Do machines dream of human noise?



Sam Shepherd aka Floating Points has earned critical honors thanks to a sound cultured and refined, with an obsessive attention to the "space" occupied by sound. We met him.

In your musical work, an attention for the quality and the timbral features of the sound is always very present. For this reason, it’s fascinating the selection you do of the means for music production, which are variegated and also belonging to an early stadium of electronic music: vintage synthesisers, peculiar speakers, tape-machines, but also musical instruments. Which are the reasons that bring you to choose such specific devices? Is it for musical/aesthetical reasons or also for a historical/archaeological interest in objects from a bygone era?
I am fairly keen on tactile interaction with sound making machines, but by no means believe that this gear is the key to the sound I’m trying to achieve.
My main concern is about space. That an electronic instrument may also synthesize a physical space for itself to belong in. Every acoustic instrument must be recorded with a series of microphones, this automatically places the instrument in the room within which it’s recorded in. It is perhaps one of the most coveted factors in recording that the room sounds a particular way. An electronic instrument however produces a signal that can be fed directly into a recording device and as such never need exist in a physical space before being played back.
The reason I chose to record with some more typically archaic equipment is mostly a sonic reason. For example, I find tape a far more sonically forgiving format, but am by no means adverse to digital conveniences. Ultimately, im trying to capture a musical performance and that can sound good in various forms, but increasingly im finding these formats can help me achieve richer, more dynamic recording of music.


 Elaenia, your debut album, features a wide range of sound materials and sources, as well as different musical styles (jazz, Brazilian songs, electronics, drone music, etc.). Such an eclectic sound library can only be managed through a compositional organization, which arises above the specific sound materials: in your opinion, this synthetic and systematic approach could be somehow related to your scientific background [neuroscience], and if so, how?
Absolutely not. I don’t draw any parallels between the two. The process by which I approached scientific research was entirely methodical, whereas my methods in music & its recording for me are prone to serendipitous change. I get asked this a lot and I don’t think of the two as being parallel.
Elaenia can be perceived how a complex world, which is gradually defined as you listen to the various tracks: every track could be also meant as a specific “room” or “space”, put in relationship with the whole work. In the last track, Peroration Six, we have the impression that all the previous pieces are condensed and lead to a kind of saturation up to the final, which is abrupt, as determined by something external to the composition. Could you please explain this choice of conclusion? And do you think it can be somehow compared to a musical representation of the end of your (or of the) world?

 This is exactly how I feel about the record too. Peroration 6 is part of a series of works that at the time I feel is the culmination of a lot of my current influences. Indeed the abrupt ending to peroration is almost the only place it could have gone. I knew from the beginning this is how it must end and since it draws from themes & sounds from the preceding work on the album, it feels to me like the disappearance of that world I was trying to create.
I don’t feel it as a destruction per se, but more that the world is transposed to another place, or that time itself stopped.


Interview by Luisa Santacesaria

Cover image:

Floating Points, Silhouettes (Official Video)


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