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Three States of Trance: Terre Thaemlitz
- Judson Kilpatrick

In New Review, Vol. 1, No.1, Winter 1996.


When Ambient musician Terre Thaemlitz came to New York to study painting, he was disappointed by the politics of the gallery scene. As Thaemlitz recalls, he turned to deejaying "as something that was immediately social. I'm still kind of working on this idea of audio as a social thing that is always one element of a larger environment which includes visual stimuli, etc."

His approach to sound is often graphic. "I put a lot of emphasis on structure. When I was painting I was into staunch minimalism - the materiality of the object itself was the focus, as opposed to an illusion or metaphor of space or physicality. This was an attempt to make the viewer aware of my constructive processes, and their interpretive processes, as social events, rather than allowing the paintings to exist is some apolitical and metaphysical reams of 'high art.'

"I try to do this with music as well, but it's different. People have a much more intense relationship to recorded sound - it often constitutes a large part of a person's sense of identity and permeates all areas of their lives, which makes it more difficult to [abstract] the 'personal' into the 'political.'"

Thaemlitz's latest music (Soil on Instinct) may seem minimalist, but each composition stems from a solid concept. For instance, "The idea of 'Elevatorium' was of elevator music as something canned and over-processed, and the idea of how sound functions in a larger environment - either an enclosed environment such as an auditorium, or just socially as a whole. You're continually barraged by this over-processing of sound that's packaged and presented to you, but the way it's presented to you gets overwrought by context, such as somebody driving by in a Jeep playing something, or hearing the radio from the bodega down the street. All of these are things which people put time into packaging and presenting to you sonically, and, at the same time, it's just being totally overwritten by all these conflicting environmental circumstances."

In a way, this artist has come full-circle to the portrayals of a painter, but with different tools: "Whether it's a representation of a mathematical formula like a sine wave, or whether it's a representation of some acoustic instrument, everything digital is always a representation." (JK)