Michael ZT Rose

Michael Zachary Thompson Rose, born 1990, Boston.

Grew up just outside of Boston in Cambridge, MA.

Raised by Architects.

Has been a visual artist since first memory.

Studied painting at the Rhode Island School of Design. Graduated 2013.

Click on the page to turn it

At the age of 20, I suffered appendicitis. During my time in bed after the surgery, I first picked up the computer as a means to make music. I became obsessed, and upon returning to art school devoted as much time as possible to writing music and my own explorations into music theory.

I am an autodidact and have no formal training in music.

Initially interested in synthesized sounds, I was eventually drawn to the piano because of its simplicity of sound. I began creating works focused specifically on pitch and rhythm—as opposed to thicker synthesized sounds which focus on texture.

The piano sample used throughout Phantasmagoria is plastic and simple, very flat with little inherent emotion or quality. I would say this piano is the most basic possible instrument, allowing me to focus exclusively on form.


Extremely open ended. Many songs begin with a sequence of rhythmic experiments and permutations.

Occasionally I will work in a different way: I will set up system of instructions, or governing laws to define the pattern. And then use this system to arrive at musical phrases.

I may write an extremely long, drawn out body of work and then condense it. Often imagining the same phrase in a number of different ways, then picking a single permutation to build the song around.

This is almost like creating a world, and then photographing it. Creating a world of sound and then cutting out islands here and there, and connecting the islands with bridges.

Working on the computer allows me to understand music visually and tactilely—it is not ephemeral music. For me it is just as much an object as an experience. And I do try to write music that transcends into objecthood. The third movement of Beethoven Sonata No. 14 inspired me as a visual artist for this reason. To me it seemed to transcend melody and become a physical object. As a sculptor and painter this movement provided formal inspiration and continues to do so as a musician.


The work considers the stark counterpoint between the digital performer/instrument and the organic mind that creates, and the organic mind that listens (to the finished music).

It is all about the experience of the organic individual within the digital

The use of the computer is the use of the final tool. The next tool, being strong artificial intelligence, will transcend toolhood. Strong AI will be the last human creation. After the singularity all inventions, all music etc… will be created by a computer.

Much of my process is only possible because of the limitless potential the computer provides: the absence of physical limitation through the computer. The outsourcing of the physical.


Theoretical physics. Especially quantum physics: wave particle duality. I like to understand layered notes as superpositioned phrases, all creating an interference pattern. Phrases phasing in and out of synch—considering waves in the electromagnetic spectrum or in a swimming pool.

The double slit quantum eraser experiment and its implication of consciousness.

Emergence phenomenon. Unique phenomenon emerges from irrelevant entities. Consciousness as emergent from non-conscious particles. This correlates to “music” emerging from a swarm of notes. The emergence of music out of single notes reflects the emergence of mind out of particles.

I find that these inspirations coalesce into a kind of Scientific Romanticism. Theoretical physics, theories of consciousness and emergence are to me as the landscape is to Rousseau.

The incomprehensibility of the universe as the sublime, which I process through music.


Information overload. Interested in overstimulation in current society. Resulting in positive (as in +, not as in “right” or “just”) censorship—where nothing is actually censored, but less powerful voices and ideas cannot be heard over the din.

Exploring overstimulation and information density through the music. —Not specifically as critique however, and just as importantly as an exploration into the beauty and sublime of the stimulation overload. Formally this mirrors the minimalist obsession with the negative (american academic minimalism, house music, most philosophies and religions encouraging serene contemplation as means to understanding).


Influence of John Cage and the other “spiritual” and minimalist composers such as Reich, Riley and Glass. I sometimes share their goal of spiritual experience or deep indescribable understanding through music, however the means are often reversed: Constant change as opposed to repetition, and positive space as opposed to negative space to catapult/blast the listener to the “divine”/transcendental experience/abstract knowledge, understanding.

In regards to maximilism I take some inspiration from old harpsichord music: Scarlatti; and Geminiani. And from medieval choral music, which is also “spiritual” music, and functions through a kind of spiraling, discombobulating mist of sound.


Instruction based art—Sol Lewitt. Here there is a strong overlap into Terry Riley.

Strongly influenced by Abstract Expressionism and Automatic Drawing. — deKooning, Gorky, Pollock.

The music, at times is about the experience of consciousness. Exploring mental states and the stream of consciousness. Exploring the formation of ideas from thoughts, and the origin of thoughts in the mind. A linear train of thought corresponds to linear music.

Sampled piano sound, coupled with quantized computer performance. The music is sculpted to sound spontaneous. Here I also consider the Abstract Expressionists and how they labored over a piece to make it appear spontaneous.

Considering the possibility of improv.

I do admire how pop does get to the point very quickly, however I dislike how it repeats that point over and over again, and how easily the music can be understood. The more I learn about physics the more incomprehensible the universe appears—I think my music reflects this, so that the incomprehensibility of reality can be communicated.

In writing this album I was interested in creating music that I couldn’t understand so easily.

In general I find pop music to be prudish, like music with its clothes on. Unadventurous. I think it makes people complacent on a deep unconscious level, can stagnate the individual and society. Can become a resignation to the mundane.

Like popular music, I do want my music to get right to the point. There are often sections of New Music composition that I think are profound, but I often find that they are sandwiched between areas of low density and waiting. I wanted to make music that only dealt with the dense and profound. I investigate formal concepts from the past, Covering themes of cultural inheritance and how form and meaning changes alongside cultural context.

IN WAVES (song)
Here I am explicitly exploring the counterpoint between the digital and the organic. The organic human mind in the digital world. One piano part is computerized, perfect time and dealing with incredible subtlety. The other piano is freehand, one take. The Human voice as the self in the center—one take by the composer, not comped or overdubbed except for the backing vocals.

A major influence, and impetus to continue to write the first movement (Phantasmagoria, Powerblast, Claudia’s Birthday, Silver Hammer) was Telemorphosis by Jean Baudrillard.

Michael ZT Rose, December, 2016