Technology and imperfection. The raw and the processed. Curator and curated. Solo explorer and gregarious collaborator. The life and work of Taylor Deupree are less a study in contradictions than a portrait of the multidisciplinary artist in a still-young century.
Deupree is an accomplished sound artist whose recordings, rich with abstract atmospherics, have appeared on numerous record labels, and well as in site-specific installations at such institutions as the ICC (Tokyo, Japan) and the Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media (Yamaguchi, Japan). He started out, in the 1990s, making new noises that edged outward toward the fringes of techno, and in time he found his own path to follow. His music today emphasizes a hybrid of natural sounds and technological mediation. It’s marked by a deep attention to stillness, to an almost desperate near-silence. His passion for the studio as a recording instrument is paramount in his work, but there is no hint of digital idolatry. If anything, his music shows a marked attention to the aesthetics of error and the imperfect beauty of nature, to the short circuits not only in technological systems but in human perception.
And though there is an aura of insularity to Depuree’s work, he is a prolific collaborator, having collaborated with the likes of Ryuichi Sakamoto, David Sylvian, Stephan Mathieu, Stephen Vitiello, Christopher Willits, Kenneth Kirschner, Frank Bretschneider, Richard Chartier, Savvas Ysatis, Tetsu Inoue and others.
Deupree dedicates as much time to other people’s music as he does to his own. In 1997 he founded the record label 12k, which since then has released over 100 recordings by some of the most accomplished musicians and modern sound artists of our time. Many share with Deupree an interest in stark minimalism, but the label has also found room for, located a common ground with, the acoustic avant-garde, the instrumental derivations of post-rock, and the synthetic extremes of techno.
And collectively, the cover jackets to the 12k album releases have served as an ongoing exhibit of Deupree’s photography, its lofi aesthetic, with an emphasis on damage and wear and antiquated tech, closely paralleling his music. (His photos have also graced numerous books, design anthologies, and other recordings and projects.)
Deupree continues to evolve his sound with an ambition and drive that is masked by his music’s inherent quietude. He approaches each project with an expectation of new directions, new processes, and new junctures.
Over the past decade I have watched my work in digital sound, graphic design, and photography continue to merge and overlap. Each of these mediums inspires the other and in turn are all inspired by other outside influences: architecture, modern furniture, interior design, sculpture and nature. I tend to absorb more musical inspiration from non-musical mediums, challening myself by asking questions like “how can I apply the lines and spaces of an Ando building to my sound design.” Or “what is it that I find so intruiging about this Judd piece as it relates to this cd cover.” Likewise, when I conceive of a musical project there is inevitably the design and photography of the package to consider and how to best make them all relate to the project’s concept.
If there were one central word that described most of my work it would be “minimalism.” Timelessness, nature, understatement, and simplicty of form are key to my aesthetic. I believe that the single sound, color, or line, free from filler or dramatic intention delivers the strongest emotion, and this simple vision runs through everything I do. Most of my work leans towards the formalist, trying to leave messages or feelings to the viewer of the work. However, my art is heavily inspired by my every day life and most projects stem from a particular event or memory from my life. To me they hold a lot of emotional value but on the surface the form remains dominate. My work is a bit of an ongoing diary.
These ideas of minimalism in composition also extend to the elements of my work. Small spaces, tiny sounds, narrow frequencies, thin lines, and the ideas of “micro” pervade. I work in the digital world and the technology available for microscopic editing is very important to what I do.
My projects are typically born from single words, memories or events, which then turn into a direction for a project and then a complete concept that can change my entire way of working for years following. I like to approach each project using different processes, mixing what I already know with yet-unexplored methods of working, thus using each body of work as a means to explore new ways of working. The process I find equally as interesting and rewarding as the result.
Lastly, I think it is important to note that I rarely consider my work complete. Deadlines, contracts, and schedules often force the “end” of a project while the nearly limitless tools available for digital sound and image processing often result in work that could be ever-evolving. Rather, each composition, design, or photograph I create exists merely as a snapshot of that particular time in my life, my processes, tools, and mindset. I begin the work, then end it, and then continue on with new ideas.