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Is a genre-mixing album released on March 21, 2020. The music is made up of ambient, folk, psychedelic rock, and blues tunes that meld and flow into each other, creating an overall sound quality that is utterly unique. Expressly vulnerable and emotional, my first album covers the topics of cyclicity, climate change, depression, and gender identity via a shifted narratological cycle, repeating motifs, and evocative lyrics.

Is a much jazzier and upbeat EP that blends my improvisational style with more compositional, structured music. Within the EP there are two songs that use alternative time signatures and there’s more of a focus on musical complexity than my first album. Ethical Head covers the topics of consumerism, negligent support of fascism in America, misinformation, and rain (because I love rain).

Is a complete departure from structural music. Expertly crafted via the layering of recorded Balinese Gamelan instruments, pentatonic aeronautic instruments, and reversed electric guitar; this single stands well and truly separate from any conventional piece of music. The work was created for a dance section for the play of the same name.

Is a musical adaptation of Silent Covenants by Derrick Bell, a critical theorist and pioneer in the field of Critical Race Theory. The album contains elements of spoken word, Jazz, Funk, and all groove music. Synthesized as a whole, the album is accessible and educational while still containing the allegories and structures maintained throughout my work. The album is also very personal, as I added a lot of my own feelings concerning race from a queer Jewish European pseudo-white lens. An essay in music, don’t miss out on this difficult but rewarding listen.

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Is a primarily instrumental ambient dance album that explores the themes of Kabbalah, Judaism, multiplicity, gender identity, and the modern incarnation of the “God” concept. The sonic quality of the work is intense, broad, and deep, capturing the eldritch horror of submission to patriarchy and binary systems. The music was used by me for an improvisational modern dance on April 23rd, 2021.

Musical Experience

         I started playing music when I was eight years old. I had tried football (soccer) and basketball the years before this moment, but I had eventually lost interest in sports. I specifically remember traveling to a soccer game one Saturday morning as I read War of the Worlds. I looked out the window when we got to the field and I just wanted to turn around and go home to read. I played the game that day, but I made sure to tell my parents that soccer was a waste of time for me. Accordingly, my parents pulled me from sports and I never looked back.

          A couple years after that, my parents asked if I wanted to learn piano. I went forward with the process and began to take lessons once a week. My family didn’t have money or room to get a piano, even a small used one, so we bought a cheap-o keyboard off of Craigslist. I was drawn in by the keys, losing myself in just playing the notes. It was the first time that I really experienced the joy of improvisation, even if I didn’t have words for that practice. I continued for a few years, learning songs and scales. However, after about three years, I became frustrated with the obsessive process of technique and learning structured songs. Looking back now, I was experiencing a disconnect between music’s expectation of structure and my love of free improvisation that would play out more obviously throughout the rest of my music career.

          I continued to occasionally mess around on the keyboard, playing what I felt and sometimes returning to old songs. When I got to middle school, 6th grade to be precise, my school asked all the students to choose one of the three major music departments: band, orchestra, or choir. I was so lucky that my school had a good music program. I chose the alto saxophone to play in band; I was excited as hell. I grew up listening to Jazz music, from Bird to Ellington I danced and listened constantly. Jazz was the first kind of music I heard that impressed me, that made me feel alive, that I wanted to dance to. The saxophone was my ticket into doing Jazz. My school had rentals, but my parents were willing to buy a mid-grade saxophone from Craigslist, which we did. I remember that Jupiter brand saxophone well; I was so proud that my sax had an F# key, silly I know. The day I got the sax, I played without knowing any notes. I played joyfully because I finally could make the sounds that I was listening to. That memory remains one of my favorites.

          I stuck with the saxophone and officially joined the concert band and Jazz band in seventh grade, meeting my mentor for Jazz in the process, Mr. Joe Polen. Mr. Polen directed the jazz band and swiftly became my teacher via private lessons. He let me decide a lot about my musical education. He asked me what I wanted to learn. I was in love with Charlie Parker’s sax playing, so I asked to learn some of those songs/solos. The next week, I had the Charlie Parker Omni book and was playing the songs that I had danced to throughout my youth.

          The next year I joined the pep band at my school and ensconced myself even more within the world of music. At the end of my eighth-grade year, I tried to join the marching band and found the experience lacking. The director had a number of issues with me. I didn’t march the way other people did. He eventually decided to fixate on my scoliosis, an intrinsic trait of my spine that continues to affect my life, sociocultural perception, and my health. The marching band director was cruel, advising me to “fix” my scoliosis. I was disgusted by this lack of bodily empathy, so I quit. The marching band director also happened to direct the concert band and pep band. I quit the pep band as well at this time, though stayed in concert band to enable my continued musical education.

          I auditioned for CYJO (Cincinnati Youth Jazz Orchestra, a program at University of Cincinnati’s Conservatory of Music) and joined my freshman year of high school, taking my playing to the next level. I was now surrounded by people who were pushing me musically, who wanted to see me succeed as a musician. I gigged a lot more with CYJO, gaining experience in soloing and learning music more quickly. I also participated in OMEA, a music competition in Ohio in which you play a classical piece in either a solo or in an ensemble. I mostly did solos from what I remember. I spent a lot of time on those pieces, learning new techniques on the saxophone with the help from Mr. Polen.

