Highly regarded amongst his peers in electroacoustic music, Steven M. Miller‘s passing in 2014 marked the end of a musical investigation into the evocative nature of sound.
Beyond music per se, Miller’s work explored how textural soundscapes can evoke memories and emotion in the same way that a painter chooses and applies colour and form. In Miller’s case the ambience he creates directs the listener to source specific types of narrative, character and background. These scenes emerge not at random but within the parameters set out and not, as ambient detractors suggest, from within the listener but from the artist.
The extent to which these works are successful becomes harder to quantify when the listening scenario for Miller’s work is quite immersive and solitary. In the car, yes. With some late night insomnia, certainly. With a collection of your fellow avant garde 101 students, of course. On the school run with your kids, well… it depends. As an experiment you may play this series at a BBQ. However, the consequences, while positive, might not be conducive to a ‘party’ exactly .
Where a compendium such as this sits within a personal musical collection is difficult to say, where it fits within musical history is much easier to pin. Miller wrote and taught on a reasonably wide range of audio topics. His ideas around silence, sound ecology, andacoustics can be found on his site, and it’s within academia that his works of catalogue and creation sit most easily.
This release sees seven discs of material sourced from different aspects of his career. In some places he’s creating new environments, in others he’s cataloguing places with varying levels of subjectivity. Is setting the levels of a recording and going for it objective or subjective? The archivist chooses where they stand and that choice defines the imprint they capture. In other places Miller extends that question to entirely composed environments.
For fans of the Other within sound and acoustics, Miller’s work is an ever revealing gem.The Steven M. Miller Scholarship for Music Composition and Sound Design