Saturday, January 10, 2009

Alyce Santoro

Alyce Santoro

Alyce Santoro is a multi-media conceptual and sound artist currently living in Texas. A graduate of the Rhode Island School Of Design, she has a background in marine biology and scientific illustration.

I recently received a CD housed in a case made out of recycled audio tape. The strands of magnetic tape were woven together to form an envelope to hold the album. Santoro's release, titled "Between Stations" (check it out HERE), was composed using a playback/performance device of the artist's own creation. The "Fabric Reader" is fashioned out of a recycled portable tape player, designed to play back sounds recorded onto lengths of magnetic tape which have been used to construct clothing out of the same "sonic fabric" used to make the case the CD arrived in.

One of the more imaginative attempts at performing sound collage, to say the least! Check out a couple of short videos titled, "How To Build A Sonic Fabric Reader" and "Sonic Fabric," for more information, HERE.

She has other projects and videos at her website, as well. Check it out HERE. Without further ado, here's the SAR Q&A with Alyce Santoro...

*Name: Alyce Santoro

*Are there any additional names used to describe this project: This is a little bit complicated! Sonic Fabric is the name of the project. My sonic partner, thee fabulous musician Julian Mock, and I work together on the sound collages. We consider ourselves a multi-media "collective"... The collective is called The Center For The Improbably & (Im)permacultural Research. So for now, we're calling our collaborative work Improbably Projects!

*Do you use a pseudonym? I sometimes go by Alyce B. Obvious.

Alyce Santoro:
Julian Mock:

*Founding Members: Alyce Santoro. Brief history... I had an electric pick-up installed in my flute while in high school in the mid-80's... inspired by Laurie Anderson's tape-bow violin... so that I could play in some friend’s punk band. I have been part of numerous experimental, improv ensembles over the years, and have worked with samplers and effects in my solo work... but this stuff composed entirely of collections of samples really began when I got the idea to weave with cassette tape... at first it was much less about listenability, and more about the notion of stored memory, literally weaving snippets of the human experience into a "sonic fabric"... I was so into cramming as much as possible onto the tape... I wasn't thinking at all about playback.

*Tape manipulations, digital deconstructions or turntable creations: I suppose Tape Manipulations describes Sonic Fabric pretty aptly in the literal sense! Though we certainly do digital deconstruction and sample from vinyl, as well as tape. Ultimately, it all gets recorded back onto tape, which itself is then turned into something else entirely. Let me take a minute to distinguish between the three "albums" created (so far...) especially for the purposes of SONIC Fabric... The first one was called The Sounds Of (1/2)Life and was composed entirely of samples I collected from my own personal greatest sonic inspirations... everything from Laurie Anderson, The Beatles “Revolution #9,” Jack Kerouac reading Haiku, recordings of my high school punk band, ocean surf, Tibetan monks chanting, etc. Most of the samples were collected from commercial recordings, and were mixed together on my old-timey analog 4-track... I never expected anyone to actually hear the recording... It was particularly personal, and pretty much completely random in the way in which it was compiled. The second one was custom made for Jon Fishman, Phish percussionist. Jon is a friend, and we were at a party in Vermont, talking around the bonfire about my plan to make fabric from tape, and he asked if I'd be willing to do something with his personal collection of 300 tapes. I said sure, and took his box of tapes - I was astounded at what I found in there - bootlegs of Jimi Hendrix jam sessions, Prince recorded live in a club in London, in front of a small audience, rare Sun Ra stuff - It was too much - I couldn't bear to actually pull the tape out of the cases... So, like a scientist, I took a sample from each and every tape in the box, and layered them all together. Again, this was not done with any sort of musicality - It was all about getting all of his inspirations crammed onto tape so I could weave it into a kind of ritual garment. (Video of Jon's live performance with the "musical suit" available on my youtube channel: Collage collection #3 is Between Stations. This is the first time I made a collage keeping in mind that someone may actually want to listen to it. The samples are all original, collected by hand, or gathered from copyright-free sources, such as (to which I am very grateful). Between Stations is intended to be a sonic interpretation of a day in the life of a post-9/11 New Yorker... One travels between neighborhoods on the subway, appreciating the flavors of different neighborhoods, cultures, and rhythms of the city - all the while daydreaming of other, more bucolic settings. Woven into these collages is a sense of calm that comes from a feeling of connectedness to the larger community as a whole.

*Another genre descriptor: I refer to much of my work, including this sonic stuff, as Philosophoprops. All of it is really just props to start a discussion about philosophy, quantum physics, sonic memory, etc....

*Why you use this descriptor: Years ago, I titled a grant proposal for the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, Props For The Installation And Diatribe Of Entity 3B. It was then that I realized that my work really consisted of props for use in elucidating the intangible. (I got the grant : ) ).

*Location: I relocated from Brooklyn to the mountains near Marfa, TX two and a half years ago. It's crazy out here... lots of ex-pat New Yorkers and folks from LA living the wild-west post-urban artist-community life. We're near Big Bend Nat'l Park and the Mexico border. Julian and I are trying to get completely off the grid... my studio (which is in a converted 1970's school bus) runs off solar. We do rainwater harvesting, food growing using permaculture techniques, etc. I moved out here, honestly, because of the ambient soundscape. In Bklyn, I was living right next to the Bklyn/Queens expressway, and there came a point when I could no longer hear myself think. Out here, I can HEAR everything... hard to explain, but the subtleness of the soundscape allows for some pretty intricate sonic invention.

*Original Location: I'm originally from the woods of northern New Jersey. Close enough to Manhattan so that my punk band could play at CBGB's (on Tues nites at 6 pm, usually : )), and far enough away so that I grew up in a log cabin.

*What is your creative/artistic background: I've played flute since I was 10. As a kid, I loved both art and science, and felt extremely compelled to challenge what I was learning in school about the two halves of the brain - a creative half and an analytical half, usually with one side being dominant - I wanted both sides to be equal, and had to study math and chemistry extra hard to make up for what I considered to be a deficit. At some point, I decided I wanted to make art about science, so I got a degree in marine biology, then went to grad school at Rhode Island School of Design for scientific illustration. While living in the extremely vital mid-90's loft scene in Providence (The Forcefield/Fort Thunder guys lived right across the street...), I started using silkscreen, sculpture, sound, film... almost everything but the traditional pen and ink... to make art about science. As time went on, my work got increasingly conceptual...

*History: I've been making multi-media work since the mid-90's. I've been working collaboratively with Julian Mock on sound and video projects for the past 2 years.

Me: Englewood, NJ 1968
Julian: Corpus Christie, TX 1970

*Motivations: I am motivated by a deep sense of the interconnectedness of all things... art, science, religion... all different ways of making sense of the big mysteries of existence. Not only is it all interconnected, we're all contributing, unwittingly or not, to the way it's all unfolding, via our thoughts, feelings, and actions. I think if more people could get a sense of not only the responsibility that this implies, but the empowerment to really be able to effect change, I think the world would be a happier and more peaceful place. Pretty much all of my work alludes to this notion in some way.

*Philosophy: I draw from tenets in Buddhism and quantum physics that suggest that, at the most basic level, everything is made up of little more than sonic vibration. My philosophy... or maybe it's more of a hypothesis... is that by bringing together disparate, unlikely, improbably-related sound and image, a new whole is generated that sheds new light on the original parts - and that, somehow, by doing this, the audience (and myself as well) will be inspired to see things in a way that they may not have considered before.

*How would you like to be remembered: As a paradoxical, interdimensional, highly improbable, cosmic phenomenon.

*Web address:

Sonic fabric stuff for sale:

Between stations CD:


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