Interviews by Kalvos and Damian
From 1995–2005, Dennis Báthory-Kitsz and David Gunn hosted Kalvos & Damian’s New Music Bazaar, a “chronicle of the non-pop revolution” in the form of a weekly radio show on WGDR-FM, in Plainfield VT. The shows featured interviews with various new music personalities — improvising musicians, new music composers and performers, crossover artists and more — and works by or involving the interviewee would be played between and in support of discussions of their work and practice. The original interviews were done either live on-air in the WGDR studio during the broadcast, or were recorded during one of K&D’s interview tours (Toronto, Western US, Europe) for broadcast at a later date.
Almost fifty of these interviews have been transcribed and the transcripts are published for the first time in eContact! 10.2. This is only a small portion of the whole collection of interviews; those published here are with personalities who are working with or who have worked in electroacoustics. The other interviews will also gradually be transcribed and added to the Kalvos & Damian website.
Minor editing has been done to facilitate reading of the transcripts. The audio files are however presented integrally as they were on the original broadcast.
The full list of interviewees published here is as follows:
Charles Amirkhanian, Laurie Anderson, Jon Appleton, Marc Battier, David Behrman, Henning Berg, Peter Beyls, James Bohn, Matt Borghi, Chris Brown, Warren Burt, Claudio Calmens, Joel Chadabe, Nicolas Collins, Chris deLaurenti, Eliot Handelman, Brenda Hutchinson, Scott Johnson, Udo Kasemets, Phil Kline, Chris Koenigsberg, Yannis Kyriakides, Anne La Berge, John Levin, Eric Lyon, sylvi macCormac, John McGuire, Elma Miller, Pauline Oliveros, John Oswald, Maggi Payne, Sarah Peebles, Larry Polansky, Eliane Radigue, Moniek Darge and Godfried-Willem Raes, Neil Rolnick, Kaija Saariaho, Barry Schrader, Ann Southam, Laurie Spiegel, Carl Stone, Fred Szymanski, James Tenney, George Todd, Pamela Z, Richard Zvonar.
Transcription of the interviews was made possible through a generous donation by the Sargosy Foundation.
Click on the names below to go to the interview transcript. From each transcript, the audio file of the original broadcast is available, and timings are indicated at appropriate places to help the visitor navigate.
Anderson’s involvement in a project at the Swiss Expo, the continuing relevance (20 years on) in the wake of September 11 of O Superman and trying to keep an eye on the reality rather than the presentation, or not letting expectations colour how we see “reality”. 6 July 2002.
Amirkhanian discusses his sound poetry and text-sound compositions, early work with keyboards, synthesizers and Synclavier, the collaboration and working process with Henri Chopin and problems of using samples with “strong profiles” — player piano rolls, traditional Cajun and Native American music — in one’s own work. 29 May and 12 June 1999.
Appleton, Synclavier developer and performer in the 1970s, is known for the personal character of his earlier tape works, which use materials from local scenes. He also comments on the recent explosion in distribution and availability of experimental musics. 16 May 1998.
Battier speaks about the translation of sound to image in his work using materials from Henri Chopin sound poems. Some discussion of his Landscapes follows, and some points about the different listening situations of “CD music” and “concert music” are brought up. 28 September 1996.
Beyls discusses the computer’s role in the artist’s work: custom setups and programmes (eg. his OscAr programme), developing adaptive interfaces to mediate complex rule-based systems, and related questions of autonomy and dependency. The machines are seen as interfaces between performers, the programmes as “computer assistants… that coexist with me.” 26 October 1996.
Now collaborating with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Behrman was active in the earliest days of “interactive” musics, and worked with microcomputers and programming in Fourth (homemade synths + KIM-1). he speaks also of working with obsolete equipment. 1 November and 6 December 1997.
Extensive information about the the software programme developed by Berg since the late 80s, Tango, a tool for solo and group improvisation that evaluates the situation and reacts according to parameters set by the performer. Discussion of what a machine and what a person contribute in an improvised context. 09 August 1997.
Discusses recent software developments, “problem” of music sounding like the programme it was created with, inherent differences between what software and analog gear offer the composer, and whether we judge the music by the composer or by the work itself. Computer-assisted composition. 21 August 1999.
Borghi is interested in early electronic music and musique concrète and is influenced by the “holy trinity of ambient” —Cage, Eno and Satie. Recent work includes sound works based on impressionist and abstract paintings and literary and film characters’ experiences. 2 February 2002.
