Concepción Huerta, a Mexican sonic artist, photographer and music video maker, creates a musical story in which she interweaves sounds, images and motion. Her first album, Harmonies from Betelgeuse, focuses on the transmission of electricity between body and machine, creating sonic displacements that seem to float without the influence of gravity.
On the second of February, her latest album, The Earth Has Memory, made in collaboration with the American label Elevator Bath, will see the light of day. This time, Huerta takes us to the inside of the Earth, telling a musical story about descending into the depths and discovering the secrets hidden beneath the surface. Using tapes and instruments such as Buchla and Nord, the artist explores abstract resonances, capturing the impression of a journey to the center of our planet.
She works not only as a soloist, but also as a member of the experimental ensemble Amor Muere, creating a link between different fields of sound art. Collaborating with artists such as Fernado Vigueras, Martin Escalante and CNDSD, Huerta crosses genre boundaries and introduces new sounds to the soundscape. Her recordings have been released on prestigious labels. She has received acclaim from the music press and has performed at festivals and stages in America, Europe and Asia, demonstrating the global reach of her artistic explorations.
Intrigued by all this, I invited the Artist to talk to me, to which she readily agreed, sharing stories from her creative world.
Artur Mieczkowski: I discovered your work thanks to J. Zunz, who recommended artists from Mexico in the pages of ANXIOUS. You released the album Harmonies from Betelgeuse, which I really liked. In February 2024 your new album will be released on the US label Elevator Bath. What has happened in your artistic endeavours during this time?
Concepción Huerta: Hello, thank you for your interest in my work, I am very grateful that you liked Harmonies from Betelgeuse, it is my first album working only with the subharmonic semi-modular and some parts processed on tape.
The next work to be released The Earth Has Memory on Elevator Bath label, I worked on EMS using specifically NORD and Buchla, processed in the same way on magnetic tape. I think of this album as deep and intense soundscapes, using low frequencies and electric signals with the buchla.
My sound work mostly comes from a very personal place to be explored and imagined, for me the sound goes parallel to my life, it helps me to understand life, for example in this last release I am very interested in influencing the body of the listener and to invite him to dive into the sound depth, inviting him to go to the center of the earth (connection with the meditative state) with these earthy atmospheres and the movement of the sound.
Since the beginning of my sound research I have been working and exploring with magnetic tape recordings, their materiality, transformation, and I have been incorporating new processes in my sound practice. Above all, I believe that I have been opening new ways to learn more about sound synthesis, and to keep on transforming sound, creating bridges between analog and digital processes.
A.M.: You started out as a visual artist, as a photographer. Where did you get the idea to expand your work into sound?
C.H.: I started studying audiovisual media, but I began very deeply with analog still photography, then more towards the audiovisual, focusing a lot on the experiential narrative, from there I think that part where I started to focus a lot on sound design and give much weight to my audiovisual creations, with respect to sound.
Hence my interest in archiving for creation, the use of different formats and tape recording was what led me to concrete sound and music as well.
I concentrated a lot at the beginning on field recording, it was also creating a lot of my part with magnetic tape, then synthesis and incorporating analog and digital sound processing.
I think that in general all my work, both visual and sound, correspond to each other, there is a lot of interest and focus on narrative and certain starting points for creation.
A.M.: The album cover of The Earth Has Memory consists of a photograph by Magaly Ugarte, taken during your joint visit to the obsidian mine in Hidalgo. Can you tell us about this trip?
C.H.: The sonic idea of the album is a journey to the center of the earth, being able to listen to all the movements of the tectonic plates and at the same time it is a meditative connection with the sound by connecting with the center of the earth, as Pauline Oliveros proposes in such a listening exercise.
The title is for the earthquake of September 19, 2022, since in 1985 and 2017, there were earthquakes on the same day in Mexico City that marked the history of the city and its inhabitants, I was thinking a lot about the cyclicality of the movement of the earth. I remember I thought: I said “The Earth has memory”.
I contacted Magaly who is an incredible cinematographer to take the pictures of the album. We decided to go to this Obsidian mine in Hidalgo, to portray the mineral emerging from the earth, obsidian has healing and energetic values. When we went we realized that it was a journey together towards a deep and feminine journey, accompanied by the powers of the mineral.
A.M.: You are also a member of the experimental ensemble Amor Muere – with Gibrana Cervantes, Camille Mandoki and Mabe Fratti. How did your collaboration begin? What is the concept behind this project?
C.H.: For me Amor Muere means a very big encounter in my personal life as well as in my sound connection.
