Jed Speare

Jed Speare (1954-2016) was a crossover artist who worked in sound, video, and performance for forty years. His double-CD release, Sound Works 1982-1987, reflects his investigation and uniquely expressive practice of musique concrete-like analogue sound/field recording, editing, combining and mixing during that era. He is the creator of Cable Car Soundscapes (1982), on Smithsonian Folkways Records, a project that begins as a sound documentary and ends as a tape composition based on Cable Car sounds. In the early eighties he also recorded with the San Francisco groups, Research Library (Red Spot compilation LP; Subterranean Records), Ultrasheen (7" ep; Subterranean), and Appliances.

Since the mid-1980s, Speare was actively presenting his work in national and international festivals, initiatives, and contexts. From 1996 through 2004, he served as Co-Director and Director of Mobius, an artist-run organization for experimental work in all media, based in Boston. He has been a member of the Mobius Artists Group since 1995, and was director of Studio Soto, "a space for ideas," in Boston.

In 2015 the archival CD The Wounds of Returning - Sound Works II 1974-1983 was released on Farpoint Recordings.


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    Jed Speare 1954-2016

    March 22, 2016

    My heart goes out to all of Jed Speare's friends in Boston, beyond and his family. I truly loved how Jed remained wholly committed to his art over the decades and searched for the perfect combination of "holistic, ecological, and even spiritual" means to create.

    In 2006 Jed contacted me after hearing I'd bought some CDRs of his music he'd consigned at Twisted Village. Soon after we began talking about producing, what would become, Sound Works 1982-1987 -- the first collection of his long-form musique concrete compositions. His immaculate liner notes spelled out the origins, the collaborators and insight about himself.

    Jed lived and breathed these sound sources, knew them more intimately than anyone, yet as he prepared them for release, he wrote "... I could sometimes lose track of where the sounds came from; it seems that the course and flow of the work might go far beyond the actual origins, somehow surpassing the source, and create a whole new reality. At those moments I experienced at once an existential remorse and an exhilaration of venturing into the unknown."

    When the 2xCD set was released in January 2008 it was the only way to hear his groundbreaking audio sculptures (unless you knew to dig up his 1982 Folkways LP Cable Car Soundscapes). We both expected the collection to sell like hot cakes -- it didn't.

    But a lot of people took notice and I believe it clearly made the case for Jed's standing in contemporary sound art. It also laid bare the utterly human emotion he could amplify/construct through rumblings, cracks, bellows, howls, scree, murmurs, clangs and all those many voices, especially in works such as: "Taboo Death" the accompaniment to Pons Maar's dance performance about AIDS in 1982; and the cathedral-like sheets of tone and shifting clouds that make up "Sleep Tight" (1983).

    And overall, it was just a badass collection of exhilarating sound (expertly mastered by Bhob Rainey).

    What struck me at that time was how Jed was so open to living inside those pieces he created more than 20 years earlier, celebrating those collaborations and looking to the future. Sound Works will always be one of my favorite releases and an undisputed document of Jed's power and dedication to art. -- Eric Weddle/fv

    Jed passed away the morning of March 22, 2016 with family at his bedside. 

    (Photo: Susanna Bolle)

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    From the archive: Jed Speare

    March 29, 2013

    Collaborative movement/video piece by our pal Jed Speare and Marjorie Morgan, at MIT Museum in Cambridge, Mass., part of the CyberArts Loops event, April 2009. Photo by Bob Raymond.