Ph.D. Colloquium Presentation: Michael J. Schumacher

Ph.D. Colloquium Presentation: Michael J. Schumacher

West Hall Room 118, RPI Campus

April 15, 2009 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM

Michael J. Schumacher is a composer, performer and installation artist based in New York City.

He works predominantly with electronic and digital media, specializing in computer generated sound environments which evolve continuously for long time periods. He imbues these self-creating structures with an abundance of sonic material, resulting in forms that flow through a wide range of moods, timbral combinations and textural densities. In their realization, Schumacher uses multiple speaker configurations which relate the sounds of the installation to the architecture of the exhibition space. Architectural and acoustical considerations thereby become basic structural elements.

Schumacher's sound installations have been heard at Art in General, Apex Art, PS 1, the Queens Museum and The Kitchen and Sculpture Center in New York City, CCNOA in Brussels, the Technical University and Podewil in Berlin, the Museum for Applied Arts in Frankfurt , the Museum of Contemporary Art in Lyon, Triskel Arts Center in Cork, Ireland, Transmissions Festival in Chicago, SFIFEM in Sante Fe, the Waveform Festival in Sydney, Via 7 Festival in Paris, )toon Festival in Haarlem, and others.

Schumacher has composed for traditional instrumentation, including works for solo piano, pieces for a variety of chamber ensembles, song cycles, and two symphonies for full orchestra. He has been commissioned by the pianist Tomas Baechli, HT Chen Dance Company, and the Zeitkratzer Ensemble of Berlin, among others. Schumacher is the composer in residence for Liz Gerring Dance Company, with whom he has worked since 1984.

He is also a guitarist and improviser, and has published three CDs of music for prepared electric guitar, both as soloist and with Donald Miller. With Miller and cellist Charles Curtis, he has released an LP as The Donald Miller Trio.

In November 2002 Schumacher founded the group Strata, with Tim Barnes, percussion, Kato Hideki, bass, Toshio Kajiwara, turntables and Schumacher on piano and electronics. With this group, which has performed at The Kitchen and Merkin Concert Hall in New York, Schumacher has added a live, improvisatory element to his sound installations. The group's premier concert, at Diapason Gallery, lasted six hours. The group has continued to evolve and presented four 6 hour concerts at Diapason in February 2004. Performers included Joan La Barbara, James Fei, Christopher McIntyre, "Blue" Gene Tyranny and Peter Zummo.

As a pianist he has given solo piano concerts of  his  own music, as well as the music of La Monte Young, Terry Jennings  and Morton Feldman. He has performed with cellist Charles Curtis and guitarist Donald Miller, with David First,  Phill Niblock, Dean Roberts, Matt Rogalsky, with the pianist Tomas Baechli and poet Bruce Andrews.

In November 2002, Schumacher was asked to compose a work for the only fully-functional "Neo-Bechstein", the world's first electric piano, manufactured by Telefunken and Bechstein in 1929. He performed this work at the Kryptonal festival in Berlin, and an interview of Schumacher discussing and performing excerpts of the work was presented on German and French television.

Schumacher has been a close associate of the ground breaking composer La Monte Young since 1989 and has worked as a producer of events at the Dream House, Young's and Marian Zazeela's installation space in Tribeca. In this capacity he has produced concerts of classical Indian music as well as sound installations and concerts of contemporary music by composers associated with Young, such as Terry Jennings and Richard Maxfield. He has also worked as technical director of the Dream House and as a recording engineer at Dream House events.

Since 1996, Schumacher has pioneered, first at his downtown gallery Studio Five Beekman and, since 2000, at Diapason Gallery located in midtown, sound art in New York City, by giving over 100 artists the opportunity to present, in environments with high quality multi-channel sound systems and free of outside noise, cutting edge installations with sound as their focus. He has produced premieres by David Behrman, David First, Tetsu Inoue, Ron Kuivila, Steve Roden, Marina Rosenfeld and Stephen Vitiello, to name a few. A complete listing of past presentations and upcoming events is viewable online at http://www.diapasongallery.org/.

In August 2001, Schumacher was asked by Jack Weisberg to help further develop the sound gallery Engine 27 in Tribeca, which Weisberg created in 1999. Schumacher was an instrumental part of Engine 27 until it closed in 2003, working as a programmer to help composers realize their works, curating programs, and performing his own pieces. With Joseph Kubera, Schumacher created a computer-generated realization of John Cage's Variations VI for "multiple sound systems" using other Cage's compositions as source material, including recordings of Etudes Australis by Kubera, One8 by Charles Curtis, Radio Music, Cartridge Music, etc.

Since September 2003 Schumacher has worked closely with Charles Morrow, developing ideas for the production and distribution of multi-channel sound works. The Morrow Sound Cube™ is a portable ambisonic system comprising at least 8 speakers positioned symmetrically around the listener. Morrow and Schumacher are commissioning new works for the Sound Cube and plan to tour the collection in museums and galleries in Europe and the United States. The Sound Cube was a major part of the Kitchen's "New Sounds New York" festival which occurred in Spring of 2004.

Schumacher founded "Sustento", a publishing company for multi-channel sound, in December 2003. Sustento installs collections of multi-channel sound works in people's homes. For this project, Schumacher is working with numerous composers, including Richard Chartier, Bernhard Günter, Ronald Kuivila, Kaffe Matthews, Phill Niblock, Eliane Radigue, Steve Roden, and others.

Schumacher is a frequent collaborator with the video artist Ursula Scherrer, with whom he founded Studio Five Beekman. Their works have appeared in many festivals, including Media Test Wall at MIT in Cambridge, the Dissonanze in Rome, the 9e Biennale de l'Image en Movement in Geneva, and the BAC 36 Int'l Film and Video Festival at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

Schumacher has published six solo CDs, a duo CD with Donald Miller, and an LP with Miller and Charles Curtis. He is on the Sub Rosa anthology of noise and electronic music and the lower case 2002 compilation, as well as on an LP of remixes of music by Oren Ambarchi on the Staubgold label. Schumacher's CD "Room Pieces", on the XI label, was rated best of 2003 for "modern composition" by The Wire magazine.

Schumacher has lectured at Bard College, The New School, The School for Visual Arts and Juilliard. He taught electronic music at the Center for Media Arts in New York City in the mid 1980s. He has taught piano, composition, theory and ear training privately since 1983. He currently teaches at Polytechnic University in Brooklyn.

Schumacher was awarded the prestigious Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts Grant in 2001. He has also received awards and residencies from NYFA, Harvestworks, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Meet the Composer and others. Schumacher has degrees in music composition from Indiana University, where he won the composition prize in 1982, and the Juilliard School, where he earned the doctorate in 1988. His teachers have been Stanley Applebaum, Seymour Bernstein, Bernhard Heiden, John Eaton, John Ogden, Shigeo Neriki, La Monte Young and Vincent Persichetti. Born in 1961 in Washington, DC, he has lived in New York since 1983. 

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