||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (February 2011)|
Ben Neill (b. Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 1957) is a composer and trumpeter who has studied with La Monte Young. His music has been recorded on the Universal/Verve, Astralwerks, Thirsty Ear , Six Degrees, Ramseur, New Tone and Ear-Rational labels. Neill spent seven years as the music curator for The Kitchen in New York. He has collaborated with DJ Spooky, David Wojnarowicz. Page Hamilton, Mimi Goese and Nicolas Collins, and performed on albums by David Behrman, John Cale, Rhys Chatham, and DJ Spooky.
Neill invented the "mutantrumpet", which is a trumpet equipped with extra bells and valves, and electrical modifications that allow him to control computer variables with his playing. The first mutantrumpet had three bells, six valves, a trombone slide and an analog processing system. At the STEIM Studios in Amsterdam he then developed a MIDI-capable mutantrumpet, which contained more switches, knobs, and pressure-sensitive pads so as to allow greater control over the sound and visuals of his sound installations. Robert Moog designed its original electronic processing system and David Behrman designed a computer program to facilitate live performance. In 2008 Neill completed a new version of his instrument during another residency at Steim.
In 2010 his music theater work Persephone, a collaboration with Mimi Goese, Warren Leight and Ridge Theater featuring Julia Stiles, was presented at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival. The music from the production was released as a CD titled Songs for Persephone on Ramseur Records in 2011.
He has performed his music extensively in a wide variety of international settings including the Cite de la Musique France, Berlin Love Parade Germany, Spoleto Festival Italy, Umbria Jazz Italy, NIME Conferences 2005, 2006, 2010, Bang On A Can Festival New York, ICA London, Istanbul Jazz Festival Turkey and the Edinburgh Festival UK. The Sci-Fi Lounge, his collaboration with DJ Spooky and Emergency Broadcast Network, toured America and Europe in 1997. His 2002 album Automotive (Six Degrees) was an early example of the convergence of content and commerce; the album is composed entirely of extended versions of music he originally wrote for Volkswagen TV and Internet commercials.
In 2005 Neill premiered a collaboration with visual artist Bill Jones titled Palladio, an interactive movie based on Jonathan Dee’s 1998 novel of the same name. Palladio was premiered at the New Territories Festival in Glasgow, Scotland, and at the Thalia Theater/Symphony Space in New York City.
In 1996, Neill contributed to the AIDS benefit album Offbeat: A Red Hot Soundtrip produced by the Red Hot Organization. In 1999 he was included in the Wired magazine compilation Music Futurists along with Steve Reich, Brian Eno, Laurie Anderson, Todd Rundgren, Devo, Sonic Youth and DJ Spooky.
Neill is also active as a sound and installation artist. His collaborative works with Bill Jones have been exhibited in museums and galleries including Sandra Gering Gallery New York, Exit Art New York, Wellcome Gallery London and the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Neill’s installation/performance Green Machine was shown at Paula Cooper Gallery in 1994. ITSOFOMO, his major collaborative piece with the late artist David Wojnarowicz, has been exhibited in venues such as The New Museum New York and PPOW Gallery New York, and was featured in the PBS documentary Imagining America.
He began his teaching career in 2007 as a professor of Music Technology at NJIT and as of 2012 he is currently a professor of Music Industry and Production at Ramapo College of NJ.