Interview: Carl Stone


Conducted by Michael Cupoli

Carl Stone is an American composer who has had a long and interesting career in music. At CalArts, he studied composition with the great composers Morton Subotnick and James Tenney. He got involved with computer music early on and started doing live performances with computers in the 1980\’s. For his compositions, Carl Stone has won a number of awards such as the Freeman Award and he has been commissioned to compose by a lot of different organizations such as The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Over the years, Carl Stone has been doing performances in a number of different countries and he is coming to China to do several performances. Carl Stone will be performing in Beijing, December 10th at Dada and in Shanghai, December 11th at Yuncai Cafe. Before his trip here I shot him a few questions:


You have had quite an interesting career in music. How would you describe it to someone that is new to your music?

Well I\’m a computer based musician who uses sampling as my sound resource. I frequently use minimalist techniques like repetition but I don\’t consider myself a minimalist. I often start with pre-existing musical material which might be familiar or not, and then bend, contort, pulverize, shatter and otherwise break it into something new.


What kind of software do you use for sampling? Anything that you designed yourself?

I build my own software using a programming language called MAX. Very flexible because I can construct programs to do exactly whatever tweeky thing I want. And lately I\’ve been using MAX in combination with Ableton Live.


Do you use an external hardware along with the computer?

The original materials are either recorded by me using hand held digital recorders or ripped from the usual media sources like CDs, MP3 etc. And I also do live sampling when playing with other musicians, feeding their sounds into my great giant sampling maw.


How did you get interested in making sampled based/computer music so early on?

That\’s an interesting story. Rather than type it out here can I just send you a link? Here\’s a concise version contained in a feature that the la times wrote –

How your music evolved over the years? Has the advancement of technology and its capabilities played a role in the way you compose?

It\’s made it a lot easier to compose and to perform. As technology has evolved, everything is faster, cheaper (and as Erroll Morris might say, \’out of control\’). So the $100,000 studio that took up an entire room when I was a student at CalArts can be recreated on a laptop with software like MAX pro tools and a few plug ins. Or even an iPad app. So we can compose on planes or trains or while waiting for the dentist.


In the LA Times article, it mentions you sampled Britney Spears. Why that song? Are you a fan of her music?

Not particularly. No. Simply put I wanted to take something deeply ingrained in popular consciousness, a hit song, and change it into something new and strange, while keeping the outer shape and form



So how do you divide your time between LA and Tokyo?

I\’m in Japan about 9 months out of the year, but in winter and summer I move my base camp to LA, and use it as a jumping off point when touring in the US or in Europe.


Is this your first time to tour China?

CS: No. First time was 2008, invited by Yao Dajuin for a festival in Shanghai. A small clip can be found on YouTube. Also 2009, invited by Yan Jun. And 2013 invited for a festival by Mu Qian and Leon Lee.

How were the previous performances here received?

I felt pretty good and I guess other people did too, insofar as I find myself invited back each time.


How will your performances in Beijing and Shanghai be different/similar to your previous performances here?

Well these will probably be a little louder and a little noisier, because that\’s just how my ears are working these days. But the basic setup is the same, me and my trusty laptop in sampling psychosis.


Catch Carl Stone this Thursday at Dada !!!

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