Israel Martínez: Nadaanda

Navel-Gazers #25 is an interview with Israel Martínez who is going to talk to us about Nadaanda. This is a record - and I do mean record, it exists on vinyl - which I’ve played repeatedly over the last several months. In fact it’s quite short, around 20 minutes long, with oblique track titles and bold, austere cover art that’s barely distinguishable from the other releases on the record label, Musica Moderna. The music itself also starts out pretty minimalistic, which wouldn’t necessarily be my usual cup of tea, and yet.. something draws me in immediately. ‘Nadaanda’ twists and turns until by the end of those 20 minutes it’s transformed into something else entirely… we’ve traveled a vast distance in a short amount of time and a whole plethora of sounds are ringing in my ears. What a trip! So who is Israel Martínez? Well that’s what I’d like to find out.. he’s from Guadalajara, Mexico and he seems like a cool character! Israel’s work extends well beyond sound recording: his website lists “multichannel audio installations, video, photography, actions or performances, texts, publications, and interventions in public spaces”. How does ‘Nadaanda’ fit into all this? And what can we learn about Mr. Martínez - and about sound recording in general - by examining this short but very powerful work?

AC Thanks for joining me here. So as mentioned above I’d probably like to start by asking about the context of this project ‘Nadaanda’ - and of your other music - in your art practice? As you’re not only a recording artist with albums listed on Bandcamp and Discogs, you also do installations, writing, video… so what’s your main focus? And what’s the background of ‘Nadaanda’, biographically speaking?

Israel Martínez: Well, I started making experimental electronic music in 2002 after some years involved in a couple of darkwave projects since 1997. At the beginning I only used digital-analog synths and software but in 2005 I started to make sound recordings with portable stuff (I have always had problems with my lumbars so I can not carry heavy gear) and then to compose pieces combining synths and field recordings and sometimes works totally built with field recordings. This last "route" is the source of my work Mi Vida (2006, published on my first compilation CD, Exorcizios, 2008 Abolipop, and then on An Anthology of Noise & Electronic Music #6 by Sub Rosa in 2010), composed with sound from cars, which won the Award of Distinction in Prix Ars Electronica 2007 and changed my life, basically. I remember discussing this work with Francisco López before Ars Electronica, I attended a workshop he did in Michoacán, Mexico, and it was great to share ideas with this great and inspiring artist and thinker.

I composed four albums merging synths and field recordings: Nareah (2009, Aagoo), El Hombre Que Se Sofoca (2011, Sub Rosa), Two Espressos in Separate Cups (2012, Aagoo & Sub Rosa), and The Minutes (2013, Aagoo), I think these last three form a trilogy with the idea of pieces that can be heard as a single long work if the entire album is heard. So I feel that my field recording pieces are more "individual", sometimes a bit conceptual, and the best way to release them are compilations of works (that is the case of "Exorcizios", and Pausa, 2019 Aagoo). I'd like to mention that sometimes these works come from audio installation projects, I really love to produce and create a dialogue between different art fields, and I think that one work can have several formats or "platforms".

In 2012 I was living in Berlin invited by Berliner Künstlerprogramm DAAD, and I got this email by Claudio Rocchetti from the lovely label Musica Moderna, he invited me to propose a project on vinyl and I immediately thought in a work totally focused on field recordings, minimalistic and powerful works (for me, of course) of field recordings with different approaches between them. The first piece barely has a very slight modification of the recording, just creating layers with the same sound; the second one was recorded in movement and has no edit; and the third one is a cut & paste composition of field recordings. From a forest to a cable car and a kitchen, three works or recordings in different geographies, different "stories".

I really love this vinyl. I like "narrative" albums (probably an idea more related to popular music or rock in general) but my favorites are those conceptual works/pieces or works produced specifically for determined media. When I got the invitation from Musica Moderna I immediately thought of field recordings on vinyl, "simple" and "beautiful" pieces.

I have been influenced by contemporary art since the late 90s, so for me visual art is something that can merge with sound/audio art. It is the reason I produce works using several media or formats, but the sound is always the departure point. Sometimes only as an idea, a concept, but it is always there.

AC: I wanted to ask you about the titles. It seems like a puzzle. All three of them translate into Spanish: Nada (nothing), Anda (go) - these together make “Nadaanda” - then finally my favourite, Ansiedad (anxiety). Do these relate to the settings of forest, cable car, kitchen… or the approaches to recording? What is your thought process behind assigning titles to your work?

Israel Martínez: Sometimes I like to play with some phonetic or semantic games. “Nada” (nothing) refers to the unrecognizable source that originates the sound on that work. “Anda” (go) refers to the trip on the cable car, to the movement. “Andanada” could be translated as burst, and that would be the name of the vinyl but there was a confusion with Claudio Rocchetti and “Nadaanda” was printed.

