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       I am still not sure why I create art. I’ve always been interested in learning and finding meaning in things that few people find meaning in. I love to listen to the world around me and make sense of it. Most importantly, my art is a process. I don’t sit down with a fully-formed idea of a completed work, but rather an intention. I define what I want to accomplish, similar to a research question for an essay. Sometimes a project is composed of a variety of these intentions that have to work together; their differing goals interact and proliferate new meaning through their mixture.

       Sometimes I state my intentions directly, like in the album, Covenants. I start that album with a song entitled Intention which explains my goals in creating the project. Some are personal, others broader and more wide-reaching. Artists ultimately always make art because they want to, despite the complexity of that want. Some artists may say that they “need” to create art; this isn’t true. If an artist tells you this then they are telling you that they have an unhealthy relationship with their art. I am not forced to make art because of my trauma or some psychosis. Too long artists have been categorized as being fueled by their mental illness or strange upbringing or material conditions. I refuse to be categorized as such. I make art about my trauma, but it isn’t because I need to. I believe that the airing of trauma to others in a public format should only occur once that trauma is processed by the artist. This subverts the usual understanding of personal art; I don’t just display emotions or remember how I felt. Instead, I transform my experiences into metaphors with infinite meanings. My life experiences are not to be gawked at; they also didn’t cause my art. Don’t get me wrong; I am often emotional and intimate in my work, but that goal is completed by empathizing with the experience of others and how it relates to my own experiences, not the other way around.

       I work to lift others up through my art. I want voices that are not normally heard to be listened to. A lot of my art points out how we perpetuate the status quo in our own lives via a refusal to change or a change that deepens our ties to the status quo. My intention is to bring people out of their perceived in-group and force them to recognize the other within themselves. This is sometimes referred to as “subject-subject consciousness”. Human beings seem to separate into distinct groups despite the number of similarities often outnumbering the number of differences between groups. How can we change people’s spiritual understanding of the world that posits their own in-group as either dominant or “the chosen people”? Art that demonstrates our commonality and how all people experience fundamentally similar things is really the only way to do so. Science can’t disprove hierarchies because it is a study based in hierarchy. Sociology is often interested in comparing groups of people and determining their different experiences in life. History occasionally considers the possibility that we are all more similar than we believe, but only flirts with the idea. Art has the ability to break hierarchy. Art can show us the beautiful moments between people that are shared amongst all cultures. Art shows us the human experience. Not all artists do this, but as a discipline art is more able to access this overwhelming truth.

       I desperately want to make people think. In my art, I am both direct and indirect. Sometimes my statements/actions are well explained, other times they are not. The power in art is how we can suggest ideas without directly stating them; times when the only logical conclusion for the audience is to think more about what the artist might mean. These moments of internal questioning allow for a regime of novel mentation for the audience, even if they never reach an exact solution for the meaning of a work or just a section. When I create a piece, I leave space for the audience to consider what I might be saying (i.e.: silence in a theater, a question in a paper, a solo in a song, slowness in a dance, etc.). I want people to understand their inner experience while watching/listening/feeling my art.

       Education is another constant theme in my work. I have been an educator for a long time (see Pedagogy) and one of my greatest joys is teaching. This love has transferred to my art as well. Though I want people to reach their own conclusions, I also want them to understand what I’m saying. This means that I am always educating to a baseline set of knowledges within my work. If I want to say something about race, then I have to educate about race studies, whiteness studies, and critical race theory within that piece. This example is exactly what I did for Covenants, my adaptation of Silent Covenants by Derrick Bell. This education is important for any art I produce, though I do think that there are times where the subject of the art doesn’t have to be shown directly, but rather pointed to. In Spiritual : Circuitry, I created an album and a dance that work off each other to form a statement about Kabbalah (and thus all Abrahamic faiths). I didn’t educate about Kabbalah that heavily because I wanted people to be intrigued by the complexity of my work surrounding this subject. I named songs the Sefirah and gave the viewers a tiny road map of their equivalent English translations. This is just enough for the audience to follow my journey while also not fully understanding what they are seeing. This obfuscation and obsession with the unknown mystery of the universe is a central spiritual theme to Kabbalah. I would be obliterating the meaning of the piece if I were to explain it. Thus, education in art must be both omnipresent and consistent with the source of the meaning of the art. Race studies’ goal is to educate whereas Kabbalah’s goal is to obfuscate and spiritualize our everyday, supposedly mundane lives.


       I am relentless in my artmaking. When I create, I create profusely. My albums are some of the most dense in unique licks and variation because I improvise with all my instruments. I create relentlessly, improvising dozens of times to get just the right take that blends all the elements that I play within a section. This style of repetition is sometimes subverted: a fall in dance does not have to be a bad thing, there is no need to repeat an attempt at that previous movement, that would only clue the audience into your mistake. Choosing where to be relentless is just as important as the trait itself: it is both a help and a hindrance, depending on the situation.

       I am also completely self-directed. I have advisors and mentors and colleagues, but I am always the one to suggest the idea. I asked three professors if I could make fully produced music as my final in their classes. They were nice enough to allow me to do so: I created those projects because I wanted to, not because I was in an art class. I still feel that way, I’m interested in what I’m going to do next! It’s a great feeling, I love knowing that I can look forward to a new hit song from Echo Cain or read a script by the same person. I feel outside myself sometimes; the art I make exists without me. There is an Echo Cain that exists on the internet and the world of art that is and is not the Echo Cain that I am. All of my art is deeply personal, so it confuses me even more, this feeling. People often would tell me that my art was “Just the kind of thing that you would make”. I was always surprised by this comment, but intrigued. It suggested that my audience did not see my art as separate from myself, but tied directly to my innermost self. I feel oppositely. My innermost self is invisible to those who look at my art. They see a face of my innermost self like somebody looking at a bucket. The looker does not see the other side of the bucket, or the inside, yet they choose to call the object they see a bucket. People define my art as the whole self while refusing to look at why I am showing them this angle of myself. I do not do art to just reproduce my own selfhood.

       When I make art, I am not judgmental. I allow art to be experimentation because without that ability to change, to be mutable; an artist is unable to create their own vision. When I make a project, I rarely know exactly how it is going to turn out. I always have an intention or a subject, but I don’t create an exact roadmap. Art is a river, we are only the ones fishing, not the river itself. I sit on the bank of the great river of ideation every day. When I make art I tie my hook to the line and ready my traps. I set the traps for later and fish to my heart’s content. Some days you don’t catch anything. Some days you only catch small fry. Other days four massive catfish will pull themselves onto land and die before your eyes! Now you have only to gut them and cook them for the rest of the world. Art is a process that cannot be done in a day, cannot be done in a lifetime. I have an infinite number of ideas that have passed me by and another infinite number that sit waiting in my heart. This infinite nature of art and experimentation allow my work to remain my own and not my own. I am pushed and pulled by the universe and my own inner universe, creating anew what I had no idea I needed to make.

       I choose to change. I choose to not be stuck in one way or one process or one belief system. I choose to listen to everybody, to see everybody. I choose to be changed by the people around me. My dance teacher, Dr. Molly Shanahan, once said something that has never left my mind, “We are moving centers moving”. I keep coming back to that phrase when I don’t know where to go, when I’m scared. My soul is my center, it moves as I move. My soul is the mover, it moves when others move. The world is my soul, it moves around and within my movement. My art is the moving center moving: a changing regime of ideas and beliefs that is central to my life and yet so fleeting and polymorphic. My art is moved and moves me. I move my art and I move me. The world moves me and thus moves my art.

       We must be willing to evolve as artists. No, we must move and evolve as PEOPLE. I think the greatest ill of our world is people’s inability to change, to accept different beliefs and worldviews as their own. That isn’t to say that we must accept every worldview, as some are harmful or not internally consistent. These worldviews parade themselves as such, but they are facsimiles of actual philosophy. My philosophy is to continue to change, change others, and change the world. In this place, we don’t have another choice. Our world is heating up; time to get running. If we ever needed change, it’s right now. Only artists can really show us how…

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