Holly Herndon (born 1980) is an American composer, musician, and sound artist based in Berlin, Germany. After studying composition at Stanford University and completing her Ph.D. at Stanford University’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, she pursued a music career internationally. Herndon's music often includes human singing voices (including her own), is primarily computer-based, and regularly uses the visual programming language Max/MSP to create custom instruments and vocal processes. She has released music on the labels RVNG Intl. and 4AD. Her most recent full-length album Proto was released on May 10, 2019.
Holly Herndon was born in 1980 and raised in Johnson City, Tennessee. As a teenager, she spent several years living in Berlin on a high school exchange program, absorbed in the city's dance and techno scene. When Herndon returned to the United States she began studying electronic music at Mills College in Oakland, California. She studied under John Bischoff, James Fei, Maggi Payne, and Fred Frith, receiving her MFA in Electronic Music and Recording Media. While at Mills she composed the vocal-generated piece 195, which won her the Elizabeth Mills Crothers award for best composer in 2010. At school she focused on laptop performance, and she currently does most of her composing via laptop. In 2011 she released Car, an independent, near hour-long track on cassette.
While attending Mills she began developing her debut album Movement. Movement was released in November 2012 through RVNG Intl, a record label based in Brooklyn. For the album she used the visual programming language Max/MSP to create custom instruments and vocal processes.
Movement received a score of 8.1 on Pitchfork, who stated that Herndon "uses her crystalline voice as a chief input for her laptop, ultimately arriving at a poignant nexus of electronic accessibility and experimentation that owes as much to her academic forebears as her club contemporaries. It's a record with the rare capacity to turn cynics who might scoff at the idea of laptops-as-intimate-instruments into believers."
According to The Quietus, "Movement's sound certainly has its forebears and contemporaries - it's possible to detect traces of everyone from Coil and Aphex Twin to Ellen Allien and Laurel Halo in the mix - but equally it contains elements, both sonic and thematic, that are quite unlike any other electronic music currently out there." Also, "Herndon's music reflects the ambiguous nature of our interactions with these technologies. It's by turns sensual, blissful and disturbing, and often hints towards all three states at once."
She toured internationally after the release, also taking part in a number of artistic collaborations such as projects with Iranian writer Reza Negarestani, Chicago producer Jlin, and Hieroglyphic Being. Her collaboration with Conrad Shawcross was exhibited at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. She played the CTM Festival on January 31, 2013 in Berlin. As of late 2012 she is a doctoral candidate in composition at Stanford University. At Stanford she continues to use coding software such as Max/MSP to program many of her own electronic instruments and patches.
Her single "Chorus" was released on January 24, 2014, with a music video created by Akihiko Taniguchi. "Chorus" was named Best New Track by Pitchfork. For sounds to build the song, Herndon sampled her browsing experience on the internet, incorporating sources such as YouTube and Skype. The video focuses explicitly on the personal nature of modern computing. According to Herndon, "The more comfortable we get with these devices, the more vulnerable we are. We are learning more and more about the NSA revelations; I think it is really interesting that we have never been more intimate with these machines, and at the same time have never had such cause to be suspicious of them. We wanted to capture both of those sides."
The full Chorus EP was also released in January on both vinyl and digitally, and it received an 8.0 and positive review in Pitchfork. According to Create Digital Music, few artists have managed to meld the dark thump of techno with the intricate constructions of post-minimalist new music quite like Holly Herndon. Her rapid-punctuated, ethereal vocals are float above complex, dance music-inspired machinery, producing an effect that is arrestingly gorgeous and frightening all at once."
Herndon released the single "Home" on September 16, 2014, with a video directed by Dutch design studio Metahaven. According to Herndon, it captures her feeling of losing trust in electronics after the revelations the NSA monitors what some Americans do online. "Home" continues "Chorus"'s theme of surveillance: "It is a love song for prying eyes (an agent / a critic), and also a break up song with the devices with which I shared a naive relationship."
Herndon's second full-length album, Platform, was released on May 19, 2015. The album explores a complicated relationship with technology, and includes a track entitled "Lonely at the Top" that is intended to trigger Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR).
Herndon's third full-length album, Proto, was released on May 10, 2019. In this collaborative work with her partner Mathew Dryhurst and programmer Jules LaPlace, she involved a singing AI that she had developed over the course of several years.
- 2010: 195 (winner of the Elizabeth Mills Crothers award for best composition 2010)
- 2013: BodySound: Solo Duet with Cuahtemoc Peranda
- 2013: ADA with Conrad Shawcross
- 2013: Being There with TILT Brass
- 2009: Score Generating Vocal Network Piece
- 2009: Mills Improvisation Ensemble
- 2010: +Dialog
- 2011: CCM
- 2011: CCM Artist in Residency Series
- 2012: <body> with Mathew Dryhurst
- 2012: Collusion with Reza Negarestani & Mathew Dryhurst
- 2013: C.回.R with Mathew Dryhurst - hackathon
- 2013: K回IRO with Mathew Dryhurst - exhibit
- 2014: Call with Mathew Dryhurst and Metahaven
- "Interference" (2015)
- "Morning Sun" (2015)
- "Godmother" (2018)
- "Eternal" (2019)
- Gibb, Rory (December 17, 2012). "It's A Body Thing: An Interview With Holly Herndon". The Quietus. Retrieved 2014-03-24.
- "About". HollyHerndon.com. Retrieved 2014-03-24.
- "Artists: Holly Herndon". RVNG Intl. Retrieved 2014-03-24.
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- Kretowicz, Steph (November 14, 2012). "Computer Love: An Interview With Holly Herndon". Red Bull Music Academy. Retrieved 2014-03-24.
- Hsu, Hua (2019-05-13). "Electronic Pop for the Surveillance Era". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2019-08-24.
- Aroesti, Rachel (2017-11-27). "Thurston Moore, Holly Herndon and more on today's musical underground". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2018-01-23.
- "Proto, by Holly Herndon". Holly Herndon. Retrieved 2019-05-10.
- Eric Dawson (2015-03-25). "BIG EARS 2015: Holly Herndon | The Knoxville Mercury". Knoxmercury.com. Retrieved 2015-06-19.
- Baynham, Mark (November 15, 2012). "Speaking in Code: Holly Herndon Explains Why the Laptop is the Most Personal Instrument the World Has Ever Known". Fact Magazine. Retrieved 2014-03-24.
- Kirn, Peter (January 23, 2014). "Holly Herndon, Ethereal and Heavy-Hitting, Creates Video World as Deliciously Surreal as Auditory One". Create Digital Music. Retrieved 2014-03-24.
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- "Littlebig welcomes Holly Herdon, CTM Festival announced". LittleBig. December 3, 2012. Retrieved 2014-03-24.
- Beta, Andy (January 21, 2014). "Holly Herndon - "Chorus": Best New Track". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2014-03-24.
- "Cluttered workspaces are digitally re-created in Holly Herndon's Chorus music video". De Zeen Magazine. March 15, 2014. Retrieved 2014-03-24.
- Richardson, Mark (February 7, 2014). "Holly Herndon - Chorus EP". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2014-03-24.
- "Holly Herndon - Home (RVNG Intl)". RVNG. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
- Beaumont-Thomas, Ben (2015-04-26). "Holly Herndon: the queen of tech-topia". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-01-23.
- Yarm, Mark (May 19, 2015). "The Musician Who Sees Life Through the Prism of PRISM". Wired.
- Beaumont-Thomas, Ben (26 April 2015). 'Holly Herndon: the queen of tech-topia'. The Guardian. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
- Zevolli, Giuseppe (2015). 'Holly Herndon (Past : Forward)'. Four by Three Magazine. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
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- Jacoby, Sarah (21 May 2015). 'Does this song trigger your ASMR?' Refinery29. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
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- Cliff, Aimee (13 May 2015). 'Holly Herndon's new horizons'. Dazed. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
- Bloom, Madison (11 March 2019). "Holly Herndon Announces New Album PROTO, Shares Video: Watch". Pitchfork. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
- "How Holly Herndon and her AI baby spawned a new kind of folk music". The FADER. Retrieved 2019-08-24.
- "Loop – a summit for music makers". www.ableton.com. Retrieved 2019-08-24.
- MUTEK. "Holly Herndon". MUTEK (in French). Retrieved 2019-08-24.
- Holly Herndon Lecture (Tokyo 2014) | Red Bull Music Academy, retrieved 2019-08-24
- "Holly Herndon – Forecast". third.forecast-platform.com. Retrieved 2019-08-24.
- Welt, Haus der Kulturen der (2018-10-04). "Forecast Festival". HKW. Retrieved 2019-08-24.
- "Holly Herndon". Youtube. Retrieved 2 March 2021.
- First Listen: Holly Herndon, 'Movement' (NPR, November 2012)
- Computer Love: An Interview With Holly Herndon (November 2012)
- Speaking in Code (Factmag, November 2012)
- Gatekeeper select Holly Herndon (Dazed Digital, 2013)
- It's A Body Thing: An Interview With Holly Herndon (The Quietus, December 2012 )
- CTM 2013: Holly Herndon Q&A (Wire, February 2013)
- Continuous Partial Listening: Holly Herndon in Conversation (Rhizome, January 2014)
- Input/Output: Holly Herndon (Ableton, February 2014)