“…some of the most experimental music of not just the day but the season… They held a listener’s attention with surprises and delights aplenty.“
— LA Times
“ Jessie Cox' s Gene-Splicing Futurities'”
“ Jessie Cox sound science poetry magick in 'As a Song of a World,'”
“ ...was struck by Jessie Cox’s Breathing...'”
“…modelled on timeless grooves worthy to make the lovers of Sun RA drool…”
— BienneOut (CH)
“…complex, beautiful music.”
— Castle of our Skins
“…draws the succinct, low notes of a drum from the bassoon.”
— The Bay State Banner
“ Washa! a first record of high class, a contemporary jazz, steeped in both classical and Caribbean influences.…Nu Creation is… reminiscent of the sounds of Steps Ahead. Washa! is an end-to-end success, a musical synthesis brilliantly performed by talented musicians...”
— Le Bananier Bleu
One of the world’s most brazenly experimental composers, Swiss artist Jessie Cox makes music about the universe - and our future in it. Through avant-garde classical, experimental jazz, and sound art, he has devised his own strand of musical science fiction, one that asks where we go next. For the last decade, his music has been marked by its freeness; his embrace of otherness has led to a body of work described by the LA Times as ‘some of the most experimental music, not just of the day, but the season’.
Cox’s music goes forward. When he describes it, he compares it to time travel and space exploration, likening the role of a composer to that of a rocket ship traversing undiscovered galaxies. He is influenced by a vast array of artists who have used their music to imagine futures, and takes Afrofuturism as a core inspiration, asking questions about existence, and the ways we make spaces habitable. Known for its disquieting tone and unexpected structural changes, his music steps into the unknown, and has been referred to by the New Yorker as an example of ‘dynamic pointillism’, a nebulous and ever-expanding sound world that includes ‘breathy instrumental noises, mournfully wailing glissandi, and climactic stampedes of frantic figuration’.
Cox’s fascination with futures is seen in compositions such as The Sound of Listening, which explores the connection between human and terrestrial bodies. An interactive piece, it is written to feel deliberately unfinished, its tones and timbres open, moving forward through an endless map of possible pathways. Though his music is unwaveringly experimental, eschewing traditional structure, he is constantly looking for connections, attempting to explain how we relate to each other and care for our world. His recent collaborative composition ...As A Song To The World asks these questions directly, its bombastic collaborative ritual emphasising the way we create fictions and lores to feel things as a community.
Though Cox’s music is expansive, it can often come from relatively little. A rehearsal room with a drum-kit in it, for instance, can serve as the setting for his vast world-building. His work can be light on resource, but teeming with detail, as exemplified in Breathing, an opera for one vocalist and handheld percussion. The piece involves bass-baritone Derrell Acon, who sings, hums and hyperventilates alongside chiming textural percussion. Like many of Cox’s pieces, it features deviation and destruction, and is defined by moments of uncontrollable human intervention. The result is a large, labyrinth composition that can’t be contained as an ordinary ‘piece’ of music.
Fascinated with contingency, Cox comes at his compositions from a space of genuine curiosity. He doesn’t know what will happen to his music in a live setting - whether it will break down, or continue to pulse - and seeks to pass the sensation along to his listener. ‘My teacher, Richard Carrick, once said about my music that he was always worried about whether it would survive for the whole performance’, Cox says, attempting to describe it. That is ultimately his aim: not to create something, but to search for it.
For his striking music and uncompromising vision, Cox has been widely celebrated. His pieces have received plaudits from the New Yorker, the LA Times, amongst other publications. It is the subject of thoughtful analysis, with music writer Steve Smith hailing his music as ‘sound science poetry’, celebrating its ‘gene-splicing futurties’ His work has appeared at MaerzMusik and has received performances from renowned groups such as Ensemble Modern, LA Phil, the Sun Ra Arkestra, and JACK Quartet.
Bio by Robin Smith
Jessie Cox is a critical theorist, composer, drummer and educator currently in pursuit of his Doctorate Degree at Columbia University. Growing up in Switzerland, and also having roots in Trinidad and Tobago, he is currently residing in NYC.
