John Lane

percussionist | composer



Episode 47: Dean Rader


Dean Rader has published widely in the fields of poetry, American Indian Studies, and visual culture. His poetry has garnered a number of awards and recognitions including the T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize. His newest collection of poetry, Self-Portrait as Wikipedia Entry, was recently published by Copper Canyon Press.

As a poet, scholar, teacher, and writer/reviewer for a number of periodicals and journals, Dean does not shy away from the socio-political issues of our day. He recently wrote about teaching poetry post-truth and post-Trump for the Huffington Post and was interviewed by the Washington Post on the convergence of poetry and politics.

A native of Western Oklahoma, he is now based in San Francisco where he is professor of English at the University of San Francisco.

COMING SOON: Dean and I are planning another conversation to dive deeper into discussions about the intersection of art and politics. We also plan to examine some of the crossroads of our disciplines. 

Cover art from Self-Portrait As Wikipedia Entry

Cover art from Self-Portrait As Wikipedia Entry




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Episode 46: Andrea Polli


Andrea Polli is an environmental artist who works at the intersection of art, science and technology. Her interdisciplinary research has been presented in a variety of formats including public art, media installation, community projects, performances and more. Often her works express, in some way, the scientific data obtained from collaborations with scientists and engineers. 

Her work has been shown, exhibited, and performed worldwide. She has received support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Science Foundation and Fulbright, among others. Her latest book is Far Field: Digital Culture, Climate Change and the Poles (Intellect Press). 

She is currently Professor of Art and Ecology with appointments in the College of Fine Arts and School of Engineering at the University of New Mexico. 

Much of our discussion was about how she navigates a curious intersection between science and art, while at the same time realizing her work within the socio-political landscape of our time. Below are some links for further investigation.  

Buy Andrea's latest book HERE. 

Buy Andrea's latest book HERE. 

Here is a link to her album, Sonic Antarctica


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Episode 45: Charles Corey (Harry Partch Institute Tour)

I got to meet Charles Corey, composer and Director of the Harry Partch Institute, when I visited my friend and percussion colleague Bonnie Whiting at the University of Washington in Seattle back in October of 2016. He generously gave me a tour and allowed me to play some of the iconic instruments during my visit. It was a real treat and something that I had planned to document here on the podcast. In fact, I got so excited that I only pushed the record button once instead of twice, so I lost the audio of our tour. 

Charles was kind enough to send me a new recording of the instruments and re-create our tour via Skype. It was also an opportunity to get his unique perspective on Partch and how Partch's work has influenced his own work.

Here's a link to hear/experience some of Partch's instruments:

Here are some photos from my visit.

Here's a recording of Partch playing my favorite piece of his: The Letter (1943, rev. 1972).

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Episode 44: Jessie Marino

Jessie Marino is a composer, performer, and media artist. Her work pays attention to the virtuosity of common activities, explores ritualistic absurdity and delights in the archeology of recent media. In her compositions, she rigorously scores out sound, physical movements, indicates lighting/staging and works with highly organized time structures in a variety of musical and theatrical formats. 

She is co-founder and director of the experimental performance collective, On Structure; and co-artistic director, composer, and cellist for the New York-based Ensemble Pamplemousse

We chatted a lot about how vital community and friendship is to her work, how it informs the kind of work she makes. Jessie also has a great perspective on the intersection of music and socio-political ideals. 

Make sure and check out the video of Rot Blau by On Structure, which we talked about in some detail. Here's version with the score:

The following is a work-in-progress: a fully staged multimedia performance created, designed and performed by On Structure:

Finally, here is the newest album/video from Ensemble Pamplemousse:

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Episode 43: David Huntsberger, Part Two

David Huntsberger is a unique voice in stand-up comedy. Drawing on his deep curiosity about science, technology, philosophy, and many topics in between, his comedy is intellectual, pointed, and self aware. This curiosity and openness has led to a number of interesting collaborations, including his latest film One Headed Beast and a monthly variety show he hosts in LA called The Junk Show.

A touring standup comedian, he has also appeared on major television networks including NBC, Comedy Central, and the SyFy Network. He has released several albums of standup comedy. The most recent, Explosion Land, debuted in the Top 15 at iTunes.

He was co-creator of the popular Professor Blastoff podcast (which is also my favorite podcast of all time!). Check out his current weekly podcast, The Space Cave.

In this second half of our conversation, we chat about making a career in comedy and the history of some of his creative projects and podcasts. David has a great perspective on living/sustaining a creative life, too, and offers up some wisdom and good advice for all creatives. 

As I mentioned in the show's intro, David asked me to score this year's 16-Second Story from his Junk Show.

Or watch on YouTube (and subscribe to David's channel!):

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Episode 43: David Huntsberger, Part One

David Huntsberger is a unique voice in stand-up comedy. Drawing on his deep curiosity about science, technology, philosophy, and many topics in between, his comedy is intellectual, pointed, and self aware. This curiosity and openness has led to a number of interesting collaborations, including his latest film One Headed Beast and a monthly variety show he hosts in LA called The Junk Show.

A touring standup comedian, he has also appeared on major television networks including NBC, Comedy Central, and the SyFy Network. He has released several albums of standup comedy. The most recent, Explosion Land, debuted in the Top 15 at iTunes.

He was co-creator of the popular Professor Blastoff podcast (which is also my favorite podcast of all time!). Make sure to check out his current weekly podcast, The Space Cave.

In the first part of our conversation, we chatted about his background, making a career in comedy, and about his creative process. 

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Episode 42: Dawn Scarfe

This episode features an in-depth conversation with artist Dawn Scarfe. Currently based in London, Dawn has exhibited and performed in forests, parks, botanical gardens, city centers, galleries, and concert halls all across the UK and internationally. She was recently featured as an essayist in the book, Environmental Sound Artists: In Their Own Words, published by Oxford University Press.     

Her works investigates resonance, perception and environmental atmospheres by utilizing a variety of forms and contexts, including site-specific installation, performance, and field recording. We talked about a number of her projects including the Listening Glasses, Armonica, and Bivvy Broadcasts

Here are a few links related to the Bivvy Broadcasts:

International Dawn Chorus Day - May 7, 2017

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Episode 41: Craig Colorusso

Photo courtesy of Kevin Belli

Photo courtesy of Kevin Belli

Craig Colorusso is an artist whose installations explore the intersection of sound, light, and space. Using wood, fabric, metal, and electronics, his work is elegantly simple and organic, while at the same time deeply spiritual and personal. 

INSTALL, a short film about his work directed by Kevin Belli, contains footage and interviews as it captures three of his major installation works. 

Make sure to check out Craig's essay in the new book, Environmental Sound Artists: In Their Own Words

SUN BOXES Photo by Emma Thurgood

Photo by Emma Thurgood

Read more about SUN BOXES here:



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"Truth is a knife..." 

So begins a short essay from 1975 by Richard Herbert Howe--an artist, photographer, and creator of New York in Plain Sight: The Manhattan Street Corners--written, I think, when he was a student of the iconic composer Herbert Brün at the University of Illinois.

This essay was given out as part of an introduction to a course in percussion literature and history with Allen Otte at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, which some may think an unlikely place to encounter such a profound concept. The statements here about the nature of truth are as relevant today as they were when I first got this faded photocopy in 2006 and, I have to assume, as relevant as when he first started handing it to students in 1979.

We have arrived at a puzzling and troubling post-truth moment in our society. When the truth is inconvenient, it is tossed aside in favor of "alternative facts." In the parlance of an earlier age, these would simply have been called lies. 

On the auspicious occasion of Allen's retirement this year, I've been reflecting on his teachings, in particular about the lessons learned in that class, but also on all the things I gleaned from all our interactions. Most of the revelatory learning moments for me--like the time he laughed at my first attempt at composition; not because it was bad, but because he said it made him happy--were deep lessons in being present. Al provided us a window into how to be in the world: how to be open with and contributive to each other, to our communities and society. 

November 9, 2016: I was traveling and preparing to give a clinic at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention and reeling from election results and what seemed to be an upending of the direction I thought America was headed. As I boarded for the flight to Indianapolis, Clinton was giving her concession speech. It felt like I had been punched in the gut. I realized that there was no way that I could give a presentation and not say something to at least acknowledge the deep feeling in my heart and the proverbial elephant in the room.

Then, there was Al, who suggested the best way to comment would be to make a creative response. I stayed up almost all night trying to come up with something. I couldn't quite get a new composition out of it, but I did draft the following statement, which I read at the end of my presentation:

"In the context of recent dramatic social events, which have provoked powerful and emotional responses, I am proud to be here celebrating art, education, and our community. Over the last eleven years of teaching, I have seen the transformative power of education. I choose to believe in an enlightened future. 

I agree with Christopher White, who wrote to his students: "I teach because I believe communication and expression through art is a crucial tool for understanding ourselves and each other and (hopefully) improving the world around us." [You can read Christopher White's letter to his students at University of Massachusets-Amherst here.]

The composer Frederic Rzewski once said that, "music probably can't change the world, but it is a good idea to act as if it could. At the very least you stand a chance of making some good music. And music is always better than no music."

January, 2017: I'm still responding. Every day there seems to be something new to protest or fight. I have a feeling this will continue for some time. I'm curious to know how other artists are responding. So, I'm going to be doing a series of posts and/or podcasts dedicated to responses from artists who want to talk about their role as an artist in our culture/society (or perhaps the role of art in society in a more general sense) and how their work may or may not change as a result of these troubling and uncertain times. I'm also interested in the intersections of art and activism. 

Stay tuned.


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Episode 40: Deborah Pearson

This episode features a conversation with writer, performer, and producer Deborah Pearson. She makes and tours solo theater pieces and works collaboratively as a dramaturg for companies including Made in China and Action Hero. In 2007 she founded the multi-award winning organization Forest Fringe, which she also co-directs. Deborah is also an associate artist for Volcano Productions

Make sure to also check out her podcast: The Whole Darned Thing.

In our in-depth conversation, we covered her background/influences, and many of her works. We also covered some sensitive issues—racism, immigration, and feminism—all of which are timely considering this posting is only days before the upcoming US presidential election.

Here is the trailer to her new work, History History History.

This is a clip from her solo work The Future Show.

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Episode 39: Hal Rammel

This episode features a conversation with Hal Rammel: musical instrument inventor, composer/improvisor and visual artist. Equally at home in the fields of music and visual arts, Hal's work (spanning 45 years) includes instrument design/invention, composition, performing/improvising, photography, drawing, sculpture, collage, and cartooning. 

You can visit Hal's work online here. 

You can find his music through his record label Penumbra Music.

Amplified pallete, 2008

Amplified pallete, 2008

At the Edge Where the Path Narrows (for J. Henri Fabre), 2007. Silver gelatin print, 8"x7"

At the Edge Where the Path Narrows (for J. Henri Fabre), 2007. Silver gelatin print, 8"x7"

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Episode 38: Jan Williams, Part 1

This episode features part one of my conversation with percussionist Jan Williams, who has had a brilliant and multifaceted career. In addition to being one of the world's finest percussionists, Jan has been an arts administrator, educator, conductor, and composer. Deeply invested in contemporary music, he has worked closely with luminary composers including Morton Feldman, John Cage, Lukas Foss, Frederic Rzewski, and many more. As a performer, he has appeared worldwide and has been an important proponent for the development of literature for percussion instruments. 

Jan spent much of his career at the University of Buffalo, where he was one of the first class of Creative Associates in the 1960's. He went on to serve as a faculty member and chair of the music department. While in Buffalo, he also co-directed the North American New Music Festival and served as artistic director for the Center for Creative and Performing Arts. 

In the first part of our conversation we chatted about his background as a musician and some of the experiences working with composers John Cage and Morton Feldman. 

Morton Feldman and Jan Williams, Photo by Bunita Marcus

Morton Feldman and Jan Williams, Photo by Bunita Marcus

Click on the following link to explore photos in the archive at the University of Buffalo Library: Jan Williams's Photos of Morton Feldman.

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Episode 37: Nathan McLaughlin

Based in Hudson, NY, composer, sound artist, and musician Nathan McLaughlin makes hauntingly ethereal music using string instruments, field recordings, and reel to reel tape machines. In Nathan’s hands, the tape machine becomes its own instrument. He performs as both a solo artist and as a collaborator in a variety of settings including work with Cody Yantis and Joe Houpert, in the group Tilth), and with musician/multimedia artist Seth Chrisman.

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Tools Influence the Work

In 2007 we hosted composer John Luther Adams at Sam Houston State University for our annual Contemporary Music Festival. Part of his visit included a session with young composers. In one of the classes he talked about his process of first using a pencil and paper when working on a new composition before going to the computer for engraving. He encouraged the young composers to work in whatever way they felt comfortable, but urged a consideration of how tools influence creative work.

Beethoven was a constant reviser. You can trace his revisions because they were preserved in literally thousands of sheets of sketches

This is one of Beethoven's many sketches.

This is one of Beethoven's many sketches.

Lou Harrison's calligraphy was so important to him that he had a font created of his handwriting!

Score sample of Lou Harrison

Score sample of Lou Harrison

There are two important things that we miss when we work digitally: We miss seeing the process through which we arrived at our end product, and the performer misses the connection with the composer's hand. 

In the last blog entry I wrote about Austin Kleon's books Show Your Work and Steal Like an Artist. In Show Your Work, he talked about how he has divided his studio into two sides: analog and digital.

  Austin Kleon's divided work space.


Austin Kleon's divided work space.

This is a terrific way of giving yourself an opportunity to make use of some analog tools. Even if you don't want to divide your workspace completely in half like Austin did, I think establishing some kind of dedicated analog space and having a few tools at your disposal (like pencils, paper, scissors, tape, sticky notes; or, if you are a composer, things like blank/staff paper, pencils and rulers) will go a long way in boosting your creative ideas. 

"Inherently most tools are neither good nor bad. But I always try to be aware of the subtle and profound ways in which the tools I use shape the music I make." - John Luther Adams, Winter Music: Composing the North



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Episode 36: Marc Satterwhite

This episode features a conversation with composer Marc Satterwhite. Marc's music has been performed worldwide by ensembles including the Boston Symphony, the Utah Symphony, and new music luminaries eighth blackbird and the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble. He is currently Professor of Composition and Music Theory at the University of Louisville School of Music, where he also directs the Grawnemeyer Award for Music Composition. 

We chatted about his transition from a professional bassist living and working in Latin America to professional composer and academic, his compositions inspired by the photography of Flor Garuño, his take on the creative life, and much more.

This is the Flor Garduño photo that inspired "Musico en la nada" (for trumpet and bass drum)

This is the Flor Garduño photo that inspired "Musico en la nada" (for trumpet and bass drum)

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Episode 35: Brad Warner

This episode features an in-depth conversation with Zen monk, writer, and punk rock musician Brad Warner. We focused on his new book, "Don't be a Jerk," which is an entertaining, yet insightful paraphrase and commentary on the 800-year old Zen Buddhist text, The Shobogenzo, by the Japanese Zen monk Dogen. We also talked about meditation practice and how it relates to creativity.

Make sure to check out Brad's blog:

Check out all of Brad's books!

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Episode 34: Jeff Herriott

Composer Jeff Herriott describes his music as “sounds that shift and bend at the edges of perception.” Much of his work is delicate and unhurried, music that often explores repetition and subtle variations.

Recently, Jeff composed music for the film Bone Tomahawk, which was written and directed by S. Craig Zahler and stars Kurt Russell.

He currently teaches at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, where he coordinates the Media Arts and Game Development program and teaches courses in audio, multimedia, music technology and composition.

Here is one of the works we discussed: Swarms of Light in Metal

Check out Jeff's band, The Bell Monks:



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Episode 33: Steven Snowden

With an interest in the expressive capabilities of sound, composer Steven Snowden's work includes acoustic and electro-acoustic music, sound-collage, live electronic improvisation, interactive multi-media installations and many things in between. With deep roots in American folk, bluegrass, and rock music, Steven's work seems to me to spring forth as a freshly invented American sound. We chatted about his new work commissioned by the Fifth House Ensemble in Chicago, Voices from the Dustbowl, his composition for percussion and electronics, Long Distance, as well as his experiences living as a freelance composer.

Currently based in Austin, TX, Steven is also the co-founder and co-director of the Fast Forward Austin Music Festival.

Shout out to the very talented percussionist Victor Pons, whose performance of Long Distance is featured on the show! Here are more videos of Victor's performances of this terrific piece:

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