A pioneer of American music, Pauline Oliveros has explored sound for four decades, forging new ground for herself and others. Through improvisation, electronic music, ritual, teaching, and meditation, the internationally acclaimed composer and performer has created a visionary body of work, profoundly affecting those who experience it—and eluding many who try to write about it. "On some level, music, sound consciousness, and religion are all one, and she would seem to be very close to that level," says music critic John Rockwell.
Oliveros has been honored worldwide with awards, grants, and concerts. Whether performing at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in an underground cavern, or in the studios of West German Radio, her commitment to interaction with the moment is unchanged.
Through Deep Listening Pieces and Sonic Meditations, Oliveros introduced the concept of incorporating environmental sounds into musical performance, which requires focused concentration, skilled musicianship, and strong improvisational skills—the hallmarks of her form. In performance, she uses an accordion, which has been re-tuned in two different systems of her just intonation, in addition to electronics, to alter the sound of the accordion and explore the individual characteristics of each room.
Oliveros has been a leader and humanitarian in the music community, serving as the first director of the Center for Contemporary Music, formerly the Tape Music Center at Mills; the director of the Center for Music Experiment during a 14-year tenure as professor of music at UC San Diego; as well as an advisor for organizations like the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, and private foundations. She serves as the distinguished research professor of music at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the Darius Milhaud composer-in-residence at Mills College.
Since the sixties, legendary “visual composer” Tony Martin has created seminal new media works whose dominant character and approach is visual experience, which, he says, must have a language of its own. This is based on his immersion in our legacy of art, and more specifically the ancient art of China, painting of the 1600s in Northern and Southern Europe, and the art of post–World War II America. A painter from the outset, Martin has devoted himself to using pure processes of light and simultaneous projected imagery in motion.
Early works were created in collaboration with new music composers Pauline Oliveros, Morton Subotnick, and David Tudor, and in cooperation with the San Francisco Tape Music Center, New York University’s Intermedia Department, and Experiments in Art and Technology. Exhibitions of his paintings at the Boreas and Batman Galleries coincided with Fillmore light shows and Tape Music Center events.
Martin’s groundbreaking solo exhibitions incorporated the psychology and aesthetics of the viewer as a direct and necessary part of the art “object.” In The Well, for example, viewers experienced and influenced light imagery inside and above the "light well." Such signature works point to Martin's career-long attention to the inner life of the individual within the complex dynamics of our interwoven lives. The electronic and optical configurations for these installations were created in his own studio, where he pioneered new methods with the help of a younger generation of engineers and scientists.
Works that championed viewer interaction began in 1962 with Martin's first multisensory environmental piece, Theater For Walkers, Talkers, Touchers, commissioned by the Anna Halprin Dance Company for the San Francisco Museum of Art. In this and current work, Martin distributes variable thematic content through switching systems and optics activated by the viewers. Principles of resonance and feedback are applied through photo and proximity electronics. In Martin's collaboration with David Tudor for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, all resonant information gathered from the dancers' movements, light events, and sound created an interdependent yet freely variable event.
Martin’s work has been exhibited at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Musée d'Art Moderne in Paris, Eyebeam in New York, and numerous universities and galleries across the United States and Europe.
For the past decade, he has employed available analog and digital hardware and software to produce interactive image making. He currently lives in New York.
Ramon Sender was born in Madrid, Spain, during the General Strike of Red October, 1934. He was evacuated to Calais, France, in 1938, and informally absorbed into an American family in 1939. He subsequently studied piano with George Copeland; harmony with Elliott Carter; counterpoint and fugue with Harold Shapero; and composition with Robert Erickson at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and Darius Milhaud at Mills College. In 1961, Sender co-produced the electronic music series, Sonics, with Pauline Oliveros and Morton Subotnick at the San Francisco Conservatory, which evolved the next year into the San Francisco Tape Music Center.
