“My brain often doesn’t let me get from A to B without stopping at A.1 or A.2 along the way,” explains saxophonist and JFund awardee Shelley Washington. In the same way that Dawn of Midi transition from one section to another using only rhythm, Washington’s pieces move along at a syncopated pace. “I like collage work. I feel like my brain is a definite patchwork.”
“There are a lot of weird parts to composing in solitude. Sometimes I’ll be on the subway reading the lines over and over again, and something clicks. Then I’ll go into a room where I’m teaching a kid ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ and one lyric suddenly makes more sense. That kind of space and solitude I’m writing about is sort of a fantasy.”
Joel is much more focused on learning and experimenting than he is on expertise. However, he still honors traditions that stand outside his background. “You wanna learn ‘enough’ of a thing before you put yourself out there,” he explains. “There’s also a danger in learning too much. I’ve always felt that.” What could be considered a scatterbrained approach to music ends up being one that keeps things fresh and relevant.
Particularly notable about Aether is its focus on texture in place of melody. “I find that melody often functions as a musical equivalent to language, it mimics speech in a certain way that communicates ideas, narratives, and emotion.” This sentiment echoes throughout the album’s four tracks. Just like Bertucci used the bunker as a studio, Metal Aether uses the studio as a major component of the recording. Beyond the bases of environment and timbre, not much else exists in the albums vacuum. In turn, one could call the album minimalist. Dig your fingers deeper into the meditative spaces, and you’ll find almost the opposite to be true.
“I like music where people aren’t conscious of the fact that they’re mixing things up,” Healy explains about his ideals in bending audience expectation. There aren’t many young people that are content with sticking to one genre, so it’s natural that the relatively young Healy is able to stay grounded in a handful of traditions. If you let him get you on his wavelength, ShoutHouse becomes one of New York’s finest interdisciplinary acts.
You want to ask what the band’s contemporaries are. You want to know how they can involve so many people without the project falling apart. You want to know how two of its artists can survive in a school bus.
Having played piano since the age of five as well as a slew of other instruments, it’s a cinch Betz ended up at St. Olaf studying composition. “There was no distinct moment where I realized composition was right for me. It all just came together.”
The marriage of JFund’s resources and Wells’ ingenuity isn’t likely one you’d have found fifty years ago in classical music. But its reverence for technology, and the overall refusal to remove the human element not only represents a stronger artistic medium but actively pushes it forward.
Los Angeles-based Jerome Fund awardee Leaha Maria Villareal talks about musician relationships with tranquility in her voice. She composes music for Hotel Elefant, an ensemble that takes on the difficult task of representing music from living composers. “‘Modern Music’ is already solidified,” she explains. “There’s a canon for it, but it hasn’t yet included works that are being written today. So, how do we support the contemporary music of our colleagues?”
Social inequity is being discussed in the mainstream more and more frequently, and the music industry is not an exception. “When people have opportunities, those build upon one another. But if you never have that opportunity…people may think you must not be good, and that’s unfair.”