June 25, 2012
Soundscapes + Glitches // The Work of Phillip Stearns

Our Art Haus // Rock series is an interview or feature about artists and musicians we love.

Phillip Stearns is tumblr’s Pick for the Art Takes Times Square contest, hosted by our fam at Artists Wanted. We wanted to catch up with Phillip, who’s also an instructor here at 3rd Ward (he’ll help you make DIY Synthesizers! Audio Amplifiers!)

3W: How did you come up with the name “Pixel Form” ? There’s another dude with this as the name of his website. Have you ever thought about collaborating with him?

PS: The name’s falling slowly in disuse. Do you have info on this other guy? 

3W sends Phillip a link to a nature photographer’s website. 

PS: Well, the reason I’m moving away from it…other people are using it—it’s too easy. I use my real name now.

3W: Is there a different mood between your visual and audio work?

PS: My sound based work is more abstract, challenging, intellectual, and the visual art has been influenced by the presentation medium (online and social media), becoming more playful and full of color. My year-long project Year of the Glitch was started with the thought: “I’m gonna do a glitch a day.” I chose tumblr because it seemed like the best way to share info. The audio doesn’t get as many notes as the visual.


Phillip’s Glitch Textiles:

"It’s this perfect conceptual loop—this kitsch momento is being used to visualize corrupted memory. And in the process, it becomes a new memory."

Check out: Phillip Stearns’ SoundCloud

3W: Tell us about your sound art. 

PS: I come from a background of audio engineering.  By using pure mixer feedback, tones can be intermodulated to create rhythms. Some sounds mimic melodic sequences, some are pure noise. All the pieces I do with this are improvised. My work Anopthalmia is named after a disease, when one is born without eyes. It’s part of a larger collection, Macular Degeneration, which has to do with blindness or loss. These feedback loops create a sonic landscape. It’s sort of like Mario Bros. You can never go back. It’s a journey, a path, and I’m wandering through.

"I’m not visually impaired, but it’s on my mind. I’ve worn glasses since kindergarten."

3W: Has your work ever stumped you? 

PS: I’m often stumped on the technical side of things. The stumping becomes part of the process, and the piece actually changes. The work is so tied to the technology that is producing them. The final piece is somehow different from the original idea, and includes the technology that created it.

3W: How do you include the spectator in your performances?

PS: I’m creating an experience. Some of the work is more involved. If I use stroboscopic lights, [it is] exclusive in that epileptics cannot participate. For those who can experience the work, it’s going to be unique to the individual, because everyone’s central nervous system is operating at a different speed.

"It’s not a question of interactivity it’s a question of immersion."

3W: What’s a guilty pleasure?

PS: Whiskey comes up first. Specifically, scotch. Does that sound pretentious?

3W: No, we can relate! 

PS:  And dark chocolate. 

3W: Who is your favorite composer/musician?

PS: I wanna give a shout out to all my friends. Phil White, Pete Edwards (Casper Electronics). I just did a residency with the two of them. I’ve found them to be incredibly influential figures. Tristan Perich. Richard Garet. Jeff Donaldson!!!!

3W: What are you listening to right now?

PS: This English artist, Clark.  Let me see if can play a tune over the phone.

PS plays it over the phone, we love it!

PS:  It’s like when you have time to meditate in the city: mental stimulation, spiritual serenity.

Sign Up for Circuits Classes with Phillip Stearns:

Audio Amplifiers 
DIY Synthesizers

Intro to Circuits w/ Daniel Fishkin

Phillip Stearns’ studio is based in Bushwick, and hails from the birthplace of SXSW. After veering off the engineering and physics path to pursue music technology at the University of Colorado, Denver, Phillip earned his Master’s at Cal Arts in music.

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