Experimental Artist Kevin Harris Releases a Split Tape with Nathan Cook Tonight
In this column, RFT Music gets to know local creatives, musicians and their missions. Get a slice of the local scene, complete with a snippet of sound and info about upcoming releases and shows. Stick around to see what St. Louis artists have to say whenever they Fill in in the Blank.
Most people are either left brain or right brain dominant -- not both. Kevin Harris, an electrical engineer by day and an experimental artist by night, somehow manages to harness the powers of each lobe in unison, merging the lines of logic and calculation with emotion and creativity in his music and visual art.
Sitting across the table from Harris at a south city bar, I can practically see the cogs turning in his head as he enthusiastically explains the method to his intricately designed sound art madness. He speaks casually yet articulately through big-rimmed translucent glasses over a Civil Life brown ale and dons a black t-shirt with digital synth code printed on it -- the work of experimental artist Laurie Speigel. Tonight, he'll release some of his only audio recordings on a tape with another experimental mastermind in town, Nathan Cook (aka NNN Cook), via Cook's label, Close/Far.
Harris grew up in Oklahoma, getting his first introduction to the world of musical texture and intricacy by frequently riding the bus to the symphony. He later went on to earn an undergraduate degree in music. In St. Louis, he performed in groups such as Airport Elementary School, Bird Leg and Half Gay. These days, he frequently collaborates with fellow musicians, performs in a duo called Lobster with Cook and curates sound art for Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis.
Harris specializes in live analog audio synthesis for his solo performances to envelop participants in complex environments of video and electronically generated sound via elaborate boutique synth patches. Typically atonal and arhythmic, sounds generated through modular synthesizers rise and fall like dancing machine ghosts, lost in time and space. Listen for unique timbres in his frequency modulations, generated from authentic noises that can sound deceptively organic. The resulting experience feels otherworldly, in that it's possible to find a different, warped dimension lurking somewhere closely behind the limitations of our physical means.
Harris' side of the split tape serves as a response to Cook's composition, an amalgam of tape manipulation, square-wave oscillators, percussive elements and homemade electronics. After recording hours and hours of synthesizer sounds, Harris pieced together elements to create a continuous track. Get a copy of the tape tonight, and check out a video of Harris performing below from last Halloween:
Video by Chizmo.tv
We invited Kevin Harris to fill in the blanks ahead of his tape release show tonight. See what he had to say on the next page.