For the moment, John Oswald is a solo movement, the most exciting school of one in music." -Milo Miles, Village Voice
Oswald is currently the cover boy for the British music mag The Wire. He's just finished helping with James Kudelka's The Contract for the National Ballet of Canada, and is making several trips in the next few weeks to Europe to play sax with Michael Snow's improvising trio CCMC. His first "Moving Still" to be exhibited in North America, entitled Jacko Lantern, was recently on display in the window of Pages Books as part of both the Images Moving Pictures and the Contact Festival of Photography, while Stills, his first solo show of images, was held over at Toronto Harbourfront's Premiere Dance Theatre for eight months. He is also developing Spinvolver, a stage show with actress/dancer/singer Susanna Hood, who plays his alter-ego.
Oswald has just completed 'aparanthesi', a one note electroacousmatic composition, entailing some research in the perception of sonic morphs. He recently composed a Concerto for Wired Conductor and Orchestra, which premiered at Boston Symphony Hall. He designed the soundtrack and system for Stress, an eight-screen movie by Bruce Mau, showing at the Museum of Technology in Vienna. A new piece entitled Oswald's First Piano Concerto by Tchaikovsky, (as suggested by Michael Snow) was recently premiered in Vancouver by Paul Plimley and the CBC orchestra. He composed a score for the National Ballet of Canada for orchestra, robot piano, and the disembodied singing voice of Glenn Gould. For the past three years he has been creating a database of photo portraits for a series of "Moving Stills". One of his plunderphonie video/photo collages was shown at the Royal Festival Hall Hayward Gallery in London and was immediately sold as a gift to the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Of recent works, he wrote, directed, and produced a radio play in four interwoven languages (Brazilian, Dutch, English, and German); wrote, animated, directed, and scored Homonymy (for chamber ensemble & cinema); scored the stage version of the silent movie classic Metropolis; produced the soundtrack album to the gay porn feature Hustler White; as well as appearing as himself in John Greyson's feature film Un©ut and Craig Baldwin's Sonic Outlaws, and he was the subject of one of Moses Znaimer's television documentaries The Originals. Other recent activities include: a sonic motorcade in Brasilia; and a dance composition for 22 choreographers (including Bill T.Jones, Margie Gillis, and Holly Small); plus commissions from the Lyon Opera Ballet, Dutch National Radio, Change of Heart, SMCQ, and Radio Canada. Other works are in the active repertoire of the Kronos Quartet (they've played his Spectre over 300 times worldwide, and another commission, Mach almost as often), the Culberg Ballet Sweden, the Monaco Ballet, The Deutsche Opera Ballet Berlin, The Modern Quartet, the Penderecki Quartet, and others. His recorded works have been used in productions for radio, stage, concert, television, film, Hollywood movies, computer media and video.
Oswald is the founder and co-facilitator of Art Wrestling, a weekly contact improvisation movement jamboree which has occurred uninterrupted in Toronto for 25 years now.
In 1990, Oswald's most notorious recording, Plunderphonic, was destroyed by prudes in the Recording Industry representing Michael Jackson. He has since released recordings on Elektra, Avant, ReR Megacorp, Blast First, and Swell, featuring transformations of the music and performances of Stravinsky, Metallica, James Brown, Gyorgy Ligeti, Dolly Parton, and many others. A box-set CD and book retrospective of his plunderphonics work has just been appropriated from Oswald's Æ’ony label by Seeland. The first disc of his Grateful Dead production GrayFolded was selected as the #1 international recording of the decade by the Toronto Sun. In the same year his album of improvised music, Acoustics was a #1 critic's selection in Coda magazine. The GrayFolded package, completed the following year was selected for best of the year lists in Rolling Stone, The New York Times and many other publications.
A recent retrospective CD box-set of Plunderphonic works has been called "mind-numbingly amazing" by Peter Kenneth, Rolling Stone Magazine, and made Spin Magazine's 2001 top 10.
Oswald is Director of Research at MysteryLaboratory in Canada, and Musical Director of the North American Experience. Eye Weekly's 1994 year end report anointed him a "God-like being". The Montreal Mirror says "John Oswald is probably Canada's most important composer-musician," and The London Observer has called him "the maddest man on the planet."