1. Where did you grow up and how did you end up where you are now?
I grew up in Detroit where I studied music composition and classical performance by day while playing in Punk/New Wave bands by night. I read about the loft and gallery concert scene in 1970s NYC and that sounded more preferable to me than LA. It was artsier and I wouldn’t need to have a car. When I moved here in the late 80s that scene had played and wasn’t to return in a new form for a while. I quit the band I moved out here with found work writing and performing music for downtown theater groups and assisting well-known composers like John Cage. It was experiences like that that taught me more about making a living as an artist than the Juilliard education I never completed and even so, as they say, only in New York.
2. What do you look for when you’re seeking out new work?
I fell into the role of curator-by-proxy through various self-produced concert series. Early on, I sought to fill the void that was left when the loft and gallery concerts that brought me to NYC had (temporarily) fallen out of vogue in the late 80s and early 90s. My association with theater music always meant that I at least had a space to work and to do concerts. The same was true when I expanded into Chelsea galleries in 2000. Being in spaces such as these creates circumstances which are “extra-musical” so care is given to selecting artists which are a compliment to and an augmentation of the hosting venue’s creative discipline. Ultimately, it is really about audience and community building. Being a composer and performer myself I would naturally pick artists whose work I admired and wished to collaborate with. That’s how I get to meet people. That’s my microcosm. The macrocosm is in introducing artists, performers, and audience members to each other who might not normally cross each other’s path. When I see further collaborations being made as a result of these events, I consider that a great success. That’s something we all benefit from well beyond the scope of the seeds that were planted.
3. What was your most remarkable moment as a curator/presenter/producer?
I may be speaking out of turn here but so far it’s been the upcoming MMiX Festival of Interactive Music Technology on Oct. 8-11 at Theaterlab. Truly, and I can back that up. At the beginning, I envisioned it taking place at the same time as the Audio Engineering Society’s annual convention in NYC. If you’re into audio and musical gear, that’s a big deal. Deciding to have the festival then quickly gained us the support of interactive software leaders Ableton and Cycling ’74 (makes of Live 8 and Max/MSP/Jitter respectively). This in turn brought us some of the best and most diverse performers in that field. The idea of having something bigger than the festival itself to tap into has been very powerful. It’s given me the power to call up complete strangers, some of them very well known, and get them to come onboard. I couldn’t see myself doing that a couple of years ago and that, for me, is remarkable.
4. Which performance, song, play, movie, painting or other work of art had the biggest influence on you and why?
Anyone who knows me knows that I always cite Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film “A Clockwork Orange.” That may sound strange but let me explain. ACO was originally released as Rated-X by the incipient rating system (along with “Midnight Cowboy” and “Last Tango in Paris” due to their adult themes) and was re-released in 1974 reduced to an R-rating. The porn industry had made a joke of the X-rating by saying, “Well then, we’re XXX,” so it became meaningless. So, with an R-rating, ACO was able to air television commercials. I was eleven at that time. One day I heard it on the TV: The “Glorious 9th Symphony by Ludwig Van” but, as we know, being “performed” by Wendy (née Walter) Carlos on the Moog synthesizer. I didn’t know then what the music was or what was making those strange sounds. It was to be the very first LP that I ever bought for myself. Coming home from the store, I was reading the back of the album (who were these guys with the foreign names?) and couldn’t figure out which track I had heard on TV. I dropped that needle everywhere on the disc, but could not find it. What was up with all this classical stuff? I thought that was only used for goofing around in Warner Bros. cartoons! I noticed that one of the tracks looked a bit different in the middle, a darker color due to less activity in the grooves. I cued up that spot, and there it was: the march section of the 9th’s choral movement. It rocked my 11 year-old world, or as the Moog tagline ran at the time, I was instantly “switched-on.”
Why? It enabled me to listen to music stripped of fashion, the opposite of popular music (which I love too). It led to the original book by Anthony Burgess and got me literate beyond my years, leading to Vonnegut, Brautigan and others at an early age. Mostly, it’s a story about the choice between good and evil, and our free will to choose, motifs which stick with me to this day and inform just about everything I’m interested in, one way or another. Or at least I can explain it that way. Even with my guilty pleasures! ACO was my gateway drug.
5. What skill, talent or attribute do you most wish you had and why?
Absolutely it would be the ability to be a convincing and charismatic public orator. Presently, I feel that I could do a lot better in that department. The thought are there but something gets lost when I convert them into words let alone how those words get expressed. After being surrounded by actors, poets and other performers all these years you’d think I’d have learned something. It’s been slow going but I believe there’s still hope! Countless times I’ve let myself get bullied into situations just because somebody had a better gift of gab when, deep in my gut, I felt it wasn’t right. I had to defer to the power of the word only to regret it down the road. I’ve learned to trust my intuition more and more often these days, even if words still fail. Yet, if I had that skill, I may not have become the person I am. Maybe I’d be someone who’s better at talking about what they’re going to do than just doing it. I hope not.