Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Blog Week 4: Three New Videos

You now have a team and a bit of an idea of where you are headed.  Search out at least three examples of work you didn't know about before that relates to the direction your team is headed. Feel free to take suggestions from your teammates in your search.  Post the example with some substantive comment. Please don't just repeat something that your teammates posted in week 1. Consider this not just an exercise, but part of the essential process of researching your project.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Week 2

Preface: I have at best an ambivalence toward internal languages as a way of constructing meaning. Any concept cuts both ways: as you attain more specificity and in-group use of specific words for specific concepts, you remove possibilities. I find that a lot of my most interesting musical thinking happens when I stop using pre-set terms, although of course it’s important to understand them in the first place. These three terms represent some ways in which I like to organize my musical thinking. 

“Form” or “Structure” I like to think of form as what holds a piece together, what delineates the piece from the world outside of it— in other words, the form is the justification for the material to exist at any given point within the piece, or rather that it defines the role of material within the piece. It is also “the piece” in an objective sense. I like to think of form as a way to think about the movement of time, less in terms of progression and more in terms of tendency. 

“Syntax”: Brahms thought that a form can only be a consequence of the material it contained. Similarly, Joan Tower said “when people don’t like the syntax of a piece, they like to discuss form” (I’m paraphrasing from something a teacher told me). Form is subordinate to syntax, the various musical elements creating a tendency that can be articulated by a structure. We don’t experience a building architecturally, we experience it room by room.

“Energy” or “Gesture”: This is the hard part: to put some kind of raison d'etre to inanimate notes. It's what keeps music looped into experience. I like to think about music as a metaphor for our experience with gravity, but of course our ability to defy its laws is an important source of magic.

I do a lot of different things, so trying to explain what I’m studying is difficult. I’ve lately been just telling people that I’m a “composer” or even better, that I “write music.” Frequently what I get is either some vaguely impressed bewilderment that just leaves me embarrassed or “so it’s like you write classical music?” I don’t… really do that. Even when I write a string quartet there’s nothing “classical” about it. Really, I just wish people who don’t really care about what I do would stop talking to me about what I do. Even talking to other musicians largely makes me feel misunderstood. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

This word comes with so many meanings and teachings in what I do. The lineage in music, especially black music, is fundamental in learning and becoming apart of the music. I have found that studying records has taught me more than any class, teacher, or peer. Not to say that all of these methods of learning aren't important, because they are, but more to say that one cannot go without listening. At first, like many, I wasn't sure where to start. But I soon realized that every musician, even the masters, have those they have inspired, but also those who inspired them. As a musician, if you can start to follow these waves of influence, you begin to find a clear lineage quickly. These descendants are also not subjugated by genera and are somewhat infinite. Lastly, because I am a white person submerged in black culture, knowing how sacred the lineage is and what role it plays within the music, is critical to me not stealing from it.

Often I have the realization that a record store is much like a graveyard and I'm sifting through the lives of people who have passed. Its mind blowing to think that in most cases a piece of wax holds all the musical energy of someone once they are gone. Some end up being buried rarely to be heard again, while others get picked up and handled by the next generation. That means when I sample these records I always try to hold a lot of respect around the musician/musicians whose career goes into helping me create my music.

I receive so much love and happiness from music every day; sometimes it even feels unfair! Giving back to the music is something I'm always trying to improve. I have found a few principles that work for me but am always looking for more:

Always put love into your music for others to hear, and feel,
Teach what's been taught to you,
share music,
and never stop listening!

Music producer/beatmaker Vs. DJ:
People generally assume, especially when talking about hip-hop, that producers are DJs are interchangeable. That is not true. Many of the times producers are also DJs, but each is its own particular skill and incredibly hard to do at a high level. Especially when talking about vinyl DJing which is quickly being replaced with the computer!

Week 2

1.    Color – determined by various combinations of timbres belonging to different instruments. Flutes and clarinets in the high register would be described as having a bright color, while double basses and bassoons in their lower register would be described as having a dark color. Composing with these ideas in mind helps one create music that has greater dimensions than just pitch (melody/harmony) or rhythm alone.

Balance – similar to the idea of mix within music production. This concept takes into account the relative loudness of each instrument, as well as how many of each instrument are playing at any given time. Composers need to be mindful of balance when orchestrating in order to ensure that their musical ideas come across clearly to members of the audience.

Pacing – the relationship between the length of time it takes for a piece to develop ideas, the climax of the piece, and its ending or resolution (or lack thereof). Having a knowledge of effective pacing strategies is an important skill that composers can use to improve the logical flow of their music, in terms of its structure.

2.    'Writing songs' – When I tell people that I’m a composer, they often ask “what type of songs do you write?” This inaccurately represents the art of composition as songwriting, when – considering aspects such as those I mentioned above – the role of the composer is more similar to that of both songwriter and producer combined.

Blog Week 3

Before next class (Tuesday Sep 25):

Update your group blog page with:
  • A final version of your team charter
  • A preliminary plan/schedule for the semester, including milestones you set for yourselves (pay attention to the graded in-class presentations)
  • Preliminary ideas / plans / inspirations

Week 2 Blog

Words of inspiration...

Breathe: As a wind player this word is the something I hear on the daily. My studio professor is constantly lecturing about how flute playing is just singing, but with a flute up close to our mouths. Not only does this word help me understand/play my instrument, but it also teaches me how to be a collaborative musician. Breathing is something we do without thinking, so I want to find out how I can connect that with performing music with other people. I love watching professional string quartets because, although they do not need to breathe in order to make a sound on their instrument, they breathe collectively as one unit and make beautiful music together. This is something I strive for when playing my instrument, as well as, playing with other instrumentalists as well.

Passion: This seems pretty explanatory, but it can be so complex. If you have passion towards something, it will obviously take most of your attention. So if I'm talking about my instrument, or music in general, these are two things that I have had a passion for for a tremendously long time. With this passion I have been able to perform all over the United States and study with the world's best teachers.

Collaboration: I absolutely love playing chamber music, or any chance I get to collaborate with other musicians and artists. At a young age I used to be a competitive dancer and belonged to a big studio in Southwest Michigan. We would compete every other weekend and usually sweep every category and age divisions. I never did any solo work, because I personally felt that I could not portray the emotions I wanted by myself. Now that I am more mature and a performing instrumentalist, I can definitely get across what I want, but again, I much prefer collaborating with other artists.

Negative words...

Flute vs Flautist:
I have despised the word "flautist" ever since I started playing the flute. This might be something petty to get angry about, but I just cannot stand when people say that word. I remember one summer while I was at Interlochen, I was reading about flute playing and came across a book that talked about the differences of the two words.  "Flautist" is the Italian word for "a flutist" and  "to flaut" is an old Italian word, meaning "to mock". I understand that the flute is usually the representation of birds in a lot of pieces, but I don't think that was meant as a way to "mock" birds. This is just something that I feel passionate about, personally, and I know a lot of American flutists who prefer "Flautist"

Monday, September 17, 2018

Week 2

'Secret Language'

"The [insert composer's name]"

"[insert composer's name and symphony number]"

"[insert abbreviation for piece, album, band, orchestra, etc.]"

"the [insert piece type]"

"I'm gonna practice my [insert technique book author]"


I can distinctly remember conversing with one of my friends from my Catholic Men's Group about what our weekend plans were, and mentioning that hopefully I'd be able to make a concert where they were playing "Mahler 2." He paused, then looked at me quizzically and said, "what's that?" Not to belittle or condescend my friend at all, but I was properly taken aback at this, for I happened never to have said "Mahler 2" to anybody in the past without them knowing exactly what I meant.

"Gustav Mahler is a German composer from the early twentieth century, known for writing some of the greatest symphonies in all of classical music," I explained to my comrade. "And I'm gonna try and see his second symphony, which we just call Mahler 2." It's an interesting concept, because if you were to tell me you'd like to see "Rachmaninoff 2," I'd have to clarify if you meant his symphony or his piano concerto.

And how many of us have conversed with a fellow rocker and expected them to know which Pink Floyd album we meant when we said "Yeah, I like 'Dark Side' the best," or a fellow violinist to know which performer we referenced when we said, "I like the way Hilary plays it the best."

Also, who the hell other than those in the respective orchestra rehearsing and performing the exact piece could possibly know what "the Strauss" is? Who outside the jazz world knows what "the changes" are?

These are, for the most part, abbreviations and shorthand for regular classical music terminology. Yet I think they create some camaraderie between us and act as signifiers for "who's hip" in the specific music we like.

'Outsider description'

"Real major"

I think all music majors can relate to this on some level. It's the kind of term you're not sure you should take seriously or as a joke. I try to take it lightly by default, assuming it is meant as a joke. But I feel a little bad when I acknowledge that it might not have been. Most of us haven't been approached with this particular term per say, but probably with language like it. I can only think of one or two examples of "Oh you play trombone? But what's your real major?", the translation of course being that Trombone Performance is not a real major. Music is sometimes thought of as 'fun' rather than a rigorous, demanding, and competitive field of study. I don't let this get to me, really. Next time I hear someone speak in such a way, I might just invite them to a concert.

Week 2

4 Terms:


Empathy means so much and has so many different definitions depending on the field of study. It generally means to put oneself in someone else's shoes and feel what they feel emotionally. It can range from simply to setting aside your own feelings all the way to sitting and dealing with whatever the other person is going through. While working with musicians whose skills and backgrounds consistently contrast my own, empathy is a good way to see where they're coming from musically. It almost always ends with a newfound appreciation for their perspective and musical ideas because you see its context and how that essentially effects the process and product.


I like to pretend I know anything about the subject of meditation but I truly don't have a clue other than that I know it's tremendously important. Meditation, at its core, is shifting focus from phenomena to the observer of that phenomena. It shows people that all the feelings, urges and memories are transient in nature and leave you as fast as they approach you. To me and in music it allows people to leave all their stress, anxiety, anger, etc. at the door. It allows them to focus on the project at hand and to create freely without the baggage getting in your way.


