SIP - SoundLAB Interview Project

Mooney, David

David Mooney
US based

  • artist biography
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    1. When did you start making music, what is/was your motivation to do it?

    After hearing electronic music for the first time (around 1964), I started experimenting with tape recorders attempting, crudely and largely without success, to recreate the sounds I was hearing in the music. These efforts, along with an increasing interest in manipulating text, continued sporadically into my college years. The main interest at first was just the sounds, the beautiful, awesome, otherworldly sounds. Soon, though, an urge to create art became a stronger motivation, to express the essence of experiences that words alone seemed unable to capture.

    2. Tell me something about your living environment and the musical education.

    My musical education was limited to playing clarinet and bassoon in public school. I am a self-taught composer, learning through experience, reading, listening to the works of others, but mostly listening to my own inner voice (or sounds).

    I live in an urban environment: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. There are many hills and two rivers conjoin to form a third. There are several railroad lines that run through the river valleys, ravines, and through tunnels. There are tugboats and barges on the rivers. There is traffic at all hours. One of my great pleasures is to ride my bike through this sonic forest with ears open to juxtapositions of sound.

    3. Is making music your profession? What is the context in which you practice music nowadays?

    Music has been my avocation since returning to it in the early 1990s. Prior to that, I spent a couple of decades in the visual arts and did some writing. Since quitting my day job a few years ago, the context for making music is my life, whatever I am doing at the moment. Inspiration for music comes from many sources, expected and unexpected.

    4. How do you compose or create music or sound? Have you certain principles, use certain styles etc?

    It’s hard to say “how I compose.” It can vary quite a lot from piece to piece. Generally, there is some basic idea. This can be something as simple as a sound, a phrase, or an image, or can be a more complex structure. Often several of these free-floating basic ideas suddenly merge into something larger. Then the work takes off under its own power. In any case, once a piece is underway, the process is highly interactive. I try not to get too attached to preconceived ideas, but let the piece define itself as it evolves.

    As for principles and styles, these seem to be labels other people want to apply. All I know is that I continue to follow the creative path wherever it leads me. The label “electroacoustic” seems to be applicable to much of my work. Within that context, many pieces use text as their basis, what are sometimes called “text compositions.”

    5. Tell me something about the instruments, technical equipment or tools you use?

    The music is created on two networked computers. One is primarily the sound design/creation environment, the other is the recording/mixing environment. I use both synthesized and recorded sounds (samples). The main tools now are Csound and Kyma for sound design/creation/modification and Adobe Audition or Sonar for tweaking and mixing. Lately I have made many field recordings in Pittsburgh to build up a new library of source material. For this I use binaural microphones, or a stereo mic, depending on the situation.

    6. What are the chances of New Media for the music production in general and you personally?

    If by “New Media” you mean the Internet and personal electronics, there is certainly vast potential here for creating and performing music. Interactive works occurring in multiple locations simultaneously would not have been possible a short time ago. This is an exciting area for exploration.

    Personally, I use the Internet to host a web site, for communication and the like, but I have no interest at all in personal electronics. I don’t own an iPod, a cell phone, nor any other of the many devices floating around out there.

    7. How about producing and financing your musical productions?

    I create fixed music on disk, what used to be called “tape music.” The works are finished when they leave the studio. As such, there is no performance aspect to this work other than diffusion over multiple speakers in a concert setting. Production means finding a venue. This seems to happen most often in festival and conference settings, or web-based venues such as SoundLAB. Perhaps the best setting is personal listening over a good stereo system. There isn’t much production cost involved except travel. What financing is required comes out of my pocket.

    8. Do you work individually as a musician/soundartist or in a group or collaborative? If you have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer?

    My main collaborator is my wife, Maxine Heller, who has written the text for several works and often reads text or assists me in recording. Generally, however, I prefer working alone.

    9. Is there any group, composer, style or movement which has a lasting influence on making music?

    This always strikes me as an impossible question to answer! I could say, “whoever I’ve been listening to most recently,” and that would be partly true. But to answer your question in a broad way, the entire 20th century drive to open up music to all sound is the most influential “movement.” More specifically, the writing (more than the music) of John Cage was a strong early influence, and the attitude (more than the music) of Frank Zappa is strongly present.

    10. What are your future plans or dreams as a soundartist or musician?

    To continue to go wherever the sounds take me.

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

    The best place to go is my web site. There are links there to pieces archived in other locations: