Byron Westbrook is an artist working with the dynamic quality of physical space using multi-channel sound, images, and objects. His audio/video performances under the name CORRIDORS involve the distribution of processed instrumental and environmental recordings through a multi-channel environment. We talked to Westbrook to find out more about his upcoming performance on May 7th at Roulette.
ROULETTE: Tell us as about the work you’ll be doing at Roulette.
BYRON WESTBROOK: I’ll be performing a few new pieces for my Corridors project, which is multi-channel audio with video. The project has been around for a few years now, but pieces are all from the last few months and a bit different from what I’ve done sonically in the past – things now move and change faster and there are some rhythmic elements. I have video accompanying the work that basically functions as lighting, sort of as another textural element that works in tandem with the sound. The audio is a combination of processed sounds of instruments diffused through the multi-channel system and semi-modular synthesizer sounds. In general, the work aims for a very physical experience.
R: What are some defining characteristics of the musical scene you would fit yourself into? What elements of your scene differentiate it from what has come before, or what is happening now?
BW: I think I’ve been fairly successful at eluding a scene, which I’m sort of proud of. There’s a lot going on out there that I like though, especially in San Francisco, Montreal, Berlin, Italy, in addition to NYC. If anything, maybe I identify with the Lovely Music aesthetic, which I realize isn’t current, but I feel more in line with of a lot of those folks than any specific current scene.
R: What was the last music you listened to?
BW: Band of Susans. I recently got a vinyl copy of a compilation of theirs and have really been into this guitar work as of late.
R: What is music?
BW: I feel like I’m in trouble for even starting to try to answer this question. Music consists of elements within a ritual process that involves listening, and is defined differently for everyone.
R: Do you consider yourself more a composer or a performer?
BW: As much as I de-emphasize my presence in my own performances, I actually would say that I consider myself more of a performer than a composer. I do plan and plot out works in a very calculated way, but the actual “composition” happens in the performance. This is something that only I can do. I feel like a composer makes things that others can perform and I haven’t done that yet – too much of the process is unique to my own internal logic and familiarity with the sounds that I use. I also still think of myself as an instrumentalist even though I don’t really play a proper instrument in these performances.
R: Is there an event or experience that led you to start in experimental media?
BW: Well, I used to play in rock bands for a long time. I could never really get what I wanted out of that instrumentation or audience-performer relationship that exists in rock venues so I just started doing something else that I guess is “experimental media”.
R: Who do you see as instrumental in your development as an artist?
BW: That’s easy – Phill Niblock. I’ve spent a lot of time working with Phill over the last years and while I already felt really in line with his approach to sound, I have learned a lot from his process. Also, his space is laid out logically exactly as I would want a performance space to be. The time I’ve spent working in that space and even just running sound for concerts has been super valuable in terms of really solidifying a sonic approach.
R: What is interesting to you about your own work?
BW: It’s never the same twice. My works have a modular quality to them where I just have a set bank of sounds that are used for each piece. Every space is configured differently and responds differently to these sounds, so even though I might have a set idea of how a piece is to play out, it generally changes in the performance. Also, it is heavy without being heavy.