Morita Vargas is a composer, singer and producer of experimental music linked to scenic art and performance. She has immersed herself in digital music, opening herself up to a world of electronic tools in order to capture their sounds, interacting with the ‘ambient’ genre, ‘dream pop’ and ‘hybrid fantasy’. Morita is part of a new women’s movement, building a new kind of art for a sensitive society, one that is open to curiosity and conscious listening. Offering a show full of aesthetic resources with visual interventions, Morita plays at being the sound narrator of a new language.
You started producing about ten years ago when you were based in Argentina. It all began as a series of voice memos which you recorded on your phone while roaming the streets and riding the trains of Buenos Aires. Can you talk about that time and how it shaped your musical journey and production?
I needed instrumental lines for my songs, but I didn’t know how to play an instrument, so I started to imitate instrumental melodies with my voice. I also listened to the radio a lot, so what I did was sing over the songs. Often what I sang was useful for a new song. Then I learned to use Ableton and was able to transcribe those records into something more serious. Anyway, I always fantasised about releasing my voice memo demo album.
Is the voice still your most important instrument, would you say? Is it more the sonic qualities of the voice that you use, or the meaning conveyed?
I use my voice for everything, even in instrumental songs. My sketches start with random beats or melodies, followed by a vocal line that lasts the whole song. Day by day, I add elements until, at the end of the production, I completely eliminate the vocal line. So when my voice is not present, I use it as a structure or an invisible skeleton. When it is present, it is interesting to define whether I want it to be the protagonist or a secondary or background element. In any case, I try to make the sound properties significant; I have always liked singing with many voices or imitating sounds. That’s what I often do in choirs, multi-vocal spectrums.
Later on, you began to incorporate other instruments, too – including the kalimba, harmonica, keyboard, flute, tambourine, chajchas and cajón. Could you talk about how your musical production has developed over the years?
There were never any musical instruments in my house. Only my sister had a guitar; my mother sent us to lessons, but I missed almost all of them. After a long, long time I wanted to play it again to record a song, but I realised that I hardly knew any notes, so my playing has been very autodidactic to this day.
While the instruments were coming into my life, I musically developed my tracks, which are a mixture of digital and analogue.
One day a friend gave me a kalimba and it all sounded incredible, so I recorded it. Then I found a harmonica in my brother’s room and I recorded it. Then at my grandmother’s house I found some chajchas and a bamboo flute from a trip she took to northern Argentina, and I recorded them. I asked a friend to lend me a chair and she brought me a Peruvian cajón, which is like a bench without a back. I started hitting it; the wood sounded loud and I recorded it.
And so, little by little, these indigenous instruments began to appear, and I wanted to record their sounds without having any idea how to play them.
We are all capable of making music without knowing any notes.
There is something very playful about music, which is born out of play, and it is also very intuitive. The latest relic I have acquired is a triangle harp, which my partner assembled by hand from pieces of wood found on the street, nails, pegs from a broken zephyr and old guitar strings. The magical thing about this homemade harp is that the strings are from the old guitar of my sister, who died in 2014. It is currently my favourite instrument for composing, recording and playing live; and in a way it has an emotional and poetic meaning for me, as it is like playing alongside her. Now I’m in the process of recording my third album that contains these sounds, so it’s a way of keeping them on record forever.
What musical worlds do you conjure up with your music? Do you have certain imaginary landscapes in mind to which your music is the soundtrack?
Many friends have listened to my songs before they are released to the public and one comment that is repeated is “I imagine this in a movie, in a scene that is filmed in a forest at nights”. And to tell the truth, there is something about those images when it comes to composing. I don’t know why but everything I do has a seasoning of mystery, suspense, melancholy, terror, romanticism, tenderness and desolation. I think I’m sailing in those waters.
I have always been fascinated by the soundtracks of fantasy movies. They gave me goosebumps. There is something epic about them that captivated me. In my songs I sometimes feel like I am in a fantasy scenario, where I am in dialogue with nature and my subconscious. It is the emotional state I feel at that moment that guides me.
Where are you currently based and what are your current projects?
I currently live in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Living in the city is sometimes a bit chaotic. At times it is exhilarating, but the speed at which things go here is like a dizzying wind. Last year I toured places I had never been to before; like Reykjavík, Gdansk, Tallinn, The Hague and Riga. It was amazing to see such surreal places, new cultures and new audiences.
I would love to continue traveling the world with my music, but I would also like to do a residency in some remote and quiet place to focus on my work. I have never done anything like that before and I think it could be very stimulating.
I am currently finishing my third album, which is a mix of new songs and sound treasures that I have been saving for many years and which have been waiting to see the light of day.
I saw a post on your Instagram about a musical about women in dissent, if I understood correctly. Can you talk about this project of yours?
It is a workshop for women and dissidents.
Last year I had a session with a witch. I was lost, I didn’t know what choices to make at that moment. She told me a few things about my vocation. There was something connected to music and teaching. It seemed strange to me because I had never felt as if I could teach anything. I was always self-taught and I would have liked to have learnt from someone when it came to making music. Although I found my own path, this year I began to feel that I had the tools to pass on my knowledge. That is why it occurred to me to open this workshop.
In three months I have taught 130 women and dissidents how to produce their own tracks, which is a great personal and collective achievement. The meetings are in person and also online in order to reach people from countries all over the world. And the most amazing thing of all is that it’s a music workshop where people don’t need to know a single note. Lawyers, athletes, painters, psychologists, nurses, carpenters, writers are all signing up.
It is very interesting to see the mix of vocations and the common element that they all have, which is to come together and search tor their own sonic identity and create something. The question that everyone leaves the workshop with is: If I were a sound, what would I sound like?
Interview by Lucia Udvardyova
Photo Piotr Jachi