EntreVistArtista Sofia Koubli

"There is no motivation as strong and efficient as passion is. Passion makes someone insist and insisting can take you anywhere. Passion involves the ability to love and this ability can lead to the purest forms of communication. Being passionate about your work it’s not only the key to a possible success: it is the greatest success on its own."

Sofía Koubli lives in Athens, Greece. She studied Classical Piano, Harmony, Counterpoint, Fugue, Composition, Jazz Harmony and Music Technology at Philipos Nakas conservatory, Athenaeum conservatory and Orfeio conservatory. Since 1999 she composes music for theater, dance performances, video art and films. Her works have been performed by various chamber music ensembles, including the Hellenic Ensemble of Contemporary Music. In 2011, she cooperates with the choreographer Rena Konstantaki INDIGO FERA ART PRODUCTIONS - http://vimeo.com/user10293619 and the Butoh dancer Yumiko Yoshioka.


EntreVistArtista: "Entre Tú y Yo" a Sofía Koubli
(Entre Tú y Yo: Mirjana Milosavljevic y Rosa MaJiCor)

Entre Tú y Yo: Sofia, please tell me something about your life, the educational background and what made you decide to pursue composing as a career?

Sofía Koubli: Music entered my life in a very young age. I studied classical piano, Harmony, Counterpoint, Fugue, Composition, Jazz Harmony and Music Technology. From my very first steps, I instantly started giving more time in developing my own music projects rather than studying the strict classical methods of the conservatory. I think the music language encouraged my need for expression, as it fitted perfectly my nature; and after all I think it all came in a natural way as well.

Entre Tú y Yo: Mention an early musical training ... Children born with some talent and their parents realize it but also have the resources and education needed, they know how to channel that talent. Sofia, is your case? Your parents were the engine that drove you study music?

Sofía: Music studies are a long procedure that require a lot of devotion and start from a rather young age. So it’s quite reasonable that the role parents play in this equation could be vital. The way music studies get to be part of your childhood requires a solid and stable support to encourage the persistence needed. Parents may be motivated by their educational or cultural background or just by instinct; something similar was certainly the case with me.

Entre Tú y Yo: Being born in Greece, the cradle of Western civilization have you been an influence on your decisions when shaping your thinking?

Sofía: We are all shaped and formed after our very own experiences. The cultural environment in which we are raised and developed influences a great part of our personality. Elements like traditions, the language, or even the perception of history itself are responsible for the hues and colors of our expression. Greece is reasonably influential for everyone living in the Western world, as the civilization started here is a global value. Living inside the Greek landscape though certainly touches special strings of one self, as history gets to acquire a more essential impression.

Entre Tú y Yo: How would you describe and rate the music scene of the country you are currently living in?

Sofía: Although Greece never made it to organize and give body to a proper music industry, the music history of the country is rich and always interesting and thrilling to explore. There is a lot of talent and there are efforts to support quality music, but till now most of these remain on an individual level. Of course this is not a local problem, as good music struggles to find identification and an audience in a worldwide range, so the country only follows the consequences of the global decadence.

Entre Tú y Yo: Which movement have you been influenced by? Are there any historical or contemporary artists that you specifically admire?

Sofía: Contemporary composers have played a significant role to my development as a musician. This couldn’t mean I pay no interest to the classical masters or I overlook the constant source of inspiration they always remain. But with contemporary composers I manage to share a vision and acquire a mutual approach to music, both compositional and philosophical as well. The aesthetics and functionality of contemporary music is closer to the civilization we now live in and gives a more direct impact. From the 20th century and afterwards the number of movements that saw the light of day is huge, as composers kept on seeking a new refreshing air to blow away the academic dust of classicism and reach more radical approaches. The way society was changing after the two great wars was craving for such radical changes in all fields. It’s a very interesting and educative period.Among the composers I admire the most, I’ll name Bach, Bartok, Messian, Berg, Britten and Xenakis. But of course this is just indicative.

Entre Tú y Yo: From what I observed in your endeavor, music is itself an essential piece in your life, independent of the scope that develop. Would you pose a particular direction at the time to explore other ways?

Sofía: Although there certainly are ideas and plans concerning the future, I wouldn’t like to oversee the spontaneous nature of music itself. I’m interested in fields of composition like music for choreographic performances, theatre or cinema, but as the ideals and aesthetics are oozing from the very same spring I bare inside, I always feel open to approach different composition fields. So, if I had to name a plan and direction, I’d say the most essential would be to keep music as a significant part of my life; then, everything’s possible. This worship towards music and the world of sounds is the constant motif expressed by the music I compose. The expression procedure has several dynamics that are difficult to be described, but the passion with which I approach music is a constant value.

