4. Ian Boswell
# Ian Boz
**Morgan:** [00:00:00] Ian, welcome to Zeitgeist Radio.
**Ian:** No, thanks Morgan. Thanks for having me, .
**Morgan:** I'm so excited. You and I have known each other for so long and we've shared like probably the most intense musical journey.
**Ian:** Probably , .
**Morgan:** So Ian and I are those friends that, you know, you meet friends in college. College is such a transformative time.
It's really intense. You've got like all these people who are deciding who they're gonna be smooshed together in these overcrowded dorms with no personal space. , . So it's just like you, you're figuring it all out together. And I feel like we kind of like latched onto, you know, being buddies of, you know, here's who we wanna be together and specifically in a musical way.
And what's so cool to me is like we started in the same place, the exact literal same place, same classes. And then since then, since college, our paths have gone. Fairly different ways. I've kind of stayed. I actually haven't changed [00:01:00] that much. I'm still in the same , like I'm still in an s a TB choir that performs with an orchestra.
I'm still in a women's ensemble. I'm still,
**Ian:** yeah. That's very interesting. . That's very interesting. You were able to keep a lot of consistency.
**Morgan:** Yes. Which could be good or bad versus, you know, you went , you went and actually explored. other things too. . So, so if you were to describe yourself right now musically, what would you say?
**Ian:** Hmm. Well, definitely still exploring right now. I feel like I'm heading in a direction where I'm starting to feel like I'm getting closer to something that I feel like is, oh yeah, this is sort of what I do. This is like the kind of musician I am. But it's been a bit confusing . It's not been a straight.
Path. But I think, you know, specifically, I think studying jazz is bringing me. , I guess up to speed with the kind of musician that I think I actually want to be. That's letting me [00:02:00] get in touch with the kind of music that I feel like is important to me. Yeah, the like why you like the desire for having the sort of discipline?
Yeah, but it's not just about getting better or something, but it is about. Maybe connecting with something meaningful. It was actually music theory classes that convinced me that I wanted to become a music major cuz it was you know, for lack of a better word, it was just so juicy. Like it was, it was like I was getting into this stuff, I was getting these answers to things that I had been wondering about and I was able to, you know, find you know, terms for things, discussion for these things that I've been feeling and kind of interacting.
So actually getting to explore that concretely was just so rewarding for me. And
**Morgan:** I wanna point out a little bit since I've been out of college, how it's, it's actually kind of weird that we all just dove in and took theory for fun. like, Yeah. That's not what a lot
**Ian:** of people do. . No. Yeah. It's, it's really not.
It's funny, right? [00:03:00] And, but for me, yeah. I came into college, my piano teacher in high school had started giving me some basic music theory and counterpoint lessons cuz I was curious and I had started composing. . And so I already knew like, all right, this stuff is cool. Like I wanna do more of this. So that was one of my priority, like, okay, I'm definitely gonna take a music theory class.
Yeah. . Yeah. But yeah, it's, it's a bit freakish because usually music theory is the kind of thing that it's like turns people off, right? It's like,
**Morgan:** yeah. Exa, that's why a lot of people stop . Yeah. I remember
**Ian:** play my instrument . Yeah. We, we were in, I think most, if not all, the same music theory class. He
**Morgan:** said there was, and honestly, I wasn't even a music major right.
Until senior year.
**Ian:** Yeah. You were sort of hung out, just untrusted into being a music major. . Well,
**Morgan:** I, I just looked at how many credits I had. Mark Misso, our, our mutual piano instructor. He was kind of my informal advisor. I had my, my real major anthropology, the shadow, and then I really, I talked to Mark and he's like, Morgan, you have a lot of credits.
**Ian:** Yeah. But this was one of [00:04:00] the great things about the McAllister Music Department Yeah. Is that it wasn't strict like that, like I was, it was only later on that I realized that it wasn't necessarily normal for it to be like this. Yeah. Which I feel like it's a much more enriched musical experience when you have people who are like chemistry majors or what, you know, like whatever anthropology majors like you were, other, other people.
It's just like, I mean, how was, there was some huge percentage of people who were involved with the department, you know, relatively small number of majors and minors, but. And all the ensembles, taking the classes, learning music, and then also what was great for all the music students. Cross pollination.
Yeah. Like it's, everybody does have these different backgrounds in music, different interests, they've done different things, but we're all very passionate about learning it. Yeah. And putting things together so you get all these different perspectives and like what these concepts, you know, mean to different people too, or where they kinda.
I mean, if I think of a lot of the jazz, classical crossover thoughts I've had it, it kind of stems from that notion.
**Morgan:** [00:05:00] Yeah. I remember a very particular moment, cuz I also had a ton of friends in the physics programs and I remember a moment that they all went to class and they learned about this mathematical concept called the overtone series.
Oh, yep. And I remember being like, oh yeah, the overtone series. and they look at me like, what? Like this is like a 300 level course. And they're like, , what do you know about the overtones series? I'm like, what do you mean ? Yeah, I know. I've known about this since I was in, you know, high school and there's that crossovers.
Interesting. Very, very cool conversations that came from that because their minds were blown a little bit. Like, wait, you know? It was like a practical application of this theoretical concept. And then I actually got to understand a little better, you know, the math behind it. It was pretty. . So we were pretty classical.
And then, like I said, you branched out got weird .
**Ian:** Yeah, right.
**Morgan:** I spent in electronic music, which I absolutely could not figure
**Ian:** out. . Yeah, yeah. Yep. There was a electronic music, [00:06:00] little old school electronic music lab there. You could still kind of cut up and glue tape together if you wanted to do that.
Yeah. And but yeah, but you got pretty into that. I did. I mean, yeah. And I still am to, yeah. It's, it's a very, it's interesting. I mean, it's a very different way of making music.
