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Interview with Michael Boyd, the winner of 2016 FETA Prize in Sound Art.

The FETA Prize in Sound Art was established in 2013 to promote a broad range of contemporary American sound and Installation arts. Artists working within the sonic arts such as sound installation, sound sculpture, sound poetry, soundscape, robotics, net art and similar may submit one work each for consideration. The prize is open to any individual of any age who is a permanent resident or citizen of any North, Central and South American country. The prize will include $1,000 USD and showing at the Emerson-Dorsch Gallery in Miami, FL.

In anticipation of the encroaching deadline for the 2017 FETA Prize in Sound Art (extended November 20: APPLY here) we are showcasing last year’s recipient Michael Boyd, and his works and thoughts on Sound Art in an interview with Catalina von Wrangell.

Who is Michael Boyd?
Assistant Professor of Music at Chatham University, Michael Boyd, is a composer, scholar, and experimental improviser. His music embraces experimental practices such as installation, multimedia, and performance art, and has been performed in a variety of venues throughout the United States and abroad.  Boyd has published articles in Perspectives of New Music, Tempo, and Notes . An active cyclist, Boyd often bikes to work and periodically competes in mountain bike races (and has the scars to prove the latter…).

A discussion with Composer Michael Boyd

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of speaking Mike, which gave us a chance to catch up and see how he is doing since being named the 2016 FETA Prize in Sound Art recipient. Here is a glimpse of our conversation:

Catalina von Wrangell: Can you describe your creative process?

Michael Boyd: My pieces tend to involve performers as well as usually using some type of graphic or text notation. My work can involve electronics, but does not always do so. Regarding graphic notation…I believe its use can immediately she many conventions of Western art music including the primacy of pitch and roughly one-to-one correspondence between score input and sonic out. In addition to enabling non-specialists and musicians with lesser technical facility to offer viable or “accurate” performances, graphic scores provide greater creative agency to performers essentially resulting in an equal partnership between composer and performer(s). This configuration also involves audience members in new way, often presenting an experience that is both engaging and challenging.

CVW: Who is your ideal viewer/listener?

MB: This is really a difficult question, but as discussed, my work is concerned with engaging audience members in new ways. I would have to say, my “ideal” viewer/listener must be open-minded, and should be interested in new experiences.

CVW: What is the role of sound art in a culture that is primarily visually oriented?

MB: I believe sound art can have the power to act as a refuge from the hyper media environment society is constantly exposed to. As a society, I think it is important to be critical about the manner in which we engage with technology, and as a musician who frequently works with technology this notion becomes more necessary, and brings about other ideas and questions concerning the definition of technology, as well as the human-machine interactions.

CVW: It has been almost a year since receiving the FETA Prize, how would you describe the impact it’s had on you, or your career?

MB: There are not as many opportunities to have this type of work featured, as there are other contemporary music genres, so I would say the biggest impact the FETA Prize had was in the additional exposure the piece received as a result of being selected. 

CVW: What projects are on your horizons? And how did they come to fruition?

MB: Some projects have come about based on external factors such as collaborations with colleagues or the community. Currently, I am working on a brass quintet for Anima Brass to be programmed in the near future. I am also hoping to resume soon to a work for mountain bike and contact microphone, on hold at the moment due to injury. I would like to continue exploring different types of participatory works including game inspired pieces.   

CVW: Any last thoughts? Advice? Fun fact?

MB: I always encourage students to be proactive in their communities and to step beyond the halls of academia. We can communicate through our art form, but we can also widen our exposure and our thoughts by sharing our thoughts through discourse with people in our community. Composers tend to be good communicators and have a facility to multitask, two skillsets a community would find invaluable. I myself am politically active and am currently serving my second term as Township Commissioner.

Thank you Michael for letting us check in with you, it was a pleasure. We hope to see you soon!

~ The FETA Team

Confessional, winning piece of the 2016 FETA Prize in Sound Art, is a user-driven installation that provides the opportunity for composers to briefly take pleasure in and then (symbolically) destroy one of their dubious creations.  This process is accomplished with a computer (running Max or Max Runtime) and a recording provided by the user that is processed live.  The audio processing unfolds in stages and mirrors the phases of animal decomposition: fresh, bloat, active decay, advanced decay, and dry remains.  Through this series of transformations, the user’s piece transitions from its original state to nearly imperceptible bits of noise.  Users may also log this activity into an official registration book, and they may create and take home a frameable certificate commemorating the destruction.  Any other way(s) that a user wishes to document the event are encouraged (“selfies,” social media announcements, etc.), and a Facebook page is provided to collect such documentation.  For score-based works, implements will be provided to facilitate the physical destruction of scores: paper shredder or scissors for indoor venues, a fire pit or barbecue grill for outdoor venues (if allowed).” ~MB

 

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