Interview with Vaughn Garland



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00:01:00 - Garland's Home-life

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Partial Transcript: * I grew up in Southwest part of Virginia which is close to Abingdon, Virginia, close to Bristol, Tennessee and Bristol Virginia. And so, I grew up in-- grew up 1:00in the mountains and-- grew up in a very farm-oriented, educational kind of household. My parents, my grandparents were teachers and farmers, and also musicians over the years and so, I kinda grew up in a situation where education, art, and music was always kind of there and kinda like that whole home-grown like romantic, American kind of notion of like farming and singing kind of stuff, so.

Okay, very interesting. So then would you say that you parents being musicians, did that kind of influence you to do something with music or sound?--

*Actually the opposite--


*So, my mom was a piano teacher and taught piano later on in her life and then my dad wasn't at all musically inclined--


*He was more-- he was a professor and educator and so and so forth, so he was very much interested in.. in higher education.


Segment Synopsis: Garland talks about his family-life growing up and the influence that his parent's occupations had on his activities.

Keywords: Virginia; educational household; farm-oriented; grandparents; mountains; musicians; parents; teachers

Subjects: Growing up

GPS: Abingdon, VA
Map Coordinates: 36.7098° N, 81.9773° W
00:02:00 - First encounter with sound

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Partial Transcript: *So my-- I grew up actually wanting to..not play the piano and kind of went on-- I took 12 years of piano growing up and many years of other instruments and just basically one day decided to, to not do it anymore, and then totally forgot about how to play the piano, so--

Oh okay.

*It was completely kind of going-- trying to find my own space, I guess. And so moving away from that, but later on coming back towards it, I guess.

Okay. That's pretty interesting. Right.. Or.. mmm.. So like what interested you about being a sound artist, or was it like something that you always wanted to do? Or?

*Actually no, so the first time I actually remember being really engaged with sound and music was-- I took a college course at my old undergrad which was Emory and Henry College and it was a musicology course and totally fell in love with that course. I don't know if you've ever taken a musicology, but it's incredible.

Segment Synopsis: Garland's first exposure to sound as an art

Keywords: Emory and Henry College; instruments; love; music; musicology course; piano; sound; undergrad

Subjects: Musicology

00:03:00 - Fell in love with Musicology

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Partial Transcript: if you've ever taken a musicology, but it's incredible. Out of my mind, sort of like learning how musics, and music kind of transform throughout culture and across the world in various ways and how they intermingle and intermix-- uhh, really fell in love with that, but at the time I was-- I was in the arts, so I was a painter


*Uhm, and focused on painting instead of that. And then, came to VCU for painting


*Early 2000s to get my masters in--- was working on my master's degree the very final year, I think, and wound up at-- I guess it was the (incomprehensible) I think it was 2002,

Segment Synopsis: Garland's love for the subject of Musicology

Keywords: VCU; cultures; learning; love; masters degree; music; musicology; painting

Subjects: Musicology

00:04:00 - Sound Installation

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Partial Transcript: and I walked in this room and it was a room, it was basically a museum space: no lights, totally blacked out, you had to find your like, follow your like, kind of things around you to find a seat, it was all sound.


*And it just blew me away. I have never experienced anything like that before. I mean I had been a painter for years and worked with sculptors, but I've never heard or been in a sound installation, just completely blew me away. And so, I... at the time at VCU early 2000s we didn't have a sound arts program, we didn't have any sound-- anybody talking about sound art, and so I actually went back and found out--- well I came back and started working at my painting, still because I had to figure out a way to get the show up for my thesis, so on

Segment Synopsis: Fire time experiencing a sound installation and he was blown away by it

Keywords: away; blacked out; blew; experience; him; lights; museum; sound; sound installation

Subjects: Sound in design

Map Coordinates: 37.5490° N, 77.4534° W
00:05:00 - The turning point in his career

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Partial Transcript: and so forth. So I totally forgot about that moment. And then, couple years later came back to VCU to get my Ph.D, and so I happen to just kind of run into a conversation with several people saying you need to take a class with this professor: Stephen Vitiello-- And, and the class, I told him about this experience, kind of like an introduction to where I was and he was like: "Oh, I curated that sound exhibition."


*And so, his kind of like influence changed my entire art making practice


*So, thinking about the way I approach it, is like thinking about sound as a way of layering and uncovering and stuff like that, which is the same sort of process I did in painting


*So it's not anything different than what I was doing for uh-- So that's kind of like my progression of sound over the years and just kind of fell in love with it and everything about it, that once I realized, you know my professor's role, but also what that-- what sound art is.

Segment Synopsis: The professor that influenced him to change his art making process from painting to sound art

Keywords: Ph.D; VCU; class; influence; professor; progression; sound; stephen vitiello

00:06:00 - His philosophy

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Partial Transcript: Yeah, so do you have any projects so far that you've been substantially like proud of or--

*Uhh, yeah. There's a couple of projects that-- a lot of my philosophy actually comes from a John Cage you know theory: of sound is all around you and that sound is silence and everything is music, you know depending on where you're listening and what you're doing, and basically the sound artist or the musician is one that-- picks a moment--


Right? and things kind of transpire in that area, and so a lot of my projects were basically field recordings that make their way into interviews and stuff like that, that I'm trying to kind of like mix people into space


Segment Synopsis: The inspiration for his philosophy and a brief description of hi work

Keywords: area; field recordings; john cage; music; musician; people; philosophy; projects; silence; sound; sound artist; space

Subjects: Cage, John. John Cage, avante-garde composer and philosopher

00:07:00 - Trail of Enslaved People

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Partial Transcript: *Uhh, and do so in the public art arena, if you will but also working with digital work, so a lot of my projects kind of like flow between different places and where they're kind of heard


*Uhh, why they're in a specific location or if you're talking on your phone or laptops or whatever so on and so forth. Uhm, one project that I'm actually trying to finish up right now is one with the, the trail of enslaved people here in Richmond


*So I've been working on that for four years and basically recording individuals about the actual trail, but then actually going out and doing field recordings of the trail and mixing the two and kind of like giving an idea of what this thing is-- what this trail is and--


* the history there and the dialogue of the discussions around that, and so many of my projects are about kind of tough conversations in a way.


Segment Synopsis: A description of a current project that he is working on.

Keywords: Richmond; conversation; dialogue; digit work; discussions; field recordings; history; location; places; projects; public art; recording

Subjects: Slavery

00:08:00 - Latino Community in Richmond project

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Partial Transcript: *we just recently completed a project with interviewing 60 some Latinos individuals here in town and trying to understand the Latino community and that, that area and so whether it's gentrification in the neighborhood or a specific community that does not get any sort of like kind of larger conversation or is about a site that is undergoing some sort of dialogue that is kind of where I like to be, so

*So in terms of like projects like that, would you incorporate or how do you go about incorporating sound to that? Like do you pick what you feel like matches best with the atmosphere of the people you're talking to?

*So, yes. Yes and no and so the idea is for me to go out and actually record from a specific location and you know go out multiple times and trying to find, you know, spend 20 minutes at a specific spot and come back later and do the same sort of thing. And so when I'm rebuilding those environments and usually what I do is try to take the interviews on top of these kind of like location. And so what I'm trying to do is basically build the atmosphere

Segment Synopsis: His project involving the latino community in Richmond

Keywords: atmosphere; community; conversation; dialogue; environments; gentrification; interviews; latino; locations; neighborhood; project; rebuilding; record; sound; understand

Subjects: Latino communities

00:09:00 - Explanation of his craft

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Partial Transcript: that that person will be standing in if they were talking in this space because it's usually a bit more difficult to go out and take somebody to sit them down for an hour and a half in a specific location.


*So I can kind of pull everything together. And and so therefore like I'm fabricating this moment at the same time it's actually about that specific location. So it's not trying to take away from you know, the larger atmosphere it's trying to construct something. And that's


*Some some people might have a question about that. You know because it is.

*Dissecting and then reforming the space.

*So it might not be real, but at the same time it's all coming from that specific location.

*Sometimes I'll put sounds that I've been making studio into it or sounds that I find whether it's through like historical records so on and so forth, but usually I try to stay the straightest I

Segment Synopsis: Methods

Keywords: atmosphere; construct; dissecting; fabricating; location; moment; person; reforming; sounds; space; studio

Subjects: Organised sound

00:10:00 - Fabricating environments

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Partial Transcript: can and the same sort of situation is that a lot of this goes back into the digital space, especially if you're interested in the sound walks.

*If you're,

*say that you're on the computer and you're looking at specific location for the trail of enslaved people, like I want somebody to feel like they are there. And so,

*I will spend

*You know, weeks, months trying to fabricate that environment. Like they were like actually at the physical location.


So I also read that, I think you told me in one of your emails that you were working independently? So on what is that in entail? or have you found any difficulties in working independently as opposed to..

I don't know, working in a group or something like that?

Segment Synopsis: Wants people to feel like they are in the actual environment that he is recreating

Keywords: environment; fabricate; independently; location; sound walks; working

Subjects: Independent man

00:11:00 - Working independently

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Partial Transcript: *Yeah, sure. So yes and no. I think that what's great about working independently as that it's your schedule and it's your projects. I do. I do kind of, I fill a lot of different roles whether it's me just out in the field, recording on my own and then using that for my own space, or if it's working with a group, or if it's working with an entity like a museum and being independent in that sense makes it it makes it a lot more easier because it gives me the chance to kind of juggle all of these things at once. So, a lot of my day is spent doing

*4 or five different projects. Which is great. I love it. And so some of the things about independence you know, being an independent sound artists or curator so on and so forth, is that, I can kinda mold those projects the way that they seem to be unfolding as they a

Segment Synopsis: Perks of working independently

Keywords: easier; independently; mold; own space; projects; schedule; working

Subjects: Independent man

00:12:00 - Past projects, current projects, and future projects

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Partial Transcript: For example,

*one of the first projects I did with sound was with the route 5 and I would go out and just record sounds from route 5, and basically that just kind of happened you know, every day would be a new kind of exploration and moving in different places. (Incomprehensible) trail of enslaved people project it's interesting that one conversation I had with somebody then leads to another, one that leads to a recommendation, so I feel like I'm kind of chasing things around. There's another work that I'm actually doing for 2018

*And that's going to be at the conservatory at Lewis Ginter. I put together a program that I expect I'll be kind of moving around a lot. And so I'm trying to figure out how that unfolds. And being independent was a lot easier to do that.

Segment Synopsis: Brief overview of projects and how they were made easier by working independently

Keywords: conversations; exploration; interesting; program; project; recommendation; record; route 5; sounds

Subjects: Independent man

GPS: Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, route 5
Map Coordinates: 37.6202° N, 77.4709° W
00:13:00 - Working in groups

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Partial Transcript: love working with a group and a lot of our programs especially the Latino conversations and you know the gentrification, those are done through group dialogue. And hence in a group we come together as a group and we're talking about like how this should play out and this program should act like this. And I'm going to be part of a new HIV program coming up next year, same sort of situation looking at HIV here in Richmond. And so those have a different feel but there's still that kind of organic.

*Process where we don't really know all of the stuff that's going to happen and very much welcome to like like one moment determining the rest of your work pretty much which is kind of fascinating.


Segment Synopsis: He also likes working in groups and he mentions a project involving HIV in Richmond

Keywords: HIV; Richmond; conversations; dialogue; gentrification; group; latino; love; organic; process; program

00:14:00 - Is connecting sound to social issues a main goal?

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Partial Transcript: Would you say that,

like you're interested in connecting sounds to social issues in Richmond or like health issues? Would you say that that's like a main goal of yours?

*It is, it is among very much. I mean I think it's so when I was a PHD student my my focus in my dissertation was on artists working with digital technologies AKA smartphones so on and so forth, to engage community. A lot of those projects are social practice works and so through that, you kind of start to look at how people are engaging with these larger conversations and the idea of you know whether it's injustices or whether it's kind of you know

Segment Synopsis: Creating a dialogue by connecting sound to social issues

Keywords: community; conversations; engaging; focus; goal; injustices; social issues

Subjects: Contemporary political and social issues

00:15:00 - Creating dialogue through sound and future directions

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Partial Transcript: *Issues that are within the community those tend to kind of come to the top and being here in Richmond there's a lot of top issues that we're dealing with. And so it just so happens that you know I I you know I and others are working at a moment where a lot of these conversations are starting to come out, and

*five years ago 10 years ago being in the space those conversations you didn't get into or they were ignored or so and so forth. So I think is kind of a unique moment just for myself and others that are working in this space. It's kind of a place where people want to talk to people want to kind of get these things started, to turn up, turning up these things. So, yes, I'm very much interested in kind of having it, a moment where we can facilitate those conversations.

Yeah, so like in like future directions do you think that that's also or do you think that you would eventually change your direction or do you think you would continue with this type of work?

Segment Synopsis: Creating dialogue where issues are being ignored

Keywords: RIhcmond; community; conversations; directions; facilitate; future; ignored; issues

Subjects: Contemporary political and social issues

00:16:00 - His love for connecting sound to social issues in Richmond

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Partial Transcript: *Uhm, I love it. I love what I'm doing and I can't say that I would or would not change because I tend to

*surprise myself over the years. I mean going from painting to no painting at all, was a big change kind of thing. You know I I think there's a lot more work that needs to be done, oral histories. I mean I grew up, like I said I grew up in Bristol Tennessee, and the the our notion of, or around Bristol Tennessee, our notion of music really comes from somebody going down to Bristol (incomprehensible) and so on and so forth and that kind of figure if you will. And uh.

Keywords: change; love; surprise

Subjects: Contemporary political and social issues

00:17:00 - His love for the historic component that he can add to sound

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Partial Transcript: *Recording from the community right? And sort of like that whole notion. I grew up with that. And so I love that idea of history, of that component... at the same time like there's this-- I'm also the director of this sound arts program that's coming up here in Richmond next year. And so we're looking at roughly you know, fifteen to 20 sound artists in the city over six months or so doing different projects. Now, I also love that, though there is like this--

*There's, I don't want to say more creative, but there is a place where you don't have to rely on you know, society to engage with sound, you know, it can be a lot of different things. I just, I prefer my own practice to be in that area. Just cause I think it needs to be there--

Okay, so then like overall would you say that Richmond or the city of Richmond is like a great place to do the type of work that you're into?

*I think it's an amazing-- yeah.


Segment Synopsis: Incorporating history to sound

Keywords: community; creative; director; engage; history; sound artists; sound arts

Subjects: Richmond, Virginia

00:18:00 - Is Richmond a good place for your kind of work?

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Partial Transcript: * I mean, I think it's you know, looking at other cities and you know Richmond is not unique to other cities and our problems are not unique. We like to think that they are because we like to think that we're special in that sense. But if you look at Philly or Baltimore D.C. or anywhere around, Georgia Atlanta in Atlanta you know you've got the same sort of issues but because they are so the issues this the social issues are so visible here,

*And because we haven't until recently decided to talk about them there's so much to be done. And so I think that over the next you know 5 or 10, hopefully more years you'll see people that are like out there on the street recording. There's a lot. I mean even the last two years is a lot more than there was two years ago and you're doing this kind of work. And it seems like sound is becoming more of a,

*a component for people to engage

Segment Synopsis: Richmond's issues are not unique, but that doesn't mean that he doesn't like to highlight the issues that are visible in RIchmond

Keywords: RIchmond; cities; social issues; unique

Subjects: Contemporary political and social issues

00:19:00 - Sound's influence on music taste

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Partial Transcript: -Yeah, yeah. So, a little bit more not off topic, but how do you think that the way that you view sound now do you think it has influenced any of your, of your music choices or favorite artists, things like that?

*Sure, I mean, yeah. I, I've tried to in the past I've tried to kind of remain open to to music choices listened to as much as as much as I can. I mean because it came, come from that whole Appalachian tradition, you know, I'm very much interested in Appalachian music you know, because that's my home grown music. That's what as a child, I would listen to, you know, in person all the time. And also like you know even going into, my dad was a Baptist minister serving, going to like gospel music and an Appalachian gospel music, and this goes hand in hand. But

Segment Synopsis: He likes to keep an open mind, but his childhood has had an impact on his music taste

Keywords: appalacian; artist; baptist; child; choices; favorite; gospel; home; influence; mind; minister; music; open; tradition

Subjects: "Whole world" music series

00:20:00 - John Cage influence on Garland's influence allowed him to open up

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Partial Transcript: you know, trying to push against that kind of opening up to other things trying to figure out a way to allow everything to come in, you know,

I think that's because of John Cage to be honest I think that his philosophy and theory kind of opened me up to

places where people have issues with listening to music. Whether that's all, you know--

experimental based music or whatever you know (incomprehensible) and all this kind of stuff.

*At the same time realizing the power of the computer you know and working with computer and having colleagues that generate music the computer. That's.

Segment Synopsis: He wants to remain open to everything and then we discuss his position at the Richmond Museum of Fine Art

Keywords: John Cage; Richmond; coded; community; digital; museum; music; online; philosophy; programs; systems; team

Subjects: Art museum directors

Map Coordinates: 37.5564° N, 77.4747° W
00:21:00 - Position at the VMFA

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Partial Transcript: *I I want to be as open as I possibly can. Uhm, I think that Cage really did a number on me to be honest.

Super interesting. Do you, or like, based on your position here at the museum, what exactly is your title here, or like?

*So yeah, so as an educator and I'm actually in charge of the team programs here at the museum and my programs over the past couple years have actually tried to pull in

*elements of community based work, so our teams working with Richmond community and members of the Richmond community as their projects. And so the idea is to-- in the last year we worked with the photographer to build a digital online system of her work timeline and this year we're actually using the system that I coded right here once to build a program

Segment Synopsis: His position at the VMFA

Keywords: Richmond community; educator; members; museum; projects; team programs

Subjects: Art museum directors

00:22:00 - Description of a project involving African American artists who grew up in Churchill in the 1940's

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Partial Transcript: *of artists that grew up in Churchill, African American artists a group in Churchill in the nineteen forties there was a painter and he came to the museum, his name is Benjamin Wigfall. So they would then start to can put together a

*program about his life in Churchill he also then moved to Hampton university later became a professor of Yale University of painting and then later lived in New York state so the idea is to take all of this kind of investigation of Churchill and of how specifically in build sound environment online. So the students are recorded themselves. Talk about you know these individuals and we put it back into this online mapping system so that you can find the specific recordings within specific stops that relate to him in his life in Churchill.

Keywords: African Americans; Benjamin Wigfall; Churchill; Sound environment; artists; grew; life; nineteen forties; online; painter; students; up

Subjects: ADLIB (Information retrieval system)

00:23:00 - Sound as an advocate for unheard spaces

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Partial Transcript: *And so I'm very much interested in like even with whom I work here trying to pull in some of these aspects that are part of my own sound environments and sound program.

*You know, one of the, one of the, just of throwing out there one of the artists that has really kind of fed to me the most is Janet Cardiff to sound art, I don't know if you know much about her, but she's a sound artist that works with history and works with kind of online or not online but sound walks. And so she will kind of walk you around a specific space. You know, on your headphones and other speaker arrangements, stuff like that, but it's really kind of getting you to think about this space again and pulling information that people generally have forgotten about or you know, chosen to forgotten about or pushed aside.

Segment Synopsis: Using sound to bring to light forgotten spaces

Keywords: environments; forgotten; headphones; online; sound walks; spaces

Subjects: Action for the environment

00:24:00 - Banter

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Partial Transcript: And so trying to like get you to think about what these spaces mean. So that's what I'm trying to do in a lot of ways, to give us a real look at Richmond.

-Well thank you so much. You gave me a lot of information!

*Good, I hope that helps!

- it really does. Thank you so much I actually didn't know much about sound art, so just learning about it is actually like super interesting for me. So yeah thank you so much again. I know interviews can be a little annoying.

* No, no, no, do you have any bigger questions about sound art in general, I'm a teacher so--

-I think, like if anything, like a question I could ask is like do you think that is there anything that, that you think I didn't ask you that you think is like, important?

* I think that, .

* this is how I talk about, especially with my classes and especially with this sound arts program that's coming up, you know, whether you're an environmentalists or you're a

Subjects: Richmond (Va.)

00:25:00 - Sound touches everything

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Partial Transcript: historian or wherever you're coming from, you know sound artists are working in ways that kinda touch everything. And that's kind of what--when somebody comes up to me and says you know, what do you do? And I say I'm a sound artist. And they're like what? That's so much different from somebody saying "what do you do?" and you say "you're a painter" and they're like oh, you use a brush and you use paint in like a painting. But the sound artists--

*It's kind of a wonderful thing like where there's not really a definition, you know and I think that's kind of nice that we haven't allowed there to be a definition, I think it's partly John cage like blowing the whole thing up and saying like sound art and sound is all of these things. And then Nam June Paik kind of like,

*later on sound artists or new media artists kind of talking about Cage and his way and uses of the radio and kind of like

*were making new media work and stuff like that like that's--.

Segment Synopsis: Sound art touches everything and there is no true definition to what a sound artist is,and he loves that

Keywords: definition; everything; historian; no; sound; sound artist; touch

Subjects: Absorption of sound

00:26:00 - The possibilities of sound and its prevalence in Richmond

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Partial Transcript: *There's so many different possibilities for sound and sound art so whether you're on the computer or if you're just using your voice or if you rely on your guitar or of you rely on sound, you know, there's so much there that sound artists can engage and that's why you see sound art becoming much more.

*of a thing because artists are realizing oh I can do painting and then bring in sound art; I can do sculpture and bring in sound art.

*So it's kind of a wonderful moment for sound art. I hope it stays that way.

-Do you think that like, or is it prevalent right now in Richmond, sound art or do you think that there definitely could be more or more people involved?

*There could be yes. I mean I think that you've got some really great things going on like black Iris Gallery which is down in Richmond, VCU and with having Steven here at VCU has really helped out a lot. And I mean even the past 6, 9, months to a year, now there are

Segment Synopsis: It's a wonderful moment for sound art and theres a potential for it to become more popular in Richmond

Keywords: art; possibilities; sound

GPS: Black Iris Gallery
Map Coordinates: 37.5473° N, 77.4455° W
00:27:00 - Sound art is a growing area but sometimes difficult to maintain as an installation

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Partial Transcript: people reaching out you know, just got an email today like from a friend of mine saying we should put together a sound art group and wants me you know grab some beer and talk about sound art. I mean that's like so new and we don't even see like painters doing that you know, coming from from that area. And so I think it's a growing.


*I think at the same time there could be--

*the problem with sound art is that, if you're in a space like this, it's almost impossible to do a sound art installation, or if you're in a space in general. And you know I'll I'll do a lot of sound art installations for the Valentine, other places like that. And sound art in-- and also digital art is basically like pushed to the very end where like if people prefer to hang

Segment Synopsis: Sound art is growing, but sometimes it's difficult to find places to put up sound art installations

Keywords: digital art; installation; sound art

GPS: Valentine
Map Coordinates: 37° 32' 18.17" N -77° 25' 31.61" W
00:28:00 - People are afraid of art that involves technology

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Partial Transcript: paintings on the wall and sculpture because it's a lot easier to do that than it is to like put up and maintain sound equipment, you know, plus it's also much more--

*It's not it's not as understood and so it's like it's a lot more difficult which is good and bad. I mean I think because I can I can also kind of develop something on my own in the space and not worry about other people coming in. But I think that there needs to be work on that. And there needs to be more acceptance in some of these sound art installations-- it doesn't really cost much more to put up a sound art than it does a painting.

* But people are scared of it.

- Yeah I guess cause it's like, it's not traditional and it's not something that's like right in your face.

*Yeah. Yeah. I mean yeah it's and it's just the care of the technology people were like oh my

Keywords: sound art installation; technology