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Interview with Phonometrologist - Part 2

Posted by TheInterviewer - March 17th, 2021


[ PART 1 | PART 2 ]

Q: When it comes to mixing and composing at the same time you called it mastering a dark art. Why do you call it this? Do you recommend other composers try this?

A: I was actually saying “mastering” is a dark art. But I like how you worded that, because, in the beginning, learning how to compose and mix is very much like building a sandcastle with your head buried in the sand. Maybe you’re more efficient at one than another, but either way, you can’t see the waves.

Regarding “mastering,” it’s a confusing step in the process of finishing a track before release. A part of the “mastering” process is getting the levels and timbre to be uniformed with other tracks that you will be releasing alongside each other. A lot of people will “master” a single release, but I guess that really means getting the mix balanced to match whatever format you’re going to be releasing it to. I call it a dark art, because it’s not easy to get information about it. It very well might be one of those professions that can’t be merely taught. It’s hard to find a really good mastering engineer, and if you do, good luck trying to learn from them. It isn’t talked about much, perhaps, because one needs the proper tools and years of experience to learn how to listen objectively. The other aspect of this is how can you master a track when you mixed it to the best of your ability? You’re pre-mastering it while you’re mixing it. After you do your mix, I would hope you’re doing your EQing for the individual tracks as well as the whole when you bounce everything. I have said before that we wear too many hats, and it’s only by necessity that we do. We compose the thing, produce it, mix it, and then “master” it. If one can have the opportunity for someone else to record, mix, or master, the better for it even if it’s just one other person. I can only mix and master to a certain point, but I’m not going to hear those blind spots. If you’re mixing, try to get someone else to master or vice versa. And I’m speaking from the perspective that I don’t have the resources to hire someone to mix and master my work. It’s great that we have these tools now to do it all on our own, but we also have to realize that we are going to hit a plateau in the mix that having another listener in the process will be what is needed to get it to sound better. If you can have a friend that you respect and is also knowledgeable in the genre that you’re creating in, take their advice. This is yet another reason to be here.

Q: You would collaborate with a composer who is a favorite of mine. His name being @LucidShadowDreamer on the song Medley of a Shattered Mind. It seems like it started with LucidShadowDreamer being inspired by your music and you mixing the song. How did this collaboration start? Who did the mastering for the song?

A: He’s a favorite of mine as well. Listening to this piece, and the fact that he was so generous with his words, has brought me close to tears, and if you tell anyone, I will deny it completely. lol I’m not quite man enough to admit that I’m capable of crying. I only helped by offering to slap on a sample piano that I owned, and I added a little bit of reverb after he told me he wrote it. He initiated the collaboration with his generosity. I didn’t want to change anything, nor add too much. The only person that ended up mastering this track was Lucid in his playing.

Q: I first got to know your name oddly enough through writing. I was a judge for the 2020 Halloween Writing Contest. Your entry was an incredible piece entitled Witness in the Fog. Where did the inspiration for this come from?

A: The inspiration came from the competition itself.

 “I don't need time, I need a deadline.”

- Duke Ellington

And the same goes for the music competitions. It was a great way to practice writing, although, I doubt I’ll ever be as successful with conveying emotions in words as I would in music.

 “If there is no feeling, there cannot be great art.”

- Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury and Ernest Hemingway are passionate and emotive writers that I’ve enjoyed, and I very much appreciate dialogue that is real and emotional. Kevin Smith’s style is a great example of writing that really fascinates me along with C S Lewis’s fictional writing in “The Great Divorce.” And so, when I write, I’m looking to share a story that will have an emotional weight in its narration. It’s hard to tell if I ever succeed in that because, for one, words have web-images attached to them that are unique to each individual.

I probably didn’t hit all the marks in the competition because I didn’t delve into the action of the end of the world, but I merely alluded to something that happened. I wanted to focus on a specific family within the middle of the end while keeping it mysterious to how the world got there in the first place and where it was going for them.

My wife and I shared stories about nightmares we had regarding our daughter, and my daughter staring at the ceiling saying there was a “wolfman” was a true occurrence. It was one of those stories that sometimes children say the creepiest things without realizing what it is they are saying. I also thought about the Roman days and their execution festivities.

If you look at history, for many groups of people, the world did end for them. Maybe in the near future, it will end collectively, but when I think about a specific civilization, the world has ended repeatedly. I’m fascinated by what people might have thought as they see it ending just as if they were a friend that I know.

“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

- Ecclesiastes 1:9

Q: You have merits in both music and writing. Have you thought about writing songs with lyrics for other Newgrounds members to sing?

A: The voice is the most versatile instrument if used as such. But not more important than its counterparts.

I’m not interested in using words to speak for music. It could be that I cannot hear very clearly when someone speaks to me that I rely on the tonality of their voice for meaning. Perhaps that is the catalyst for my striving to convey meaning in sounds, and it’s really quite interesting to hear another’s interpretation when it comes to the music without words. Sometimes the message in sound alone is clear enough to be understood. It’s really emotional to connect with another without even having to speak; to allow the listener to take the music in to decipher what is being said as opposed to being merely told what it is about. Would a song like Driver’s License or Nothing Compares to You have the same emotional impact if people didn’t hear the words? Would you know it to have the love & loss theme by the notes themselves? I highly doubt it, because the chords are used a dozen times elsewhere with different meanings.

In the documentary 24 Preludes for a Fugue, Arvo Pärt shared a story when he asked a janitor “How should a composer write his music?” “I think he has to love each single sound.” Arvo Pärt proceeds to say in the documentary that “this is how a composer must understand music… but to reach that understanding… that’s probably a secret which requires much work.” And so, I’m learning to strip down music to find it’s essence. That often requires me to remain in silence between each sound while I’m writing, so please don’t talk over it.

Q: When it comes to advice you made a thread referencing how to feel as miserable as an artist. What lessons do you think artists can learn from this? Is there anything you would personally add?

A: What may be true for you is true for others. Even in your insecurities and failings, I’ve been there. I probably never left, but I’ve learned to accept and be content with them. Others have seemed to get a good laugh from reading it. I first saw this on the desk of a photographer friend of mine that I used to work with. I found comfort in reading it, because it felt like Keri Smith put this list together for me specifically.

I would add to the list, “listen to some cringy sounding music, and read the comments that people leave with high praise.” It always makes me think, do I sound like that? It’s a discouraging idea to think that your own view on your work is askew from reality. No one wants to think that their babies are ugly. When you’re laboring in art, a kind of oxytocin seems to happen which prevents us from viewing what others would call imperfections.

Q: A question I have been asking every musician I interview is what is the definition of music? You talk a lot about music theory though. What is music theory? Through that can a hard definition of music be attained?

A: Music theory is about analyzing music. It won’t tell you why you should compose. Asking a music theorist for a concrete definition of music would be like asking a biologist for the meaning of life. If you get a definition beyond what is observable, it will come from the scientist’s worldview influenced by their understanding of math, philosophy, history, and art within the context of what they know in their particular field of study.

As composer, the theory of music may help me understand what it is I’m saying. When I hear music that moves me in a certain way, it can be helpful to analyze it so I know how to speak the same language. Theory will help remove the borders and restrictions that have been imposed on musicians because one will no longer be tethered to what they only know.

A universal definition of music that we always read about has something to do with emotion being a part of it. Many young composers focus on their music to convey emotions, and you can read this in their very own biographies and mission statements.

Understandably, for music that does not feel might as well be considered music for the dead. If music reverberates but no one feels it, did it ever sound? Or did the person that heard and yet felt nothing ever lived? Upon reading Oliver Sack’s book Musicophilia, I’ve learned that there are those that hear music and cannot feel anything due to physiological ailments. Surely music still exists whether someone has felt it, right? Does music exist outside of us, or does music only begin when it is felt from within?

For me to answer properly, I first have to share a personal story to describe how I understand it.

On a trip to Germany in my early twenties, I visited a local art gallery in Hanau along with a girlfriend and her uncle. Inside the gallery featured many different artworks by the same artist who also happened to be present. The gallery was quaint, and we went at a time where there were no other visitors. Why I remember this visit so vividly was caused from the events that followed when we came across an untitled, abstract painting hung on a wall. Underneath it was a notebook perched open along with a pen, and in the notebook were suggested names that were offered and written from people that came before. It was a request the artist had made for the viewer to come up with their own title. The canvas had gray and black paint smeared on like a fog. It wasn’t anything uniquely interesting in the work itself except when given an opportunity to name it, we studied intently to figure what the true name should be. After staring at it for several minutes, and as we deliberated among ourselves of what it should be called, we penned our opinions in the notebook of what name we thought worthy to be associated with this work. When a talented artist asks us to title their piece, there was a sense of honor and due diligence in maintaining the integrity of what this abstract painting should be called for future viewers. Did the artist paint this canvas being filled with sudden inspiration that she did not have time to think of its meaning? Perhaps, I thought, if I were capable enough to interpret it accurately, I would be the one chosen by the artist. Such an occurrence would therefore validate my perceptions as a young artist filled with insightful wisdom worthy enough to contribute towards society. It was without a doubt in my mind that this piece was about “Change,” and therefore it must be called as such. The dark clouds seemed to stretch and pull across the canvas as it awaited for something to clear the light beneath it. My girlfriend’s uncle disagreed. We asked the artist to come settle the debate of who had the better name. She began to explain that it was an experiment. She asked what we thought it should be called. The uncle said, “Solid.” The artist was most intrigued by his response. She proceeded to explain that the abstract painting when combined with this voluntary participation acts as a revealing of truth, and the naming of it becomes like a hook to fish from our subconscious state. My answer was “Change” and it jolted me. I was embarrassed. Could it really be a reflection of what was going on from within? I had not yet realized until many years later that change was truly what was happening. I was a young kid then, and in an immature relationship about to embark on a spiritual journey to discover what it is I wanted to see in the world. I wanted the World to change. As a boy becoming a man, the climate, economy, the politics, and society all peered down on me with the weight of responsibility. The futility and optimism of any young dreamer would have had that life could change for the better even if it meant that I needed to be the one that did was brewing from within. It was buried so deep that I had not been able to see it. It took an abstract painting to work as a mirror and another soul to explain what I was still blind to see. The artwork itself means nothing just as a reflection serves only a means to what the eye wants to see. From deep within, our identity and our experiences affect us in murky waters, whereas art gives it buoyancy to the forefront of our minds. When we begin to see it, others too will share it.

It is in the context of our subconsciousness provided by personal experiences that shape our interpretation of a musical work. Cultures of different backgrounds will interpret sounds to have varied meanings and emotions. Music that sounds dissonant may seem horrifying for some, perhaps, because one has not been acquainted enough to listen to these sounds. Many may hear something chaotic and inject violence, because fear is often attributed from the unknown. It comes by familiarity that listeners start to hear meaning and perceive what lies in the depths. Many musicians and composers will say that music is a language of emotions.

Philip Glass describes music as an eloquent form of speech, and that writing becomes more about listening. In the documentary, Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts, he shared an analogy when asked about his process to interpret music, “is that it is like an underground river that’s always there. And like an underground river, you don’t know where it comes from and you don’t know where it is going. The only difference is whether you’re listening to it or not.”

This way, music has eternally sounded before eardrums have even existed to interpret its reverberations. But it is our ears that tells us what it is hearing. It is the composer's struggle to make sure what is being heard is accurate. And if you were fortunate enough to be there to catch a sip of this water, make sure you share it by building a well for others to draw from.

