TRANSMUTING THE PROSAIC
DECEMBER 2 - JANUARY 29

  • Opening Reception / Meet the Artist: Friday, December 2 / 5-8pm
  • Free and open to the public
  • Opening Reception coincides with Art Round Town*


Artist Statement:

I explore naturally occurring events that are often considered ordinary, mundane, or unwanted. Whether it is traffic patterns, rock formations, cricket calls, or the structure of dreams. I strive to transform these everyday, often rejected occurrences and open up the doors behind them. The environment and I are equal partners in the creative process.

In the Davis Square Symphony, the bustle of Davis Square in Somerville, Massachusetts, has been translated into an orchestral score. Vehicles became strings, pedestrians shift into wind instruments, and bicycles emerge as snare drums. Traffic, which is generally considered irritating and unpleasant, has been transformed into a work of unique beauty.

Inspired by John Cage and Marcel Duchamp, POP Record/evolving transforms the pops and surface noise from my record collection into source material for a recording that began in 1985 and constantly evolves. By isolating these flaws in the recorded form, I allow the sounds to create their own score.

Mission of Burma, the art-punk band I co-founded, created an ironic lyric sheet for our 1981 EP Signals, Calls, and Marches, in which all the words were placed in alphabetical order. The "Signals, Calls and Marches Lyric Sheet" includes those same words inked onto a record. One can read the lyrics and listen to the isolated words from the record at the same time.

For "Four Bars of a Bach Fugue," I etched the treble and bass clef of those four bars of a Bach fugue onto a blank record with a screwdriver. When this material is translated by a record needle, the result is quite different from the piece’s original intention. (For the record, I enjoy playing Bach on the piano.)

— Roger Clark Miller

Roger Clark Miller bio:
Roger Clark Miller was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan on February 24, 1952. He is the son of an ichthyologist professor whose specialty was researching fish that live in isolated springs in the desert and comparing them to their fossil ancestors. Until he was 18, Miller spent part of every summer in the western U.S. deserts on these scientific expeditions. This has had a strong effect on his artistic outlook where the themes of nature, extremes, self-reliance, and a deep sense of time recur in his work.

He started piano lessons at age 6, studied French Horn in middle school, and picked up the guitar at age 13. He drew regularly as a child, creating imaginary maps, comics, and characters, and took art classes throughout middle and high school.

In 11th grade, he found his creative voice by expanding existing musical forms in both rock and classical music and incorporating surrealism into his visual art. During this time he inverted images and began incorporating unplanned elements, such as reflections of light off the house toaster, in his drawings. After high school, he studied composition, piano, and drawing at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts).

In 1979, Miller moved to Boston and co-formed Mission of Burma, a post-punk rock band with experimental leanings. This was pivotal to his career as a performing artist. Mission of Burma is in every major book on indie rock and continues to be viewed as influential. The Mission of Burma documentary “NOT A PHOTOGRAPH” was included in Huffington Post’s 2017 article “18 Documentaries You Need To Watch On Hulu Right Now.” with documentaries that also included Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, and Banksy.

The band was known for combining elements of free jazz, extended guitar techniques, and tape loops into a searing physical performance. During this time, Miller continued his research into Dada and Surrealist art. It was for the band's second record that he came up with the idea for a lyric sheet that listed the words used in alphabetical order rather than as they appeared in the songs. The record cover was planned to be printed directly onto raw cardboard, but this was not feasible at that time.

After Mission of Burma folded, Miller further developed his approach to prepared piano, putting objects on and between the piano strings. He created his first conceptual art object, "POP Record/evolving", a recording of record surface noise that wears away and is replaced by new record surface noise. This was shown in galleries alongside Christian Marclay and was reviewed in Art New England.

In 2001, Miller began a deep immersion into Max Ernst's Frottage technique, rubbing surfaces wherever he was to collage a finished drawing. He has been in numerous group and solo shows, and his work has appeared on album covers for other artists as well as his own.

In 2012, he came up with the idea for his first film, “The Davis Square Symphony”. He shot footage of Davis Square in Somerville, MA, and created an orchestral score based on the traffic patterns as they appeared on-screen.

Since 2013, his chamber music has been performed at the New England Conservatory and other venues, with his setting of the Epic of Gilgamesh premiering there in 2016, featuring the composer on electric guitar.

Recent compositions are based on photographs from nature. However, they are not impressionistic. Instead, Miller uses the position of rocks and trees, the arc of lightning, the shape of clouds, to create structures for his chamber music. In fall 2018, Tufts Music School put on a concert entirely of Miller's work, including three premiers: Solar System Sonata (piano and string quartet), Three Skies (viola and piano), and Rocks Music (solo cello).

In spring 2020, he had his first art installation, “Transmuting the Prosaic”, at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center. This consisted of his film the Davis Square Symphony, and five of his Modified Vinyl pieces (including POP Record/evolving) presented both as hanging art objects and as records to be played on turntables with headphones.

The idea of creating structure and form based on aspects of the world - from natural phenomena to traffic patterns to record surface noise - is something that has been reoccurring through his work since high school.

Miller’s work has been reviewed in major national and regional press outlets including the New York Times, The Boston Globe, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Sun-Times, Wire Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Vanity Fair, National Public Radio, and the Brattleboro Reformer.

Miller has led his "Surrealist Games Night" at Mass MoCA, The ICA in Boston, Real Art Ways in Hartford, 3S Artspace in Portsmouth, NH, First Night Boston, and other venues. He plays host and guides the attendees through the various drawing and word games, such as Exquisite Corpse, created during the hey-day of the Surrealist 1920s.

Miller has been guest faculty at the Rhode Island School of Design and visiting artist at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Berklee School of Music in Boston, and St. Michael’s College in Burlington, VT. He has also been a journalist/blogger for Slate Magazine and The Huffington Post; a book reviewer for the Wall Street Journal; and a record reviewer for The Talk House.

Miller has recorded over 50 albums in solo and ensemble settings ranging from rock music to chamber music to free improvisation, performing on guitar, keyboards, voice, cornet, bass, and percussion. He has designed many of the album covers. He has scored four films that premiered and won awards at The Sundance Film Festival from 2008-2017. In his silent film accompanying group, Alloy Orchestra ("the best in the world at accompanying silent film" - Roger Ebert), he has premiered fifteen films at The Telluride Film Festival. He has also scored numerous short films and commercials.


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*Art 'Round Town is a gallery walk in Portsmouth on the first Friday of each month.

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Stay connected to the Gallery from home: view the virtual Gallery!

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Generously supported by:



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3S Artspace is supported in part by a grant from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

3S Artspace is supported by the New England Foundation for the Arts through the New England Arts Resilience Fund, part of the United States Regional Arts Resilience Fund, an initiative of the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with major funding from the federal CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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