Part 2

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?

My daily routine is vital to my practice. This summer, however, I completely discarded it for the first time in years in order to accept an internship at a sound design studio here in Brooklyn. I do look forward to returning to my normal routine this fall. Here’s my normal schedule:

I wake up around 7:30, exercise, wash up, and prepare breakfast for me and my partner. Then, I head off to my studio. My goal is to be there by 9am. I’ll answer any pressing emails I might have and then get to work. I get zero notifications from my devices and I do not check my email during work.

Three days a week, around 2:00, I head off to my teaching gig where I teach for most of the rest of the day. I teach and write curriculum for this incredible studio in Brooklyn called Keylab. It’s all about nurturing creativity in kids and exposing them to many of the things one can do with sound. On the other two week days, I dedicate time to sound design work. Sometimes, these projects are very involved and I can’t work on my own music for a short period of time.

At night, after teaching or sound design work, I will generally reply to emails, work on more managerial tasks such as scheduling lessons, promo for a release, etc. I usually manage to squeeze in a little TV and reading time before bed.

I treat one of my weekend days similarly, but more loosely, and the other day I try not to work at all and go out to explore this incredible city I live in. I’m working in three related fields: musician, sound design, and music education. It’s a constant hustle, but I do feel fortunate to have found a way to work as a musician.

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?

The one that instantly comes to mind is my most recent album, Voltage Scores. I don’t remember the exact tipping point, but I’ve been wanting to record live improvisations for quite some time. I had tried it before and I played sets that were improvised to varying degrees, but I had trouble actualizing this in my recordings.

Reaching that tipping point probably had to do with feeling very uninspired by the process of recording and editing piecemeal. Also, I just found myself gravitating to more and more shows of improvised music. I was diving deeper into some of the catalogues of  Pharoah Sanders, Sun Ra, Albert Ayler, and other free jazz pioneers, contemporary synth artists such as Maria Teriaeva, electro-acoustic artists such as Eli Kezler, and a lot of great musicians around the NYC area such as Ben Bennett & Amirtha Kidambi. Most of the music that I was really connecting with was improvised. This compelled me to record live improvisations again and try to overcome what I could not in previous attempts. I needed to learn and experiment as much as I could in order to truly improvise with the modular synth. I began patching in a completely open and curious way, and reading manuals all the time. The ideas were flowing rapidly.

Over the course of three or four months, the music became more generative or a hybrid of improvisatory and generative. Generative processes have been part of how I work for a long time, primarily as a way to create melodies and rhythms. But, here I started to use it as a necessity to make the music more interesting and evolving.

Another development was the storing and accessing of static voltages, which helped facilitate the move to different sections. It was a huge epiphany, stumbling upon this combination of generative processes, improvisation, and voltage storage. So when I had an album ready, the name Voltage Scores felt perfect.

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?

For me, it is all about my daily routine. If I can show up on a daily basis, patiently work, and experiment, I actually feel mentally healthier and more fulfilled. Most of the time, the inspiration comes from doing the work, making discoveries, and researching. It’s very important not to rely on spontaneous inspiration.

I’m also inspired by daily life all the time and I try to keep a curious outlook. Living in NYC, the city feels like a constant inspiration. Art and film are also big ones for me.

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?

I once worked with a dancer that was exploring this concept in her own work and it was very insightful. But I do find that sound as healing is a bit of a trendy subject at the moment. A lot of it is based on pseudoscience or complete nonsense. However, I know deep listening can be a deeply valuable and meaningful experience.

I’m not sure where the biggest need is, but I’d love to see more deep listening sessions and events. I imagine they’d be very beneficial in schools, after school programs, hospitals, nursing homes, etc. I really admire the work of artists such as Pauline Oliveros who was dedicated to educating and sharing this practice.

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?

I want all of us on Earth to be able to exchange ideas freely and to inspire each other. But, so often, I see white electro-acoustic artists use instruments from other cultures, and their artwork is full of another culture’s symbols. Or DJs not crediting the artists that pioneered the art form. Generally, you should not use cultural signs, symbols, instruments etc., from a culture you don’t belong to. In other situations, you should credit and say where the inspiration came from. Do your research, ask friends, and put in the effort to make sure you are being sensitive and honest about the origins of the work.

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?

Sometimes, when I look at a painting, I hear music or I wonder how I could reproduce this image in music. It sounds odd, but this is why I love to go to museums and galleries, to gather inspiration and ideas. Occasionally, a certain smell reminds me of a record and then the record reminds me of what I was doing and going through at the time. Our senses are at work all the time and everything we experience makes us who we are. So, it makes sense to me that there would be these overlaps and I love it when something rises to the surface of my consciousness and I suddenly become aware of it.

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?

My work is inspired by a combination of technical curiosity (like wanting to try something new in a synthesizer patch), aesthetic considerations, my thoughts and visions, and an absolute need to create. Although there was a period where I was experimenting with making my version of a pop song using a modular synthesizer, my work is generally without vocals and text. Thus, I don’t communicate ideas or concepts in a very direct way. I do try to provide glimpses into my ideas and some of the inspiration behind the work into the titles to help any curious listeners.

I would like to find a way to integrate more of my political and social views into my work such as my passion for the environment. I’ve thought about this for years, but I still haven’t come to a solution. Of course, there are many issues that wouldn’t be appropriate for me to speak on or to speak for someone else. I’d rather get out of the way or help someone else if I have access to a platform that could contribute and help lift that voice.

What can music express about life and death which other forms of art may not?

Music is the most widely available art form to reach audiences, with the lowest barrier to entry. I think that availability, along with the fact that music doesn’t require your sense of sight, provides some of the most personal and varied experiences in the arts. This is why I generally prefer not to have visuals in performance, especially when they are merely add-ons to the work. Each art form exists because it cannot provide exactly what another one can, but I don’t think I can explicitly identify what that is.

Previous page:
Part 1  
2 / 2