Taylor Deupree + Christopher Willits
Listening Garden

LINE_032 | CD | Edition of 1000 | June 2007

READ . Fluid Radio interview with Taylor Deupree + Christopher Willits about Listening Garden

Listening Garden was developed as a sonic alteration of two quiet indoor/outdoor tea spaces installed at the Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media in Yamaguchi, Japan in June of 2004. The audio installation was designed to heighten visitor’s senses and alter the sonic space as they sat, read, or had quiet conversation amongst the trees. Taylor Deupree and Christopher Willits composed a number of short, randomly sequenced multi-channel soundworks using guitar and electronics. The fragments of sounds, while both gentle and subtly rich, are intentionally weathered, eroded and understated, generating a sonic bridge between the digital world of sound and the audiosphere of nature.

The audio on this CD is built from location recordings taken in the garden over the course of a week during the exhibit. The environmental and incidental sounds played a large part of the physical work and are captured and utilized in the recording. Listening Garden is meant to enhance the experience of simply sitting and enjoying one’s place in time. This CD is best heard in a similar situation and at a low background level. Headphones are not recommended.

Taylor Deupree is a sound artist, graphic designer, and photographer residing in New York. He is the founder 12k, a record label that focuses on minimalism and contemporary musical forms. His solo works in recent years have explored a fusion of digital sound manipulation with organic and melodic textures that take influences from his interest in architecture, interior design, and photography. Themes of minimalism, stillness, atmosphere, nature, and imperfection prevade throughout his work. An intense passion for recording and studio technology creates a strong technological backdrop for all of his compositions.

Since 1993 Deupree has created critically acclaimed recordings for labels worldwide including Spekk, Plop, Noble (Japan), Ritornell/Mille Plateaux, Raster-Noton, Disko B (Germany), Sub Rosa (Belgium), Fallt (Ireland), Audio.NL (Netherlands), Room40 (Australia), Instinct Records, Caipirinha Music, Plastic City (USA), Dum (Finland), and of course 12k and LINE, among others. In January 1999, Deupree currated a compilation for New York’s Caipirinha Music label that he titled Microscopic Sound. This release was among the first to gather together artists of this style and helped put a name to a then-rising genre of electronic music.

Christopher Willits is a musician and multimedia artist located in San Francisco, California. Striking a delicate balance between acoustic and electronic sounds and systems, Christopher manages to defy genre distinctions while still defining a “sound” unto his own. His numerous solo releases and collaborations cover a broad spectrum of musical styles, and include one main commonality: Willits’ unique use of the guitar with custom-made signal processing. This home-brewed software, along with Willits’ 6-string prowess, generates a unique real-time mixture of improvised melody and rhythm. Willits’ guitar lines and harmonies fold into each other. Notes and phrases hook and weave, creating complex patterns of interlocking rhythm, melody, and texture.

Willits’ has a vast range of collaborations he is involved in, which include bands, sound installations, and film/video projects. Flossin, a band project organized and produced by Willits, is currently working on a new release that will feature the original lineup of Zach Hill (drummer from the band Hella), Miguel Depedro (Kid606) and Willits, plus Matmos and a familiar remixing cast of indie-electronic/rock artists. Christopher Willits and Brad Laner (formerly of Medicine) recently released a new album as the North Valley Subconscious Orchestra on Ghostly International in late August 2006. Taylor Deupree (12k label-head) and Willits have released two full-length studio albums and a recent Live CD. Other collaborators include Latrice Barnett (Galactic, Kaskade, Handsome Boy Modeling School), Paul D’Amour (Tool, Lusk), Ryuichi Sakamoto (YMO), and video artist Scott Pagano.


ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Well I wasn't expecting this - a collaborative project from 12k boss Taylor Deupree and expert guitar-manipulator Christopher Willits coming as if out of nowhere. Not nowhere exactly though, to be more precise it's coming from Japan, and this project was funded by the Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media in 2004. Deupree and Willits were asked to provide a soundtrack for tea spaces in the Yamaguchi Center itself, designed to heighten vistor's senses as they sat in the beautiful rooms drinking tea or chatting quietly (see why it would never work in the UK?) and the musicians proceeded to craft short randomly-sequenced pieces to mirror the mood of the place. Taking the sounds of nature as a template Deupree and Willits manipulated the recordings accordingly making sure they never sounded overtly digital or removed from life (as so much digital, minimal music can be) and this album itself is actually environmental recordings rather than the tracks themselves. Occasionally you hear the clink of a teacup or a hushed whisper, and the slow breeze is constantly caressing the microphones as they record, but this doesn't distract from the enjoyment of the music itself which ebbs gorgeously in the background. You might hear a rhythm for a second, the subtle pulse of Deupree's electronics and then the hum of Willits' processed guitar but everything is fleeting and dissolved into the rich atmosphere. This is both field recording and minimal music, and those slightly frightened by the record's placement on ultra-minimal offshoot label Line shouldn't be, Listening Garden is like reclining into a gorgeous pillow of sound, relaxing without being audio wallpaper and absorbing without resorting to cliched digital trickery. Easily one of the finest bedtime albums I've heard this year, and something I'll be playing a lot more in the months to come. As usual the Line cds are limited to a one time pressing of 1000 copies so make sure you buy quickly if you want to secure yourself a copy, there's not much chance we'll be able to get restocks on this. Sublime.
(Boomkat, UK)


Taylor Deupree and Christopher Willits on LINE? A surprise in some ways, particularly given the melodic nature of the music on offer here. In some ways it almost feels more like a 12k release in spirit. And yet, once you get a feel for the concept of the work it becomes clear that LINE is a completely natural home for this absolutely gorgeous CD. It works as an exploration of space and sound and that's certainly one of the overriding principles of the label. Recorded in 2004 it's a combination of short musical fragments, randomly sequenced and then recorded in the indoor and outdoor tea rooms at the Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media in Yamaguchi, Japan. As such the final work is a location recording and you get a real tangible sense of the space itself with the gentle murmur of people in the background and other incidental noises. It works beautifully and is an utterly charming CD that, musically, falls very much into the gently sculpted, ambient field that both of these artists do so well. Similar in style, at times, to the live recording they released together on 12k's limited edition offshoot label and just as lovely to listen to. It's always a pleasure and a treat to hear music as good as this. Recommended without hesitation.
(Smallfish, UK)


12k boss Taylor Deupree teams up with Christopher Willits, who himself is also a big shot in the world of ambient glitch or whatever one calls it, for a work which they composed for two 'quiet indoor/tea spaces installed at the Yamaguchi Center For Arts and Media in Japan in June of 2004. This is ambient music in the sense that Eno intended it to be when he first thought of it. Music that wouldn't be really present but fill the ambiance in a nice way. Deupree and Willits recommend the listener to hear this in a similar situation, low background level and without headphones. Tea drinking is not too well spend on this coffee junk, and actually I must admit that I found more pleasure in turning up the volume quite a bit and listen quite carefully - quite the opposite to what they want, but I found their music more enjoyable that way. The details come out much better of course, and one hears all the subtle differences of environmental recordings, Willits guitar and Deupree's synthesizer humming. Even then things are quite textured, but quite rich. It has moved away from the old Eno sound (which I only enjoyed on 'Music For Films' in his first ambient phase) into richer musical tapestries. Quite nice.
(Vital Weekly, NL)


Let me get straight to the point: Listening Garden is one of the best ambient music releases of the last decade. Not only because it truly respects the basic principle of what "ambient music" means, but especially in consideration of its functional stimulation of that sense of "one-in-a-million moment" that many of its gradually morphing combinations will elicit in the most sensitive listeners. That's all the more noteworthy if we think that the CD lasts only 33 minutes (that's right, infinite repeat is a must) and was entirely made with altered snippets of location recordings that Deupree and Willits realized during their stay at Yamaguchi's Center for Arts and Media in 2004. There, an installation consisting of two indoor/outdoor tea spaces was prepared, the artists willing to build a "sonic bridge between the digital world of sound and the audiosphere of nature". Sparse clouds of electronic-enhanced guitars appear and disappear like superimpositions of different states of mind; concrete sounds (announcements, children, walk-around visitors) and illusory modulations lift our being towards those rare luminous spots where a resonant chord of indefinable nature and a five-second absence of air in the lungs let us glimpse at what will happen in every single frame of our future existence, without allowing a true comprehension. I'm used to listen to this kind of material in the early hours of the afternoon, with a modicum of distant human activity penetrating my room from outside. In the right moments, even for a lone instant, one quietly vibrates in a way that can only be described as heartbreaking. Not only Deupree and Willits have managed to achieve their goal of "enhance the experience of simply sitting and enjoying one's place in time", they also know the way to extend that fragment of life to infinite without succumbing to the desperation of knowing that the real world doesn't look or sound like this wonderful place at all.


Commissioned specifically for Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media, "Listening Garden" is a quiet and reflective piece proposed by Taylor Deupree and Christopher Willits. Their audio installation was supposed to intensify the listener's senses as they visited the listening garden, which is full of trees. It is not background music, though oddly enough, we're asked to listen to the CD at a low background level without the use of headphones. Its authors are keen on matching the listening experience for the listener at home to the one the visitors to the installation did. Quiet but never demure, still, though not lifeless, "Listening Garden" is full of nuances and subtleties at every turn.
(Gaz-Eta, Poland)


Recently released on LINE, is Listening Garden, a work composed between Taylor Deupree and Christopher Willits for indoor tea spaces installed at the Yamaguchi Center For Arts and Media in Japan. Turn it up and the real-time energies of Deupree and Willits becomes more palpable, what with the guitar of the latter dancing like galactic wrinkles while the synthesizer thrum of the former stirs up eddies of cosmic dust, but this is to miss the point. While one might feel embarrassed to simply surrender to such decor, sparkling as it is, the recording works not only as a lubricant but also as a considered element within the social exchange of a more intimate sort.
(e/i Magazine, US )