from various interviews with Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner, Joel Chadabe, Gavin Borchert, Birgitta Driesel, Paul Robinson and others
My father bought me a reel to reel tape machine when I was eleven or so. I recorded all the keyboard parts of the Bach B minor flute sonata on flute so that I could play along with it. A subsequent machine had several speeds and "sound-on-sound" so that I could overdub several lines at different speeds (without vibrato) and end up in the correct octaves. Accompanists were hard to come by, and I liked being self-sufficient. I began recording professionally in 1968 in Chicago. At that time I was primarily a flutist and played on many sessions while obtaining my B. Mus. degree at Northwestern University. I felt it important as a performer to learn as much as I could about engineering in order to tailor my playing style for session work, which is different from my performance playing style. When I went to Mills College there was a recording studio and I was hooked. I currently record digitally, and edit using my Sonic Solutions digital audio workstation.
In college I found I was running out of extended techniques on the flute and wanted to expand my sound capabilities. I was also performing pieces such as Davidovsky's Synchronisms II (electronic tape and flute) and Haubenstock-Ramati's Interpolation, Mobile per flute (1, 2, et 3) which required some technology. Fortunately I was studying at the University of Illinois at Urbana at the time Gordon Mumma was in residence. Gordon Mumma showed me how to build circuits and I built my first ring modulator there from one of his circuit designs. Jim Beauchamp, Ben Johnston and Sal Martirano were there also. There was a classical studio there with a few Moog modules, and I loved working in it.
My first electronic compositions were made using the Moog Synthesizer. Orion was one of the first, and I used the Moog to generate both the audio and the visuals for the piece. The visuals were oscilloscope images which I filmed in 16mm. The sound was generated separately from the images, and was subsequently electroprinted onto the edited 16mm film. Allusions was a film/video/dance work with quadraphonic sound which used two dancers (Carla Blank and myself), video feedback, colorizing, and a great deal of optical printing to build up density and to overlay images. The music for Allusions was generated using the Moog, and dealt with localization and spatialization. The other early pieces which followed, Transparencies, Spheres, Lunar Earthrise and Lunar Dusk all dealt with localization and spatialization and were quadraphonic. Transparencies, Lunar Earthrise, and Lunar Dusk all used abstract slides as well. I continue to use video in my works, including Circular Motions, Io, Crystal, Solar Wind, Airwaves (realities), Liquid Metal and Apparent Horizon.
For the last several years I have recorded natural sounds as my sound sources, and have transformed them using convolution, phase vocoding, extensive layering - whatever is available.
I'm totally hooked on technology and have been for many years. I love sound, I love timbre, I love working spatially. I do, however, try to keep things in perspective. The technology is only a tool to accomplish a musical idea. The flute is a tool, the phase vocoder is a tool. The music is the important factor.
I was being interviewed the other day, and the "why do you do tape music" question came up again. It occurred to me that aside from the control one has in the studio setting and the ability to do many things that just aren't possible in live performance (or financially feasible due to the number of samplers, etc. it would take to perform live), that there are a couple of other factors involved.
When I do a tape composition I have absolutely no excuses. I take complete responsibility for any imperfections in the mix, the sounds themselves, the structure, etc.. It is what it is. I could always wish for more or better, but it is the final product.
When my tape compositions are played back in a concert setting I prefer to be present - and to run the console myself. That way I can hopefully equalize and make subtle level changes to more closely match what the piece sounded like in the original mixing environment, or I can choose to take advantage of special characteristics of a specific venue to enhance or adjust the sound of the piece.
I also often listen to both live and taped music with my eyes closed. In my own music I like to think of taking people out of themselves and into the musical spaces that I create, so that they no longer feel "in the place where they're sitting" but in this kind of virtual world that I've developed. I like to take them on a journey with me if they are willing to come. If people are conscious of their current surroundings it makes it a bit harder to accomplish. Since so much of our perception is visual - I believe it's around 85%, when one closes one's eyes or otherwise has less visual content to contend with, one can focus much more directly on sound.
Of course most of the music we hear is recorded music (electronic music) - from CD's, cassettes, radio and television broadcasts, films, etc..
On the other hand, many of my pieces have a video component. Hopefully the music also stands on its own, but when played with the video people may choose to ignore the video or focus on it...
I have also had the pleasure of collaborating with video artist Ed Tannenbaum, who uses dancers and his digital video processors to create stunning live performance works. I've also had many of my works choreographed by wonderful choreographers/dancers, including Carolyn Brown, Molissa Finley, Marcia Sakamoto, Betsy Kagan, Nancy Bryan, Carla Blank and Jody Roberts and have composed music for film, video, radio and theatre.
When asked about being a recording engineer and composer who happens to be a woman, the only answer I have is that it never even occurred to me that I couldn't be. Naiveness or perseverance.