Transcription: 0318 - Andrea Mazzariello

Released: March 15, 2020

Darwin: Okay. Today I am actually in an office. I am in room 212 in the Weitz Center at Carleton College in Northfield (Minnesota), meaning with a friend - someone I'm lucky enough to be able to see as a friend, but also a master composer, performer, teacher. His name is Andrea Mazzariello. He gave me the thumbs up on that pronunciation even though it felt like a train wreck. He has got an interesting background, his background really aligns with a number of people that we've talked to already. And so that's cool. We can delve into some details. But also he's got some pretty unique personal practices that I'm interested in diving into. So with no more ordeal, let's talk to Andrea. Hey man, how's it going?

Andrea Mazzariello: Hey Darwin, thanks for coming in and wanting to do this. It means a lot to be able to have listened to your podcast a bunch. And so being a part of it is second only to being on Fresh Aire!

Darwin: Yeah, it's the Gross family getting out there... Thanks for doing this. I'm actually really excited. But what kind of prompted me to do this is, next week - for the listeners it will have already occurred. But for me it's next week - you're going to be doing a performance that's to celebrate a new release you're doing, right?

Andrea: Yeah, that's right. It's a new record that I recorded over the summer with a wonderful collaborative friend named Jason Trudy who plays drum set. I usually do the drum set duties, but I turned them over to a true master of the drums. That player made a bunch of beats, made a bunch of songs he played with me. And we're releasing this record at Littlejoy in Northfield on Friday. I'm gonna be playing by myself though. And so to emulate the kind of flexibility and interesting work that Jason was doing behind the drum kit, I made a little program that takes the breakbeats on which the songs were based and shuffles them around and sorts them in a mischievous way. And so that'll hopefully be pretty interesting and makes it harder to play with, but more interesting to listen to (I think). And so that's what I'll be doing on next Friday the 28th - which is in the past for anyone listening.

Darwin: Well, it's kind of interesting though to hear that you're throwing that risk factor in just for apparently for fun, right?

Andrea: For fun and for a sort of suspicion about playing with a track that just cycles on and on. I like it. I've done it though. You saw me do that at my house, right? It was just a bunch of breakbeats and Ableton that I played over. When Jason joined up and offered that kind of sensitivity, flexibility, timbrel and musical change. That was exciting for me. And I thought, well, I've got the drum machine output from it, what if I just slice up every hit, put it in max and have max kind of decide when it's going to play the breakbeat and when it's gonna play something else moment-to-moment - and, and change the playback rate of the sounds and just really think about what's the architecture of a rhythmic pattern, what's important and what can I kind of like slot in and out, randomly, whimsically to make something new and interesting. But yeah, it is a risk factor. I'm practicing a lot lately and it's like a couple of these patterns are really tricky and it'd be a lot easier to have a can beat, you know?

Darwin: I've talked about this with other people too. There's this sense that if you as the performer are feeling like there's a risk factor in play, it actually translates into kind of a vitality that the audience picks up on.

Andrea: Oh, that's 100% right, man. And some of the tools in the set [are there] to make it make it even more risky. Like I made a vocal processor that reads pitch and amplitude and changes that to a delay time. So the higher I sing and louder I sing, the longer the delay - but it's finicky, I don't know when it's going to work and not, I mean, but it's really fun to be in that environment and like you say, people sense that your being vigilant in your performance. And that makes them vigilant as listeners.

Darwin: Yeah. Well, I had an opportunity to hear you perform in a couple of different scenarios. The first time was actually in a setting where quite frankly I'd never seen anybody actually try and do this kind of thing. It was almost like a throwback to like traditionalist one-man band style, where it was a [drum] kit plus some keyboards and you singing and you were actually using bass amps and stuff like that. So really give almost the spatial sense of a band as well as the instrumentation of the band. What is it about doing solo performance that, I mean, is it just that you don't get along well, or what drives you to try and do this stuff solo?