Entre Tú y Yo: Some of the relations are just superficial. How do you think your works are related to, or different from traditional music/composing?

Sofía: Technology has expanded the vision a composer bares for its music; after all it offered the necessary possibilities. I’m referring to technology because I feel there is no proper way to describe today what traditional composing is, which methodology could be described as strictly traditional.. There is a plethora of mediums and ways to develop an idea into a full music score and today’s composers choose what is more convenient and inspiring to them. I’d say I choose between contemporary or more traditional ways of exploring and developing my music depending on the special needs of the project or the commission I’m working on.

Entre Tú y Yo: The titles of your works are in a way philosophical and contemporary titles: Libations, Limbus, SMLX – Smolikas, Day 4… They indicate a personal individualistic approach. What does the word ‘individualism’ mean to you in relationship to your profession as a composer and what keeps you going and how has your approach to your own composing changed?

Sofía: The titles of my pieces give a certain impression, which I’d wish to be more of an aesthetical one. The conceptual context of modern art has certainly shaped an absolute individualistic principle for many artists. The work produced under such circumstances can be interesting and important but it can also end up awkwardly obscured. I understand that the nature of some art fields, like classical and contemporary music, may be found obscured and hard to get by some parts of the audience, but this is just a matter of how someone evolutes and develops his skills as a listener; this personal development could be an enchanting and quite adventurous procedure. Individualism, as an art term, describes a certain aspect of expression and although I totally admit it offered great services to art itself, it also created some problems, mostly on communication and the universal character of art. What I try, is to find a common repertoire between my inner self and the possible audience; those mutual references shape a base from which I can extend my vision to, even, more personal paths, helping whoever is willing to follow me.

Entre Tú y Yo: When it all comes together, it's collaboration between the composer, performer and the audience. It's a communal ritual, a celebration of human effort.. What is the most challenging aspect of your job and of your career?

Sofía: Music, even in its electronic form, has managed to maintain that ritual energy; as long as music maintains a character relative to performing arts, those ancient elements of expression will remain alive and continue to influence the participants, musicians and listeners, as they did throughout the history of human civilization. The performing character of music reveals those ritual happenings, the sharing of a spiritual and sentimental journey as a common experience. As music loses the live performing character, and gets transformed into an individual act of recordings listening, this communal ritual tends to be replaced by a more personal and ascetical state of the authentic ritualistic experience music provides. That enhances the challenges for a composer, as new methods of approach have to be developed, new fields have to be explored and new reactions have to be studied. Our generation is the first one to confront the new era that rises and give answers to all these critical issues.

Entre Tú y Yo: A work connects with the audience. Each individual is affected in different ways, what we usually want is that each audience member, whether they understand or not, to be activated mentally, and leave with not just the answers but also a few questions as well. Sofia, when you set out to create a work, what are you hoping to achieve?

Sofía: There is a great distance between the relationship initially desired and the one eventually established. This distance is the area where all the beasts and the fairies live; a metaphor indicative of all the complexity such a communication has. It could be quite easy to let our expression get isolated in the labyrinth of our own mind rather than get lost in the labyrinth of abstract communication, as delivered by the arts. I can only hope something from my initial purposes would be transmitted; moreover, I can only hope my initial idea, within the listener’s mind, will be replaced by something I’d feel quite positive with. Of course if the music manages to interact with the listener and provoke all kind of beneficial reactions, the pleasure will be rewarding. A proper communication has to respect both sides, the composer and the listener as well.

Entre Tú y Yo: There are many of skills. The compositional skills are those that include the technical demands of creating the music - like having command over harmony, counterpoint, and orchestration, and using electronic music and notation software. What are the skills that you are called upon to use in your work?

Sofía: Composition, in its clearest form, has to do with instinct. This is essential and the most important factor, as it portrays the reflection of personality and the background someone has. This background will always come to foreground in order to shape the style and essence of a composer’s work. All of the skills mentioned above, like harmony, counterpoint, orchestration or the electronic processing, are parts of my background; through my studies and, later, the development of my own projects, they became parts of my signature and personal method. Highlighting the most important ones would be inappropriate; like trying to find the less important part of a house foundation. All skills have an importance when the right instinct is needed or even when the right instinct is not enough.

Entre Tú y Yo: Contemporary music tends to use complex combinations and rhythm disturbances, with the intention of offering a greater variety cronogónica. For Sofia Koubli ... How have you evolved sense of rhythm and how does it factor in your rhythmic compositions?

Sofía: The perception of rhythm was a main subject of interest among contemporary composers. In all art fields artists wished to release their work from the context and upgrade the expressive values of form, expressed by essential elements of each art field. So, the construction and surface of an art work replaced the traditional sense of what context is all about. I’m also interested in exploring those possibilities and let them influence the dynamic range of my works, as this approach matches my overall aesthetical quest.

Entre Tú y Yo: You will agree that the sound is pure source of pleasurable sensations and is itself an aesthetic virtue noticeable when we heard at least one instrument well executed. Being objective and critical of your work, do you think you've reached your beauty acoustic compositions and performances?

Sofía: This is not a question to be answered by me. As long as there is an audience appreciative of my work I can find the right motivations to continue with what I’m doing. Moreover, as I always stand as the strictest judge across my own work, the appreciation received is always motivating me to keep refining my sound. As you see it’s a matter of motivations. There is always the challenge of surpassing the limits of your skills.

Entre Tú y Yo: Are there times when you are surprised when you hear the result of your composition with the live orchestra?

Sofía: A live performance of a piece I composed it’s always a unique experience; it reflects the fulfillment of the initial idea and the completion of the composing procedure, which sometimes can be long and demanding. So, unique as this is, there’s something inside me that desires to be somehow surprised by this whole experience. But the truth is that my efforts are focused on controlling and eliminating this factor. I have to use my imagination in order to foresee the outcome of a composition and be prepared for the performance. Of course, a performance by a live orchestra includes the possible variables that the group members may bring along. After all, a live performance involves teamwork and cooperation. The talent and skills of the players may highlight new perspectives and shape a more enriched context for the piece itself. In this case the surprise is not only welcomed, but I could say I actually crave for it.

Entre Tú y Yo: What are the instrumental colors in your music there?

Sofía: I use the whole palette of dynamics and compositional methods to enrich the color palette of my works, with a special interest to contemporary techniques; such techniques are mainly focused on releasing the color values of instruments and studying the relation of sounds in a primary, quite archaic level. There is really something abstract in music that creates phenomenal relations with colors. After all there is always some form of synesthesia taking place while listening to a music piece. As this is something constantly happening in an abstract level of communication, the perception could be subject to the listener’s decoding. I’m only responsible to create the right music environment that will favor such reactions.

Entre Tú y Yo: I have a feeling that in order to create a successful expanded time structure you depend more on extravagant contrasts in instrumental forces rather than on harmony. Why?

Sofia: As a composer I try to take advantage of everything and experiment with those elements that will offer my work a context closer to the style and impression I’m after. Harmony has a certain, timeless value and it’s never off the table. Keeping harmony obscured, as an innuendo in my work, offers me the potentials to place my audience in a more abstract, uncertain landscape and direct the feelings into rather spiritual routes. Moreover this method satisfies my passion for sounds, delivered by different instruments or other possible sources. The rotation of such instrumental forces within the piece, over harmony, creates a new context, less traditional but more suitable for the contemporary dialogue and approach I’m interested in as a composer.

Entre Tú y Yo: Many of remarkable projects are behind you. What have been the favorite project to date in your career, and why?

Sofía: As it’s reasonable for me to think, it’s hard to choose between my works the one I prefer the most. Each one of them services a certain purpose and reflects a part, bigger or smaller, of who I am and what I want to achieve. But difficult as it is for me to name my favorite project so far, I think I can offer an answer.Before I reach the final score there’s the composition procedure; sometimes the way I recall a project in my heart and think of it more positively or not, has to do with the pleasure the composition procedure itself has offered me. This exiting procedure is able to give me the same amount of pleasure the final work is going to offer me as well.

Entre Tú y Yo: The pace is like an armor that indicates the timing of the work, how you run and attach these rhythms (your music) and movement time scheduled for the work of others?

Sofía: Although rhythm is essential for the whole progress of an idea taking body into a full musical score it could also be quite challenging working the other way around. It’s like grammar. There are many ways of putting a phrase together, keeping the whole meaning always same at all times. I study and arrange the relations between context and tempo and I’m after a result that would describe better the initial idea I first had about the composition; the idea that motivated my inspiration.

Entre Tú y Yo: How have you found the popularity of the Internet to affect your work?

Sofía: Music is made to be shared and the internet plays an enormous role on the way music is shared today. This possibility is influential on its own, as it promises an audience for your efforts, which is the most rewarding thing someone would ask for his work. Such popularity can only be motivating and demanding, pushing the limits and the skills constantly forward. Knowing there’s someone listening makes you more responsible with the quality of your work.

Entre Tú y Yo: Does the Internet have a positive or negative influence on your music and on art in general? How, do you feel, could contemporary compositions reach the attention of a wider audience?

