Stephen Vitiello

Stephen Vitiello is an internationally known electronic musician and sound artist, and professor here at VCU’s Department of Kinetic Imaging.

1. You buy a new album, describe your routine and experience of its first listening.

In all honesty, the moment you describe is less precious now than it would have been when I was younger. 15 years-20 years ago, I’d come home with a new CD by Throwing Muses or Fred Frith (or …) wait until my apartment was empty and listening all the way through on a decent pair of speakers and with the attention one would give to watching a movie. Now, with compressed time and compressed space, there are certainly releases I look forward to but more often than not, they’re downloaded, listened to on nice headphones at night after the family is asleep and hopefully heard most of the way through without distraction.

2. On subsequent listens to that same record, which aspects of the music do you focus your listening on. does this change over time? how?

I tend to start with the experience of overall impact and then on subsequent listens, I might  pay more attention to details of production, performance… words if there are lyrics. I guess it’s like going from an establishing shot to closeups. Depending on my state of mind or interest of the moment, I might really notice production details such as reverb or panning or issues of time and development.

3. If you could choose your favorite listening environment, what would it be? what draws you to that place to hear the music you’re listening too?

If we’re not just talking about listening to recorded music than I’d say outdoors in a quiet field at night or in the very early morning. In the last year and a half, I’ve been out to Mountain Lake Biological Station in Pembroke, VA on 4 occasions. It’s in the mountains and fairly removed from traffic and somewhat removed from air traffic. To be out by the pond at night when the mist is coming in and the frogs are making their sounds and there’s a shimmer of insect activity is as close to heaven or at least a real feeling of calm and immersion as it gets for me.

4. How does one make their listening listened to?

I mostly hope to achieve this in installation environments. Setting lighting in a space, comfortable seating, establishing a volume level and a speaker system that works well with the material are all important. Also, removing or minimizing visual distractions is vital –  so that it is clear that in the work I’m presenting, sound is primary and not secondary to any sort of visual content. As I re-read these responses, it seems I’m hoping to create a space for the installations that goes back to what I used to create for myself when listening to a new record for the first time.

pictures from Vitiello’s recent installation at Virginia Tech’s 145-channel Cube space. more info



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