the world.

As a result ambi­ent becomes a per­fect object to once more jus­ti­fy a myth about a freely float­ing art, exist­ing by itself, out­side the mun­dane real­i­ty, devoid of mean­ing and oblig­a­tions. Music and sound art, though, are things-in-the-world (as Seth Kim-Cohen describes this), even though some authors (or crit­ics, or cura­tors) wish for these things to float inside a par­al­lel dimen­sion. This means that the music gains val­ue due to cer­tain cir­cum­stances and it’s not inde­pen­dent from the back­ground of its pro­duc­tion (that is prob­a­bly why drone that evolved from school noise punk stuff made by com­mon guys from North Ger­many may seem more sym­pa­thet­ic to some than ambi­ent draw­ings made by sophis­ti­cat­ed stu­dent of art col­lege named Bri­an Eno). a1608962751_10[1] It’s worth not­ing that authors of Troum do not declare their music «oth­er­word­ly» or ‘’ethe­re­al” at all. They straight up tell their cre­ation does not escape from the world, on the con­trary, it acts with­in the world, chal­lenges the world – and its polit­i­cal and eco­nom­i­cal envi­ron­ment. This ten­sion of yearn­ing is present both in stu­dio record­ings and dur­ing live shows (it’s more notice­able in case of Maeror Tri though). Still for Troum notion of sacred­ness makes sense, remains a work­ing con­cept which can make clear the prin­ci­ple by which this music func­tions. For this we should address the the­o­ret­i­cal frame­work used by Strong Pro­gram on Cul­tur­al Soci­ol­o­gy. These researchers view «sacred» as a basic cat­e­go­ry of real­i­ty which deals with col­lec­tive expe­ri­ences of utmost inten­si­ty as opposed to cat­e­go­ry of «profane»(meaning indi­vid­ual and mod­er­ate).

The sacred is inter­twined with the most fun­da­men­tal aspects of social exis­tence. This being said, the sacred is para­dox­i­cal in its ambiva­len­cy – it is able to invoke excite­ment and hor­ror, admi­ra­tion and repul­sion, thrill and still at the same time. Does that mean that the sacred has two sides, the clean side and the unclean side, and can we repeat Mar­cus Boon by stat­ing there is sacred music of light and sacred music of dark­ness? No: the sacred is a whole, but ambiva­len­cy aris­es where the bor­der between sacred and pro­fane dimen­sions might become dif­fi­cult to mark.

Pre­cise­ly at this point of mix­ing what should not be mixed appears the unclean, i.e. the ambi­gu­i­ty space between the pro­fane and the sacred. Insta­bil­i­ty of the mix becomes a source of strong and con­tra­dic­to­ry emo­tions, because the state of unsta­bil­i­ty is direct­ly threat­en­ing the way things are. Fear of the archa­ic peo­ple caused by twins being born and the mod­ern antag­o­nism to human cloning are linked by the same emo­tion­al mech­a­nism: the sym­bol­ic order is being destroyed in both cas­es. a3753758258_10[1] Play of trans­gress­ing bor­ders is an all-pow­er­ful resource for the art. Yes, Pussy Riot case is also about this – in a cur­rent sit­u­a­tion it’s the trans­gres­sion that is the most favourable method to make the invis­i­ble sacred­ness appear.

How­ev­er, the effect should­n’t always be shock­ing and dev­as­tat­ing. The mix of ordered and chaot­ic can act with a great del­i­ca­cy, although its source stays the same. If Troum’s drone ambi­ent does wield some sacred pow­er, its emo­tion­al (the very hyp­not­ic, encom­pass­ing) pow­er aris­es from a play with uncer­tain­ty made an acoustic prin­ci­ple (and by no means from the explic­it ref­er­ence to, say, sacred themes).

Some could argue that every musi­cal piece is a result of inter­change, name­ly dishar­mo­ny being resolved to har­mo­ny. How­ev­er in Troum’s case real­iza­tion of this is nec­es­sar­i­ly brought to the fore, because the nar­ra­tive aspect is min­i­mized, ele­ment of events is reduced and the lis­ten­er’s atten­tion is invari­ably caught by a bound­ary between form and form­less­ness. a3800860807_10[1] In the lan­guage of sound this play means a two-step motion: a grad­ual dis­so­lu­tion of con­ven­tion­al, estab­lished musi­cal struc­tures to microfrag­ments and tones on the one hand, and just as grad­ual recon­struc­tion of the new har­monies from these tones and frag­ments on the oth­er (I guess, Maeror Tri con­cen­trat­ed on the first part of the oper­a­tion).

The strongest cathar­tic effect in an end­less blink­ing between form and form­less­ness presents itself just as a new rhyt­mic order grows out from the chaos of slid­ing between reflec­tions: we know Troum know about this too and use this tech­nique with per­sis­tence of note – from the clas­sic LP Sen to the recent Grote Man­drenke.

The dif­fer­ence between archa­ic sacred music and the music of our time thus lies in the fact that in the first case we’re deal­ing with fix­a­tion of an eter­nal order and in the sec­ond – with prob­lema­ti­sa­tion, doubt, frailty, with ques­tion mark dis­tin­guished by human­ness. Where lies the pro­duc­tiv­i­ty of the strat­e­gy Troum have cho­sen? What hap­pens when the artist dis­places the bound­aries and lets chaos threat­en order? Embrac­ing the sacred unleash­es inten­si­ty of emo­tions.

More­over, the men­ace of chaos calls for efforts at under­stand­ing, cog­ni­ti­sa­tion, pro­duc­tion of mean­ing. In oth­er words, some­thing that hap­pens when we dream takes place: a new mean­ing is born.

Ivan Napreenko (Trans­lat­ed by Mid­vet Sevirnyi)

Фото: asterius23Did you dream this night? Can you tell me a last sig­nif­i­cant dream that you remem­ber (if it is not too per­son­al)? Are your own dreams impor­tant to you and why?

Ste­fan: Yes, three times or pas­sages I can remem­ber from last night… Sig­nif­i­cant dreams are of course always too per­son­al;) – but dreams with dead peo­ple or «lost» peo­ple are often impor­tant to me. For exam­ple an ex girl­friend appear­ing in a strange / sur­re­al sit­u­a­tion again.

Or dreams reveal­ing a new per­spec­tive or insight on con­flicts or past expe­ri­ences. And I some­times dream of Troum music that does­n’t exist so far – I can play it on vinyl then, I have the record in my hands, but its all com­plete­ly new and unknown!

Mar­tin: Indeed, the most sig­nif­i­cant right now is my dead Tom­cat appear­ing. Nor­mal­ly, in times of stress, I dream about being hunt­ed. Hunt­ing myself or being con­fused by mas­sive crowds of peo­ple.

Ste­fan & Mar­tin: Some dreams can be impor­tant for you and if they are, they will tell you! As Christo­pher Bol­las (psy­cho­an­a­lyst) once said: Dream­ing is like being part of a dra­ma, that has its own log­ic, that is not direct­ed by our­selves. In our dreams we are like actors on a stage, direct­ed by our Uncon­scious, which is «the alien in us». Dreams don’t have a clear mean­ing always, but they can start a reflec­tion process about the past, present and future of your life.

Addi­tion­al­ly, we think the dream-state is also present dur­ing the day-time, impor­tant for becom­ing cre­ative, for mem­o­riz­ing, etc.. regard­ed as a whole we are prob­a­bly more dream­ing in our life than being «awake». So, dream­ing is absolute­ly essen­tial.

So for the music, it’s not about tak­ing a spe­cif­ic «scene» out of a dream and turn­ing it into music. It’s more that cer­tain tunes, sounds and melodies “acti­vate” (so to say) a dream­like pic­ture in which we start paint­ing musi­cal­ly, in order to com­plete it.


Once you said that your music express­es a yearn­ing to change real­i­ty. What kind of place it should be? And what does it mean if you say it should be more human?

Ste­fan: We dream of a place with less humans, that could be more human;)
Well, to answer this in full could fill a book, it’s maybe the most dif­fi­cult ques­tion of mankind. The most impor­tant change would be: devel­op­ing more empa­thy! Many peo­ple act bru­tal against nature, ani­mals, oth­er peo­ple and even them­selves. It seems «human cul­ture» has­n’t even start­ed yet. We need more co-oper­a­tion, emo­tion, sen­si­tiv­i­ty. There are too many nar­cis­sists & psy­chopaths around that rule the world, the only val­ue is “being strong”. But this will sure­ly lead to the abyss for us all.

