DJ Spooky: "I always think of my compositions as unfinished. They are meant to be mixed."

Published on June 28 2013

We have the chance to welcome widely acclaimed artist Paul D. Miller, known as DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid. He just released his last project Of Water and Ice on Jamendo, and answered a few questions for us. "Nobody owns ideas, you just have to see music and art like this now", he told us. A supporter of free culture like us, you see!

DJ Spooky: "I always think of my compositions as unfinished. They are meant to be mixed."

Jamendo: Your career has been almost 20 years of making music. What is it that inspires you now as a composer? Do you think your style and aspirations have evolved?

Paul D. Miller: I look at everything - the iPad, for example has only been out a couple of years and it changed the way we think about the screen of the computer. How do we make music for the world of portable devices? I'm inspired mostly by technology and how we make tools for a radically changing environment. My projects span from music, art, science, and literature. Nothing is separate. All is connected. I'm inspired as much by Joseph Beuys as I am by Grandmaster Flash, or Bertolt Brecht as much as I am by Amiri Baraka and Yoko Ono. That's what my residency at The Metropolitan Museum is about and that's why I'm doing this limited edition project with Jamendo. I support independent music and art at every level.

How did you come to connect your music with other forms of arts and media?
Music is elusive and that's what makes it so powerful. I wanted to build bridges between the medium of creativity and all the arts. If there is one thing the 21st century is telling us, it's that media and social networks overlap at every level. I started DJ'ing as an art project. I never thought it would be popular! Never thought that people would have such a lag time between now when people really get the fact that technology had changed everything. It's not going to stop. This is all just the beginning. From this kind of approach I've gone on to develop DJ apps and museum apps. For example the DJ Spooky App is a customized version of the DJ Mixer App, and we've had millions of people download that. My books on MIT Press also have done pretty well. All in all, the connection is that creativity is what makes the world go around.

You are currently an artist-in-residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. How did you get that opportunity?
The Museum approached me through the curator for Performance. I've had gallery shows with Jeffrey Deitch, Paula Cooper, Anina Nosei etc. plus have had shows at The Tate Modern, Venice Bienniale etc. They supported the kind of projects I'm into. The rest is just looking at how to get people to look at the deep connections between music and art. For me, they really aren't separate.

DJ Spooky: "I always think of my compositions as unfinished. They are meant to be mixed."

You have been performing shows for a while around your project "Sinfonia Antarctica." Now you are releasing the music you composed, in the form of the album Of Water and Ice. What is the story behind the whole concept?
Music always needs time and practice to make things happen in a solid way. I always think of my compositions as unfinished. They are meant to be mixed. I look at some other DJ's who are into classical and hip hop, or techno, etc. like Ryuichi Sakamoto, Carsten Nicolai, Matthew Herbert, Boards of Canada, Amon Tobin, and even people like DJ Tiësto who has remixed Samul Barber's "Adagio for Strings," etc. is really all about hybrid approaches. I took a studio to Antarctica, and then went to the North Polar Regions a year later with the arts organization Cape Farewell. It's so important to do research and to keep creativity front and center. So many people get lost in industry hype. I don't. The process for making this limited edition album was to think about climate change and the way music can create so many extra responses. It's all about creating new perspectives.

Musically, what are the characteristics of Of Water and Ice?
All of the electronic sounds are generated by interpretations of either algorithms that mirror the geometry in ice crystals or the math of climate change data. The compositions are based on my project The Book of Ice.

You are teaming up with Jamendo to release this album project. Why did you decide to work with them?
I always am checking out new forums for independent art and music, and I thought this would be a cool experiment. So far, so good.

What do you think about sharing music for free? Does it help in finding an audience and eventually create a beneficial buzz for an artist?
I just did the score for a film called Downloaded (directed by Alex Winter) that was narrated by Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning, the Creator of Napster. I love stuff like this - and I've worked with people like Lawrence Lessig, and Cory Doctorow. The open source movement is crucial to get people to understand how network culture works. We live in the era of unfinished work - all is remix and all is free. You just have to see music and art like this: nobody owns ideas. That's how you find new audiences. It's all about having good ideas. Learn that and you are set for this era.

Listen and download Of Water and Ice on Jamendo!

Discover DJ Spooky's iPad app

Dj Spooky by Lyle Ashton Harris