SSG ARTIST INTERVIEW: RYAN MAGUIRE FOR SEE HEAR
POSTED ON 7.21.2016
As a part of SSG’s SEE HEAR experimental music series, we’re happy to showcase the work of Ryan Maguire.
Maguire listens/writes to/for people/computers. He is currently a Ph.D. student in Composition and Computer Technologies at the University of Virginia Center for Computer Music (VCCM). After completing an undergraduate degree in Physics and briefly freelancing in Milwaukee, Ryan earned postgraduate degrees at Dartmouth College and the New England Conservatory in Digital Musics and Composition, respectively. An active performer, Ryan plays the pedal steel, live electronics, hardware sequencer, fretted strings, and also sings. He programs in Python, Java, LISP, MATLAB, and in the music environments Pure Data, Max/MSP, ChucK, and Open Music. He uses both Finale and LilyPond to create scores, Logic and Pro Tools to make records, and a soldering iron to build gizmos. His music and writing can be found online at ryanmaguiremusic.com.
Can you tell us about your music and what we are likely to hear at SEE HEAR?
I've been really interested in recording technology since I was a little kid (I fondly remember making little foley tapes in our first condominium when I was 5) and that's carried over into my work as a songwriter, producer, and composer. My graduate thesis in Digital Musics focused on the sounds that are lost when we compress music recordings into MP3 files- everyone knew that some information was lost, but no one was really listening to those discarded sounds. It turns out they are quite beautiful and striking! At SEE HEAR, I'm going to be playing remade versions of some of my songs filtered through an MP3 compression algorithm live- with only the ghostly traces and digital remains making it out to the speakers. Ultimately, they are songs about loss in a lot of different ways and about finding beauty in changes that we don't expect.
What musicians and styles of music have influenced you?
Too many to name here! I try to listen to as much music as possible, always trying to find new things. I must've spent half of my undergraduate career in the music library systematically listening to every single style of music in the collection. The amazing thing is how diverse the world of music is... and how so much of it is so interesting. Some of the big stylistic influences on my recent work have been Kendrick Lamar, Radiohead, Brian Eno, and Neil Young, along with experimental electronic musicians like James Tenney, John Oswald, Ryoji Ikeda, and Fennesz, multimedia artists like Christian Marclay and DJ Spooky, and my friends, colleagues, and so many others. I love Stevie Wonder. I love string quartets. I love Herbie Hancock. I love gamelan music. I could go on forever. Music is an amazingly varied phenomenon.
Can you tell us about the wide variety of instruments and sound-making objects you use?
I've been trying to trim it down a little bit, but the hedges keep growing faster than I can contain them! I've played piano and sung for as long as I can remember, and started writing little compositions and playing with tape recorders when I was just starting school. I picked up guitar when I was 10, started writing songs, and that's when I really got in deep. From there I experimented with computers and electronic instruments in high school and college, programming drum machines and working with synthesizers, and did a lot of recording. When I moved to Virginia, I had some money saved up to buy a new instrument and I was in love with the sound of pedal steel guitar. As it turns out, one of the only pedal steel stores in the world is just down the road in Orange, so I paid Billy Cooper a visit and have now been learning, playing, and exploring that instrument for the last three years. So, my main instruments are guitars (of many kinds), voice, and electronics. I experiment a lot with non-traditional ways of playing the guitar, and I think I'm one of the only "prepared" pedal steel guitar players in the world, which involves using found objects to alter and vibrate the strings in new ways. I've been dabbling with analog electronics a bit as well, but that is more of a pet hobby at this point. It's a big world and I'm always trying to figure out how to bring interesting new sounds into it.
Where can we hear more of your work?
In Charlottesville, I'm playing some new electronic songs on May 25th at the Tea Bazaar, as a kind of counter to what I'll be doing at the gallery on the 26th (go to both!), I'll be reworking some of my SEE HEAR set on June 3rd at the Bridge PAI, and then playing an acoustic set of what we call "ambient folk" (with the cellist Kevin Davis) at Escafe on June 14th for their songwriters night. Otherwise, my website is ryanmaguiremusic.com, I'm on soundcloud with the moniker "magwhyr," my mp3 project "the ghost in the mp3" has a facebook page you can follow, and I'm working on a new website and musician facebook page this summer, so keep your eyes out for that!
Maguire's performance at SEE HEAR was on Thursday, May 26 at Second Street Gallery:
SSG ARTIST INTERVIEW: JOHN TREVINO
POSTED ON 7.21.2016
On view May 27 - June 23, 2016, “Sunken City” showcases the work of John Trevino. We’re glad to share this short interview with him.
How would you describe your work?
Well, I think like many artists today I like the ability to flow between multiple mediums in pursuit of my ideas. For me, the environment around me, the narratives that get created as a result of that space and how that shapes identity and communities is a big part of my work. Couple that with daydreams, and regular dream dreams and that’s what I pull from. Being grounded in drawing and painting, I probably still “think” in those mediums better though, so whatever I do, it’s often filtered through those sensibilities and the decisions that often go along with those ways of working. With this Sunken City work, for instance, even though it’s photo based work, my approach to the color and compositions felt like they were more informed by my painting brain than any real “in camera” choices.
