Catherine Duc

By Bob Gourley | Originally published in 2009
Catherine Duc

On her debut album, “Visions and Dreams,” Australian musician Catherine Duc blended together elements of Celtic music with various electronic styles to create a highly cinematic worldbeat sound. Her music truly transcends music genres; for instance, it’s bound to appeal to New Age fans, but at the same time fans of more experimental electronic styles who wouldn’t be caught dead listening the New Age should give it a chance as well. Duc, who has received numerous awards for her music, is currently at work on a followup to the 2005 release. In an email interview, she told about her creative process, thoughts on the need to categorize music, and more.

With this type of music, it’s not always obvious what is being played on traditional instruments and what is coming from electronic instruments and samplers. Can you describe the instrumentation used on your recordings?

On the ‘Visions and Dreams’ album, about half of the sounds are electronically generated from my synthesizer or software modules (such as electronic rhythms and ambient textures). Most of the remaining sounds are real instruments (such as ethnic instruments) that have been sampled at various pitches, styles and velocities that I’ve used my keyboard to play back melodies on. I performed the ambient vocals myself.

On the new album I’m working on at the moment, there’s more of a focus on live instruments such as violin, low whistle, tin whistle, guitar, mandolin and uilleann pipes to name just a few.

How would you say the music on “Visions and Dreams” evolved from when you first started working on the album to what we hear on the finished cd?

I worked on one song at a time and sometimes, I composed as I recorded. So there were no different draft versions as such, but an evolving piece that I kept adding melodies, harmonies and arrangements to.

Could your describe your creative process?

I usually come up with an idea for a song when I don’t intend to compose. I’ll be at my keyboard trying out new sounds and if I get an idea for a melody, I’ll stop to record the fragment. I’ll then try out different arrangements in my mind while I’m away from my studio such as when I’m on the train or taking a walk. I find that this approach creates lots of musical ideas.

I’ll then go back to my studio. I’ll start by choosing instruments and sounds and then replicate what I’ve heard in my mind. Sometimes I go off on a different tangent too if a good idea comes to me. I basically try not to force creativity – I suppose my composing style is the musical equivalent of the ‘slow food movement’.

Your website has information on licensing your music. What types of things has it be licensed for? As an artist, where would you ideally like to have your music used?

My music has been used in projects from feature-length documentaries to corporate presentations and multi-media portfolios. My dream goal would be to write music for an epic fantasy movie in the style of Lord of The Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia.

On your website, you break down albums tracks by ‘genre’ (Ambient/World, Celtic Electronica) etc. I’m curious as to your general thoughts on putting music into genres. Do you find yourself thinking about them as you compose? Do you feel that your songs comfortably fit into particular genres, or this type of labeling just something necessary in terms of reaching out to potential new listeners and/or music licensors? Do you see any negative aspects of categorizing music?

I don’t categorize my songs until I’m ready to release the music and need to do it for my distributor and licensing sites. I don’t really think about the genre when I compose. I label the songs on my website for listeners – they may prefer Celtic music to ambient music, so I try to give them some indication about what they can expect to hear before they spend time downloading.

I think a negative aspects of categorizing music would be when an artist was categorized in a single higher level music category when their music crossed over different genres.

Have you ever considered doing songs where vocals are more in the forefront?

Yes, on the album I’m currently working on, there are a couple of songs with lyrics in the forefront as well as other songs with ambient vocalizes.

Do you perform live? What are the challenges you see in presenting this type of music in a live setting?

I don’t perform live very often as it’s difficult to replicate most of my songs in a live environment unless I had many musicians on ethnic instruments and synthesizers. If I perform live, it’s myself on keyboard with a guitarist and a violinist.

What have you been working on since the release of “Visions and Dreams”? When can we look forward to more music being available?

I’m working on my next album and have just started on the 6th song. I don’t have a release date on the album yet because I’m taking a different approach with this album. With Visions and Dreams, I had a deadline for each song, but I’m letting the new album develop organically. When it’s ready, it will be released 🙂

What music have you been listening to lately?

Celtic Woman and the Twilight score have been on heavy rotation on my playlist lately. Totally contrasting moods that are both very inspiring to me.

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