I met John Oswald when I attended Orford Sound Art Workshop in 2006. Initially, I was quite nervous about meeting the composer I read in the textbooks. Like other participating students, I was tense and eager to show how good and serious I am about learning sound art.
After spending two weeks with him, I learned that my imaginations about famous artists were quite different from their real personalities. I think the photo below exemplifies what kind of “workshop” I had with him.
In addition to an impromptu swimming in the lake, John led a contact improvisation (for a bunch of music tech people), organized a field trip to a Gregorian chant-singing monastery, and shared good foods and drinks. I went to the workshop to work 24/7 on electroacoustic techniques, but John inspired me to have fun doing music. His music is playful but not silly. His compositional techniques are often transparent, but virtuosity and hard work are definitely present. When listening to his pieces, I smile and learn at the same time.
I guess I had my Karate Kid moment with him. Instead of wax on wax off, I swam, danced, and got drunk to be a better musician. After a few discussions with John, I decided to make a sound palindrome for the final presentation. The idea was to make a piece that sounds exactly the same when played forward and reversed. The piece is not plunderphonics, but I liked what I did (click here to read and listen). A year after the workshop, I worked a little more on the palindrome idea and made a longer piece (click here to read and listen). I like it even more.
PS: If you are not familiar with John Oswald’s work, search for his plunderphonics pieces as a start. He’s easily found at Google and Youtube. For me, plunderphonics goes beyond remix or remake of a song. Have a listen.
PSS: John was great, but I also met other inspiring composers in that workshop. Expect separate posts about Yves Daoust and Ake Parmerud in the future.