Crousetown's Jay Crocker is perhaps best described as an engineer who likes to "build" with sound.
The Lunenburg Country musician, producer and sound explorer just received a $5,000 Emerging Artist Recognition Award from Arts Nova Scotia for his BIBELOT instrument/installation. The award was handed out November 18 as part of the Creative Nova Scotia Awards Gala in Halifax.
Crocker's agent, Forward Music Group, describes Crocker's project as "Part instrument, part installation," and touts it as nothing less than "a sonic portal of limitless combination that aims to slip you into infinity."
Whoa, man. But what is it, really?
Crocker's work is best described as a self-composing set of 16 ceiling-mounted music boxes with custom-built drives, loops, lights, and amps.
Speaking to LighthouseNOW, Crocker himself says simply, "There is an architecture to it" and that he likes to build things.
"I think it's just to keep finding new sounds and new ways of interpreting sound."
Surrounded by snthysizers he's patched together in his home studio, the musician says he looks to make "weird sounds" and then organize them into "something that might not sound so weird. Or maybe it still kind of sounds bizarre, but there's more intention behind it."
While he has spent years adapting musical instruments to explore and develop new sounds, Crocker insists the process is much more than just engineering.
He sets out to create "something that you can feel.
"Music is very spiritual for me, I guess, in performance. There's certain places I can go where I can't really go in any other situation," he says.
Hailing from Calgary, Crocker started his musical career in a high school band, and went on to study jazz at Mount Royal University.
"And once you start studying jazz, there's so many jumping off points from that."
He became actively involved in what he describes as "an improvised music collective," that kept him busy recording and touring throughout Canada and Europe with a variety of musicians.
While he says he learned a lot during the time, the hectic pace left him little time for his own "artistic endeavors."
"I think it was just time to kind of re-focus," he says of his and his wife's decision to move to Nova Scotia and settle in Crousetown near friends and a school for their children.
Although they appreciated the fact it meant they could afford to own their own home, the move to Nova Scotia was an adjustment, he says, recalling "going from full city life in a boom town to a more depressed part of a depressed province.
"That was quite challenging, but now it feels really great. And I think those challenges have definitely made me feel strong and more creative."
He stops to talk about the battle the community is having with the South Shore Regional School Board, which has plans to close the near-by Petite Riviere School.
Crocker helped make a video for the Save Petite cause.
"This area, there's something special about it. And it's growing. That's why they can't shut the school down," he says.
After receiving funding from Arts Nova Scotia to build BIBELOT and undertake its first composition, Future Fantasy 1960, Crocker debuted his machine in May 2017 as part of OBEY Convention in Halifax, working in partnership with Forward Music Group and the Anna Leonowens Art Gallery.
Crocker also helms the experimental electro project JOYFULTALK, performing with renowned songwriter Jon McKiel. He records and produces albums in the studio adjacent to his home.
He presented BIBELOT at Art In The Open in Charlottetown in August.
BIBELOT's next installation takes place in Moncton next May 18 to June 28 at Galerie Sans Nom.