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15 Questions to Jon Mueller

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Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Great! Back home in Milwaukee, WI after the tour with Jason Kahn.

What’s on your schedule right now?
I’m working on finishing my next record, which ended up including a few others – James Plotkin, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Dan Burke, Jim Schoenecker, and Marcus Schmickler. It took a long time to complete, almost a year, but it’s nearly finished. It’s a multiple format release, called “Physical Changes” and will be out next year on Radium/Table of the Elements.

How would you describe and rate the music scene of the country you are currently living in?
It is what it is. There’s all kinds of stuff going on. I’m constantly surprised by all the different things I find, and people doing interesting things with old and new instruments.

Do you see yourself as part of a certain tradition or as part of a movement?
Well, I play the drums, and I’m curious about what I can do with them, to find all the sounds their capable of. Sometimes that involves me playing them, and other times it involves me putting them in different situations so that I can listen and discover what’s there. When experiencing sound, it’s hard to associate it with a tradition or movement. That usually is done by people looking at it from the outside.

What, would you say, are the factors of your creativity? What stimulates you to write music?
Mostly, it’s the desire to do something. To make something that I can find enjoyment in.

How would you describe your method of composing?
In some ways it’s not so specific – as in notation. But in other ways it’s very specific. Essentially, I work on things until I find they either capture what I was hoping to hear, or it’s so far removed that it has become its own thing, and that’s pretty satisfying, too.

In which way, would you say, is your cultural background reflected in your work?
I’m not sure. I guess I am influenced by the things and music I was raised with, that my parents introduced me too, that were popular or familiar things with the culture I live in. Beyond that, it’s really about the instrument for me, not so much a culture or tradition.

How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?
Sound is a material that can be used to compose, like charcoal for drawing.

How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
There is plenty of room for both.

What does the term „new“ mean to you in connection with music?
It doesn’t seem so relevant today. People think there is not so much new any more. But still, people have great experiences with sound everyday, so maybe we’re getting beyond the labels and terms and simply enjoying listening.

Do you personally enjoy multimedia as an enrichment or do you feel that it is leading away from the essence of what you want to achieve?
That’s a good question. I think there are times when more can be added to a presentation – concert or otherwise, but sometimes it’s done unnecessarily. It really depends on someone’s ideas, and whether they choose to add multimedia, or not, the success lies in how well the ideas they choose to work with are communicated to the audience.

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?
As an audience member, it’s good when I feel like the sound really affected me in a way that it was much larger than those performing. That’s what I strive for as a performer – to do what I can to enable the sounds I’m working with to come across in a way that don’t have so much to do with ‘me’, but that take over the space we’re in and surprise everyone there.

How, would you say, could non-mainstream forms of music reach wider audiences without sacrificing their soul?
This is not the music’s responsibility. It is people’s responsibility to experience what’s around them. If they choose not too, there is nothing the music can do about this.

You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
I would work at finding different ways to present the music - different environments and then bring in people that could do something interesting in these places. I could go on about this for a long time. Too long for this interview!

Many artists dream of a “magnum opus”. Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?
In a way, that’s sort of how I feel about “Physical Changes.” But I also know that I’ve started a direction I must continue on, so I can’t really imagine this being the “magnum opus.” There’s a long way to go.

Picture by Kat Berger

Pianobread - S/T (Crouton) 1999
Raccoons (Rammel/Mueller/Rosenau) (Crouton) 2000
Castle Broadway – S/T (Soutrane Recording Company) 2000
Field Of Sound – S/T (Soutrane Recording Company) 2000
Lancaster, Byard Trio – (Soutrane Recording Company) 2000
Nelson-Raney, Steve/Jon Mueller – Cutting Off The Edge Of Time (Penumbra Music) 2001
Aranos/Mueller/Rosenau - Bleeding In Behind Pastel Screens (Crouton) 2001
Folktales No. 2 – “How I Learned To Breathe” (Crouton) 2001
Raccoons – Mother (Crouton) 2002
Asmus Tietchens/Jon Mueller – 7 Stücke (Auf Abwegen) 2003
Hat Melter (Hess/Klatt/Mueller/Turner) – Unknown Album (Crouton) 2003
Jon Mueller/Bhob Rainey/Jim Schoenecker – S/T (Crouton) 2004
Jason Kahn and Jon Mueller – Papercuts (Crouton) 2004
Jon Mueller and Jim Schoenecker – The Interview CD, (Longbox) 2004
Jon Mueller and Kaveh Soofi – Endings book (Crouton) 2004
Jon Mueller – What’s Lost Is Something Important. What’s Found Is Something Not Revealed (Crouton) 2005
Jon Mueller – Emerson Hi-Fidelity (Autumn Records) 2005
Carol Genetti/Jon Mueller/Jack Wright – Nom Tom (Spring Garden Music) 2005
The Portable Quartet – Take The Train (Crouton) 2005
Werner Moebius/Jon Mueller/Jim Schoenecker – Amalgam (Utech Records) 2006
Jason Kahn/Jon Mueller – Supershells (Formed Records) 2006
MOUTHS – 1v2e (Entr’acte) 2006
Tim Catlin/Jon Mueller – Plates and Wires (Crouton) 2007
Jeph Jerman and Jon Mueller - Nodes and Anti-Nodes (Crouton) 2007
Jon Mueller - Metals (Table of the Elements) 2008
Jon Mueller - Hollow Voices/Singing Hands (Friends and Relatives) 2008
Rhys Chatham - Guitar Trio is My Life (Radium) 2008
Melissa St. Pierre - Specimens (Radium) 2008
Jon Mueller and Jason Kahn - Topography (Xeric/Crouton) 2008
Jon Mueller - Strung (Table of the Elements) 2008
MOUTHS - 3v1/3v2 (Absurd) 2008
Jon Mueller - Physical Changes (Radium/Table of the Elements) 2009

Jon Mueller

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