QA: Servando Barreiro


1. Who are you?

I’m Servando Barreiro, spanish born, I’m traveling all the time and I work with computers, technology, and audio/video softwares.

 2. What do you do?

Difficult to say. Lately I travel a lot and teach Audio/ Video programming.

 3. Where do you often create/produce?

I used to have a studio in Berlin, now I don’t have a fixed location, so I create improvised setups at friend’s houses. minimal and with headphones.. : /

 4. When?

My inspirational time is at night (1am/2am). Lately, I have to adapt to the schedule of other people so I use the day more, that, of course affects the outcome.

 5. Why do you play music?

It is a big passion for me, I couldn’t live without music, listening and creating. I have it in mind all the time so it’s my preferred way of expression.

 6. When did you start making music?

I think it was around 97 with my first computer running msDos (for music reasons) and a freeware tracker (fasttracker2). It was super fast and super fun. I could spend many many hours per day tinkering with it. I made some collaborations and recorded some cd-roms. That was long time ago and the only remains from that time are the DIY speakers, a roland juno 2 and a yamaha dx-21..

7. Which track defines you the most?

Maybe Neuland. (new territory in German) chillout and electronic but with a certain naive touch.

8. How would you describe your own music?

In general, relaxed, with a lot of care put into the sound design, possibly some random components and some experimental features too.

Also there is quite a lot of “raw” component in my music because in most of the cases, the songs are an electronic jam recorded into the 2 track. I don’t like to spend days or even hours tweaking envelopes or automating levels. If I listen too much to a track, I totally loose the perspective of what I’m doing.

9. Any track of the moment?

No. I rarely fix on a track. Lately I was just chilling listening lots of ambient tracks.

10. What influences your work?

It used to be a very visceral thing in the beginning, I was just opening the software and adding layers and layers of sound.  Now I’m very influenced by patterns in nature, I’m trying to create a balanced collage of elements that have a relationship between them.  Also other inputs can inspire me like listening music from other artists and get ideas from that.

11. What’s your academic background? Are you an autodidact? 

I studied Electronics first, then I studied sound and after that I did a master in Audiovisual communication. After that, when I moved to Berlin, I attended dozens of super interesting workshops and also I started to teach there.

I’m definitely an autodidact. I spent hundreds of hours researching stuff and constructing things (physical and virtual). Some of these things are gone or forgotten but a small part of this research created a new successful path to follow. I think now a lot about synthesizer design and human-computer interaction for musical & performative tasks.

12. Favorite designer?

Dieter Rams, creator of the 10 commandments for good design. I keep his philosophy in mind.

13. Favorite book?

“The four insights” by Alberto Villoldo.  Amazing book about Pre-Inka wisdom but written by someone that  applies this wisdom in Modern life and he proves how it perfectly works out.

It gives practical examples for instance about how changing the point of view can help you to solve a  problem.

14. Favorite classic movie?

Is Matrix 1 a classic already? heheh. It has to be sci-fi, definitely.

15. Favorite music label?

Kompakt, Basic Channel, Stadtgruen.

16. Your dream collaboration?

Robert Henke / Monolake, his early albums where very very inspiring to me.

17. Are you analog or digital?

Love the analog sound and the analog/physical controls (knobs, buttons, sliders, etc) but I totally embrace the power and possibilities of a computer setup.

I have still some analog synths and drum-machines but since I can’t take them with me, I travel just with a laptop, an audio computer*, a tiny midi controller and a tiny portable synth. Also I’m betatester of an Ios app called “elastic drums” for which I do lots of drum patterns and eventually I could integrate into my live setup.

Audio computer* : Linux computer, soundcard, usb hub, flash drive, long lasting battery, potentiometers & buttons  and all these things put together ready to rock in a package with the size of a lunchbox.

Resuming: Totally Digital, but I love and insist into having nice physical control and escaping from the screen and the Wimp paradigms..

18. Which soft wares/tools/ instruments do you use/play? 

I use an advanced version of my software “sequencer”. It’s a modular software for which I create experimental synth/samplers/effects. Some of my songs are actually a “betatest” of a new feature or a new synth. The software can be downloaded here:

This software is done using “Puredata”, this is a graphical programming environment, similar to max/msp / Max4live but Puredata is an opensource and it’s still developed and maintained by the original creator of Max and it’s basically like an infinite modular synthesizer on steroids that can also do much more than audio..

