acoustics (2020)

Believe it or not, acoustics has been at least four years in the making. In spring 2016, I was in my second semester at Wesleyan University, working on my master’s degree. One of my primary responsibilities as a graduate student was leading the recording and sound design workshop, answering student questions on how to perform various functions in digital audio workstations such as Logic.

In graduate school, you often wind up teaching things that you do not necessarily feel knowledgeable about. For me, in 2016, recording and sound design was that world. My time at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee had included two and a half years of electronic music classes, but I had little hands-on time with microphones. Also, my default state is feeling uncertain and uncomfortable.

The class turned out to be a hit. Paula Matthusen, my supervising professor and advisor, had created an all-new syllabus for the class, and the students loved it. Their projects were creative, pushed the limits of the software we used, and the instruction tied music technology to societal values and cultural ideas excellently.

This recording and sound design class formed my thinking around how to deal with recordings. It was the first time in my life that I was given the task of considering the recording studio to be something more than a means of documenting music. So much of the musical history of the 20th and 21st centuries is the recording studio revolutionizing what music is, how it is made, and what it can be.

I felt it necessary to start at the beginning, with recording. In this light, it makes sense that my first album would be entirely acoustic. There are no electronic instruments anywhere here: all the sounds you hear come from vibrating strings, vocal folds, or columns of air. I have always thought of acoustics as an exploration of recording and sound design, though there aren’t many particularly exciting examples of mixing, recording, or design happening here. For me, the joy of this album is the fact that I recorded all of it (with plenty of help from collaborators! See the end of the liner notes for the credits).

Some of the music on this album is notated. Some of it is not. All of it explores improvisational structures and the various ways I have integrated those structures into my compositional practice. The music features some of my oldest and newest works: the paper ones was composed in 2013 and singing piece in 2019. acoustics is thus a sort of retrospective, looking back at various periods of my life. the paper ones are from UWM; organ piece is from Wesleyan; a reading is from Sweden; and singing piece is from my return to Milwaukee.

Each track has an accompanying liner note explaining the compositional and performance process behind the work. These notes also include performance credits and links to more information on my website. At the end of the liner notes are a short credit section, where I more properly thank everybody who helped me get to where I am today, musically speaking.

acoustics languished in my brain for a long time, until in August 2019 when I traveled back to Connecticut to visit friends. While there, I finally got a chance to record organ piece, which I had been unable to do in 2017 when I finished it. organ piece was the missing puzzle piece that brought this album together, cinching the concept of these acoustic tracks. (Hence, acoustics!)

You are already thanked in the credits for listening and reading, but I would like to thank you again here. I probably know you -- please reach out and tell me what you thought of this album! In many ways, I feel it is my debut into the musical world. Finally, an album.