Ernie Althoff is a composer/performer/instrument builder/artist who has worked in Melbourne, Australia since the mid-1970s, when he bought his first vari-speed cassette recorder. During his years as one of the stalwarts of the Clifton Hill Community Music Centre (see NMA website below), he pioneered an array of techniques for this device in the field of low-budget live electro-acoustic performance (see NMA website).
His interests in chance-based compositional procedures were also kindled at this time, and when he built his first 'music machine' in 1980, many doors opened for him. Combining these machines with his collection of found objects, toys and home-built instruments, he performed many concerts over the following years titled either “Ernie builds a machine” or “Machines and me”, depending on their format. In 1986, the machines finally appeared alone as real sound installations. Since then, their design and construction, as well as their compositional strategies, have become more and more sophisticated. However, their aims of recognising the relevance of site specificity and utilising a (probably now) political use of the recycled, home-built or reappropriated as a low-budget ethic remain constant.
As well as this, he is still an avid performer (either solo or in ensembles of two or more) with the likes of Robbie Avenaim and Eamon Sprod (Tarab), and has also lectured, held workshops and written extensively on the subject. He has shown works in several major Australian cities and has sent work overseas to galleries, festivals and radio networks. “Dark by 6” is his third solo CD, following years of cassette releases. Several compilation CDs, both Australian and U.S., include his work. He has received commissions for compositions and installations, held artist-in-residence positions, participated in many festivals and conferences with both his installations and performances and has had several projects funded by the Australia Council.
“Our culture, until relatively recently, has forgotten how to explore other musical landscapes. In Althoff's case, his machines are like surveying instruments which aid him in mapping out a section of this little-known land for himself. His wanderings are part of our own attempts to find a more resonant cultural centre through our art…” Larry Wendt, San Jose. 1994