To jam is to get with musicians, performers or whoever and just play together. Jamming is one of my favorite things to do because it forces you to think on the spot and to stay in the moment. For me it relieves stress and allows me to discover thing musically about myself and the people I'm playing with. Some people take this seriously enough to where they form a 'jam band' and do it in front of people. For whatever reason, people respond to this stuff positively and take it so far they follow these bands around the world.

Is it a jam band or improv ensemble?

Going to a music school in a conservatory environment comes with a lot of stigma around the phrase 'jam band'. The jam band does not receive as much prestige as an ensemble that includes improvisatory moments. This is partly due to the rather basic instrumentation of the jam band that usually involves drums, guitar, bass and occasionally a synth. I would say that jam band is a reductive term that keeps the idea tied down to its 60's southern rock influence. Whether it has that label or not, jamming is ridiculously fun especially in front of an audience.

Blog Week 2

Experimentation is very important in my everyday work, as I try to get in an open-minded headspace when doing creative work.  I always am open to trying new things, throwing new ideas out in the open, even if they may seem bad/not plausible. This way, my work isn’t defined within mental boundaries of worry, and I am able to narrow down something down to my best work once all of my ideas are on the table.  I also really enjoy the concept of experimentation within accessibility, meaning the work is able to be enjoyed by a larger audience, but does this in a unique, experimentative fashion.

Because of my background playing jazz piano, the word improvisation is very important within my practices.  It can be recognized in more of a literal sense, or as more of a concept. In more of a literal sense, I believe musical improvisation is very important to creating music.  There’s something about raw ideas that were conceived in the moment that I believe make a project more human and authentic. Conceptually, I also think the word improvisation can be used to describe the mindset of a collaboration.  When in a collaboration, I believe the more the group tends to “improvise” with each other during the creation of the project, the less they will imprisoned within trying to follow a structure in their work habits. This is not to say that structure isn’t important, but that a group should find the right balance between structured and improvised work.

Probably the most important word in my practice is Authenticity.  This simply describes art being a genuine reflection of the human being(s) that created it.  Whether it is in solo work or a collaboration, I believe that artists shouldn’t try to be something they’re not, and should strive to reflect their human experience authentically through their work.

Performer vs. Technologist

The idea of separating the performer from the technologist in this collaborative setting to me is very problematic for a number of reasons.  First of all, many PAT students tend to have started performing/playing way before they started learning music technology. Because of this, they would definitely have a lot to offer to the performance aspect, even if they aren’t performing in the collaboration.  Next, the performer definitely has a lot to offer in the technology realm, even if they have minimal knowledge in that area. Working alongside the people who are doing the technology, they are definitely able to offer a different perspective on how technology is altering the experience of their performance.  They can also offer artistic direction in which the collaboration is headed from a technology standpoint. Lastly, I believe that this separation can create sort of a close-minded outlook on the collaboration overall. When thinking about it as everyone in the group having an equal input and role in all aspects of the collaboration and performance, it’s easier to work together and narrow down how to play to the strengths of the group.  

Blog Week 2

Blog Week 2

Three Terms

While this may seem obvious, I truly think that to succeed in any of the disciplines I am focused on,
without some level of passion to motivate/drive me I will never be able to put my all into something nor
enjoy the process/outcome.

Especially in an artistic/creative field, I feel that one of the most rewarding qualities of a piece is the
innovation behind it.  Nowadays it can be extremely difficult to create truly new and original ideas, but
aside from originality, I also mean experimentation on a more personal level. For one to experiment and
do something new to them that they personally have never done before is one of the best ways to push
oneself to grow and become more well-rounded.

しょうがない (shou ga nai) = “it can’t be helped”

This is just one of those terms that simply does not have an English equivalent.  People use it in
situations where things are not going well (as planned..?) and it basically means to move on and not
dwell on it.  It’s a sort of mentality that is very helpful especially in a creative/experimental field like
PAT where it is common to troubleshoot technological problems, creativity block, etc. I think this sort of
expression also just helps me keep a more positive mindset during my day-to-day life as well when
dealing with anxiety/intrusive thoughts.

Negative Terms


While I understand this not necessarily meant to be an insult, when someone categorizes my music as “something from an anime soundtrack” or “video game music” there are connotations from those terms that I do not want attached to my music.  There’s often a stigma that anime is meant for children, or that it’s just weird, and then people sometimes further project that as a negative stereotype about Japan and Japanese people. It doesn’t even matter if my music may not even have anything distinctly Japanese about it besides the lyrics, the genre may something totally different, yet people still tell me “it sounds like something out an anime ost.”

Also within the realm of "anime" there are various different genres, people simply categorize it by language without really thinking about any of the musical aspects of the piece.  There are terms we use such as J-pop, K-pop, C-pop, etc., but within those there are different subdivisions of genres, it’s not like we categorize everything in America as just “A-pop” or “pop,” we further divide it into electronic, hip-hop/rap, R&B, country, etc. So when someone refers to my music as “anime-like” or even “J-pop” just based on the fact that the text is in Japanese, to me it almost feels as if the actual musical content aside from the lyrics is disregarded and I don’t get any real feedback about it.