Blurring the boundaries between art, sound and poetry: this is what experimental project Rio Negro is all about. In his universe, electro-acoustic notes, guitar lines and ambient sounds transcend the words with deep emotion and pure beauty. For Victor, black rivers have always been a great source of inspiration in which you dream but never drown. What is abrupt, liquid, and dark is exalting: the result is a music oscillating between love and loss, cosmic and sonic at the same time. We’ve talked with Spanish artist about modular sounds, his support from photographer Wolfgang Tillmans and his connections with the sky. Meet Rio Negro’s soul, who connects you with the eternal, the divine and the sound.
Let’s talk about the genesis of your musical explorations. Tell us about the main voices, the sound experiences that influenced your first steps into composition. 
That's an interesting question. For me, it all happens when I’m writing music and recording in the studio, completely isolated from everything. A key catalyst for this project was a stipendium I received from The Swedish Institution of Electroacoustic Music and Sound Art (EMS). They call it an artists-in-residence program. That was a game-changer and something I’ll be eternally grateful for. I was really fortunate that my studio time was not restricted as is the case for most artists on a tight budget. As a result, I was able to explore my own compositions more organically. It made everything more flexible, a real luxury for a beginner like me. EMS also has a remarkable library, so in between recording it was perfect to have a cup of tea and read some inspirational books. I’d already written my compositions beforehand, of course, but they were more like scattered pieces that I needed to shape and bring together in the studio. It was quite gratifying to read at EMS about people such as Karlheinz Stockhausen, Can, Neu! Pierre Schaeffer, Morton Subotnick, Philip Glass, and many others. I believe that this gave me some extra energy to get back into recording. 
Sound poetry is not something new. From the Futurist and Dadaist vanguards of the 20th century to Yoko Ono, many artists have been exploring this form of artistic expression. As part of the new ‘sound poet’s generation’, can you tell me what is the future bringing to this field? What does attract you from this style?
Interestingly, I recently wrote an essay about the role of poetry in education. I really believe that poetry can be an increasingly valuable tool in enabling teachers to teach their students how to write, read and understand any text. It also gives students a healthy outlet for surging emotions and inexplicable feelings. According to Gadamer, “the poets educate only insofar as they bring a disconcertedness to our lives: a distrusts of all too facile reconciliations, an incredulity.” Poetry is human expression. On this project there was no master plan – combining the fields of both poetry and electroacoustic music came naturally to me. Since writing my own poetry took me longer than the compositions, I selected American poet Anne Sexton's poem The Starry Night and tried some basic composition from my former sketches on it and started to work from that point. I guess this is similar to the process of composing the score for a motion picture: a poem delivers dazzling images as intense as a photograph or a film. In this case, though, the good thing is that I wasn't creatively constricted by the guidelines of the film director; I was my own director. I am not very familiar with other artists in this area at the moment, in case this is some sort of a trend. I like Holy War (Joe Cardamone), if you can call that sound poetry too. I wouldn’t mind playing in some event where he’s playing in too, if someone plans this type of venue in the future.
Between electronic beats, acoustic notes, ambient vibes and poetry, your music generates a very unique tone. What secrets does your studio hide?
EMS is a beautiful place that gave me the opportunity to use state-of-the-art equipment I could otherwise have never afforded. The basic idea of my project was to record everything analogue and transform digital sounds into tape by using a reel-to-reel. In addition, I work with grounded guitars that create rather big sounds and atmospheres. For instance, the people at EMS allowed me to use one of their original Buchlas from the 1970s. These are analogic synthesizers to work with modular sound. There must be no more than 5 Buchlas like that in the entire world!  
An Abrupt Solidity to the Light is your first EP and an ode to the turquoise, the blue and the stars. Are you connected to the sky? 
(Laughs) Maybe? I love the fact that you put it that way. The main themes in this EP are the Eternal, the Divine, things like death, friendship, and even love – things that accompany you through life in one way or another, which are bigger than yourself.
The renowned cloud photograph from German artist Wolfgang Tillmans illustrates the cover of your EP. The infinite grades of pastel colours from the purple sky answer naturally to the subtlety of your words. How do you relate visual and sound? Have you ever thought about opening your artistic experimentation to other mediums?
