Claire Dickson is a vocalist, composer, and producer based in Brooklyn. Her projects embrace a range of musical aesthetics including jazz, ambient music, and art pop. At heart, she is an improviser and has developed an experimental and emergent songwriting approach based on improvising.
In addition to her voice and acoustic instruments, she uses field recordings, synthesizers, and electronics to make her compositions. In 2022 she released Starland, an album inspired by the Arctic, praised by Vijay Iyer as “spectacular” and featured in Downbeat, Jazziz, Bandcamp, DUMMY Mag, and WNYC New Sounds. In addition to her solo projects, she coleads the collaborative songwriting project Myrtle (with Otracami) and is active in the New York jazz and improvised music scene.
1. the unknown
3. leaps of faith
1. What is the biggest inspiration for your music?
Primarily, my music is guided by my voice because it is my most instinctual way into music. My songs emerge from improvisation–each present moment is the biggest inspiration for me.
2. How and when did you get into making music?
I have been singing and loving music since I can remember. My dad is a musician so it was always around. I got really into jazz in middle school and that’s when music became the central focus of my life.
3. What are 5 of your favourite albums of all time?
Birth of the Cool, Miles Davis
I Get Along Without You Very Well, Ellen Arkbro
Green, Hiroshi Yoshimura
Pang, Caroline Polachek
4. What do you associate with Berlin?
Unhindered, interdisciplinary, raw.
5. What’s your favourite place in your town?
I’ve started going to Sisters in Brooklyn a lot. It’s a bar and restaurant with a beautiful back room and the music curation there is amazing – by and for musicians.
6. If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?
I would be a psychoanalyst and write books.
7. What was the last record/music you bought or listen?
Symbiosis, Bill Evans
8. Who would you most like to collaborate with?
9. What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?
This is the hardest question for me! I think the best is yet to come. One of the best performance experiences I’ve had as a spectator in the last year was Bobbi Jene Smith’s Broken Theater.
10. How important is technology to your creative process?
It’s important, but I think of technology as continually in conversation and/or collaboration with embodiment and experience. I think there’s a gray area, too, that I’m interested in approaching, where technology and nature collide. When my hands are typing on this keyboard, they become an extension of the technology. And hands are a natural technology as well. Those complexities are always on my mind and coming up in my process.
11. Please tell us a bit more about the making of your new album The Beholder?
I made this album over the course of a couple years. The music emerged from a regular practice of singing, collecting sounds and materials, and experimenting with them. The music is an exploration of the relationships, experiences, and ideas I was having throughout that time. I did not necessarily set out to make an album, but as the material took shape, themes and throughlines had emerged both in the sound world and subject matter.
On The Beholder Dickson casts herself as the beholder: an archetype she formulated during the songwriting process.
Through the 9 songs on The Beholder Dickson walks the listener through a series of ambient dreamscapes using a collection of samples, found sounds, synths, layered vocals, and sparse percussion to create songs that are constantly evolving. “The songs are mostly through-composed, the form is continuously pushing forward, turning a new page”, says Dickson, “they explore the contrast and coexistence of high drama, drops, big sounds, lush textures, with delicate, close, subtle, sensorial sounds”.
The Beholder was created over the course of about a year (Summer 2021-2022) in Dickson’s studio in Brooklyn and during an artist residency in Toffia, Italy. During that period of creating she cast herself as the beholder, an archetype she formulated during the songwriting process.