Focus On Calma

A free performance, people lying on the floor and listening, no one talking, … wonderful memories that let me look back on Calma 01. All of this happened in December 2019 in Madrid. Afterwards I wanted to find out a few more background information about the event, which I will make available to everyone who is interested in the following interview with the guys.

J: Could please introduce yourself and the way it turned out for you guys teaming up for Calma?

[Diskoan] CALMA is a series of musical events dedicated to what we’ve come to call “horizontal music”, we’re a collective made up of four people, F-on (Alfonso Pomeda), Josephine’ Soundscapes (Jose Salas), Vrika (Fernando Blanco) and me Diskoan (Juan Koan).

[Josephine] We’ve known each other from the electronic music scene for a long time. We usually work as djs, producers, promoters, visual creators or heads of communication and we join forces for this project. But it is our love for music what really unites us, this and the real need to create spaces where we can enjoy it in the ways we like.

[F-on] The idea materialized when we discovered this old military barracks called Zapadores, in the north of the city of Madrid, slightly away from the downtown, which is now reopen as an alternative cultural center. Diskoan and Josephine had been working together for a long time, under their project a_mal_gam_a, in their “Avalovara, listening club” and I’d collaborated several times with them. On the other hand i had spoken with Fernando (aka Vrika) about try to organizing venues with a “different” format. As soon as we all saw the space we knew, after many years of been moving from one club to another and having tried many places, that we had finally found “the place” for this.

[Diskoan] From that moment on, we began to work on transfer the essence of our “horizontal” and ambient clubs (Avalovara and Alpenglühen by F-on) into a kind of mini-festival format. In daytime and where the sound experience was the protagonist. In fact, the original intention was to do it in one of the openair spaces. But the weather conditions on the day of the premiere, forced us to do it indoor in what we now call “the listening chamber”, which was once the barracks chapel.

[F-on] As Diskoan and Josephine also do live visuals in their a_mal_gam_a project, we decided to take advantage of the possibilities of the indoors place, working on the setting with visuals, using slides, video projections and lighting equipment, over translucent fabrics installations and other architectural elements to play with the space volumes. This, caused by an accidental turn due to the weather, has become the hallmark of the proposal. In my opinion, Calma is a very interesting project where the interests of four people come together and this is very gratifying, although it also involves a lot of work. A fifth member recently joined the project to help, Pedro Acevedo, who is responsible for the Feudal Festival, and is part of the Ciénaga Electrónica collective, has vast experience in organizing events and we shared interests and likes with him.

J: I’m happy that I had the chance to perform on Calma 1 and was waiting a long time for such an option. Wondered why there are not a lot of events focusing on ambient/ electronica. Moreover, it was astonishing how many people attended and really listened to the music. What’s your explanation about the (maybe) unexpected growth of Calma?

[F-on] First of all, thanks for coming to CALMA. We really liked your performance and it was a real pleasure to have you as our international guest that day. It’s so nice when a guest artist, in addition to doing it well, puts all the facilities into it. In our city, unfortunately people at events of this nature don’t pay full attention to music. You can hear people chatting more than what the artist is doing. Not to mention the technical conditions of most venues. We were clear that this had to be radically different at CALMA. In the end, we are artists and promoters, but audience also, so we know exactly what we’d like to have for a better enjoyment in this kind of music festivals.
We try to offer the best conditions so that an optimal listening experience can be obtained, working in the best way with the sound equipment, the position of the speakers, or the adaptation of the space, for this we use cushions, rugs, seats, etc … But not only that, at CALMA we ask attendees for an active listening exercise, and that is why there are some kind of “rules”, which basically stipulate that the artist and the other attendees must be respected, keeping silence inside the “Listening Chamber”. We distribute a small manifesto by posting it on social networks the days before the event, and we also explain it to everyone when it enters the room. To socialize, chat, laugh, eat and drink with friends we’ve set up a restaurant area and the fantastic patio.

[Diskoan]  I think that this way of behavior which Alfonso refers, unfortunately doesn’t only happens in Madrid. Actually, this type of music is always diluted within music programs with many purposes and it is very difficult for the audience to change the chip from one kind of performance to another. The idea of refining the concept and proposing some rules of coexistence in the venue has been as simple as effective. It is a real joy, as a listener and also as an artist, to be able to enjoy collective and respectful listening.

[Josephine] Luckily it’s increasingly common for art centers, of all kinds, to involve electronic music in public activity programs, this has contributed to a certain diversification of the scene and to the education of the audience also. This establishes different ways of enjoying the performances, in auditoriums or other types of spaces different from nightclubs, and so the public learns and reacts differently, in terms of schedules and behaviors. CALMA has achieved its objective and in my opinion this has played an important role, it’s validated as a cultural leisure offer, untying it form the idea of night and party, without losing the fun as a goal. I think CALMA unites the best of both worlds, the rigour of a cultural proposal (finding an alternative museum like Zapadores has been essential) and the social warmth of a club, due to the way we work on it.

[F-on]  We have to say that we are very proud of the audience that we’ve gather. They have always been very respectful and supported us from the beginning. When we started the project, we didn’t even dream of something like that, with such acceptance. We’ve made three dates and they’ve all been “sold outs”. Clearly, we are not talking about a massive group of people, but it has enough merit, because it is difficult to pretend that in a city like Madrid, where all art and leisure is centralized in the city center, people will move to the outskirts to listen ambient and experimental music. Well, not only they do it, but they love it, taking it as little trip, as a cool adventure. I suppose is also one of the keys, like the excitement you use to had when you went to the first raves travelling miles without knowing what you were going to find.

J: Due to the actual situation (Covid 19) you reacted fast to widen the physical event series into a virtual appearance. Can you explain how it works and will you go on with this digital appearance after we all can meet and listen to the music together again?

[Diskoan] As Alfonso commented before, the three main elements in CALMA are the experience / sound quality, the visual work and the complete attention and commitment from the public. At the beginning of the pandemic we had to cancel the event that we had scheduled for April, and the need arose to rethink the format. We think that in order to transfer the essence of these three pillars to the virtual experience, one fundamental thing were to allow the listener to choose the right moment to enjoy it, setting everything thoroughly. This is how “Quédate en CALMA” (translated from Spanish means ‘stay calm’) came about, in the form of four audiovisual sessions that can be downloaded from our website, inviting the listener to recreate CALMA’s “listening chamber” at home. We live in a hetic and stressful world where we’ve lost the habit of sitting down to listen. Ambient music has that ambivalence: you can listen to it in the background or fully immerse yourself in it. In CALMA we have always been interested in active listening, adding the point of collective enjoyment as an incentive. This, the collectivity, is the only thing we couldn’t recreate in our virtual proposal during the confinement.

[F-on]  The truth is things are very different from how they were at the beginning of the year. We’ve to understand that the experience of music and its consumption as we knew them have stopped, at least for now. Other territories must be explored, attendance at festivals and clubs will be limited, and with these obstacles it’s very difficult for the scene to survive. I think we’ve to be aware that musical events are going to have to be streamed, and assimilate that they have to be monetized in some way, in order to cover production and artistic costs. We’re not talking about a live streaming of someone who plants a camera there at home and broadcasts, but rather more professional proposals, with some elaborate programming, aesthetic care and important production work behind. We’ve been working on this subject for a while, and for now we’re going step by step. We hope to explore more in that direction soon. By the moment, our next action will be a live streaming with the new ‘United We Stream’ platform, thanks to Nix, the association that curates this events in Madrid. It will take place on Saturday June 27th, from 3 to 8 pm. Once again, we’ll enjoy all the spirit of CALMA, with DJ sets and live acts. As usual, live visuals will have an important place in the proposal. About UWS, just say it’s the first time that there is a platform where clubs from all over Europe come together and fight to their needs. We could say that it is something historical and we’re very happy to be part of it.

[Josephine] For this CALMA online, thanks to / due to the restrictions of the alarm state, we’ve programmed talented artist based in Madrid; Clara Brea, Nono and Bule. All of us, in our different projects, feel a strong commitment to our scene. There is a lot of quality and potential surrounding us, but we are aware of being on the periphery, compared to the Anglo-Saxon, American or German axis, for example. This involves negative aspects, and some difficulties, but also a certain idiosyncrasy of its own that has its value and we believe in it. We’ve a great influence from other countries, but we aim to put our area on the map too. We’ve recently started collaborating with Oslated, a Seoul-based label and music platform, and we feel especially excited, and in part that may be why, remote places connecting together. Oslated will periodically publish recorded performances in CALMA, two of them can be enjoyed already.

J: Can you imagine spreading the concept of Calma to other cities in Spain, or even in Europe?

[Diskoan] I think CALMA is not a project subject to any particular condition, it’s a way of understanding music and an invitation to enjoy it freely and respectfully. That is why we’re open to take the concept where it can be can be done and well received. Where there is space, silence and respect, CALMA can happen.

[Josephine] Well, is already spreading, thanks to this interview for example.

[F-on]  Of course I imagine doing it. When do we do it in Germany? 🙂

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