19. Describe your creative process?

Difficult to describe, I’m very chaotic but essentially, I’m just playing/rehearsing until I create a sequence that catches my attention and then I decide that that phrase has potential enough to be the center of something. Building around that then it’s easy for me.

 20. When are you the most prolific (creatively)?

Creativity it’s like a wave with its ups and downs. Sometimes I have the free time but not the inspiration. When I’m teaching a workshop though, I tend to be quite inspired because of the fact that I’m sharing ideas with other people and that makes me inspired again too.

Also responding the questions from the students puts me in a different point of view and I love to do that. Look to something that you know very good but with the new point of view.

 21.  Any favorite record stores? (Real/virtual)

Hardwax in Berlin.. For anyone in electronic music, it’s THE shop.

22. What’s your life philosophy? (Optimistic/pessimistic)

Now I’m absolutely optimistic after some transformative experiences in South-America because I know that I can change radically my life If I don’t like something.

But before that I was a bit depressed and tired although I had a privileged life in Berlin.

23. Do you have a healthy lifestyle?

Yep, definitely, I’m a newbie in the topic but after my experiences with medicine plants in Peru I take much more care of myself, physically and psychologically. It’s a common thing among the people that tries these medicine plants to become much more aware about what you eat and how this affects you strongly in your daily life.

I have become something like 90% Vegan, lost more than 20 pounds and also, whenever I have a chance I go hiking to a mountain or forest. The wilder the better. Traveling nonstop is also part of the healthy lifestyle.

24. How do you manage your time effectively? (Job/hobby)

It can’t be better..  My hobby which is this technological audio/video related experimentation becomes my job when I’m teaching it or making an interactive installation or performing due to the fact that It doesn’t work out to teach the same workshops over and over again in the same city. This makes traveling full time a nice bonus instead of a counterpoint.

25. Any secret skills?

Many, but If they are secret I can’t tell, right? ; ) I love solving many different kind of problems, specially but not exclusively if they are related with electronic or mechanical technology.

26. Any future plans?

I would love to make a team to develop and commercialize the audio-computer. Instead of getting lost myself on it, I would like to meet people that loves the project and wants to take care of certain parts of it.

Musically, I’m trying to achieve a system that makes me happy when I perform with it and yes, I want to make more music.

27. What’s your life motto?

Don’t fear changes, embrace them.

28. Any “mot de la fin”?

Au revoir!

|This discussion was conducted via email|

1- According to your statement, in your artistic practice your main claim is to showcase the non destructive side of ‘technology’. 

Do you see it as an utopian ideal or a realistic end? Is there another aspect of protest recurrent in your creative process?

Most of my pieces are utopian. Until now, I have tried to create alternative realities or objects where technology serves us rather than make us dependent.

More than a protest, mostly it’s an exploration and an exploitation of technology.

2- We liked the ethereal approach of ‘Clicks&posts’, could you tell us more about its concept? Are you trying to make a statement about how technology changed the way we communicate with each other? 

That track actually can go into the “technological showcase” bin.. It’s based on a small software I made for Jan Jelinek that replaces/improves what his modular synthesizer can do concerning audio analysis. He used that in a radiophonic piece.

The input of this software is a microphone and depending on the amplitude of the sound, different things are going to happen.. Basically, the system is able to differentiate between silence, a whisper, the normal voice tone and a louder voice tone. These different “status” are going to trig or hold different audio effects and at the same time 2 slow Lfo’s (Low frequency oscillator) are running free, giving the software certain live.

To make this piece, the only sound source was my finger, hitting the microphone gently. What you hear is the mix of the original sound plus the automatic orchestra generated from that sound.

3- Your ‘binaer platten’ project reminded us of the Nasa’s Golden Records,a phonograph record containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth.. What was the inspiration behind this project?

This piece came out together as I was invited to create something for an exhibition during transmediale festival.  The “motto” of the festival was in/compatible and many of the pieces created into that space were also dealing with the recycling/reappropriation of the technology. Besides that, there was also the eternal analog/digital contrast and it’s incompatibilities.  As a direct influence.. I’m a big fan of Carl Sagan so maybe there is some subconscious influence over there..

