Jeff 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, media technologist and ethnomusicologist. While classically trained as a trumpet player and composer, Kaiser now takes an integrative, systemic view with his traditional instrument, emergent technology (in the form of custom interactive/generative software and hardware interfaces), and space—in addition to people—all being crucial and integral participants in his dynamic and adventurous performances. 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 and generative technologies.
Kaiser is Assistant Professor of Music Technology and Composition at the University of Central Missouri (UCM), and has taught an incredibly wide variety of classes: including ethnomusicology, interactive arts technology and digital audio composition—among others—at: UCM, University of San Diego, University of California San Diego, University of California Irvine, and MiraCosta College.
Kaiser has a strong interest in the digital humanities and was in the working group for digital humanities at University of San Diego and an original member of the National Endowment for the Humanities sponsored group for digital humanities pedagogy in San Diego. In addition, with his experience in the music business and public sector, Kaiser worked to develop the arts entrepreneurship minor at the University of San Diego and is the former Director of Development for the Center for World Music.
Embracing the idea of being an artist/scholar, Kaiser earned a Ph.D. in Integrative Studies (music) from the University of California San Diego. His current book project is Improvising Technology: Virtuosity, Machines, and Interagency. 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.
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 was 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 five different artist residencies 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 througout the United States. Together, Borgo and Kaiser co-authored an article titled Configurin(g) KaiBorg: Interactivity, Ideology, and Agency in Electro-Acoustic Improvised Music. Kaiser is also heavily invested—along with his colleague Trevor Henthorn—in Made Audible (madeaudible.com). Made Audible works with the sonification of data sets, from political to scientific. This work has led to a suite of generative plugins for Ableton Live and Max/MSP that work with probability and large data sets.
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.
Creative Music Promotion:
Kaiser is the founder and director of the critically acclaimed pfMENTUM music label. pfMENTUM has released over one-hundred and ten 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. Currently—with co-director Eric Honour—Kaiser is working on MOXsonic: the Missouri Experimental Sonic Arts Festival and a student-run record label.
In addition, Kaiser is in demand as a consultant with administrators and directors with other festivals, concerts, series and events.
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
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