Andrea: That's funny. It's not so unrelated to that interpersonal thing you said kind of as a joke. It's not that I don't get along with other people, it's that I feel really insecure as a musician or have felt really insecure as a musician for a long time. So I'm happy to go into the basement and practice for a really long time, but being in the room with somebody else and they're like, "Hey, can you play a blah?" And I'm like, "I don't know what that is." You know, that's not going to go well for me, emotionally, as a human. So I think the initial motivation for going into that one-person band arsenal was just: don't look at me as a musician who can do anything in the moment. This is a rehearsed routine. It's almost choreography I can get behind that.

But if you're gonna ask me to improvise, or play off or whatever, I start feeling really bad myself. So that was the reason I started doing this one-person band performance practice. And in fact after the thing you saw, it got even more intense where I had keyboards on either side and drumsticks in my hands while I was playing the keyboards. And so I was just like flipping sticks around and this new stuff really clarifies that. It really doesn't... it's not so hung up about me having to do everything and do this kind of impossible physical activity. I'm just playing keyboards and there are some beats spinning around and I'm trying to sing; and so for me this is about courage and about clarity. And I'm actually very proud that I've let go of this one-person obligation, and collaborating with Jason that summer was another great example of just letting some of that go and saying, "All right, you're the best drum set player. I know I'm gonna offer what I can and you offer what you can." And that was a real kind of personal achievement to be able to sit with somebody that I respect someone mentally and play some music. You know? Like remember when you came over and we played in the basement?

Darwin: Yeah...

Andrea: I was freaking out.

Darwin: Oh really? See, I came out of it just the opposite. I was like... we sorta played a drone for an hour and I loved it, but maybe I'm the only person on the face of yours that loves it. I think that there actually sometimes in those kinds of scenarios, there's a real difficulty in a communicating the idea of, "Hey, that was fun."

Andrea: Yeah. Yeah, that's right. I don't know, man. I mean, I loved playing that night. I just felt like every time I put my hands on the keys, I thought, "Oh, he's going to think that's pretty facile." And I'm glad that you didn't - we should totally do that again.

Darwin: Yeah, yeah. Right. Well...

Andrea: I have a better basement now...

Darwin: Well, it's funny though to me because you have a doctorate in music from Princeton. You have, worked with a phenomenal number of ensembles and stuff like that. If there's anybody who doesn't really have the right to feel the imposter syndrome, it's sorta you.

Andrea: Well, that's the thing about imposter syndrome, right? It's not rational. It's the same as anxiety. It's the same as all the things we all suffer from, right? Part of it's true and part of it is completely a perceptual misfire - working with ensembles as a composer, short of like being in the basement as a one-man band, right? I mean you have time to craft these things and you have in some cases a syntax that you can hide behind, which is what I was doing for a long time. Saying, "Yeah, this is going to be gnarly." Thorny music that does a lot of complex stuff. So I'm not on the line. No, I shouldn't say that. Not everybody that makes complex music is doing what I was doing. I'm just saying I was using complexity as a shield. if you hear my music in the last couple of years, it's just a whole different game, you know? And that's personal growth and change.

Darwin: That's really interesting. Now you have listened to my podcast, so you will know, a big part of my podcast is taking the opportunity to learn where people came from and what their backgrounds were. And I know some of it from having gotten to know you, but I'm actually curious, kind of going back further than I would know - as you were growing up, what drew you into music? You were a percussionist, so what drew you into that particular instrumentation? It's becoming more of a thing now, but for a long time there was not really an avenue for percussionists to become composition people in academia - there was a bridge there that couldn't be gapped. And so you probably didn't see a lot of people that were models for you. What allowed you to take that track? What was your path to get to be where you are today?