Sofía: As I already stated above, I find internet plays a significant role in the whole procedure that has to do with art. I do believe it has a positive impact and gives ground for new talents to emerge. This is the case with music as well, although the way it affects the industry and the distribution of recordings is an issue that creates a long debate and certainly influences music itself in ways we’ll be able to tell only in the future. But, I think, my generation has to be optimistic and embrace the internet revolution, even if we have to sacrifice the memory of a more romantic, past era.

Entre Tú y Yo: Speaking of technology, I heard one view (a view I share as appropriate), there are musicians playing music for people empty empty. Everything tastes the same, the same colors with different colors, concepts, creating an atmosphere hybrid camouflage, easily recognizable, digestible emotions. Do you think that your music saves these traps?

Sofía: My efforts have to do with the ideals I bare for what role music can play in our lives. I’m not prejudged against the musical demands of the society we live in and I can selectively appreciate ideas and styles popular music has brought together. Technology has opened new horizons but has also created some fused aesthetics that shaped the hybrid style of the music industry today. I certainly feel that good music has to be protected against such approaches and maintain a space within the heart of listeners. I’m only composing after what I believe in, after all.

Entre Tú y Yo: What is the repertoire that you face every day and not as an artist, as a woman... That individuality you speak is also independence and fulfillment in all aspects?

Sofía: Absolutely. What I express through music is an extension of who I am and what I stand for.

Entre Tú y Yo: What is the life of a woman challenged that implicated survive in a competitive world; in decadence?

Sofía: As I already said above, it’s always a matter of finding the right motivations and maintaining an honest passion for what’s true inside. There are difficulties to overcome, but as music remains also a spiritual act, developing a philosophy to confront the society’s decadence, is essential. Of course, we are all after the right balance between our inner peace and surviving within society. Art is here to release ourselves.

Entre Tú y Yo: What is a normal day like in your line of work (assuming there is such a thing as a ‘normal day’) and what are your plans for future projects? Many artists dream of a “magnum opus” which refers to the largest, and perhaps the best, greatest, most popular, or most renowned achievement of an artist, or composer. Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?

Sofía: I admit there is no such thing as a normal day; there are regular activities taking places on a daily basis, but there is no such thing as a schedule. Probably because composing music is not something that can be measured in small portion of time. The time I need every day in order to go through with my projects and commissions take over a big part of my day, so I try to put together everything else on my free time. I never know how much it’s going to be, but I always try to find some spare time for me.On the other hand, it’s hard to enclose a whole vision in just one answer. It’s because a vision, by its nature, it’s something abstract and it involves not only words, thoughts and arguments, but also feelings, desires and sentiments. I’m making my way, exploring my world and giving voice to what there’s inside me and asks to be expressed in music’s own way. The sound my vision has, is the sound of life itself. Art imitates and interprets life; so I could say the sound of music I propose as a composer is a statement of how I approach life as well. It’s the vision of how I’d like to live; first of all, I compose my music for the pleasure of my very own heart.

Entre Tú y Yo: The music and spirituality go hand in hand in your life, Sofía? Your music is the result of an inside job in search of inner peace?

Sofía: Every act is a search of inner peace and Arts provide the right vocabulary.


Participation in festivals as a composer-sound designer in collaboration with visual artists:

 * FLASHFORWARD 4 | A Milano dal 7 al 29 Marzo 2012 @ [.BOX] Videoart project Space
* "Be There!" - Animation festival in Corfu - Greece, 29 March - 1 April 2012
February 2012
* Artists' Television Access @ Minscapes - San francisco - USA
* Carnival of e-creativity Sattal - India -
* CologneOFF VII - Art and the City -
* MADATAC festival, Museo Reina Sofia - Madrid, Spain / 12 to 18 December 2011 -
* November - December 2011 “La caduta nel tempo” Emil Cioran - Centro Culturale Candiani - Venezia - http://www.rri.ro/ art.shtml?lang=8&sec=452&art=188722
* @ Minscapes / 21-22 October 2011 at Theatre 7 - Las Vegas -
* Arte Video Roma Festival / 21-22-23 October 2011 -
* Videoholica Varna - Bulgaria / 5-12 August 2011/ international video art festival -
* Museo Civico d'arte Contemporanea - 28/07/2011 to 04/08/2011. Floridia - Sicilia -
* Festival Miden Juin 2011 -Kalamata . Greece -
* Nuits Atypiques / 06 Mai au 04 Juin 2011 -
* Emil et Un Cioran - 29 ET 30 AVRIL 2011 THEATRE DU PALAIS DE BEHAGUE, SALLE BYZANTINE DE L'AMBASSADE DE ROUMANIE A PARIS - http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xitwuk_teaser-emil-et-un-cioran_creation
* VIDEOFORMS 16 March - 3 April 2011 - http://www.videoformes-fest.com/festival-11/
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