**Morgan:** Yeah. I mean, you, so what was your master's in? Was in electronic compos composition
**Ian:** specific electronic? No, not, I mean, I did do some electronic stuff there.
My advisor. Remember you being really
**Morgan:** excited about that part of the
**Ian:** program? Yeah, I ended up my advisor ended up being a guy who did do a lot of electronic music. And it was really cool working with him. We worked on a range of things. It wasn't, you know, there was definitely some electronic stuff happening, but also you know, he helped.
Writing like symphonic music and chamber music and so it was, it still was of kind of a variety, I guess. I, I have the, I, maybe it's sort of like a restlessness that I have creatively. I've sometimes I envy people who have the kind of focus like that you do, that you're so consistent and you're just [00:07:00] like doing.
I'd be so much better at things if I would just stick with them. . .
**Morgan:** Yeah, but I would, I would, I definitely have a very narrow like zone where I'm good at these things, but it really is all I do. , you know, it would be good for me to branch out a little more. . . Yeah. So you compose, you perform a little bit. What would you call yourself right now?
Music. Mostly a
**Ian:** composer. Honestly. Just a musician. A musician like I, I feel like I. I would, I, I mean, I, I'm still composing stuff, but it's not really primarily what I'm doing. Yeah. Mostly what I'm doing these days is playing and improvising. Yeah. And arranging, like in some of my collaborations I've done, it's like, for this Vapor wave show, I've, I was spearheading in the fall, I was arranging like, you know, NPR theme music and You know, some electro jazz fusion stuff from the nineties for like an eight piece mixed [00:08:00] band of, you know, there was like rhythm section, Chinese, dalsimer, banjo, you know, all kinds of crazy stuff.
So I, I guess, and I say musician, not to be vague, but just in the sense of, I think this is like a Bach thing, where you had all of his students compose, perform, and improvise, right? Yeah. . That's, I think my journey now is like, okay, I've done a lot of the composing stuff. I've done a lot of the performing stuff because like you, my background is very classical.
Yeah. I so improvisation, I really only started to get natively comfortable with it after college. The performance and improvisation part for me, I'm realizing how much those inform the composing part. Like everything informs everything else. Yeah. And for me, what I feel like are the gaps I want to fill in.
Between what I can do and what I want to do involve becoming a better performer and a better player, and a better improviser, and also just even a better listener, you know? Yeah. Like so developing the [00:09:00] overall sensibility of a musician. Is, is what's important to me right now, and to me, to me, for whatever kind of musician I am that is kind of a jack of all trades musician, where if e even in kind of a more classical space, it involves being able to sight read or, you know, kind of fudge parts.
You know, if you're accompanying something, you know, like the choir accompanist role or something, you know, like, okay, yeah, maybe you're not gonna play all those notes, but you know how to look at a score and pick out what's enough. to give them what they need. Yeah. While still kind of translating the soul of whatever the piece
So, see, my brain explodes a little bit when you say that, because those are all neat. Like they're all professions in and of themselves. Every single thing you Yeah. You just said like there's professional accompanists who blow my mind. Oh yeah. Like to be able to just sit down in a company. Obviously improv, improv.
A lot of jazz and, and we've talked a lot about how in the classical tradition you don't really get that. It used to be [00:10:00] more of a thing like yeah. And it just really fell off. And now a lot of classical musicians, I know so many people who are classically trained and have such like a desire and also a lot of angst around the idea of improvising.
It kind of freaks
**Ian:** them. . Yeah. Well, and it still kind of freaks me out, like it's freaks me out. improvising specifically Improvising over changes. Yeah, because there are, there's stakes there, like free improv I'm very comfortable with because there's, you know, like nobody's expecting anything, so you can do whatever you want.
But, . Yeah. You're improvising over changes. Suddenly there's an expectation for harmony or if you're playing a specific tune, there's an expectation for a particular feeling that you're evoking. Right. It really is a shame that improvisation fell out of classical music because, and, and there's no reason why it should have it, because, you know, the, what a Beethoven had, you know, dueling piano sessions in.
You know, [00:11:00] 19th century Germany and Ovv even was still improvising his own cadenzas and I don't know, do people still improvise their own cadenza anymore? Are there still some pianos who do that?
**Morgan:** I'm sure there are. I think at least a couple. I'm sure there are, but there's also like a level of purity of being able to play the cadenza as it's written.
And people get focused on that. But that's even
**Ian:** the spirit of it. No, like they'll, they'll, you know, learn and note for. The cadenza that Rock Minoff did back in, you know, the forties or whatever, . Right. Which he, I mean, I'm, which is great, but structure
**Morgan:** into it. But then he, he pro, I mean, there's no way he played it the same way twice.
**Ian:** Don't you think that even if classical musicians generally didn't improvise on the stage, if improvisation was part of their training, don't you think that would help them? In performing the pieces like so much.
**Morgan:** I'm, yeah. I'm actually I've been so impressed the last couple years you and I have had conversation, like hours of conversation about [00:12:00] you doing this and just like, what a, what a.
at a point in your, in your development, it was kind of a monumental decision to learn jazz. It was like something you'd always wanted to do, but it was kind of scary. And then, yeah, one day you just decided, no, I'm gonna do it. And
**Ian:** I mean, now listen, big, you talk about it from you there, Well, you,
**Morgan:** you talk about it so comfortably now, and I'm so proud of you,
**Ian:** Aw, well thanks.
**Morgan:** But it was a bit of a, you know, it was a bit of a thing because we don't, we were never exposed to. Any of the basics of improvisation. I was never exposed to the basics of improvisation. No, I
**Ian:** wasn't either. Despite, I mean, we've both listened to plenty of improvised music and enjoy a lot of improvised music, which is also kind of ironic.