Andrea: Well, that's really interesting and I think a lot of what you're saying does resonate with my experience within a sort of surprising way. I mean, I completely agree that there's an idea about certain kinds of instruments and their appropriateness for subsequently becoming a composer. And I felt that very acutely in my undergraduate career where I was the jazz ensemble drummer, and really struggling in the more formal classical tradition, and felt like I had to remake myself as a pianist or something - or as a conductor, whatever it was - and really tried hard to do that, to play a very different game. So I don't think that I solved the problem. You know, I think if anything, I perpetuated the myth and the way that I was going about establishing myself as a composer, even in my own mind, let alone in the world.

But taking an even longer view, in my house there was a ton of music. My dad's a concert pianist. He's a fantastic pianist. And I did not have an affinity for the keyboard the way that he did. So that was really kind of a struggle for me growing up. I always felt like there were things I could do, but I wasn't a real musician, you know? Which, I mean, I think now this is just like the worst way to think about what was happening. But for me, I thought, "Well, I really have a knack for the drum set and I love practicing the drum set..." And I just would do that endlessly. You know? But then you try to do things like voice a chord or sing a melody and you realize that there are other elements of music that are different than what you're doing when you're coordinating between your limbs on the drum set or creating color or texture or line in that way.

So I'm playing the drum set a ton. I wind up playing the drum set in a pit band for the South Pacific, for the Brewster High School, a performance of South Pacific. And I thought, "Wow, it'd be really cool to be up on stage." And then I auditioned for the musical the next year and got a really good part in Guys And Dolls - and so started to sing. My dad took the vocal music for Guys And Dolls, and reverse engineered all the piano parts, and played every single night while I sang. It taught me this thing. He's also a choral director at a middle school in New York City. So now I'm like playing drums and singing. I'm learning the piano little-by-little and I get to college and realize that, "Oh no, you know the classical tradition, it is not about you playing the drum set and singing Luck Be A Lady!"

Darwin: Yeah.

Andrea: And I'm just like, "Oh my God, what am I going to do to get to where I need to be?" At least, my conception perception of where I needed to be. The answer was technology, in a way. So we're doing things where we're writing piano pieces that the Disklaviers are going to play. Right? And I thought, well, if the Disklavier was going to play, the sky's the limit. So I started making this really wild piano music, fantasy piano music. What I'd love to be able to do if my hands would just work that way. And so from the very beginning, technology was this way of me extending my imagination. And more than that, extending the physical capabilities of what I could do, you know? Then that's when I really sorta got off to the races, but still I was kinda hung up about what music ought to be.

I ought to be able to play orchestra pieces at the piano. There are these like unbelievable skills that traditional classical musicians, art-music practitioners, have that I just didn't have. I don't have that. I'll never have, and it's been a process of letting that stuff go. It's really just saying, "Here's what I can offer and what I can do." And luckily a place like Carleton, or the contemporary art/music landscape, there's a place for me in it and I am just so grateful for that. Cause if I had done this a hundred years ago there's no way,

Darwin: Even 20 years ago. It's interesting now you came up through the Princeton system, which I think actually was one of the places where the mold was broken and the ability to explore the artistry of music beside the tradition of music was really, it was amplified and it was brought to the fore. Particularly Dan Truman's efforts, you know?

Andrea: Yeah. Dan Truman, if you're listening, thank you for all the things, man. I mean I cannot overstate the case that without Dan's influence and without his teaching and friendship, I would be living a very different life right now.

Darwin: Yeah. Right. I hear that.

Andrea: Sometimes there's a person who just goes and grabs you and does what you need them to do at that time. And I was just immensely grateful for it. And I used to joke that I owed him my first born, but he's never collected on that, which is good because I really like my first born, my children, and would not want to send them back to New Jersey... He would have been a great dad too, but I'm glad it went, it went the way it did.

Darwin: When you got into that program, where were you at and what did it look like when he plucked you and what was the change for you? Was it a change in confidence? Was there some change in just your ability to imagine yourself doing something differently?

