Amy X Neuburg
By Paul Snyder
The audience at the Milwaukee Art Museum on January 7 will probably have no idea what to expect of Amy X Neuburg�s performance. That�s okay. She doesn�t either.
�I�m very nervous,� she says. �But I thrive on that.�
That evening, �The Metaphor,� a piece written by Neuburg for chamber ensemble, voice and live looping electronics, and commissioned and performed by Present Music, will have its national debut.
The technology and looping, of course, pose no fears in the author. After all, she�s made a name for herself in the electronic music genre (though she prefers to call her stylings �avant-cabaret� ). Her solo live performances feature Neuburg and a stack of computers, building voice layer upon voice layer to create fully dimensional songs.
The challenge with �The Metaphor� is going to be implementing this solo predilection for looping into an ensemble act. Now on top of countless loops of Neuburg, there will be countless loops of each individual player in the ensemble as well. Daunting as it sounds, she�s up for it.
�It�s something new for me,� she says. �And I like that. I always want to challenge myself, and the ensemble asked me to compose this piece for them. There�s going to be a lot of high-tech sounds in addition to solo live-looping, but the thing with this is to get everyone looped simultaneously. When you can achieve that, six players end up sounding completely different. It�s immense.�
�I notate everything,� she says. �Which is difficult sometimes, because I majored in voice, not composition, but you have to be so precise for the benefit of the other musicians. It�s not just a matter of starting a loop and stopping it � I write out exactly what I�m going to be doing.�
A classically trained singer with a near four-octave vocal range, Neuburg received undergraduate degrees from Oberlin Conservatory (voice) and Oberlin College (linguistics), and an M.F.A. in Electronic Music from Mills College CCM. She started her professional music career as a member of the musical-theater group MAP, and then moved on to drumming for Amy X Neuburg & Men.
Her last solo release, 2004�s Residue (Other Minds), received positive critical response. While Neuburg will incorporate some of her solo material into the show on the 7th, she says her new kick is working as a collaborator again, composing for ensembles.
In addition to the Milwaukee performance, Neuburg also ventured to New York in December for a performance with three cellists. In March, she�ll take the spotlight at the San Francisco Jewish Music Festival where she�ll perform a piece she was commissioned to compose that merges looping electronics with a female vocal sextet.
One has to wonder where a musician like this gets her influence. Neuburg said the community around her home in California�s Bay area has played a big part in her development, as well as the experimental scene happening in New York. She�s thoughtful when considering what other particular artists inspire her.
�Hmm, that�s a good question,� she says. �I enjoyed XTC. I think they made a lot of interesting and experimental pop music. I also liked Kate Bush. As far as what I�m listening to now? I�m actually listening to some music from Scandinavian countries, which is really interesting � it blends these traditional folk songs with a punk kind of thing.�
Neuburg says she�s most attuned to the �interesting� element in music. The stuff that goes beyond the simple, four-chord pop and stretches into complex and intriguing pieces. She adds that the question of how good an artist is goes far beyond their technical abilities.
�There�s a lot to music,� she says. �On one hand, there�s the question of how well you play it and all the technical aspects of it. But on the other, you have to take into account stamina, stage presence, sensitivity and the ability to work with other people, which all mean so much to me.�
And she�s aiming to convey all of it when she takes the stage at the Milwaukee Art Museum. As exciting as it is for her, the Californian artist concedes some reservations about touching down in the Midwest in the thick of winter.
�I don�t know how excited I am to be playing Milwaukee in January,� she laughs. �I just hope everyone will brave the cold to come out and see me.�
Well, she braved the cold to come out and see us� VS