Christopher Janney grew up in Washington, D.C. during the 1950’s. His mother can recall Janney’s early fondness for mechanical objects. His exposure to his father’s love of jazz and swing music fostered an early musical appreciation. He cites the renowned music educator (and junior high school teacher) John Langstaff and the process of building a “very loud” go-kart as important formative sound influences. After numerous attempts to study piano, Janney began playing the drums in a dance band at age 14. At Princeton University (B.A.1973), Janney studied architecture with Michael Graves, sculpture with James Seawright, and percussion in New York, with Joe Cusatis. He also performed intensively in numerous dance bands on the college circuit. After graduation, Janney continued his musical studies in New York at the Dalcroze School of Music, specifically eurhythmics with Dr. Hilda Schuster, and percussion with Norman Grossman at Mannes College of Music. During this period, he worked for a diverse group of artists, including Jack Youngerman, Merce Cunningham Dance and Weng-Yeng Tsai. In 1975, Janney’s band ORION won the prestigious New York Jazz Talent Poll. In 1976, Janney was invited to enter a newly-formed Masters Program in Environmental Art at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology. There, he began his formal experiments combining architecture and jazz. In 1978, he completed the Program, under artist Otto Piene, with a thesis titled SOUND-STAIR: The Nature of Environmental /Participatory Art (musical stairs).
Since 1978, Janney has developed his own multimedia studio, PhenomenArts, Inc. while continuing his affiliation with M.I.T.’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies. Janney has toured the United States and Europe with his interactive sound/architecture installations, and his performance pieces have been appreciated by audiences worldwide. His individual artworks, as well as his collaborations have made him the recipient of awards and grants over the course of his artistic career, including a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1991 and the Edison Award from General Electric for innovation in design in 1995. His piece, Hopscotch: Stamp Stomp was acquired by the Smithsonian Institution for its permanent collection in 1990. Since 1989, he has been working on a concept of permanent interactive architectural sound and light installations which he calls “urban musical instruments” Janney has been profiled on CBS Sunday Morning, and featured on HGTV and ABC/Discovery. His work has graced the covers of Architectural Record and the design of a residence in Kona, Hawaii was featured in the August 2002 issue of Architectural Digest. Janney is a Visiting Professor at The Cooper Union School of Architecture in New York City, where he teaches his course, Sound as a Visual Medium. He resides in Lexington, Massachusetts with his wife, Terrell Lamb, son, Frederick John Lamb Janney, and daughter, Lillian Mary Lamb Janney.