Biography All Music Guide
All Music Guide:
A sound artist based in New York City, Stephen Vitiello started in music as an electric guitarist. His encounter with video artist Nam June Paik propelled him into a different world. Collaborations with Pauline Oliveros, Scanner, and Frances-Marie Uitti helped him gain recognition, but he is mostly known for his photocell recordings of the World Trade Center, for which he enjoyed (although the word seems out of place) some media attention following the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001.
Vitiello's career trajectory is quite peculiar. He began to play guitar in punk bands in 1978 -- he was 14 years old. When in college, he studied literature and plastic arts. Around 1988, he got a job at an arts center and developed a successful career curating video- and sound-art exhibitions in the U.S. Meanwhile, his quotidian contact with visual artists transformed his approach to music, and he moved to post-punk and later art pop bands. Nam June Paik, whom he met in 1991, had a particular influence. For him, Vitiello shot video, devised sound systems, and became his assistant for various projects. This relationship culminated in the production of the Sub Rosa CD Works 1958-1979 from tapes unearthed by Vitiello, who had access to the artist's archives.
Vitiello began to experiment with guitar and electronics, finally focusing on the physical properties of sound, while keeping loose ties with rock (recordings with the Poetics and shows with She Never Blinks). His first works were collaborations with filmmakers and video artists. Enredando As Pessoas was the soundtrack to a Brazilian film; Chairs Not Stairs collected installation music. His first album of stand-alone music was the 1997 The Light of Falling Cars. In 1998, Vitiello participated in the per->SON festival in Cologne, where he performed on-stage with Pauline Oliveros, Scanner, and Frances-Marie Uitti. This event yielded a series of collaborations, from an album of minimal techno on Scanner's label Sulphur (Scratchy Marimba, 2000) to a 3" CD in duet with Uitti (Uitti/Vitiello, 1999).
The Light of Falling Cars garnered encouraging reviews and more people were finally getting interested in his music. Meanwhile, he kept a high art-related profile. In 1999, Vitiello was offered a residency at the World Trade Center. For weeks, he set up photocells to record the "view" from the 91st floor and translate them through algorithms into synthesized music. The material served as the basis for Bright and Dusty Things, an album released only a few months before the towers crashed. In the meantime, he had presented his first solo sound-art exhibitions in Houston and New York. Vitiello continues to perform in Rebecca Moore's group, his only remaining link to the rock realm.