3 Questions with Rebecca Gates
Musician Rebecca Gates on travel, great teachers, and the necessity of silence.
3 QUESTIONS is a series of brief, three-question interviews with PNCA’s visiting artists and lecturers. Each year, PNCA attracts innovative, thoughtful, and creative makers and thinkers who share our belief in the transformative power of creativity. In three short answers to three short questions, these artists offer perspectives on career, motivation, and transformation. When available, we include links to audio recordings, transcripts, slideshows, or video.
“The vitality and opportunities that come from engaging in different communities … can be immensely rewarding.”
What advice would you offer current students about to embark on a career in the arts?
One aspect of working in arts that has been both a challenge and of great help to me is paying attention to the larger landscape within the culture. There are a number of ways to engage in a creative practice outside of a traditional personal studio paradigm. One wants to dedicate as much time and consideration to one’s own work, of course, but the vitality and opportunities that come from engaging in different communities and being attentive to practical needs can be immensely rewarding.
How do you maintain your creative practice? What keeps you motivated and engaged?
Silence, making sure I have quiet reflective time, listening. Conversely, travel is an important part of my process, both in terms of inspiration and how I make things. My practice is elliptical, peripatetic. I’m not someone that has a constant through-line or daily schedule in terms of making. I enjoy it when I’m in that specific phase of a project (say the recording studio, or installation of an exhibition or a program), but I’ve found I need to wind in and out of different modes of thinking. That is likely one reason I continue to enjoy making music and working in sound. The combination of melody, rhythm, text, space, and experience is a rich intersection of vocabularies. I’m often specifically inspired by photography, design, and random sounds, or snippets of conversation.
Could you describe a moment or experience that profoundly changed the nature of your work?
I was fortunate to take a class with the avant composer and sound artist Alvin Lucier. I found (if it is not too brazen to say so) that what excites him about sound and music is something I also respond to, and it seemed that everything he shared about history or process made complete sense, which is often rare! In terms of my own practice, his combination of dedication to his work and absolute whimsy about it was something I needed to experience, especially at that moment in my life, as I re-examined my relationship to my work. It’s an attitude I’ve since heard from other artists, especially of that generation, and I try to keep it close at hand.
Rebecca Gates is an Oregon based musician, artist, curator, and activist. She has toured and released albums internationally (both under her own name and The Spinanes moniker), and appeared on recordings by a range of artists including Willie Nelson, Akito Katayose and The Decemberists. Her programs and work relating to issues of sound and space, listening, and artist’s roles in their communities have been hosted by PS1, Mass MOCA, WFMU’s Radiovision Festival, PICA Symposium, Museum of Contemporary Craft, New York University, and galleries in the United States and Europe. Gates co-curated Ballroom Marfa’s sonic exploration of land arts, “The Marfa Sessions”, co-founded The Relay Project audiomagazine, and is chief wrangler at The Agency League of Musicians, a musician centered think tank and action network.