Annie Gosfield: Ghosts in the Machine

Annie Gosfield: Ghosts in the Machine

Annie Gosfield creates surreal music that frequently uses technology to channel older, sometimes broken, or forgotten things.

Written By

Frank J. Oteri

Frank J. Oteri is an ASCAP-award winning composer and music journalist. Among his compositions are Already Yesterday or Still Tomorrow for orchestra, the "performance oratorio" MACHUNAS, the 1/4-tone sax quartet Fair and Balanced?, and the 1/6-tone rock band suite Imagined Overtures. His compositions are represented by Black Tea Music. Oteri is the Vice President of the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) and is Composer Advocate at New Music USA where he has been the Editor of its web magazine,, since its founding in 1999.

Annie Gosfield in conversation with Frank J. Oteri
January 9, 2007 3 p.m
Transcribed and Edited by Frank J. Oteri and Lyn Liston
Video presentation by Randy Nordschow

I still remember the first time I heard the opening of the Bang on a Can All-Stars’ recording of the second movement from Annie Gosfield’s The Manufacture of Tangled Ivory. It was an extremely visceral and unsettling experience. I was listening to the CD before I looked at who was playing and what they were playing, so I wasn’t exactly sure about what I was listening to or how it was done.

Inside Pages:

I thought I was hearing people smashing up a piano, but I soon learned that all those odd sounds were being generated on a keyboard sampler. As I probed deeper into Annie Gosfield’s music, I kept finding new technology put into the service of channeling older technologies, often forgotten or somehow decayed: broken instruments, the detritus of a factory, etc. It’s an offbeat aesthetic, perhaps one that adds a whole new meaning to the expression “ghosts in the machine,” and something that I’ve long been eager to talk with her about.

As someone in the Downtown New York new music scene, I’ve known Annie for many years and I’ve also known her music, but until now I never had the opportunity to talk with her extensively about what drives her to create it. Annie’s compositional methodology, much like her music, is simultaneously whimsical and practical.