Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I am not a morning person, but over the past few years I have begun the practice of doing something creative the minute I wake up (after a cup or two of coffee, of course).
I used to give my “best two hours” to things like emails or running errands, but then when it was time to be creative, I was exhausted, unable to focus, and uninspired. Now, when I work on “my stuff, first thing,” it sets a positive mood and tone for the rest of the day. When completing everyday tasks, I am more focused and productive because I have already prioritized what is most important to me earlier in the day.
I talk a lot about process with other creatives on my podcast, The Process: a podcast about creativity and experimental music.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
Each piece on Ambient Works (Albany, 2021) is a breakthrough of sorts.
This “best of” compilation was carefully curated to create a cohesive and fresh statement revealing my process of Windowing: the manipulation, layering, and temporal placement of found sound files to create larger sonic landscapes. The album expands the ethos of commercial ambient music, the definition of a soundwalk piece, and provides a fresh take on a Schaefferian sound object montage. The album reveals the context and emotion often missing in modern computer and electroacoustic music. Already receiving recognition, the track “St. Martin’s Summer” was performed at the Society of Electroacoustic Music in the United States (SEAMUS) 2021 Festival and will be featured on Alley Stoughton’s “Brahms, not List” new music radio show on WMBR 88.1 (MIT, Cambridge). Upcoming Performances include a set at #GlitchKraft founded by Somerville, MA artist Allison Tanenhaus and the Emerson Contemporary Gallery, Boston MA.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
In iconic film director David Lynch’s book Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness and Creativity, he suggests that getting into a creative state of mind is like falling asleep. Like sleep, some people struggle to transition into another state of consciousness and/or remaining there. I like to “prime my transition” by listening to drone or ambient music. A lot of this music is so minimal and ambiguous that it tricks my mind into “finishing it.” Great drone music will have me singing melodies over top in a matter of minutes. Then, there I am, being creative, almost unconsciously.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
There exists a lot of research examining how/when/where listening to music can heal. Personally, creating music is a healing process for me. Betty and the Sensory World (Ravello, 2017) is a sprawling sixty-minute drone and meditation piece that was later cut into seven tracks for the album. Betty was my first release after years of working on several never completed projects. My follow-up album, Beast of Bodmin Moor (Noisy Buffalo, 2019), and my new release, Ambient Works (Albany, 2021), have all been indications that I have chosen to continue to create and maintain my process of life, growth, and expression.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
In my process of Windowing, I manipulate, layer, and distort “found sound files” to create larger sonic landscapes. Just as early hip-hop DJs scoured crates of vinyl looking for “breaks” from Rock and R&B songs, I record and sample the world around me to express myself. I am always cognizant of power, representation, and my own voice when I am practicing Windowing. My search is for new sounds, and not making a buck off someone else’s culture or expression.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
Music and Visual Art have become so intertwined in the promotion, presentation, and understanding of new works. Some may argue that the two are separate and should be experienced in isolation. But I believe understanding the connection between art and music, audio and visuals, is essential for the modern Music Creator.
For my new album, Ambient Works (Albany, 2021), glitch artist Allison Tanenhaus (Harvard) created short graphic videos to accompany several musical excerpts. These short videos have been important for marketing and sharing the music with new audiences and in new spaces.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
Corporate Responsibility Pledge was my first venture into work that had a clear extra musical meaning or cause/purpose. CRP is multimedia work created in collaboration with Artists Allison Tanenhaus and the Unheard-of Ensemble. The CRP music employs a fixed macro-musical structure with performer-determined micro-musical structure. The CRP visuals are an assemblage of glitched public domain footage from the mid-twentieth century. The combination of the CRP music and visuals identifies and amplifies the conflict between corporations and communities of people. The nuance of CRP’s narrative has created a wide variety of reactions and thoughts from audiences.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
With a simple drop of the needle, or click of a file, music quickly unveils the shear awe and terror of existing.