Carl Testa Music

Carl Testa (b. 1984, Chicago, IL) is a multi-instrumentalist and composer at the intersection of improvised music, jazz, electronics, experimental music, and new media. As a performer/improviser, he is equally comfortable on string bass, electronics, lighting, and combinations thereof. As a composer, he has written acoustic and electronic music for configurations ranging from solo to chamber orchestra, including multimedia pieces that incorporate electronics, lighting, dance, and theater. His work has been performed throughout the US and Europe, and is documented on many recordings, most recently "Iris (for solo bass and electronics)" (Lockstep Records 2013), and "Sn (for prepared guitar and electronics)", a collaboration with guitarist Christopher Riggs (Gold Bolus Records 2015).

In addition to his work as a leader/collaborator, he performs regularly with composers Anthony Braxton, Mario Pavone, and Tyshawn Sorey. He serves as the Archives Manager for Braxton's Tri-Centric Foundation where he manages all facets of the production of digital and print scores for the organization. He is an instructor in music composition at the Educational Center for the Arts in New Haven teaching Audiovisual Live Coding. He also organized The Uncertainty Music Series from 2007-2017, which was a monthly concert series in New Haven, CT featuring improvised, electronic, and experimental music. He has received support from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the State of CT as a 2018 Artist Fellow, from the New Haven Department of Cultural Affairs, and from NewMusicUSA.

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2020 - Extended interview with composer Joseph Celli on the Musicians Speak Podcast
2019 - Live Interview with composers Warm Human and Dan Derks
2017 - Extended interview with composer Jeremiah Cymerman on the 5049 Podcast
2014 - Interview with Mike at Avant Music News
2011 - Interview conducted by Amy Crawford from Tri-Centric Orchestra

Press Quotes

Sway Prototypes "a visionary balance between a musical community and an unpredictable analysis that feeds new material back into the dialogue." - Stuart Broomer, Point of Departure, March 2020

"Sway Prototypes are two deeply enthralling albums and together form a compelling testimonial to Testa's vision, creativity, and sheer talent as a composer and bandleader. I look forward excitedly to where he takes this Sway project next." - Nick Ostrum, The Squid's Ear, 3 February 2020

"With Sway, Testa has created a musical system with rare depth. Add an array of absurdly talented musicians, and you have one of the most interesting recordings of 2019." - Keith Prosk, free jazz blog, 13 December 2019

"What Sway does exceptionally well on the three ensemble pieces is compose with color. . .Sway moves instruments in and out of the foreground and mixes their voices in varying and unpredictable combinations. The closest analogy to listening to these performances would be to watching a multicolored Calder mobile set in motion." - Daniel Barbiero, Avant Music News, 6 August 2019

"[E]lectronic musician Carl Testa used a new electroacoustic setup - designed in collaboration with the composer - to control the playback files. Alongside the pianist Cory Smythe, who played some of Mr. Braxton's 1970s solo piano music, Mr. Testa oversaw a head-spinning, surround-sound environment that felt more immersive than past two-channel stereo recordings of the "Echo" pieces." - on performance of Anthony Braxton's Composition No. 375 - Seth Colter Walls, The New York Times, February 2019

"With Sway, the computer has the combined role of a live-dub remixer and composer: using prearranged criteria it can evaluate what a musician is playing, and nudge them to move on by changing their sound. Provided the computer running it has enough speed, memory, and microphone inputs, Sway can be used by any number of players" - Bill Meyer, Chicago Reader, January 2019

Tyshawn Sorey's Pillars features "the key role played by Testa's electronically modified sounds, creating profound sonic mass." - Stuart Broomer, New York City Jazz Record, November 2018

"Carl Testa's 'Ultraviolet' subtly blended acoustic and electronic noises as well as notated and improvised materials to conjure a splendidly successful piece, a sort of glacial minimalism expanded and subverted by the electronic overtones." - John Sharpe, New York City Jazz Record, August 2015

Sn is "an unrelenting tapestry of metallic noises, squeaks, scrapes, buzz saw rumbles and growls, clicks and pops. . . [it's] exhilarating" - Michael Hamad, Hartford Courant, 5 November 2015

Testa is "a phenomenal upright bass player and composer. . .the pieces [on Iris] outstretch into chamber group-sized acoustical spaces with an unpredictable timbral variety-a surprisingly melodic brand of electroacoustic improvisation" - Scott Schulz, Words on Sounds, 6 July 2013

Iris is "highly listenable ... a well-done excursion into electroacoustic improvisation that never subordinates musicality to experimentation" - Daniel Barbiero, Avant Music News, 8 July 2013

"[T]he results are surprisingly warm and engaging-highly recommended for drone/soundscape connoisseurs [Critic's Choice]." - Hank Shteamer, Time Out New York, 3 July 2013

Testa "reorganizes the electronically altered elements into tangential melodies that spiral away from the original as well as clusters of sound that expand into fractal shapes, in neither case entirely abandoning the kernel of the tune." - Bill Meyer, Chicago Reader, August 2013

Testa's "tone is beautifully honest and his phrases marked by declaration and delicacy...Testa eschews harsh electronic noise for elegant Baroque counterpoint and enveloping minimalism." - Clifford Allen, Ni Kantu, 28 August 2013

"Testa's bass playing is fantastic. His forceful personality and beautifully resonant tone (perfectly positioned in the balance) is a powerful counterpoint to Braxton's often high-pitched inventions: put together, the two men create an imposing vista of registeral perspective." - Phillip Clark, The Wire, Summer 2008

The "trio performances are thoughtful and evocative . . . [they create] an introspective, chiaroscuro atmosphere." - Daniel Barbiero, Avant Music News, September 2011

A "fine, engaging disc...doesn't quite sound like anything else I've encountered before...[Carl's] composing remains most engaging and unique throughout." - Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery Newsletter, October 2008

"An interesting and unusual record...a worthwhile debut album." - free jazz stef, free jazz blog, October 2008

"It's human music, with varied emotions and...sublime moments." - Richard Kamins, Hartford Courant, August 2008

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