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music/Maker with Tyler Kline

  • Writer's pictureTyler Kline

music/Maker with Tyler Kline // Episode 5

Forging a Sustainable Path in Music Composition with Andrew Noseworthy


Photo of composer and guitarist Andrew Noseworthy with an overlay saying "music/Maker with Tyler Kline, Episode 5: Forging a Sustainable Path in Music Composition with Andrew Noseworthy."
Photo credit: Chloe Kendel

 




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On today's episode of music/Maker with Tyler Kline, Tyler is joined by composer Andrew Noseworthy.


Andrew Noseworthy is a multidisciplinary artist whose music reflects upon the acceptance/rejection of “locality” while drawing from lived experiences of isolation within his hometown of Labrador West and the tight-knit arts community of St John's (Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada), along with the expansive post-genre scenes of New York City. His work addresses ideas of post-regional spaces and questions of accessibility for the musical voices within them.


In this conversation, Tyler asks Andrew about all of those points in his bio, which he discusses beautifully… but they also explore other topics related to Andrew's practice, such as his DIY spirit and alternative models of creation that are independent of institutional support, what sustainability and accessibility in a creative practice like composition might look like, and how music outside of the Western classical or contemporary classical repertoire impacts his work.



Also be sure to check out people | places | records, the genrefluid DIY "zero profit" artists-first record label co-runs: https://peopleplacesrecords.bandcamp.com/



 

a sampling of andrew's music


 

Transcript

Disclosure: links to products that appear throughout this interview may be affiliate links. By purchasing an item discussed in this interview via one of these links, you support this podcast and network.


Tyler Kline:

Andrew, I just want to say thanks so much for your time today, and I'm really excited to see where this conversation takes us. We're already talking about some good stuff, so I'm sure it's going to be really good.


Andrew Noseworthy:

Yeah, I have no doubt.


TK:

So where I'd like to start with this is as far back as we can. And of course, as far back as you're up for sharing. So I'm wondering, what would you describe as your earliest artistic memory as a composer?


AN:

Right, right.


Definitely writing songs for bands. I think that's definitely the earliest creative kind of aspect of writing something or creating something new. And sometimes there's been times where I've thought about that as disconnected from life as a quote-unquote "composer" or a capital-c Composer. And there's been times where I've thought about it as kind of connected along the same path.


I think these days I think about it more as connected along the same path. Because there's certain ideas or gestures or sounds or textures that even as I evolve and even as I grow as a person and I grow with experience and knowledge that I still gravitate towards, especially as I'm getting older. And now in my thirties, I'm finding that even as I discover new things, there's still certain kinds of things that I gravitate towards and that are, like, identifiable things.


So, yeah, I think my earliest memory would be... would have been the earliest band that I wrote original material with. Maybe when I was 13 or 14. Playing in some different prog-metal bands. Or, like, playing in some different, very DIY, very in-the-basement hardcore bands. And just like writing those kinds of things. And I was interested in, you know, progressive kinds of things at that time. Which kind of bordered on composing and then became transitional to being a quote unquote "composer," you know.


TK:

You're a guitarist, so when you say bands, you're talking... well, you described, like, progressive and that kind of stuff. And that's very different from my experience growing up as a musician. Because I was in, like, the school band. And a lot of the people I know here in the United States, you know, that was their formative musical identity. Of course, we also play guitar and all this. I was a bass player growing up and played in bands as well. But did you have any experience in school... like, school music programs or were you strictly, you know, playing in bands as a guitarist, kind of in your free time? That was the thing you did for fun?


AN:

Yeah, yeah, it was definitely, like, if I gave a percentage, it would be like 80-20 or even like 85-15 or something like that. Labrador City, where I grew up, very weirdly enough, it had a really strong school band for a little while. And then the teacher that taught that school band was there basically almost since that school was built. Because, like, that town has only existed since maybe the 60s or 70s or something. Like, it's not a very old town. And he had been there since the 80s or something. Or maybe even the late 70s. I can't remember now.


And the music teacher that had been there basically since the school had really started, really built a strong band program. Where all these people across the school were involved in it. Like they used to do trips to New York and stuff like that. But the year that I got into high school and became eligible for school band, he retired that year.


Actually... I'm actually not sure where he's at now. I should try to find Jim Cooper. Shout out, Jim Cooper.


But he was really cool. He was great. Not that the person that got his place after was not great. She tried to do a lot of stuff, but as soon as he left, a lot of funding got slashed and a lot of people lost interest because it was just not him anymore. Even though Wendy was also amazing, the music teacher that came after him. And she really, I think, struggled to kind of build stuff up because all of a sudden it went from the strong school band program to like five to ten people. So, by the time I had gotten in school band, I did a little bit of school band stuff or like, wind band stuff, but I never played any of those instruments. And I don't even think there was like a bassoon or like a tuba in the town.


So, I basically played like bassoon lines and tuba lines and euphonium lines on bass guitar. There might have been ten or twelve people in the school band at that time. It went from like 30 or 40 down to like 10 or 12. So it was kind of a fragmented thing. It was not a very enriched and large thing to no one's fault besides the board of, you know... like the whole administration and stuff. And ironically enough, when that music teacher left, he still taught private stuff. So he taught me private theory when I was in Grade 10 and 11, because before that I was completely self-taught and basically was completely self-taught as a guitar player until I went to university. And, he actually introduced me to a lot of things, like more complex jazz and Stravinsky and Schoenberg and a handful of different progressive bands and things like that.


He was a real in the weeds kind of music nerd like that. So there's kind of an influence, but kind of not. It's hard to describe.


TK:

I'm so glad that you brought up your hometown of Labrador City, which, if you're unfamiliar with the geography of Canada, it's in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.


I was looking this place up and what kind of caught my eye was that, according to Wikipedia (which, you know, is it is what it is), it said there's a population of around 7,000 people in Labrador city. Maybe that's outdated or maybe that's more or less, but I wanted to bring this up because the town that I grew up in, in Kentucky, had the same population in my formative years as a musician, as well.


So, I'm sure we have a lot of things that we can commiserate about, growing up in a small town and now kind of doing our own thing, like making careers out of what we do. And you've touched on this a little bit, but what was it like growing up and becoming a musician in this part of Canada?


AN:

Yeah, it's kind of contradictory or strangely ironic in a way, because Newfoundland...

So you mentioned this about how the province is called, like, Newfoundland and Labrador. Right? Which is kind of a confusing thing. So Newfoundland is like an island which is kind of more well-known than the actual Labrador, the whole Labrador region, because Newfoundland has a really strong Irish folk community. Like, there's a real strong trad music scene, especially in its capital city, of St. John's. And there's a real rich kind of culture there of people that are interested in that kind of Irish heritage and that kind of descendants and stuff.


But Labrador is kind of not like that, even though pretty much anybody who's of, like, settler descent who lives in Labrador is usually from Newfoundland and moved there. Most of Labrador is a lot of bare forests and wilderness and coastal communities that are not reserves, but Indigenous villages that are still quite underfunded and underdeveloped in terms of how they get support and stuff.


Labrador City itself is a mining town. It's built on an iron ore mine. So everybody who lives there, if you don't work in some sort of public service or anything, you're basically... You work at the mines. There's no other career besides the kind of standard services that would be there. So, besides maybe the handful of people that work at the hospital or like, school teachers or the odd lawyer or two, or, like... it's very, very small like that. And I'm laying this all out a little bit, because when people think of Newfoundland, Labrador, they think of that kind of culture and stuff like that. But it's not as vibrant and rich, I feel like, in Labrador- that cultural part, as it is in St. John's, and it's much more isolated and cold and harsh.


It's hard to describe, too, because there's a rich, like, Indigenous culture and communities there. So I'm not downplaying that at all. But I think when people think about, rich musical cultures, they think about, you know, regular shows happening or places to learn or, like... Labrador City, really, there was maybe... growing up, there was maybe, less than 15 people that played music. And basically all through high school, it was the same rotating door of, like, ten kids starting a new band every year with a different formation of whatever they were into that year. And I don't even know what's happening with that right now. But that was just when we were in school and we would like, just ask local teen centers and like Legions or like Orange Lodges and things if we could play there. There's not really a whole lot. And then beyond that, there would be like one or two pub cover bands.


I don't even think there's a violin or cello in the town, let alone, like, people that play it. And honestly, I don't know if a lot of instruments would even survive there because it's so dry and frigidly cold. There's snow on the ground from like October till May. It doesn't really ever touch 30 degrees Celsius. So, around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, except for maybe the odd day in July. And that is like... a heat warning of sorts. Like growing up, in order for school to be canceled, it had to be -60 or -65 Celsius. It's considered subarctic. And I don't think people... like, people get subarctic living allowances. It's similar to the Northern Territories.


And I don't think people realize that, because as you drive east from Quebec.... So, Newfoundland is like an island that's a little bit more south of there and basically east of Prince Edward island and Nova Scotia, it's east of that directly. Whereas Labrador is more on par of latitude with the Canadian Territories and like the Arctic, because as you drive east through Quebec, you're also driving north. So you're going like northeast. And Labrador is a big chunk of mainland attached to Quebec. It's northeast of Quebec.


So the small town thing, there's a lot of overlaps in small town life and aesthetic and things like that compared to other places. But the big thing, I think, that defines - at least for me - defined my existence of growing up and being a musician in Labrador was the isolation within it. It's not like I lived in a small town and I could take a bus for an hour to the next city or something. Like Montreal is a two day drive or something, right? And 10 hours of that is down a dirt road with no cell service or nothing.


TK:

Are there other kind of... I guess, comparably-sized towns like Labrador city around it, or is it pretty remote on its own where it's at?


AN:

It's pretty remote on its own. And funny enough, it's the most quote unquote... I don't like using this word all the time, but it's the most "populated" or "developed" area of Labrador, really, or that region.


Basically, there's two roads in and out of Labrador City. One is to go to Baie-Comeau, Quebec. So you drive like 10 hours, or 7 to 10 hours down a highway, and then you get to Baie-Comeau, Quebec, which is like a coastal Quebec community. And it's like another day's drive to Montreal basically. And the other road out of Lab City goes further into Labrador to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, which is a former military base and flight stop. And then a lot of the other communities, Happy Valley-Goose Bay has a slightly lower population than Labrador City. And all the other communities all around Labrador are mostly all these different coastal communities. Some of them are fly-in, fly-out only, or literally like snowmobile in or out only. Their populations are somewhere in the hundreds to a couple thousand tops, maybe. I'd have to check it out. Those are even more remote like those. Some of those places don't have Internet still. They can't even grow like fresh fruits and vegetables and have like, it's very isolated there.


So that's... I think the big thing is like, I kind of had to.... A lot of people who are into anything remotely different than the kind of standard activities there, which mostly includes, you know, winter sports and outdoors activities and things like that, which are very popular there. Anybody who's into anything different really had to leave. So like, my handful of friends that were into any kind of really different or in depth arts or experimental art or anything like that, you really had to leave. There's nothing there for it, you know, and you had to go far away too.


TK:

Yeah, so I was finding what you were saying very relatable up until like the harsh conditions of, and the remoteness of, Labrador City. But you know, where I grew up, it was primarily agriculture and industrial factory type stuff. And that's basically what my parents kind of did, was work in factories and construction sort of stuff. But we had access to bigger cities like 30 minutes away, and resources like that. But all over the eastern part of Kentucky, you can drive through it and it's like you'll come up on these little towns where it just looks.... It's really depressing to kind of look at.


And I guess I feel fortunate that I had the right people in my life and the right distance to things that kind of showed me the wider world. But personally, I often think, what can I do with my art to kind of shine a light on this part of the world that I'm from and kind of honor the legacy of my ancestors, who were largely farmers. That's what people did where I come from.


I'm curious to know, everything you're describing... I can almost imagine what you're gonna say, but when was your first encounter with a composer?


AN:

My first encounter? Like, in person or in terms of, like, finding composers or finding living composers?


TK:

Yeah, I guess... I guess both. In person, like, when was your first time meeting a composer? When I say composer, I mean, you know... the way we often think of composers.


AN:

Like Western classical scores, things like that...


TK:

Yeah, like your first encounter with their music as well, I guess.


AN:

Yeah, I could answer that with two short things. So the first time that I- I'm glad that I actually brought up Jim Cooper and music education there earlier, because in some ways, a lot of the music that I was finding, like the experimental rock and progressive rock and things like that, I was finding from, like, Internet rabbit holes and I was getting into 70s progressive rock a lot when I was in Grade 10 and 11.


And at the exact same time that I was doing that and seeing how composers like, say, Bartok, or like, Copland, or people like that influenced bands like King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Yes. Like, the same time that I was finding those composers from that rabbit hole, the teacher that I was studying theory with privately, who hasn't lived there now for years, he moved away a couple years later now, and I don't know who would be there now that would even go down those rabbit holes.


He was always showing me, like, the Rite of Spring and other music like that. And, it was really interesting to me because up until then, like a lot of people - this is a very common thing - a lot of people have this moment where they realize, like, "oh, people are still composing today. They're still living composers." Cause, you know, so much of the literature or so much of the life as a classical musician is playing all of these canonical things, right? Or these dead composers, these dead white men, European composers, et cetera. Right? Except actually, honestly, in the band program, sometimes you play a lot of that living stuff.


But, yeah, so, I mean, that was the first time when I was, like, starting to go down that rabbit hole. And then I found, like, George Crumb from there and was blown away and all that kind of stuff really blew my mind. Like, seeing what was possible. Like, my real intro to classical music is all contemporary music. It's not anything, you know, like... it's not...


It's funny because it's not unique to, like, other guitarist composers. It's actually kind of the norm for, like, guitarist composers to be like, "oh, I'm into Dillinger Escape Plan." And that's basically what Bartok and Rite of Spring was 100 years ago, right? So it's not like, actually that weird of a thing for me, but it is a weird thing for classical musicians as a whole to not grow up playing in these kinds of programs, taking piano lessons, you know, taking violin lessons, doing these things.


And then really, the first time I met a composer would have been the faculty at the university where I did my undergrad. It would have been meeting Andrew Staniland and Clark Ross and the people that were on the composition faculty at Memorial University of Newfoundland, which is the university in the capital of that whole province. And really, the only thing that remotely resembles a city in that entire province, both the island and the mainland. The Labrador region.


Yeah, that would have been it. I mean, my first classical music concert was probably, like, audition weekend, honestly, in person, really. I can't think of like a real... like a... beyond like a kid playing a piano piece at a small recital or at, like, a small local music, the Kiwanis style music festival. That would have been my first classical music concert even.


TK:

Yeah, I think my first one was... the Lexington Philharmonic in Lexington, Kentucky. You know, it's a small orchestra and they do some cool things, but, you know, part of their pops programming was like this Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young-esque concert with, like... basically a cover band with the orchestral backing. And that was the kind of music my parents knew was like, you know, 70s, 80s rock... you know, country music from the 90s.


AN:

Yeah, exactly. Yeah, mine too.


TK:

I grew up getting exposed to that.


And then, yeah... there's so many parallels, I feel like, between us, that I kind of knew about, but, like, I'm really finding out about now. I also got really into prog rock in middle school, high school. And, you know, my first CD that I bought... my first two CDs I bought with money that I'd earned myself was Herbie Hancock's, I think, Headhunters album.


AN:

Oh, that's so much more cool points than mine.


TK:

And, Yes' Close to the Edge.


AN:

Oh, yeah. That's amazing. Yeah.


TK:

I mean, I had, like, you know... I've never admitted this before, but, you know, I had my parents buy me, like, the Backstreet Boys. I don't know. And then whatever I could find my dad's CD collection, but, yeah, I think because of that, a lot of my music... my early music, and still today, there's a lot of mixed meters. Like, I don't know that kind of....


But the other thing you made me think of was, a friend of mine in middle school introduced me to Frank Zappa at a pretty early point. And like, just hearing you talk about, you know, guitarists can tend to gravitate towards, like, Stravinsky and Bartok in those early 20th century kind of styles. Zappa's In-A-Gadda-Stravinsky, which is just In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida with the bassoon solo from Rite of Spring over top.


AN:

Of course it is.


TK:

It's like, so stupid. I loved it.


So, can you discuss... this is something that stood out to me in your bio and that I'd love to hear more about. But can you discuss what you call the "acceptance and rejection of locality" in your creative practice and how the places you've lived have informed this idea? Because you're talking about growing up in Labrador City. You went to university in St. John's, which you described as the only place in the province resembling a city. You've spent time in New York City for a degree. You're in Toronto now. Can you talk a little bit about this?


AN:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.


This is kind of like a multi-web... I'm gonna try not to ramble as much as possible and keep it connected and concise. But yeah, when I was thinking... when I thought a lot about over the years, like, what influences my music, I think, like a lot of people's upbringing and their surroundings and as simple as, like, you know their regions or locality influence their music. I mean, there's so many obvious and clear examples and sometimes it's very overt, and sometimes it's very conscious, and sometimes it's very subconscious, of course.


But when I think a lot about it... a very defining or driving factor of a lot of my work or my interest as a composer, as a creator or musician in any kind of way, because it's so varied and all over the place. And when I talk about, like, the acceptance or rejection of locality, it's kind of like a lot of my work, or influences, as a musician are both inspired but also kind of in spite of where I'm from.


In some ways, they're very inspired because I grew up listening to a lot of hardcore music where people talk about, like, the scenes, you know. Like, that's such a thing in emo and hardcore or post rock. People talk about these scenes that are defined by locality, you know, and defined by regions. It's like, the Chicago scene or the DC scene or the LA scene. People talk about that stuff all the time and it's like a huge thing.


So in some ways, I'm very influenced by certain scenes in certain locations. Like, I was very influenced by- before going to New York, I was very influenced by so many composers and so many things in New York. Not only Bang on a Can, but also, like, Glenn Branca and also, obviously, the New York people, like Morton Feldman and stuff. So growing up, I lived in this super isolated place which basically had no scene, you know, and I was very obsessed or interested in these scenes that I felt alien to or not a part of or completely disconnected from. So that's one way that it's influenced by that.


Another way is that I've moved around so much and been in these different places. So I've been influenced by the experiences that I've had and the connections that I've made there. And I think that's not an uncommon thing, obviously, to say... like, everybody would say that. But I think a big difference, too, is I've always thought a lot about, like, post-regionality, which is a very 21st Century thing in that, yeah, I've been influenced by all these places, but my connections there continue because of things like the Internet. And I would have never discovered any of these things if it wasn't for the Internet. So, that feels very, like... post regional to me to continue these.


Even pre-lockdowns and pre-pandemic stuff where suddenly everybody had to flip to virtual. My norm before all that was finding things online or listening to things online and discovering things or talking on message boards with people like that or collaborating virtually. And because of, you know, like... I was obviously so influenced and my time in New York was so huge to me. But, I really only lived there for like two years. It doesn't sound like a long time when you think of it because of visa reasons. I was only able to be there for my masters for two years, but so many of my connections and collaborators and growing networks of community really come from these kinds of places that I've been able to maintain.


So a lot of, like, what I'm interested in is, you know, obviously I'm a product of these environments, or like these clashing or different environments, but also in spite of them. Because not a lot of people from Labrador or Newfoundland even ever leave there. Like they're kind of... they're kind of going through these cycles of what happens there, especially in Labrador. Most people that grew up there, you basically go through high school and then afterwards you get a job at the mines and you continue this kind of cycle, which I don't think there's anything wrong with, but I kind of had to get out and exist in spite of that.


And actually as like, a lot of people I knew from there and still talk to from there, especially people of color - which there's not a lot of t all from there - or queer people... like, all those people had to exist in spite of these places, which is a very common small town thing. That's a very common small town narrative. But the big defining factor is that it's way more isolated there, and harsher kind of environments there. So I could talk about it for a long time, but I think it's kind of this multi-web kind of thing.


TK:

Yeah, you brought up post-regionality, and that's a word I saw for the first time in your bio. And I don't know if you made that up or not, but if you did, kudos, because it's amazing. And I was kind of like, I can imagine what that means, but I'm not really sure.


But, you know, the way you talk about the Internet- and anytime I have conversations with people about the Internet itself as an ecosystem, I have to wax nostalgic because I think you and I grew up... well, you and I and, of course, so many others, I guess millennials, grew up at a time where it's like we grew up while the Internet was growing up.


AN:

Exactly.


TK:

I just remember the same thing, you know, around 2000, 2001, 2002.... Like, I had friends in school, obviously, and we would hang out, but this whole message boards and platform for discovery, you know... I remember in 2005, getting into all kinds of different bands and then discovering... I think it's the Glastonbury Festival in the UK, and figuring out how to watch that online and be like, "whoa, this is all this music that I've never heard of before, and I love it all" and still today. And, it also reminds me of our friend Phong Tran with his Computer Room album. And that's like a celebration of what we're talking about.


AN:

Exactly. Yeah.


TK:

And, yeah, it's almost like, speaking for myself, if I was coming of age right now, I'm not sure the Internet would have... I know it wouldn't have the same impact. And, of course, if we had come of age, like, in the early 90s, when the Internet was barely even a thing, it wasn't a household item...


It's like, there's a lot to be kind of negative about in this world and with the current state of the Internet, but at the same time, it's like we grew up in this magical time where it really served us in ways that I'm not sure it served any other generation.


AN:

Yeah, yeah, because the generation after us, it's kind of like a given. It's kind of like- with the exception of, obviously, people that live in certain areas and things, like... or under certain, you know income brackets and things like that.


But for a large amount of folks, it's even just the awareness of it. Like, it just seems to be a given. And then I feel like, yeah, the people you were talking about that are kind of generation before us, they kind of took advantage of it, but it was kind of something that happened after the fact. Like, it's like, "oh, now this thing is here where it's with us." It's like this thing is developing at the same time as us.


I meet a lot of people who, whenever I say where I'm from, they always say, "I've never met anyone from there." Like, not specifically Newfoundland, but, like, Labrador. And they'll say, like, "what's there? Or, "who's there? And why are you here?" Like, you know, I get this question not only just in interviews, it's like, "how did you find this music?" Or, "how did you discover this music?" Or, "what made you want to pursue this career path or what made you..." And honestly, the only answer I have, if I give, like, one answer, it's the Internet. Because how else would I have ever, discovered any of this? Like, I wouldn't have, you know?


TK:

You just gave me the perfect segue for my next question, and that is, when did you know that you wanted to pursue your craft as a career?


AN:

Yeah. Yeah. Oh, my God. This... Yeah, that question is, like..


TK:

Yeah, I know. There's never, like, one moment, right? It's like a cumulative thing.


AN:

Absolutely, yeah. I don't know. I've always been really obsessed with music. At a young age, even, before I started teaching myself to play guitar through the Internet or magazines or things like that. I've always been obsessed with music. As a kid even before I played anything, I would be told to, like, stop singing randomly or stop tapping on my desks randomly or.... It's weird, because in some ways, it's always felt very innate and this automatic thing that I can't live or be without at all times. But it's not because of my folks, really. Like, they listen to a lot of music and they're really into music, but nobody really in my family is a professional musician. Some of them are not musicians at all.


So, I mean, they definitely had influence over me in terms of always having music on and having, like, a wide variety of music on besides the classics, mostly all popular music. So that definitely had an influence. But I think, even as a kid, I always really wanted to pursue it even before I started playing anything. And then the real, like, career thing- because, I mean, as you're growing up playing popular music of any kind, whether that's, like, metal or whether that's, like, R&B or pop or whatever, there's kind of this narrative... Maybe it exists less so nowadays, but there was this narrative at one point that it's like, basically you need a big break or something, right? Like, there's this narrative where it's like, "oh, you could slug it out and maybe you'll have a big break and then you'll..."


I think that because of the Internet that's becoming less of a thing. Like, there's more DIY musicians, there's more self-sustaining musicians who are not within this kind of upper stratosphere of sorts, or there's people that are multifaceted as musicians where they can have a career as a musician. It doesn't necessarily mean they need to be, like, a Top 40 artist, you know? And people are aware of those positions in different places now or have access to them because of the Internet.


But, I think a place where I was like, "okay, I'm really gonna pursue this," is literally when I found out that I could go and do a degree in music because... Yeah, because I was like, "well, the only way I'm gonna be able to get out of Lab City is if I go to university or go to school or go to a college," or anything. There's like, a very small community college there that mostly does trades programs that feed into the mines, but there's not really a university or anything there. So I was like, well, the only way for me to get out is to go to university and do things. And I found out that you could pursue music to various degrees in university.


That was kind of the point where it's like, okay, maybe I can figure it out at some point throughout actually going to higher education for this. I can figure out a way to make a career out of it. It's always been, like, a means to an end. You know, some people are really interested in academia, and, like, I'm not not interested in academia. But it's always that. It's always been a way to get somewhere else or get something else, you know?


TK:

Yeah, I gotcha.


One of the many things... I mean, one of the countless things I'll say, that I admire about you is-


AN:

Countless!


TK:

Yeah. Yeah, there's a lot of things I admire, maybe, like, top three.


AN:

You too, man. Thank you.


TK: -it's that you embody this kind of, what I'll call a DIY spirit, in everything you seem to touch. You know, you've launched a record label, you curate concerts. You curate, like, genre-fluid concerts. It's not like you're just programming "classical music" in quotes, and you set up group commissioning projects, and that's... you know, that's just a few things.


Where do you think this DIY mindset comes from? And why is it so important to your work?


AN:

I mean, I think it comes from all the stuff... I can go deeper on it, but I think it comes from, like, all the stuff that I was literally just saying, is that it was really, like, the norm. It's like, I wasn't put in music lessons as a kid, or I didn't have immediate access to what a life as a professional musician could be. I didn't have access to a lot of education or to going to seeing concerts or to... I just didn't have that kind of exposure unless I really had an interest in it and looked for it.


So the DIY spirit definitely comes from growing up always having to, like, make something happen. So that really just feels like the norm after a certain point. It's like if I need. If I want something to happen, I have to kind of, like, make it happen with various results.


TK:

I so relate to that. Cause, you know, having gone through academia until I couldn't stand it anymore.... Well, that's not fair. I won't say that. I did try to pursue a doctorate, but, you know, that that was kind of, I think, for me, the first inkling of, like... I got to do this thing myself because, as you know, as so many people know, academia is really gatekeepy.

.

AN:

Yeah.


TK:

And, for example, I felt like it was a miracle I even got an interview at a place like Eastman for a PhD, and then I... you know, I got rejected, and I was like, "well, of course." Like, two years ago, I didn't know anything.


You know, my path took me away from that, and I feel very happy about that. But, whether it's academia or applying for grants or, you know, seeking institutional support, that's just something that I have benefited from every once in a while. But I just got so sick of being told no when I just, like, wanted to do stuff. Like... I want to put out a CD and I want to do it my way and I don't want to apply for grants and wait nine months to find out, like, "well, actually, you're not going to get the money to do this." And it's like, well, I could have already done it in the time I've been waiting around.


So, you know, for me, that, I would say- and I will say the DIY stuff for me is to a lesser degree than what I see in you. But I think it's a question of accessibility and gatekeeping and just, like, I don't want a ceiling, I just want to do it. And, you know, if it takes my own resources, whether that's my own money or my own, you know, blood, sweat and tears and time and... it's just, I'll go for it. And if there is some kind of institutional support that comes my way. Great. But I'm not counting on it.


AN:

Yeah. DIY is such a weird thing, right? Because there's- and, like, you mentioned this a little bit before, but I mean, also I should mention on this podcast... I mean, you mentioned creating commissioning projects. You're the main inspiration for that. Like, your Orchard project and your other consortiums were a huge influence of me creating alternative means for commissioning. And not only, like, alternative means for commissioning, but communally-focused means for commissioning.


Like, I remember when people asked me about the consortium... when I did the saxophone consortium and organized that, which was very influenced by your trombone consortium, right? And now you have this Orchard project, which I've also done some arrangements and contributed and been very inspired by. All these things are very DIY, but also, like, something else that people ask about when they ask about these projects is they ask about, like, what the benefits are of doing that rather than applying for a grant or rather than going through some sort of institution to do or supplementing it through some other institution.


And something I've said a lot is that those models, sometimes, unless somebody is really lucky or really high profile or really strikes something, those models- like, Shelley is a good example of somebody who really taps into that and eschews this kind of model. But I've always seen those institutional models as so dead end in the end, because it's like, even if you get all your funding, you get the grant. Yeah, it's great. Like, all that kind of stuff. These pieces still get played once, and they get, like, a premiere recording or something like... you know what I mean? Like, they kind of... They don't actually become these, like, defining artifacts or, like, figures or they don't grow beyond that.


I mean, some people, again, are very lucky in that. Like, I feel like Shelley really does do that. Doesn't matter where her stuff does, it always gets played and always grows, which is something I really admire about Shelley. But, like, yeah, something I really wanted to tap into with the consortium stuff is just, like, the idea of having a piece played more than once in different places by different people. It's like, that is more attractive to me rather than this kind of, like, one track thing, because I think a lot about how new music could grow beyond it -and some people are doing this - but how new music could grow beyond its bubble and grow and not, like, die out. Or, classical music and how it could not die out.


One thing that they could take from the band or the pop artist model is that, like, a lot of these bands record a record and then they tour it, right? Like, and, yeah, okay. Like, it's grindy, and it has its ups and downs in its own way, for sure. But that is something that a lot of contemporary music or classical or experimental music could take from, like, thinking about a sustainability to a piece of work that you do, rather than just creating the piece of work and then moving on to the next one.


TK:

I'll just jump in and say, well, first of all, I appreciate the kind words about how I've inspired you. I have to give two shout outs-


AN:

Yeah. Because it's all a trickle.


TK:

-to the composers who introduced me to the idea of a consortium, one being James Grant, who is just... he's a composer that I'm sure that not enough people know about. But, you know, he's so savvy with the business aspects of composing, you know, and that falls into DIY. Right? And then, Jim, he's not in academia, and I met him as I was applying for grad school, and he tipped me off to where I did end up getting my master's, to the University of South Florida, specifically for Baljinder Sehkon, who is also probably, to a more extreme level, even more savvy, which is saying a lot, because Jim is quite savvy. And, I remember in grad school, Baljinder giving us an assignment to create a consortium.


AN:

Wow.


TK:

And we really dug into that. And I would say, for reasons I won't get into, it wasn't a very successful project for me, but it was my first one. I think it really opened my eyes to this way of creating new music through collaboration with performers as a win win for everyone. You know, I no longer have to tell a performer who wants to commission me, "I want thousands of dollars from you," or whatever. I can say, you know- and that's always an option. And actually, I've recently been commissioned by a saxophonist who... That's the route he wanted to go. But I always say, "you know, we can do a consortium," because, one, it makes it more accessible for them monetarily speaking, it makes it more financially accessible for everyone involved, you know, people who maybe who have never had the opportunity to commission a new work, they get to.


And I've done consortiums for as little as $15. Like, join in for $15, you know, $20, because that's really attractive to me. I want as many people on board as possible, because, like you said, then the piece has a bigger life. More people can play it.


And then the other thing I've noticed, which I'm sure you've noticed as well, is that these connections that form where you'll have X amount of people join your original consortium, and then one of those people might be somebody you've never met before who you hit it off with. They love the music, and then they commission you for a new piece.


I am just... I will never not talk about consortiums, because you're right. Given the choice between writing a chamber work that a lot of people join in on or writing- I'd love to write, like, a big orchestral work and get it played by a major orchestra. I think that's something we all are interested in. But given the choice between the two, I think at this point in my life and in my creative career, I'm going to pick the consortium. I'm going to- Because it feels more mission driven. It expands the bubble, as you say, and it's just... It's good for everybody, I think.


AN:

Yeah, yeah. I mean, what said to me is like, maybe- this is again, like, very, very popular music mindset, which for a while, I really tried to... It's ironic how a lot of things have turned out, because, like, one thing that really drew me to - and this is all still connected to it, even though we're going off on these very important, I think, tangents - is like, you know, one thing that really drew me to contemporary classical music and new music was at first actually this institutional legitimacy, or this kind of validation or legitimacy for something that is not understood on the first listen or not massively popular, because I was into so much weird rock and metal music, that even though it was popular and obviously this band had fans or whatever, there's this kind of idea where it's just like, how does someone find validation in something that's less popular?


And in popular music that's such a thing that people use as a metric of success. And I was really drawn to contemporary music at first because I was like, "wow, this stuff really requires deeper listening sometimes. It's not massively popular. People don't even know it exists. And these people are still successful." They're still considered to be, you know, like, very legitimate, and they're finding legitimacy through this kind of institutional support, and it's- and for a while, that was, like, really attractive to me. And then the ironic thing, I said this in another interview recently. The ironic thing is that as I got further into that kind of music, the only composers or the only people that I really liked what they were doing were actually doing DIY stuff beyond that, anyway.


So it's like, it was kind of, foregone or whatever. Like, it was... Yeah. Like, I started getting in and finding all this music, and a lot of the composers that I didn't really care for were like, completely created or products of the institution. And a lot of the composers that I was interested in, while having, like, a degree of institutional support like you and I have, or.... And I think this is where I was going before, where I talked about how DIY is so interesting, because in our world, it's so specifically different for everybody, and it's so... There's so many variations or degrees of it, because a group like Bang on a Can were so DIY when they really started their marathon and said, "we're gonna do these things," and finding performers. And I've talked to Michael and Julie about this a whole lot, and how when they were in, you know, their grad school, they couldn't find any performers to play their music and how this stuff didn't exist and how they did a lot of things, like, very DIY and in spite of not having institutional support.


But it's funny because they also went to Ivy League schools, so it's, you know, it's like, on the one hand, there's institutional support, but then there's not. And I kind of feel like I also... We also straddle that kind of dichotomy where it's like, everything that we do is not supported by institutions, but also, we are products of it in another way as well. So it's like, yeah, it's an interesting thing to talk about now. It's kind of so ingrained.


TK:

You know, I feel like it comes back to what we were talking about a little bit earlier, but in a... About something differently, but this acceptance and rejection at the same time.


AN:

Yeah.


TK:

It's that kind of thing. And just as a disclaimer, I... You know, because I know that academics, if you're listening, you can be a little touchy, and that's okay. And we're not- I will admit, given the opportunity, I will go full bore anti-institution and anti-academia. But that's not to say I don't recognize the good things about it. You know, there's a lot of good people doing work in that space. A lot of people I'm close with, that I love, and, you know, I'm not trying to paint with a broad brush, but it's just the nature of, you know... that's what this podcast is all about, talking about our experiences, and this is what I've experienced. It seems like you've experienced the same kind of thing, so that's... I won't go too hard on it, but, you know.


AN:

No, no, and, yeah, and I mean, like, yeah, there's lots of great things that people can do in academia and lots of great things that institutions support. I mean, I have a PhD. Clearly, I don't hate them that much. I mean, like, clearly I could, you know, but it's like you said earlier when you're talking about your Eastman experiences. When I applied for doctoral and master's programs, it's like, everywhere that I got in or everywhere that I didn't get in, it all made sense. It was like, "yeah, of course I wouldn't get into this place," because, like, what I want to do or what I'm interested in or the music that I make is just... It's not there.


Everywhere I went to go do an academic degree at was a place where there was some sort of... I don't know if I would say, like, DIY spirit, necessarily, but there was some sort of freedom or space to explore or be yourself or do something that was a little bit off the standard path. NYU was like that. Memorial was like that, and Western was like that, as well. So, you know, they exist. It's just there's... Yeah, there's different degrees or variations of all this stuff.


I say a lot that, and I'll stop rambling on, but I say a lot that... It's like, again, this acceptance or rejection kind of thing is like, I go to basement hardcore shows and play those, and everybody thinks I'm, like, the smart academic there, and then I go to the academic show in, my death metal band T-shirt, and everyone's like, "oh, this is the edgy person." Like, I can't win.


TK:

Yeah, I love that.


AN:

Yeah, me too.


TK:

So maybe this is a tangential part of this DIY conversation... I just have to acknowledge that you are quite an advocate for underrepresented artists and people. And please correct me if I'm wrong here, but this seems to be a parallel but related endeavor along with your work in the DIY space. So can you tell us a little bit about this facet of your work, this advocacy work that you do, as a composer and an artist?


AN:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. And I want to also say as a little disclaimer, whenever I talk about this stuff, I try to be very mindful about taking the space or speaking for or moving into, like, white savior territory, because it's obviously, it's not the same, or it's very easy to... It's very easy for a lot of people. Like white straight passing or even white passing-


TK:

It's a fine line.


AN:

Yeah, yeah, it's very easy to kind of slip into that, and there's a lot of people that do exploit and take advantage of that. so it's... Yeah, I want to try to be mindful of that and always, like, check myself on that.


But, yeah, it is totally related to that because the true DIY communities or the true outside-of-the-institution communities always veer in those places. They always move towards queer people, people of color. And I mean, like, even though I'm not a person of color myself, it's like I grew up in a place with mostly an Indigenous population. I had, like, a lot of Indigenous friends and collaborators when I was there and moving beyond and continuing. So a lot of stuff is new to me sometimes, or, like, I'm still learning and obviously always learning and always, like, growing and having new experiences and stuff. But also, it kind of just feels like the natural thing to do.


It's like everybody that I connect with is somebody from some sort of different background or some sort of... I don't even like saying necessarily. I think it's definitely true, but I don't even like saying "marginalized" sometimes. Like, I more use "intersectional" or use something like that, because everybody's kind of a product, like we've been talking about, of their various experiences and their identities and that kind of intersectionality that exists in all this stuff. And, yeah, I mean, on the one hand, it sounds like such a simple answer because I kind of say, with what I'm interested in, it's just kind of the natural thing that happens.


But you do have to, like, push for it, you know? It really is easy sometimes just to default to, if you're doing programming only programming, like, white dudes. Or if you're doing like, like... it does, because there's over representation of that. Not just that group in the whole canon,but in the whole world. And it's interesting to talk about, you know, because it's like when I went to go do my masters at NYU out of our what, seven or eight or nine grad school concert music composers, I think... I'm trying to think now. Unless I'm forgetting. No, me and Kyle were the only two white men, right? Like, like it was me, Shelley, Phong, Allison, Nick Jovan. Like there was like a group of us, right? Stefan. Like all these people were all people from different backgrounds, right? And you know, grew out of these like different kind of backgrounds. And it's what... it's what makes all this stuff interesting, you know?


And you connect on these kinds of deeper levels of intersectionality when you really think about those kinds of things, and you really open up to these experiences. So, yeah, I don't really know if that's like a great answer or anything. It just feels like it's more of a fluid thing that's always been involved in what I do, but it continues to grow. So it, to me it just seems like, what else would I do?


I talk a lot about this with Jerry Pergolesi, who I've been involved so many countless projects with, from the Intersection Festival in Toronto to Contact, the ensemble, to various other things. And it's something that he's always been interested in pushing towards as a queer person and as what his work's always been interested in. And for a very long time in the 90s and 00s, a lot of the works that, and things that he wanted to do would get so much push back from institutions... trying to program black composers or trying to program like queer-only programs and things like that. And, like, all-women programs. He used to get a lot of push back from that, like playing the music of these people. And now it's such a checkbox now it's such like... it's such a way to get easy funding for somebody who's not actually sincere about it. And it's a complicated thing to navigate, but it's still, still important nonetheless, you know?


TK:

Yeah, I appreciate your sensitivity to it. And of course, I wouldn't have brought it up if I didn't appreciate the work that you do as well, in that space.


AN:

The main thing I really try to do is just decenter myself. I may say, like, the most I can continue to decenter myself by supporting. That's, I think, like a big number one.


TK:

I agree.


I think we've probably already touched on this indirectly, so I'll ask you more directly about this, but what would you describe as the primary pillars of your creative practice?


AN:

I mean, yeah, to boil it down to, like, everything we've been talking about...


I think I could do a lot of stuff. I mean, community, absolutely. Transparency, for sure. Different degrees of sustainability. Yeah, and of, course, like, intersectionality, for sure. Absolutely. Like all those things find their way into all their different projects, and sometimes it's very surface level to the point of where it's just like, oh, this is a post-genre, multi-genre thing. And sometimes it's much deeper than that, as in, like, this is a mutual aid thing or something, you know?


TK:

Yeah. So, when you say sustainability- because I feel like we've kind of touched on the other pillars that you just mentioned. But when you say sustainability, what do you mean?


AN:

I mean more like the sustainability of connections and friendships and collaborations and music and- actually, very similar to what you were talking about before when you talk... because it's- obviously sustainability, a lot of people think about, like, environmental issues and things like that, which I obviously care about. But I think that's also... I mean, we're two, you know, left-leaning artists. Of course we care about the environment. Like, you know? Of course we're trying to do our part and that kind of thing. So I think it's like, a lot of people are very heavily involved in that.


And when I talk about, yeah, like, sustainability, I talk about, like, interpersonal relationships and collaborations and like, more of towards like a sustainable, quote, unquote, "career" rather than... And it's very much touched on the thing that you talked about where it's like, when you have these consortiums, like the fact that of what can continue to grow out of them, that's the main thing. Like, I'm really interested in some sort of, like, continuous, fluid cycle rather than a start and a stop point for a lot of what I do.


TK:

Just to add to that with my own experience- and thank you for clarifying that because I wasn't sure if you meant environmental sustainability or what you just described.

Yeah, I think the flip side of that for me, and one criticism I am very, very strong about with what I see happening in our world of new music is transactionalism. And, what I mean by that is this group is going to commission this composer. It almost seems like a matter of optics. And, you know, they'll play the piece once, and then they'll cycle through that program and then commission the next one. And I've been very fortunate recently to work with performers who are mindful of that, and they recognize that. And they have told me directly, "you know, I don't want to just play your piece a handful of times on a program and then move on to my next slate of commissions or whatever. I want to live with your music. I want to play it a bunch. I want to record it. I want to let everyone know about it. I want to give it a life."



TK:

And it almost stunned me because it's so opposite of what I've experienced and what I see other people doing. So, yeah, now I have a word for that part of my creative pillars.


AN:

Yeah.


TK:

Thank you.


AN:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean, I even like what you're talking about is something that I really value and make a point to do, like, as a performer, when I'm putting that hat on as a guitarist and as a performer. And I've gotten that comment from a lot of composers before. It's like, "wow, thank you for playing this piece. So many times." It's like, so many times, it's like, 5 or 6. I'm like, "what do you mean, like, so many times?" Like, that's a while. It's not what, you know, but... But also, like, I think about that a bit as a composer, too. And I didn't think about this- I've thought about this before, but I didn't think about it in terms of how it relates to this podcast until you just mentioned it.


But, like, I also think about that a lot as a composer. As in, when someone plays a piece, how much of what you've written is make or break based on a series of factors? Like, can someone play this in a different space and it will still come off? Maybe it will obviously not sound the same as if it was in a hall, but if someone plays this in a very dry, small space rather than a hall, will it still have an impact on people? If they play it to people who are talking at the same time in, like, at a bar or in a public place somewhere. will it have the same impact on people if somebody doesn't have the access to the same equipment? Like, that's something I'm really interested in. It's like, if there's, like, a piece of equipment that someone needs in order to make this happen, will they be able to access it? And if they can't, can they still realize this piece?


Like, these, these kinds of things are all related to sustainability for me because, like, when I write something, I want it... Not only do I want what I play to have a life and, like, my projects and collaborations and interpersonal connections to have a life, but I also want it for my music. Like, I want, beyond just writing for the standard forms of a string quartet or piano solo, if I write for somebody to use cello with effects pedals, it's like, if somebody doesn't have that same effects pedals, how would they realize it? Or will they have access to that? Is it, you know, in... that stuff I'm interested in in terms of sustainability.


TK: Yeah. Oh, I love it. It's so good.


The tricky part for me, adding on to what you just said is... you know, I've written a lot of piano music, and thinking about non-standard techniques, in particular, playing inside the piano. And pianos are constructed differently, and I've learned to have... How do I navigate that? Because there might be a crossbar across the strings that I had written at one piano that didn't have that. And then a performer writes to me and they're like, "I can't touch this. I can't touch the string." And figuring that out and having a flexibility to that is what... I will just play it down an octave. I'm not too wed. It's more about the sound and the gesture than the specific pitches, for example.


But kind of the most extreme version of that. And it's not really extreme, but, I guess the most comprehensive issue that I've had to deal with in that regard... Thinking about playing inside the piano. A pianist had commissioned me to write a movement of a larger piece that utilized all these non-standard techniques, plucking the string, harmonics, all that kind of stuff. And then she got to learning it, and it was with violin as well. She was like, "can you make a version of this as if I had to play it on an upright piano?" And I was like, "oh, yeah, I don't mind doing that at all." But then it got me thinking, I should do that with everything. I should do that with any piece that, you know...


So it gets into this realm of, not arrangements, but, like, alternate versions of different ways of playing it. And, like you said, realizing the piece so that it is the most accessible version of my music possible, that anyone could play it, you know, to a certain degree. You know, we're not talking about difficulty, and the stuff like that.


AN:

Yeah, obviously, there's a place where it becomes, like, compromising or something like that, or where it just doesn't make sense. And I think everybody has a different threshold on that, that kind of thing, you know. But, yeah, no, it's huge. That's something I admire quite a bit about, you know, the band community and, like, other things, and how there's flexibility in the number of players to a part. Or if one instrument can't play this, then another one can. And that's something that I think is, yeah, I've had a similar kind of thing, too, where it's like, you write a piece with live electronics, and someone says, "I don't have access to the software," or, "I'm going to play this in a space where they just... We don't have time to check those things," or mic the piano or whatever. And, "can you make this a tape part now," or can you... All those things, I think, are important, and I don't think a lot of people actually really consider them important.


TK:

One question that I always ask folks that I'm really excited to ask you this, question. What is a piece of music or a song, a book, a piece of art? You know, any artistic object, is the way I'm describing it, that didn't necessarily.... I mean, yes, influenced your work, but, like, kind of changed your life, your creative life. Like, opened you up to a whole universe that you weren't aware of before?


AN:

Oh, my God, there's so many. It's hard to... I mean, I'm sure you won't mind if I pick a handful of different things?


TK:

Yeah, go for it. Let's hear it.


AN:

It's a hard, hard thing, for sure. I mean, music-wise, besides everything we've already mentioned, coming across, like, Between the Buried and Me's Colors, that album as a kid was huge for me. That was a big thing, like discovering King Crimson as well. And I like a lot of things we've already mentioned in this.


Later in life, because there's definitely some later things that really changed and blew things wide open. Or were really interesting to me. A lot of the recent electronic music that's involved in like, the hyper pop world really, really changed the game for me, thinking a lot about those things. So, like, like a lot of stuff produced by AG Cook or even like a lot of stuff that - this is not necessarily hyper pop, it's more experimental electronic - but a lot of the stuff that Orange Milk Records was putting out a couple years ago, 4 or 5 years ago. That definitely was like, whoa.


Because that stuff was like... this sounds so meticulously composed, but so not within a grid. Like that was something that I was really interested in. Or like these huge juxtapositions of textures just cuz and like really going for it. But also there's like visual mediums or like other things. Like, I remember when I discovered, like House of Leaves as a kid, I was really obsessed with that.



TK:

Yes, oh yeah. I know that one.


AN:

Yeah, of course you do. Not surprised at all.


TK:

I think I could reach and grab it from where I am, maybe...


AN:

Yeah, that's like a big book for a lot of people, but yeah, exactly. When I discovered that, I was like... that was really influential. I mean, a lot of the things I think that, like, really change the game, as you say, for me are things that show that something that I've kind of had rumbling around in my head is possible or show a way of achieving something that was rumbling around in my head as being possible. Like these kinds of crazy juxtapositions of things or, you know, that's something huge.


TK:

Yeah, yeah, I totally relate. I love when it's like, you discover something and it hits you so hard, and then you think about it and you're like, "wait, I've already been doing this." Like, this is just confirmation.


AN:

Yeah.


TK:

I want to dig just a little bit deeper into what you just said, and I'm wondering what ways do you look... like, when you talk about prog rock, when you talk about ambient music, hyperpop. You know, we've covered a lot of ground here, so I'm not going to list all of it, obviously.


But, when you look outside of the classical, you know, Western, or even contemporary, classical repertoire, what do you grab from those genres for your music? How does it inspire the work that you do?


AN:

It inspires it in a lot of the ways that we're talking about. Like, a couple or a handful of things that I'll list is, like... one thing that- these are all kind of more philosophical in a way, rather than, like, sonically. Like, one thing that kind of music inspires me is, like, the fact that people do it in all sorts of different venues and that it can exist in all these different kinds of spaces and have different reactions in different spaces. Another thing that it influences me is that.... Or another way that it influences me is the way that that music places emphasis on the recorded medium. And the way that music places emphasis on, like, having an album. And having that album almost be like a statement and like a business card or like something that is a statement.


This is something I've tried to struggle a lot with lately. Especially, like, when I meet random people on the train or at coffee shops or things like that, and they say, like, "oh, you're a musician. Like, what should I listen to and what should I find?" And I'm just like, "I don't know where I start. Do I send you this, like, guitar piece that I played? Do I send you this piece of mine for somebody?" Because it's just like, in one way, I value the kind of multifaceted approach that we have to have nowadays in order to be successful, independent composers and creatives and things like that. But in another way, it's like, for a pop art, it's so easy to be like, "yeah, here's my most recent single. Here's my video on YouTube," or whatever. "Here's my recent album," or something. And it's, like, not a thing that even people that are just composers, like people that don't really do a lot of performing, like, where do you even, where do you start, you know?


So I think that's something I'm trying to think a lot about and take something from is like... I think a lot of classical music- there's obviously places where they go away from this, like New Amsterdam and Cantaloupe. There's certain labels that definitely diverge from this. But, like, classical music uses recording so much as, like, almost archival. Even when it's a studio recording or even when it's a performance, it's like, even when it's like a professional studio recording or release, it's so much like, "this is a document of the piece" or something rather than the actual piece of art itself. And I think that's valid and interesting in a lot of ways because it means that you have these different recordings of the same piece that you can play against each other. And I think that's really interesting and important for performers. But, like, myself, as somebody who didn't get to see a lot of live music and, like, no live classical music until I was older, the access to recordings is so important to me. And, being able to have, like, good quality recordings of things, that's such an obvious thing for the pop or electronic music world. Like, that's the starting point, not the performance. Right? So I definitely place more emphasis on the recording being representative rather than a performance.


TK:

I mean, as someone who does not perform, I'm not a... I have been a performer. I don't consider myself one anymore. For better or for worse.


What you're talking about... the psychology of making a recording of a piece of music for me, and this is something that I have thought about, I've struggled with, is, you know... For example, I just recorded a string quartet piece, and to me, it's like, the way I approach that recording is, "okay, this is gonna be it. This is gonna have to serve as an example for anyone who chooses to play this piece in the future." When it's actually, like, you listen back to old recordings of older pieces, and it's like, "oh, I wish I could change this." That's what I feel like. I wish I could change this piece. I'm noticing all these things I want to change about it, but there's a recording, so I can't. And, you know, that's something that in having this conversation, I realize it's like, that doesn't have to be the rule.


AN:

No, no, no. Obviously, things change, for sure. Yeah.


TK:

And so I think what you're saying is very interesting from the perspective, of, I guess, the way we are all mostly conditioned, probably from institutions, right?


AN: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. There's a lot to be said about that.


I mean, I change depending on the day and the piece and everything, too, because I think there's also something very, like, beautiful about the fact that in this music... Like, it's a norm that there can be all these different recordings of the same piece that are so different, or that, yeah, a piece could be recorded before, but you can change it. I think that's something really interesting and really cool about classical music at the exact same time. Even though I, innately or in my core, I kind of am the flip side of that, for better or for worse as well.


TK:

Yeah.


What do you think you'd be doing right now if it wasn't a musician, composer making your art?


AN:

Oh, yeah. I actually like this question.


TK:

You know, if there was a fork in your life that you would have went down the other direction, what would you be doing right now?


AN:

Now? Oh, man. I mean, as a lot of, like, struggling artists or, as a lot of musicians who have faced ups and downs, I've thought a lot about this before. A lot of people, especially lately, I know a lot of people that are involved in the contemporary music world branching out into, like, secondary careers and then having that as their main non-music career while they still do music and still play and stuff like that. They just aren't, using it as their main thing, which I think is really cool and admirable in its own way, too.


I think if I was doing anything else, I'd be, like, a teacher of something else. I think if I had to pick something that's completely non-musical, I would have went into some sort of the education field and I'd be some other kind of educational administrator or a teacher of a different subject or something like that. I'm not sure what that would look like off the top of my head. because that's something that I find I have gravitated a lot towards.


We haven't talked a lot about that throughout this, but, again, I feel like it's kind of all integrated in a way, is that I've always done a lot of teaching, and I've always done a lot of- whether it's private guitar or whether it's other kinds of topics or things like that. I think a lot of people, sometimes they see teaching as just like, the day job until they don't have to do it anymore. Especially guitar players are like, "oh, this is my, like, you know, my way to make ends meet on this," or something like that. And it's definitely that financially. But I mean, I also feel like it's... like teaching is a very... Is something that's, as long as it goes really well, it's something that, like, actually gives me energy. Like, it gives me inspiration and energy, and it keeps me on my toes. Because, like, if a student, whether that's in guitar or in theory or in composition or anything like that, starts moving beyond what I do, it actually means that I have to kind of, like, keep bettering myself as well, and I have to interact with people of many different kinds and, like, how to still progress and see success with them and interact with them.


So, if I was doing anything else, it would probably be something in the educational field beyond what I was doing. Maybe like community education programs or something like that.


TK:

You just reminded me of this thing that this girl I dated in high school told me, weirdly enough. She was a violinist, and she was very competitive, and she was very competitive with me, as a euphonium player, which was like, what. What is wrong with you?


AN:

This is not your fight. This is not your battle.


TK:

But she- one time, she was just kind of like, "you know, those who can't do the thing, they go on to teach the thing." And even as a 15 year old, I remember thinking, like - and I, you know, I feel strongly also about... I love to be in an educator role. I don't think it's for me full time - but even as a 15 year old, I remember thinking, like, "well, that's like the opposite of what you want." Like, you want someone teaching you who's really good at what they do. And as I've gotten older, I guess the extension of that is you want someone teaching you who's okay with you exceeding them. You know, that's like, the ultimate goal, right? And it's so weird when I meet people or see, or hear, stories from people about educators in their lives who are, like, insecure.


AN:

Yeah, that's such an old, like... that's such- I mean, I've heard that, lots of times in different forms or different variations of that. Because, yeah, the idea is that if you fail at a certain career, well, you could always just go and, like, teach it because you have the.. There's like this kind of idea, this false idea, I think, that people have that it's like, if somebody was not teaching they, or if somebody was actually successful in something, then they wouldn't be teaching it because they would just be, like, doing it. Or there's this, idea that it's like, if you fail at something, well, you can always go back to teaching it because you have the materials, and now you can instill them in others.


There's so many other variables with that because, like, I know of so many people that are really brilliant artists and really brilliant creators who are not amazing teachers because they don't know how to, like, formulate and communicate what they're trying to do in different situations or for different people to receive it in different ways. Like, I think that's like the mark of a really good teacher is that, there's somebody who can, like, step outside of themselves and use all the knowledge and experience that they have and draw from it and then formulate it for somebody else to, like, consume and receive.


Like, my dad never, went to any school after high school or anything. He didn't go to college or anything like that. And he's always, he's- most of my life he's been a truck driver, and he's worked in various other jobs throughout the years, including, like, staff positions with some things. But most of the times he's a truck driver, whether that's a moving or fuel trucks or like, heavy equipment stuff. And it's funny because I am like an awful driver. I hate driving. I tried to learn to drive standard multiple times. I like, I get so nervous behind even like, a truck, let alone another piece of equipment and stuff like that. And it really does not come natural and, like, innate to me.


And things like operating equipment like that become so natural to him. He's like, really, like a really brilliant driver. Like, he can parallel park a massive loaded truck with no back camera and no view, like within a tiny space. It's really actually mind blowing and it's like... And he's really brilliant with all those kinds of things, probably more than he thinks or realizes. But anytime he's tried to teach me how to do any of these things, it's so natural to him that he just says, "yeah, you just do this." And for me, I'm thinking, "wait, but why do I do that? And what does that mean? And what is, like when you use that term for that tool or for that gesture? I don't know what that means." Right? And it's like, that's something that I think about. Like when somebody like, says, "oh, you just do this." That's a thing a lot of guitar teachers do. Like, they go, "just look up the tab. You just play this," and then somebody's like, "well, why can't this chord sound?" It's like, oh, my God, I had so many of these conversations and it's like, yeah, you know, you have... That's a skill. Teaching is a skill in itself, you know?


TK:

Yeah, yeah, totally.


Is there a tool that you use in your practice? And this could be either... I'm, asking mostly as a composer, but also as a guitarist, is there a tool in your practice that you think everyone should know about and that everyone else could benefit from?


AN:

In general, it would be helpful- this goes back to my, like, recorded thing. I think, in general, I think something that everybody could benefit from tool-wise, is learning how to record themselves and make it sound decent. And I'm sure you relate to this, as well, with everything that you do from these podcasts. It's like, yeah, like, obviously nobody should have to learn how to, be this amazing audio engineer because that is, like, the position, and you need to have dedication to that. Just like a performer or a composer has to have dedication to, like, that craft.


But to be able to even.... I mean, I think maybe lockdowns and some virtual things have changed that a little bit, started slightly changing that, but, yeah, so many players, like, if you need to record yourself very quickly and, like, normalize the audio and not clip or, like, how to use, like, a DAW generally. Like, you don't have to be a master at it or something, but I think that's something that I use so much, and it became natural to me because of the DIY trying to do stuff, but also because guitar is so drawn towards technology and equipment.


It's something that, like, a lot of composers who are a little bit more traditional or instrumentalists who are a little bit more traditional, it's just such a foreign world to them. Just learning how to gain stage stuff is so important. It's like, huge.


TK:

And you don't need. Yeah, like you said, you don't need fancy equipment. There's a lot of free resources that people can use to get it done, to do this.


AN:

Exactly. Yeah, yeah.


Even using something like... I mean, I think it doesn't even work on newer Macs, but, like, even something like Audacity or something like that. People were using that, and it's like, I've gotten archival recordings from concerts before that were just way too quiet. And before I had an expensive DAW, I just normalized it in audacity and did the cuts and did fades and stuff like that goes such a long way.


TK:

I have one final question for you, which is potentially the most open ended question I'm gonna have. What is something that you've never had a chance to say about your art that you've always wanted to share with people?


AN:

This is also an open ended answer, but I probably would say this because I feel like I'm saying this a lot lately in some things.


That this is, or this should be, a process for all of us. It's like, I think it's important for people to get to a place where they do feel, like, comfortable or to a place where they feel like they've reached a certain level of comfortability and proficiency. And, like, some people would cynically say where they're coasting or something like that. I think that's really cool and validating and fulfilling to receive, but I think that it's so easy for people to see something and see the creative... I was even watching a video earlier today where somebody was talking about this with digital content. Like, it's so easy for people to see something and see the finished product and say, "oh, I need to get there and I need to do that and I need to do these things," and blah, blah, blah, and not realizing that for that person, it's also, like a process.


Like, I talk to people sometimes and they're like, "how did you do this label stuff?" Or, "how did you get to writing this piece?" Or, "how do you get to understanding how to use pedals and how to dial in stuff on an amplifier?" Those questions I get from, like, other people sometimes just thinking that it's like, oh, well, you just learn it and you get there.


And it's just like, it's honestly, it's a process that I still feel like I'm experiencing. Like, I'm still learning how to do stuff and it's hard for me often to not- or, it's hard for me to not see what I'm doing as, like, a part of a continuous process. Sometimes I really have to actually stop myself and take a step out and say, "wait a minute, I'm actually, like, achieving things." I'm not just moving along with no achievements or something, you know?


TK:

Yeah.


AN:

So, yeah, I hope that's helpful.


TK:

No, that's really good stuff.


Andrew, man, this was awesome. Thanks so much for taking some time and for just sharing all the things you just shared. It's- like I said, it's good stuff, man.


AN:

Yeah. I appreciate it. Thanks for having me on. I always love chatting with you.




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