Brown’s early contact with Cowell’s music encouraged him to build his own instruments. he talks about his involvement with Confluence and The Hub, maintaining “presence” on-stage as a performer of electronic music, and the increased presence of improv and electronics in concert music and experimental music. 30 October and 6 November 2004.
With Mary Jane Leach as guest co-host, Burt talks about his move to Australia, his interest in microtonality and in the music of Harry Partch (and the socio-political context Partch composed in). His increasing “low-tech” approach arises out of an interest in improving accessibility. 13 and 20 May 2000.
[En Español y Ingles / In Spanish and English]. Argentinian composer and performer Calmens on his work with guest Larry Polansky and discussions about a number of pieces he has performed in concert. 17 February 2001.
Interested in “interactive composing” since the mid-60s working with Robert Moog, Chadabe developed software for performance in both composed and improvised contexts, aiming for transparent technology: “technology as the extension of the performer.” Talks of the importance of audience to the composer and composing for an “ideal audience” (Babbitt). 20 January 1996.
Collins grew up in the “generation of American composers who learned to make circuits” and in 1992 became co-director of STEIM. He is fascinated by the ubiquitous infiltration of technology in our lives and questions to what extent artists, technology and the market define changes and trends, and much more. 29 June and 6 July, 1996.
Damian travels to Seattle to speak with Christopher about audience and audience development, the free improv scene and other activities in Seattle, and developing an active and politically-aware musical community. 25 May 2002.
A free-form interview that touches on a large number of topics and works by the composer and radio personality, from sausage and smoked meat to the German soul to works using voice or a “computer to fake an orchestra so that the orchestral performance will be better.” 19 June 2004.
All Roads: How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall? is a work which involved Hutchinson driving across the US with a piano in a truckbed and interview excerpts of locals who played on it. She gives a live demonstration of the tube instrument she developed and talks about other pieces of hers. 2 and 9 December 2000.
Reflection on “low” and “high” art and using elements found in popular styles in a “serious music” context lead Johnson to question “some of the assumptions… about the impermeability of the various levels of culture”. Some thoughts on mimetics — ideas from varous sources affecting the evolution of other ideas. 17 January 2004.
Believing current-day observations should inform our artistic activities, Kasemets considers complex systems (the universe, mathematics) and our relation to them as models for open and diverse approaches to composition. There is no single “truth”; the recorded medium is merely a representation of art. 29 March 1997.
Kline gives a live performance evolving from composed to improvised using 12 boomboxes, and a live performance with Damian, and discusses the performance of his “mobile” works in the streeets of New York and the transferral of the tape performance concepts into an ensemble setting. 31 July 1999.
In addition to busting up the kitchen — sonically — in some jock’s house, working as a campus radio DJ and in several bands while at Mills, Koenigsberg’s thoughts on ownership (sound materials) and authorship led to the composition of The Rat’s Nest. Discussion of other pieces also on his CD Brains. 6 and 13 September 1997.
Kyriakides’s work has been influenced by Turkish and Greek music and by his teacher, Louis Andriessen. His interests range from Early Music to close-miking insects for the “electronic” quality of the sound. 28 April and 5 May 2001.
Using a number of her works as examples, La Berge speaks about the differences between composed and improvised works, the process of learning to interpret a new piece, the audience and what may or may not be communicated to them, and teaching improvisation. 8 and 15 June 1996.
Levin muses on vintage synths and their return to the market, and on performing today on vintage gear. He talks about his work with groups Tweak and the Ill Wind Ensemble and a bit about circuit-bending;. 16 April 2005.
A candid look at Lyon’s various stylistic interests as commentary and critique of existing compositonal methods and æsthetic protocol, and a bit on his chamber opera The Audit, featuring Satan, a war-craving henpecked sergeant, abortion and creating wars in Central America. 24 July 1999.
The Canadian wilderness and a background in folk music have influenced macCormac’s music, which moves between soundscape and storytelling. She hopes that her music “soothes the soul and bring children and academics and jazz aficionados to spiral dance.” 4 June 2005.
McGuire talks about moving back and forth between the somewhat different musical worlds of Germany — Darmstadt and the West German Radio in Cologne — and California in the late 60s through the 70s and the development of his “serial approach to minimalist pattern music.” 23 and 30 January 1999.
A range of topics including advocating the performance of works by Canadian composers, the surprisingly different results and critiques of performances of udok asem ets, composing in FORTRAN, the general conservative trend in composition today and the impact computer-based notation technologies have had on composition. 14 and 21 June 1997.
