Saturday, February 8, 2014

Michael Pisaro 13 questions

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?

The voice.

Which was the last record you bought with your own money?

The Haters: These Things Happen (Volume 2).

What do you expect from music?

The unexpected.

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.


Cage, Pisaro, Frey, Beuger - Edwin Alexander Buchholz - Untitled ‎  

Edition Wandelweiser Records 1996

Mind Is Moving I

Edition Wandelweiser Records 2001

Transparent City (Volumes 3 And 4)

Edition Wandelweiser Records 2007

Frey* - Malfatti* - Pisaro* - Three Backgrounds ‎ 

B-Boim 2007

Harmony Series 11 - 16

Edition Wandelweiser Records 2007

Transparent City (Volumes 1 And 2)

Edition Wandelweiser Records 2007

An Unrhymed Chord

Edition Wandelweiser Records 2008

Hearing Metal 1

Edition Wandelweiser Records 2009

A Wave And Waves

Cathnor Recordings 2010

Michael Pisaro / Greg Stuart - Ricefall 

Gravity Wave 2010

Within (3.2)

Heresy Records (2) 2010

Michael Pisaro, Barry Chabala - Black, White, Red, Green, Blue (Voyelles) ‎ 

Winds Measure Recordings 2010

Michael Pisaro / Taku Sugimoto - 2 Seconds / B Minor / Wave ‎ 

Erstwhile Records 2010

Fields Have Ears

Another Timbre 2010

Michael Pisaro / Greg Stuart - Hearing Metal 2 ‎ 

Gravity Wave 2011

Michael Pisaro / Greg Stuart / Barry Chabala - Close Constellations And A Drum On The Ground ‎ 

Gravity Wave 2011

Michael Pisaro / Greg Stuart - Hearing Metal 3 ‎ 

Gravity Wave 2011

Michael Pisaro / Barry Chabala & Katie Porter - Asleep, Street, Pipes, Tones

Gravity Wave 2011


Human Ear Music 2012

Michael Pisaro / Toshiya Tsunoda - Crosshatches ‎ 

Erstwhile Records 2012

Fields Have Ears 

Gravity Wave 2012

Michael Pisaro / Taku Sugimoto - D Minor / Bb Major ‎ 

Slub Music 2012

Antoine Beuger / Michael Pisaro - This Place / Is Love ‎ 

Erstwhile Records 2013

Michael Pisaro, Oswald Egger, Julia Holter - The Middle Of Life (Die Ganze Zeit) ‎ 

Gravity Wave 2013

Michael Pisaro, Greg Stuart - Closed Categories In Cartesian Worlds ‎ 

Gravity Wave 2013

The Punishment Of The Tribe By Its Elders

Gravity Wave 2013

Ben Owen . Michael Pisaro - 2 Over, -1 / Ascending Series (2.1) (To Joachim Eckl)

Compost And Height 2008

Michael Pisaro & Greg Stuart - July Mountain ‎ 

Engraved Glass 2010

Michael Pisaro, Barry Chabala - Unter Eichen

Roeba Records 2010

 Page 16 of the score to Hearing Metal 3