British sound artist Janek Schaefer

British sound artist Janek Schaefer

Stunning graphic art greets web browsers that visit audiOh! website, the online space for sound artist, songwriter and turntable artist Janek Schaefer. Schaefer, 38, combines whimsy, sampling, collage and architectural design in art projects reminiscent of the average college dorm room.

Experimental electronic music, Sound Bytes, postmodern pop culture

Characterized by electronics, recorded sounds and expansive, static harmonies, Schaefer’s compositions explore the architectural structure of sound. As someone who studied architecture at the Royal College of Art, Schaefer focuses less on lyrical “filigree” and relies more on the “cornerstone” of music, sound itself. Furthermore, as a revolving artist, Schaefer utilizes and exploits technology, reflecting a postmodern society that simultaneously absorbs technology into everyday life and yet sanctifies it in awe and reverence.

Schaefer also relies heavily on sampling, recording sound fragments and incorporating them into his music. The use of recordings of everyday noise in musical compositions is nothing new, but works such as “Weather Report” rely on unusual recording strategies. For “Weather Report” (2003), Schaefer sent a cell phone strapped to a weather balloon into the air. Before starting the cell phone, however, he dialed his own voice mail, ensuring that he would get a recording of any sound waves the “acoustic scanner” could pick up. Combining these collected sounds with samples from radio weather reports, he created a musical account of a Minnesota winter.

Like a Lichtenstein or Warhol directing his own sounding board, Schaefer’s audiovisual work blends avant-garde experimentalism with pop culture. His album “Above Buildings” (2000) was released on Fat Cat, a label that also sells experimental rock groups like Animal Collective, Black Dice and Sigur Ros. His work has appeared in exhibitions with electronic-pop producer and father of ambient music, Brian Eno.

From “Postal Delivery” to “Extended Play”

Schaefer himself is an eclectic mix of influences. In 1970, Schaefer was born in England to Canadian and Polish parents. His first major work, “Post Office Delivery”, was created in 1995, while still in college, from sounds recorded on a dictaphone that he sent on a trip through the Post Office.

His 2007 work “Extended Play” was nominated for the 2008 British Composer Award in Sonic Art, a category newly created by the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters to reflect a growing trend towards youthful experimentalism.

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