“Ansiedad” (anxiety) is direct to what we can feel when spending time in a kitchen or desperately thinking about eating. “Ansiedad” was composed for a piece of butoh dance held in the kitchen of a private house, it was beautiful. On this piece, I recorded every sound I could find in the kitchen for an hour, and made more by storing cutlery, cooking and heating food. Some bites and sips can be heard as well. Ariadna, the butoh dancer for whom I composed the piece, told me that she often felt anxiety inside a kitchen, whether it was cleaning it or cooking, because she wanted to devour everything. That was the basis of the work: trying to generate an "auditory framework" for her slow movements and her body sculptures, something common within the butoh dance ritual. I felt that this work was going to be beautiful on vinyl.

AC: You mentioned that you started making experimental music in 2002. Incidentally, that's also when I started making experimental music! A lot can change over two decades. How do you think your approach has evolved over the years? Do you look back on the older material and think that it's very different?

Also, it sounds like you were contacted by Musica Moderna in 2012, but Bandcamp says 'Nadaanda' was released in 2017! When did it actually get made?

Israel Martínez: When I started composing electronic experimental music I was thinking of making albums and doing concerts mostly. Three years later I opened my perspective about the possibilities of the "final formats", places or situations to present these works, beyond CDs and gigs. For example, I fell in love with multichannel acousmatic music and concerts, but I thought that I could make this kind of music or sound pieces for open public spaces or for listening inside cars or in special places related to the spirit or the concept of the same piece. I also started to be invited by museums and curators so it was great for me to get more places to present my work.

I think that I have made very different works from each other and that is what has motivated me the most for the last 15 years. In some of my projects there is no sound in itself, no sounds but the photo, installation, text or video start from sonic notions. I consider myself an interdisciplinary artist who works with and from sound, not necessarily or only a sound artist.

Oh yes, "Nadaanda" was released in 2012. Computers and the internet make us crazy!

AC: Yes they do! But of course this album is also on vinyl and I wanted to come back to a comment you made earlier, you said that you came up with this music after Claudio from Musica Moderna proposed a vinyl release. You described it as pre-determined media. Could you explain this further? What’s the significance of vinyl to you? Do you collect records?

Israel Martínez: Well, I think that any kind of music or sound work has specific media to enhance its content. In this case I thought that vinyl would be great for this kind of field recordings, more than a digital format. Some of the textures could be more enjoyable on vinyl than in a cleaner media. Yes, I collect records since I was an adolescent, but it is very personal, intimate, like an aural portrait, with many kinds of music, a lot of punk-hardcore and experimental stuff, and very far from a compulsive collector. I am making a new piece working with the crackles of all my vinyls, it is in process :-)

AC: Wow, I will want to hear that.

There is a final topic I want to ask you about and that is, Mexico! I am from New York and one thing I've found is Americans - even those who are keen on Mexico and Mexican culture - don't really know of Mexico as a hub for the avant-garde, or experimental art forms. I didn't realise that when I first went to Mexico City and Oaxaca and it caught me by surprise! You are from Guadalajara, what's it like there? Is it well-connected internationally?

Israel Martínez: I think it's a shame, a great shame, that the experimental music and/or sound art scene in the USA did not listen to the proposals that have historically been made in Mexico. There is a strong and rich scene. Most of the time we have more contact and participation with other geographies, like Europe. Such is my case, although most of my records are released by Aagoo Records, a label based in New Jersey, but almost all of my activity is focused in Europe. Mexico is a hyper-centralised country, and 80% or 90% of the things related to experimental music or sonic arts happen in Mexico City, then Guadalajara and Morelia, and a few in Tijuana, Monterrey, Oaxaca, Mérida.

Yes, many musicians and artists are well-connected internationally, very very well. Just to name some mates: Mario de Vega, Rogelio Sosa, Interspecifics, Murcof, Lumen lab, Rodrigo Ambriz, Bárbara Lázara, Fernando Vigueras, Alexander Bruck, Juan José Rivas, Manuel Rocha Iturbide. Carmina Escobar, Wilfrido Terrazas, and the legendary Guillermo Galindo are based in California. Mexico has a wide scene, definitely.

AC: This list is a goldmine! I'll be sure to check these artists out and I recommend our readers to do the same.

Other than the piece with the vinyl-crackles, what are you working on next? Do you have any further thoughts you'd like to share with us?

Israel Martínez: I am starting to work on three extra projects that will take one year on production at least. The first one is focused on an archaeological site in the west of Mexico named Guachimontones, there will be sound and music but also video, photo and sculpture. The second is related to the previous project, although it is broader, it is a series of audio installations and an archive of contemporary poetry in native languages of Mexico. The third is a silent video work in which deaf and dumb people will narrate a new text created from fragments that allude to sound in the novel Under The Volcano by Malcolm Lowry.

Please follow my works visiting Thank you for your time and your ears.

Israel Martínez can be found at his website

Popular posts from this blog

Bablicon: A Flat Inside A Fog, The Cat That Was A Dog

Zhu Wenbo, Li Song, Yan Jun: There Is No Music From China (compilation)

Matmos: The West