Recent Praise for Isikles


I am very excited about praise we have received for Isikles, a recent album I produced with Chilean producer Lister Rossel. Ironically yesterday was the Summer Solstice, but Lister has returned to Chile in the Southern Hemisphere where the climate is in the midst of winter. Everyone who has taken the time to listen to Isikles has appreciated the mystery and depth of this work. For example artist, musicians, and educator, Piotr Szyhalski said this after listening:

It’s interesting how it seems to transport my mind in both directions on the timeline. Certain elements send me back, sometimes way back, while others have a future oriented thrust. There is a sense of silent disaster unfolding. I imagine that this is what dying might feel like: when your mind brings you a sense of comfort, which masks the finality of the event…
Piotr Szyhalski

Richard Devine, whom I had the pleasure of performing with recently at the Dakota in Minneapolis, shared these thoughts:

Isikles puts the listener on a beautiful elegant journey of ambient, soundscapes, pulses and textures. One of the best chill out albums to come out in a long time.
Richard Devine

If you haven’t had a chance to listen, try the track Corvus in the player below. It’s one of my favorites. This album filled with analog synthesis, sound design experiments, and field recordings of ice and other things, was a joy to produce. Lister’s talent, work ethic, and conceptual clarity made it a very special collaboration. The full album is available for listening or download on our BandCamp page. Thank you for listening!


Musical Synthesis and Sonic Environments

Architectural Drawing of the SRT from Tonkin Liu

I am quite honored to have an article about my recent work published by the American Composers Forum (ACF). The article was written by ACF member Timothy Hansen and is available here. The focus of the piece is on my duets with the Singing Ringing Tree. From the article:

On a bare hill overlooking the village of Burnley in Lancashire, England, stands the Singing Ringing Tree, an array of galvanized steel pipes stacked in a swirled sculpture to resemble a stylized broad-boughed tree. Standing alone on this otherwise empty hill it is visually striking enough, but it’s when the wind picks up that the Singing Ringing Tree’s true purpose is revealed. A haunting chorus of hollow, almost ghostly tones fills the air, making the open sky seem wider than before, stretching from horizon to horizon over a broad, clear landscape: the Tree and its disembodied chorus starkly underlines that, here, you are alone.

This concept of an artificial “sonic environment” was arguably born through the work of John Cage, perhaps the first and fiercest proponent of listening to one’s surroundings as music. His infamous 4’33” kick-started a whole branch of composition where “non-musical” environmental sounds become an integral part of the piece.

British born John Keston is one of Cage’s modern-day disciples. Cage had already been a longtime influence on Keston when he commenced his masters program at Minneapolis College of Art and Design, but while at MCAD, Keston began to move beyond simply listening to his environments as sources of music and started considering them as collaborative partners. Armed with a synthesizer, he began to create a series of sonic environment duets.

“I started these duets close to home in Northeast Minneapolis,” explains Keston. “My neighborhood is crisscrossed with railways, rail bridges, and rail yards. I found that I could coax music from everyday ambience by emphasizing rhythms and textures with a portable synthesizer.” Once he had exhausted the possibilities of his local neighborhood he began to search for, as he describes it, “more exotic locations.” This was how, in 2014, with the help of a grant from the Jerome Fund for New Music, Keston found himself seated at the foot of the Singing Ringing Tree, ready to create a series of new duets with his strange, lonely collaborator.

“I did not compose any music ahead of time,” says Keston. “I knew that I needed to experience the Singing Ringing Tree in the flesh to legitimately collaborate with it. The music from the Tree can change dramatically by the minute. On one of the five days I was there it was mute when I arrived. A few hours later it began to sing quietly as the wind picked up. My approach was to let myself react to what it did from one moment to the next. There was no way to direct my collaborator. This was liberating because I could only accept, appreciate, and respond to its performances.”

Keston’s sonic environment duets are especially unique to his practice due to a lifelong fascination with synthesizers. “When I was ten my Dad brought home two records by Isao Tomita: Firebird and Pictures at an Exhibition,” Keston recalls. “I was immediately fascinated by the sounds on the recordings. The album cover of Pictures at an Exhibition showed the room sized Moog modular synthesizer that Tomita was using. The images of the mysterious technology and the fantastic sounds spurred my curiosity. Later as a teenager living in the States I managed to buy my first synth; a Moog Rogue with a broken key.”

Today, synthesizers are an integral part of Keston’s practice, which draws from the gamut of music technology and new media. Keston also has a background in software development, enabling him to build software and hardware from scratch to serve his artistic goals. But his motivation for creating such work goes beyond artistic impulse: Keston believes his work serves to humanize music technology. Keston explains:

“If we are going to use technology to create art then I feel it is necessary to inject the human engagement of technology transparently into the work in order for it to reflect the contemporary human condition. If not, then the art might be mistaken for art created by machines rather than art created by humans with the aid of machines. Don’t get me wrong. I am fascinated by algorithmic music, and the idea of art created by artificial intelligence. I look forward to experiencing art that is fashioned entirely by AI. Duets with the mechanical environments we live in using electronic devices to mimic or contrast the sonic landscape reflect the ongoing amalgamation of people with technology.”

Contributed by Timothy Hansen

Please read the short piece at During the interview for the articles I was asked some interesting questions that didn’t make it into the the final draft. I’ll share some of those answers in upcoming posts.

Duet No. 2 With The Singing Ringing Tree


This was the second take on day one of my Duets recording project with the Singing Ringing Tree (SRT), a wind activated musical panopticon in Northern England. The sculpture was designed by architects Tonkin Liu and completed in December 2006. I performed accompaniment for the SRT binaural recording simultaneously using a Novation Bass Station II connected to a USB battery. I also ran the Bass Station II through a Moog Minifooger Delay. Eventually I will be producing videos of these compositions. For now I wanted to try a quick mix to get an idea of how things will sound.

NOTE: This is a binaural recording combined with a monophonic synthesizer track. Although it sounds great through speakers, circumaural headphones must be used to experience the binaural effect.

Instant Cinema: Teleportation Platform X

Instant Cinema Works in Progress

June 8 through 9, 2013 is this year’s Northern Spark Festival and I am participating with a project that I am directing called Instant Cinema: Teleportation Platform X. This is a collaborative effort with an amazing team of artists and musicians involved including the members of DKO, David T. Steinman as the Mobile Conductor, and Jon Steinhorst as our Artistic Director.

Instant Cinema - Mobile Conductor

The nine hour performance running from dusk until dawn will consist of seven or eight “circuits.” Each circuit will include a live audiovisual stream projected and amplified into the performance space for the musicians to instantly score as the events unfold. To learn move about our performance, that is free and open to the public, please visit these resources:

Call for Artists: Videographer / Sound Design

I am currently working on an MFA in interactive media at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in Minneapolis. My thesis project involves musical improvisation and various environmental and sensory influences that impact soloists and ensembles. To explore these ideas I am performing at the Compound Gallery, Minneapolis on December 7, 2012. The performance integrates an hour-long audiovisual score composed from crowd-sourced video content. The idea is to collect recognizable segments of non-dialogic, everyday video/sound from society (things like traffic, factory machinery, water dripping into bathtubs, the list goes on). We are looking for on site sound in the video that would be interesting as a layer within an experimental music context. To submit, please send an email with the following details to

  1. Link(s) for one to three HD videos on or, each with a length between 30 seconds and 3 minutes.
  2. A Drop Box (or comparable service) link to download the video file(s) at full quality.
  3. List the camera, resolution, length, and microphone used to capture the audiovisual content.
  4. Include your full name, email, and link to a site of your choice for attribution (artist portfolio, etc.).
  5. State that you are allowing us to use the video in the performance on December 7, 2012 and the documentation produced afterward about the performance (video will be attributed to the artist).
  6. A statement that the video is the sole property of the artist and does not violate any copyright laws or restrictions.

Please submit these materials by no later than November 21, 2012. Submissions from around the world are acceptable. Sound and video quality are important, but if you have something interesting that was shot with a mobile phone submit it anyway. It might just be what we’re looking for. The upcoming exhibition titled Frank also features the work of first and second year MCAD MFA graduate students. The performance is open to the public. On December 7, 2012 the doors will open at 6pm and our performance goes from 8pm to 9pm. Compound is located at the Whittier Studios, 2840 Grand Avenue South, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404.