Yikes: 5 shows and 2 talks in 3 days. Heat, sunshine, and some really fun crowds and great tech crews. Pics should be up soon; and today Cleveland Ingenuity kicked off their final IngenuityFest News E-Flash with a Q&A by yours truly.
E-FLASH #11 | 07.27.2008
NEWS FROM THE CLEVELAND FESTIVAL OF ART + TECHNOLOGY
Q&A WITH JOSHUA FRIED: RADIO WONDERLAND
Joshua mixed FM radio into electric oblivion this weekend, using a boom box, old shoes and a steering wheel, completely wowing the audience in Radio Wonderland. Check out his Sunday performance at 2:00pm on the NPi Stage, or visit his website here.
Your performance is completely alive in that it is subject to constant variation. How do you deal with the element of surprise and how has it enhanced your work?
JF: Because my source is live FM radio, the unexpected is built-in. I structure my work on this foundation, deliberately. Every artist chooses problems to solve. To figure how to reign in chance and get beautiful (danceable, tuneful, harmonic, funny, stirring, hypnotic) results is to tap into the highest mysteries, I think. Simply to frame the chance material is amazingly powerful. Since I’m using commercial material I often get iconic, uproarious clips. It’s odd: people usually comment that I got lucky during the show they just attended.
What do you think the role of a new "recycled musicality" could be within the industry, reusing not only material, but also audio (the digitally recyclable)?
JF: Not sure what you mean by industry, and the difference between “material” and “audio”. But the sampling and general intellectual property debates are so tough and so important. I don’t believe in what I call "artificial scarcity". Digital data can be copied infinitely and society must grapple with this sensibly. The arts evolve best, artistically speaking, when borrowing is pretty free. This is part of why reggae grew so gloriously in the ’70s. And Mozart had to quickly arrange his music for various types of ensembles just to beat his competitors to the punch. Would I bite the hand that feeds me? Give my music away? Well, my dad did write music for TV and his royalties sent me to college. But this is a new world. We have to embrace Quark even if the typesetters lose their jobs. The artistry that goes into the Quark document, however, or into music, for that matter, does not diminish or become less necessary in the digital revolution.
How have your collaborators influenced your style or process?
JF: Oh, hugely. I get the advantage of their own ears and their own musical history. The deadlines and the requirement to support another medium–or other musician–help me shore up my current skills. Collaborators help me relax away from the usual artistic torment.
If FM radio is accessible music/news for the masses, do you, in a sense, make the mainstream accessible to the musically "elite"?
JF: By the time it hits the speakers, the radio is too mangled by me to call it mainstream, I think. I recontextualize the mainstream so we can hear new things in it, new aspects, but it is no longer mainstream. And sure, I can get a smile at a snippet of cheesy arena-rock, from someone who would otherwise be mortified to be caught enjoying it. I might even say that I make found sound accessible to the mainstream. And I try to make all of my music, based on found sound or not, accessible to humans, not ‘musicians’. I want everyone to hear the power of, say, phase patterns, polyrhythms/cross rhythms, beautiful chord changes, a deep house groove. Why keep it a secret by means of obscurity?
With the increasing corporate-ness of radio, have you ever considered your work as politically charged, taking something that is carefully controlled and re-controlling/ re-releasing it in an uncensored, democratic environment?
JF: Yes, I have. In fact, that’s what I explicitly aim to do. I want to expose the commercial stream as something to be messed with by everyone (not just gearheads or theorists). I want to show those who may be cowed by technology: LOOK! –We can interrupt the never-ending flow. I put a mustache on the Mona Lisa, so you can too. Er, well…Duchamp a mustache on the Mona Lisa first, so I can too. So you can too.
The title of your performance, Radio Wonderland, conjures the thought of an imaginary landscape of sound. If you were to visually describe this "wonderland", what would it look like?
JF: Well first of all, you’re there too. Yes YOU. You look great. And say, the balloon seller is giving them away for free! The disco ball is turning. Let’s dance.