His scholarly writing has been published in Critical Studies in Improvisation, Sound American, and Castle Of Our Skins’ blog; and publications are forthcoming in the American Music Review, Positionen Texte zur Aktuellen Musik, and liquid blackness published by Duke University Press. He has presented his work at numerous conferences and festivals such as at Conferences by major organizations such as AMS, SMT, Society for Musicology in Ireland, CUNY’s Cecil Taylor Conference, New Music Gathering, Afro-Modernism in Contemporary Music, and NUNC3 and 4 at Northwestern University. At Columbia University he is a co-organizer of the Comparing Domains of Improvisation, a group that facilitates talks by prominent and emerging scholars so as to engage in interdisciplinary meetings around improvisation; which has led to conferences titled New Materialist Approaches to Sound, and Improvisation and Time.
He has written over 100 works for various musical ensembles including electroacoustic works, solo works, chamber- and orchestral works, works for jazz ensembles and choirs; including commissions and performances by LA Phil, Orchestra of St. Lukes, Ensemble Modern, Long Beach Opera, Wavefield Ensemble, Heidi Duckler Dance, JACK Quartet, Steve Schick, Claire Chase, String Noise Duo, ICE Ensemble, Gregory Oakes, Rebekah Heller, Vasko Dukovski, Either/Or, Fonema Consort, Cory Smythe, Kyle Motl, Clara Warnaar, Ryan Muncy, Katinka Kleijn, Promenade Sauvage, Janet Underhill, Greg Saunier of Deerhoof, Pink Noise Ensemble, etc.
As a performer he has played in Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and the USA; with musicians from all over the world including Benny Rietveld, Douglas Ewart, Roman Filiu, John King, Claire Day, Steve Cardenas, Ras Moshe, William Roper, Josh Sinton, Ben Stapp, Sandy Ewen, Lisanne Tremblay, James Ilgenfritz, Julian Shore, Mark Wade, Maher Beauroy, Eric Wubbels, Miyama McQueens-Tokita, Marc Hannaford, Brian Krock, Weston Olencki, Lester St Louis, Sam Yulsman, Barbara LaFitte, Lucy Clifford, Tomas Sauter, Cehryl, etc.
He has been studying composition with George Lewis, Georg Friedrich Haas, Richard Carrick, Annie Gosfield, Seth Cluett, Derek Hurst, Marti Epstein, Alfred Schweizer and Drums with Neal Smith, Tony “Thunder” Smith. Jessie has participated in the Accra Jazz Festival, the Martinique Jazz Festival, Langnau Jazz Festival, The Stone Series (NYC), La Phil’s Noon to Midnight Festival (Walt Disney Hall), New World Symphony’s Inside the Music (New World Center), Philharmonie Essen Festival NOW!, NUNC3 and NUNC4 at Northwestern University, New Music Gathering, Opera Omaha’s One Festival, Bang on a Can Music Series (Noguchi Museum), Italian Academy’s Summer Festival, National Sawdust Digital Discovery Festival, Roulette Interpretation Series, OpenICE Library Festival at Lincoln Center, Composers Now Festival, Issue Project Room, Frequency Series at Constellation (Chicago), Mis-En-Place Bushwick Curator Series, String Noise Sounds Series in NYC (Co-Curator), Polyfold, Rhythm and Thought Festival, and won the Leroy Southers Award (2015), Bill Maloof Award (2017). He has been aired on NPR, WBGO, WDR 3, HR2, SWR 2, Martinique 1, Visasat 1, TSF Jazz, WFMU, Fip Radio, ViaATV, France Ô, etc.
Jessie’s music can be heard on Aztec Music’s Declic Jazz Label, Gold Bolus Recordings and Infrequent Seams, as well as others.
He and projects where Jessie has been a part of have received grants and sponsoring from: the National Endowment for the Arts, California Arts Council, Alliance Francaise, Levedo Stiftung, Lyra Stiftung, Fritz-Gerber Stiftung, Berklee College of Music, Columbia University, Zeta Violins, etc.
Jessie Cox graduated summa cum laude from the Berklee College of Music on scholarship in 2017, with a degree in composition.
Jessie Cox’s musical career began when he was only three years old. He took rhythm and solfège training at the music school of his hometown Biel/Bienne in Switzerland. At the age of six years his interest in percussion instruments started showing and he began taking Djembe lessons. This was also the time when he first started composing his own music.
When he was twelve years old he started playing the Drumset in different cover bands and he started taking lessons with the internationally acclaimed latin-music artist Carlos Kort.