Bless the folks at the minusn.com netlabel (aka -n). Not only is its debut release, out earlier this month, the various-artists set First, a fine international collection of solid minimal glitch, featuring Andrey Kiritchenko (the Ukraine), Coeval (Spain), Masaya Sasaki (Japan) and others, and not only does the album include proper, descriptive, informative liner notes, but the standard square-format “cover” art is a fine innovation: it isn’t a static image intended to be printed, cut out and placed in a jewel box; it’s a lovely Flash animation (by Japanese artist Syun Osawa) of a snow-encrusted field, across which a man slowly trudges, like a figment from a Hayao Miyazaki film.
Month: March 2005
Geneva Lounge MP3
Now, as loaded words go, “chic” is a tough one with which to to burden yourself. If you fall short, it’s self evident. And if you achieve your goal — well, then you’re chic. Now what? So, don’t hold the alpinechic.net netlabel’s name against it. For one thing, the organization is based in Zurich (maybe “chic” means something different there). For another, it doesn’t skimp on the downloads. Just head over and download the label’s latest, the five-track Detour EP, by D’Incise, a Geneva-based solo artist whose music plays like an underwater lounge. The opening track, “Ombre et Soleil a St. Chartier,” is probably the keeper of the set, especially for how it exemplifies the ways that bistro techno and abstract microsound share a habitable bit of common ground. But is it chic? Who’s to say?
Radiophonic Amirkhanian MP3
The San Francisco-based Other Minds organization generously continues to upload recordings from its 2005 festival, number 11, held this past February. The most recent addition to the Other Minds catalog at the Internet Archive, at archive.org, is a “radiophonic” piece by OM founder Charles Amirkhanian, who turns 60 this year. Titled “Son of Metropolis San Francisco,” it’s half an hour of local field recordings and electronic atmospherics (the original version was about an hour in length), like some avant-garde Frommer’s guided tour for the ear. The raw materials range from the barks of elephant seals to “a runaway overflow valve next to a hot tub at Harbin Hot Springs,” and also include “Tongan gardeners, a Chinese sitcom and conga drummers at Ocean Beach.” For all its random elements, it’s a relatively relaxed audio stroll through the city. The original, full-length version (“Metropolis San Francisco”) was commissioned by Studio 3 Horspiel of the West German Radio in Cologne and New American Radio for the NPR satellite system. The file is only downloadable via FTP, but the site provides clear instructions; just search for “Amirkhanian metropolis.”
Kracfive Retro-Gamer MP3
The latest entry in the Kracfive collective’s “MP3 rotor” is a goofy-maudlin little bit of ersatz video game soundtrackery. More than a video game score, though, this sweet-sad little ditty is like the background music to the deep-sleep dreams of Pac Man himself, who’s packed away in a box in your attic, right between discarded cartridges of Donkey Kong and Defender. The track, “Demofriikkien,” by Kracfive member Miragliuolo, is a minute and a half of syncopated nostalgia, with just enough funk to suggest Prince having recorded Sign ‘o’ the Times on his old Atari system. Check it out at kracfive.com.
John Kannenberg, founder of the Stasisfield netlabel, discusses the limits of microsound, the future of online music, and the compositional intersection of sound art and visual art.
John Kannenberg founded, runs, designs and contributes to the Stasisfield netlabel, based out of Evanston, Illinois. Even by the standards of the multi-tasking Information Age, he’s a Renaissance man.
By definition, as a netlabel, Stasisfield releases music files on the web (at stasisfield.com) for free download, absorbing the bandwidth costs. It’s a growing field that Kannenberg doesn’t expect will slow down in the near future. “I seem to see announcements of at least one new netlabel every week,” he said earlier this year, in a back’n’forth email correspondence that yielded this interview. “I really don’t think payments will end free netlabels — as long as there are experimental musicians and the Internet is still legal.”
Like a disproportionate number of netlabels, Stasisfield traffics in electronic music. Its releases have made regular appearances in Disquiet.com’s ongoing Downstream section, which recommends free downloads each weekday. These have included Meri von KleinSmid’s Three Works, with its touches of B-film analog synth scores; Neil Jendon’s Live at Buddy in Chicago, an album of treated guitar; Thanos Chrysakis’s reverberant Transparent Geometries & Close-ups; Maikko’s richly detailed Kneedeep; and Kannenberg’s own Four Painters, a set of tributes-in-sound to Paul Klee, Agnes Martin, Kazimir Malevich and Cy Twombly.
