SIP - SoundLAB Interview Project

Stevens, Aleksei

Aleksei Stevens
US based

  • artist biography
  • —>

    Interview: 10 questions

    1. When did you start making music, what is/was your motivation to do it?
    I started composing at age 15, when I began piano lessons. I was immediately more interested in how music is put together than in learning scales and etudes, which is probably why I never became a virtuoso pianist. Initially I wrote only for piano, but eventually I started writing for chamber ensembles, band, orchestra, and eventually electronics. About 2 1/2 years ago electronics became a major part of my work. I do still write some purely instrumental music, but I find I have such sonic and structural freedom in creating works for electronics alone or interactive electroacoustic music, that it now constitutes the majority of my work. I also have found the market for electronic and electroacoustic music to be much more active and interesting than that for contemporary chamber and orchestral music.

    2. Tell me something about your living environment and the musical education.
    I currently live in an apartment in Brooklyn with my wife. It’s a quiet neighborhood, but not far from the bustling cultural centers of downtown Brooklyn & Manhattan. As for my education, I received a B.A. in music from Connecticut College and an M.Mus. in composition from Manhattan School of Music. I have studied composition with Nils Vigeland, Joel Chadabe, Noel Zahler, Dalit Warshaw, and Philip Lasser.

    3.Is making music your profession? What is the context in which you practice music nowadays?
    My professional life consists of composing, teaching, and curating/producing concerts. I work with a number of collaborators, including acoustic musicians, other laptop composers, dancers, and filmmakers. I teach digital audio and new media performance at Long Island University in Brooklyn. My concert production work is for Electronic Music Foundation. I perform on laptop at venues throughout NYC on a regular basis, and am in the process of forming an electroacoustic ensemble with several colleagues.

    4. How do you compose or create music or sound? Have you certain principles, use certain styles etc?
    I am very much interested in the experimental NY school of the 50s and 60s (Brown, Feldman, etc), and I use various aleatoric techniques in my own music. The computer expands the possibilities of aleatoric music by allowing for real-time algorithmic interaction with live players. The challenge is to set up an interaction which is clear and consistent without being predictable. I also enjoy making both interactive and static spatialized soundscapes and noisescapes. I am an avid field recorder, and I have a large library of original recordings that I use as raw materials for composing music.

    5. Tell me something about the instruments, technical equipment or tools you use?
    I write for most western orchestral instruments, and collaborate with instrumentalists regularly. As for the electronics, my main software tools are Max/MSP/Jitter and Pro Tools. I use a Marantz PMD670 to make field recordings. I have an AKG stereo mic and a Røde shotgun mic, and I use earthworks microphones for most of my studio recordings.

    6. What are the chances of New Media for the music production in general and you personally?
    I am excited by new media art for a number of reasons. First of all, it is exciting to a general audience and draws them in. That is, beyond the circle of people who have a deep aesthetic interest in new media art & music, there is a larger circle of people to whom it speaks on a cultural level. This kind of accessibility means more opportunities for everyone: venues, artists, producers, advertisers, etc. It also makes for a very active, fertile community of artists. For me personally, I love new media art personally because I believe we really are living in the information age, and new media art expresses the aesthetics, raises the questions, and borrows from the culture of our time.

    7. How about producing and financing your musical productions?
    I am lucky to have a network of collaborators with whom I work regularly. I am a concert producer myself, and make many connections with artists through that role. I have not reached a point yet where I’m making money by making music. I do get paid for gigs like everyone else, but my expenses in time and other resources far outweigh any income from producing work. Most of my income comes from teaching and production work, but the pay in these fields is high enough that I’m able to work part time and devote the rest of time to composing.

    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?
    I work primarily alone or in project-based collaborations. I do not have any continuous or long-running collaborations, although I am moving towards such an arrangement with a flutist and some other musicians. There are clear benefits to both. In a collaboration, you sacrifice a certain amount of control, which is difficult for a composer with a vision of a work, but you gain the benefit of another’s creativity, which can feed your own.

    9. Is there any group, composer, style or movement which has a lasting influence on making music?
    There are many composers and movements that have had a lasting influence. The thing it’s important to remember is that “you can’t please all the people all of the time. you can only please some of the people some of the time”. There are a wide variety of different audiences out there, all in search of something different in art and music. They have as much of an effect on what becomes a successful movement as artists do, and I believe that the practice of art, especially art that has not yet achieved wide acceptance, is a form of communication between artist and audience, and that each influences the other’s development. I do not believe that any one movement is the most valuable or has the longest lasting influence, but rather that there’s a mutual influence between artists and audiences, artists and business, artists and other artists.

    10. What are your future plans or dreams as a soundartist or musician?
    I am very interested in spatialized sound installation, and multimedia installation. I am also very interested in multimedia opera and dance using sensors and electronics to create music and sound through motion. I hope to collaborate more in the future with dancers, video artists, and singers to make the new Gesamptkuntzwerk of the 21st century!

    Can works of yours experienced online besides on SoundLAB? Where?
    yes, two places: