Glenn Reuther is a sound artist and music educator local to Charlotteville, Virginia. Passionate about art across mediums, including wood work, metal work, and architecture, he specializes in creating unique recordings filtered through the most up-to-date technology. While he spends much of his time developing music in his home studio, his real passion is for developing what he calls “Pure Improvisation” as a meaningful skill and means for personal growth. In our interview with him he offered a unique perspective on this holistic, non-traditional approach to learning through listening.
Please describe your work in 1-2 sentences.
“It's all about creating deeper, more meaningful connections, most particularly through music; with the world eventually, but most importantly with one's own self.”
What are your main influences?
“My main influences are instinct, sincerity, and integrity. As much as people prefer to believe in the illusion that one can control everything in one's life, the last thing we do/can/should control is oneself. The only true way we're going make the world a better place is by starting with the world within, and then working outward, sharing that.
In terms of living influences, there are many, past and present, but I would have to say first and foremost, it is Vangelis Papathanassiou, and then folks like Ravel, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Bartok, Peter Gabriel, and Jon Anderson\Yes, but there are many others. There's a lot of good music in world; you just have to know where to find it, and realize that any given composer\performer may have been able to tap into it only during portions of their lives.”
What role does improvisation play in the way you create sound art?
“My focus is on pure improvisation, in life and music, where instinct and sincerity meet. To this end, I have spent my life at the nexus of music and technology, developing a specific workflow, and both hardware and software systems, which can facilitate this process: the creation of The Music Within.”
Do you envision sound through different mediums? If so, how?
“Yes, it involves wood, metal, electronics, and any other thing from which inspiration has been derived.
There are actually several different form factors I have either only designed or also have fully realized, with which a musician could journey quite far in expressing oneself. I have several concepts I use in my own music creation process which help maintain the specific focus of my work; among them are expressivity, Meta-Control, and an extension of sound design which I call "Instrument design." It's a type of sound design, but the focus is in a whole new dimension.
Being at the nexus of music and technology for most my life, I also have grand designs to merge the capabilities of virtual as well as actual reality, and there are many directions I see that journey going.
I also see myriad possibilities in multimedia art installations, including interactive ones, but I guess I just haven't yet been asked to do something along those lines.”
What is the difference between hearing and listening?
“Hearing is one of the five senses most of us enjoy, while listening is something we choose (or not) to do. For me, listening is not just using that sense, but also connecting VIA that sense, and can be another example of the ideal; being fully present.”
Do you feel it is important to listen to and with the body? If so, why?
“Yes! This is actually a topic of great interest to me.
Being primarily a drummer for many years, and having also studied the Chinese martial arts for several years, I understand my body because I have sensed a great deal, not just in listening, which is probably not the best term, but in sensing; in sickness and in health.
There is an interesting relationship between rhythm and circulation, and I don't mean just in blood; circulation occurs in everything, and not just our bodies. I believe it's restriction against circulation that more than likely all problems manifest themselves, and that's not limited to the physical body, but to all systems everywhere, within and without.
For so much in life, I have come to refer to my own personal interpretation of the ancient symbol for infinity; there is a circulation and rhythm I always see in that symbol. There is also a balance, which is another critical component to our existence. This is another topic of great interest to me, but I'll save that for another time. ;-)
We are antennae. We connect and resonate to a great many things, and that is how we receive, process, and transmit. I think the sixth sense people have often spoken of is the synergy that the brain creates when receiving through all our senses.
When we "listen" closely to our bodies, we learn many things, in sickness and in health. Sensing is our first line of defense against illness and disease. Those in the medical community are only our advisors; the responsibility of care rests solely and firmly upon ourselves”
As a music educator, do you see problems with how music is being learned, played and listened today?
“I don't know if I would characterize them as problems. Nothing happens without a reason; if it doesn't change, then there's just not enough of a reason for it to change... They're more like traditions, and just as other living languages grow, changing and adapting, so must the methods used to teach them be alive, growing and adapting.
However, I think progress is being made, and it's inevitable.
Technology has had an enormous impact in the field of music, especially over the past 20 to 40 years, and where some have estranged themselves to the possibilities, I have fully embraced them. There are tools we have today which I believe those whom we call "the great masters" would have salivated over. Many of the great composers were also known for being great improvisers, yet that fact seems to be so readily glossed over, and that may be because it is perceived to be harder to teach, especially if the teacher doesn't know how to improvise themselves!
Improvisation seems to be taught from such a distant, strictly academic perspective, almost like an elective, when in actuality, it's at the heart of it all! Improvisation gets right to the "Why?" and lives there. Where academia seems to have been most hampered and stunted, I feel so free, instinctive and natural, totally at home, and in my element!
The problem that I believe really needs to be addressed in education in general is "Why ?" Too many people are told what to do, How can one learn to be a leader in one's own life, and live passionately, if there is no real reason to do anything but follow the well-worn path they've been carried through life on?
If not just the symptom, but also the problem and the cure can be found in improvisation, and not just in music, but in all aspects of life, then "living life," circulation and balance can be the persistent perspective of our existence, as I believe it should be.
The stigma of success vs. failure and a scarcity mindset have staunched the flow of life in us for long enough. It is better to give than to receive; we need to develop something to give, in order to maintain the balance within ourselves.”
What does sound communicate that other mediums cannot?
“I would prefer not to take it in isolation, but I think sound is more closely related to the other senses that sight alone is, sight being the other major sense which embodies the majority of sensibility in us. Sound more directly resonates within us than sight. In this way, it can be perceived as being more closely related with the sense of touch, and a physical connection. I think sound can be more closely associated with emotion and our physical bodies than sight can. Not only that, but our perception is in 4 dimensions: length, width, height, and time. However, with sight, even though we generally have two eyes to see in 3D, we only see in an arc of about 110 degrees extending vertically and horizontally into the distance directly before our eyes, whereas with two ears to hear in 3D, we generally have a full 360 degree experience of it, and in all directions. It's a more immersive experience, and the effects of sound can be seen and felt as well. Sound and touch move us, physically and emotionally, more than our other senses, at least for most of us. So it reaches deeper, and is more of an immersive experience.”