In the Deep Listening retreats, Oliveros teaches the differences between listening and hearing and using the body and environment to inform the creative development of a piece. Also discusses her teaching activities, the founding of the San Francisco Tape Music Centre and the role of improvisation in her work. 18 May 1996.
Oswald talks about the unclear history of Plunderphonics, the transition from quotation to plunderphonics, the power of the recording industry to decide what happy tune gets stuck in your head, his multi-lingual radio play Brazilians, and improvisation. 31 May and 7 June 1997.
Multitracking flute at home as a youth led Payne to experiment with tape music. Recent work included images and sounds from trips to deserts and NASA research and historical recording restoration. A litte on some of the people who have gone through Mills, where she teaches on classic analog synths. 4 September 2004.
The influence of Japanese court music in Peebles’ work is evident following a lengthy stay in Japan, during which she turned Hirotoshi Sakaguchi’s installation into a long-lived sound installation. Her radio show The Audible Woman offers an “active environment for our listeners to hear the work of women.” 3 and 10 January 1998.
With guest Jody Diamond, Polansky discusses Anna’s Music Box, a software he created for kids to create music and play with sound, and some of his works using gamelan and voice. 30 December 1995.
Radigue talks about some of the difficulties encountered in the transition to working with digital technologies after decades of work using the ARP synthesizer, and a little about her early initiative to create a research centre and library for electronic music. 27 July 1996.
The Logos Group was founded in 1960 to create new works using technologies, and Raes and Darge later built the Logos Foundation building and institution. Recent projects include software modeled to the performer’s own body movements to drive computer-controled systems for instrumental performance. 9 and 16 June 2001.
Conscientious objector Rolnick was working with computers in the Bay area in the early 70s and with the group Fish Love That. An ongoing workshop music theatre involves improvisation. He was involved in the founding of an MFA in Electronic Arts programme at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. 13 March 2004.
A range of topics including Saariaho’s compositional methods and the effects of working in the studio on her instrumental writing and, inversely, the effects experiences with electronic music had on her instrumental writing. Also the impact different performers can have on the same piece. 17 and 31 August 1996.
The Founder of SEAMUS talks about his early work on the Buchla 100, the “return of analog”, his Gestalt method of composing with modular synthesizers and the impact moving to digital technologies had on his working methods. Also on the effects of composers constantly “keeping up with technology” and technology snobbery. 9 July 2005.
Southam talks about some of the differences of composing for electroacoustic and instrumental mediums, her work with modern dancers, the input of performers and impact of improvisation on her work and a little on some of her early electronic works. 23 and 30 August 1997.
Composer of the early computer-controled algorithmic work The Expanding Universe, Spiegel talks about the potential and limitations of computer programming in the early 1970s and the conflict of studying at Juilliard and performing at The Kitchen at night. An extended session exploring the possibilities of her programme Music Mouse. 13, 20 and 27 December 1997.
Stone finds it important to let the listener find their own way into the piece and found while in Japan that Japanese listeners seem to have an intuitive approach to listening which is conducive to his music. He also talks about musical borrowing vs. appropriation and musical categorization. 27 January 1996.
Working with sound, film and visuals, Szymanski describes his “non-standard” synthesis techniques and discusses his path from soundscape to more “noise”-concerned music, with related reflections on the “class” dichotomy and compositional differences between soundscape and electroacoustics. 3 November 2001.
Tenney’s work goes from being involved in the New York Happenings scene in the 1960s to computer-generated electronic music to work in alternate tuning systems. He talks about reasons for using acoustic instruments to produce what would be very easy to produce using electronic means. 2 August 1997.
Todd gives some good insight into working with the Synclavier as it was in its early days, especially about its editing capabilities. He also talks about some of his works, including the FM synthesis work, CREATI, inspired by a kinetic sculpture. 2 December 1995.
Early experiments with cassette recorders developed into an interest in multi-tracking that continued into Pamela Z’s work. long after her training as a classical singer. As she independently developed her own vocal techniques, she became familiar with other voice artists LaBarbara, Berberian, Galás, Monk et al. 2 July 2005.
Early tape machine experiments and playing in bands while studying at MIT lead to film studies and working with Merce Cunningham, while contact with the European avant-garde through pop references and film studio work complemented self-educated tape music composition and brought about a transition to electroacoustic and theatrical work. 22 May 2004.