Cloninger, Curt

Curt Cloninger
US media artist

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biography
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Interview: 10 questions

1. When did you start making music, what is/was your motivation to do it?
I started playing music when i was six or seven. My motivation then was to have a kind of phenomenological experience. I was using my body to enact sound, and the experience of this was pleasurable — hearing sounds I was making. Today I make music for more or less for the same reason, although I am more interested in confounding myself while having the experience.

2. Tell me something about your living environment and the musical education.
I was not trained as a musician. Growing up, I played in punk bands and speed metal bands. Then I led Christian worship at churches. Recently, I have been performing short excerpts from pop songs and continuously repeating these excerpts for several hours while wearing a blindfold (cf: http://lab404.com/video/pop/ ) .

3.Is making music your profession? What is the context in which you practice music nowadays?
I am not a professional musician. Music creeps into my art practice. I am interested in using generative systems to create ecstatic, unstable performance environments. These environments often involve sound and light. Constructing the systems that control these environments is a lot like experimental music composition. Then when sound is introduced into the systems, some sort of “music” results. But the goal is not to produce music as static, fixed, recorded pieces. The goal is to create machines for perpetual unsaying.

4. How do you compose or create music or sound? Have you certain principles, use certain styles etc?
The sounds I input into these sytems come from instruments I own, or from my own voice. The musical styles I’m most familiar with are pop music, rock music, and American folk music. I don’t try to mask or alter these initial styles. But once they are modulated by the generative systems I build, then they become something else.

5. Tell me something about the instruments, technical equipment or tools you use?
I use an old school analog Sequential Circuits synthesizer, a Fender Rhodes electric piano, a Stratocaster electric guitar with amplifier distortion, a Moog theremin, my voice, wooden tongue drums, an analog pump organ. A lot of the source instruments are purposeful non-“digital.” Then I use synestehtic software (max/msp/jitter or VDMX software) as a form of processing and modulating.

6. What are the chances of New Media for the music production in general and you personally?
The software introduces the “new media” aspect of the work. But I am also interested in the element of human improvisation. So variability results from a dialogue between systems that are purposefully non-linear and a real-time performer that is under duress, disoriented, and unstable.

7. How about producing and financing your musical productions?
The work is produced and financed as part of my art practice. If any fixed audio pieces result, they are usually given away online.

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 worked both ways. Working individually is important to me because I am interested in the personal experience I am having as a result of putting myself as a performer in a disorienting and unstable environment. In this sense, I am collaborating with the systems I have constructed. Collaborating with other humans is less stressful, because human empathy can result, and it becomes a dialogue between people, which is less disorienting and less lonely. Things can get very massive with a larger group of musicians, but groups also tend to be less pathetic and tragic. In some ways they are not as risky.

9. Is there any group, composer, style or movement which has a lasting influence on making music?
The usual suspects. In terms of overall compositional approaches — John Cage, La Monte Young, Tony Conrad, Steve Reich, Morton Feldman. In terms of tone — Swans, My Bloody Valentine, Experimental Audio Research. In terms of structure, wit, and melancholy — Stereolab. There are hundreds of others.

10. What are your future plans or dreams as a soundartist or musician?
I’m working on incorporateing language and generative poetry into future performance systems, and making the performances longer.

Can works of yours experienced online besides on SoundLAB? Where?
http://lab404.com | http://playdamage.org | http://deepyoung.org

List some links & resources:
http://perfectsoundforever.com | http://www.opsound.org | http://melafoundation.org