Thomas Gardner is a musician who is especially interested in the relationship between sound art and music, both in terms of the schizophonic splits introduced by electronic media and the new collaborative practices which emerge from them. His work with the performance group 'automatic writing circle' (AWC), which he co-founded in 2007, has been a key to explore these issues in practice. AWC’s practice consists of the composition of new works, the explorations of the limits of improvisation, and the use of new performance contexts. Recent pieces have been premiered at the Sonic Fusion festival (April 2014) and at the Parasol Unit foundation for contemporary art. An important part of his research focuses on the 'Ouija Board' - a new form of group musical instrument. Based on the real-time video analysis of the shadows of a group of people, it reframes many of the conventions of traditional tactile instrumental control.
Other areas of Gardner’s research include historically informed practice (baroque and 19th century performance styles), computer programming and new instrument design. His compositional research has resulted in new pieces, including 'Lipsync' for cello and live electronics. The text of the Heine poem "Der Tod, das ist die kühle Nacht," is enunciated by the cellist while he plays. The divided body of the performer - one part speaking the other part playing - is taken as a starting image. Various levels of synchronisation are explored, between action and speech, poetic idea and sonic image, acousmatic sound and live processing. These separate elements are fused by the guiding romantic conceit that death is a heightened and transcendent state.
The theoretical context of this work has been expanded in a series of publications, most recently: “Music, Sound Art and the rehabilitation of schizophonia” in Embodiment of Authority, to be published in October 2014 by Peter Lang, and “Burying the Singing Bird: Text and Sound in ‘Lipsync’” in Playing with Words: The Spoken Word in Artistic Practice, edited Cathy Lane, CRiSAP/RGAP Publication 2008. Forthcoming work includes the joint editorship of the international peer reviewed Journal 'Organised Sound' issue 20/2, Cambridge University Press, with Salomé Voegelin.
Gardner's compositions have been performed internationally, including recent performances at the Sibelius Academy Finland (artist in residence), the Dartington Festival, London ICA, the Alte-Schmiede Vienna, and the Salla Chavez in Mexico City. His collaborations include pieces for the choreographer Jeremy James, and permanent installations in the UK, Eindhoven, Madrid, Frankfurt and Holland with Turner prize winning artist Martin Creed.
As a cellist he gave first UK performances of works by Morton Feldman at the ICA and the complete works of Walter Zimmerman at the Blackheath Concert Halls, also working with the founder of the Indo-Jazz fusion John Mayer and the Chinese flautist Guo Yue, performing with him at the Bruges Festival of world music. He was a member of the contemporary music groups Circle, Metanoia and London New Music giving performances which included Saties’s 18 hour ‘vexations’. As a computer programmer he was head of systems analysis at the Design Council of Great Britain, where he designed the international materials database linked to the European Space Agency.
This year Gardner was a member of the Artistic Program Committee for NIME (New Interfaces for Musical Expression) and Peer reviewer for papers and electroacoustic compositions for ICMC (International Computer Music Conference). He is a Senior Lecturer at the London College of Communication, University of the Arts London, he holds a PhD from City University, London.