Jeffrey Langille 2023 Finalist
Born in Ontario, Jeffrey Langille now lives in Dawson City. He studied art history, attended film school in Vancouver, and holds an MFA from Simon Fraser University. He began filmmaking in the ’90s using super-8, editing film on his kitchen table. His practice has retained this connection to materiality, including work with tape loops, analog synthesizers, and 16mm film. His areas of interest include landscape, poetic language, experimental electronic music, and other experiments in sound. His work has been exhibited in Canada and internationally, and has received support from SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts, the BC Arts Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), a Scholarly Activity Grant from Yukon University, the Yukon Advanced Artist Award, the Yukon Permanent Art Collection, and the Canada Council. He currently works at the public school in Dawson City, on the traditional territory of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation.
Working with sound and video gives me an immediate, immersive, and deep sensory engagement with materials. This happens in two distinct but related modes: composing with analog synthesizers and working with language using audio tape. Both modes allow a hands-on and spontaneous interaction with the medium: shaping sound with electronic instruments and effects, and editing tape by hand. These approaches allow me to embrace chance, to let materials and processes reveal themselves to me, and to relinquish some control over what I make.
In my video “may we speak?”, I have randomly spliced together fragments of recordings from two different books on tape, alternating the voices in the back-and-forth form of a conversation. These nonsense fragments of words and cut-up phrases somehow retain the rhythm and sense of a conversation. It’s like listening to a language that you almost understand.
There is a parallel to this in how I compose with synthesizers. The piece “sample & hold”, for example, dispenses with melody, incorporating randomness at the level of electronic circuitry, keeping the composition in a constant state of flux. In my video “alea” [Latin for dice], a melody is “cut up” using the random playback function of a step sequencer. The human impulse towards pattern recognition leads the listener to still hear melodic elements despite the machine’s randomization of the original sequence of notes. Chance processes give me the opportunity to defamiliarize ordinary perceptual events and to discover completely new sounds.
Composing with electronic instruments allows me to easily introduce chance processes—to ensure my role as a participant in the creative process. In addition to interactivity, the nature of electronic instruments also allows near infinite possibilities for shaping sound in time, from modulating timbre to setting up generative melodies.
My tape loop video series, “endless loop”, focuses on the mechanical apparatus of cassette tape players and poetic elements such as repetition in sound and language. Posting the videos on Instagram allowed me to situate the work in the context of specific communities (experimental music, poetry, and visual art), but also to let the work fall where it may—to be scattered widely and randomly. Social media also provided a viewing and listening situation that was intimate and personal; the work was designed for the scale of a smartphone, to be held in one’s hand.
I am drawn to time-based mediums like video and sound because they give me opportunities to work spontaneously, to incorporate chance, and to step aside, allowing the work to emerge. I see all of my work as acts of participation, myself a kind of conduit. My video “touch” is perhaps emblematic of this approach, where my body interacts with a machine, where the apparatus offers resistance and feedback, and where the outcome is not known in advance.
This sound work was made using a small desktop synthesizer with touch sensors that shape the sound. In the foreground is a step sequencer that produces a repeating sequence of 16 notes. Like much of my sound work, this is in the tradition of minimal music.
For this 92 cm loop, from my “books on tape” series, I randomly cut 18 pieces of audio tape from two different books on tape—9 from each. I then spliced them together at random, alternating the two voices.
This 12-second tape loop is a kind of nonsense poem. It was inspired in part by the album “In No Sense? Nonsense!” (1987), by the English avant-garde synth-pop group Art of Noise.
This 78 cm tape loop features a text-to-speech app “reading” an excerpt from the book “Tender Buttons” (1914) by Gertrude Stein.
The tape loop in this video is made from found sound.
This is another minimalist sound work made using a small desktop synthesizer with touch sensors and a step sequencer.
This piece was made using a modular synthesizer, a step sequencer, and two effects units. Having composed a 16-step melodic sequence, I then played it with the sequencer set to random. The human impulse towards pattern recognition leads the listener to still hear melodic elements despite the machine’s randomization of the original sequence of notes.
This piece for modular synthesizer and effects pedals dispenses with melody, incorporating randomness at the level of electronic circuitry, keeping the composition in a constant state of flux. My hand appears in the video as I perform some modulations on the fly.