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6 Questions to Composer John Kamevaar

John Kamevaar is a multidisciplinary artist whose primary focus is sound art. From 1981 to 1994 he recorded and toured internationally with the CCMC, a free improvisation collective. He formed the “industrial / ambient / noise” trio Kaiser Nietzsche (1987–91), resulting in several releases. From 1987 to 2004, he created numerous soundtracks for experimental films by Michael Holbloom, Carl Brown and Michael Snow. Since 2003, he has been collaborating with digital media artist Nell Tenhaaf, producing audio for sculptural, interactive installations. He continues to produce sonic art as fixed media or improvised group performance. The Kaiser Nietzsche project was revived in 2009 with digital media artist Zev Farber.

[1] Briefly describe your musical / sound art background and education, formal and informal.

My only formal sound art education was my studies with Udo Kasemets at the Ontario College of Art, Toronto in 1977–79. He (literally) introduced me to John Cage. Around this time, for me there existed 2 paradigms: aleatoric processes and free improvisation.

[2] Could you briefly describe your current musical activities, private, within the community, and public?

In the late 80s, my interests shifted from “experimental music” to “noise” (feedback, static, white noise, etc.) informed as much by my conceptual art practice and philosophical readings as my exposure to sound art and musique concrète. My current activities continue and extend this “æsthetic” both in collaborations and individual productions. One of the more prevalent threads is a series of minimalist works — usually short pieces which are not progressively morphological, but rather like static “scenes” where a very limited number of elements fluctuate.

[3] Please briefly describe your uses of technologies in your creative life. You may want to include a short description of the equipment and software / services you use (number of computers, phones, scanners, Facebook, Skype etc.).

My primary sources for collecting data are (visual) camera and scanner, (aural) various types of microphones. I communicate by phone (voice and text) and email. I’m on Facebook but not really a frequent “user”. The cec-conference [listserv] is the only list I read and post on.

As for audio/visual tech, I mostly use computer apps and plug ins with a few hardware effects processors. As I am not a programmer, I find Stefan Smulovitz’ Kenaxis, a Max-compiled application, very useful and versatile both for live performance and generating material for use in fixed works. My main controllers, other than a mouse, are a cd “turntable”, an octopad percussion MIDI surface (to trigger/play samples, filters etc.) and an electric guitar.

[4] How do you feel that the use of these technologies has contributed to those areas of your creative life where you employ them? You may also wish to comment on those that you don’t use (and the reasons).

Naturally, the computer expedites my artistic process. Communication? I email more than phone.

[5] Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Skype, Twitter, Blogs … are part of the lingua franca of the students I meet every year. Are there ways for the older generation to use these technologies to communicate our values to those who were born after (about) 1988?

I’m not a teacher but I observe certain practices of my partner and friends who are. The fact that technological enhancements within the classroom are steadily progressive supplementations of the oral/aural tradition are of obvious benefit to both teacher and student. However, it potentially extends the responsibilities of the teacher (e.g. in addition to being physically present for lectures, interviews, etc., one may have to be “on call” for emails, “chats”, etc.). There are isolated questions such as the quality of research that relies on wiki summaries (which is likely a temporary setback) and the reduction of linguistic articulation as a result of abbreviated communication (such as texting). However, there may be a more extensive “generation gap” in terms of values:

As you say, before they arrive at university, students are dwelling in ubiquitous spaces by implementing various arrays of network applications. These are the channels they tune in to. So the most effective communication of signals is likely to be transmitted on these bandwidths. Conveying complex assemblages of “values”, particularly of the older generation, would require adaptation to the new media in order to be “valuable” or “communicable” (more like a cold or flu than a received opinion).

But, how to do this and still operate within the conventional structures of the university? Perhaps, for the time being, more emphasis on online classrooms, developing progressive technical strategies, and limiting physical gatherings to specialization, such as spatialisation — in multi-channel environments.

[6] Open area commentary.

[No response submitted.]

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