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Meet the Artist James Colby


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Hinge Arts at the Kirkbride is hosting a meet and greet for James Colby on Tuesday, May 8th at Springboard for the Arts, 4:30 - 5:30PM. Located at 201 West Lincoln Ave., Fergus Falls, MN. We will provide beverages and appetizers and James will share his work with us through a talk and with sound. This event is FREE and open to the public. Please share and invite family and friends. James will be in residence through our Career Development residency with us Monday, May 7th - Saturday, May 19th, 2018.

James Colby has been playing and composing music in wide variety of contexts and locations for many years, including time spent studying saxophone at a conservatory in his home state of New York. Upon moving to Tucson four years ago, Jim met the members of cumbia band Vox Urbana, which he joined as a keyboard player and saxophonist, helping write and record both of the band’s records, “La Churumbela” and “La Pitaya.”

James subscribes to a philosophy that great music and visual art do not exist solely in a gallery, on a studio recording, or on a stage. Many masterpieces and virtuoso performances never leave the interior of the artist’s living rooms and continue to be great even in a critical vacuum with no one to appreciate them. If you take this argument to it’s natural conclusion, you end at the idea that music does not require a musician or musical instrument, and the only requirement for visual art is the observational powers of the human eye. When combined with the boundless curiosity of the human mind and inherent thirst for beauty in the human soul, art begins to appear in every corner of our lives.
As a child growing up on a farm in rural New York, he was often entranced by the complex soundscape that surrounded him. The steady lowing of dairy cows was like a droning choir backed by the clattering rhythm section of farm machinery. Summer nights gave rise to a dense thicket of almost electronic sounding noise, with tree-frogs and insects vying to be heard over the nocturnal fray. While this attention to sound did not make him the greatest farmer, it fostered an awareness of how every non-musical sound can influence mood, while also interacting with memory, geography, and the ways in which we perceive the world around us.

James feels that all sounds are inherently also music, an idea espoused by 20th century composers John Cage and Pierre Schaefer, among others. When one begins to think this way, the entire world around you becomes a cacophonous symphony, and your mental attention to one sound while filtering out the rest makes you the composer and producer of a personal soundtrack that follows you through all your waking hours. His work highlighting the music in non-musical material seeks to emulate this mental concentration on single sounds to the exclusion of others, but instead of the human mind subconsciously editing ambient noise, it is him in the role of artist emphasizing and exaggerating sounds that may go overlooked or ignored and turning them into a focal point.
A new facet of his work seeks to enlarge this focal point of sound into immersive sound installations that surround the audience with multi-speaker arrays that shift around and manipulate sound in relation to the audience’s position and movements within the installations, giving a new dimensionality to the musical compositions and transforming them into something more akin to an interactive sonic sculpture. The workshopping and implementation of these new techniques is something he hopes to explore and build upon within the artist's’ residency at Hinge Arts at the Kirkbride.

In 2014, Jim and Enrique Castellanos of Vox Urbana were awarded a Puffin Foundation Grant by the Puffin Foundation, and a P.L.A.C.E. V grant by the Tucson Pima Arts Council for their project, “Cumbia Corridos.” The project entailed Jim and Enrique interviewing people within the city of Tucson whose stories are marginalized and not directly shared with the public, then transforming these stories into lyrics set to original music.

In 2015, Jim Colby was awarded a New Works grant by the Tucson Pima Arts Council for a project entitled “Sonaural: Cuts on Tucson.” The project consists of Jim collecting field recordings from specific sites within the city of Tucson, Arizona, and manipulating and arranging samples pulled from the field recordings to create musical compositions that seek to create a “remixed” version of the city. The piece has been performed at Exploded View Gallery and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tucson, AZ.

In 2017, Jim was awarded an Artist Research and Development Grant from the Arizona Commission of the Arts for “Saxorcism,” a musical composition/interactive sound installation created entirely from sounds culled from recordings of saxophones. Development is ongoing, with a projected debut date in Spring 2018.