What do you get when put an average emerging artist through four years of contemporary classical music academia, and upon throwing her out with a congratulatory piece of paper signifying years of both apparent musical aptitude and, perhaps more significantly, the conditioning against "uninteresting" music, stick in a global pandemic that makes Earth a really unfortunate place to be a musician?
Perhaps more of an exhausting run-on sentence than a joke. Sorry. To say the least, it's a bit of a drag. To tell you a bit about myself perhaps less formally than in my contemporary music PR-tailored biography, I started writing music when I was twelve. From that time to the present, I've had countless visionary transformations, and have found myself rejecting the old music I used to love and write for fun to the point where academia had sucked the joy away into its unforgiving, empty vacuum.
I hold a Bachelor of Music in Composition from the Vancouver Academy of Music (well, from Thompson Rivers University technically, but we'll carry on) and specialize in contemporary classical music, as most composers who graduate from a modern composition program do. Although this appears to be a headliner of my biographies and CVs, it doesn't nearly do justice in describing my relationship with music.
I'm a fan of Shostakovich but I love Billie Eilish and casually study in immense appreciation the mixing and songwriting style of her and Finneas' songs more than I've willingly studied any of Shostakovich's music. The top three artists I listen to the most on my phone are King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Biptunia (an occasionally microtonal, cat-obsessed bundle of - and I quote the artist: "weird music for weird people"), and Joe Wong, who made the soundtrack from The Midnight Gospel.
This year, I fell out of love with contemporary classical music.
And it wasn't the first time, in fact I became angry with contemporary classical music because of how it's conditioned me to reject anything else as "worthy" music, causing me to fall out of love with music in general. I didn't willingly listen to music for a while, let alone write any.
Most fortunately, I had an amazing mentor, Benton Roark, throughout my academic years who gave me advice that I'll never forget - "don't write music that you think you should write, write the music that you want to hear". It was incredible advice. It changed my outlook on what I was doing, what music meant to me, what really resonated with me, and what kind of art I wanted to put out into the world. However, it took me a while to really accept that I did not love writing contemporary classical music. At least, not the kind that I was pressuring myself to write.
I started other projects, joining bands, playing pop music, being encouraged by fantastic musicians to really experiment and utilize the skills and insight that academia gave me, and having probably the best time I've had as a musician. It kicked in, and I realized what I want to do. I want to take the elements of contemporary classical music that still resonate with me and bring it to this world of pop music. I don't want to bring pop into contemporary classical music - no, no. I want to do the exact opposite. I want to write pop music. And I'm not ashamed of it anymore.
This doesn't mean that I'm abandoning all classical composition. Not at all. It still holds a place in my heart and I am no longer angry with it now that I've accepted that I can write atonal chamber music AND tonal art songs AND jazz AND pop AND whatever else I want. So there's some exciting projects in the works that I can't wait to share with the world in greater detail in the - hopefully near - unhazardous future.
Speaking of tonal art songs...
I recently had the opportunity to premiere an art song at the 2020 Vancouver SongSLAM. After rewriting the text and music several times, I had a complete song for the exquisite emerging soprano Saxony Eccleston to showcase her ability to sing anything from contemporary classical to baroque-inspired ornaments.