Avant-garde singer and composer, Amy X Neuburg has spent the better part of three decades blazing her own trail in the music industry. Neuburg is known for her innovative use of live looping, her wide vocal range, and incorporation of electronic instruments. On March 10, she will visit Indianapolis as part of a concert series at The Basile Opera Center through IUPUI’s Music and Arts Technology department. The performance is free and available to the public, along with a lecture and discussion on March 9 in conjunction with Girls Rock! Indianapolis. In anticipation of her visit, we spoke with Neuburg about her life as an experimental musician, her inspiration, and advice for younger artists looking to walk a similar path.
NUVO: You attended Oberlin College & Conservatory in the 1980s. Was there much of an appetite for experimental, or avant-garde music at that time?
Neuburg: There was. There was a lot. For a voice major, it was actually quite unusual to be involved in contemporary music. We all had to learn it as part of the canon, because you’re expected to be able to deliver music in a number of different styles and one of the styles is the more modern style. I just really ate it up, and that became my focus. There were very few of us who focused on new music as singers. Most of the people just went the straight operatic route. So, I became known as the crazy singer, and composers would seek me out to premiere their stuff. I was adventurous. If they wanted me to incorporate theatrics, I’d be like, ‘Sure. Yeah. Let’s crack an egg on stage.’ The whole performance art aspect really appealed to me and the craziness.
NUVO: Did you begin to experiment with electronics at Oberlin?
Neuburg: I started studying electronic music right at the beginning of the program. Most colleges didn’t have such a thing. Only a few big universities could afford to have those giant synthesizers. Oberlin had a couple of those giant synthesizers. As digital synthesis came along, they could afford to have more stuff. So, they had a pretty rudimentary studio, but they had a little bit of everything. They had some analog, and some digital, and a tape deck.