In January 1966, Sender accepted Stewart Brand’s invitation to help produce the Trips Festival, conceived by Ken Kesey as a spin-off of the Acid Tests then underway with the Grateful Dead and the Merry Pranksters. In May 1966, Sender co-founded the Morning Star Ranch commune with Limeliter Lou Gottlieb, and in 1970 volunteered as “president” of the Ahimsa Church at Wheeler's Ranch, where the Morningstarians moved after Sonoma County authorities bulldozed their homes three times.
An accomplished author, Sender’s writings have appeared in the CoEvolution Quarterly and Whole Earth Review. He coauthored Being of the Sun (Harper and Row, 1973) with Alicia Bay Laurel. The Family Publishing Company published Sender’s future fantasy novel, Zero Weather, in 1980. Sender’s family memoir set in Civil War Spain, A Death in Zamora, was published by the University of New Mexico Press in 1988, and in Spanish by Plaza y Janes. A collection of Sender’s writings, A Planetary Sojourn: Stories, Articles, Essays, Letters & 4 Recipes for Bliss (Calm Unity Press) appeared in May 2008. A CD of Sender’s music—two drone pieces from 1964—has been issued by Locust Music.
Maggi Payne has been the co-director of the Center for Contemporary Music at Mills College since 1992, where she teaches recording engineering, composition, and electronic music. Her electroacoustic works often include visual elements she creates herself, including video, dance, film, and transparencies. A composer, recording engineer/editor, and historical remastering engineer, Payne enjoys collaborations with artists in other media—she has worked with video artist Ed Tannenbaum, for instance, for more than 20 years. Also a flutist, she has written several works for the flute and other acoustic instruments.
Payne has given performances in the Americas, Europe, Japan, and Australasia. She has received two Composer's Grants and an Interdisciplinary Arts Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts; video grants from the Western States Regional Media Arts Fellowships Program and the Mellon Foundation; four honorary mentions from the Institut International de Musique Electroacoustique in Bourges, France; and an honorary mention from Prix Ars Electronica in Austria.
Major works include Liquid Amber, Cloud Fields, Effervescence, Electric Ice, Arctic Winds, Santa Fe, Motor Rhythms, Distant Thunder, Reflections, Brass Mirrors, Fluid Dynamics, Holding Pattern, Apparent Horizon, Liquid Metal, Crystal, Solar Wind, and Scirocco, among many others.
Recordings are available on Starkland, Lovely Music, Music and Arts, Centaur Records, MMC, CRI, Digital Narcis, Frog Peak Music, Asphodel, and/OAR, Ubuibi, and Mills College labels. Desertscapes, Payne’s work for two spatially separated women’s choruses, is available through Treble Clef Music Press.
Chris Brown’s music has evolved at the intersections of diverse styles and traditions. Following early training as a classical pianist, he was influenced by Indonesian, Indian, Afro-American, and Cuban music, eventually taking a cue from the American experimentalists by inventing and building his own electronic instruments. Starting from the basis of amplified acoustic devices, Brown built analog circuits to modify their sounds, and computer systems that interactively transformed them. More recently, he has extended this fascination with instrument building to the design of computer network systems that allow both electronic and acoustic performers to interact via the Internet.
From the mid-eighties to mid-nineties, Brown explored composition, improvisation, and electronics as a member of Room, with percussionist William Winant, saxophonist Larry Ochs, and electronic musician Scot Gresham-Lancaster. During the same period, he performed with legendary computer network music ensemble The Hub, whose sound arises from the interdependency of multiple computer music systems. The Hub worked with such composers as Pauline Oliveros, Alvin Curran, and Ramon Sender, and participated in many media projects, including a live, video-generated realization of John Cage's chance-operations score Variations II. His more recent works extend the electronic music experience to the audience. Performed throughout North America, Transmission, a collaboration with Mexican composer Guillermo Galindo, uses FM radio transmitters to interact with audience members carrying portable radios.