4- By choosing to display a content that ‘makes a self reference to the modification process of the turntable plus the creation of the discs’ was your intention to redefine the medium in use?

The self-reference feature, keeps the attention in the piece and adds a bit of fractal characteristic to the installation.

5- Is the concept of ‘the autistic turntable’ (interactive installation using the energy produced by audience to turn the platter and produce sound) a continuity to the idea you develop in ‘binaer platten?

In a way yes..  When I was in the lab “brainstorming” about binaer platten, I came out with the idea that the audience could control the rotation speed of the platter by just moving in front of it. This idea was turned down for several reasons, so finally I just kept the concept as a second independent piece and proposed it (just conceptually) to a sound art gallery exhibition in my hometown, where this installation had a very nice feedback by the people.

6- As most of your work relies on technology, we are curious about your intake on the notion of exactitude. Is it a boundary in your creative process? Do you feel sometimes limited by new technologies?

Definitely there are boundaries and many times I just write code until I hit those boundaries. Many times, I have to revisit the code in order to make the things run smoothly. Exactitude is something I like but that I don’t pursue. I like to give organic characteristics to the code so it becomes more alive. When using several sensors, this organic random behavior appears naturally.  Regarding feeling limited by the technology, definitely happens but I still think that new technologies are empowering me rather than limiting me. And, definitely limitations naturally bring more creativity than a limitless machine..

7- Is your work influenced by contemporary philosophical or scientific thinking? 

Both. I like to read about new theories about what’s going on in the universe or in the continuous exploration of the matter and also to study human perception and read some rather new thinkers like Mckenna.

8- Besides your music/sound projects, your visual artwork is also very impressive and is somehow always requestioning the current technological knowledge. 

For instance, in one of your experiment ‘touchinscreen hacking’ ( made for windows 7) we can see you in live conversing (sonically and visually) with the screen by puredata, an open source visual programing language.

– Was this approach an attempt to create a synaesthetic experience?

Thank you for the compliment 🙂 and btw, It isn’t Win, It’s Macos in that video. In linux, the touchinscreen worked the best.. Synaesthesia, now that you mention it. It’s a huge  influence for me when I do visual works so in this case, definitely yes, it was a synaesthetic experience, almost instrumentalist.

– Are you interested in using this technique in future live performances?

Thought about it but didn’t wanted to take the monster screen to performances. And also, regarding audio, I’m very “precision nerd” so I prefer to use other kind of controllers.

– What do you think of the notion of ‘hacking’ nowadays in artistic practices? As viruses, do you think that this word has been misunderstood and is now shifting toward a meliorative meaning and use?

The word is definitely being abused lately..  Because in the original definition,Hack” is to modify something to improve its functionality or to get a result you want that you wouldn’t get otherwise.. Essentially.. When you are using a computer or a programming language the way that it’s intended to be used, you are NOT hacking it, just straight using it. I think the meaning of the word it’s “opening” to other contexts and users so that’s not bad but in my case, I think I will resonate always more with the “old” meaning of the word.

9- In ‘just a bit’ one of your live performance during the netaudio berlin fastival , which showcases sound and images collected following the former path of the berlin wall, you explained the project by saying that ‘the sounds are analyzed by the pure data patch and retransmitted into new imagery’.

What do you think of the relation between images and sounds? Do you think that in live performances, their interdependency is necessary?

Not necessary, definitely, I enjoy when I perceive the Synaesthesia but I also discovered that having “independent” images, not slave to the beat, can bring another kind of feeling, where the brain of the audience creates the connection, so the piece becomes more interactive in a way.

10- In the future, are you planning on experimenting other ‘new mediums’ with puredata?

Puredata it’s my tool of choice, definitely my favorite due it’s openness and persistence of the code in time through many platforms or operative systems. For sure, future experimentations will involve puredata  since It can do audio/video and sensor interaction and combine all this in a very short time.

Also, since some years ago, I decided to dig and focus on it, instead of using lots of different softwares. This fact converted me in a teacher and a fluent writer, so I can just “type” the ideas on it, as fast as I type in english and see or hear (or feel) the result immediately in realtime.

As we are speaking, Intel has sponsored me to do art projects involving puredata and running in an intel Edison. (a computer with the size of an Sdcard)

For the new mediums.. Apart of pd running in an intel Edison, probably I will re-make my laser audiovisual performances >

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