Welcome back, if you’ve been here before, and welcome if you haven’t.
First Things First
“Happy 250th birthday, Herr Beethoven, happy birthday, you’re da-da-da-done” is a sentence I’ve cut from an upcoming essay on the double standard of identity politics in Western art music. (the essay does not advocate for canceling Beethoven). I started writing this piece at least a year ago and I’m finally nearly done with a draft. The Log Journal was interested as of a few months ago when I pitched the idea their way, so I’m hoping they’ll think it suitable to green-light.
Ok, I’m thinking of Pointed Lights as a production alias. What say you, yay or nay? I need some more for other projects—trying to keep some semblance of stylistic consistency around what I release under the various names, and so maybe I could do various permutations of Pointed Lights for those projects…Refracted Light, Soft Shadows, etc. Actually, kind of into this as I write it, so I’ll probably go down this route unless you all convince me otherwise.
Tuesday is a great example of the importance of being open to suggestions.
When I sent a rough mix to Silas, my conception of the track was of a laid-back, deep groovy, really feeling the pocket type of thing. Silas got things to workable shape for a joint studio session and in the process made a bongo edit. For the purposes of this newsletter, we can think of edits as similar to remixes or reworks. Essentially, he took some of the bongo loops I’d programmed earlier in the track and pasted them into the end, so that the climax became focused around the bongos.
Holy shit this was an improvement on what I had.
No bongo version:
Bongo version, mixed and mastered
We used the bongo edit as the template for further editing (edit this time referring to EQ, cutting material, adding effects, etc.). I've learned enough by now to get out of the way of a good idea, but when I was starting to study composition in school, it was always talked about as a solitary exercise. This I think is a really unfortunate facet of pedagogy, and certainly more present in Western art music than in something like rock or pop, where so much of the creative process happens while jamming in the studio.
One of the really great things about writing so much percussion music is that I've been able to work closely with many different and immensely creative musicians. I've learned the benefit of trusting other people's expertise when mine is lacking (as is often the case), and I've also learned the benefit of holding onto my idea and pulling others to me (this was the case with using dowels in murmur).
Anyway, I’m trying to make music more of a collaborative process, granting that this makes more sense in some genres than in others.
Collaboration as Co-authorship
I’ll say again, Tuesday in its final form only happened through collaborating with Silas. In a similar vein, I’ve been co-writing a follow-up to “Teaching Inequality,” that essay I liked to previously. New Music Box asked me to write a Part II that offered some specific practices and resources to go along with the theory of Part I. I reached to my friend and mentor, Michelle, who graciously agreed to collaborate. She led the trainings of a teaching fellowship I was involved in that focused on engaging difference and bringing diversity and equity initiatives into the classroom. She's great, and the essay will be all the better as a result of her participation. As with Tuesday, the product will be something I certainly couldn’t have made on my own.
The idea of collaboration as co-authorship certainly merits more space than I’m giving it here, but I’ll leave it at that for now.