When it was suggested to Kannenberg that a Stasisfield release invariably has two trademarks (it deals with fragile sounds, and it wraps them around a conceit), he agreed, but he emphasized that the label’s aesthetic envelope is fairly malleable. “My vision for Stasisfield has certainly evolved the longer I’ve spent working on it,” he said. “When it began, I was very caught up in the laptop scene and assumed that every work I released would be nothing but laptop/synthesis. If you’d told me when I was planning the label in late 2001 that I would be releasing orchestral music, or string trio, or solo trumpet, I would have laughed in your face.”
Far and above the majority of netlabels, since its launch in 2002 Stasisfield has achieved a level of presentation of its goods that even most traditional labels fall short of. The simple answer for this is that Kannenberg studied fine art, and that he brings this visual-art background to Stasisfield, whose album “covers” (the square-form graphics that accompany the label’s releases) feature his digital compositions. But as always, the simple answer isn’t the complete answer. The complete answer has more to do with the emerging sense that netlabels aren’t just labels that give their music away. That equation is simply a matter of money and distribution.
What Stasisfield exemplifies is how the netlabel is itself a sort of work of art, one that requires a unique fusion of a variety of skills that most netlabel proprietors must have some aptitude in — skills that Kannenberg happens to have mastered: web programming, graphic design, music recording and curation. The Stasisfield website is an oasis of elegant music, elegantly packaged. Since 2002, musicians including Andre Polli, Dale Lloyd, Josh Russell and Takuji Tokiwa, to name but a few, have entrusted Stasisfield and Kannenberg to host their recordings. Part of their respect for Kannenberg must have to do with his expansive imagination, not only as a musician but as a web innovator. Stasisfield is no mere download middleman; the site has side projects in live records (“Aux-In”), net.art exhibits (the virtual “stasis_space” gallery) and a shop for good ol’ CDs, including sets of Stasisfield tracks categorized like yearbooks.
Over the course of the interview, Kannenberg talked not only about Stasisfield, but about his own music, in particular the Four Painters EP and his yet-to-be released “soundtrack” to the classic science fiction novel A Canticle for Liebowitz, which he composed for another musician-run netlabel, Aime Dontigny’s Sine Fiction.
What follows is a lightly edited transcript of the correspondence.
Marc Weidenbaum: You and I corresponded previously about your artist-derived EP, Four Painters, but to start fresh: can you talk a bit about how those particular visual artists found their way into your musical consciousness? As I mentioned, the Agnes Martin MP3 particularly seemed to respect and reflect her work; it seemed in line with her aridity, her spare canvases, her geometric abstractions.
John Kannenberg: One of the themes I’ve been working with for the past few years has been the intersection of sonic and visual art; my only formal artistic training has been as a painter, other than six weeks of drum lessons when I was in the third grade, so my musical approach is very visual in nature — I think of sound in terms that are interchangeable with visual art: line, tone, shade, balance, repetition, positive and negative space, etc.
For many years I took something of a break from the world of painting; I actually stopped oil painting entirely shortly before I finished my BFA — I had begun work on a graphic novel, which I eventually abandoned — and although I continued drawing, I gradually lost interest in painting and painters. But within the last few years I’ve begun getting excited about painting again, and I’ve begun to retrace old influences and connections to my current visual work, which has evolved into abstract digital images that at times look very painterly.
I began doing some research on abstract painters that had a connection to music or sound, then I branched out into other artists who didn’t necessarily have an overt connection to sound, but whose work I had admired and thought might be useful to look at in relationship to my own visual work. In reading about these artists and looking at their work, I began to realize how much their work reminded me of a lot of the music I’ve been listening to and making.
These pieces were actually composed very quickly, in only about a month and a half; I had just finished a project that had taken me over eight months to compose, a “soundtrack” to the novel A Canticle for Leibowitz, which should be released soon on the Sine Fiction label, and wanted to expand on some of the ideas I’d had during that time, but try to do them much more quickly without as much agonizing.
