THE INSIDE STORY: Ted Coffey and WORKS FOR DANCE

Ted Coffey makes acoustic and electronic music, sound installations, and songs. His work has been presented in concerts and festivals across North America, Europe, and Asia, at such venues as Judson Church, The Knitting Factory, Roulette, Symphony Space, and Lincoln Center (NYC), The Lab, New Langton Arts, Zellerbach Hall, and The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (SF), Wolf Trap and The Kennedy Center (DC), the Korean National University of the Arts (Seoul), The Carre Theatre (Amsterdam), and ZKM (Karlsruhe, Germany). He studied composition with Jon Appleton, Christian Wolff, Pauline Oliveros, and Paul Lansky, among others, receiving degrees in music from Dartmouth (AB), Mills College (MFA), and Princeton (MFA, PhD).

Since 2011, Ted has collaborated with the Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Dance Company on several projects, including the evening-length work Story/Time, which he toured widely with the Company. Other dance projects include works made with Abigail Levine, Paul Matteson, and Jennifer Nugent. Ted is active in national and international academic communities associated with music and technology, and currently serves as President of the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States (SEAMUS). His writings on aesthetics and politics in the performing arts have been honored with significant awards from the Josephine De Kármán and Andrew C. Mellon Foundations. Recordings of his work are available on the Ellipsis Arts, Everglade, Innova, Audition Records, SEAMUS, crackletimesfavor, EcoSono, and Ravello labels. Ted is currently a College Fellow and Associate Professor in Composition and Computer Technologies at the University of Virginia, where he teaches courses in composition, music technologies, music aesthetics, and pop.

Today, Ted is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. Read on to learn where to listen in WORKS FOR DANCE to find Ted’s favorite moment on the album…

Who were your first favorite artists growing up?

Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, Thelonious Monk, Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone, Morton Feldman, Elaine Radigue, J Dilla, John Fahey, Mississippi John Hurt.

When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?

When I realized that even as a beginner you can participate in a conversation with any and all art-makers, anywhere, now and across time. About the same time I realized I had zero interest in money or anything like that. So, making music without melody, without a beat, &c., was a perfect place to merge that grandiosity and lack of ambition.

What is your guilty pleasure?

The ramen noodle. The American Experimental tradition.

What is your favorite musical moment on the album?

One Note Solo at 7’20”.

What does this album mean to you personally?

It’s an excellent way to acknowledge how lucky I am to work with people I love and respect — Abigail Levine, Bill T. Jones, Jennifer Hoyt Tidwell, Jennifer Nugent, Paul Matteson.

Is there a specific feeling in this work that you would like communicated to audiences?

The album has a wide range, but I hope one consistent thing is a pretty intense quality of attention, being invested in what’s happening at every moment. I’m into a way of working that’s labor intensive by design — a lot of things done by hand, and a lot of material getting thrown out along the way. The sound is about as specific as I can make it, both sonics and instrumentation. I’m very concerned about the seams — all the rhythms and dissolves that take place between things. In fact, a lot of this album is just one seam after another, a kind of music of seams. At other times, though, it’s more reduced and monochrome, maybe even a little too patient. And there’s not a lot in between — the logic is switch rather than fader, forms are terraced. The aim is to make something strange, lovely, funny, refined, quiet, excessive — contradictory, but not untrue. In search of, as Monk says, “the right wrong notes.” And danceable, of course!

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WORKS FOR DANCE will be available through Ravello Records for streaming or purchase on November 9. Click here to pre-order.

 

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