BEN NEILL is a composer, performer, producer, and inventor of the mutantrumpet, a hybrid electro-acoustic instrument. Neill is widely recognized as a musical innovator through his recordings, performances and installations. He has been called “a creative composer and genius performer” (Time Out NY),"the mad scientist of dancefloor jazz" (CMJ), and "a musical powerhouse, a serious and individual talent" (Time Out London). Neill's music blends influences from electronica, jazz and contemporary classical music within a minimalist framework, blurring the lines between DJ culture and acoustic instrument performance.
Neill has recorded ten CDs of his music on the Universal/Verve, Thirsty Ear, Astralwerks/EMI, Six Degrees, Ramseur, New Tone and Ear-Rational labels. Recently he launched a new series of releases via his own Blue Math label. The first two tracks, Souvenir and Transition Dub were released in February 2017, both in response to the 2016 presidential election. Neill’s electronic opera The Demo, inspired by computer pioneer Douglas Engelbart and created with composer/performer Mikel Rouse, was premiered in April 2015 at Stanford University’s Bing Concert Hall. Other performances include BAM Next Wave Festival, Lincoln Center, Whitney Museum of American Art, Cite de la Musique Paris, Moogfest, Spoleto Festival, Umbria Jazz, Bang On A Can Festival, ICA London, Istanbul Jazz Festival, Vienna Jazz Festival, and the Edinburgh Festival. Neill has worked closely with many musical innovators including John Cage, La Monte Young, John Cale, Pauline Oliveros, Rhys Chatham, DJ Spooky, David Berhman, Mimi Goese, Page Hamilton,
Nicolas Collins, and David Rothenberg. A long time student and associate of La Monte Young, Neill is currently leading performances of La Monte Young’s brass music with an international ensemble of 8 trumpet players.
Neill began developing the mutantrumpet in the early 1980s. Initially an acoustic instrument (a combination of 3 trumpets and a trombone combined into one), he integrated the instrument with the synthesizer inventor Robert Moog. In 1992, while in residency at the STEIM research and development lab for new instruments in Amsterdam, Neill made the mutantrumpet fully computer interactive. In 2008 he created a new version of his instrument at STEIM, and returned there in 2014 to design yet another version which will be completed in 2017.
Neill is active as a sound and installation artist, exhibiting in museums and galleries including Sandra Gering Gallery, Exit Art, Hudson River Museum, and Paula Cooper Gallery. ITSOFOMO, his major collaborative piece with the late artist David Wojnarowicz, has been presented widely in venues such as The Tate Modern London, The Armand Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, The New Museum and PPOW Gallery, and was featured in the PBS documentary Imagining America. It will be remounted in the 2018 retrospective exhibition on Wojnarowicz at the Whitney Museum in New York.
A native of North Carolina, Neill is a graduate of Manhattan School of Music. He studied composition with La Monte Young and has led many performances of Young’s music. Since 2015 he has led concerts of Young’s music by an international ensemble of trumpet players in New York, Warsaw, Paris, Oslo, Amsterdam, Koln, and Huddersfield. In May 2015 he was a Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome, and will return to the academy for another residency in July 2018. Since 2008 he has been a professor of music at Ramapo College of New Jersey.