This Spotify playlist is a mix of influencers and collaborators that have helped shape my development of the mutantrumpet and the music I create for it. Following the list is a track by track breakdown of my relationship to each.
1. Empire i – Jon Hassell
Jon Hassell occupies a very important place in my development as an artist. I met him shortly after coming to New York City in 1984 when the mutantrumpet was in its fledgling stages. I had started playing it in several punk/new wave bands in Northeast Ohio in 1980 and was just starting to write music specifically for it. Robert Moog was working with me to design an electronic processing system, but I was still in the middle of shifting from being a performer to a composer. Even though he didn’t accept formal students, Hassell gave me tremendous encouragement to pursue a creative path and his ideas of how to approach composing and improvising were fundamental to everything I have done since. He also introduced me to many of the people I would work with for the next decade including La Monte Young and Rhys Chatham. Without our interaction I think my trajectory would have likely been very different.
2. Tutu – Miles Davis
It’s no surprise to find two tracks by Miles Davis on this playlist. Davis explored the idea of expanding the trumpet’s sonic vocabulary starting back in the 1960’s and certainly influenced Jon Hassell as well. I have always felt that Miles’ albums from the 1980’s were severely underrated. Maligned by the jazz establishment, their approaches to groove, space, loops and sonics foreshadowed much of trip hop and downtempo music of the 90’s. Miles for the most part left behind the idea of soloing and focused on simple, repetitive structures incorporating the most current technologies of the time. Another direct connection to “Tutu” is that my long time production partner Eric Calvi was an engineer on it. He worked on the Tutu, and Amandla albums and brings his experiences working on those records to every one of my recordings since Triptycal (1996).
3. Open Beauty – Don Ellis
While I knew of Don Ellis before building the first mutantrumpet in the early 1980’s, I did not hear his music until much later. His approach to augmenting the trumpet with electronics and his expansive compositional ideas resonate very strongly with the mutantrumpet my music. The way he used quartertones has been the most direct influence on my own playing. He was truly a pioneer in many ways who also worked as a soundtrack composer, winning an Grammy for his soundtrack to The French Connection.
4. Afterimage – Ben Neill
This track incorporates samples of Alexander Scriabin’s piano piece Vers la Flamme from 1914.
5. Yarada Lij – Mikael Seifu
Mikael Seifu is a young electronic artist based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia whose music has been creating big waves since his first release about a year ago. He is a former student of mine and has been very generous in recognizing my influence during interviews with Pitchfork, The Fader, Fact Mag and others. This track’s use of ambience, affected sax and electro-organic grooves is strongly connected with my music. We are planning a collaboration in the near future.
6. DJ Spooky – The Terran Invasion of Alpha Centauri
DJ Spooky aka Paul Miller and I collaborated extensively in the early/mid 1990’s. He was my roommate in Soho Manhattan for over a year and we toured the US and Europe with Gardner Post from Emergency Broadcast Network. DJ Spooky’s first release was a remix of my song “Sistrum” from the 1995 Green Machine album, soon to be re-released. Some of our highlight performances included Montreal Jazz Festival, Avery Fisher Hall/Bang On a Can NYC, The Jazz Cafe London, Club Metro Chicago, The Opera House Toronto, and the Rotterdam Film Festival.
7. Minnie – Miles Davis
Another track from Miles Davis, this one puts timbral shifts at the forefront, pushing melody to a secondary role. The focus on timbre and exploration of the sonic colors between trumpet and electronics is fundamental to the mutantrumpet’s concept. The acoustic sounds of the mutantrumpet often resemble electronic effects, and when coupled with actual electronics create a complex sonic system whose results are only partially predicable. Miles anticipated this idea, using a wah wah pedal and mutes to create a smoothly shifting sonic continuum.
8. Be – Adam Kroll
This track by Cologne, Germany based producer Adam Kroll has a deep dubby vibe and nice use of trumpet with female vocal samples. “Be” was on repeat play for quite a while back in 2008 when I was working on Night Science.
9. Angels in the Rain (Instrumental mix) – Pinch
I met DJ Pinch from Bristol, UK at the Dubwar party in New York City in the late 2000’s. DJ Mary Anne Hobbs had introduced us and Pinch remixed my track “Afterimage” from the 2009 album Night Science. We recently reconnected in Berlin at Club Tresor which was a great time.
10. Ali Click – Brian Eno
I began listening to Brian Eno’s albums in the early 1970’s and his influence on me has been tremendous, as it has been for scores of other musicians. His work with Jon Hassell was a direct connection, but his merging of popular music sensibilities with ideas from contemporary composers like Cage, La Monte Young, Cornelius Cardew and Philip Glass has always been a model for my own approach to making music. I was always naturally drawn to music that used drones and harmonics. Along with my study and performance with La Monte Young (who Eno called “the daddy of us all”), Eno’s ambient music greatly influenced me. Nerve Net was a particular favorite from the 1990’s that is more groove focused; I love the organic feel, and the tempo is also close to a lot of the recent music I’ve been making. Some great remixes are out there too…
11. Red Shift – Ben Neill
This is a new track from my album Horizonal, released on September 15 on Audiokult Recordings, Vienna, Austria. This track has received a lot of attention through a demonstration video of the mutantrumpet on Facebook that has 190,000 views.
12. Unforeseen Events – David Berhman
I collaborated extensively with David Behrman in the 1980’s. As one of the pioneering composers of interactive computer music going back to the 1970’s he had a huge influence on my development of the mutantrumpet. Some of my early pieces used a version of his software that he customized for me. The Unforeseen Events album is entirely made up of interactive music that he wrote with the mutantrumpet in mind. As I play, my notes and dynamics trigger the computer’s responses, blending composition and improvisation through his unique technology. My work with Behrman and his sensitive approach to integrating instruments and computers has continued to influence me throughout my career.
13. Stimmung – Karlheinz Stockhausen
Stockhausen’s writings were formative on my idea to create the mutantrumpet. In a 1974 interview with Jonathan Cott he said:
Musicians who play new instruments could demonstrate unaccustomed instrumental possibilities and also novel uses of mikes and contact mikes and transformation devices which modulate and change the instrumental timbres.
His writing for trumpet utilizing extensive timbral effects with mutes and electronics in pieces such as Sternklang and later Michael’s Reise was hugely influential. Stimmung, while composed for voices, is largely concerned with timbre and was also influenced by my long time teacher and mentor, La Monte Young. My work with Young can be sampled below. Currently I am performing this piece again with an international ensemble of trumpet players.