Once I picked the artists, the tracks seemed for the most part to fall together rapidly. The Cy Twombly piece was the first of the Painters pieces that I composed. I’d been thinking about his work a lot recently, and had been talking about him with my friend Glenn Bach, an artist who has released several things on Stasisfield, and whose own sound drawings remind me a lot of Twombly’s work. I had always been a bigger fan of Twombly’s sculptures than his paintings, but in taking a closer look at his work I discovered I really felt a connection with the paintings, especially the white-on-grey paintings of the 1960s, some of which reminded me very much of oscilloscope readouts or modern-day waveform renderings.
Paul Klee came next. His work’s relationship with music is well-documented, and he seemed an obvious choice. I’ve always loved his watercolors, and looking at them through the filter of their musical roots has been fascinating. You can really see how blurred the lines between sight and sound were for him; many of his paintings could easily function as graphic notation for musical performance.
I struggled a lot with the Agnes Martin piece; the final version was re-recorded three times before I felt it had come close to my original idea. I still think it’s a bit harsher sounding than I had intended, but I think it strikes a nice balance between the comfort of solitude and the unease of darkness. Even though her work came from a very positive personal attitude, I think there was something slightly ominous or sad in her obsessive attitude towards isolation, how only those artists who choose to not own material things or cling to family and friends could truly be considered successful artists. I thought a lot about how silent her personal space must have been, how the sounds she probably heard most were the sounds she made while working.
The Kazimir Malevich piece was the last one I made, and he was actually a fairly recent discovery of mine. Somehow I must have slept through the Suprematist lectures in art history, because I had little to no recollection of his work until just a couple years ago when I saw a major retrospective at the Guggenheim in New York, which was a real eye-opening experience. The Suprematist concept seemed somehow related to the recent so-called lowercase and microsound movements, which, in my opinion, have spent a lot of energy creating their own simple language with which to communicate bold ideas. The Suprematist squares and Architekton sculptures are simultaneously bold and quiet to me. Their shapes are simple and thin but they are very intense visual images that actually create a sonic response in my mind when I look at them. Weidenbaum: This idea about microsound — “their own simple language with which to communicate bold ideas” — is that a criticism or a compliment? In either case, I suppose, you could say it’s merely an observation, but I wonder if you could explain a little further, and perhaps provide an example or two. Kannenberg: I definitely meant it as an observation rather than a criticism, leaning more towards a compliment. I’ve always been fascinated by languages that aren’t purely verbal, which is why I studied Egyptian hieroglyphs for a few years and incorporated my own visual language symbols into some of my early paintings.
But specifically in relation to microsound, or some of the sub-movements like glitch, etc., I think there was definitely a creation of a sparse auditory language that permeated a lot of work done in the past 5-10 years — things like sampled record scratches for example. It was such a simple idea, to turn what used to be a background annoyance into the focus of a piece of music. I think the language that developed was extremely powerful, and it represented a very strong aesthetic statement that said that minimalism and quiet were okay with us. I think it was partially a reaction against what was going on in the pop world at the time, as grunge was dying out — people who straddled between a pop sensibility and an experimental sensibility seemed to be tired of loud, aggressive music, and this sort of cool, austere aesthetic was the perfect antidote. It seems almost an analog to punk in a way, a housecleaning type of event, but more tied to the technology used to create the music: Punk used the same physical tools as arena rock; microsound uses almost an entirely different set of tools from grunge.
But I think the language is starting to die out, or evolve. People like Pole and Taylor Deupree are actually incorporating vocals in their work now, which would have been unheard of five years ago. I think things are changing because they have to — this type of music has almost painted itself in a corner, so it’s change or die time. Weidenbaum: More than anything what I like to hear is detailed explanations of how a particular track is made. So much electronic is abstract, it’s easy to forget that practical matters are part of its creation. How, for example, was the Agnes Martin piece produced? In particular, how much of what we hear was planned in advance — or, to use another word, composed — and how much happened during the recording process — or, to use another term, how much was improvised? Kannenberg: Of the four tracks on the Painters EP, I had the clearest pre-recording concept of the Agnes Martin track. I wanted to use an electronic drone to represent the backdrop of a typical Martin painting, then use an edited field recording of wind rustling through leaves as the foreground focal point. I manually edited the field recording so that it began as a single second sample followed by a second of silence, and gradually increased the length of the samples by a second, leaving the second of silence between them. After listening to it, I decided to cut down the length of silence between the growing sample. I then created a second file similar to this one only in reverse, with another portion of the sample starting out as a complete phrase that gradually became shorter and shorter. My intention was to have these two processes meet in the middle of the track, so the two long samples would play simultaneously once only. This seemed a good way to represent the grids in Martin’s paintings.
