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Richard Lerman

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The work of sound artist Richard Lerman centers around his custom-made contact microphones of unusually small size. Numerous well-placed mics are essential to his work recording environmental sounds not easily heard (or noticed) by humans, as in his project of sonically mapping the Sonoran Desert. While growing up in Milwaukee, Lerman played trombone, listened to jazz, and upon hearing Darius Milhaud's "Le Creation du Monde" was inspired to begin studying modern composition on his own while still in high school. Lerman then studied film, as well as composition, at Brandeis College. There, he worked in the electronic music studio, first started working with piezoelectric transducers, and studied with Alvin Lucier, Gordon Mumma, and mentor David Tudor. His sound installations often depend on natural stimuli, such as the wind moving on strings or tuning forks. Yet much of his work centers on capturing the sounds we miss altogether. In "Travelon Gamelon" (1977), Lerman amplified the sounds and reverberations of a moving bicycle; a recording of this was released on Smithsonian Folkways in 1982. For the collaborative work "Threading History," Lerman recorded the barbed wire of a prison camp. "A Seasonal Mapping of the Sonoran Desert" includes the sound of cactus needles plucked like strings by rainfall. Since he first began performing in the late '60s, Lerman has traveled to Europe and across the U.S. with his creations, including a film show at MOMA. In addition to working on his own creations, Lerman has taught arts in Boston and Arizona. ~ Joslyn Layne

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December 5, 1944 in San Francisco, CA

Years Active:

'70s, '80s, '90s, '00s