Danny Clay is a composer and teaching artist from Ohio, currently based in San Francisco. His work is deeply rooted in curiosity, collaboration, and the sheer joy of making things. His projects often incorporate musical games, open forms, found objects, archival media, toy instruments, classrooms of elementary schoolers, graphic notation, digital errata, cross-disciplinary research, and the everything-in-between. His latest piece, five questions about home will be premiered by mezzo-soprano, Lauren McAllister on our April 7 Solo Soundbox concert at Rohs Street Café. 

CSB: Could you tell us a little about your work as a composer?

DC: I like to make things that have some element of uncertainty about them built into the process — I love the idea that when I make something, I’m not entirely sure what the end result will be, perhaps even down to the moment of performance. I love the notion that we – the audience, the performer, and myself – can all be placed in a situation where we are discovering something in the same space, at the same time. This play-based approach to working has emerged in large part from working part-time as an elementary school teacher for the past five years.

CSB: What is the background to your piece for this concert, five questions about home?

DC: I put out an open call to people from all over the place to record themselves answering, sort of free-association-style, a few simple questions about their home. The text – in the form of actual recordings and singing by Lauren – is a collage of their answers. (I’m going to keep the questions a secret.) In the piece I also use a little wooden pump-organ that I am borrowing from a friend, something about it seems quite homey to me.

CSB: How have you seen the environment for new music in Cincinnati change? Do you see any similarities or connections in your current location?

DC: I haven’t been back to Cincinnati in about seven years, I’m sad to say, but I have such fond memories of the creative scene there. I remember it as a place where artistic and aesthetic risks could be taken in a warm and supportive community. I feel that here in San Francisco, too, and I can only imagine they are on similar wavelengths.

CSB: What have you been exploring in your recent works?

DC: More and more I want to make things WITH people – to use questions and inquiries about sound as a means of creating, I guess, “community building projects” of some kind. Creating spaces where voices other than my own can inhabit a space together – communicate, discover, coexist. That’s really exciting to me.

CSB: What are some of the upcoming projects and performances on your radar?

DC: The same night as CSB, in San Francisco, I’m doing an installation at an art gallery called “Turntable Drawings” with a friend of mine, printmaker Jon Fischer. Jon and I have made our own records (designed by him, with sounds by me engraved on them) – gallery visitors will be invited to play the records, and we will have a number of different artists playing and improvising with the various record sounds.