I have been teaching in the Fine and Media Art Dept. at NSCAD since 1986 and, although I have produced a body of work over the past 20 -25 years, my material is not widely known. I am thrilled to be living in the age of the mash up - a time when recorded sounds and music become ideas themselves within a new popular form of creative expression. My earliest mash ups were sounds recorded from television in the 1960’s using a tape recorder, and I have been fascinated with sound since that time. I am struck by the creative potential which is revealed when recorded sounds are treated as analagous to clay, plastic, rubber, or even thoughts, but in an electronic form. Our memories don’t seem to care whether the source of any given memory was live or recorded. Both are expierences which are lived, and associations are made regardless. But the mash up suggests that recorded sounds can refresh old associations and create new ones at the same time by placing the original recorded sounds in a different context, in this case the mash up. As a popular form of musical expression, the mash up emerges from scratch and hip hop sensibilities. The mash up is also a form of media art because it explores audio culture in a new way. It is reflective like a mirror, inviting society to listen to itself and wonder, “is that really us?” This talking mirror is speaking in an electronic voice which we invented over 100 years ago, but the language in which it speaks is not fully understood. In contrast, the acoustic ambience everywhere on this planet can be heard as the original language. This communication is profoundly simple, and yet paradoxical, like the idea of silence, which is easy to understand as an concept but impossible to achieve in our envirnmental reality. It challenges humanity to reconcile its reality with the natural one in a voice which is as fierce and chaotic as it is gentle and harmonious. One distinctly human response to the wild dynamics of nature is music, with its pure tones, controlled rhythms and emotional resonances. Many people have the natural ability to understand musical language or to play an instrument, but I am not among them. Instead, I learned how to play the guitar one finger at a time. After studying classical finger picking for 1 year in 1973, I abandoned music out of frustration for several years, and only returned to the instrument with a conviction that I would focus on my own original music. In 1987 I discovered that playing a 12 string guitar with classical fingering was personally satisfying, and this technique continues to provide me with a distinct musical voice. The mash up, environmental sound and the acoustic guitar are fundamental to my creative world. They each give me access to the past and the present in very different ways. They also provide me with insight into the more specialized languages of film and video soundtracks, performances, and gallery or site specific installations.
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