Oswald (b. 1953) has just won the Governor General's Award in Media Arts. The jury states: "John Oswald has created an art - and vocabulary - of his own in his exceptional and innovative work as a sound artist, image alchemist, composer and media artist... Oswald's art, while often playful, is a serious examination of basic elements. His influence on an entire generation of artists and his international reputation attest to his free-ranging spirit of innovation and exploration." And students of the University of Toronto Music School voted him the third most internationally influential Canadian musician, tied with Celine Dion.
Oswald began 2004 with the first commercial publication of one of his chronophotics: the Arc of Apparitions is produced on DVD by Avatar/Ohm editions. In February the New Millennium Players performed a retrospective of sixteen of his works (from solo cello to orchestral) of Rascali Klepitoire at the RedCAt at Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles. And Oswald's own label Fony will be re-releasing his albums from the nineties, starting with Grayfolded (May) and Plexure (August) and Discosphere (November). His new feature-length cinematic chronophotic instandstillness will be premiered at the Images Festival of Film and Video in April. In 2003 Oswald premiered his new solo dance opera Spinvolver, with Susanna Hood, in Berlin in February, followed by performances in several European capitols.
In the fall, Aparanthesi, a one note electroacousmatic composition, entailing some research in the perception of sonic morphs, was released on CD by empreintes digitales. Last spring his first Chronophotics to be exhibited in North America, entitled Jacko Lantern, was on display in the window of Pages Books as part of both the Images Moving Pictures and the Contact Festival of Photography, while Stills, his first solo show of images, was held over at Toronto Harbourfront's Premiere Dance Theatre for eight months, and he was the cover boy for the British music mag The Wire.
In recent years he composed a "Concerto for Wired Conductor and Orchestra", which premiered at Boston Symphony Hall. He designed the soundtrack and system for Stress, an eight-screen movie by Bruce Mau, showing at the Museum of Technology in Vienna. A new piece entitled "Oswald's First Piano Concerto by Tchaikovsky, (as suggested by Michael Snow)" was premiered in Vancouver by Paul Plimley and the CBC orchestra. He composed a score for the National Ballet of Canada for orchestra, robot piano and the disembodied singing voice of Glenn Gould. For the past four years he has been creating a database of photo portraits for a series of "Moving Stills" or chronophotics. One of his plunderphonie video/photo collages was shown at the Royal Festival Hall Hayward Gallery in London and was immediately sold as a gift to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Of recent works, he wrote, directed and produced a radio play in four interwoven languages (Brazilian, Dutch, English & German); wrote, animated, directed & scored ³Homonymy² (for chamber ensemble & cinema); scored the stage version of the silent movie classic "Metropolis"; produced the soundtrack album to the gay porn feature "Hustler White"; as well as appearing as himself in John Greyson's feature film "Unİut" and Craig Baldwin's "Sonic Outlaws", and he was the subject of one of Moses Znaimer's television documentaries "The Originals".
Other recent activities include: a sonic motorcade in Brasilia; and a dance composition for 22 choreographers (including Bill T.Jones, Margie Gillis, & Holly Small); plus commissions from the Lyon Opera Ballet, Dutch National Radio, Change of Heart, SMCQ, Pizzicato 5, and Radio Canada. Other works are in the active repertoire of the Kronos Quartet (theyıve played his Spectre over 300 times worldwide, & another commission, Mach almost as often), the Culberg Ballet Sweden, the Monaco Ballet, The Deutsche Opera Ballet Berlin, The Modern Quartet, the Penderecki Quartet, and others. His recorded works have been used in productions for radio, stage, concert, television, film, Hollywood movies, computer media and video. Oswald is also the founder and co-facilitator of Art Wrestling, a Toronto-based contact improvisation movement jamboree which has occurred weekly uninterrupted for 28 years.In 1990, Oswald's most notorious recording, plunderphonic, was destroyed by prudes in the Recording Industry representing Michael Jackson. He has since released recordings on Elektra, Avant, ReR Megacorp, Blast First, & Swell, featuring transformations of the music and performances of Stravinsky, Metallica, James Brown, Gyorgy Ligeti, Dolly Parton & many others. A box-set CD & book retrospective of his plunderphonics work has just been appropriated from Oswald's ony label by Seeland. The first disc of his Grateful Dead production GrayFolded was selected as the #1 international recording of the decade by the Toronto Sun. In the same year his album of improvised music, Acoustics was a #1 critic's selection in Coda magazine. The GrayFolded package, completed the following year was selected for best of the year lists in Rolling Stone, The New York Times and many other publications. A recent retrospective CD box-set of Plunderphonic works has been called "mind-numbingly amazing" by Peter Kenneth, Rolling Stone Magazine, and made Spin Magazine's 2001 top 10.
2004 will see the founding of an ad agency called Veracity. Oswald is Director of Research at MysteryLaboratory in Canada. Eye Weekly's '94 year end report anointed him a "God-like being" (in 2003 they have upgraded this to "a god proper"). The Montreal Mirror says "John Oswald is probably Canada's most important composer-musician," and the London (England) Observer has called him "the maddest man on the planet."
"For the moment, John Oswald is a solo movement, the most exciting school of one in music." - Milo Miles, Village Voice.