Mar­tin: You could also put the first sen­tence dif­fer­ent­ly – that our music express­es or shows that we both live with a dif­fer­ent “cat­a­logue of val­ues”. In this cat­a­logue is no place for hail­ing the god of con­sump­tion, greed, neo lib­er­al­ism or any oth­er kind of nar­row­mind­ed reac­tionary nation­al­ism.
We mean reli­gion that is destroy­ing any sense of indi­vid­u­al­ism with its bru­tal nature – the prin­ci­ple of «us» and «them» is pure poi­son in a glob­al­ized soci­ety which has to look out for new ways of liv­ing togeth­er.

4Do not you find that there is a con­tra­dic­tion between the yearn­ing to change the world and intro­vert nature of your music?

Ste­fan: No, not at all. A yearn­ing is a deep sen­ti­ment, a rec­og­niza­tion of our inner needs. A very intro­spec­tive process – the process of aware­ness. Before you act, this is the foun­da­tion.

Mar­tin: Per­haps it’s the same as the prob­lem with the “per­fect melody”. When you find it, there’s no rea­son any­more to go on mak­ing music. If the soci­ety would change and become per­fect in our eyes, maybe the yearn­ing would stop. We would live all hap­py togeth­er and I would be pissed off that I have noth­ing to com­plain about any­more;)


And once again I go back to that inter­view, because it seems to me impor­tant. You also say that the music should touch ‘our whole exis­tence’. Do not you think that the whole exis­tence is a bit phan­tas­mat­ic, and being human means to be not-whole at the very core, to be shat­tered by desires?

Ste­fan: With this we mean that music influ­ences or even deter­mines all aspects of life, it’s not just a “hob­by” you do after work from 7–9. Yes, we can be shat­tered at the core – but all of this can be expressed or even cured by music. The very action of lis­ten­ing to music entire­ly can ini­ti­ate process­es that can have effects on your whole life.

Mar­tin: Music goes direct­ly to the emo­tions, like smell goes direct­ly to the mem­o­ry, brain­wise. When we stay with the pic­ture of the core you could also say taht the task (or mean­ing) in life is to keep those pieces togeth­er in order to not “loos­ing your­self”. Using now your emo­tions, work­ing on them, rel­a­ti­vat­ing them, strength­en­ing them, reflect­ing on them let these emo­tions becom­ing the “glue” that stick the pieces of the core togeth­er.

Ste­fan: It does­n’t mean you must be «hap­py» all the time, not at all. We don’t regard some­one with a very melan­cholic soul as «ill» – on the con­trary, it’s the appro­pri­ate reac­tion to our world, so to say. Or a bit more explic­it: Music can help you to sur­vive in this insane world.
Mar­tin: True, being depressed in a “fun soci­ety” makes you look quite nor­mal (back to the “val­ue cat­a­logue”) 😉

5Are you in Reli­gion, or any spir­i­tu­al prac­tices?

Ste­fan: Not real­ly, as we once said: «Our Brain is our Reli­gion.» The God is in your­self.
Or you could also say: God is in a But­ter­fly!

For me, being in Nature (best is a for­est), being real­ly absorbed by Nature, answers all of these ques­tions imme­di­ate­ly. It can be the most spir­i­tu­al prac­tise to hug a tree;)

Mar­tin: I per­ceive the world, the cos­mos and every­thing around as a big mys­te­ri­ous mir­a­cle any­way, and the try to under­stand it is already a kind of “divine ser­vice”. Under­stand­ing means some­how a kind of enlight­ment in a bud­dhis­tic way. You could call it «Sci­en­tif­ic Ani­mism» maybe.

7Troum ambi­tion to ‘go back’ to archa­ic pre-sources of sound/psyche is qui­et sim­i­lar to Russ­ian avant-garde ambi­tion to find some pre-con­struc­tions of real­i­ty (think of Male­vich, for exam­ple, famous for his ‘Black Square”). Do you believe that such uni­ver­sal con­struc­tion exist and can be defined (Russ­ian avant-garde has failed as we know)?

Ste­fan: Yes I believe it exists and music can touch it! We can not «define» it, words will always fail to describe it, as these are com­plete­ly pre-ver­bal areas of the mind. I per­son­al­ly believe there is a an unde­stroy­able «untouched core» in every human being, and it can be reached through music. It also explains why many peo­ple can’t stand cer­tain music – its too painful. If this «archa­ic core» is touched, you can only cry, its too intense!


To put same ques­tion in dif­fer­ent words: is there any uni­ver­sal law in human nature?

Ste­fan: hm, very dif­fi­cult ques­tion, with many pos­si­ble answers. I think there are two laws that are strik­ing, and they belong togeth­er:
– Men tries to dominate/exploit Nature, but he fails as he for­gets he is Nature, too.
– Most actions of Men are based on his fears (espe­cial­ly the avoid­ance, elim­i­na­tion and sup­pres­sion of fears), and the most arca­ic fear is the one of uncon­trol­lable nature-forces (these are also inside him­self)

Mar­tin: You can always count on the self­ish­ness of mankind. Look at a baby and you see that it’s moti­va­tion is that some­one is nur­tur­ing its needs (food, clean dia­per, etc.). Lat­er the child learns for exam­ple that shar­ing some­thing is mak­ing some­one else hap­py, which makes the child hap­py, which is again self­ish. So even doing some­thing “good” is self­ish because you do it in order to feel sat­is­fied and well your­self.

11201511_979086715437633_703185854_nBesides pre­na­tal and dream­like metaphors, Troum sounds very ‘nat­ur­al’. Do you have some spe­cial inspi­ra­tional places, land­scapes?

Ste­fan: As said, there’s a deep rela­tion or imag­i­na­tion with Nature. Yes there are var­i­ous per­son­al «mag­ic places» out­side for me. They exist every­where. Indeed, I dream of liv­ing very close to nature or inside a for­est. Not sure if its an influ­ence for us both, or for Troum in gen­er­al. It’s more the effect / expres­sion of what was already there inside me.

Mar­tin: Apart from that, the com­plex­i­ty and beau­ty of nature shows you a mod­el of a great opus of life: Micro­cosm ~ Macro­cosm => The sound­track to the Mul­ti­verse.


Your music seems escapist in some sense of word. Have you ever thought that there is anoth­er time when you would like to be born?

Ste­fan: We rather think that music (or real art in gen­er­al) is not there to escape real­i­ty, but to stand it! We are con­front­ed with real­i­ty already enough, every day, no one can real­ly escape it.

To imag­ine to live or being born in oth­er his­toric times is very inter­est­ing, but at the end there was prob­a­bly no oth­er time in his­to­ry that was eas­i­er to stand.

Mar­tin: You also have to split this top­ic: The cre­ator of the music is work­ing and reflect­ing with this music on his real­i­ty and sur­round­ing life-sit­u­a­tion. He’s putting out frus­tra­tion, love, sad­ness about a lost love, etc.. so the music is there to stand real­i­ty while the lis­ten­er of the music is escap­ing his per­son­al real­i­ty and vis­it­ing the real­i­ty of the mak­er, so to say. But this can strike back at you – when the mak­er is for exam­ple strug­gling with the pain of a lost love and might be right now in the same posi­tion, his real­i­ty becomes yours and there’s no escape any­more.


Can you tell more on Mare… tril­o­gy? It seems much more artic­u­lat­ed than your pre­vi­ous works.

Ste­fan & Mar­tin: Yes you can say that we devel­oped more the aim for “com­pos­ing” and details in the sound, for exam­ple the mix­ing of Mare Mor­pho­sis took very very long, as we had about 30 sin­gle tracks/layers to com­bine into one big piece.
The «Mare» tril­o­gy express­es our fas­ci­na­tion with ocean-relat­ed themes, or rather sen­sa­tions: the infinite­ness of an ocean, the con­stant change of waves & water, the abyssal deep­ness and exis­tence of unknown / unreach­able areas. It’s all a per­fect metaphor for the human psy­che itself.


Last year you played in Rus­sia with Helge Siehl. Have you ever thought on revival or col­lab­o­ra­tion?

Ste­fan & Mar­tin: I guess you mean with Maeror Tri? Many oth­er peo­ple seem to think about it, but we don’t! We real­ly hate re-unions, revivals and the whole retro-cul­ture… we want to devel­op into more unknown areas, and not repeat the same over and over… at least we try it. So, NO revival or col­lab­o­ra­tion def­i­nite­ly!

Pho­tos by Ivan Napreenko.

TROUM – Tran­scen­sion Drones

These are dreams, dreamt by dream­ers who are awake

TROUM con­tact: (news) (archive)

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