Milford Graves Interview

Milford Graves

Source: BOMB Magazine.

When I stepped into the Artist’s Institute at Hunter College in Manhattan this past fall, I didn’t know what to expect. Milford Graves was premiering a new work titled Beyond Polymath. I’ve studied music with Graves since 2015, seen him play drums with various musicians, and attended gatherings at his home in Queens. At these informal meetings he draws connections between his work in biology, martial arts, music, and acupuncture, all while telling stories of his experiences as a drummer in the 1960s. Beyond Polymath, however, was unique in that it was his first work of sculpture. The installation was a three-dimensional expression of Graves’s “biological music” concept. The density of this sculpture struck me—its medical and cultural symbols intertwined with brightly colored veins, their shapes and lines creating a sense of movement between static objects. A human skeleton was connected to four separate computer monitors, each displaying various expressions of the human heartbeat. The effect was simultaneously ancient and futuristic.

Graves has dedicated his life to understanding how people vibrate, creating works that resonate within us. This inquiry has led him to pursuits beyond any single discipline and to settle into a number of diverse communities. Some know him as a musician, while others regard him as a martial arts instructor or herbalist, but he seamlessly combines all of these interests. Rather than work within any specific idiom, Graves mines the creative process to engineer new works out of the components common to each subject.