Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
I stretch and meditate before work each morning. I may also check on some of the basketball scores from the prior evening. (laughs)
After work, I am usually trying to engage with music in some way - be it practicing, writing, mixing a current project, or just sitting down and listening. A pretty essential component to my practice is going on walks. I try not to press too much; if I’m able to chisel away at a piece, I make sure to put things down and step outside.
Once I’m in the rhythm of a walk, I can exit the mental cave a bit and remind myself of other connections I am trying to make in the music. If I’m getting too concerned with technique or structure, a walk will blast that wall down and nudge me back to a territory where I am considering emotion, spirit, history etc.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
I’m not sure I can create a 1-to-1 association between any singular piece and my practice. However, there are a few pieces that I return to consistently and find inspiration in each time I listen.
Natural Information Society - Mandatory Reality
Sam Prekop - s/t
Old Saw - Country Tropics
David Berman’s “Actual Air”
Ah Holly Fam’ly - Reservoir
Susan Alcorn performing Olivier Messieun “O Sacrum Convivium”
Harold Budd - Perhaps
Whenever I engage with these works, I feel like I am in the presence of an old friend that contains a sense of history, but also a newness that challenges me to dig deeper and continue exploring. I’m consistently surprised by the enduring power of these pieces and feel like I will find inspiration in them for my entire life.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
I think of how unique music is in comparison to other artistic mediums. The way time works; how it can slow down and speed up; how you can spelunk into shifting time spaces as both a solitary act and a communal one. Listening to a recording and feeling as if it was live and experiencing a live performance and feeling as if you were in your living room, prostrate on the floor.
I feel like I get necessary elements from each practice so I don’t have a preference. I know for the rest of my life, I will need to collaborate with others just as much as I will need to withdraw and do the exploring myself.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
I can reflect in so much as I see one’s own creativity as being in conversation with time and space. Finding relation with where and when you are. It is a way of locating oneself and situating yourself amongst your environment. I can better know how I am in this world through music; through listening, through playing, through not playing. When do I make an active decision and when do I wait back and observe how things unfold.
Again, I can only speak for myself, but I suppose I do hope that others see creativity as an expanding vision of the world around you. Even if you are in your basement, working on 3 chord punk songs with no intention to share them with anyone; that you are in conversation with something much larger than the confines of time on earth.
You are engaging with time and space on a large scale; you are stretching and contracting, playing with it like it’s silly putty. It’s a way of both being in and observing society.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
Music is in someway making it so I am dealing with all topics at once. It’s rare that I have had a moment where I felt like, “I am dealing with love,” “I am dealing with death,” “I am dealing with loss,” and went to play music and asked of it, “now express death!”. Such themes are far too massive to distill in a pure form.
I wish I could make some sort of elixir type experience where myself or someone else could come away and say, “I feel like I now know loss”. To me, the world is far too messy and chaotic. When I feel death, I feel love as well. When I feel happy, I feel sadness too. When I listen to say Messiaen or the Silver Jews or Erykah Badu, I feel like I feel it all.
Perhaps David Berman, in his world, said “here is a song about death”. That may well be true, but I feel like once that song is out there in the ether, it’s like it is static charged and starts to merge with everything else.
There seems to be increasing interest in a functional, “rational” and scientific approach to music. How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
I may be taking this question in another way, but I guess I see science as asking the question “what is?”. Music too! Its just about methods. I see for example, Holly Herndon exploring AI; using code, algorithms, math as her methods towards explaining a particular phenomenon.
Then you have Annea Lockwood, mapping the sonic landscape of the entirety of the Hudson River using a hydrophone. Just because Holly Herndon has a bunch of computers, cables, machines, and code doesn’t mean it’s anymore scientific of an approach than Annea Lockwood’s. And vice versa.
Everyone making music is putting in a set of inputs and testing hypotheses. We are all asking “does this say that?”, “does this explain that?”. If no, then what does it explain? The happy accident is the eternal friend of every musician or artist. This wasn’t what I planned for, but dang, I’m happy I opened this door and got to see this room.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
I hope it's different!
When my body says “I want a good cup of coffee”, I am not gonna go sit down and play music. I'm gonna go get a fucking damn tasty cup of coffee! Just like if my house is messy and it needs to be swept, I can’t say “hey music, my house is dirty, what can ya do about it?”
You can’t squeeze everything out of everything; asking one thing to satisfy the other. I don’t feel creative all throughout my day. That shit would be exhausting. It's about tapping in at the right times.
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
Music is sound is vibration. Therefore spoken language is vibration as well. We are such auditory learners, I feel like we forget how much we learn through listening. The consensus reality is that we are visual learners and moving image captivates our attention like nothing else. That certainly may be for some.
Aural learning however, is what I think challenges me and keeps me attentive. I often will write on the guitar while watching basketball on the television on mute. The watching is the passive activity there. I’m loosely engaged (unless there is a great dunk). Working on the music, working on the language is where I get sucked in.
Listening to a writer read a poem, with no visual reference, I have to keep up. How does this line work in relation to the previous line? Who is this character and do I believe in them? What’s being said in the breaths between words?