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This coming week, I'm heading into Denver’s Decibel Garden to mix the first track for my upcoming EP. I first learned about the Decibel Garden about a month ago when they hosted a Berklee Alums in Denver meetup and thought the place had a really cool vibe. I’m not sure what one plants in a Decibel Garden, but I'm hoping the harvest is tasty decibels...
In any case, I'm looking forward to it! I've never done anything in a professional studio and frankly find the process both daunting and exciting. Nerve-jangling. Although I started listening to electronic dance music when I was working towards my masters and eventually began making it as I worked towards my Ph.D., all of my formal training has been centered on writing for acoustic instruments.
My electronic production knowledge has been assembled bit by bit from youtube, websites, conversations, books, and lots of experimentation, resulting in what I'm always worried is a pronounced asymmetric hodgepodge. I don't have similar anxieties in terms of my acoustic composition chops, perhaps in part because I have a better understanding of my limitations there and a clearer sense of how to address them if I choose to. With production, especially in suboptimal mixing spaces (e.g. a bedroom), everything is much more hazy.
Underlying this are also questions about legitimacy, the perceived conflict between musicians with a formal education and those without, and the ways that certain styles of music and those active in them are denounced and dismissed (and why, and by whom). I'll be touching on some of this in a forthcoming essay that New Music Box is interested in (but of course not committed to). See below for more on that!
Three more tracks after this first one is finished, and then the EP will be ready to go. I'm hoping, assuming all goes well on this first track, that I can get the others in mixable shape. The music is done, so this mainly means cleaning, polishing, and reducing the arrangement via combining/rendering. Exciting!
During the past few weeks, I've been putting together some more minimal ambient music that I'm really excited about. I'll probably mix and master this material on my own, as not having to worry about mixing drums makes the whole process feel imminently more doable. I still need to write one or two more tracks—both short and slow chorale thingies—to contrast with the generally fast moving surface texture stuff I already have. Yes, the snippet above is slow moving and with slow surface texture, but wait until you hear the distortion kick in! This project has been a nice opportunity to dive deeper into Serum and Cthulhu and to approach composing from a different mindset than I normally do. I’ve promised Carolina for over six years now that I’d eventually write her some ambient music, and it feels good to start that process finally.
You might have seen Ben Shapiro's recent condemnation of "rap" as "not music" because it doesn't include elements of melody, harmony, and rhythm. This has rightly been refuted (again) by a number of smart music folks that I follow on Twitter, with many pointing out numerous other styles of music that, by Shapiro’s criteria, aren’t actually “music.” I haven't seen many people take the next step and point out the dogwhistle racism that accompanies Shapiro’s continued attacks on this particular style and its attendant culture, but I'm sure these takes are out there. It's been the same story since people first started critiquing hip-hop.
What I'm interested in doing is taking the melody/harmony/rhythm criteria set forth by Shapiro's "music theorist" father, who went to "music school," and looking at how these ideas manifest within traditional music theory pedagogy and its attendant legitimization/delegitimization of musical styles. The point isn’t to endorse the criteria but rather to critique the pedagogy. While this line of thinking isn’t new, it must remain a central point in conversations about music theory and music school until things change substantively. Stay tuned for more on that.
As a thank you to those who have read this far, I give you this ultimate and unadulterated slice of awesome I came up with while on an early morning run on the Mesa Trail in Boulder.
Did you know that Ents listen to trance to get that extra energy burst when they attack?
I mean, they’re not called Trancey Ents for nothing. I’ve leaf now…