IMG_3642“There’s a very short distance between high art and trash.” -Douglas Sirk, director of 1950’s Hollywood melodramas.
“There’s a fine line between innovation and insanity.” -Heidi Klum, fab supermodel, and host of Project Runway.

ARTIST STATEMENT

I have an interest in bringing attention to sound that may be heard but not necessarily listened to.  In my work, I prefer to deal with disenfranchised sounds, that is, sounds never meant or expected to accumulate significance with repetition or diffusion.  The sounds may originate from natural or mechanical sources, but either way they may be considered unimportant or even undesirable under some conditions.  When recorded and presented as “sound art,” or as a musical composition, the framing draws attention to the inherent characteristics of sound.  The listener works as a collaborator with me in the process of discovery.  I believe what is considered “interesting” is as much a product of the listener’s attention as the artist’s choices.

I am also drawn to sound originating from outmoded sources, such as out of date genres of music (semi-classical mood music), or any kind of dated or obsolete audio.

My working method is not as much composition in the classical sense, but more like generating the fabric of a new context for an idea to exist in, often collaborating with the software to originate alternate versions of the same material.  When I’m using appropriated sources, I usually choose to work with a minor detail, something almost inconsequential, a subordinate element that would be most unlikely to make any lasting impression; a piece of the mortar rather than a piece of the brick.  You are welcome to draw any political or social implications from this approach, but for me it is most often the supportive rather than the primary material that offers the greatest surprise and inspiration for development.  It is the overlooked and the secondary that I end up elevating to another level on which to examine, celebrate and extrapolate beauty from.

Sounds are more compelling to me in compositions when they retain a higher degree of their original character.  Previously recorded sound used in my compositions embody attributes that envelope the sound like an atmospher.  A sound’s aura may derive from the distance of the source, the reverberation of the space, the angle of the microphone during the initial recording, the situational context, etc.  I may enhance or treat a sound, or completely transform it beyond recognition, but I try to achieve a balance among these approaches.

Listening is a faculty which constantly retunes itself by distinguishing between the vertical and horizontal relationships among discrete elements.  The ear also decides, in conjunction with the brain, what it identifies as background and foreground.  In my work I explore and investigate the effects of reversing or shifting these levels of perception, playing them off each other as a form of layered counterpoint.

PHONOGRAPHY

So, why go through the effort to record the world as it makes noise and then play it back for people?  Maybe the most radical gesture an artist can make today is simply point to what is already there.  Artists in the 20th century relished progress and the pursuit of the newest idea.  Perhaps this was an overflow of momentum from the industrial revolution.  The future looked good up through about the early 60’s.  Whatever the next big thing was, it simply replaced the previous “ism.”  It was new, a step up, and so it was better.  When we look at the future now, with genocide, epidemic disease, terrorism, and climate change worsening, all we see is the Apocalypse.  The end is coming.  It always was, but now we’re actually trying to calculate how long we’ve got.  It’s time to cherish what’s in front of us before it’s gone.

There are no art movements in the 21st century.  No one cares what’s new anymore.  Everyone is scattering in unique directions to do what they need to do.  Recent photography seems to be reclaiming its documentary origins, drawing our attention to what we’re already looking at but not seeing.  With sampling technology, one no longer needs a band or even an instrument to make music.  A crate of old LPs can be your orchestra, in other words, just reuse what you’ve already got.

Phonography is a way to be in the present.  You can decorate, reorganize and throw sprinkles on the moment once you’ve recorded it, but the inspiration is experiential, rather than experimental.  The outcome may have a conceptual component but its origin is derived from an empirical circumstance.  If there’s any overarching zeitgeist now, it’s the idea of reclamation in practically every form, along with documentation because, as they say, we don’t have all day.



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3 Responses to “about”

  1. anneezero Says:

    Hi Michael,

    I am a radio producer and present a program on DFM radio (dfm.nu) of experimental music and sound art. I would love to play some of your work, in particular some of “Soundwalk on Shamian Island”.

    Would you be happy to give me permission to do this? If so, would it be possible to receive more recordings, either in a zipped filed or by snail mail?

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

    (Please reply to mail@peterodoherty.net).

    Best regards,
    Peter O’Doherty
    http://www.rhizoradio.net

  2. mark Rowney Says:

    Dear Michael, recently found your blog…love it and am sure that I’ll find your web site as interesting. I lived in NY for 10 years but am happily living in the wilderness of the North of England. Thank you for still offering me a healthy slice of culture and for the new ‘Broadcast’ link.

    • thebeigechannel Says:

      You’re so welcome Mark! I thank you so much for your interest. I keep writing these things and I never know who’s reading, so I’m glad you introduced yourself. Please stay in touch if you wish.


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