Grant Recipients Grants to Artists Music/Sound 2015

Zach Layton

Zach stands on green grass with wildflowers and trees in the background. He is wearing a dark button-down shirt and holds a 17-string electric bass upright with his hands on its neck and its body resting on the ground.
Photo by Molly Stinchfield.

As I reflect upon the events of this year I can clearly see how directly the FCA award has transformed not only my artistic work and my career, but also how it has transformed my life... This has been the first time I have felt anything resembling financial security in almost a decade after years of graduate school, adjunct teaching appointments, uncertainty with non-profit organization budgets and random part time jobs.... Thanks to the FCA award I was then able to put forward a down payment towards the purchase of a house in upstate New York with the intention of creating a solid, stable and full time studio space in which to produce my work... The idea of owning a house and making work in it has been a dream of mine for years and thanks to the FCA this dream is manifesting... I cannot adequately express my gratitude to the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. It is such an incredible honor to be in the company of so many legendary artists who have received support in the past.

- Zach Layton, December 10, 2015

Artist Statement

My artistic practice is located in a nexus between music and visual art, working in the mediums of sound, photography, and the projected image. I am interested in investigating the intersection between sound as a temporal, vibratory phenomenon, and sound signal conceived as a graphic representation or inscription. My musical works have ranged from experiments with the sonification of brainwave signal, transcriptions of insect communication arranged for string quartet and orchestra, free improvisations for solo guitar and ensemble, and works for 8, 64, and 128—channel spatial audio arrays.

My recent visual work involves the production of photograms of a sound modulated laser beam, which leaves behind a trace of vibratory topography. Introducing sonic vibration into the photographic darkroom reveals an indexical, rather than a symbolic, representation of sound. What occurs on the surface of the photosensitive paper reveals the shadow of a sound object. I consider these photograms to constitute the archeology of an instant, revealing the metastable physicality of vibration that exists between sight and sound.

- December 2014


Zach Layton is a guitarist, composer, curator, educator, and visual artist. Working across mediums of sound, photography, and the projected image, his work explores processes of vibration, inscription, and the topology of acoustic space.

Layton's works have been performed by the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, the String Orchestra of Brooklyn, and members of the ICE Ensemble. Layton has performed at the Guggenheim Museum, The Kitchen, Bard College, MoMA PS1, ISSUE Project Room, Roulette, Eyebeam, Experimental Intermedia, Performa, Exit Art, Transmediale Berlin, Audio Art Festival Krakow, and many other venues in New York and worldwide. Layton is founder and artistic director of the experimental music series, “Darmstadt: Classics of the Avant Garde," co-curated with Nick Hallett.

With the support of his 2015 FCA grant, Layton created new works including “Expanded Field," a piece for orchestra and twelve-channel spatialized sound that premiered at EMPAC in Troy, NY. He also began a piece for voice and 512 channels of spatialized sound that will premiere at EMPAC in March 2016. Additionally, some of his works created through camera-less photography that involve the interaction of light and sound were exhibited in Aftersound at the Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University (2015).

Prior to receiving his 2015 Grants to Artists award, Layton received a Netherlands America Foundation grant (2000), an award from the Turbulence New Radio and Performing Arts (2007), a grant from the Jerome Foundation (2007), Roulette Festival of Mixology (2007), a grant from the Danish Council for Visual Arts (2010), a grant from the a Daedelus Foundation award for Darmstadt New Music Festival (2011, 2012), and a National Endowment for the Arts grant for Cecil Taylor Festival (2012).

Layton received a B.M. from Oberlin Conservatory of Music in 1999, an M.P.S. from the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University in 2007, and an M.F.A. from the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College in 2014. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in Electronic Arts in the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He served as co-curator of the MoMA PS1 WarmUp music series, and as curator of ISSUE Project Room from 2007 to 2012. Layton has been an adjunct professor at New York University, Bloomfield College, Bard High School Early College, and a teaching assistant at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Layton in a gray button-up and jeans playing the guitar in a brightly lit white room.
Photo of Zach Layton by Tammy Fortin.
Black and white photograph of Layton conducting an orchestra in an audience-less auditorium.
Zach Layton conducting. Photo by Nicholas DeMaison.
Close-up negative image of sonic waves resembling submerged tubular reeds with fine rippling hairs.
Wave Fossil Shadow 1, Silver Gelatin Photograph, 8" x 10."
Negative black and gray image of fine intersecting lines intersecting and spiraling around a central nucleus within a barred square shape.
Wave Fossil Shadow 4, Silver Gelatin Photogram, 16" x 20."
Glowing white lines spool and spiral, creating an abstract shape against a pitch black background.
Laser Oscillation, FM Pulsewave 2, archival ink jet print, 30" x 24."
An X-ray of blank horizontal lines on a beige background.
Sonic X-Ray 4 (standing), archival ink jet print, 24" x 16."