Beloved by his fans as DJ Spooky, Paul D. Miller brings the world premiere of a serious new work to the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center December 4 for one night only, "Peace Symphony," a ground-breaking piece that commemorates the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
by Tom Baker, Chair, Music Department
Paul D. Miller has carved himself an important niche in popular music as DJ Spooky, a "turntablist" and experimental artist whose work has transcended hip-hop, admired as "trip-hop." But Miller's work transcends popular music as well, and beyond that, goes on to transcend music itself. He is a writer, an editor, a producer, an educator and a philosopher. On December 4, his new work, Peace Symphony: 8 Stories, will receive its world premiere at the Cornish Playhouse, for one performance only. Miller. Miller was inspired by the everyday stories of the last remaining survivors of the nuclear bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and chose this year, the 70th anniversary of the destruction, to premiere the work.
I have been using the book Sound Unbound, of which Paul D. Miller is the editor, as an unofficial textbook in many of my classes here in the music department at Cornish College — classes in music theory, foundations of electronic music, live-electronics, and so forth. It is a fascinating and enlightening collection of essays and ideas. In his essay, "In through the Out Door," Paul has a great line: "There's always a rhythm to the space between things. Pause, hold the thought, check the moment. Repeat. Wait. There it goes again. Another thought, another pause in the stream of conscious in another abstraction - the reader, the listener. Speak these words out loud, and the same logic applies - there's always a rhythm to the space between things". I find this quote to have profound implications not only for the essay, but perhaps metaphorically for his work in general. It’s a great jumping off place for our interview.
Tom Baker: First of all, how in the world do you find the time for all that you do as a creative artist? And secondly, do you find the time to notice the rhythm of the space between things with what must be an incredibly busy life?
Paul D. Miller: I would say everyone is feeling that they never have enough time in the 21st century. For me, music, art, and literature are all simply reflections of the same creative impulse. It's a core issue in the 21st Century. Capitalism forces our attention span to be framed by the huge array of commercial advertising that inundate us. I guess you could say that I use my art and compositions to create more time and space to think about all the issues facing us, and distill it all in one form. Music is the language we all speak.
TB: This new piece, Peace Symphony, draws on a dramatic and profoundly disturbing time in world history. I know that you were artist-in-residence for Peace Boat (an international non-governmental and non-profit organization that works to promote peace, human rights, equal and sustainable development and respect for the environment). Was that experience an inspiration for this piece?
PDM: Japan and Germany took radically different routes after World War 2. Japan has an amazing group of peace activists and so does Germany, but Japan has a very different relationship to its collective memory of the war. I wanted to talk about memory with the survivors to see what could be done with their story. It's a story we Americans never get a chance to actually hear. That's what this project bears witness to: it has to be about purple to people shared experiences. Anything else is government propaganda. I try make this as much about humanity as possible.
TB: Your work encompasses so many disparate pathways, thought there always seems to be singular vision at play, even in the midst of intertwined collaboration. How do you reconcile these diverse adventures and creative work into an aesthetic focus?
PDM: Inter-disciplinary art is the legacy of some of my favorite composers - from John Cage on one hand and Nam June Paik on the other. Aesthetics in the 21st century is one of the most complex forces because it encompasses everything about what it means to be a creative person in this Era. DJ culture is a kind of template because it's always about searching for new ways to reconsider history. That's what a good mix does. It gives you a good idea of what is possible.