paul de jong
I was born in 1964 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands and began cello lessons at the age of five. Two years later I was writing nonsense poetry in all earnest and took a razor blade to my first audio cassette, fascinated by the world of manipulated sound recording.
From my early teens I have been working in an array of media: music, moving image, print, collage, poetry and theatre. While I followed traditional and alternative paths to acquire necessary skills, my interest soon concentrated on establishing an effective emotional interplay between different media within a single work. During my early twenties this approach led to the production of stage pieces for which I wrote dialogue and music, designed sets, costumes and all printed materials. I also ventured into radio plays, illustrated poetry and prose, and musical production with dance and film.
In the early 2000’s I was commissioned to compose site specific music for seven neighborhoods in my native city of Rotterdam, within an Arts Council initiative that to promote cultural advance between immigrants and nationals living side by side. Working with a host of musicians, I composed a series of ‘soundtracks’ to these neighborhoods, where I sought to incorporate local traditions and freshly imported influences within my personal musical idiom. These soundtracks were then locally released. I performed them in community centers, churches, stores and parks, effectively going ‘on tour’ throughout the neighborhoods. The soundtracks were also used on local public tv, in infomercials and are to this day available for free public use within the context of their original purpose.
Currently in New Lebanon, NY, where I live, I am continuing to expanding an extensive library of recorded sound, video and still image as a central resource for my solo work and collaborations with other artists. The library, now known as the ‘Mall Of Found’, numbers an indexed database well over 50,000 sound samples incorporating spoken word documents, field recordings, instrumental fragments and improvisations, assorted sounds from movies, and obscure LP’s. Tens of thousands of old photographs and post cards have been digitized and categorized for use in collage art and video. Then there are the innumerable film and video clips, culled from a digitized collection of about 5000 VHS tapes and film in just about any known format.
I carefully select the samples according to their immediate personal appeal as well as their more generic characteristics.
The collection thus has grown into a kind of account of recorded mankind that is personally introspective and expresses some level of human universality at the same time. It can be seen as a tremendous resource, an intellectual and emotional theme park, or a work of art, ever growing, ever expanding.
I gained international acclaim for my work as the Books, which I started in 1999 with Nick Zammuto. Together we composed five albums of music in which we sought to combine found sound with original instrumental and vocal recordings within the loose framework of a pop music idiom. These studio albums culminated into a live show for which we created an integrated video component synchronized to the live music. We toured the world over, performed in clubs, art temples and at massive festivals, did live specials on radio stations, were written about in many a language, and lectured from community colleges to Ivy League institutions. We even won an award or two.
Since we disbanded the Books in 2012 I have been commissioned to write musical pieces for the Getty Foundation, the Poetry Foundation, the Red Hot Foundation as well as having written incidentally for dance collectives in the USA. In early 2014 I dropped everything to focus completely on composing a full-length album. ‘IF' was released on April 28th 2015 through Temporary Residence Ltd. It is now available on CD, LP and as digital download. In the four years break between the Books' last release ‘The Way Out’ and my solo debut ‘IF’ I spent many hours in the Mall of Found, finding my way back to the roots of my artistic endeavors and formulating a meaningful continuation.
My other 2015 activities, in addition to the release of 'IF', were two gallery shows of screen prints, collages and video installations, and scattered solo dates and dates with my free improvisation trio 'Uncle Happiness'.
In January 2016, I debuted my new four-piece band 'IF' with two sets at Joe's Pub in New York City. Aside from myself on cello, bass guitar and laptop, I enjoy the musical company of Kenta Nagai on guitar, Reinier van Houdt on keys and Matthew Gold on drums and percussion. A large portion of the live music is synchronized with video. The band's repertoire consists of the album 'IF' in its entirety, and of new pieces that will find their place onto a new album I hope to complete this year. Tours with 'IF' are being planned in Europe and the USA for the rest of 2016.