Today is the opening reception for the exhibition Landscape | Soundscape at University of Pennsylvania’s Arthur Ross Gallery. The exhibition pairs sound artists with photographs curated from the university’s art collection. I feel very honored to have been selected as a participant amongst many other sound artists whom I admire. (It is pretty surreal to have my name just two below that of Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith.)
I first discovered Ms. Smith’s work surfing YouTube in an attempt to sate my ever-demanding interest and love of Buchla synthesizers. Ms. Smith often uses her Buchla Easel in her compositions. With it, she creates harmonically lush soundscapes that are emotionally evocative and a nice change of pace from the type of synth work that often saturates the internet: soulless, beat-based, often mediocre, house music. Ms. Smith seems to approach composition from a more disciplined stance, probably as a result of her formal training at Berklee College of Music. Consequently, her strictly synth compositions have voicing and discrete musical lines that might be more commonly found in a fugue or quartet. Care is taken into creating voices that work together in harmony and with synergy.
This is a composition style that I admire and seek to practice myself. Personally, I engage in a mode of synthesis composition that is aesthetically informed by great works of Classical (and Romantic, and Modern) orchestral and instrumental music—the lush symphonic pads of Sibelius, of Beethoven, and Barber to name a few. Mozart is also a great influence on my style. I’ve always marveled at how narrative all of his compositions are. Even his non-operatic works possess an operatic quality: each movement within a symphony seems like an act in a play. From my earliest, most rudimentary forays into electronic music, listeners to my work have observed that my pieces seem to possess a beginning, middle, and end. When one makes the decision to devote one’s life to the pursuit of storytelling, it follows that all artistic expressions would be colored somehow by that desire. I enjoy conveying stories through abstract sound. Perhaps the exact narrative is not always clear, but my goal is to convey the listener on a journey, an emotional progression of sorts.
I’m seeking to create a new genre of synth music that coalesces these modes of music making of centuries passed, as well as early experimental music and electronic music of the late ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. I wish to be the conductor of synthphonies and synth chamber groups both physical (what an ensemble rehearsal that would be!) and generated purely in my mind. My current focus is towards less of a reliance on purely improvisational takes, and more directed and mapped out compositions.
I am excited by the prospect of all of the new synth voices waiting to be drawn out from their circuitry confines. I look forward to what comes next on this odyssey of musical self-exploration and development.