Artist Spotlight: Bryan Teoh

Senior composer Bryan Teoh is often seen brooding over his computer, tinkering with his guitar, or mapping out soundscapes with the utmost intensity. Still Teoh, aka 8bit bEtty, still manages to shake some hips around campus with his much-loved Gameboy rock. Here’s a little history behind the Lawrence’s own musical mad scientist.Where are you from and what are you studying?
I’m from Ashland, Wis. and I study music composition.

How long have you been playing music?
I’ve been playing music since I was 6. My parents were really into the idea of music as a discipline, so all my brothers and sisters began playing piano around that same age. I had an incredibly eccentric teacher who, although bizarre, was incredibly strict, and taught me more about musicality than I think I will ever fully appreciate. When I was 8 I started taking guitar lessons, and at 9 picked up the cello, which I played through high school. I intended to study guitar performance at Lawrence, but dropped it in favor of composition.

When did you start experimenting with electronic music?
I tried to mess around with electronic music when I was in high school via multi-tracking software and synth programs like rebirth, but never really figured much out. I started really getting into it at the end of freshman year, thanks to the help of Erik Schoster who continues to be a guru of sorts.

Are there any artists that have been particularly inspirational to you?
As far as inspiration . do the Smashing Pumpkins count? Their more-than-your-average-rock-band approach to form, harmony and sound, especially those walls of guitars, was what really blew my mind when I was a preteen – and admittedly to this day – and made me decide to be serious about music. Other than that, I really like a lot of the laptop-guitarists like Keith Fullerton Whitman, Greg Davis, Sbastien Roux, and other people that will make me look like an arrogant prick for mentioning. Seriously, though, I’m as likely to be inspired as much by some academic experimentalist as I am by something disgustingly pop.

What kind of projects have you been working on recently?
Recently I’ve been working a lot on developing environments and working methods for improvised electronic music with an emphasis on electro-acoustic. Because electronic music allows you to not only control every instrument of an ensemble but to create those instruments themselves, figuring out how to do that live is like trying to figure out how to be an orchestra and luthier in one. Playing with Erik helps a lot because we’re constantly pushing each other in a friendly game of one-upmanship. We’ll both approach a similar problem with completely different solutions, and then trade ideas so we can reinvent our approach, and create more problems for ourselves. Can someone pass me the Pepto-Bismol?

What do you hope to accomplish with your music?
I’d like to play a laptop-guitar gig where the room is packed with 800 people, all who begin to instantly weep upon hearing my compositions. However, if I could somehow continue making music with cool people and be crowned king of an alien race, that’ll suffice, I suppose.

What exactly is 8bit bEtty?
8bit bEtty is an opportunity to leave all my musical inhibitions behind and just do whatever pops into my head. With most of my projects, I’m constantly worrying about things being too obvious, or too square, or not doing anything artistically, etc. Writing anything is a constant battle to make sure I say exactly what I want to say, exactly how I want to say it. By working with the sonic capabilities of classic video game consoles, more or less, I’m able to write cheesy pop hooks, obvious verse-chorus-verse structures, and four-to-the-floor dance beats without second-guessing myself. After all, who could possibly take themselves too seriously writing music for Gameboys? Besides, pop music is fun, and anyone who disagrees is probably a faker.

What are your goals for the future, either near or far?
After Lawrence, I plan on taking some time off. I’m pretty burned out on the academic thing, and want to take a year or so for personal study before going to grad school. I’d especially like to continue working with improvised music and hopefully start incorporating visual elements such as video. Other than that, I’ll get a job and hopefully continue studying composition with someone awesome. If anyone has the sweet work hookup, e-mail me at bryanteoh@gmail.com with “sexy singles” as the subject.

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