Interview – Sun Boxes

Craig Colorusso’s Sun Boxes project is a solar powered sound installation, consisting of twenty speakers equipped with solar panels and a looped recording of a different guitar note. Given the loops’ different lengths, the piece created by the Sun Boxes evolves gradually over time and is never the same time. The installation has been placed in a variety of different natural environments, transforming the space and inviting the listener to enter this unique atmosphere. Craig told M3 about making art using sustainable energy, naturally occuring symphonies and the meditative power of music…

Photo Credit : Heidi Greenwood

M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Craig Colorusso – I like concrete, audio and yoga.  5 feet 5 inches 200 pounds brown eyes.  Sometimes I have hair.  I’m afraid of sharks but nothing else.

Over the years I’ve hustled as a stage hand/carpenter/landscaper.  I like to make things. I love objects. I started to play guitar at age 14 and Bass Clarinet at 25, haven’t looked back.

I have released some records, done some touring, looking to doing more.

What inspired you to create the Sun Boxes project? What is your own musical background?
I often describe myself as a recovering musician.  I was in a few bands, we made some records and did some touring.  I’ve always been interested in visual art, it seemed inevitable they would collide.  Sometimes I’m surprised it took as long as it did.

In 2008, longtime friend “Sexy” David Sanchez Burr called me up and said, “YO! Make something solar, we’re going to the desert.” Then he hung up.  In June of 2009 Dave and I went out to Rhyolite Nevada with Richard Vosseller and we created “Off The Grid.” It was a residency act The Goldwell Open Air Museum.  We made art using sustainable energy, and Sun Boxes was my contribution.

I will always site Dave as the catalyst for this piece but the truth is I’ve been thinking about it for a long time.  Making observations along the way, collecting ideas and then BOOM! There are 20 solar powered speakers in my house.

The recordings of the Sun Boxes on your website sound fantastic, but I imagine that actually being in the presence of the boxes is a totally different experience. How would you say the recorded experience differs to the physical one?
It’s a physical thing.  One of the details about Sun Boxes is the way a participant can surround themself with the piece.  I loved being in bands and going on tour.  But I wanted to make something that people could feel like they were part of.

And yes the logistics of Sun Boxes make for a much different experience. Participants can move through  the array creating their own “mix.”  The volume of Sun Boxes is loud enough to engulf the listener but there is enough space for ambient sounds to come through. In my travels I have witnessed birds, dogs, wind, traffic, waves, people talking, leaves crunching, insects, ambulance with full siren…. It all sounds great.

The Sun Boxes embody the idea of music being created without any performers present. Some people worry that this idea loses the ‘human touch’ or emotional projection of ‘man-made’ music, but in harnessing the force of the sun, Sun Boxes seems to retain this so-called natural or organic element. What are your thoughts on this, and do you think that this supposed loss of ‘emotionalism’ is even a bad thing?
Sun Boxes is a system that interacts with Mother Nature.  I can’t imagine predicting and executing all the beautiful moments that I have witnessed with the piece.  People often ask why I don’t manipulate the situation to have more control over the outcome.  I’m actually trying to stay out of the way.  We live in paradise, I just wanna be part of it.

Where would you draw the line between music and sound art (if, of course, you would even draw a line at all)?
I wouldn’t.

Stillness and subtlety seem to be prominent themes in the project. Do you feel our information hungry culture often undermines these ideas, and if so, what effect do you think this will have on the next generation?
People seem to appreciate the soothing qualities of Sun Boxes.  No one has left the array more stressed out than when they arrived.  It feels mandatory to be constantly plugged in to excel in this day and age.  I do it.  I have a smartphone, I have a few computers.  I work a lot.  Sun Boxes is a great place to go and decompress.  To come home.

I recently had the honor of bringing Sun Boxes to the Communikey Festival in Boulder Colorado.  After which I drove to Massachusetts straight with a minor nap along the way to get to Holy Cross College for two days.  I made it to MA in time for dense fog and rain so we rescheduled for a few days later.  Once it was set up I realized how much I missed the sound of Sun Boxes.  It felt good to step into the array.

Similarly, do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been forgotten about in the digital age?
Since I grew up listening to records I think about music in chunks of time that are 15-20 minutes long.  I don’t necessarily see digital media destroying that, I see it as a new opportunity to do something else.  I’m just starting to wrap my head around time.  Time…time…time… we all have it, just not as much as we think.  I have another piece called MB 89 that is an attempt to play a piece of music for the rest of my life.  It’s going well.

What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
All media has a place in my life.  I love records, the way they look and feel, the way they’re handled, little relics of my life.  When I’m at the gym I listen to MP3s.  In this case I’m not looking for one thing, I’m just trying to find the usefulness in all of them.

Do you think the internet has rendered traditional concepts of copyright obsolete, or do you think they are still relevant?
All of my work is well protected.  My name doesn’t necessarily have to be attached to it but it would piss me off if someone else’s was.

Finally, what does the future hold for Sun Boxes?
My art is not precious.  It’s meant for the masses.  There’s a place in the world for things to be behind bullet proof glass, it’s just not for me.  I like the idea of people living amongst the art.  Back to the origins I wanted to make something people could be part of, I want to continue along those lines and make systems that represent these pieces for people to take into their lives and do what they please.  We just released an app that allows one person to stream the audio or 20 people to recreate SB with 20 devices.  We give you the tools to create your own experience.  All I see arer possibilities.

For more information about Sun Boxes, you can visit the official website, and Facebook & Twitter pages. To find out more about Craig Colorusso’s other projects, you can visit his blog.


About M3 Event

The music industry is rapidly changing. The internet has enabled widespread piracy, as well as a variety of new business and distribution models. We want to offer an engaged audience in and around the Euregion an opportunity to develop a coherent and detailed picture of the future of music distribution. On the 31st of May 2012 a music conference in Maastricht, consisting of oppositional debates, creative workshops and lectures, will provoke opportunities for intellectual stimulation, debate, as well as networking. We hope to utilise the skills and ideas of some of most forward thinking minds and operators in the industry in order to highlight some promising new ideas and areas which can be improved upon.

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