SIP - SoundLAB Interview Project

Culbertson, Lin

Lin Culbertson
US based soundartist



Interview:10 questions

1. When did you start making music, what is/was your motivation to do it?
I took piano and music theory lessons as a child. The theory lessons inspired me to start composing little songs on the piano. In High School some older kids turned me on to more radical music by artists like Sun Ra and Steve Reich. There were many late night sessions recording free jams in darkened rooms, and listening to copious amounts of records. When a four-track tape recorder became available, I started experimenting with the tape itself, splicing and such. I attempted to build a drum machine but there was too much soldering involved.

2. Tell me something about your living environment and the musical education.
New York City has been my home for a long time now: A vast sonic landscape, a very noisy place that also happens to contain one of the most vibrant musical communities in the world. Living in New York has allowed me to see numerous performances of every musical genre over the years. Those experiences have been a major part of my education.I studied theory and composition in college as well as ethnomusicology, jazz history, and electronic music. I had to compose a lot of 5 part motets.

3. Is making music your profession? What is the context in which you practice music nowadays?
I enjoy a dual professional identity as musician and designer. Each discipline seems to feed the other in unexplained and interesting ways. Because I don’t need to rely on music for all my income, I can create exactly the type of music I desire to make, no matter how discordant or difficult it might sound to others.

4. How do you compose or create music or sound? Have you certain principles, use certain styles etc?
I employ a lot of improvisation in my composing. Sometimes I’ll just start recording and see where it takes me. Other times I have a very concrete concept that I want to execute which usually stems from a visual image.

5. Tell me something about the instruments, technical equipment or tools you use?
My main instrument is the analog synthesizer. Analog synths are the most expressive and best sounding of the keyboard instruments to my ears. I also play flute, effect boxes, autoharp, guitar, and use some simple synthesizer programs on my laptop. Object-oriented programs like Max/MSP intrigue me, but I have yet to fully delve into them.

6. What are the chances of New Media for the music production in general and you personally?
I find the idea of networked collaborative sound projects over the Internet very exciting. I haven’t seen any really interesting ones yet; but maybe they are out there. Transmission art is also something I would like to explore.

7. How about producing and financing your musical productions?
Fortunately I need very little money to produce and distribute the work that I am doing right now. I want to try to do some installations, which might necessitate applying for grants.

8. Do you work individually as a musician/soundartist or in a group or collaborative?
I have been in bands for most of my life, and for the last ten years I have played in an improvisational group called White Out. The core nucleus is composed of drummer Tom Surgal and myself. We enlist different guest artists to sit in with us, which makes each performance unique. Recently I have started to experiment more with sound related composing.

If you have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer?
I love both. Group improvisation is exhilarating. There is nothing like the collective high achieved by spontaneously creating with others. When working by yourself there is the solitary luxury of focusing and fine-tuning different concepts. You have the latitude to test out and rework your ideas ad infinitum, a process that fulfills the perfectionist in me.

9. Is there any group, composer, style or movement which has a lasting influence on making music?
I am very influenced by the ideas of John Cage. I performed in a Gamelan Orchestra, and that profoundly shaped my playing style and impacted my very concept of sound. The experience of seeing the British collective AMM for the first time completely altered my whole notion of the possibilities of improvisation. My favorite classical composer is Iannis Xenakis. I love the way Bruce Nauman uses sound.

10. What are your future plans or dreams as a soundartist or musician?
I need to find more time to concentrate on making music and sound. I intend to continue with all of my current work and hope to get some larger projects happening.

Can works of yours experienced online besides on SoundLAB? Where?
List some links & resources