I originally recorded three takes of the background drone, and chose one for the dominant drone in the final piece. I then layered the two samples on top of the drone, and after giving it a listen, did some tweaking with effects to give the sample sounds a bit more body. I realized then that my initial concept of having the sample files play in sequence one after the other made the piece a bit predictable, so I spliced in a second copy of the second sample, the one that goes from long to short, and layered that over the middle of the piece, which covered the join between them a bit. That was really all there was to it. It’s a very simple piece. Weidenbaum: When you refer to “three takes of the background drone,” could you explain what you mean? Did you record three separate live attempts at a type of drone? And if so, what kind of preparation went into the setup that you employed for what was, I’d imagine, a studio performance? Kanneberg: I used the synthesizers in Reason to sculpt the sounds that went into the final drone. Normally, I combine several different synth sounds and rhythms to create a single drone. I created three different layers of sounds and recorded lengthy performances of the three, trying out different rhythmic patterns while recording so that the end result was primarily a live improvisation. Most of my work is in a somewhat hazy region between composition and improvisation, and these drones are a good example of that. Weidenbaum: You mentioned that you’d considered doing a Mark Rothko, but felt that he’d already been covered so well by musicians in the past that you thought you should look elsewhere for inspiration. Could you talk a bit about these other tributes to Mark Rothko, and how they are infused with his aura, his aesthetic? Kannenberg: The one that I’m most familiar with is Morton Feldman’s Rothko Chapel, which is my favorite piece of Feldman’s that I’ve heard so far. I’m familiar with another tribute by Bernhard Guenter, but I know the Feldman piece much better. Feldman’s piece has everything you could ever want in a Rothko sound piece: it’s expansive, dense, and melancholy while embodying the quiet spirituality that made Rothko’s work a perfect fit for a non-denominational chapel. Weidenbaum: Before you nixed that part of the project, what ideas had you in mind for your Rothko tribute, if any? Kannenberg: Well, I’m actually considering producing an expanded version of the Painters works to shop around as a possible CD release, so I may get to a Rothko piece yet. My original idea was to try to represent musically the experience of looking at a Rothko from top to bottom: an underlying drone would represent the background field that his blocks of denser color rest upon and merge with, then the drone would be overlayed with denser sonic textures in two distinct “blocks,” one much longer than the other. I would actually consider recording myself painting with a palette knife for the piece, probably slowing that sound down and merging it with various electronic drones and field recordings of bodies of water. Weidenbaum: I see what you’re getting at in Rothko’s art. It’s interesting to hear the pieces described as having a background and a foreground. I always see that when I look at them, but in my memory they’re more like diptychs. Not sure if there’s a question in there, but so be it. Kannenberg: I know what you mean, they normally immerse you in two large fields of color. I didn’t really start paying attention to the borders around the fields until I saw a retrospective of his at the National Gallery in D.C. in 1998. The borders really stuck out to me then, and later when I taught a drawing class at the Milwaukee Art Museum I made my students do a drawing of the Rothko in the museum’s collection. It was amazing how few people dealt with the border around the two big fields. Now when I look at his work I see the images as being somehow sliced out of a much larger field, with two fields floating on top of the background. At times it almost makes them seem like large two-screened televisions, which I’m sure would make him angry to hear.
Weidenbaum: Many musicians have paid tribute to visual artists and to specific artworks. I think of John Zorn’s piece for Agnes Martin, of Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, of Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George, and even of Paul Simon’s song “Rene & Georgette Magritte with Their Dog After the War.” You’ve mentioned how you kept away from Rothko because of earlier tributes in music; are there any specific tributes-in-music to other visual artists that served as a model for your EP?
