Instrument builder and performer Michael Johnsen was born in 1968 in Pennsylvania. Drawing on the rich American tradition of experimentation and cobbling, his integrated menagerie of devices reveals idiosyncratic behaviors through their complex interactions. His work is characterized by a relative lack of ideas per se, and an intense focus on observation, the way a shepherd watches sheep. The extensive patching of large numbers of devices produces teeming chirps, sudden transients and charming failure modes; embracing the dirt in pure electronics. As an antidote to all that wire, he is equally devoted to the singing saw, a simple folk instrument. Most of what he might have learned has come from the natural world, like watching robins run. He is particularly fond of sounds that end.
He teaches electronic music widely, designs voltage-controlled synthesis equipment for Pittsburgh Modular and co-organizes an archive for the technical history of electronic music at ubuweb.com. He has played widely in the US and Europe in noise and improvising contexts, at large festivals, museums, squats, and kindergartens. Recent collaborators include Pascal Battus, C Spencer Yeh, Margaret Cox, Jerome Noetinger, Jack Wright, Thomas Lehn; also Michel Doneda, Michael Zerang, Joe McPhee, Bhob Rainey, and Tom Djll. His recordings are distributed in Europe by Metamkine.
The watsON? NOISE Festival 2013 - Curated by Golan Levin and Spike Wolff
‘Ancient life was all silence…. with the invention of the machine, Noise was born.’ – Luigi Russolo, ‘L’Arte dei rumori’
Noise continually surrounds us, from white static to violent intensity. We are absorbed into, embraced by, and assaulted with sound. Vibrating through our bodies, we capitulate as it engulfs us and permeates our psyche. In the still of its quiet absence and the thrill of its deafening roar, the force of sound is a constant. wats:ON? 2013 explores the realm of noise through a variety of analog, digital, and apparatus enhanced sound-music performances. Noise asks you to surrender to the possibility of the rush of the sublime.
The Jill Watson Festival Across the Arts (wats:ON?) was created to honor the life of Jill Watson, whose interest in the arts inspired others through her work and her teaching. The festival celebrates Jill’s commitment to an interdisciplinary philosophy as an artist and celebrates her accomplishments and reputation as an architect. Jill Watson was a Carnegie Mellon University alumna, adjunct faculty member in the School of Architecture, and acclaimed Pittsburgh architect who died in the TWA Flight 800 plane crash on July 17, 1996.
The wats:ON? Festival is made possible by the generous support of the JILL WATSON FAMILY FOUNDATION.
This performance is co-hosted by The wats:ON? Festival and CMU HCII Human Computer Interaction Institute, with support from :
CMU College of Fine Arts
The Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry
CMU School of Architecture
Special thanks to:
Dan Martin, Dean, College of Fine Arts
Golan Levin, Director, The Frank- Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry
John Carson, Head, School of Art
Stephen Lee, Head, School of Architecture
Additional support and past collaborations include:
CMU ETC Entertainment Technology Center
CMU HCII Human Computer Interaction Institute
CMU School of Art
Carnegie Museum of Art