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Kyle Bruckmann: Purposeful Discontent

By Published: December 5, 2006
KB: I think so. In the larger scheme of things I guess I haven't been [recording music] for that long. It's been ten years since I graduate from Rice and before that Lozenge was active but it was really my only outlet and things have exploded since then. I've always done projects just to do them—out of some twisted creative need. And that's obviously not going to change. The stakes do raise a bit as you get older.

Things are a little complex for me—to the degree that I actually make a living, I do so as an orchestral musician. So it's very strange to have completely, financially untenable activities trying to fund each other. I make a paycheck playing in an orchestra and then I spend it all making creative music. I love it and it keeps me sane but I do occasionally wonder, would I be better off completely not giving a shit and having a day job of some form and doing everything else with free mp3s and CDRs.

AAJ: That allows the music to stay pure though, right? If you were forced to make money off of recording albums, that may alter what you're able to do as a creative person.

KB: It works. There was a time when I worried about trashing my ears, ruining my chops. That I was somehow being a very bad boy by making noises that were going to detract from my ability to be a classical musician. I've thankfully since realized that's bullshit. That was a lie that I was fed as an undergraduate. Rice is a really tremendous place and there are amazing things I got out of music school in particular but there is a narrowness of focus that I had to shake. And really it was exposure to all sorts of exciting things in underground music and work with KTRU [Rice University's student radio station, where Bruckmann was music director from '92 to '93] that enabled me to be in a position that I could move beyond that and realize that the musician I was, was something much different than the musician I was expected to become.

AAJ: So let's get into Gasp and Fissures and what pushed you to record an album like that.

KB: It was pretty organic. With a lot of my projects I find I wind up in the midst of something before I even realize it. I had already recorded Entymology and And. I kind of felt like I had made specific statements of recorded improvised music and I hit a wall at this point where I thought, "Well, I want to keep working but it doesn't make sense to me, right now, to continue recording improv. There's got to be a way to address the medium more specifically.

The very process of choosing a sequence of tracks—you're composing. That was really the germ of it—that was what started percolating for me. "Okay, I'm an improviser and I'm experimenting with sound but as a solo artist, I need to do something beyond simply improvising. I was teaching a lot of high school students and going out into the suburban schools giving lessons and things like that. Spring Break came along and I had a few days to mess around with something and I decided I was going to record some materials, raw materials basically. I was going to catalog extended techniques and just make sounds that would then be building blocks.

Olivia Block, a sound artist and composer living in Chicago that I've been working with since '98, and I had been talking about doing a duo collaboration of some form. That's still in the works. We had to back off the project and I had all these raw materials and I said, "Well, why don't I keep going with these and keep messing around with them. So I assembled them into a couple of pieces and then learned about a fellowship program through Experimental Sound Studios, which is a really great organization in Chicago. I applied for that [fellowship] and got forty free hours of studio time with a ProTools engineer. I didn't know anything about ProTools and digital editing so it was really a blast to be able to go into the studio with an engineer and just experiment and overdub. I started building [Gasps and Fissures] from there.

AAJ: Why? Really—why do a record of post-composed oboe technique?

KB: Part of it was that I felt like I kind of wanted to make a "psychedelic electronic record. Again, this is another KTRU thing. There's a show on KTRU called "Genetic Memory that my really good friend Keith Rozendal founded and he would play a lot of post-industrial experimental music—that sort of world. And I thought it would be fun to make a psychedelic concrèterecord only using my oboes—something that has that sort of aesthetic but limiting myself to acoustic sources.

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