Vignettes x Chris Szott

In partnership with ATB Financial, Vignettes has introduced a new element to the Design Showcase this year: sound design. Each musical track that has been paired with the 14 showcase designs, dubbed the ATB Soundscapes, features the works of some of Edmonton's most revered musical artists. These spotlights give us a closer look at each artist's history, their experience building their craft in our city, and what they think about engaging in new creative collaborations.

 
 

What was it like trying to become a successful artist in Edmonton and what were some of the challenges you faced?

I was never really into the Alberta music scene growing up. It wasn’t until I turned 18 that I really started embracing Edmonton and embracing my music. I moved to London, UK and did my degree in recording engineering. After grad, I came home and I got in with Edmontone Studio. I started a musical project called Sirch., which is more or less my reflections of growing up in the Canadian wilderness. I released an album in late 2013 and it gained some weird steam–ended up on CBC Radio, on BBC and was picked up all the way in India. One of the songs off of it, Beach Babies, won me an Edmonton Music Award.

I’ve been doing a lot of sound design for plays primarily out of New York. In January, I moved to Toronto and did an apprenticeship as a foley artist, which is someone who reproduces the sounds of everyday objects for film and television shows.

I’ve been back for about two months. Edmonton feels like more of a home and a more accessible industry than it is in Toronto. Over the past 4 or 5 years, the music scene has blossomed with talent and has drawn well-known acts. The whole downtown is being built up. Exciting projects, like Vignettes, spread everyone’s portfolio and sound.  

Do you feel like the change is what has allowed you to feel comfortable staying in Edmonton or do you feel like the support in Edmonton is more what allows you to build something for yourself here?

I think it’s certainly easier for someone in Edmonton to put forward an idea and have it progress and blossom as opposed to any other market, because it is a smaller market and it’s a lot more intimate. That being said, it’s still an industry where there’s very little money, so it’s really tough for any sort of artist to maintain a living doing what they want to do as opposed to some place like Montreal or Toronto. But it’s changing; you’ll see in the next year or two from the city reaching out and saying yes to things more than they’ve ever had.

Through life experience, especially over the last year or so, I’ve been able to really take a step back and see the city and the industry for what it is, and I feel more comfortable with it.

How important is it to you, as a musician, that Edmonton has events like Vignettes that aim to strengthen the art community?

I remember passing by it last year when it was in the old Sobey’s building, and it looked awesome. And fortunately [this year] somebody from Alberta Music reached out to me and said that ATB wanted me to apply for this opportunity, and it was at a good time–I just came back from Toronto so I was like, “alright!” So I got accepted and it’s been really nice.

To have a platform like Vignettes–it’s huge exposure. And with the murals on the side of the building, and in such a happening part of town, it should be great.

What do you think is the best way for Edmontonians to support the growing art and design community in Edmonton?

Going out and just supporting [shows]. More accessibility to funding, [and] more exposure would be good. And artist housing is something that Montreal has really nailed, it’s really cheap for an artist to live there, but there’s not a lot here. Many options here are dedicated to painters and visual artists, so finding those that would welcome a noisy musician [would be helpful]. Keeping work in our own backyard would be nice, since there’s a lot of talent here.

Raise the bar and keep the art quality at a competitive level.

What are you most looking forward to about being involved in the ATB Soundscapes and what kinds of new opportunities did this present to you as an artist? Do you feel like this has provided you with different creative freedom than you’re used to?

I’ve certainly written a piece that is not traditionally what I would write. It’s allowed me to try some new stuff. It’s been a good project to have; I’m used to just doing my own thing and kind of ended up that way. I just locked myself in a room and wrote it.

How would you describe the music you created for Vignettes and what was the kind of process you undertook?

Taking the themes of each Vignette that I was assigned to, I kind of got the vibe that everyone is striving to incorporate bringing nature inside. Over the summer, I did a lot of field recordings of rain storms and babbling creeks and the wind blowing through the trees, so it’s going to be a mix of that with a modern classical piece overtop. I’m trying to figure out how to do this, but I’ve got it set up so that it’s going to be entirely generative. I’ve written a script that will essentially build on itself; it’ll never play the same piece twice. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it, but that’s the goal!


Chris' work will debut at the Vignettes VIP Opening Gala on Friday, September 22nd, and can be experienced between September 22 and October 15. Visit vignettesyeg.ca/tickets to reserve your spot now.