Andrea: Yeah, this is a really good question. I'm trying to put myself back at that moment when I decided to apply to Princeton and part of it was that I knew I could take my performance practice and put it forward as something legitimate. I knew that I could say, "I get your program, you're looking for people like me that don't really have an institutional home that are doing something with rigor and imagination, but that doesn't fit a particular kind of mold." So where I was at in 2006 when I got in was I'm going to take this one-person performance practice thing and just turn it into the thing that I do.

Didn't go that way, because Princeton people saw through [it] without even knowing it or articulating it, I think they realized their sense that all this was coming from some kind of hang up, and these teachers at Princeton and I think for the, for the most part they're feeling pretty good about where they are and pretty generous as listeners.

And so when you come in with that kind of intensity and self doubt, it doesn't really compute and then you got to go back and figure out what's that about? Right. Working with Dan specifically, he really was encouraging of my work with language in a lot of different ways. I was writing a lot for part of my time in person. I was writing a book. I wasn't writing music. Which was incredible to have that kind of support. I'm like reading... I remember going to lessons with Dan or Dimitri and sitting there in their offices, reading them these recipes that I was writing, - these narrative food memory things, which I turned into these sound pieces - or playing the initial drafts of my dissertation composition, which was me reading a story and chopping up the words and then recombining them with controller keyboards to put the sentences back together.

And Paul just being so encouraging. And this is Paul Lansky. This is the guy that months before I went to Princeton, I would have anxiety attacks about him looking at me using a stupid digital recorder as an unsophisticated tool. Like I'm imagining all these things, all these things that Paul will say to me to find me out as somebody who doesn't really know what they're doing. And instead he is an unbelievable patron of the work that I'm doing. It turned me around. It was like, I guess, [that] this is valuable in some way - like shockingly enough, this is valuable. So getting in made me feel that way. But more than getting in actually arriving there and realizing that the conversation you think you're having is not the conversation that anybody else is having with you. You know? It was really something, and not just artistically, personally confidence-wise what it is to be human on this planet who wants to share something. I learned a lot about that from my mentors there.

Darwin: So my question to you, given kind of the anxiety that you express and given the practice that you have not fitting within typical rules, I'm actually really surprised that you stuck with a traditional music trajectory as well. I mean, frankly - and I caught myself along this. A lot of times when people run into that thing of "My music doesn't fit the musical world...", they're like, "Well, I'll become an art student and I will do abstract art and sound pieces with art and I can be in an art band and I can do an art practice and I don't have to buy into the classical tradition..." - but I also don't have to put up with the beating that that they hand out occasionally. Why did you choose to take the hard path?

Andrea: Interesting. I don't think I did. I think I did what you just described. When I applied to Princeton, if you look at my essay, I say that I'm a performance artist, right? I sent them a book that I made with my hands with all this artwork and some of the artwork was stuff I had made. Like I put wet ink on CDs, put it in a spinner and make art out of it. That was also the album. I mean it was off the wall, you know? So I think I did do what you're suggesting. I think I did apply to art school. It's just that I thought the Princeton music program would take me. And so I think somehow, through some miracle, I wound up - it's like I never left the path. It's like I picked, but it wasn't intentional.

Like in my mind, I had bailed. After Michigan, I bailed. I was like, "I'm gonna make music in my apartment. I'm going to wait tables. I'm going to start a painting company." I mean, I had all these ways that I thought I'd be able to survive. Princeton was this loophole, it was like this back way back in. And it somehow happened. And then I met wonderful collaborators there. I started working with Sō percussion while I was at Princeton. And those, those guys are just the greatest and have been, really over the years. Super encouraging and really a champion for my music over the years. And then I thought, "Well, if these guys are classical musicians, maybe I can do that too." Right? "I like this. This seems to check out. I like working with these people."

Darwin: So how did you first meet them?

Andrea: At Princeton there's a... it used to be called Composer's Ensemble, now it's called Sound Kitchen, but it's a concert series where we can bring in outside ensembles who will be paid to work on our stuff.

And every year you get together with your colleagues and decide who you want to invite. I had seen Sō play my first year, I think, and I saw that and I mean, it was incredible. I remember Seth Cluett and he did a piece with Sō, and there were like air cans and it was just this very textural almost like music concrete, but for humans, and I was really struck by it and I said, we gotta bring this group in. So we brought them in the next year and I started writing a piece for them for drum sets called Octopod - which I wrote on an airplane on my way to Las Vegas or started it on an airplane. I'm going to Las Vegas... That's another story. And it was like, "Welcome back to concert music. Here's the greatest ensemble you could imagine just delivering on this drum set piece." And I hadn't written a notated piece in eight years - no, maybe less than that, like five years or something. So that was pretty, pretty extraordinary.

Darwin: I would say that that was the thing that really - when I started doing some research on you - it's clear that your interactions with the Sō Ensemble was that was a real big step forward for you.

Andrea: Oh yeah. And I was terrified to give them that piece. I remember taking the train to their studio. I missed the train, first of all. I wound up getting there cause I'm compulsively early. So even missing the train, I got there and I heard them read through this piece and it was really just in awe of what they were able to do and also quite smug about what I pulled together.

Darwin: As I interacted with with you and the different kind of music you do, you seem to just embrace it all. So you have this solo performance kind of thing that you do. You have this work where you're doing classical percussion ensemble works. I caught you one night in a rock band burning it up at at the Imminent Brewery, we've done our little hideaways in the basement. You're doing house concerts and stuff. How do you incorporate all those things into one artistic vision? I mean one of the things I noticed is when I talked to people who have a variety of things that sometimes they have one through line and then each of these are like little branches, while in other cases they have like different practices completely. How do you approach it? Cause your work as a rock band is going to be really different than what you're going to do with an ensemble here at Carleton for example.

Andrea: I think that's true. I mean playing drums in Entire Sedan is different than writing a piece for chamber quintet or something; those are different things. And I guess I think if we imagine all these things, it was like little circles, right? Then there's some kind of thing in the middle of that diagram and it holds it all together. And I guess that thing is just like my human body or something, you know? Yeah, there are through lines, there's like thinking about physiology, right? How your body makes music. I'm really interested in that. I think my concert music is evidence of my interest in that. I think my own practices are evidence of that. But then there's stuff that doesn't line up under that rubric either. So yeah.

Is there a through line that unites all this stuff? I think there are probably multiple priorities to do with physiology and language and rhythm and all this kind of stuff. But really what unites it all is my curiosity and interest in all this kind of stuff. I love learning things. I think I'm much more interested in displaying curiosity than in displaying mastery, if that makes sense. I love getting in the weeds on all kinds of different stuff and, you know - I guess if I were thinking about the way to really maximize my earning potential, I would kind of go all the way on one of these directions, but I'm not interested in that. I'm interested in like being an apprentice all the time and in multiple instances and rooms and cultures, and so getting into a lot of different things that are sort of at the same table but not the same conversation - and that's a really good way to keep yourself in apprentice.

Darwin: When did you first start interacting with music technology?

Andrea: In high school my dad had a Roland JV-30 and a Brother floppy disk sequencer. And I remember trying to make arrangements of tunes on that thing. When I got to college, the first music theory assignment we had was to orchestrate a Chopin Prelude for the instruments in the room. And I was like, "Well, I'll just mock it up on this weird floppy disk sequencer." Right? So I record the B Minor Prelude for all these different instruments and it stunk in the room with the humans. But boy did I love that thing I made on the sequencer, you know? So that was the first time. And then that quickly moved to really like notation programs and I thought I was using, I thought I was writing music that was possible but hard.

But really I was writing impossible music that was mediated by technology. Right? So that's really when it got going. I didn't think of that as as relevant musical activity, though. It was like weird gadgets. I didn't think of it as something I could really do until I got to graduate school at Michigan. So then I studied with Evan Chambers and some electronic music courses and that's when it really kind of opened up for me. Started buying gear, started making albums in my room, my apartment, and then at Princeton, really kinda got going more. But that was really hard because I had never been under the hood before. Never written a line of code. So I got to Princeton and then I was like, Oh wow, that's a whole other thing, you know?

Darwin: Well because that's really baked into their process.

Andrea: Yeah, that's right. That's right. And the things you imagine are different when you really understand the tools that you're using. It affects your imagination, not just your process. And so I was still trying to do old things and new ways and now I'm starting to do things that are suitable for the tools. That's really exciting, basically, to learn the tools better, too.

Darwin: Yeah. Right. Now, one of the things I'm curious about, because of the timeframe, I would see that there was a period where - and you would have kind of like skirted around kind of through the middle of it. Maybe there was a period where music technology and the ability... the way you described it was [that] you thought you were doing hard music using technology but you were doing impossible music. There was a certain extent to which the ability to do that allowed you to blow through academia, right? Because the person who was doing string quartets the old way wasn't doing that. You could come in with something that looked like an explosion of fly crap on a page and you could have a system that could perform it and everybody would like - "Hurrah!" At what point for you did it change - to where, instead of just being like a cool way to do the stuff that other people couldn't do...

Because you had technology under your fingers and you were comfortable with it, you could do stuff that other people weren't able to pull off that has its own juice to it. But at some point you clearly made a switch to where all these tools are my subjects maybe? Or these tools are my assistants? But there's a deeper thing that I'm rockin' here. Do you remember any point at which your relationship with the tools changed?

Andrea: Well, I think on some level I'm still doing the thing I was doing when I was 18 and punching above my weight. There are ways that I'm still doing that because I can make processes happen in an acoustic piece of music and kind of multiple registers using notation software and other kinds of tools that I'd be hard pressed to find a different way to do. You know what I mean? But it's it true that at some point you start to realize, through being in enough rooms, enough times which are actually doing versus the technology being a thing you can use to project a possibility, right then it winds up becoming, for me now a thing where there is a sort of a sense, however nebulous, that what I'm trying to do with the technology is facilitating versus I have no idea what's happening right now and it feels good.

I'm going to do it anyway. Now there's still some of that - all the time. That's what I think the beauty of it is. Like when I made the vocal processor and the beat-sprayer or whatever, I was just like, I don't know. I don't know what the range of numbers are supposed to be. Trying to think what was working yet. So still doing that in a way. There was a moment I, honestly... teaching, teaching really got it under control in a way that it hadn't been before. Getting here in 2015 and saying, "All right, I'm teaching a music technology course and I've been using music technology for a long, long time, but how would I want to have learned? How would I want somebody to have spoken about it with me?" Getting that together was a game changing experience for me.

Darwin: That's interesting. Because I was going to ask, how, in comparison to what music technology I saw at different stages... I mean kids coming out of high school now with six years of beat-making with Ableton under their belt or whatever. They have some phenomenal skills. How much do you feel like you're constantly changing just what that first breaker bar is of like, "This is what I can expect kids to know now." Or this is what they do know. Or this is the level at which they're already clocking me.

Andrea: I know this is the thing about curiosity versus mastery. If I thought I was this consolidated set of ideas and principles and whatever and then the kids were coming in and with paradigm shifting things that I had to adjust to all the time, that'd be one thing. I'm learning from them all all the time - kind of by design. Not as a unfortunate byproduct of knowledge changing, but rather as a person who is very much in the stream of like, what? What do I need to know? I'm learning from them as much as they're learning from me and I think that it's an incredible privilege to be in that kind of situation and it's incredibly privileged, also.