In a world already filled with chaos caused from the lies of forsaken speech, it is important that this truth does not dissipate through your hands of conceit. Be in tune and in good measure. Just like the canvas that holds a multitude of names, music is truth revealed in you. 

Q: You have described your music as not great - average music - okay sounding songs. Why do you view your music this way? Could you elaborate?

A: I wish I could remember the context to why I said that. Although I don’t disagree with it entirely, I can only elaborate on it as if this was my first time saying it.

I’m afraid if I view it any other way, my motives will become corrupt. We’re looking for honest music. I’m looking to create for music’s sake; not for money’s sake. I don’t market myself, nor do I care to sell myself to you as a person, hence I struggle with job interviews. When my wife and I were dating, I unintentionally gave her a difficult time getting to know me because I never cared to talk about myself. I thought she was far more interesting, so who cares what I think? I also didn’t want to tell her in the beginning what my aspirations were nor that I even wrote music. I wanted to see if she could like me as a boring individual. In social settings, I don’t care to speak, and I dislike small talk. In fact, most people when meeting me for the first time don’t like me. Not because I’m a jerk, but rather I don’t try to put anything out there to like. It’s how I filter out people in my life by seeing who really wants to be around without expecting something in return. The same applies to the music I release. It’s there for anyone to enjoy. I’m not going to pretend it’s better than what it is. It’s not about the whole package with me. The music should speak for itself. Moreover, I understand that the music will not be liked by everyone. If it means something to you that’s because we are speaking the same language. 

Q: My favorite song by you is one you dedicated to all of the musicians here on Newgrounds. You would call it Enter Newground. It was a last minute song for Pico Day. What was the process behind this song? Any Newgrounds musicians you would like to thank personally here for your journey?

A: An example of,

"First thought, best thought."

- Allen Ginsberg 

It started with the piano while I was walking by it. While standing at the piano, the rhythm came to me at that moment, and I was just having fun with it. Then I thought it would be a fun skeleton to work with as I added more layers and instruments. Because it was not conceived under pressure, nor for any therapeutic reasons, I didn’t worry myself on whether the notes or sounds that came after carried any cohesion to the meaning that I wanted to convey. In fact, a purpose wasn’t attributed until it was almost entirely done. It was really a fun and easy piece to write, and it appears that when the writing comes freely, it is more easily accessible by others. I still have yet to figure out when I’m struggling with music, if that is me tainting the purity of it, or perhaps that to delve into the secrets of music requires much work. As a result, the music is heard and felt by few.  

The first musician at Newgrounds that I have to thank is @ZLEAP. He scouted my work when I only uploaded a couple pieces. Through him, I was able to get to know @Anchorwind: two people I greatly respect that release great sounds. There are more that have been supportive as well, and, more importantly, I consider all of them as friends: @LucidShadowDreamer, @Zoonotist, @Troisnyx, @Jordi, @Lich, @johnfn, @SoundChris, @OmegaP, @Jakey-San, and @Everratic

Q: What can we expect from Phonometrologist in the future?

A: To fail. I may end up disappointing a few people unintentionally along the way. And I don’t say this as a means to self-deprecate. To fail reminds me I am human, and the experience of failing is what we all share.

Moreover, there are studies that show when we share our goals with others, we are less likely to achieve them for numerous reasons. I am writing, and I shall continue to do so for the rest of my life. Whether you will always be there to listen, we cannot expect.

I have not heard talk of music like this in quite a while. The last person who spoke about music in such a way was a user by the name of @InvisibleObserver. It is incredible to read the words of one of Newgrounds best composers on the site. To see and hear how he weaves his music together is absolutely brilliant. Truly a hidden gem of the Newgrounds community for quite a while now.

[ PART 1 | PART 2 ]

The Interviewer is a part of Dohn's Desk Productions






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