Kaiser’s solo performance was “a manic, hallucinogenic joyride through time, space and tonal distortions. He took some of the extended techniques of Lester Bowie and Bill Dixon, and stretched them past the breaking point. He would bend a note, transpose it to an impossible octave, and then send it spinning around the room like a remote-control airplane…He’d sample a phrase and distort it beyond recognition, causing it to ricochet around the space in pink and white noise reiterations. Kaiser’s set was unbelievably creative…” —AllAboutJazz.com
Jeff Kaiser is a trumpet player, composer, conductor, music technologist and scholar currently living in San Diego, California. Classically trained as a trumpet player, Kaiser now views his traditional instrument as hybrid with new technology (in the form of software and hardware interfaces) that he creates for his dynamic and adventurous performances and recordings. He gains inspiration and ideas from the intersections of experimental composition and improvisation and the timbral and formal affordances provided by combining traditional instruments with emerging technologies. The roots of his music are firmly in the experimental traditions within jazz, improvised and Western art music practices. Kaiser considers his art audio-centric, but he also works with live video, tracking and interactive technologies. He currently is the instructor of a variety of classes (including ethnomusicology, interactive arts technology and digital audio composition, among others) at the University of San Diego and Mira Costa College. Kaiser is currently in the working group for digital humanities and is helping to develop the arts entrepreneurship minor at the University of San Diego. He is the former Director of Development for the Center for World Music.
Embracing the idea of being an artist/scholar, Kaiser completed a Ph.D. in Integrative Studies (music), at the University of California San Diego. His current book project is Improvising Technology: Configuring Identities and Interfaces in Contemporary Electro-Acoustic Music. This work provides an ethnographic examination of contemporary musicians who use new, repurposed and reinvented electronic technologies, along with a critical examination of how these musicians conceptualize their practice. In this research project he examines changing notions of agency, instruments and virtuosity, and how artists, audiences and critics construct what is valuable and desirable in these emerging fields. He conducted approximately thirty interviews with notable artists/technologists including guitarist Nels Cline of Wilco, Peruvian (now New York-based) avant-garde turntable performer Maria Chavez, trumpeter and composer Wadada Leo Smith, and Robert Henke, one of the original authors of the immensely popular software package Ableton Live. Beyond mere documentation of how these creative individuals configure technologies for their own purposes, the manuscript highlights how technologies can also configure musicians and musical communities by affording specific ways of creating sonic and social value. It is his goal to edit the video interviews into an accompanying documentary.
Kaiser lectures and leads classes that range from 250 students to small seminars, including Blues: An Oral Tradition, Music of Africa and the Diaspora, Interactive Arts Programming, Interactive Digital Music and Art, Digital Audio Composition, American Music, History of Rock and Roll and Fundamentals of Music Theory, as well as gives private instruction in trumpet, technology, composition and more. He was also the instructor for a graduate seminar on music technology at UC Irvine for the Integrated Composition, Improvisation and Technology program. Kaiser has taught master classes, led seminars, and been an invited guest lecturer at numerous universities and colleges, including visiting artist/lecturer positions at Roosevelt University (Chicago, Illinois), California Institute of the Arts (Valencia, CA), the University of Gothenburg (Gothenburg, Sweden), University of Wisconsin-Madison and California Lutheran University (Thousand Oaks, CA). He has taught workshops at various other locations including the Museum of Contemporary Art (San Diego, CA).
In addition to his Ph.D., Kaiser holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Composition from Westmont College and a Master of Music in Choral and Orchestral Conducting from Azusa Pacific University.
Creative Music Promotion:
Kaiser is the founder and director of the critically acclaimed pfMENTUM music label. pfMENTUM has released near one-hundred full-length recordings, focusing on music that falls between-the-cracks of genres, from the avant-blues of The Mentones, free-jazz/rock of pianist/organist Wayne Peet (with Nels Cline and G.E. Stinson), experimental vocalist Bonnie Barnett, and Kaiser’s own projects from his large ensemble (with and without choir), electro-acoustic duos, trios and more. He has also started a second label to focus on experimental popular music: Angry Vegan Records.
