Annie Gosfield

My compositions often explore the inherent beauty of non-musical sounds, and are inspired by diverse sources such as machines, destroyed pianos, warped 78 records, and detuned radios. Incorporating these sounds in my music is as natural as choosing a pitch set or creating a rhythmic figure. It simply means working with a broader palette of sounds and a deeper pool of influences. I consider these sounds “equal partners” with more traditional musical materials, and strive to bring these non-musical sounds into a new context that will emphasize the hidden beauty in our sonic environment. If there is any single message that I want to convey to the listener, it is to pay attention to all sounds, without dividing the world into separate categories of music and noise.

My life as a composer has been balanced between writing for my own group (combining notated pieces, loosely structured compositions, and improvisation) and writing more traditionally notated works for others. Many of my pieces combine electronic and acoustic elements, and incorporate both notation and improvisation. Shifting between composing for my own ensemble and writing for others has forced me to consider the challenge of creating carefully crafted, unified work in any context, and has compelled me to think beyond the mechanics of communicating merely which notes to play.

Being active as a composer/performer has led me to explore a more performative approach to electronic music. As a pianist, I find it critical to maintain a physical, visceral connection with my instrument. Using a keyboard-controlled sampler has allowed me to make use of my piano technique while accessing a wide range of non-traditional sounds. Updating from a hardware sampler to a computer-controlled keyboard has given me even more freedom to sculpt music that combines acoustic and electronic sources, yet gives the keyboardist (whether I am writing for myself or somebody else) a dynamic role as a performer.

Improvisation has taught me to consider all musical possibilities, and has given me a much freer mindset in composing. Individual musicians are a great source of inspiration as well. I love to work closely with performers and draw on their knowledge and personal experience, making composition a dynamic, collaborative process. Much of my work incorporates microtonality: instead of striving for perfect intervals, I use almost-unisons and microtonal scordatura to enrich the harmonic palette, which creates an unpredictable (and often detuned) harmonic framework.

I look forward to a lifetime’s work of integrating these diverse influences, as I seek to further refine, balance, and breathe life into my music. In recent work I’ve been reconsidering the great struggle in negotiating the fine line between music and noise. Simple as it sounds, it is always a challenge to work with melody, rhythm, and emotion while developing new sounds. I sift through the influences of everyday life, striving to create music that best expresses my artistic vision, always looking for the one perfect solution that completes each individual piece.

-June, 2007, New York City (revised 2013)