Inverview with Elliott Sharp
Elliott Sharp is an American composer, multi-instrumentalist, producer and curator central to the experimental music scene in New York City for over thirty years. He leads the projects Carbon and Orchestra Carbon, Tectonics, and Terraplane and has pioneered ways of applying fractal geometry, chaos theory, and genetic metaphors to musical composition and interaction. On December 8th at Roulette, Sharp presents two aspects of Carbon: the quartet and the orchestra. The smaller group functions like a rock band with the spontaneous freedom of a chamber ensemble or jazz group. The larger ensemble presents long form, structured pieces and algorithmic compositions such as SyndaKit, Quarks Swim Free, and Flexagons: self-organizing systems in which a simple set of rules and composed fragments yield ever-changing results.
Featuring: Shelley Burgon – electric harp, Marc Sloan – electric bass, Joseph Trump – drums. percussion, Elliott sharp – 8-string guitarbass, soprano saxophone, electronics and the orchestra will feature additional musicians Jenny Lin – piano, Russ flynn – electric bass and Danny Tunick – percussion, vibraphone.
ROULETTE: Tell us as about the work you¹ll be doing at Roulette.
ELLIOTT SHARP: This concert is a rare NYC performance by my band Carbon. Carbon was formed in 1983 and went through many incarnations until I put the project on hiatus in 1996 to concentrate on the large-ensemble Orchestra Carbon. A detailed history of Carbon may be found here:
With the 2009 release on Intakt of Void Coordinates, Carbon entered into a new active performance phase with extensive touring in Europe. In 2010, Shelley Burgon on electric harp joined Joseph Trump, Marc Sloan, and myself for more concerts and festivals in Europe.
For our second set at Roulette, the quartet will be augmented with the pianist Jenny Lin, percussionist Danny Tunick, and bassist Russ Flynn for the performance of Quarks Swim Free, a set of core structures that are interpreted by the players under my conduction.
Some videos of Carbon may be found here:
R: What are some defining characteristics of the musical scene you would fit yourself into? What elements of your scene differentiate it from what has come before, or what is happening now?
ES: NYC has changed greatly from the late 1970’s/early 80’s when our “scene” germinated. There are still many great musicians but I don’t feel that there is the matrix to give an overall identity to our efforts: neither geographically nor esthetically. Manhattan is now “occupied territory”: a place for selling trinkets, not developing ideas. The interesting venues have all moved to Brooklyn, rough for us Manhattanites, though great for the overall manifestation of work.
R: Do you consider yourself more a composer or a performer?
ES: Definitely more a composer though some of the music that i compose can only be perfomed by myself or by my ensembles
R: What is interesting to you about your own work?
ES: My work continues to lead me into unknown realms: I thrive on doing things that I have not done before. My main obsession now is opera. I wrote, composed, and directed a science-fiction opera, About Us, for all-teenage performers in 2010 for the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich. I’m now working on an opera, Substance, about Baruch Spinoza, and another, Port Bou, about the last day in the life of Walter Benjamin.
R: Do you do other things aside from music?
ES: Writing; visual work; research in mathematics, philosophy, and history; not to mention being a parent!
R: Other thoughts?
ES: A comprehensive interview was published by BOMB MAgazine in 2003 and may be found here: