Michael Pisaro (born 1961 in Buffalo, New York) is a guitarist and composer. A member of the Wandelweiser Composers Ensemble, he has composed over 80 works for a great variety of instrumental combinations, including several pieces for variable instrumentation. A particularly large category of his works are solo works, notably a series of 36 pieces (grouped into 6 longer works) for the three-year, 156-concert series organized by Carlo Inderhees at the Zionskirche in Berlin-Mitte from 1997-1999. Another solo piece, pi (1-2594), was performed in installments by the composer on 15 selected days in February 1999, in Evanston, Illinois, and in Düsseldorf in 2000-2001.
His work is frequently performed in the U.S. and in Europe, in music festivals and in many smaller venues. It has been selected twice by the ISCM jury for performance at World Music Days festivals (Copenhagen,1996; Manchester, 1998) and has also been part of festivals in Hong Kong (ICMC, 1998), Vienna (Wien Modern,1997), Aspen (1991) and Chicago (New Music Chicago, 1990, 1991). He has had extended composer residencies in Germany (Künstlerhof Schreyahn), Switzerland (Forumclaque/Baden), Israel (Miskenot Sha’ananmim), Greece (EarTalk) and in the U.S. (Birch Creek Music Festival/Wisconsin). Concert length portraits of his music have been given in Munich, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, Vienna, Brussels, Curitiba (Brazil), Berlin, Chicago, Düsseldorf, Zürich, Cologne, Aarau and elsewhere.
Most of his music of the last several years is published by Edition Wandelweiser (Germany), and released in CD by Edition Wandelweiser Records. He has performed many of his own works and those of close associates Antoine Beuger, Kunsu Shim, Jürg Frey and Manfred Werder, as well as works from the experimental tradition, especially John Cage, Christian Wolff, Robert Ashley and George Brecht.
photo Yuko Zama
Before joining the composition faculty at the California Institute of the Arts (where he is located presently), he taught music composition and theory atNorthwestern University from 1986 to 2000.
In 2006 he was awarded a grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award.
Which was the first musical instrument you remember?
Which was the last record you bought with your own money?
The Haters: These Things Happen (Volume 2).
What do you expect from music?
Which work of your own are you most proud of, and why?
I really have no idea how to answer this. I tend not to be “proud” of pieces - just interested in them and that varies depending on so many factors.
What's the importance of theory in music, in your opinion?
Depends on which theory and which music. Right now there’s no “theory” which comes anywhere close to describing the music that interests me.
What quality do you admire most in an musician?
What’s the difference between a good instrument and a bad one?
None. (Clarification: I love a beautiful instrument and truly enjoy my Ramirez guitar. But an instrument is what you make it. There’s no doubt in my mind that in the hands of a great musician two stones might be more beautiful than that Ramirez in the hands of another musician.)
Yuko Zama's cover for Gravity Wave 010 (Closed Categories in Cartesian Worlds)
What are the challenges and benefits of today's digital music scene?
This is not a question I think much about. I suppose dissemination can take more chaotic forms now, but I’m not completely sure of that.
Define the sound you're still looking for.
My teacher, Ben Johnston used to say: "I not as interested in what I can hear as in what I can’t hear … yet."
How would you define silence?
What are your motivations for composing?
Passing the time in an enjoyable way.
With Keith Rowe. Photo Yuko Zama
What dead artist would you like to have collaborated with?
What's your next project about?
The unbinding of time.
Page 16 of the score to Hearing Metal 3