Darwin: But that kind of puts a bit of a stressor on being an instructor too, right? Because, I mean, first of all, you're going to have a variety of skills that are going to be walking in the room, but secondly, you're going to also find yourself in a position of saying, "I need to help this person get further." While you may feel like you're in constant learner mode, some of these people may think that they're already masters or experts - and you have to help them become better or become more complete or [have them] push themselves in some way. What kind of new stresses do you find?

Andrea: Oh, sure. I mean, I think for me, what I'm trying to do is design a high ceiling. I'm trying to design a thing that if you do it, if you go into that place where you are so unbelievably curious and the things that you're doing are reinforcing the things that you're thinking and you wind up in this kind of unbelievable feedback loop. [A place] where you're in the weeds. I'm trying to design projects and processes that will send people into that mode based on all that they know. I also think that being a really generous, careful listener is always, always helpful. Even if you know way more than me about the under the hood technique, I mean, the first time I taught the computer music course here, I was outclassed by everybody in the room - I would say just line-for-line programming ability.

But there's still something that I can really offer. I can listen with the ears of somebody who's had a lot of at-bats as a listener and as a maker and really offer something, you know? Certainly like I've gotten more comfortable since that I've learned so much as a result of going through those processes. But still, I'm trying to hear what you're doing. You seem to be enthusiastic about X. Here's what I hear: it's a powerful thing to be able to do. If you don't get hung up on displaying your chops, then you can actually offer a lot just as a human with ears, you know?

Darwin: Sure. Not to be too reductive, but for people who come in with a fair amount of skills, what's the place that you often see as as a blind spot? I mean, my experience was quantization, everything being block quantized. So everything sounded like a stack of shoe boxes or something. That was the thing. I noticed that that was something that few people could break out of on their own.

Andrea: Right. It doesn't occur to you to think about that. For me lately it's been a timbre. It's been like sonic-shaping, In some practices this is the only thing people are doing. But by and large, when I get a student who's been doing a lot of sequencing or beat-making or whatever, I always feel like, "Could we really forge that sound a bit more? Could we make it really special?" It's funny because it's not something I think I'm particularly great at. I just insist on figuring out how to make a sonic signature no matter what I'm doing. Whether that's signature - how do I put it? You think about orchestration in classical music or something, right? I mean there are master orchestrators out there and I try to imagine that electronic music has that same priority and I think they also feed into each other really well. Evan said this in Michigan, he was like "For somebody who doesn't know why they're in this electronic music requirement, think about how understanding acoustics is going to change the way you read orchestra music." And so that kind of thinking lately has been really interesting to me and that's where I feel like I have something to offer.

Darwin: That's really interesting. So now in kind of a completely different track, I've' walked in here with my copy of One More Revolution - you mentioned before, and some of the things you're doing that writing was a part of what you've explored as well.

Andrea: I'm looking at my shelf to see if I have a copy, but I don't!

Darwin: This is the only one in the room! Awesome. But it's a book of reminiscences, short reminiscences room. This is a book about music and about the people that you've interacted with, and the physical stuff of music. And it's interesting, but again, it's to be honest, you talk about having a lot of anxiety and those things, and you're the person who puts crap out there more than anyone. I mean, there are some really personal stories in some cases.

Andrea: well, the over-sharing thing is interesting.

Darwin: I don't know if it's over-sharing, if you're actually putting it in book form. Over-sharing normally is like over beers - that's when over-sharing happens. But I think that it's quite remarkable that yet again, we talk about a variety of expressions that you use. I mean, the written word is something that an awful lot of people who are musicians don't tread upon. What made writing an important thing for you to approach? How is that part of your overall voice? And also how does that cleanse your palette or keep the tunnels clear for you in some way?

Andrea: Hmm, that's a good way to put it: keeping the tunnels clear. Well, I'd love to write forever. It was the thing that I felt most comfortable with even while I was playing drums for hours and hours every day in high school or whatever. I felt like wanting to get something done and write it, I feel like that, that felt good to me. It felt like a native form or something (if that makes sense) - a kind of home base, and it's always felt that way. But I never felt like I could make up a good story. For example, the idea of writing a novel is just baffling to me. So let me get this straight - I make up a person and they do a bunch of things with the other made up people? I have no idea how I would do that!

But I was always able to write about my own experience, you know? And so the book, I mean maybe I'll go backwards. The book started started as my dissertation, which was very much about physical media and how we relate to physical media: vinyl versus how we relate to digital media. Like versus what is it when it's invisible - how are those things different? And it was very research driven and analytical and whatever. And so the book is actually me removing all of the other material from my dissertation and writing through it in a voice that felt like the vignettes that began each section in the original text. I'd write a little vignette and then I read a bunch of analysis. Right? But I was like, "What if I made kind of the same arguments here in a way?" But they were all in that voice that I just loved the texture of, and the practice of creating.

So that's what that is. That's my dissertation rewritten as a memoir. It is linked though to the sort of anxiety and other mental health-type challenges that I've had mental health-type challenges that I've alluded to here. I discovered a book called The Artist's Way. And one of the core practices in that book is writing 750 words every morning. And I've done that whole hog for a long time. So I now do it through an online system and I'm at 1.8 million [words] or something like that. I just write and write and write. Another thing that helped me a lot was working in the Princeton writing program; the amount of feedback we had to give was so unbelievably voluminous that I got really good at it. I just got really good at generating stuff. And so that was kind of this perfect set of circumstances to make one productive with respect to the written word, but also, really real about it.

If it's being used as a kind of therapy, and it's being used in this, almost, like "it doesn't have to be beautiful way - let's just get the students their feedback". You combine those two things and you get to a pretty interesting place in terms of your relationship to the written word. And that's kind of where I end these days. I mean, I write a ton, when you hear these tunes next week, they are the most text heavy songs you'll ever hear. It's like I have song structures, but the words are just like morphing all the time. Like the music... this is the music of the chorus, but the words are completely different than the last one, and there's so much language in these songs. It feels really good.

Darwin: Well, that's cool, but that's also interesting because what it sounds like then is that you're kind of using some of the forms of songwriting, but you're also subverting them by not following the rules of choruses or just a revision of the last time I sang the course

Andrea: When I played this... so there's a set of songs that I've put together for this album and then there's some new ones I'm gonna be playing next week. Two very new ones. When I played the album set at the Sō Percussion Summer Institute, at my composer talk with Jason I performed all these songs. One of the students was like, "So your songs are just like a bunch of vamps, right?" Yeah, they are. They're a bunch of vamps and I just like, blew over the top of these vamps. And that's been kind of an interesting way for me to think about it. My uncle, who's a wonderful playwright and just this artistic soul, he's like, "I was waiting, I was wondering when you'd start leading with your words" when I played some songs from this summer and, "Now" I guess is the answer.

Darwin: That's really amazing. What a great tale. So our time is up. But for people who want to hear more of your work or maybe read some of your work or engage with some of your stuff, what's the best way for them to find your work?

Andrea: Yeah. On my website: Just go to my website. I've got writing there. I've got links to all kinds of stuff, scores, places where you can listen. Yeah. It's all over the place.

Darwin: And and this release that you're putting out on what label?

Andrea: So it's on my own label. It's called One More Revolution Records.

Darwin: Excellent. Well, I hope that people will take the opportunity to drop in and listen to your stuff. I want to thank you so much for taking the time and lettin me come up here. By the way, I'm in this music professor's office and I'm looking at a Dangerous Music mixdown monitoring system, two racks of Eurorack stuff, a Moog One...

Andrea: It's a problem of abundance up here. Darwin, this is a total pleasure. Thank you for coming in. And it's really exciting. Like I said, the only place to go from here is Fresh Aire.

Darwin: Well, there you go. I'll talk to my 'sister', Terri, and we'll see what we can do. Thank you!

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