Eric Leonardson is a Chicago-based composer, radio artist, sound designer, instrument inventor, improviser, visual artist, and teacher. He has devoted a majority of his professional career to unorthodox approaches to sound and its instrumentation with a broad understanding of texture, atmosphere and microtones.
Leonardson's interest in creating new sounds for performance and studio composition led to the invention of the Springboard, an electroacoustic percussion instrument made from readily available materials. Its sounds belie its humble origins, thanks to the rich enharmonic timbres of bowed coil springs and the curious sound of the crude wooden daxophones -- all amplified by a single, inexpensive piezo-electric contact mic. Leonardson's music resists categorization. Evoking a range of associations, his work was once described as "...ritualistic music, electronically synthesized industrial vibrations miraculously created with ordinary household objects...."-Carol Burbank, Chicago Reader
Chicago's performance art scene provided the environment where critical thinking and artistic partnerships were common practice. From studyng visual art media to the time-based media of sound, video, and performance at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Leonardson's skills as a drummer and audio technician featured in works by his fellow students and teacher: Werner Herterich, Tom Jaremba, and Brendan de Vallance. Leonardson was also the drummer in electic rock bands, such as Hand To Mouth led by singer, songwriter, and performance artist, Gene Pool.
By the early-90s Leonardson's focus on sound and music making drew him into the local experimental, improvised music, dance and theater. He created numerous recorded electroacoustic scores for award-winning South African choreographer Robyn Orlin while performing in the experimental sound trio Wormwood with Spencer Sundell and Dylan Posa. As a theater sound designer Leonardson has worked with Lynn Book and Theo Bleckmann, the Curious Theater Branch, Prop Theater, and Latino Chicago Theater. In 1995 Leonardson co-founded one of Chicago's foremeost experimental theater companies, Plasticene, in which he continues to compose, design, and perform.
His first record (cassette) release entitled "Urban Archelogy/Site Removal" (1993) features a live sound performance project with Sundell and Posa, as well as the renowned Chicago-based percussionists Michael Zerang and Hamid Drake, with lighting by Christian Pretorius, and acting by Kim Bruce. Leonardson also performed regularly with sound artist Steve Barsotti from 1994 to 1998. Leonardson performs with experimental vocalist Carol Genetti, an ongoing partnership started in 1997. In 2007 he formed the group Auris with fellow musicians and composers Christopher Preissing and Julia Miller, and recently joined by Guillermo Gregorio. With Canadian sound-radio artist, Anna Friz he has toured through the eastern US and created works for broadcast on Kunstradio, Vienna and Deutschlandradio, Berlin.
As an improvisor, Leonardson performs in numerous ad hoc music groupings with artists from diverse aesthetic backgrounds and locales, among them: Philadelphia percussionist Toshi Makihara; Hamburg trumpeter Birgit Uhler; Jason Soliday; Tokyo composer and improvisor Yasuhiro Otani; Chicago avant- bassist and shamisen player Tatsu Aoki; Bay Area guitarist John Shiurba; Italian composer and drummer Jacopo Andreini; Berlin saxophonist Gert Anklam; Philadelphia free improvising saxophonist Jack Wright; multi- instrumentalist Jim Baker, Bay Area cellist Bob Marsh; Chicago "anti- cellist", Fred Lonberg-Holm; and Baltimore "sound mechanic" Neil Feather.
Leonardson is the director of the recently founded World Listening Project. He also co-founded the Experimental Sound Studio where -- in the late-80s and early-90s -- he coordinated "Sounds From Chicago," one of the city's first internationally broadcast radio art programs.
Leonardson's discography includes the CD Animus (1998) with Carol Genetti, his solo release Radio Reverie in the Waiting Place (1999), and Rarebit (2008) with Steven A. Barsotti. He has tracks featured on numerous compilations releases, among them: Call For Silence and Noise To Meet You U.S. His "Other Music" (2005) created and performed in Toronto with Anna Friz, Chris Brookes, and Evalyn Parry can be heard on sonus.ca and also on the CD Deep Wireless 3 from New Adventures In Sound Art. Leonardson's writings on sound and performance have been published in books and journals since the late-80s, most recently in Musicworks, Leonardo Music Journal, and eContact! 10.3. Leonardson is a recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Media Arts Fellowship (2002 and 2006), and an Adjunct Associate Professor in the First Year Program and the Department of Sound at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he received his Time Arts MFA in 1983.
Eric Leonardson performs with Chicago Phonography on October 3. Steve Barsotti and Eric Leonardson perform a duo set at Heaven Gallery on October 4. Glenn Weyant, Matt Weston, Eric Leonardson, and Michael Erzen perform at Peter Jones Gallery on October 8.