Imogen Cygler is a contemporary composer based in Naarm. She is a talented multi-instrumentalist, working primarily across piano, voice and violin while also utilising found sound and electronic instrumentation.
How has your relationship to music evolved over the years?
I first connected with music in kindergarten recorder class. There are family videos of me playing recorder as a three year old and I seem so out of breath, and so determined to nail every single note of 'Mary Had a Little Lamb'.
I continue to make music because I need it! Writing and playing music keeps me happy. Sometimes I write very dramatic songs to process something, but then I process that thing, and no longer need the song...
… the song then becomes very silly, very quickly, but maybe someone somewhere needs to hear it and it has a new purpose and life.
Your personal work is a fluent mix of found sound, voice, electronic instrumentation and analog instrumentation. Why is this?
I guess I've always found the combination of electric and acoustic instruments very colourful and helpful in describing an imagined world. I like how different instruments inform each other's sound.
When creating music I always set out to make something that feels both deeply honest and deeply funny...but only really funny to me...like a bad inside joke...I'm an only child...
What instrument do you connect most with?
The instrument I connect most with would probably have to be the violin. For me the violin is like that friend you have that gives you unwarranted confidence every time you hang out... but I only ever really write songs on the piano, so maybe I'm delusional and not giving the friend that has stuck with me through it all enough credit.
How does an Imogen Cygler piece begin?
A piece usually begins with a concept that I think is amusing and/or tragic...or with a poem from my wonderful friend Meg...or with a chaotic piano idea. The process varies, but there are techniques that I rely on - I think concept is very important for me.
I'm very much in it for the long-haul - pieces often take months to write, and then get recorded three years later. I rely on piano and voice in the writing stage, and my DX7 and violin in the recording/production stage.
For the production stage of the songs that I feel like are my children (usually three year olds by the time they’re ready to be recorded), collaborating with other musicians becomes an integral part of the work.
What music and artists do you take inspiration from?
Music that is super upfront and unashamedly itself really inspires me. I'm really drawn to Scandinavian music for this reason - I feel many Scandinavian artists express themselves through music that is both euphoric and devastating at the same time.
What inspired your debut release Wroclaw?
Wrocław is a collection of songs about observing the world pass by in solitude. Before my artist name was just my name, I performed as ‘Wrocław’, which is a city in Poland.
My dear friend Robert Downie (R. P. Downie, Polito, Hemm) produced the EP, helping to bring to life the world I imagined for the five songs written between 2013 and 2016.
I really love how he ran layers of my violin through his modular synth, it can be heard throughout the EP and I think it really sets the tone.
You've written and directed music for theatre, live shows, exhibitions and short films. Why is collaboration so important to you?
I really, really love collaborating - I always learn so much and it without fail helps me to grow as an artist and a person. I guess I often find writing songs very personal, so when put into situations where I get to write for/with others, there is always something new to be found.
New album or EP coming soon?
What are some upcoming gigs or releases!
My friend Rachel and I are putting on a gig at LongPlay on the 24th of July! In terms of releases (other than the ‘... :)’ in the previous question) I have a few collaborative tracks/projects in the works due for release in the back half of this year. Other than that I’m playing in a few projects at the moment (Sunfruits, Jade Alice, Pup Tentacle) that all have gigs coming up, and am in an Annie Lennox show for the Cabaret Festival called ‘Lennox: Legend in My Living Room’.