Once again, I was extremely lucky for the generosity and support of Wolfgang. Before speaking to him, I had no idea about the title of his stunning cloud-formation image. When he told me it was called LUX, I was blown away. I simply can’t imagine a better way to visually represent An Abrupt Solidity to the Light. Maybe that’s because I see this EP project with a holistic approach that includes not just the poetry and electroacoustic music but also a visual experience. It needs to be integrated in one solid package. Indeed, for me, the process is completed with a live show. I want to explore spatial sound and offer visual inputs, explore how you engage sonically and visually with the audience. It works as an art installation but comes alive with the performance. I also see the Rio Negro project as a series of continuous collaborations with poets and visual artists. Examples include Swedish photographer and filmmaker Knotan, who made a documentary teaser for me at EMS, or legendary American photographer Julia Gorton, who took a few photographs of me in lower Manhattan.
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In fact, I wanted to know about this collaboration with Julia Gorton?
She is fantastic. She is a legend. I’m a big fan of her work in documenting the short-lived but vibrant artistic transitional period between the 1970s and 1980s. She has photographed everyone from that period: Debbie Harry, Tom Verlaine, Ric Ocasek, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Lidia Lunch, Richard Hell, David Byrne, etc. The fact that she took these pictures of me provides me with her ‘no wave spirit’. Again, so much energy. I love her (laughs).
All the music is composed, arranged, performed, and recorded by you. How primordial is it for you to keep the control on the entire creative process?
I’ve learned that I will never do something like this alone again (laughs). You know, before I was talking about this completely introverted and isolated process I got into while putting the EP together. But once the tracks were laid down, the process turned completely around. Now it’s all about sharing. Because I had to do everything on my own, it was also crucial to get an outside-in perspective at certain stages. That is why I asked my long-term friend from my hometown, Jorge Navarro, to help me mix it. He gave it the final professional edge. He had previously worked in the score of some films and documentaries; it wouldn't be like this without his energy and input. Same thing applies to the rest of the people who have been involved so far: Oliver Ackermann from A Place to Bury Strangers, Johannes Buff, who is the sound technician of Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth, and Björn Hansell who has produced Fever Ray here in Sweden. I was totally blown away that this was actually happening.
‘Experimental’ has become a common word in the music industry. What does it mean for you to make experimental music in 2017? What are the contemporary challenges for sound composition today?
This sort of ‘left field’ music comes natural to me. The most demanding part is the singing. In the studio, I wasn't sure if I could read the poems. I tried that and it was so boring (laughs) that I had to let it flow freely and I ended up more like singing. Voice is a muscle and I've been working on it for my upcoming shows. I believe that's not pop music though. However, today’s technology offers us an infinite number of ways to explore music. The challenge is really about how much talent is in it. It doesn't matter whether you use the most amazing equipment in the world: if you compose or record something that captures an amazing moment, it becomes a truly awesome thing.
Poet Anne Sexton used poetry as a form of therapy. How would you relate sound poetry with self-introspection? Is there a therapeutic power of poetry writing?
Well, that therapy clearly didn’t work out too well for her in the end, since she committed suicide at the age of forty-five, but maybe it helped for a while. She clearly had deeper and darker demons that could not be remedied by poetry alone. In any event, the fundamentals of any type of writing or artistic endeavour are to release the human expression of the artist. And yes, this can help to sooth the soul and gain some peace of mind. For me it certainly works like that.
In an interview made at the EMS Studios Elektronmusikstudion in Stockholm, you said that “live performance comes to complete the loop of the creative process”. You’ll be performing in Stockholm on Thursday 1st June. What kind of link would you expect to create with the public?
Zero expectations (laughs). This will be the release party of the EP, a chance to experience An Abrupt Solidity to the Light live. I see my show as an adaptation to the space. The gig you are mentioning will be at Kafe 44, a classic punk, anarchist and anti-fascist venue that’s been a vibrant light on the Swedish music scene since the 1980s. It feels really great to play there, and hopefully it can inspire someone. I’m not a big fan of spoilers but I have prepared some surprises, some guests, poetry reading and I have added Silvia Plath's poem The Munich Mannequins within a loop from my poem Upon The Ocean Stripped.
Next projects in the pipeline?
At the moment I'm very focused on getting a tight show together. I also need to gain confidence on stage. That means performance and more performance. Meanwhile, I’ve been working on some new writings and have a few ideas bouncing around, so the idea of expanding the EP into an LP makes sense to me.
Rio Negro will perform on Thursday 1st June at Kafe 44, Tjärhovsgatan 46, 116 28 Stockholm, Sweden at 19:00h.
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