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Cleveland Artist Spotlights
Eric M.C. Gonzalez
Eric M.C. Gonzalez
If you’ve seen a show at Cleveland Public Theatre, embarked on a theatric journey with Theater Ninjas, or seen the band Forager lately, you’ve likely encountered the work of Eric M.C. Gonzalez. Classically trained composer and cellist, Gonzalez is capable of transporting his audience to strange realms through unusual sonic experience, explicit narrative and sound design. “I try to not to be overly literal; not too black and white with the mood I’m trying to create,” working to challenge and intrigue his listeners with oftentimes dark, unsettling soundscapes. While many find working with other artists intimidating, Gonzalez has found himself a natural collaborator, blending seamlessly into the theater scene as well as other initiatives like the Lottery League Cleveland.
However, that doesn’t stop him from exploring his own interdisciplinary projects outside of the theater world. He becomes quickly fascinated with and enthralled by new technology or techniques, driving him to experiment on a regular basis. His science fiction EP and comic book, Conscious Din, work together as a multi-sensory experience for the reader and listener. Not surprisingly, as an artist working with electronic music, Gonzalez is drawn to themes of technology. “The comic talks about confronting technology and how it’s affecting us personally and whether or not that’s a good thing. That’s kind of the big question I’m asking.”
Though he’s beginning to branch out into other areas of exploration including his rich familial history, with dimensional, performative pieces like Mexicanidad in the United States of America, created for CPT’s Station Hope. Given the current political climate, he says “it’s an opportunity to look at this part of my life in a way that I hadn’t really done in the past.”
Q. Describe briefly the work that you do.
A. I am a sound designer, performer, and composer of music for film, theater, the concert hall, and beyond. Performing solo as Agleam and a member of the band Forager, I experiment with synthesizers, acoustic instruments, vocals and interactive platforms. Eric is Assistant to the Director of No Exit New Music Ensemble, and Director of the events-based string ensemble Forest City Chambers.
For the past few years, I have been working more and more in a theatrical setting, which has pushed my work in to the realm of storytelling. I am the creator of the comic book REACH, that compliments a specific set of songs that I am writing, and have collaboratively written and developed several devised works for theatre.
Q. How do you feel your work affects your audience? (and/or) How do you
A. want your work to affect your audience?
When I'm collaborating, I want my music/sound design to integrate with the narrative in a supportive and effective way. I try to incorporate repeating motifs when dealing with the story, not always in a very obvious way. Maybe it's more subdued or mysterious, rather than telling the audience how they should be feeling at a given time. I think music in theater has to find a place where it is supporting what is being depicted on stage without being hamfisted or coddling the audience.
I want my non-collaborative music to stand on its own as a meaningful piece of art. I want people to hear my work and understand the emotion and craft that goes into it. I want my audience to understand the world I create with my sounds, and let it spark their own questions about what exactly is happening on either a technical or symbolic level.
Q. How did you get introduced to your craft?
A. I began playing cello when I was 10 years old. My first instrument was cello, but I always had an interest in playing other instruments and creating music. I picked up guitar in my teenage years, and produced an exhibition of recorded music at my high school through an independent study and mentor program. I earned a Bachelor's Degree of Music in Composition and Performance from Cleveland State University in 2013.
I began making music for theater in 2014, and that sparked my interest in storytelling-based music.
Q. Do you have any long-standing influences?
A. When I was young I listened to the greatest hits of the 1990s and classic-rock radio stations. In 1997 I discovered MTV which exposed me to many artists that I still find music inspiration in such as Radiohead, Bjork, Wu-Tang Clan, Missy Elliot, Aphex Twin, and more. In high school, in the early 00s, I was influenced by indie rock and hip-hop, acts like cLOUDEAD, Doseone, Hymie's Basement, Fog, Animal Collective, Pixies, Sonic Youth and more. Studying and creating music for the concert hall in college, I was exposed to and found inspiration not only from the great classical composers, but also in contemporary and 20th century concert music. So, of course Bach, Beethoven, Wagner, and Mendelssohn influenced me from pre 20th century, as did Schoenberg, Berg, and Messiaen from pre 1950, as did Glass, Berio, and Ferneyhough moving from the 20th century to today, just to name a few!
I suppose I've always been drawn to thoughtful and eclectic music, and studying academic music fueled my thirst for new and interesting methods of artistic expression while establishing a base and understanding of music history and theoretic principles.
Q. Describe your idea of artistic success?
A. I would consider success to be the point at which people are actively consuming my work and seeking out what I am going to do next, being able to perform/exhibit my work for an audience, and hopefully being able to sustain myself through my artistic output 100%. Most important of all, I must be creating work that I find challenging to myself as an artist, and becomes provocative to my audience in a meaningful way.
Q. What is your process for generating new ideas?
A. I write things down/type them out. Sketch ideas with simple recordings. Then I try to flesh these ideas out in a way that makes sense to me, and then fill in the gaps to make them make sense to other people. A lot of what I do is collaborative, so I do enjoy creating with other people, and sometimes rely on them for feedback and making the best show possible!
I try to keep things "new" by implementing current technology into my work. This is always changing, so it's a never-ending pursuit.