Ben Neill and the Mutantrumpet
Ben Neill demonstrates the mutantrumpet.
The mutantrumpet is a hybrid electro-acoustic instrument designed by Ben Neill, which he began developing in the early 1980s. Initially an acoustic instrument (a combination of 3 trumpets and a trombone combined into one), he integrated the instrument with electronics in collaboration with synthesizer inventor Robert Moog. In 1992, while in residency at the STEIM research and development lab for new instruments in Amsterdam, Neill made the mutantrumpet fully computer interactive. In 2008 he created a new version of his instrument at STEIM, and returned there in 2014 to design yet another version which will be completed in 2018.
New Blue Math Label and Monthly Releases
Ben Neill will begin a monthly series of music releases on February 2, 2018 through his new label, Blue Math. The initial offering is a pair of trip hop/dub tracks created late last year in response to the US presidential election. Souvenir and Transition Dub both make use of sounds created from fractals by chaos mathematician Ralph Abraham along with the sonic explorations of Neill’s unique instrument and spoken word samples. Future Blue Math releases will include more new material as well as re-releases of Neill’s Green Machine album, originally recorded on Astralwerks, and Mainspring, his first album on Ear-Rational Records Berlin from 1988. The musical range will be quite broad, reflecting the diverse musical interests and projects that Neill has developed over a 35-year career as a composer/performer. The music will be available through a variety of digital streaming and download sites as well as the artist’s website. In some cases special physical releases will be part of the monthly offerings.
Fathom; Hudson River Data as Music New Collaboration with Mimi Goese
Fathom is a new multimedia piece by Ben Neill and Mimi Goese in collaboration with the Beacon Institute for Rivers and Estuaries (BIRE) of Clarkson University. The piece is commissioned with the help of a New Music USA grant awarded in Summer 2016. BIRE is a not-for-profit environmental research organization working to expand understanding of rivers and estuaries for the benefit of public health, ecosystems, New York's economy and quality of life.
One of BIRE’s most important projects is monitoring of environmental data in the Hudson River through their REON system, which streams from multiple sensor arrays. Neill was approached in 2016 by BIRE to create a musical piece based on the scientific data, and asked his collaborator Mimi Goese to work with him on it. The duo is scheduled to premiere Fathom at the Towne Crier Café in Beacon, New York on November 17, 2016 as part of the Science Cafe series.
The musical material in Fathom will be directly derived from the REON data streams using a variety of computer software. The patterns can either generate sounds directly or be translated into conventional musical notation for the performers. During the performance real time video animations of the patterns will be projected using a video performance program. As the work unfolds, the visual graphs and data will be processed and manipulated by the performers, literally turning the science into art in both the sonic and visual realms.
WNYC New Sounds Live Concert at the Winter Garden at Brookfield Place
Ben Neill's installation/performance collaboration with artist Carol Szymanski will be presented at the Winter Garden at Brookfield Place, 230 Vesey Street, NYC from October 6-13. The event is the latest in a series of collaborations between the two artists that span a 25 year period. In addition to the week long installation, Neill will present a concert of music composed for Szymanski's "phonemophones" on Wednesday, October 11 at 7:30PM. The program will include the New York City premiere of MANITOGA (2014), composed for Neill's mutantrumpet and an ensemble of four players using Szymanski’s brass sculptures crafted to function as musical instruments. Also on the program is the world premiere of STEAK abc, a new collaborative work with Szymanski based on a minimalist poem by Aram Saroyan composed for all 26 of Szymanski's instruments/sculptures.
MANITOGA was commissioned in 2014 by Manitoga, The Russel Wright Design Center. MANITOGA was created for the unique setting of Wright's home and landscape in Garrison, NY, and with his ideas on the harmony between design and nature in mind.
Viscera – Latest Release with Mimi Goese
Mimi Goese and Ben Neill's new song Viscera is available exclusively through Amazon Music for their #LoveMe playlist.
Viscera is a cosmic zombie love song by Mimi Goese & Ben Neill, released on Valentine’s Day exclusively by Amazon Music Originals. Based on sounds generated from fractals by chaos mathematician and psychedelic explorer Ralph Abraham, the song describes the physicality of energy exchanged between lovers.
La Monte Young Performances
Since 2014 Ben Neill and Marco Blaauw have been leading a new series of performances of The Melodic Version of The Second Dream of the High Tension Line Stepdown Transformer (1984) by La Monte Young. Performed by an international ensemble of 8 trumpets, the piece has recently been performed at:
• Dia Art Foundation, New York City
• Warsaw Autumn Festival, Warsaw, Poland
• Festival d’Automne, Paris, France
• Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, UK
• Ultima Festival, Oslo, Norway
The concerts take place in a light environment created by Marian Zazeela. More performances are planned in Amsterdam and other European cities for 2017.
Neill began working with Young in 1984 as a student of composition and Indian classical music after being introduced by Jon Hassell. He assisted Young with the development of The Melodic Version of The Second Dream, and led many performances of the piece as well as other works by Young throughout the 1980’s and 90’s. "Pure Resonance", Neill’s essay on The Melodic Version, was published in Sound and Light, a book on Young and Zazeela published in 1996 by Bucknell University Press, and is included with the extensive program notes for the current concerts. Neill also presented Young’s Forever Bad Blues Band at The Kitchen in New York City, where he was Music Curator from 1992-99.
Horizonal with Andy Moses
Horizonal is a collaborative art project by composer/performer Ben Neill and visual artist Andy Moses presented in the Pascal Gallery at Ramapo College in 2016 and Santa Monica College in 2017. The show includes paintings by Moses and an ambient video/music piece by Neill, which uses Moses’ paintings as the material for "sonic animations".
Moses’ work is a futuristic hybrid of abstraction and landscape that suggests the theme of a horizon through the use of smooth horizontal lines. Often painted on concave and convex surfaces, the luminous pieces evoke a sense of dynamic movement and the play of light. Moses does not seek to replicate imagery from the natural world, but to mimic nature itself. Using paints from the aerospace industry, his complex process of pouring paint is informed by the physical behavior and interaction of his medium with the forces of nature.
Working from Moses’ paintings, Neill expands the imagery into an ambient video and sound installation. The subtly shifting sonic animations of Moses’ paintings and the ambient music are generated by Neill’s performances on the mutantrumpet, his self-designed electro-acoustic instrument. The music and video are recorded simultaneously using the mutantrumpet and an array of digital hardware and software; the instrument’s tone, timbres and various controllers are all mapped across both audio and visual parameters. The sound includes remixes of music from Neill’s Horizonal CD, released in 2015 on Audiokult Recordings, Vienna.
The Demo with Mikel Rouse
The Demo is an electronic opera by Mikel Rouse and Ben Neill. The piece is inspired by the remarkable story of computer pioneer Douglas Engelbart’s prophetic vision of a world interconnected through personal computers. His 1968 demo rolled out virtually all that would define modern computing including videoconferencing, text editing, and something called a "mouse." Using emerging digital technologies to explore live performance with interactive media and original music, The Demo reveals the origin of computing and the internet as a unique hybrid performance event.
The world premiere of The Demo was April 1-2, 2015 at the Bing Concert Hall as part of the Stanford Live series.
Press for the world premiere performances can be viewed here.
A review of the March 2016 performance at the University of Kansas Lied Center can be viewed here.