Sunday, July 29, 2007

Daniel Steven Crafts

Daniel Steven Crafts

This week's Q&A is with Daniel Steven Crafts. Crafts is a Detroit, Michigan based composer whose online statement boldly states, "The task of the truly contemporary composer is not only to write music of substance, but also to win back an audience alienated by so-called ‘modern’ music." If I hadn't already been digging his Tape Compositions, this line alone would have completely won me over. Check out his website HERE.

Crafts hosted a radio program on KPFA until moving to New Mexico in 1999. He's composed 8 operas, 6 symphonies and 13 large orchestral works, in addition to a variety of shorter pieces. He has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and ASCAP, and has 3 CDS and an Emmy-award-winning PBS video (with tenor Jerry Hadley) available at his website.

Without further ado, here's the SAR Q&A with Daniel Steven Crafts...

*Name: Daniel Steven Crafts

*Are there any additional names used to describe this project: Snake Oil Symphony / Soap Opera Suite

*Tape manipulations, digital deconstructions or turntable creations: I have simply used the term “Tape Composition.” My earliest work was done in the mid 1960's. The Snake Oil Symphony (1980) was my last piece of tape composition. I never had access to any high-powered equipment, even for that era. My work was all done with two commercial 2-track tape recorders, a revox and an ampex deck (if anyone even knows what those terms are anymore – ancient terminology). The tape pieces were all created by painstakingly dubbing bit by bit from one recorder to the other. I would often dovetail pieces by fading in one track and out on the other, then combine the “stereo” into a solid mono track. It would take days just to create a minutes worth of material. In terms of today’s technology, this would seem like working with caveman tools. In general, I saw the tape recorder as an audio canvas on which one could combine any amount of speech, sound and music in the traditional sense (either found or original). But my idea was not to ignore, but to embrace any extra-musical sense to speech or sound. That was primarily how I differed from those who were already working with tape.

*Location: Berkeley, California

*What is your creative/artistic background: My foreground is probably more applicable here. I haven’t done any tape work since the 80's. My work since then has been for symphony orchestra, and opera.

*History: Since the late 1960's

*Born: I was born in the industrial bowels of Detroit just at the turn of the mid-century.

*Motivations: The Soap Opera Suit is more comedy than composition—bits of soap operas (circa 1980) taken out of context and re-presented. The Snake Oil Symphony, however, I do consider a serious composition. I always felt the minimalists were missing the whole point of “found sound” refusing to acknowledge the extra-musical aspect of it. The SOS is composed both as “music” and as social commentary. “Snake Oil Symphony is a very large metaphor for the social relations of capitalism. In the Dearborn (Michigan) Public Library I found some salesman’s instructional records—demonstrating how to sell things to people who didn’t really want them. They were just too good to pass up. The liner notes (on the website) go into all this in probably more detail than you ever care to read.

*Philosophy/How would you like to be remembered: For me, Art has always been a tool of social change. Satire is one of the most effective ways of attacking injustice. Get people laughing at the absurdity of something and change will follow much more easily. I have always opposed the formalism of the so-called ‘Avant-Garde,’ of the last half century, as I consider it both politically and philosophically reactionary. Music (or any Art) should be neither the esoteric property of an exclusive group of professionals, nor the kind of audio wallpaper to which mass-marketing would reduce it.

*Web address:


Blogger Ward said...

As a bass-baritone, I'd love to try some of his work, but can't find the publisher or any contact info. Suggestions anyone?

9:43 PM  
Anonymous Daniel Steven Crafts said...

Hello Ward. You can contact me at

Daniel Steven Crafts

9:38 AM  

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