We met in 2017 (or a bit before with Camille), and we became friends, went to the forest to play music and did a lot of sessions together. That’s where our connection came from.
Camille at the time invited us to a project “I am” where we were working with more artists and friends, I think that’s where we put together Amor Muere and started composing.
More than a concept I think it is a meeting between us as people and a free space where we were able to implement our processes and knowledge in sound and music, to create a common place.
A.M.: You collaborate with lots of artists. How does that come about? Do you have any specific terms before you start working with a particular artist?
C.H.: I think everything has happened in a very organic way and depending on the aproach to the sound, whether it’s an album, installation, or sound design. In terms of music they are very close people and I value their approach to sound, for example I have collaborated with each of the beloved musicians of the ensemble Amor Muere separately, with the mexican Daniela Huerta a.k.a. Baby Vulture with whom we have a duo “Huerta Ensemble”, with the Peruvian flautist Camilo Angeles with whom we have an album Desciende, my most recent one work with the composer Hara Alonso, with whom we were developing a relationship of an album from the resonance of the magnetic tape with, also with Fernando Vigueras, that although we have not recorded anything yet, I always like to collaborate with him and make improvisations because he is a sound artist that I admire a lot for a long time and I have shared in many parts of my processes.
A.M.: When creating new material, do images, narrative storytelling or sounds first arise in your head? What does your creative process look like?
C.H.: It’s not always the same way and that’s interesting, in the end I think there’s a match in all my work so I’m just going to follow the pace of each project.
With everything going from an idea, a word, a sound or an image, the important work for me is also the process of developing, composing and creating.
A.M.: It is always a challenge to push the boundaries, to go beyond one’s comfort zone, but the results are bound to surprise the creator. This is a kind of definition of true and free art. Following your activities, I have come to the conclusion that they are proof that there is still a lot to be done in the art scene.
C.H.: As for my relationship with sound, it is my way of seeing the world, of questioning myself, of putting myself some challenges, when I want to try, to experiment, in my creation.
My way in sound goes in parallel with my life.
A.M.: What about your concerts? Do you like to use visuals to make them more diverse? Where do you like to perform the most ? Have you got any well-thought – out guidelines regarding your performances and do you stick to them or you can adjust to conditions at certain places? What kind of ideas are you governed by?
C.H.: The ideas that integrate the visual or what I feel guided is by type of fiction that I am developing sound, for example A-WAY FROM FICTION, which if it has a visual part that I develop on the basis of a project of narrative, nature and technologies.
Also, some time ago I was working with a visual artist Anahy Cabrera, and we did a joint work called “Travelers”, we were presenting it in Mexico in different forums. We were also developing some projects together and with other artists such as the ensemble “GRIETAS” with Lucia Hinojosa and Vania Fortuna, presented in Ex Teresa.
It depends on the project you are developing.
A.M.: I’d love to hear your recommendations when it comes to the music scene in Mexico.
C.H.: There are many artists in Mexico working with sound, so I will put my personal recommendation in different genres and approaches to sound : Interspecifics, Titanic, Gibrana Cervantes, Vica Pacheco, Baby Vulture, Alina Maldonado, Deriva Arcana, “Diles que no me Maten”, Torso Corso, Buena Tarde, Emilia Ezeta, Camille Mandoki, CNDSD, Sarmend Almond, Doquier, Rodrigo Ambríz, Martín Escalante, Fernando Vigueras, Generación Espontánea, COWWSSS (Arturo Ortega), Lucía Hinojosa, Vania Fortuna, Hospital de México, Grave Mal, J. Zunz, Carlos Icaza Braulio Lam, Simonel y FAX.
Also Alvaro Ruiz M, Edgar Medina (a.k.a. Alejandro Morse) and the best Manrico Montero may they rest in peace.
A.M.: What are your upcoming publication plans? What are you currently working on?
C.H.: A few months ago I made a residence with the composer Hara Alonso, we created a record using the resonance of the magnetic tape and the piano. This will be our next publication.
I look forward to publishing a series of improvisations I did last year with sound artists I admire a lot, in Mexico City.
I’m also doing a project with analog synthesis, processed by magnetic tape using space and acoustics as narrative reference.
I have also been working on composition for audiovisuals.
A.M.: Thank you very much for the interview and I wish you good luck with all your plans. I also hope that we can see you at a concert in Poland :).
C.H.: Many thanks to you for the interest is my work and allow me to share with you. Thank you, I wish I could go play in Poland soon, I would love it.
I wish you the best. hugs