Roger Clark Miller: Transmuting the Prosaic

March 14 - June 14, 2020

I explore naturally occurring events that are often considered ordinary, mundane, or unwanted. Whether it is traffic patterns, rock formations, cricket calls, or the structure of dreams, I strive to transform these everyday, often rejected occurrences and open up the doors behind them. Some elements of the work have as much control over the outcome as I do, which lessens my ego as a creator. The environment and I are equal partners in the creative process. 

In the Davis Square Symphony, the bustle of Davis Square in Somerville, Massachusetts, has been translated into an orchestral score. Vehicles become strings, pedestrians shift into wind instruments, and bicycles emerge as snare drums. Traffic, which is generally considered irritating and unpleasant, has been transformed into a work of unique beauty. Translating these prosaic phenomena into poetry is akin to the ancient alchemical dream of transmuting lead into gold.

Inspired by John Cage and Marcel Duchamp, Pop Record Evolving transforms the pops and surface noise from my record collection into source material for a recording that began in 1984 and constantly evolves. By isolating these flaws in the recorded form, I allow the sounds to create their own score. All of my Modified Vinyl pieces toy with the idea of records and the ways that permutations of this medium can produce provocative results not commonly associated with their initial intent.

As the co-founder, guitarist, and vocalist for the art-punk band Mission of Burma, I found a medium to channel both my creativity and my critique of society. Lyric sheets were in vogue, giving the illusion of elevating simple words to the level of poetry. By creating a lyric sheet where all the words were placed in alphabetical order for our critically acclaimed 1981 “Signals, Calls, and Marches” EP, we created a wry commentary on corporate interference in the artistic process. The Signals, Calls, and Marches Lyric Sheet installation includes those same words inked onto a record. At the listening station, I isolated each word from the record in alphabetical order, precisely like the lyric sheet. One can read the lyrics and listen to the isolated words from the record at the same time.

The music of Johann Sebastian Bach can be viewed as a series of perfect mathematical musical gestures. In the piece Four Bars of a Bach Fugue, to get a radical result from the same material, I etched the treble and bass clef of four bars onto a blank record with a screwdriver. When this material is translated by a record needle, the result is quite different from the piece’s original intention. (For the record, I enjoy playing Bach on the piano.)

— Roger Clark Miller

This project is supported by a grant from the Artists’ Resource Trust.

RELATED EVENTS

Opening of New Exhibits – March 14, Saturday, 3-5 p.m.
Artist Talk: Roger Clark Miller – April 8, Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Performance: Music by Roger Clark Miller – May 29, Friday, 7:30 p.m.