          My sophomore year continued in a similar way, I kept doing Jazz, lessons, concert band, and OMEA. I loved being able to play music and get recognized for it. I reveled in those moments in which time would fall away as I soloed with the band, crisp sax punches over a killer beat. There were even a few times where I played so much that my lips bled. I kept playing in those moments, losing myself completely, refusing to hear even pain over the music. However, the end of this year marked an unfortunate stopgap for me. The next year was to be full of more AP classes, as I wanted to get educated in more subjects. I had to cut out concert band, but the director wouldn’t let me quit so easily.


           When I told the director of the concert band that I wanted to leave, he told me that I would be leaving Jazz band as well. He had enabled a policy that prevented me from participating in extracurricular music without curricular music, which is arbitrary as Hell. That also meant that I couldn’t do CYJO, as you had to be in a Jazz band at your own high school to participate. This domino effect was so sad. I didn’t want to keep playing Christmas songs and marches just to play what I really wanted to! I talked to Mr. Polen, but he couldn’t change the policy. I was stuck either in concert band or losing all my connections to music. I chose the latter; I don’t like ultimatums.

           I kept doing private lessons for a month or two after this loss, but I was depressed. I had lost my connection to the music world, the world that I really wanted to be a part of. I left Mr. Polen’s lessons that year. My sound stopped reverberating; I left the saxophone in its case. I gave myself a long break, though I occasionally played my favorite songs or improvised during this break.

           I had picked up a bass guitar at the end of my senior year of high school, more as a gift to myself than anything else. I was excited to play the instrument, but I had no experience playing stringed instruments. I felt stupid having bought that instrument, barely able to play it. I convinced myself that I was truly done with music, discouraged from playing music at all.

           Not to be discouraged by my hiatus, I was willing to give concert band another shot when I got to college. I joined my first semester with my alto saxophone, lugging the case up and down the central hill on campus every other day. To my dismay, I found a similar environment as my high school’s concert band. They played marches and little in the way of truly challenging music for the saxophone. I felt even more alienated from the music world, so I decided to not return the next semester, resigning myself to case up my music and focus on science.

           The next time I picked up music was in my sophomore year of college. I experienced a great shift in mindset and worldview around this time. I began to understand the things I did as being accessible to me as an individual, not just as an activity to do with other people. I had just joined the Homestead, a sustainable living community at Denison University, and was excited about what I could bring to the people who lived there. I dusted off my saxophone and began to take it about on the quad and throughout the campus, bringing small joy to random strangers via my playing. I was surprised by the variation and learning that I accomplished during each night, spending four hours or more walking and creating new musical ideas. I experimented with new modes, scales, techniques, and genres. I realized during these late-night excursions that my true interest in music is improvisation, not playing other peoples’ songs.

           Around this same time I met Diego. Diego is not a traditional musician, choosing to use samples and beats instead of instruments to construct songs. Diego also lived at the Homestead and we became friends easily. We listened to a wide variety of experimental music. Sometimes, Diego would ask me to play an instrument for the music they were producing. I gleefully obliged, happy to be of use to somebody. I was intrigued by the process of recording music. Nobody I’d ever met had the tools to record and produce music; it was an entirely fresh musical process for me. I began to learn the bass guitar and was finally invested enough in music to truly put my heart and soul into learning music theory and compositional skills.

           Using what I knew from learning the saxophone, I started off my music process by ostensibly learning a series of other instruments. I started with bass guitar, learning funk songs and the general structure of stringed instruments. Using that knowledge, I fixed up a broken acoustic guitar and spent every extra minute I had playing that sucker until my fingers bled. Learning the guitar was difficult. I had never played chords that heavily, even on piano; thus, learning some of those complicated structures and understanding what they sounded like took about half-a-year. During that time I began to write songs down in a journal. A lot of those original songs have never been recorded, as they were mostly practice for when I could sit down and record all the instruments that I wanted to. Much of this period of time was grasping in the dark, though I did join an ensemble again: Balinese Gamelan, in this case.

           Once spring turned to summer, I purchased an interface and a microphone. I used Ableton Live 10 to begin creating beats and recording. I created 10 times as much music as I’ve released now in a short span of time, experimenting with the tools available on the software. I also collected a number of instruments that each have their own little story. It would be pretty tedious to talk about how I acquired these instruments, so I will list my current collection right here: alto saxophone, bass guitar, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, ukulele, balalaika, melodica, tin whistle, ocarina, chimes, rain stick, small djembe, fife, Tibetan singing bowl, harmonica, pan flute, jawharp, keyboard, and (soon) drum set.

            My process in music is highly improvisational. I listen first and then play. I play the instrument and then I play it again. Repeated creation over the same beats allows for diversity in sound that cannot be accomplished via composition or structure. I make sure to inject concepts into the music itself. I don’t just write lyrics for the meaning, I use the presence or absence of elements, changes in tone, and shifts in instrumentation to describe concepts beyond our linguistic understanding. It’s difficult to fully describe one’s artistic process; it’s like describing one’s soul. I play what I feel and what sounds good to me. Go listen to my music to learn about my process. Consider how I created some of the songs I’ve recorded. Some songs are more structural, some are more improvisational; each has the other within itself.

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