A tireless promoter of creative and experimental music, Kaiser was the founder and director of the internationally acclaimed Ventura New Music Concert Series (1990-2007) featuring regional, national and international creative artists. He currently is working on a festival he founded, the San Diego Experimental Arts Festival (sdxarts.org). Kaiser has also been involved as a consultant, administrator and director with other festivals, concerts, series and events.
Performer, Composer, Conductor:
Kaiser’s music is documented on over twenty-five full-length recordings and he has performed at prestigious events such as the Vision Festival and the Festival of New Trumpet in New York City, the grand opening of the REDCAT Theater at Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, as well as at concert halls, clubs and art galleries in Germany, England, The Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, Mexico and throughout the United States. He composes music for a variety of ensembles—from large to small, instrumental to vocal, acoustic to electronic—employing a hybrid notation of traditional and graphic elements. His large ensemble, The Jeff Kaiser Ockodektet, is a twenty-three piece group that includes brass, percussion, strings, woodwinds, as well as Theremin, modular analog synth with laptop, heavily electronically effected and prepared contrabass guitar and, on occasion, choir. A recent performance of the Ockodektet was selected as the jazz concert of the year in the San Diego Reader.
As a composer/performer, he has received numerous awards, grants and commissions for works including choral music with electronics, a large-scale multi-building improvisation-based electro-acoustic work, several chamber operas, an oratorio, a video/music installation in a decommissioned women’s prison and performances on television and film scores. Commissions include the Ojai Camerata and California Lutheran University, to name a few. He is a fourteen-time recipient of the Individual Artist Fellowship from the City of Ventura, a three-time recipient of the Forum of the Arts Grant administered by the Ventura County Museum of History and Art, several Subito grants, fifteen ASCAP Plus Awards and more.
Jeff is a former music director for the Ojai Camerata, a vocal ensemble specializing in early and contemporary music and is one of the founding members of the Los Angeles Trumpet Quartet.
Kaiser has a wide-ranging background as an interdisciplinary creative practitioner who develops and employs software and hardware interfaces for live digital signal processing in both audio and visual domains. He has a history of creative collaborations in the arts, working with dance, poetry, theater and history projects and is a member of the working group for Digital Humanities at the University of San Diego. Specific ongoing research interests in software development include improvisational approaches to audio spatialization involving spectral and pitch-based analysis and the use of video tracking and other gesture-based interfaces to help performers escape from being beholden to a computer screen. In recent years, he has had four different artist residencies—and a fifth upcoming in March 2016—to pursue these research goals at STEIM (STudio for Electro-Instrumental Music) in The Netherlands, one of the leading institutions for electro-instrumental research. Kaiser works with David Borgo to develop custom improvisation-oriented software and hardware, their duo, KaiBorg (kaiborg.com), has performed in Sweden, The Netherlands and around the United States, and together they co-authored an article titled Configurin(g) KaiBorg: Interactivity, Ideology, and Agency in Electro-Acoustic Improvised Music. His upcoming residency at STEIM will be with his project Made Audible (madeaudible.com). Made Audible works with the sonification of data sets, from political to scientific.
In addition to his own artistic work as a music technologist, Kaiser is in demand as a consultant for a wide variety of music and visual art practitioners: from experimental musicians to EDM and other popular musics, assisting in designing audio signal processing strategies and designing and implementing interactive video tracking and projection.
As a producer—as well as recording, mixing and mastering engineer—Kaiser has been personally involved with the production and release of hundreds of recordings from experimental to popular.
Society for Ethnomusicology
The International Society for Improvised Music
The International Computer Music Association
Audio Engineering Society
The International Trumpet Guild
The Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States
The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers