June 22, 2024

Presenter Series / Introducing Myles Veltenhill : Sampling, Synthesis and Rebellion

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On May 1st in The Basically Good Media Lab, we hosted an artist talk by our very own recent graduate and award winning New Media + Sound Art Student and Research Assistant Thomas “Myles Veltenhill” Feltenberger! 

Feltenberger is a sound artist and musician from Chicago who is currently living in Vancouver, BC. With an extensive background in New Media and Sound Art from Emily Carr University, his creative expression sits at the intersection of digital media, sound, and video art.  

With a mastery of sampling and synthesis techniques, Feltenberger crafts immersive soundscapes that cross diverse genres and realms. Their methods include digital audio manipulation using Ableton Live, modular synthesis exploration, hardware sampling, and experimental use of visual sampling techniques through Max MSP. 

Drawing inspiration from many sources, Feltenberger’s reference points include the evolution of hip-hop from the Definitive Jux era of 2008 to the vibrant hip-hop scene of Chicago in 2017. They are inspired by RTJ (Run the Jewels) community, and artists like Nick Hook and Jordan Asher Cruz.  

Feltenberger’s creative taste is further enriched by the works of Philip K. Dick and the realm of gnosis, infusing their compositions with an otherworldly feeling. Their practice is also imbued with a sense of Bush-era resentment and countercultural voices, echoing the dissent and resilience of underground movements throughout history.  

In an interview, Myles explains further his influences, inspirations and views on this interesting intersection they find themselves in.  

K: Your New Media and Sound Art background is unique. How do you believe it influences your approach to crafting soundscapes compared to more traditional methods? 

M: My background is primarily in beat-based music, often alternative hip hop and electronic genre. Before I studied New Media and Sound Art at Emily Carr University, I was a no-name DIY musician in Chicago. At that time, I was generally unaware of sound art as a concept, yet I often practiced field recording techniques that are popular in Sound Art. Ultimately, I would use field recordings as sampling material to make beats. I also had an interest in digital, glitchy visual collage that I can now call “New Media.”   It was interesting going from the DIY hip hop music scene into the world of art school, “Capital ‘A’ Art School” as some have called it. My formal education helped me learn the language associated with the practices I was already involved in, and as such, I am continuously influenced by hip hop in my sound works.  

K: Your inspirations from the Definitive Jux era of hip-hop to artists like Nick Hook and Jordan Asher Cruz suggests a wide range of influences. How do you integrate these diverse influences in your work, both sonically and conceptually?  

M: Integration of influence is inevitable in my practice; it is just simply impossible to ignore the information and sonic palettes of those whose music I enjoy. While these influences may seem very different sonically, they are all bound together by degrees of separation that I find fascinating. It is similar to a lineage of teachings, in that there are nodes I can connect to better understand how the music I enjoy progresses. In this example of Def Jux, Hook, and Cruz, the common thread is Jaime Meline, better known as EL-P of Run The Jewels. EL was the founder of Def Jux, and then went on years later to record the first Run The Jewels album at Hook’s studio. The second Run The Jewels Album featured Cruz on vocals and production. I met all these people throughout the years (usually on a Run The Jewels tour), and Hook ended up becoming a recurring mentor throughout my growth as an artist. As such, I feel like I am trying to continue a sort of lineage, as I have a personal connection with those who inspire me.   

Sonically, I feel as though I am drawn in as a fan and try to study what I like in a song. I like EL-P’s production style of sampling and dense lyricism. I like Nick Hook’s use of synthesis and drum machines, and how he moves in this world. I like Cruz’s use of vocals as an instrument as well as implementation of sampling. I hear what I like, and I try to expand upon the work as if it is my turn to contribute something to the sonic lineage.  
Conceptually, these influences are all over the place. The vibe of Definitive Jux in the early 2000’s was a different sort of underground hip hop, and the ethos of that label as outsiders to a subculture was fascinating to me. Moreover, EL-P’s pointed political raps drew me in conceptually. In contrast, the concepts I have picked up from Nick Hook are more about music making itself, and how to utilize music for building community. In yet another contrast, Cruz makes music that touches on concepts outside of the material world, while still having an intimacy within this plane of existence. None of these concepts can be separated from the work I create.  

K: Philip K. Dick’s works and the realm of gnosis are mentioned as inspirations. How do you translate these themes into your compositions, and what kind of atmosphere or mood are you trying to create?  

M: Before I answer that, I wish to point out that I was only ever put onto the works of PKD by EL-P, as he has cited PKD as a source of inspiration. In fact, he used some of the wealth generated from the Run The Jewels project to buy the original manuscript for PKD’s “Radio Free Albemuth,” of which is one of my favorites of PKD’s catalog. It goes back to the idea of a lineage being passed down, and sometimes tracing the source back further gives me new insights and inspirations.  

The themes presented in PKD’s work influence how I write lyrics, in that I try to veil the meanings of a song. I want to try to use symbols and language in a contorted context to give layers of meaning to be extracted and alchemized by the audience. I want to create an atmosphere that is as confusing as “Valis.” I want to point out the illusions of this world, in a sense, by creating illusions.  

K: You mention “a Bush-era resentment” and countercultural voices. This suggests a political or social dimension to your work. How do you express these themes through your music, and what message or emotions do you aim to evoke in your audience?  

M: Most of my political expression is through anger and resentment, especially in how I write my lyrics, and in aggressive performance on stage. The most overt example is the (not yet released) song “GOD IS AN AMERICAN,” which directly samples David Bowie, Queen, Nine Inch Nails, and Company Flow to create an abrasive sonic backdrop for a rant against American Imperialism, as well as rappers who co-opted leftist aesthetics only to stand in line with capitalism.  It is a pretty straightforward performance; I am literally yelling into a microphone about how America promotes violence, and even the popular “counterculture” figures are just part of the machine. 

The message in the music is admittedly convoluted. There are so many great writers who can spread a message more eloquently than I ever could, but that is my point. I am ranting into a microphone aggressively. I am not here to give anyone a beautiful, succinct lyric to quote. I am here to let some of that anger and disapproval of the war machine be put on full display for anyone who will look at it. It is almost the only catharsis I can get, and I hope the audience can find something in that. 

In a more direct sense, I hope that the audience can see how Western imperialist violence is breaking down our sense of humanity, and how I feel driven to the edge of madness knowing that my tax dollars fund the military industrial complex’s mission to kill for profit. I think if there was something of an ideal audience reaction, it would be “huh, good point, this is all really fucked up. We are living in a fucked up structure that really doesn’t make any sense to any moral sensibilities. We really need to unfuck this fast.”  

And most urgently: free Palestine.  

K: Finally, how do you see your work evolving in the future, and what advice would you give to aspiring sound artists and musicians who are interested in exploring similar intersections in their work?  

M: In the future, I hope to better hone my skills as a lyricist, in both concept and performance. I am in a moment of rediscovering my voice as an instrument, and I want it to come across as clear in intention. I want to continue to work on audio responsive visual collages to complement the music and sound works.   As far as advice goes, I firmly believe that persistence is key. Keep practicing and exploring. Continue to learn as much as possible about anything sound related that is inspiring in the moment. Try to give your knowledge to others in the process and try to cultivate a community in any way possible. Make art in any way you can. 

For more from Myles, Check out their work on Instagram @mylesveltenhill