composer & performer

experimental instruments

sound designer

articles & reviews


bio and contact

Eric Leonardson is a Chicago-based composer, radio artist, sound designer, instrument inventor, improvisor, 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. He is Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Sound at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, President of the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology, founder and co-chair of the Midwest Society for Acoustic Ecology, and co-founder and Executive Director of the World Listening Project.

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 piezoelectric 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 in the 1980s provided the environment where critical thinking and artistic collaboration was common practice. From studies in visual art media to the time-based media of sound, video, and performance at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Leonardson's employed his skills as a drummer and audio technician in live, collaborative works with his fellow students, including Werner Herterich and Brendan de Vallance, and his teacher, the late Tom Jaremba. Leonardson was also the drummer in eclectic rock bands, such as Hand To Mouth led by singer, songwriter, and performance artist, Gene Pool aka Bill Harding.

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 Ralph Flores in Latino Chicago Theater. In 1995 Leonardson cofounded Plasticene. Considered one of Chicago's boldly experimental theater companies, directed by Dexter Bullard. Plasticene concluded ts 17-year career of original production in March 2012.

His first record (cassette) release entitled "Urban Archeology/Site Removal" (1993) featured a live sound performance project with Sundell and Posa, and renowned Chicago-based percussionists Michael Zerang and Hamid Drake; with lighting design by Christian Pretorius and acted by Kim Bruce. Leonardson performed with sound artist Steve Barsotti from 1994 to 1998. The fruition of their collaboration can be heard on the CD "Rarebit" available on mimeomeme. Leonardson performs with experimental vocalist Carol Genetti, an ongoing partnership that started in 1997. In recent years he formed Auris with fellow instrumentalist-composers Christopher Preissing and Julia Miller, performing since 2007 with guest members Guillermo Gregorio, Gino Robair, and Frank Abbinanti among others. With radio artist, Anna Friz he has toured through the eastern US and created works for broadcast on Kunstradio, Vienna and Deutschlandradio, Berlin.

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 jazz bassist and filmmaker 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; Baltimore "sound mechanic" Neil Feather; Chicago "anti-cellist", Fred Lonberg-Holm, Berlin turntablist Ignaz Schick; and sound artist Jay Needham.

Leonardson is director of the World Listening Project (founded in 2008) and founder (in 2009) of the Midwest Society for Acoustic Ecology, a regional chapter of the American Society for Acoustic Ecology(ASAE).

In the late-80s and early-90s, Leonardson worked with Lou and Dawn Mallozzi to start the Experimental Sound Studio. There he directed "Sounds From Chicago," one of the city's first internationally broadcast radio art programs.

Leonardson's discography includes Animus (1998) with vocalist Carol Genetti, his solo release Radio Reverie in the Waiting Place (1999), Rarebit (2008) with Steven A. Barsotti, Rub (2013) with Auris and Gino Robair, and Vendlam (2014) with Doug Van Nort and Al Margolis. Numerous compilation releases include Explorations in Sound, Vol. 4 The Sound of Live Performance, A Call For Silence, and Noise To Meet You U.S. Leonardson's "Other Music" (2005) created and performed with Anna Friz, Chris Brookes, and Evalyn Parry can be heard on and Deep Wireless 3 compilation from New Adventures In Sound Art. Leonardson's writings on sound have been published in books and journals since the late-80s, in Musicworks, Leonardo Music Journal, eContact! 10.3, most recently in the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology Newsletter. In 2015, forthcoming articles will published in the Journal of Radio and Audio Media, Journal of Urban Cultural Studies, and Conrad Grebel Review.

Leonardson earned a Master of Fine Arts (Time Arts) degree at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1983, and his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (Visual Art) at Northern Illinois University in 1980. He is a recipient of two Illinois Arts Council Media Arts Fellowships (2002 and 2006), and was a 2013 Copeland Fellow at Amherst College.

Further documentation:

Eric Leonardson



what's new:

press photos:

All contents copyright 1998 - 2015 Eric Leonardson. All rights reserved.