Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? 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 typically do creative work (such as composing, practicing, video editing, etc.) in the morning for 3 hours, usually around 7:30-10:30am. I got fixed on this 3-hour time slot as I heard that Stravinsky used to compose 3 hours a day no matter if he was sick, hungover, etc., and it always seems like the right amount for me. Otherwise the rest of my day usually consists of working on grant and residency applications for myself and various non-profits I work for, and then in the evening I usually work out or go for a run. I have a love of discipline with my routine which can be good and bad, but it’s certainly helpful to defer back to regardless of the circumstances.
Although I tend to separate the music-making and other aspects of my life throughout the day, I do think they inform each other, especially in regards to research and finding out about different artists, works, etc.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
Usually my pieces have a very general and simple architecture in mind before writing the first pitches. These might come in the form of one sentence and revolve around binaries, such as the range going high to low, or the electronics and live performer switching roles. Exploration between such binaries correlates to my artistic focus on divergence and contrast, specifically as I have a disabled body that embodies opposites and enjoy exploring the endless possibilities. I have often pursued this compositionally, including All or Nothing for symphony band, which interrogates expectation of silence and full ensemble, as well as Head to Toe for solo percussion, which explores the transition from hand to feet playing. From there, the specific material starts to come in, such as the pitches, rhythm, timbre, etc., and I try to follow the structure as much as possible. Sometimes it feels like a microscope getting closer and closer to the details and ultimately the final piece.
However, I should note that with some pieces I forgo the architectural process altogether. Specifically, with my recent album, I wanted to not have constraints and/or pressure of a perfectly-envisioned structure beforehand and really wanted the music to go where it wanted to go.
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?
I try to foster an ideal state that exists anywhere and everywhere if that makes sense, such as composing in airports, trains, various coffee shops, and at home. I try not to get too attached to the ideal setting as I want to remain nimble, flexible and have that state of mind always available. However, my practice as a performer is certainly more dependent on having some space and quiet, especially with singing warm-ups and practice.
How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
When writing for myself as a performer, I imagine what it will look and feel like to perform live. More and more, I’m trying to write works which are physically-motivated, specifically in how I utilize the relationship between my two physically-different hands. From each experience I draw different perspectives on sharing music with others.
I don’t often improvise live; however, I think that fostering a sense and interest in improvisation is important for the compositional process overall, especially playing with ideas without the pressure to have them fully form into a new work.
How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?
Generally, the compositional aspects come first, as it’s very important for me to have a strong underlying structure and driver for the work. I view sound/timbre coming in near the end of the process to enhance and improve that structure, hopefully bringing the work to a true singularity that can’t be easily replicated.
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? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
My impression of different senses and especially multiple sensory inputs and interpretations has been greatly developed more recently with my focus on disability as a creative source, and thus accessibility as a core aesthetic driver. I often find the most unique overlaps between different senses in accessibility aesthetics especially from collegial disabled artists, such as the intersection of visual description and dance movement and sign language and musical accompaniment.
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?
When I first began artistic life in school I never thought my work would be politically and/or socially-motivated. I always thought that you had to separate the two, especially since music can be more abstract, and tried to keep it them in separate spheres.
However, after discovering disability studies and embracing my identity and experience as a disabled person and artist, it became critical to my own experience to inform my output, and in the words of John Dewey, “an individual lens to a greater truth.”
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
I hope that music will evolve to be a more accessible medium for those of all disabilities. Although music focuses on sound and aural components, I think accessibility facets such as captioning and sign language interpretation for events should still be strongly considered, as well as audio description for components of the sound content to ultimately increase its audience potential.