Statement, Intent, History:

For the past 15 years I have been engaged with a sound art practice developing techniques that maintain a physical connection to the composition of sample based sound collage work. I believe exploring this ‘physical connection’ is important in the world of sound and media arts today because of how potent and conscripting the tools we have access to have become. I consider sound to be a primordial medium for rewiring the brain against brainwashing and control, and my art reflects a desire to be inoculated against contemporary top down sonic manipulation.
I make collage music compositions out of my experience of our hyper-mediated world. I engage with it as either music or non-music; an object, a miasmic cloud, a text. However, I don’t want my art, and my mind, to be taken over by the systems that produce the sounds I seek to sample and re-contextualize. On the contrary, I regard my music as an anti-brainwashing personal cure, a refuge from what I am told I want. Modern systems have never been better at incepting what one wants. Rather than hiding from the tech tumulus, it behooves one to develop a remix strategy to accept, process and release. It may be impossible to escape these systems, but one must be aware. Collage of existing material remains an important strategy of expression for media based art now; there have never been more messages, signals, images and organized sound and the mind yearns to turn these into something, to make sense, to fight back. The conventions of modern collage often simply correspond with the technology and systems used to chop up, juxtapose and organize the sounds. The dominating ‘lushness’ of contemporary media systems means that each system could become your whole life at any moment. I compose with cassette tapes because they allow for a strong physical connection to composing and performing sample-based sound art, and tapes are a sound manipulation technology from a time when a tool was not expected to grow and consume one totally. Sounds are forged onto magnetic tape and the output is singular and frozen in that moment, the threat of being suddenly re-written as the tech shifts via the whims of algorithmic engagement is not an issue. The meat of my work is exploring a physical narrative in sound, and how this process can be used to escape mono-cultural mind control and media domination. This is why my focus is on detritus, glitches, low fidelity, system contradictions, and sound forged onto objects. “Situation normal-all fucked” up is the normative state of all modern techno-citizens, and so one should be able to create sound events, responses and solid sound memories that persist outside of the cloud, that can be touched, that do not rely on unearned trust in dystopia.
I record sound onto cassette tapes and then mix and collage these tapes together. As opposed to traditional approaches to the notion of the ‘score’, I consider any group of prerecorded cassette tapes I make to be a potential composition. Some tapes are made in a series to be played together, some are single compositions to pull seconds out of, and some tapes are field-recorded live in moments of inspired attention. Each group of tapes has an intended order that can be confounded or remixed. Any confounding of the score is a physical choice: I have to grab a tape from a box of tapes, or I’ve spilled the tapes out on the floor and have to look for it while keeping time. If I can’t get to a tape in time, then I have to grab another and submit to that decision. The samples are themselves objects. To manipulate them in time, I have to regard their object-ness. To keep them together in a particular order, I must physically organize them and maintain that order. To play them in time, as music, I have to dance a bit. While the tapes need not contain ‘music’ per se; they can be sketches or fragments or jokes or experiments; the playing of the tapes, the collage, is inevitably a musical structure akin to their physical organization.
There are two parts to this approach, the forging of sound onto tapes, and then life with these tapes exploring the relationships the bloom out from these physical sound objects. Recording a sound dairy through time allows any previous sound-time to granularly encounter any other sound-time by physically getting these objects together. This is a physical act of sound memory, and to hold these relationships together is an act of embodied life-listening. This basic organizational system is my own, and I am not in danger of suddenly being manipulated by it as I am with other all– encompassing UI.
By adding random tapes into the intended score before a performance composition, the resulting sound piece can take on a less intentional shape. This can be done on the fly, based on the memory of what sounds they contain, in order to avoid stagnation. Spilling the tapes into a un-organized pile becomes a basic stochastic composition technique. The result is an oscillation between performing the intended sample relationships, and the stimulation and extension of happy accidents. My intention is to create a structured sound dialogue between myself in the past and myself in the present.
This system creates a sound collage, but I must maintain my spirit and personality throughout: to “mix with integrity”, to have purposeful relationships with not just the arrangement, but also with each building block of tape. My collection technique has consisted of slowly amassing years of samples on cassette of myself—memories, and personal moments—and then to make live compositions that draw from this data set. Each tape is a fragment of both sound and memory; part of a sound diary that is in service to the music that I will eventually and perpetually create. Sampling what I sounds I encounter or construct allows for a different compositional mindset to reign during the tape making process, and allows the performance process to discover more physical, less conceptual realms. Because this is an archive of the self, whichever samples I choose in the moment will not threaten to overtake me with the introduction of an entire otherworld with its agenda, and I will retain my aesthetic identity amidst the chaos of the collage. I will not be brainwashed by conventions of melody or rhythm. Recording sound onto tape is giving the sound a physical presence, turning the sound itself into a ‘text’ with its own story, folded into my own story. The composition can then proceed as a narrative project.
There is a problem with the contemporary approach to electronic media-based music. The electronic tools have become so lush and conceptually driven in their design, so mired in interlocking sonic orthodoxies, that they threaten to usurp the individual spark of an artist, while trying to become the artists whole world. An artist has to climb the whole of a culture that created the tool, infinitely more so than hitting a drum or plucking a string would, rather directly learning/ playing/ becoming the instrument. My remodeled ‘obsolete’ tape equipment attempts to address this. When the media itself is the intended instrument, how does one learn to become it without losing the self?
As a musician, I want to play an instrument, not define a purely conceptual environment out of an interactive computer perpetually trying to sell me something. I want to physically exemplify the learning of a performance technique, the build up of experience and muscle memory makes the body into a well-lived space. There are historical antecedents to this mindset, such as the DJ: a physical mastery of the performed playing of prerecorded sounds as rhythmic music. I attempt this by using this technology to mine my own past, my own life and times, and mix that with the media of my present, while escaping the constant normalizing reminders of what I should be doing with these tools.
As a conceptual artist, I want to encounter a sequence of meaning that I have a probability of effecting, not actualize an internal desire of expression that could have been planted there. This type of encounter evokes a type of honesty and morality in sound as a transmission medium, and must be attempted in every part of the process of sound manipulation to maintain integrity. It turns the sound sequence into a story. I can still get what I want, still trust my own ideas, but there is a directness and a context for each sound I mix.
I am also interested in exploring the performance aspect of sound art. Performance evokes and requires an automatic, learned technique approach. The tone and texture, the melody and frequency, are determined in a personal studio environment or a ‘field recording’ environment; they are determined by sampling the present moment at hand. The structure of the concept, the ordering and layering of the samples, and the timing and rhythm of the collage is determined in a performance setting, where the application of the attention of an audience, the public setting, and the minute successes and failures of the physical manipulation of the tapes come together to collapse the possibilities into a time bound composition that references its score, but is a unique instance of relationships. The intended result is then the oscillation between performing the intended relationships, and the stimulation and extension of accidents. The composition becomes a mixture of known and unknown relationships. My sound making practice is to play with memory, time, probability and fidelity relationships, not technology. Technology is centered too often in art and life, the tools have taken over, they are mesmerizing and yet only speak in an idealized context-less rant. Our tools are parts of ourselves externalized; audio-visual tech is part of our nervous system, and our lives are increasingly lived in a divide between our internalized heuristics and our externalized visions. Whether our soul lives in a particular organ in our body or in a mixture of our senses and phenomena we create and encounter remains to be argued over, but I consider a physically realized sound practice to be an illuminating perspective of reality and time.