Can you describe your process of making this work?
In terms of the technical stuff that’s happening, that’s all Lightroom and Photoshop. The actual untouched images are probably not so interesting simply because of the limitations in my set up and equipment. Underwater photography can be a pretty pricey endeavor, and scuba isn’t cheap either. So everything was shot using natural light, without strobes. The visibility wasn’t always super great and things like the contrast in the image become affected the further away you are from the model. But once in the computer, I felt like I was in front of a canvas, working in a familiar way, pushing and pulling on figure ground relationships, layering, flipping, turning, it all became immediately familiar. So because of that, I feel I was able to pull things out of the work that definitely aren’t immediately there to start with. But that search, that’s painting to me. Like in photography, you get the goods right away-boom-there’s your image. The darkroom experience, whether traditional or digital starts to be about refining what’s already there for most people. When I’m working though, I feel like I’m painting because I’m after something I can’t see, but have a feeling is in there somewhere, the same way a painting doesn’t give it to you right away. That’s again why, for me, a digital workflow rhymes best with my process. In Lightroom, you have this huge palette of possibilities that really open you up to whole new aesthetic choices that might not have otherwise crossed your path.
How does water – specifically, the Pacific Ocean – inform your work?
The Pacific represents home for me. It’s the first body of water that I came to know and experience. When I was on the east coast, I had the opportunity to experience some of the nearby rivers and lakes in the Maryland, DC, Virginia region, though I still haven’t made it out to the Atlantic. The first time I went to Great Falls, I was really taken by the unexpected power of the river in a way that I hadn’t anticipated. I think because of the way the ocean has an ebb and a flow to it, it was crazy just to see the flow part, and hear that massive, constant roar. Even still, I just think of the vastness of an ocean and felt myself being drawn back to that.
I mean right before I left, I had started working on this series of images called What Comes Next that are these straight forward portraits of friends and colleagues, but with the addition of a digitally superimposed water polo cap on them-so again with the water. I think I just needed to get back to LA to have time to really investigate this relationship more and actually be here doing it and not at a distance.
So when I was presented with the chance for a show at a space here in San Pedro called Angels Gate Cultural Center, I was like, how can I combine this need to reconnect with the landscape together with the specifics of the show, which were about engaging with the communities they serve. It turned out to be a great project because it gave me a chance to begin to think about access to the ocean and how again, communities and identities are shaped as a result. I mean, we ALL share the beauty of this landscape here and yet, historically, that wasn’t always the case. A film called Whitewash I saw recently dealing with Black surfers here helped put some of the things I had been thinking about with this work into context. It dealt with the ways in which Black people were limited to a section of the beach in Santa Monica called “The Inkwell.” Over time, the way that the culture has portrayed what beach/ocean culture means in southern California has grown to have very specific meanings and this has been exported to the rest of the country and the world. So when you’re talking about “I Wish They All Could Be California Girls,” or something like that, well there’s lots of “girls” here actually, so which ones are we supposed to be wishing they all could be? Given that many of our streets that end at the ocean, the physical edge of the continental US, also pass through much of South LA (what most people know as South Central), what does that mean? How do those things connect? I’m interested in showing ways they do and part of that is showing these figures sort of “raptured” out of their everyday surroundings and placed in this new environment that has always been there, but may be just starting to be explored and understood.
This work ultimately represents my first pass at this idea. Continuing with water as a theme is something I feel will occupy me for a while. In fact, I can see variations of this project that happen back east or in the south, but I don’t want to give up too much right now, but just know it’s on the brain. I have to build up my gear first though…
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently in an extended sort of studio infrastructure project. This is something that maybe only real neat freaks, HGTV and Container Store addicts may appreciate, but for me is just a necessary phase for me right now. I have been continuing, however, to make iPhone paintings, none of which have been printed or presented in a show yet, but for the most part it is just simply a time of building what I hope to be a real sustainable practice. I know there’s this notion of producing with wild abandon, and I do know how to do that, but then you quickly find yourself living knee deep in your own production and that would drive me nuts. We have a decent size apartment space that we’ve worked hard to keep things out of so it can function more like actual studio space. I am not really hurting for tools or materials, but I do need storage solutions, and am continuing to work on building some of this out, making sense of two major west coast to east coast moves, acquiring more dive gear so this can be a regular part of my practice, purchasing a kayak to dive from, and applying for more public art opportunities.
Where can we see more of your work?
On your website J. I mean, everybody has websites these days, so I’m just thinking of something a little more special, more crafted like personalized artisanal, bespoke JPEG service, so if you see something, email me and I can send you more… There’s also the kind of behind the scenes video that my friend Perry Okimoto put together showing how we shot things. He was instrumental in bringing people out on a paddleboard during the shoots and also documenting the process.
“Sunken City” was on view at SSG through June 23, 2016. Thank you.
SSG ACTIVITY BOOK FOR JUNE
POSTED ON 7.21.2016
Check out (and download) our June activity book based on the work of Torkwase Dyson and John Trevino: