Temporary Psychic Respite: An Interview with Matt Sage
Temporary Psychic Respite: An Interview with Matt Sage
For the next month, The Green Lantern Press is publishing interviews and articles with artists who have donated work for the 2016 fundraiser, New Age Now. What follows is an interview with Matt Sage from Patient Sounds. Matthew Sage is an interdisciplinary artist, educator, writer, and publisher/editor living in Chicago. He is interested in creating works that negotiate and trouble the liminal territories between physical bodies/spaces and their digital counterparts. Sage owns and operates Patient Sounds, a private press record label and book publisher established in 2009 and has performed or installed works at SAIC Sullivan Galleries, Sector 2337, Public Access (Chicago), and MOMA PS1 (NYC). Currently, Sage is an adjunct professor at Wilbur Wright College, where he teaches composition and critical reading with a focus on science fiction and technopolitics, ethics and aesthetics in the Anthropocene, and digital/classical media analysis.
Patient Sounds will perform at the fundraiser on Friday December 2, from 10PM – Midnight.
Lara Schoorl: What is Patient Sounds?
Matthew Sage: Patient Sounds is a private press record label and book publisher currently based in Chicago, though originally founded in Northern Colorado. The label started on a very small scale in 2009 as an avenue for a small circle of like-minded individuals looking to publish our work on a small scale. It has since expanded to include artists from all over the world. We create cassette tapes, vinyl records, chapbooks, and other publications and forms of data that propagate considered artworks.
Caroline Picard: What is it about cassette tapes that interests you?
MS: The cassette is interesting to me for three primary reasons. First: they are cheap, and can be quickly reproduced; compared to vinyl or CDs, the production turnaround is much easier. They are also more affordable to consumers for this reason. Second: I appreciate them for being a watershed technology. Consumer music technology moves very quickly and left a rather fetching mode for listening to music to become obsolete. I am glad to say counter culture has helped rescue the cassette from obsolescence. Third: I love the aesthetics of the tape. The packaging and design possibilities offer many opportunities for unique design. I mean to say, they are highly designable, but also incredibly utilitarian. These qualities give them a verisimilitude; they are handsome but they are also very affordable consumer objects. This is why they interest me.
LS: What do you have planned for the performance at the Green Lantern Press fundraiser?
MS: The performance will be durational, lasting roughly two hours, and will balance a chance operation computer-driven sound engine with live improvisation and instrumental incantation. Consider this somewhere between a Cageian chance operation performance and a low-level spiritual free jazz blow out. We hope not to be the focal point, but instead, to create an atmosphere for beings in the gallery to dwell in.
LS: That sounds otherworldly in an android-feeling way. I also heard something about psychedelic minstrels?
MS: You heard correctly. Also, there may be druids involved. Also, synthesizers.
LS: Ha, that is amazing. Who do you make art/music for?
MS: Instead of a (who), as a label, we tend to consider it more a (when) or (where). The work we make and publish on Patient Sounds is generally engineered or curated with the creation of an environment in mind. We aim to provide sound/language/images, in whatever mode, that can be used by any listener to evoke lucid environments, and create considered spaces for thought. This is more generally speaking, because that may seem to be very generically narrow; Patient Sounds does not focus on one particular genre or style of music, but instead, champions those making work on their own terms with what tools they have available to them. In turn, we also strive to include any and all listeners, readers, viewers, to explore the spaces/times we have provided.
LS: Yes, it is really nice how the music and/or writing that you publish transgresses the borders of writing, for examples, cassettes become chapbooks. How has Chicago and/or community influenced your work?
MS: The openness of both artists and audience in this city have made working in Chicago thrilling. The influence of having this sort of openness has pushed us collectively to take more risks, and with risks come failure, and with failure comes learning, and with learning comes the reward of expanding definitions for what success can look or sound like. It has influenced the label, and myself as an artist, immensely, and I am incredibly grateful for the arts community in this city.
CP: What does the premise of “New Age” mean to you today? How did you connect with it when organizing your performance?
MS: Though I am not a New Age scholar, as a fan of music, I have enjoyed many a Shadowfax and George Winston LPs sprung from record store dollar bins. That was my New Age initiation. Much of ambient or minimal home recording being produced now owes enormously to the 60s-90s New Age canon. So, when approaching this performance, I wanted to integrate the elemental awareness I see in this sort of New Age music. How can we bring water or fire or wind or earth into the sounds? Winston’s works based on the seasons were fundamental to my approach.
I am also very interested, especially given the current political climate, in making healing music: not music that itself heals, but rather music that offers listeners an environment wherein they can contemplate and find healing within themselves. I don’t know if music itself can heal, but I feel offering listeners a place to enjoy either communal or isolated tranquility – not as escapism, but as temporary psychic respite – is affording them a chance to return to the world outside of that music, reenergized, full of love, and prepared to stand against hate.