5.31.2018

Dungeon Synth

Looking back over my extremely sporadic updates of this blog, it's clear that I've not done myself any favors with regards to self promotion. I've been playing shows steadily, but feeling allergic to the work of typing, checking and retyping that info into this page here. I'm brainstorming solutions, but in the mean time:

I'm in the midst of a tour of Europe with Anthony Braxton's Zim Music ensemble. For this tour the group has consisted of Anthony Braxton on Alto, Soprano and Sopranino saxophones, Taylor Ho Bynum on Cornet, flugelhorn, trombone and pocket trumpet, Jaqueline Kerrod and Miriam Overlach on pedal harp, Jean Cook on Violin, Dan Peck on Tuba, and myself playing accordion, recorders, and singing. I am hoping to reflect on this tour further once it is concluded, but the music has been transformative, has left me quite raw, humbled, and inspired, both on the micro creative level and on the macro level of, frankly, trying to understand more clearly what the hell it is I'm doing as a musician.

For the last few years, I've worked primarily as a composer in the micro genre known as Dungeon Synth. This is connected to black metal (which has been a part of my life as a listener for nearly 20 years) and often has an extreme focus on mood and narrative, which are driving forces of most of my other work as a composer or songwriter. It's been nice to spend a lot of time going inward working on this stuff, where the responsibility in composition, performance, mixing, artwork, and release are primarily on my shoulders. I've also kept a lot of those projects secret because I'm not sure what 'legit' musicians will think of them - why they're so "in" or tonal musically, why they're sometimes so messy - but to anyone wondering why I haven't made any progress on my second opera, or done much of the traditional 'creative music' or songwriting trajectory of releasing albums under my name and touring with them, here's the reason. All of these are done primarily with 90s consumergrade FM keyboards, not even proper synths (with a few exceptions), and some include vocals. What unifies them all is a strong sense of narrative (usually present through song titles, or accompanying text or short stories) and the comfort I've gotten out of working on them obsessively.

A few notes:
-None of these are meant to be one-and-done projects, although for some I do have a fixed trajectory in mind, after which point the project will be considered concluded
-Most of them have 'rules' or specific equipment used which is meant to help distinguish them sonically (The Herbalists is all recorded live with no overdubs, for the most part, whereas Mystal Tree uses primarily higher fidelity software VSTs as opposed to live keyboards; others are more easily distinguished by their narrative focus, like Arthurian mythology or, yes, Harry Potter's lore.)
-I take them all extremely seriously and I stand by them, even if I've been a little afraid to do so in the past.

Dungeon Synth projects:
Nahadoth: http://nahadoth.bandcamp.com
Mystal Tree: http://MystalTree.bandcamp.com
The Herbalists: http://theherbalists.bandcamp.com
Ersz├ębet: http://Erszebet.bandcamp.com
Pendragon: http://pendragonking.bandcamp.com
Conqueror's Mourn: http://conquerorsmourn.bandcamp.com
Dispell: http://dispell.bandcamp.com

Collaborative: (With Daithi O Mathuna of the project Argonath)jjj
Cenobite: http://Cenobitesynth.bandcamp.com

Keyboard based Black Metal:
AOS: http://aoszos.bandcamp.com

I'm still active with my songwriting project An Historic, and with the experimental folk/jazz group Dr. Caterwauls Cadre of Clairvoyant Claptraps, still trying to compose more formally, and working as an improviser with a wonderful core group of collaborators like Anne Rhodes, Chris Cretella, Brian Slattery, and Michael Paolucci. I've even got another Ambient record coming out under the name GZARA, which has been defunct for a few years. But in those moments when I find myself somehow stuck in working on a song or a composition, or overwhelmed with scheduling recording sessions or rehearsals, I can do this work and feel like I'm still engaging as a musician and composer, even in isolation. I hope if you've like any of my other music that you'll consider listening to any one of these projects here. It's still me.

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