Kannenberg: I can’t say that anything in particular served as a model for what I did. Once I decided to do something inspired by specific artists, I began working on the Cy Twombly track and realized that this kind of thing had been done to death before. I honestly wasn’t sure if I should go through with it because I thought it might be a bit cliche, but once I decided to take the risk I also decided not to listen to any other examples of music inspired by visual art while I was working on the pieces. I wanted to make sure that what I was doing was a very personal response to the imagery.
Weidenbaum: By the way, that’s exciting news about the Sine Fiction project. That’s one of my favorite netlabel activities. Could you describe what we should expect to hear, and how you went about divining music from such a peculiar novel? And to follow up, I’d be very interested in knowing what kind of direction, if any, you received from Aime Dontigny, who, of course, is also a musician overseeing a netlabel.
Kannenberg: I honestly didn’t receive any direction, it was very open — he just said, “Oh, great choice, let me know when you finish the music” and that was pretty much the extent of it. In some ways I wish he had, because I seem to have approached my project there a lot differently than most of the other releases on Sine Fiction, and I’m not sure if that’s one of the reasons for the delay in its release. I delivered it last August and it still hasn’t been posted.
Most of the other releases on Sine Fiction tend to be very impressionistic — although it’s meant as a label that releases “soundtracks for science fiction novels,” the albums on offer seem more often than not to be lengthy pieces of music inspired by themes in the novels. I tried this approach — originally I intended my piece to consist of three long tracks that would offer impressions of each of the three main sections of the novel, maybe ten minutes long each.
When I sat down and tried to do that, I became overwhelmed by the book’s plot and characters. A Canticle for Leibowitz is a fairly complex book, spanning a thousand years in three dense snapshots of isolated events along the way. The only way I could reconcile the sound to the book was to treat it much more like a movie soundtrack, creating themes for characters and situations, a series of shorter tracks that follow the plot of the three stories in the book. I eventually produced 18 tracks that together run for longer than an hour — the longest related batch of music I’ve produced yet.
In 1982, National Public Radio aired a dramatization of Leibowitz, and in preparation for making my album I was lucky enough to find out that NPR recently released the entire play on CD — 15 half-hour episodes. So not only did I re-read the book, but I also listened to the radio show again — the radio show was actually my first experience of the book. I only read it after following the radio show back in grade school. Upon re-listening to it, I was really amazed by its music, which consisted primarily of very sparse percussion, mostly tuned mallet-struck drums, synthesizer, and a church choir who sang canticles. I started to realize that this must have been one of my first experiences hearing minimal music, and the themes of the book seemed to really resonate with me again as an adult.
Musically, I think it’s the most accessible thing I’ve done. It’s much more self-consciously musical than most of my work — I actually have a problem calling myself a musician, since I know very little about standard musical notation, chord progressions, etc. As pretentious as it sounds, I view myself more as a sonic artist than a musician, since I tend to approach sound from a very visual point of view. But the Leibowitz tracks include things like sampled strings, live percussion, bass and organ as well as manipulated field recordings and synthesis. As unhip as this might sound, I tried to evoke some of the same feeling I get listening to Peter Gabriel’s Passion, his soundtrack for The Last Temptation of Christ, which I think is a masterpiece. I approached it very cinematically, thinking visually and temporally about specific conversations or actions and how the music might support a visual representation of the action of the novel. I don’t know how successful I was, but the people who’ve heard it so far have given me a lot of positive feedback. I’m really thrilled with how it turned out, and I hope it finally gets released soon.
Weidenbaum: Don’t be shy about the Gabriel album. It’s one of my favorites, as well. While you’re at it, could you name a few other formative/favorite recordings in your maturation as a sound artist?
Kannenberg: Here are a few off the top of my head, in extremely rough chronological order:
The Beatles: “The White Album,” Sgt. Pepper, Rubber Soul, Revolver The Who: Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy Eurythmics: Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) Marshall Crenshaw: Marshall Crenshaw, Field Day REM: Reckoning David Bowie: Low, Heroes Miles Davis: Kind of Blue XTC: English Settlement, Oranges & Lemons Gyorgi Ligeti: Lux Aeterna Henryk Gorecki: Symphony No. 3 The Velvet Underground: White Light/White Heat Peter Murphy: Love Hysteria Peter Gabriel: Passion Nonesuch Explorer Series: Bali – Gamelan & Kecak Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: Shahen-Shah John Coltrane: Blue Train Master Musicians of Jajouka: Apocalypse Across the Sky Brian Eno: Music for Airports, On Land King Crimson: Discipline Fripp & Eno: No Pussyfooting, Evening Star Steve Reich: Music for 18 Musicians, Drumming Robert Fripp: Let the Power Fall Portishead: Portishead Arvo Part: Tabula Rasa Autechre: Peel Session (1995) Morton Feldman: Rothko Chapel Air: Premiers Symptomes Arovane: Tides John Wall: Constructions I-IV Bernhard Guenter: Monochrome White Eliane Radigue: Adnos I-III Steve Roden: Resonant Cities Taylor Deupree: January
Okay, sorry, that’s more than a few.
