On Sunday, Oct. 21, Doris Duke Theatre will transform into an ambient mood room, thanks to the work of Vancouver-based loscil, aka Scott Morgan.
Morgan is slated to perform a deep-listening concert called Loscil in Concert and made up of sounds he gathers from a week-long “field study” on the Honolulu Printmakers studio as an artist in residence. The concert is a part of the sound()print series, which is “programming by the Honolulu Printmakers that considers the relationship between sound and print and seeks to position print culture as a vehicle for intermedia exchange and collaboration.” Morgan is one of two visiting artists for the series.
We caught up with Morgan before his arrival in Honolulu to learn more about him, both as Morgan and loscil, and his upcoming show.
Tell me a little about your background and how you came up with the name loscil.
As a youth I played guitar, drums and saxophone in various bands, which lead me to pursue a degree in music. My bachelor’s degree from Simon Fraser University is in music and communications. I studied music composition but also sound theory, which lead to many years as a sound designer in multimedia and video games. About 18 years ago, I created loscil as an electronic music project and have since released about a dozen records under that name. The name loscil is actually taken from a computer music programming language called C-sound. This program has its roots in the early computer music research done at Bell labs by Max Mathews in the 1960’s. The function called ‘loscil’ is a looping oscillator. I liked this as a name for the project because it sums up everything about electronic music—looping and oscillating—and it also has this connection to the history of computer music.
How did you get involved with the Honolulu Printmakers and this sound()print project?
Duncan Dempster from Honolulu Printmakers reached out to me some time ago to inform me about the series and invite me to apply. I put together an application to perform what I call a “field study” at the Printmakers’ studio. I like to work with sound recordings from specific environments and transform them into music so this seemed like an interesting opportunity to interface with printmaking and the possible sonic qualities of the art form, its tools, environment, individuals, etc. Add to that, I am also very interested in the visual representations of sound and have previously worked with printmakers to create phonautograms or “pictures of sound.”
What do you want guests to gain from attending your deep-listening concert? Alternatively, what should guests expect from your concert in terms of experiencing ambient music maybe for the first time?
What I hope is for listeners to get lost in the soundscapes and environments I’m presenting. Active listening can be a very rewarding experience for those willing to approach it with open ears and an open mind. As for expectations, my live shows are not the same as traditional musical performances. I use electronic instruments and controllers to loop, mix and play sounds. I also present the sounds with projected video. It works more like an improvised movie with an improvised soundtrack built out of the sounds and images I’ve collected and transformed in the studio. I like to think of the performance like an abstract, poetic journey with subtle shifts in emotion—a river of sounds and images.
Who are some artists who influence you?
There are so many. My earliest influences were bands like The Velvet Underground that came out of a kind of art-rock world but I also studied a lot of modern classical music like Steve Reich, Philip Glass, etc. Growing out of this, the early ambient pioneers like Brian Eno and Harold Budd. The deep listening reference comes from Pauline Oliveros—also an influence. I had the privilege to study Indonesian Gamelan for a couple years which was incredibly inspiring. Then, of course, 90s electronic music such as The Orb and Aphex Twin. This is really the tip of the iceberg and I’m always finding new artists that inspire me. I am a big lover of many types of music and find inspiration in a plethora of other art forms as well such as film, painting, dance, graphic design, etc.
What are you looking forward to with this residence?
I really look forward to just being open to the experience and seeing where it goes. This is a very special opportunity and it gives me the chance to use my eyes and ears to experience Honolulu Printmakers and O‘ahu in general in a unique way. I haven’t been to Hawai‘i in over 35 years and have certainly never visited as an artist. I hope to learn as much as possible about the print studio, the city, the island and the culture through my practice and hopefully also leave a little of myself behind.