05 Apr Viken Arman on Electronica and the Current Club State
Public Works – March 8th
Born and raised in Paris with Armenian familiar roots, Viken Arman is heavily influenced by his origins. As a classically trained multi-instrumentalist, Viken is a pioneer of the electronic scene and a visionary at heart. Drawing inspiration from French composer Erik Satie and jazz pianist Tigran Hamasyan alike, Arman explores vastly different musical registers and fuses them with artistic elegance, dependent on his mood. His ideas for the fusion of classical symphonic music with electronica showed during a brief conversation I had with him after his set. As we spoke about the evolution of the club scene, Viken touched on the prominence of live sets that combine the expressive nature of instruments with the neverending heartbeat of the kick drum. Viken stated “a dj’s job is to interact with the crowd. If the crowd is screaming with euphoria, the dj must channel this energy” through effervescent track selection. The interactive flow between artist and dancer is a connection unique at any club space and crowd at a given moment.
Viken and I stood on a balcony observing this sacred connection between Lum – Sebastian Gandine (Tulum) – and the audience who dance with elation at a slow rhythm. Everyone in the room interacts which contributes to the energy within the club. If either side were to lose focus on the music, the connection would be lost and the dance floor would be rendered chaotic. The harmony is a balance of both the artist’s and audience’s respect.
This past year Viken has collaborated with a live symphony for his electronic performances. With all music composed beforehand for the orchestra to read, any improvisation is left at the door. The ability to interact with a crowd live is thus lost. Part one of this experiment was carried out in Beirut, Lebanon back in May 2018 at the Grand Factory. Viken performed with the Lebanese Philharmonic Orchestra, aiming to purvey his vision for classical and electronica in a club setting. Looking back on the event, he reflected on the club setting as insufficient to sonically captivate an audience. “People go to the club to dance and have a good time,” not to listen to an orchestra, he says. A club attracts a diverse audience who sometimes seek pleasurable experiences beyond the music. Viken’s concept requires “intense detail-oriented listening,” often lost on those high on MDMA.
The artist envisioned a setting where he could play “fully ambient music without a kick,” to an audience that was truly interested in listening. Club music, typically genres of house and techno, are built upon a steady 4 by 4 kick drum. By creating a physical experience for interaction, the kick drum is pivotal for listeners who connect with the music’s surface. Through his live concept, Viken aims to move beyond the bassline, towards a cerebral experience that transcends the physical. He then recalled a time when he played fully ambient music for an extended introduction of his live concept in a church. Arman remembered one fan “suspended in ecstasy,” wide-eyed and smiling from ear to ear purely captured by his music. Viken looked at this soul, held prisoner to this perpetual build up of energy, and realized how his performance was perceived.
Tonight he continues to channel his musical talent through a dj set with the city of San Francisco. The veteran selector controls the crowds energy with delicacy and precision. Through transitional melodies, Viken drops the tempo significantly arriving at a playful groove. Among the crowd, interactions between people are stimulated through the appreciation of music. While song takes the place of conversation, everyone in the room dances on the same wavelength. A stranger becomes a friend.
For the time being, Viken is still in search for a setting that allows for freedom of expression and careful yet interactive listening. His developing live act will eventually find a home where the audience can equally appreciate his creation whilst interacting with his musical flow.