Ben Neill

Many musical styles conspire to make up the sound of Ben Neill and his signature (heavily) effected mutant trumpet sound.  His sound is an easily accessible mix of downtempo breaks with flowing and ethereal horn leads. However, this is no lullaby.  The performance is deeply engaging and constantly flirts with the deep and the dark.
BEN NEILL is a composer, performer, producer, and inventor of the mutantrumpet, a hybrid electro-acoustic instrument. Neill’s music blends electronica, jazz and ambient, blurring the lines between DJ culture and acoustic instrument performance.

Neill has recorded seven CDs of his music on the Astralwerks, Six Degrees, Universal/Verve, New Tone and Ear-Rational labels. His music has been featured on numerous compilations including Wired Magazine’s “Music Futurists”. He has performed his music extensively in a wide variety of international settings including the Cite de la Musique France, Berlin Love Parade Germany, Spoleto Festival Italy, Umbria Jazz Italy, NIME Conference 2005 Vancouver, Bang On A Can Festival New York, ICA London, Istanbul Jazz Festival Turkey and the Edinburgh Festival UK to name a few. 

Neill’s current projects range from club sets to more experimental electroacoustic pieces, an ongoing collaboration with VJ Bill Jones, and collaborating with LEMUR, the League of Musical Urban Robots. In Neill’s live performance, laptop computers merge his three-belled, digitally interfaced mutantrumpet with live MIDI controlled digital audio and video. In addition to controlling digital audio in real time, Neill literally plays the moving pictures, making the images an extension of his electrified horn. In 2008 Neill constructed a new mutantrumpet with the help of a residency at the STEIM Studios in Amsterdam.

Neill began developing the mutantrumpet in the early 1980s. Initially an acoustic instrument (a combination of 3 trumpets and a trombone combined into one), Neill made the instrument interactive with electronics in the mid 1980s when collaborating with the synthesizer inventor Robert Moog. In 1992, while in residency at Steim¹s research and development lab for new instruments in Amsterdam, Neill made the mutantrumpet fully computer interactive. In 2008 Neill created a new version of his instrument and returned to Steim for another residency. The new mutantrumpet is greatly expanded in terms of its electronic capabilities.

Neill also performs with XIX, a band with vocalist Mimi Goese (Moby, Mimi, Hugo Largo), John Conte on bass, Jim Mussen on drums, and Neill on mutantrumpet. The group is currently working with Ridge Theater on a production for the Next Wave Festival at Brooklyn Academy of Music.

In 2007 Neill composed the music for 911-911, an animated film by Mel Chin. The film premiered at the LA Short Film Festival and Tribeca Cinema in New York. In 2005 Neill presented his collaboration with Bill Jones titled Palladio, an interactive movie based on Jonathan Dee’s 1998 novel of the same name. Palladio was premiered at the New Territories Festival in Glasgow, Scotland, and at the Thalia Theater/Symphony Space in New York City. 

Neill is also active as a sound and installation artist. His collaborative works with Bill Jones have been exhibited in museums and galleries including Sandra Gering Gallery New York, Exit Art New York, Wellcome Gallery London and the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Neill’s installation/performance Green Machine was shown at Paula Cooper Gallery New York in 1994. ITSOFOMO, his major collaborative piece with the late artist David Wojnarowicz, has been exhibited widely in venues such as The New Museum New York and PPOW Gallery New York, and was featured in the PBS documentary Imagining America. 

In 2002, Ben Neill “made music industry history” (MSNBC News) by releasing Automotive, an album entirely comprised of extended versions of music he originally wrote for Volkswagen TV and Internet commercials. He supported the release of the album by performing on an 18 city tour of the House of Blues and other major music venues in the US and Canada. Television appearances have included CNBC Power Lunch, Tech TV Screen Savers, Wall Street Journal Report, and Media Television Canada. Neill and Jones video remixes were presented at Sundance 2004 and have been aired on Fox TV network. Nite Nite, a video remix of a track from Automotive , was exhibited in 2003 Sandra Gering Gallery, New York.

A native of North Carolina, Neill is a graduate of Manhattan School of Music. He studied composition with minimalist composer La Monte Young, and has collaborated with numerous other composers and musicians including Helmet’s Page Hamilton, Rhys Chatham, Nicolas Collins, David Behrman, John Cale, John Cage, Coil, DJ Spooky and DJ Olive.