SIP - SoundLAB Interview Project

Thompson, Jeff


example of soundart

artist biography

Interview: 10 questions

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

I consider myself an artist, a title under which falls the sound, performance, and sculpture that I make. Motivation comes from everywhere, but especially small, often un-noticed places (a green bottlecap on the black asphalt, Dopler effect while riding my bicycle, two objects lining up perfectly, etc).

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

I received my BFA at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and my MFA at Rutgers University (both degrees in fine art) and was also trained in piano and jazz saxophone. I currently live and work in Brooklyn, New York, USA.

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

I do not make my living making music or art, though I do teach it. Music and art, especially the kind I make, is fluid between living and practice. Every moment of listening or looking is part of my practice and, though it can be distinguished from the production portion of my practice, the transition between the two is nearly seamless.

“Performance with Toys” was created during a residency at Elsewhere Artist Collaborative in Greensboro, North Carolina, USA.

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

The process begins with observation (looking, listening). Many of my pieces are built from a small kernel. That little seed is either cut up, processed, or drawn out and expanded to make something new.

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

My equipment varies, especially between live and recorded contexts. The starting point for both, however, is something in the world; that may be a toy (as in this piece), a rainstorm, an already recorded piece of music, etc.

I record directly into my Apple Powerbook using a variety of studio equipment. Editing is done with ProTools, anything MIDI is done in GarageBand (a surprisingly powerful piece of software that I have come to really love).

The Boss Loopstation is the core of my performance equipment, allowing me to perform solo, building up thick textures of sound without any pre-recorded material. My setup runs as follows: Input source (contact mic, dynamic mic, etc) – mixer (preamp, EQ, and levels of different sources) – distortion (Big Muff and Boss Super Overdrive) – Boss Digital Delay – Line 6 Reverb – Boss Loopstation – bass amp or PA.

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

While remaining critical of new media and the media it creates is important, I do everything I can to be open to new technology (and the re-interpretation of old technology, and of everything else as well). A professor of mine once termed this being “openly open”, and this is, in some ways, the most basic principle I work under.

The relative ease with which music/sound can be recorded at home, the proliferation of musicians on MySpace, and the low cost of CDR’s means that the amount of media being produced and disseminated has exploded. It is the job of artists and musicians to find ways of pushing these forms,

7. How about producing and financing your musical productions?

I produce my own work, though support from organizations like Elsewhere Artist Collaborative is extremely helpful for funding and performing works. This, along with the streamlining that comes with digital technology and the low cost (GarageBand) and free (Audacity) software have made the work I do feasible.

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 have and continue to work in both modes. Collaboration is a great way to stir up my process. The best kind of collaborative project finds a new ground that is between the collaborators’ processes but is an area that neither has tread. That said, I could never work exclusively on collaborative projects, and have built a studio practice and performance setup that allows me to work alone.

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

A short list, in no particular order:

Fluxus, Asa-Chang and Junray, Charlie Parker and Cannonball Adderly, Dadist sound poetry, Christian Bök, Wolfgang Laib, Olafur Eliasson, Jack Kerouac, etc etc etc.

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

I’m in the process of planning a short tour of the east coast of the United States, which should be happening sometime soon. In addition to smaller projects, I’m seeking funding for a large-scale field recording projects called “Five Minutes Synchronized”. The project would ask for as many people, from as many different parts of the world as possible, to all record at the exact same time for five minutes the ambient audio of wherever they are. These recordings would then be compiled into an audio installation with each recording playing out of its own speaker. The listener could stand back and hear all the recordings playing at once (like listening to the whole world from space) or go up close to a single speaker and hear its exact moment in time and space.

Out of competition:
brief bio:

Jeff Thompson received his BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA and his MFA from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA. He currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Thompson has shown internationally, most recently at the Shore Institute for Contemporary Art in Long Branch, New Jersey, USA; Hogar Collection in Brooklyn, New York, USA; Dam Stuhltrager in Brooklyn, New York, USA; and Elsewhere Artist Collaborative in Greensboro, North Carolina, USA.

Thompson’s practice incorporates simile, amplification, distillation and chaotic systems – processes that form part of his methodology as well as being the subject of his work. He maintains an emphasis on systems by which subtle chance variations and small bits of information are organized, with reference to the ecological, the poetic and the conceptual.

Can works of yours experienced online besides on SoundLAB? Where?

List some links & resources – an amazing thrift store turned experimental museum (Greensboro, North Carolina, USA) – radio station that also presents live performances and runs a residency in upstate New York (NYC) – an art gallery that also presents many sound performances (NYC) – an unparalleled collection of writings and sound recordings (Buffalo, New York, USA) – workshops, exhibitions, and residencies (NYC) – workshops, screenings, and residencies (NYC) – free, open-source multi-track editing software