British Sound Artist Janek Schaefer

British sound artist Janek Schaefer

Striking graphic art greets web browsers who visit the audiOh! website, the online space of sound artist, composer and turntable artist Janek Schaefer. The 38-year-old Schaefer blends whimsy, sampling, collage and architectural design into art projects that hint at the average college dorm room.

Experimental Electronic Music, Sound Bytes, Postmodern Pop Culture

Characterized by electronics, recorded sounds and expansive, static harmonies, Schaefer’s compositions explore the architectural framework of sound. As someone who studied architecture at the Royal College of Art, Schaefer concentrates less on lyrical “filigree” and relies more on the “cornerstone” of music, sound itself. In addition, as a turntabale artist, Schaefer both utilizes and exploits technology, reflecting a postmodern society that simultaneously absorbs technology into everyday life and yet sanctifies it in fearful reverence and awe.

Schaefer also relies heavily on sampling, recording fragments of sound and incorporating them into his music. Using recordings of everyday noises in musical compositions is nothing new, yet works such as “Weather Report” rely on unusual recording strategies. For “Weather Report” (2003), Schaefer sent a cell phone tied to a weather balloon up into the air. Before launching the cell phone, however, he dialed his own voice mail, ensuring that he would get a recording of any sound waves the “acoustic explorer” might pick up. Blending these collected sounds with sampled bits of radio weather reports, he created a musical account of a Minnesota winter.

Like a Lichtenstein or Warhol who runs his own soundboard, Schaefer’s audio-visual work blends avant garde experimentalism with pop culture. His album “Above Buildings” (2000) was released by Fat Cat, a label that also markets experimental rock groups such as Animal Collective, Black Dice and Sigur Ros. His work has appeared at exhibits with pop-electronic producer and father of ambient music, Brian Eno.

From “Post Office Delivery” to “Extended Play”

Schaefer himself is an eclectic mix of influences. In 1970, Schaefer was born in England to Canadian and Polish parents. His first major work, “Post Office Delivery,” was created in 1995 while he was in college, assembled from sounds recorded on a dictophone that he sent on a trip through the Post Office.

His 2007 work “Extended Play” was nominated for a 2008 British Composer Award in Sonic Art, a category newly created by the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters to reflect a growing trend towards youthful experimentalism.