Brown’s commissioners include the Rova Sax Quartet, the Abel-Steinberg-Winant Trio, and the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra. As an improviser, he has collaborated with Anthony Braxton, Marilyn Crispell, Barry Guy, Butch Morris, Wadada Leo Smith, John Zorn, and many others. His piano performances span the free-jazz tradition—with the Glenn Spearman Double Trio, for example—and the music of composers as diverse as John Coltrane, Henry Cowell, Terry Riley, and James Tenney. Future projects will continue to pursue the interaction between musician, computer, and software and the integration of, and responsiveness between, electronic media and acoustic instruments. The aim is to create extensions of human intelligence within networked social and visual environments.
Brown is professor of music and the co-director of the Center for Contemporary Music at Mills College, where he teaches electronic music, composition, world music, and contemporary performance practice.
Hailed as one of today’s top avant-garde percussionists, William Winant has performed and collaborated with some of the most innovative musicians of our time, from Anthony Braxton and John Cage to James Tenney and Cecil Taylor, and from iconic rock bands Oingo Boingo and Sonic Youth to Steve Reich and the Kronos Quartet.
Winant has been timpanist with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, as well as principal percussionist with the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra; he is currently principal percussionist with the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players and the John Zorn Chamber Ensemble, and has been the percussionist with the avant-rock band Mr. Bungle since 1995. He has also been a featured guest artist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony, and the Library of Congress, and has performed at major venues and international festivals throughout Europe and North America. Composers who have written works for him include Chris Brown, Alvin Curran, Fred Frith, Peter Garland, Terry Riley, David Rosenboom, Somei Satoh, Wadada Leo Smith, and John Zorn.
Winant has made more than 130 recordings in a variety of genres, including music by Earle Brown, Pauline Oliveros, Luc Ferrari, Karlheinz Stockhausen, film composer Danny Elfman, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Ex, Han Bennink, White Out with Jim O’Rourke, and Mike Patton. His recording of Lou Harrison's La Koro Sutro was the New York Times Critic's Choice for best contemporary recording of 1988. SYR4: Goodbye 20th Century, on which he collaborated closely with Sonic Youth and avant-garde classical composers, was proclaimed one of the best compendiums of this genre ever recorded.
Winant was often an important catalyst for Lou Harrison’s works, touring internationally for the premiere of his Rhymes with Silver along with Yo-Yo Ma and the Mark Morris Dance Group. He has also been a regular associate of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, working, for example, with composers Takehisa Kosugi and Christian Wolff to create music for a series celebrating the company’s 50th anniversary at the Tate Modern in London.
A visiting lecturer at UC Santa Cruz, Winant teaches at Mills College and UC Berkeley. For eight years, he was Mills’ artist-in-residence with the critically acclaimed Abel-Steinberg-Winant Trio, which has premiered more than 25 new works for violin, piano, and percussion at prominent festivals and recitals worldwide.
Cellist and composer Joan Jeanrenaud grew up outside Memphis, Tennessee, where she began studying the cello at age 11 under Peter Spurbeck. Her commitment to music deepened at Indiana University, where she worked with Fritz Magg, and in Geneva, Switzerland, where she studied with Pierre Fournier. In 1978, Jeanrenaud became the cellist of the Kronos Quartet, a post she maintained for 20 years. For two decades, they worked with hundreds of composers and musicians, including John Cage, Frank Zappa, Morton Feldman, Philip Glass, Witold Lutoslawski, Joan Armatrading, Steve Reich, Pauline Oliveros, Astor Piazzolla, Sofia Gubadulina, Foday Musa Suso, David Byrne, Terry Riley, and John Zorn. Jeanrenaud performed more than 2,000 concerts worldwide and made more than 30 recordings with the quartet, most of which were released on Nonesuch Records.
Upon leaving Kronos in 1999, she undertook projects in composition, improvisation, electronics, video, and multidisciplinary performance. She was the artist-in-residence for the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ 2000–01 season, where she created an evening-length solo work, Metamorphosis, and an installation piece, Ice Cello, inspired by the work of Fluxus artist Charlotte Moorman. She collaborated with dancers Eiko and Koma on Be With, which premiered at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and in 2003, she performed her hour-long composition for In Between, a collaboration with visual artist Tom Bonauro and percussionist William Winant. The following year, Jeanrenaud was a featured composer at San Francisco’s Other Minds Festival, writing the cello and electronics piece Hommage for the event. In 2006, she composed and performed the score for Humansville, a performance installation for the Joe Goode Performance Group.
In addition to performing her own work, Jeanrenaud continues to play pieces written for her, including works by Terry Riley, Hamza El Din, Steven Mackey, Fred Frith, Anthony Davis, Alvin Curran, and Annie Gosfield. As an improviser, she has collaborated with Larry Ochs, Miya Masaoka, and Stephen Vitiello, among others. She was awarded residencies at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in 2007 and the Sally and Don Lucas Artists Programs at the Montalvo Arts Center in 2008. In the same year, she developed the installation work Aria with longtime collaborator Alessandro Moruzzi. Her latest CD, Strange Toys, was released by Talking House Records.
Born in Taiwan, James Fei moved to the United States in 1992 and has since been an active composer, improviser, and electronic musician in the international music community. An assistant professor of electronic arts at Mills College, Fei writes music for conventional and electroacoustic ensembles, creates sound installations, and performs on saxophones and live electronics.
Fei has taught and lectured at Wesleyan University, Columbia University, the Art Institute of Chicago, Taipei Normal University, Theremin Center for Electroacoustic Music in Moscow, Pro Arte Institute in St. Petersburg, Krabbesholm in Denmark, and the Institute of Advanced Media Arts and Sciences in Japan. His works have been performed by the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble, and Noordhollands Philharmonisch Orkest, and in locations worldwide, such as Merkin Concert Hall in New York, Akademie der Künste in Berlin, Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam, SuperDeluxe in Tokyo, and the National Recital Hall in Taiwan.
CD releases include Alto Quartets; Sieves, his collaboration with Kato Hideki; Studies on the ANS, created with the ANS, a photoelectronic instrument; and Bode Sound Project, a tribute to early electronic pioneer Harold Bode.
An early innovator in the field of live computer music, John Bischoff is known for solo constructions in real-time synthesis, as well as his work in pioneering computer network bands. His music is built from intrinsic features of the electronic medium: high definition noise components, tonal edges, imperfections, transitions, digital shading, and nonlinear motion. Through empirical play and investigation, he builds “sonic sculptures” shaped in real time and present for the duration of a performance.
An assistant professor of music at Mills College, Bischoff has fashioned pieces that combine electronically triggered bells with synthetic computer sounds. In such works, bells are distributed around the performance space in a pattern distinct from the speaker locations. His idea is to disperse the sense of "source" in electronic music—to release the music from being trapped in the speaker enclosure—while highlighting the beauty of speaker-transmitted sound.
Bischoff studied composition with Robert Moran, James Tenney, and Robert Ashley and has been active in the experimental music scene in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than 25 years as a composer, performer, teacher, and grassroots activist. He has performed around the globe, including New Music America Festivals in the ’80s, Experimental Intermedia and Roulette Intermedium in New York, and performances at the Festival d'Automne in Paris, Akademie der Künste in Berlin, Fylkingen in Stockholm, and t-u-b-e in Munich. In 1978, he was a founding member of the League of Automatic Music Composers—considered the world's first computer network band—and is also a founding member of The Hub, with whom he has performed and recorded since 1985.
In 1999, he received a $25,000 award from the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts. Recent releases include a League CD on New World in 2007 and a three-CD set of The Hub on Tzadik in 2008. Other recordings include releases on Lovely Music and Artifact Recordings, and a solo album, Aperture, on 23five Incorporated.