Stephen Vitiello - "The Light of Falling Cars"
JdK 02 (1998)

"a release that sounds like no other I've heard" and The Wire - "one of the highlights of the year so far" -- The New York Press.

"... "The Light Of Falling Stars" itself, a raga of violin, sitar-like drones, accordion and bird-whistle feedback, is almost too musical to have been born of spontaneity. Whatever its origins, it's a beautiful piece of music -calling to mind not only the DLB but also the powerful, elemental improv of Japan's Toho Sara/Seventh Seal and the fringe-dwellers of U.K. folk, the singular Third Ear Band." -- From MOTION / Gil Gershman.

Links -- Stephen's websites at New Music Box, CDeMUSIC and Diacenter.

Updated 01 November 2002

Stephen Vitiello is an electronic musician and media artist.

Since 1988 he has collaborated with musicians, visual artists and choreographers, including Pauline Oliveros, Tetsu Inoue, John Jasperse, Rebecca Moore, Tony Oursler, Nam June Paik, Scanner, Yasunao Toné, Frances-Marie Uitti.

Vitiello's CD releases include Bright and Dusty Things (New Albion Records), Humming Bird Feeder ver. 02 (Lucky Kitchen), 17:48 from the Texas Gallery, (Texas Gallery), Scratchy Marimba (Sulphur UK/Sulfur USA), Light of Falling Cars (JDK Productions) and Uitti/Vitiello (JDK Productions), with cellist, Frances-Marie Uitti.

Recent exhibitions include the “2002 Whitney Biennial,”  “Ce qui arrive” at the Cartier Foundation, Paris, curated by Paul Virilio, and a solo exhibition at The Project, NY. Previous exhibitions include “BitStreams,” at the Whitney Museum of American Art, “Greater New York” at P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center in collaboration with the Museum of Modern Art, and a solo exhibition at the Texas Gallery, Houston, TX. Additional exhibition participation includes Postmasters Gallery, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Lyon. In 1999, Stephen Vitiello held a 6-month WorldViews residency on the 91st floor of the World Trade Center. The residency resulted in a site-specific sound installation. This project was awarded a “Radio/Sound Art Fellowship” from the Jerome Foundation.

In 1999, Stephen Vitiello created music for White Oak Dance Project’s See Through Knot, choreographed by John Jasperse and featuring Mikhal Barysnikov presented at Brooklyn Academy of Music, NY.

Performances include International Festival Musique Actuelle Victoriaville, Canada, Paradiso, Amsterdam, the Whitney Museum of American Art at Philip Morris, and participation in per/Son, a concert series of solo and collaborative pieces also featuring Pauline Oliveros, Scanner, Frances Marie-Uitti and Andres Bosshard. The event was organized by the Kunsthochschule Für Medientechnologie, Koln, and broadcast by WDR radio's Studio Akustische Kunst program.

In addition to music based work, Vitiello directed the videos Nam June Paik: SeOUL NyMAx Performance, 1997 - Dress Rehearsal and The Last Ten Minutes and Nam June Paik: Two Piano Concerts 1994/1995. He also produced the audio CD, Nam June Paik: Works 1958-1979 (Sub Rosa).

As a Media Curator, he curated the Sound Art component to the Whitney Museum's exhibition The American Century: Art and Culture 1950-2000 and Young and Restless a video program for the Museum of Modern Art.

photo by Paula Court


Wire, March 1999, issue 181 / David Elliott --

Vitiello is a New York based guitarist and samplist working in numerous media. He has two prior albums to his name: one a soundtrack, the other a compilation of music for tapes and installations. The Light Of Falling Cars is his first attempt at creating music without a visual component. Helping out are accordeon supremo Pauline Oliveros (they worked toghether at the per->SON concert in Cologne a year ago), Hahn Rowe on electric violin, Rebecca Moore on computer theremin and Paul Geluso on double bass. Vitiello himself moulds treated guitar with the aural detritus of the city, and at times it's difficult to discern his colleagues' contributions, such is his wholesale manipulation of sound. It takes a while to get going, but gradually, substance, shapes and colour appear through the diminished hi-fi rumble. By "Slow Spy And Camel", we are suddenly, enticingly in the same territory as Holger Czukay and Rolf Dammers's "Boat Woman Song", while a similarly mournful title piece features a more upfront Oliveros. The varied instrumentation gives the affair a warmth and resonance, particularly Oliveros's accordeon and Rowe's violin, which lend the album a certain yearning.

From MOTION / Gil Gershman --

"... "The Light Of Falling Stars" itself, a raga of violin, sitar-like drones, accordion and bird-whistle feedback, is almost too musical to have been born of spontaneity. Whatever its origins, it's a beautiful piece of music -calling to mind not only the DLB but also the powerful, elemental improv of Japan's Toho Sara/Seventh Seal and the fringe-dwellers of U.K. folk, the singular Third Ear Band."

NEW YORK PRESS REVIEW ON STEPHEN VITIELLO, March 24-30, 1999 / Kenneth Goldsmith --


The Light of Falling Cars
Stephen Vitiello
JDK Productions

Beauty and melody are rare commodities in experimental music; from Arnold Schoenberg to Derek Bailey, this century's avant-garde has defined itself by abrasion. Up to this point, it seemed that "making it new" dogmatically entailed including predictable modes of annoyance. However, as pop music, from hardcore to death metal has made millions based on extreme irritation, it seems like a played-out way to be radical.

Stephen Vitiello, a young New York guitarist, has no qualms about killing the listener with kindness. Over the past few years, Vitiello has coated his experimental discs with sugar to the point where they're absolutely irresistible; I couldn't get his last release, Chairs Not Stairs, off my CD player, or his catchy improvs out of my head - they stuck with me as if they
were pop songs, instead of the rigorous compositions that they really were. Vitiello creates listenable avant-garde music; it's a savvy strategy that's nothing if not radical.

His previous work took its cues from Brian Eno's Before and After Science, lacing dreamy song structures with small patches of improvisation. On his new disc however, Vitiello has raised the bar a notch by forsaking any semblance of song structure for several flavors of free-form improvisation. The good news is that instead of creating a disc of bone-dry, self-indulgent, ego-driven noodling, Vitiello has managed to retain all of the sweetness and accessibility from his earlier work. The result is an improv disc that sounds like no other I've ever heard; it's remarkable for its gentleness, intelligence and likability.

One of the reasons for Vitiello's success is that he's not bound by any single musical style. By incorporating found sounds into his improvs, its hard to tell what is being played and what is on tape. Give it a close listening and you'll hear water sounds and tapes running backwards, whooshing electronic hums, quiet thumps and heady drones. On top of that, Vitiello packs his pieces with quotations from every musical style imaginable: The title cut tosses La Monte Young-like drones up against rumbling Tuvan overtones. Another cut, "Slow Spy and Camel" laces crime jazz with fuzzy walkie-talkie static to
campy complex results; it sounds like reruns of Get Smart broadcast to Mars.

While most of the disc is Vitiello vamping in various groupings, the track that really shines is an improvisation with Pauline Oliveros on accordion and Hahn Rowe on violin called "Trio." Waves of droney melodies crash and intertwine with another. Oliveros' accordion is fed through electronics and sounds microtonally warped; Rowe's violin snakes in and out of Vitiello's
guitar, while simultaneously ducking and weaving Oliveros' shimmering accordion. It's Vitiello's way of paying homage to the elder Oliveros; "Trio" is a piece based on close listening and responding to what others in the group are playing something Oliveros has been working on for almost half a century.

In a time when vapid ambient music is played in offices to increase relaxation and productivity, Vitiello takes another track: His music is thinking man's ambient music that's so damn intelligent and demanding that it refuses to fade into the background. By taking his historical cues from a few composers who have ventured into similar hybrid territory, such as Erik Satie and Alvin Curran (both of whom knew how to seduce an audience without sacrificing their integrity), and by incorporating the latest avant developments like glitchwerks and digital scraping into his work, Vitiello has managed to fuse several tendencies into a single compelling practice that's all his own.

Wayside Music Catalogue --

"An excellent, very listenable release of music for processed electric guitar & samples. This stuff slowly unfolds, revealing new layers of interesting, carefully sculpted sound. I thought this was about as good as this genre gets."

THE WIRE - multi media

Stephen Vitiello's art of noises are a movable feast.  by Rahma Khazam

"I think a lot about how sound can change one's perception of a space", says New York based composer Stephen Vitiello. Sound's capacity to enhance the listener's perception of an environment is an obsession that percolates into all of Vitiello's many and varied activities. A solo performer, soundtrack composer and installation artist, Vitiello uses a sampler, delay effects and a prepared electric guitar to fashion vivid and highly effective soundscapes which he plays back through judiciously placed clusters of speakers. The installation he presented earlier this year at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Lyon is a case in point: swirling whorls of sonic matter moved in different directions and at different speeds through a small enclosed room., affording visitors an intense and surrealistic listening experience. At another recent event, he wired an entire venue and its grounds: the trees emitted a processed voice, the floor and chimney rumbled with other occasional voices while a speaker projected a guitar solo up into the roof of the gazebo, causing the music to expand with the shape of the roof and echo back down. "The organisers feared that sound alone could not do enough to transform the landscape. But in the end they admitted that they had not realised how effective it could be," he remarks.

His parallel activity as a film soundtrack composer offers another outlet for his ideas of how sound can affect and interact with its environment here, his compositions redefine the images they accompany." (Consider the example) of a blue car and a red sky. The sound can make that car appear to move faster and it can make the sky more red. It can also make the car seem manacing or give the feeling that the sky holds storm clouds," he suggests. "I think about the relationship of sound to image in terms of background and foreground: in a traditional film, most of the music stays in the background whereas in the pieces that I have been involved in, there is room for the music to become very prominent , occasionally overshadow the image, and then fall back to let the picture take over again. Not unlike a duet of two musicians."

Vitiello's approach owes much to the visual artists he has worked with over the years. Originally a guitarist with assorted New York groups, he hooked up with video auteur Nam June Paik in 1991. It was the start of a long and fruitful collaboration which has lasted to this day. Vitiello would receive calls from Paik asking him to come and videotape the latter's Buddha sculptures, or to document a month-long Fluxus event, or assist in a tribute performance to John Cage. "In the beginning I would try to explain that I was a musician and was not sure I coulld do all that he asked," recalls Vitiello. "He would reply that all of this would make me a better musician. Of course, he was right. The exposure to all of this work, his concepts of connecting a history of the avant garde to a contemporary setting a sense of spontaneity in performance that takes into account all that you have done and seen before, taught me more than I can say."

During this period, Vitiello was also acquiring an insight into other art forms as a result of composing soundtracks for experimental film, video and dance. "In most cases this has meant working side by side with the artists and being influenced by their process of creating a work just as they are influenced by my methods. I have looked for musical ways to parallel visual structures and effects, straight and crooked lines, ideas of narrative versus non narrative,' he explains. For Vitiello, music and video have certain creative techniques in common. "People who edit video work in very similar ways to (electronic) musicians. They have certain prepared materials- raw footage- and they experiment with playback speeds and layering . Actually some of the most well-known artists who have worked with video were first involved in music. Paik was at Darmstadt with Stockhausen and C

Vitiello's close encounters with the visual arts have also made him eminently qualified to curate exhibitions: a former video curator at the Knitting Factory., he has also created several programmes for festivals and museums dedicated to Charlotte Moorman, the avant garde cellist who was Paik's longtime performing partner. For his next curatorship, he will be devising a sound programme to open in September for the ongoing American Century exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. It will include contributions from Steven Reich, Alvin Lucier, Pauline Oliveros and Ikue Mori as well as a section of Fluxus material. "I want to examining how we define sound as an art form and see how the Whitney's audience can come to grips with a room in which they sit and listen to Alvin Lucier, just as they might sit and look at a painting. I have also asked several artists and historians to offer a list of milestones in the development of sound as an art form in the last 50 years." he explained. "I am excited that (for once) the museum will give such consideration to sound as it so often falls into the backdrop of critical attention once pictures enter the scene."

The Light Of Falling Cars is out now on JdK. Contact Stephen Vitiello at vitiello64@aol.com.