Weidenbaum: One benefit of interviewing a netlabel musician is that virtually any song of yours we discuss the reader can, easily and for free, listen to almost immediately. With that in mind, I wanted to ask you about the live concert from the Hotti Biscotti club, which is on your website. Could you talk about what you were striving for in a live set, and how you prepared for it?
Kannenberg: That set was a combination of many different elements and ideas. I tend to use live performances as a testing ground for ideas rather than as complete statements in and of themselves. Many times I will use sounds from studio projects but manipulate them in new ways. This particular set uses sounds from a variety of projects, ranging from my piece on Stasisfield’s Audible Still-Life CD, to the Canticle for Leibowitz soundtrack, a recording I made of the Oriental Institute that appears on the Stasisfield: Year 02 MP3 disc as a bonus track, and an unreleased piece I’ve recorded, titled “Autumn Enso.”
In preparing for a live show, I usually gather some sounds together that I’d like to work with, and then create some performance files that I can easily manipulate — I use Propellerhead’s Reason software for live performance, as well as some of my studio recording, so sometimes I will already have a file prepared with the sounds I want to use, and I just manipulate it on the spot at the show. Other times I will meticulously compose something and attempt to reproduce that as much as possible at a performance. I never use the sequencer in Reason, I always create things only using the ReDrum module and Matrix controls attached to the synths — a very stubborn and intentionally naive way of working. Inevitably, as much as I prepare, I always change things once the performance begins, as much from necessity as choice, because things inevitably start going wrong and it’s up to me to fix them in the moment. Like my studio work, my performances are a combination of composition and improvisation, and my performances are definitely weighted more heavily to the improvisation side of things.
Weidenbaum: You’re a musician, but you also run this well-regarded netlabel. Have you ever sensed any tension with the artists you’ve published on Stasisfield, in regard to your also being a musician? Perhaps tension is a strong word, and perhaps your being a musician puts them at ease that you know where they’re coming from. Still, I wonder if it’s complex promoting other people’s music, when you’re also pursuing your own recordings. How do you balance Stasisfield with your own productivity as a musician?
Kannenberg: So far I’ve not come across any tension related to my being a musician with regards to running the label; there’s been other tension, which I’ll get to in a minute, but from the outset I intended Stasisfield to be more of a community than just a platform for releasing my own work. Granted, one of the reasons I started the label was because I was having difficulty getting my work released elsewhere, but it wasn’t the main reason I started it. I’ve made a conscious effort not to be too “me-centric” — I try to release no more than two pieces of my own a year on the music side, and I try to be very democratic when it comes to the online exhibitions in the Stasis_Space gallery. Since I’m proposing the projects that are explored there, I try to stay out of as many shows as I can, or limit my role somewhat. It’s difficult because obviously it would be in my own self-interest to use the attention Stasisfield gets to promote myself more, but I try to rein that in as much as possible.
As for other tensions, they have mostly revolved around musicians wanting to provide their own artwork for their releases. When I started the label, I was thinking very much of labels like 12k, Leaf, and the early years of the Real World label, places that had a very unique and consistent visual identity. Coming from a visual art and design background, I wanted everything on the site to fit a certain aesthetic — and this actually ties in to what I mentioned earlier about restraining myself from including my own work. I assumed that if I was at least creating all of the artwork, it would be easier for me to sit back and let other people contribute the music, which has most definitely been the case. But some artists haven’t been entirely comfortable with what I produce for them, which has created the occasional bit of tension. Hopefully I’ve been able to accommodate them with the changes I make based on their suggestions, and I always offer the option of including their own visual work in the “interior pages” of the digital booklets I create for each release.
Weidenbaum: Now please forgive my confusion — or, more to the point, my occasional literal-mindedness — but when I first began exploring Stasis_Space, I wondered if it was, in fact, a real, specific space with a physical address. Is your goal to emphasize the web as a gallery-like locale, or to have a physical space of your own, or to curate more actively in existing art galleries, or something else entirely?
I can easily see how the Stasis-Space section of Stasisfield can be confusing. I deliberately left the amount of self-referential information sparse when I first began the site because I hoped that by creating projects for it, they would help define a direction as time passed. There is no physical StasisSpace gallery, the “gallery” is actually, for now, a section of the Stasisfield web site. I originally intended it to be a web-only space, but as I’ve become more involved with live performances and physical exhibition spaces, I wouldn’t mind seeing StasisSpace expand more into the real world, although I don’t see myself running a physical gallery space any time soon.
Weidenbaum: I mentioned in my review of the Dale Lloyd release Turba / Lateral Minor on Stasisfield that it had two trademarks of your label: it dealt with fragile sounds, and it wrapped them around a conceit. Do you see those two things as somewhat common among the records you’ve released? Are there other cornerstones of your vision for the label?
Kannenberg: I think you’re absolutely dead-on with that description, although I’ve never really thought about it that way before. My vision for Stasisfield has certainly evolved the longer I’ve spent working on it. When it began, I was very caught up in the laptop scene and assumed that every work I released would be nothing but laptop/synthesis. If you’d told me when I was planning the label in late 2001 that I would be releasing orchestral music, or string trio, or solo trumpet, I would have laughed in your face. But luckily I get tired of rules and limitations pretty easily, and the label is much richer for it, I think.
The only rule I try to follow in presenting work is to make sure that I enjoy it. If I don’t enjoy it on some fundamental level, I won’t feel comfortable promoting it. Since Stasisfield is a non-profit, I have no reason to “sell out” and release something I don’t like, because there’s really no reward for me either way. The only reward I can really get is being associated with a label that’s known for its quality — if that happens, then I’ll be happy.
Weidenbaum: How much energy do you spend on the technical side of running the label, as compared with the more curator-like aspects?
Kannenberg: It works in stages, really. I work on technical things when certain projects come up, like when I prepare one of the MP3-archive CDRs — that’s always a large chunk of production work. I also just finished two weeks of work getting the site restructured a bit to incorporate this year’s batch of new releases. Now that I have that completed, I’m ready to get to work on some curatorial projects, like fleshing out the first few months releases — I’m set through March at least, probably April — and coming up with ideas for larger projects — I’d like to do another large-scale, multi-stage project this year involving both the label and Stasis_Space that will be quite a bit different from what I’ve tried in the past. So I would say the amount of effort I put into both types of work equals itself out for the most part.
Weidenbaum: Do you have any sense of where netlabels are heading, whether we’ll see more of them, or if micropayments will render truly free music a thing of the past?
Kannenberg: I think we’ll definitely see more netlabels. I seem to see announcements of at least one new netlabel every week. The “market” is definitely saturated right now, especially with how easy it is to get server space at archive.org. I’ve considered moving there myself, or archiving some things there, but downloading from archive.org is so slow from what I’ve experienced that I don’t see that happening any time soon — I love the fast pipe my site has right now. I really don’t think payments will end free netlabels — as long as there are experimental musicians and the Internet is still legal, we’ll have free netlabels, I think.
Weidenbaum: We’ve discussed how you’re working to get the Painters project released on a proper CD. I do hope that happens, but I also want to express to you that I think Stasisfield is as good as it is because it touches on so many of your skills — your music composition, your taste in other people’s music, and your work as a visual artist. Can you imagine a better single outlet for those skills?
Kannenberg: Well, many thanks for the compliments on my abilities, first of all. One of the reasons I was attracted to the idea of starting a netlabel was because I realized it would be an almost ideal synthesis of my interests. At the moment I can’t really think of any one thing that could easily encompass so many different disciplines. I don’t see Stasisfield as something permanent — I imagine I’ll at least want to take a break from it at some point, if not end it entirely, which I’ve considered doing a few times in the past; but for the time being I really enjoy it and can’t think of anything I’d like to spend as much of my free time doing.