Yeah, yeah. But yeah, and I, and I bounced off of jazz a bunch of times. Like I, I've tried learning it and, and sort of, Thrown out my hands and, and said, oh, this is too much. Yeah, I tried, I started trying to do it in high school and it was really kind of [00:13:00] awkward and I didn't really feel that great about it.
Did a little jazz combo playing in college. Mm-hmm. got a little further, had some great guidance from Joan Griffith, who's really, she was just awesome. And I th I grew more there, but I was still pretty uncomfortable with it. And then I tried to do it a little bit more sort of post-college here and there, and then was trying to do it a little bit self-study on my own.
And I honestly, a lot of why I've been able to make such progress is that I just found a really good teacher who has a methodology for teaching. Structured improvisation. And it, it is kind of, here's a ridiculous thing. I think this is a ridiculous idea that I have, that maybe a lot of other classically trained people have that jazz is like black magic, you know, it's like sorcery.
You're sort of stirring the call, like they're, wow. How did they do all that stuff? They have to be magicians. They, they're clearly like a devil's packed. Yes. We, we couldn't approach it with a method. Certainly not. It's too magical. It's too transporting and cool. It's like, no, it's kind of like . It's a lot like playing show [00:14:00] pan Etudes, like, yes.
You know? Okay. Yeah. There's a method for approaching this. You don't just sort of sit down with it and just kind of, you know, hit your head against it. There's a lot of specific practicing methodology that lets you be able to do something like that. It's really just the same with jazz and improvisation, and it's just very stupid that it's considered this.
Very separate. Yeah. You know, skillset or something. And I think,
**Morgan:** and it goes both ways too, cuz I've met jazz musicians who are just in awe of classical mm-hmm. Class. It's almost like there are these two very different like, Like masters of, you know, if you're really good at either one of them, it's like, it's like you're in one tree and you're looking at someone else in another tree and you're like, wow, how did you get up there?
And it's like, well, you're up there too. . Yeah. You
**Ian:** have to climb the tree. . Yeah, exactly. And then like at the top, the branches sort of intertwined. They do.
**Morgan:** Ideally. Is that where you are?
**Ian:** God dwells? Is that the top? I'd hardly say I'm at the. Maybe I'm at the lower [00:15:00] level of the upper canopy, which is like a mile high
Yeah. But yeah, I, and I, I feel like concretely a lot of that comes from the notion of just the skillset of learning to play. Written music versus learning to play by ear. Yes. Because the people who I've met who are kind of amazed by classical music and sort of think that's black magic often have just learned to play by ear.
And, and they might be great musicians, but they just, they're uncomfortable with Yeah. They haven't, they, you put a horn front of '
**Morgan:** em and they just
**Ian:** blink. So much of this stuff is internalization, isn't it? Like, yeah. What are you automatically able to pull out in intuitively, and that just takes a lot of time.
Yes. takes a lot of dedicated time to, to get that into that internal state. Yeah.
**Morgan:** Hours and hours and hours of being alone in a practice room with a piano. Yeah. Or whatever your instrument is. Yeah. Yeah.[00:16:00] [00:17:00] [00:18:00]
You mentioned arranging. Okay. First of all, banjo. . I didn't know, did you tell me about this project. What is this project? NPR music, I don't think you told me about.
**Ian:** So, The bigger part of it is part of the Space Lounge concert series that I started before the pandemic, and we've done three of them now. And the idea, and I've had this idea for a long time, we probably even talked about it in college, where my idealized concert venue is.
I like to call it like my idealized 18th century concert hall where , you know, dedicated listening in the front party in the back. Yes. You, the audience modulate what you [00:19:00] want out of the experience because some people are gonna really just wanna sit down and just listen. That's great, that's fine. But a lot of people either don't enjoy that or don't wanna do that, or that's not the way they dig music.
So they can walk around, have a drink, talk with their friends, and they're still getting the music. It's still coming into them. And then meanwhile, the musicians have the benefit of a much more relaxed atmosphere. Where there's the creative interplay for everyone. So that's, that was kind of the one ingredient of the Space Lounge series, the lounge part.
And then the space part was thinking it'll be fun to try and go for like a retro futurist. Aesthetic, like a, you know, 1960s, you know, bond villain or you know, star Trek. This is like the Star Trek lounge, you know, the Yeah. The, the lounge deck. That kind of feeling. And, oh, it, and actually a lot of the, there was a very specific impetus, which is I played a.
Sunrise show with this group, open Music, [00:20:00] which is a group of just sort of esoteric musicians around the, in the area here. Anyway, so long story short, there's this sort of venue now and then each year we do a slightly different angle on it. And so in the, in the fall we did a vapor wave show. Are you familiar with the Vapor wave genre at all?
I am not. It's another kind of retro futurist genre. Like imagining the future as people used to imagine it. And vapor wave is like the idealized future of the eighties and nineties of, you know, these bright colors and you know, palm trees and everything's kind of neon, you know, turquoise and pink and everything.
And so, and, and it's vapor wave. It's a mixed bag. It's not just this. Nurture future. There's also this sort of like melancholy or just, you know, despairing quality to it. It contains a lot of different stuff. ,
**Morgan:** this sounds very Ian so far. .
**Ian:** Maybe that's why [00:21:00] I'm so drawn to it. But but uh, I really like this sort of hopeful angle of it and.
The music that inspires Vapor Wave is a lot of music I've just genuinely enjoyed. Like, I grew up listening to it like Jan Hamer and, and stuff like that. And so NPR themes, , so we were yeah, like, it it is very interesting, like a lot of that aesthetic comes from I think, really high level studio musicians in operating in the late 20th century.
And, and so stuff like BJ Leader. NPR themes where you have, like, when it, I don't know if you've heard or remembered the, the old theme for morning edition is like, oh yeah. So, and it's got, it's sort of like smooth, jazzy kind of sounding. Yeah. And I, I read somebody describing that as It's as if it's comes from an alternate universe where Steely Dan made government propaganda , and that's like very vapor [00:22:00] wave
I see. . So it's , when
**Morgan:** I picture that theme, I smell pancakes. .
**Ian:** Yeah. Yeah. I mean it's a, it's just a great theme. I mean, yeah. It's so, so that, that's kind of the fun part of it. It's like it's a little catch. The vapor wave thing, it's kitchy, but also like I really like the music. Like I just actually really like it.
Nice. And so you can have fun with it in that way. And then the miscellaneous quality of the band is that it's, it really, it's kind of a community band, so it's sort of like all these, you know, all these composers, concerts and stuff we used to have in college. It's actually that same kind of thing because it was sort of like, okay, who's interested?
Who's writing music? who wants to put some music together, and it would just be very random. Like, okay, we have somebody playing bassoon. We got somebody on the electric guitar, we got somebody on the cello. You know, okay, who wants to write something for this? So that, that's what we've got. It's like we have somebody who's trained in like classical Chinese opera and play some.
Pit instruments from that. [00:23:00] Okay. So that's an element we can have. We have someone who's playing the banjo. We have a couple people on electronics, couple percussionist, bass player. Yeah, so it's like. There's, there's a lot of interesting textural possibilities. That's
**Morgan:** insane. I have got to come to one of these.
**Ian:** Yeah. Yeah, you do. .
**Morgan:** I'm just trying to picture like, okay. First of all, classical, like, again, each one of these is like, it's whole on thing , right? Classical Chinese opera. Very specific. Yeah. Ban. Usually very specific type of genre. So do you pull in any of that cultural influence that comes with some of these instruments, or do you just take the pure sound and say, I'm gonna make it whatever.
**Ian:** Yeah, so this, this is the interesting thing about open music specifically, is that a lot of the sort of writing tradition or arrangement tradition for this group. Originally we were getting funded by these grants that the program dried up, but the grant was contingent. Anybody needs to be able to participate on it [00:24:00] regardless of musical training.
So by that requirement then there was a general requirement of our arrangements that they can't be too specific and they can't rely on you having a dedicated, you know, a knowledge of you. Our, our, we can't expect them to read music, basically. Right. So there's a lot of the structure is, big picture and more improvisatory where we say, okay, like you're, you know, who wants to play the theme?
You'll play the theme. And then how about you fill in this texture here and here? This is the A section you're playing the melody. We've got this texture, this texture, this texture. And then so basically the specifics are delegated. So we can say for instance, like, you know, Chinese dulcimer, I'm not writing notes that she's playing.
I'm saying like, Hey, how about a dulcimer solo here? Then she brings out whatever she thinks is appropriate. So it's this kind
**Morgan:** of sounds like in sea a little bit. It's,
**Ian:** it's, [00:25:00] yeah, yeah, yeah. It's that kind of tradition, which for
**Morgan:** people who don't know what that is, is this wild piece, I guess you'd call it a piece that we did in college.
**Ian:** Dust tiled on one time.
**Morgan:** Dust tiled on. Yeah. You set up and we just, we'd play, I think that one hit 12 hours. I,
**Ian:** I, I guess it probably
**Morgan:** did. I think it did. I think I remember hearing it hit 12 hours, but you just play. and who and, and in musicians come in and come out and it's all in, in the key of sea.
**Ian:** Yeah. There's somebody's always hitting Cs. Yeah. And then there's these different little cells of music that people can play. So here, here's, it's like musicians are presented with their menu of options and you're sort of generally supposed to go through them in the same order, roughly, but there's a lot of autonomy in how you do it.
**Morgan:** Yeah. People take solos and people, yeah. Move around. So, I mean that's, it sounds like a little more structured version
**Ian:** of that. Yeah, and we, we [00:26:00] actually are playing a piece that's very NC like at the end of the month here. Nice.
**Morgan:** You can play for 12 hours. .
**Ian:** No, I'm old now. I don't have that kind of madness in me
But you know, if somebody did say like, Hey, let's do a dust. Hold on thing. I think maybe I would. Yeah.
**Morgan:** Oh, you totally would. I mean, you don't have to be there the whole time. Someone just needs to make sure it continues .
**Ian:** That's right. That's right. Shifts. Shifts are I.
**Morgan:** would you say as far as like what you connect with right now, would you say you connect still most strongly with classical or do you connect more with jazz or something in between?
Or what do you connect
**Ian:** with? Yeah, that's kind of an interesting question. I'm not sure I ever like majority connected with like just one genre. Even before I started to play jazz, I was listen, To jazz, actually, I remember my dad gave me some, some CDs like you know, Charles Manus [00:27:00] and Miles Davis and just some classics and I found out that I could start.
Like if I was playing a video game, I, I could launch the video game with the CD and I could take the CD out and then, cuz usually the video game soundtrack would play off of the cd, I could take the video game cd out after I launched the game stick in Mingus , and then the video game would play Mingus as my like, background music
**Morgan:** That's awesome.
**Ian:** So, I guess I've always been sort of an eclectic listener and, and growing up my dad played all kinds of stuff. So, but as far as what I connect with now, it's really, it's really a mix. It's kind of, it's less about, like, I think if anything I, the stuff I most listen to is probably jazz.
but that's also what you're studying. It is what I'm studying, so that informs it a lot. I'm definitely still listening to a lot of classical music too, listening. Oh, and I'm actually playing some Renaissance music. Getting back into [00:28:00] that, I don't know, listening to a lot of space music, the kind of electronic stuff, hearts of space, going through a lot of those programs.
It's, I guess it's less. Especially since I've started studying jazz, I've, I just feel like music is music. Like it's all music, elements of music, you know, studying jazz is just filling me in on the other elements of music that I didn't learn by studying classical music. But studying classical music has brought me up to speed.
So that I don't have to fill in everything. Like if I started out blank and I was only studying jazz, I would have to fill in a lot of the stuff I learned studying classical music. So it's all just these different sides of the same thing. Me?
**Morgan:** Yeah. Yeah. You just connect to music. , I
**Ian:** just connect to music.
I do see a lot of classical music live, I guess. I guess I feel. . I mean, maybe this isn't exactly the question, but I connect with classical music more live than recorded. Yeah. Like [00:29:00] it's good that there are recordings of classical music, but I think of all genres, a recording really doesn't capture fully what classical music is and does.
You have to see
**Morgan:** it live. You, I'm so in agreement. So in agreement and actually classical recording. kind of get under my skin a lot because I guess this is something as I'm learning more about audio engineering, which my level is very, very, very basic. Mm-hmm. , but there's this thing that I recently learned how to do called normalizing
Oh, okay. Yeah. Basically you kind of control how loud something gets, how soft something gets. And I feel like as a listener of classical music in a hall, Yeah, you expand and you contract, and you want these excessive differences. Yes. You want your softs to be so soft, the audience is leaning in and you want your louds to just fill up the whole hall.
Oh, yeah. But when you're listening to a recording, [00:30:00] What happens is when your softs are that soft, people turn up the volume cuz they wanna hear it. Right? So then your loud happens and you blow their eardrums out, , and they turn it down. It's so annoying to me to listen to classical music, recorded classical music because like, I, I feel like I'm constantly adjusting the knob and it's, it's not, I don't know, it's not, it doesn't translate.
**Ian:** No, it doesn't. It's a problem. I feel
**Morgan:** like part of the artistry of classical music is, is volume, like those, you know? Oh, sure. Definitely Being able to, the contrast of the piano and the forte,
**Ian:** it's a, it's a huge part of the artistry. Yeah. Yeah. And it's interesting cuz it's so it's so opposite. The vast majority.
You know, commercial recorded music. Right. Especially pop music. It's all like, if you look at the waveform of a pop music track, it's all like, you know, it's all like the same level the whole time. Well, or maybe
**Morgan:** it's like if you go to a concert, a, a, a pop music or a rock [00:31:00] concert Yeah. You can kind of expect, like, you're not gonna get often something super, super quiet.
Right. It's all gonna be within a, a range that way. I mean, I like live music, live concerts for those as well.
**Ian:** Yeah, right. It's, it's, it's not necessarily a problem, but it's just sort of like, I feel like maybe recording the experience of listening to recorded music is primarily about that kind of music.
Yeah. It translates
**Morgan:** way better.
**Ian:** It translates a lot better. Yeah. And then so you, you stick classical into that paradigm. And it's especially like orchestral, I think, you know, like I guess, you know, chamber music or piano, it's, it's a little easier. Yeah. But I remember, do you remember this one time in I think it was a Missoula class and he was playing a recording by Osmo Vanka.
And the, the Minnesota Orchestra and it had that problem and Mark was complaining about the dynamic range in the recording. So he was having to crank it up and you turn it down and . Yeah,
**Morgan:** it's a, it's a thing.
**Morgan:** [00:00:00] Okay. I have something. I'm so excited. I wanna ask you so bad. All right. Okay. So AI art, it started with Oh yeah. The, the, like physical art. Right, right. And then chat, G p T so now it's gone into language. Mm-hmm. , do you think it's gonna do music next? Do you think there's gonna be an. Pulling music next.
**Ian:** Yeah, I mean, there definitely is. Pop music has devolved to the point where I think it would be very easy for AI to generate it. It's so formulaic. Yes. Everything's auto-tuned already. Everything's synthesized corrected. So it's, it's basically ready to be just fully computerized music. Right.
**Morgan:** And then my my follow up question is do you think that's bad?
I, do you think that removes
**Ian:** artistry? Well, I wouldn't say there is a lot of artistry in that genre I just described. Yeah. So I don't think that's bad. I think the, the part where it's probably gonna be bad is where it puts more of the, the dwindling cadre of working musicians out of business. Like [00:01:00] why hire composer or a, or studio musicians when I can just get , know, music, G P T to generate a backing track for me.
**Morgan:** But do you think that the definition of Composer is going to change? Because here's what I see happening with art. First of all, the platform is so new as of right now, it's 2023. Yeah. We don't have a Canon yet. We don't have standards yet. It's everyone is just playing. Right. Eventually, if you look at history, what happens Anytime a new technology enters the scene, people scream at it, say it's gonna ruin life, and meanwhile, other people are playing with it.
and eventually somebody starts to really get good at it. Mm-hmm. , and then that gets called Art .
**Ian:** Yeah. So I think, I think you're, you're onto something with that. I think that's, that's probably a very realistic angle for how these tools are gonna play out, is that they're, yeah. Like the, the, they're, they're really hyped up now.
They're very new. They're doing these things [00:02:00] that are amazing that haven't AI hasn't been able to do before, but at the end of the day, Yeah, it's probably not gonna be a full replacement. It's gonna be another tool like like Autotune or something like that. Yeah. There's probably gonna be a lot more AI assist tools for people to use.
Yeah. Like now. So I think the problem creatively here is potentially, I could see it being a subtle issue of people. Basically getting a little lazy, like there's some things that are just monotonous tasks that it would probably be useful for AI to automate, but Yeah. But if people grow up and get used to AI doing a lot of the composing and arranging tasks for them, yeah, they're not going to have to come to terms with the challenges in there.
And they're also going to basically be going with stock. Answers to these questions of structure and stuff like, and may I, they'll probably be highly sophisticated and pleasing. But will it be [00:03:00] creative? I, I don't know. Maybe it can be creative. I think it
**Morgan:** can be, you know, and, and for, I mean, let's talk about arranging, for example.
you could say, you know, take I, you are working on maybe arranging, you know, one symphony to a small group and you could play it through and say, okay, you know, Have the clarinets go to the banjo. What does that sound like? You know? Mm-hmm. , oh, have the clarinets, you know, and it would just do it versus you having to sit there for hours and hours and then you decide you don't like it.
**Ian:** sure, sure.
**Morgan:** So I feel like it'll, it would allow you to play with things to a much greater degree. And then the creativity comes from the input. That's what I think is gonna happen with AI art, at least the create the artist is gonna become. , the, it's almost like coding, right? What I choose to put in, you know, that's, that's what generates, rather than I'm play, I play something and record it, and then I loop it, and then, you know, whatever.
Oh yeah, I, [00:04:00] I have an image in my head and I type that in. I feel like it's almost more like coding. Oh, like, like
**Ian:** you're, you're, you're specifying certain Yeah. Constraints or something. You create
**Morgan:** the prem as the artist, it just changes kind of like what? . The artistry is what the artist does, right. The artistry, the artist has an idea and then works to pull, you know, defines definitions are gonna be really important.
I don't know. This is all just kind of new to everybody. Yeah. And I just keep thinking about it a lot, and I'm trying really hard not to fall into that. Kids these days, life ruins everything, you know? Right,
**Ian:** right. You've always had that optimism, which I appreciate.
**Morgan:** Well, and I think I got that from a lot of our college classes and from learning from.
We had some professors who really brought things alive. I mean, you were in the class with me where we learned what zeitgeist meant, right? Right. Yep. And got so fired up because I think that class was talking about the, the beginnings of opera. I think that's when. , [00:05:00] that word came
**Ian:** out probably. Yeah, it was.
It was like 19th century music history probably.
**Morgan:** Uhhuh. , I think. So. Missoula was teaching it. Yeah. And I remember that class so vividly because we were all like, he just got us so excited. Yeah. Like we felt like we were there and we felt like, you know, I don't really listen to opera so much on my own. Like I don't seek it out.
Live performance maybe, but I don't listen to it. Recordings of it very often. I just, for whatever reason, but I remember just being enthralled and feeling like I was there. Yeah. And he had such a way of making, making you realize that people are people all the time, you know? And whatever's new and exciting is exciting and new , you know?
Yeah. It'll eventually be old. So I'm really trying to take that, that mindset.
**Ian:** All right. Wait. All right. Here. Here's an analogy maybe, and this maybe supports your idea. Think about movies. Yeah. And cg. Yeah. Yeah. So CG [00:06:00] got really big in, say, the nineties, into the s and then for the past, you know, 20 ish plus years.
Hollywood movies are heavily CG and some of them are just like a hundred percent cg. And that's part of why I don't go to see movies anymore because other decisions too. But I think it's like starting to, to lose its amazement. And if you, did you see the, the newer Mad Max Movie Fury Road?
**Morgan:** I didn't, but I want to.
Okay. But I didn't. I haven't yet.
**Ian:** check it out sometime. It's good. . And one of the interesting things they did in there, which I think is, is the sort of support of your argument is so CG doesn't have the glitz it had and it doesn't, it's like you can sort of tell now it's like, ah, this looks fake. Right?
Even if it's like, it used to look amazing. Right. So Fury Road, what they did was they actually. Got, they built a bunch of these post-apocalyptic, you know, dune buggies. They [00:07:00] filmed it out in Africa somewhere in the desert, and they used basically a lot of actual shots of there. There were stunt people, all those.
There's this. Group of old ladies on motorcycles. That is, you know, that they actually were, you know, old ladies on motorcycles running around in the desert. And then they used CG for the stuff that really is just insane to do, practically like, you know, a giant tornado and sort of trucks swirling around in it.
And but they. They didn't do it. Like, gee, wow, look at this amazing cg. It was just like, and here's this crazy thing happening over there. Yes. But the focus is on the, the human element. So I think the optimistic scenario then for AI and music is that there's probably going to be a phase that's really.
going to irritate me personally. Mm-hmm. and maybe not a lot of other people. Oh, I, a lot of
**Morgan:** other people , so, so then people are very irritated by ai. AI right now, .
**Ian:** Yeah. And it's like, I mean, there's another funny thing. Yeah. That's a whole other [00:08:00] conversation. Yeah. So I, I think one of the, one of the pitfalls that people are gonna run into eventually, if they try to do more than just have them be toys, is the fact that nobody really seems to underst.
The decision making patterns of these things. They're just trained and then like on stuff, you know, they're just trained and trained and trained and trained, and it's like, oh good, you can finally do what I want. Well, how did it do that? Well, I, I can tell you how I trained it, but I can't tell you how it made this decision to make this thing out of this parameters,
**Morgan:** but I feel like that's where the art is gonna happen, because as the artist, you have to control.
**Ian:** Right. So, so there could be a new sort of genre of art
**Morgan:** around? I think so, around, I think your I think your analogy to CGI is really good. And I think, you know, again, initially, right now people are just, they're just playing. There's nothing, there's no, like I said, there's no cannon, there's no standard.
It's just Right. New technology. It's like when the, when the camera came. People hated it. They thought [00:09:00] photography was, it was never gonna be art. And then as people started trying to make it art, they got mad that it was replacing painting and said, you know, like, and now there are definitely like crap photos, , you know, I can snap anything on my phone, but I also can appreciate people like, they're like photography is now a well recognized legitimate art.
**Ian:** Now one, one thing though, I think that's the analogy for music that. . You know, I would say it's different, but it's a similar kind of scenario. Is music recording and mm-hmm. music playback because it's really valuable to be able to have music recording. But on the other hand, I think a lot fewer people play music because of recorded music.
And there's a lot, probably fewer community music scenes now than. Used to be, not just because of other societal reasons, but I think if, yeah, for some reason we had all the technology we did, we didn't have recorded music. More, many more people would play music just to be able to [00:10:00] hear it. And you'd go out to a cafe or a bar, there'd be musicians there because people want music.
**Morgan:** but well, like the, the household
**Ian:** piano. That's right. Yeah. The household piano or organ or whatever. So that is something. That I think is one of these strange losses that, yeah, it's like, well, I'm not really like, I'm not gonna say turn back the clock. Let's get rid of recorded music because recorded music is great.
But it ended up and, and not only sort of these sort of specifics of extinguishing certain. Motivations for playing, but it's also influenced and put weird pressures onto people who are learning music. Yeah. You know, who say like, well, I'm awful because I don't sound like the recording. Yeah, yeah. As opposed to enjoying the music and where they're at, which.
even if it's at a basic technical level, can still be really evocative and cool. But if you're comparing it constantly to this, well fully fleshed out, often not even a real performance because it's like [00:11:00] three takes edited into one . So,
**Morgan:** and you and I have fallen like. We've fallen victim to that. I fall victim to it constantly.
You were learning jazz, and I remember we talked about this because you were learning jazz and you had a moment where you're like, I'm comparing myself playing for all of what a month, taking lessons for a month with Yeah. Masters who, like you said, were in a studio when they recorded this and also have been playing for years.
Yeah. And I think that was, I remember that being a breakthrough moment for
**Ian:** you. . Yeah. It was, no, it's interesting. I, I still do that. I think, I don't, I think it's kind of a hard thing to unlearn mm-hmm. how
**Morgan:** to, how to do. And I, I think that is also a bit of a plague upon classical training.
**Ian:** Yeah, it definitely is.
Classical training could be better about that. I think there It does in instill a bunch of bad habits around that. Yeah. Like you can have so many of the benefits of classical training, like. [00:12:00] there, you know, the discipline of that is really useful. The specific method of practicing, of breaking things down into sections and mm-hmm.
going slow and then going fast. And there's a lot of really good things about, you know, classical music that are just helpful to mm-hmm. to mu musicality. But the perfectionism that's inherent in the current strain of classical music is, I think it's a real problem. Yeah. And I think it turns a ton of people off who would otherwise.
Continue playing music, even if, just for fun, just for themselves. But if they think, yeah, you know, well, I only ever made it to kind of early intermediate, why bother? Right. You know, I, I kind of suck. I'll just put on a recording if I wanna hear music. Yeah. It's embarrassing for me to try to play . I And how ridiculous is
That so much? And I mean, I, that's my. I don't always do resolutions, but sometimes I do. And that's my resolution for this year is to just be okay with where I'm [00:13:00] at. .
**Ian:** Yeah, it's
**Morgan:** hard. It's hard. I've been learning this one piece. It's actually, I'd love to talk about video game music a little bit later, but it's, it's from a video game and I've been learning it for, oh, this is the one with all us, like five
**Ian:** years , the fast block chords and everything.
**Morgan:** Yeah. I really wanna learn it and. I compare myself also to my old self who was a music major in school. Even I was eventually actually . Yeah, yeah, yeah. I put the work in and you put the work in, you put the time in. I just declared late. Yeah. But I was there and I, I did everything and, and I had, you know, hours and hours and hours a week, sometimes a day just to practice.
Yes. This is something I have to by myself, myself now, , right?
**Ian:** Yeah. I do the same thing. I'm not that. No, I'm not that either. No, we can't do that now. But yes, we set the standard for ourselves or we think . It's really weird though. Why do we do that? Like it's, it's kind of obvious that we're not devoted [00:14:00] to the life of learning.
Yeah. As a kind of primary occupation anymore. But. We expect to be able to make that kind of progress or be able to put in the kind of practice time that we used to in college. It was like so long ago at this point, like, holy crap. It's so unfair.
**Morgan:** I know, I know. Yeah. So that's my, that's my resolution just to be okay with where I'm at
**Ian:** and then well, and, and then it's one of these counterintuitive things where when you, if you can't actually accept that, that's where you can actually make progress.
Cuz you're not gonna be. Fighting yourself so much have thrown up your hands in the air and walking away, like you're actually going to put in some more time if you're not saying, and I practice more because
**Morgan:** Yeah, exactly. I enjoy it. I don't, you know, if I start to feel that voice, like, oh, you've, you've practiced this passage for a year, why haven't you got it?
It's like, well stop. I just shut it down. I shut that voice down hard in my head, and then eventually it's. Pretty cool to me how quickly I [00:15:00] adapted. To where now it's easier. Like I don't, my brain just doesn't go there. It's like I had to retrain my thought pattern. That's great. And I just kind of have fun with it.
And so I'll practice it and I'll be like, wow, this is just neat. You know? Boom, boom. Like there's these big blocky rolled chords like you were saying. And they're fun. They're fun to play. It's fun to roll record . Yeah. And then I can start to feel. Technique coming through that I'm rusty at. But you know, it just, it opens your brain up when you don't let that voice control you to just be relaxed and creative and open.
And that's the place I wanna be in with my music. Hell
**Ian:** yeah. Yeah, me too. Let's
**Morgan:** talk about video game music for a minute. You all wrote, you wrote some,
**Ian:** I have written some video game.
**Morgan:** and you gave me a really interesting perspective on video game music. I, I always think of it every time now. Hmm. Which is, it has to be interesting enough to be nice to listen to cuz you'll play oftentimes a level, if it's a [00:16:00] hard level, you can play it for quite some time.
Yeah. But it also has to be boring enough , it doesn't bother you. Right. It has to be
**Ian:** catchy. It needs to be able to catchy to it needs to be able to recede into the background. It's like, it's like furniture, music, you know, like satis idea. It needs
**Morgan:** to be there when you need it. .
**Ian:** Yeah. And then it's, but it's, it's like, yeah, it's, there's a, I think there's a strong crossover with minimalism in terms of you have music, it's very repetitive.
You're literally, you often, these tracks are just like a minute or two long and they're just playing over and over and over again. I mean, if you think of some of the most beloved video game music, they collect the theme from, you know, Mario Brothers, I think all these kids playing on their super Nintendos and just listening to this over and over and over and over and over and over again.
Maybe driving their parents crazy , but not
**Morgan:** crazy. Right. You the point the music is to not drive you crazy, but also be recognizable . It's but also
**Ian:** interesting to be evocative. Yeah. And [00:17:00] a lot of, a lot of newer games. Don't really do this anymore. They've solved that problem by just sort of being what I call mush.
Mush, just kind of, yeah, just this sort of ambient stuff. You know, you can't really hum a theme from a lot of, same thing in movies. A lot of newer movies, you can't really hum a theme from anything. It's just sort of like blur, you know, some kind of ambient background thing to evoke an emotion of some kind channel, some kind of affect, but it just, it.
Shirks the burden of being recognizable. So it's like, that's not, we decided that's not very important.
**Morgan:** Well, and again, games like gaming versus, like a movie is a passive thing. I sit and I absorb, but if you're gaming, you are, you're actively like, I don't know, you're ac, you're engaging with the environment.
in a different way. And also you don't know how long you're gonna be there, which I think is so interesting cuz in a, in a movie you're like, okay, this scene we're gonna pan over beautiful mountains for 16 seconds and then we're gonna zoom in on whatever, what you know. That's right. Very, that's right.
**Ian:** Formulaic. That's so, okay, I'll do a recapitulation [00:18:00] of this character's light motive that's, you know, 16 seconds and then we're gonna go into the, but yeah. So with, yeah, with games, it's it's an interesting compositional challenge in that way. It's kind of a fun. Fun puzzle. Yeah. How did you approach it?
The stuff I wrote that was sort of the, in the style of old. Kind of pixel art era game music. It was, it was very, you know, it's like you have a melody, you have baseline, you have a groove. You know, I think the fact of it being groove based is very important because it's sort of like, maybe you can say the same thing about the blues.
You know, there's, there's some repetitive music, right? it's the same chords, you know, pretty short chord progression going over and over again. Of course with the blues that you can, you can go all kinds of places with that structure. Yeah. But there's something. Having a groove that lets the repetition not be just like stultifying and make you wanna just kind of, yeah.
You know, , I don't know, knock yourself out or something. feel like
**Morgan:** one of the games that was when I picture a [00:19:00] groove in a game, I don't know why, but my first thought is actually final fantasy when you're in the just when you're just walking around the big stupid planes grinding, , trying to level up.
And then you, I don't know, you got into these battles with bugs and it takes you like a minute to fight these bugs that give you, you know, one experience point. It's just grinding, grinding, grinding, grinding. But yeah, it's groovy. Like I could, I could sing you . Yeah. That groove. Yeah. It doesn't, it doesn't get annoying.
Right. Music doesn't get annoying. The grinding gets annoying, but Right.
**Ian:** Yeah. That's a game that has some great music. Yeah. As we're both intimately familiar with . Yes. I think we both sang the music before we had played any of the games. Right.
**Morgan:** Yeah, Ian and I had a very funny interaction with Final Fantasy Music, and I have since played several of the games, but what was it?
College? You wanna tell that story?
**Ian:** Oh, sure. Yeah. It was the last senior year in college. New [00:20:00] choir director Eugene Rogers. Brilliant man. Brilliant. Coming in to try and professionalize our, our kind of wishy-washy liberal arts choir, . We were so lucky, , and he, he succeeded. Enough in making us a more professional unit to get us a gig with a traveling concert series, which was the Final Fantasy Distant Worlds series.
And music from Final Fantasy with visuals projected behind. And I think even the the composer was there. I think he made an appearance. I think he did come. Yeah. So it was, and it was just this really cool project. and I, I had sort of known of Final Fantasy. Yeah. But I'd never really played any of the games.
And I remember at 1.1 of our choir members gave like a little mini lecture on what Final Fantasy was for us . I know one
**Morgan:** of our gamers had to educate . Yeah. Like the one guy who played all of the games had to, had to educate the rest of us. .
**Ian:** Yeah. And then, and then we were just learning this music and it was just, [00:21:00] it was just like another choir concert except we.
At the end, we had this performance, which was, I think that was one of the most fun and rewarding performances I've ever done. Yeah. We were in this large it's basically like an opera house. Yeah. It was one of these places that had a, a very classic name for a performance venue. The, the Orpheum.
And I just remember the curtain going up and just felt the cheers rolling across the stage. It was very physical. Yeah. Packed with people or people doing cosplays, full orchestra. It was amazing. And it was I thought it was a really good concert. Like I felt very good about it musically. The music was really cool.
Like even if I didn't really have any idea about the games, the music was very cinematic and evocative.
**Morgan:** remember what was so cool to me. Again, it's kind of like the physics story where. , you know, the mathematical equation. Something that's completely outside of my realm, and yet I have an intimate understanding of pieces of it, and this is what I felt like I hadn't, I, I hadn't [00:22:00] ever played a video game.
I think at that point. Really? Maybe Sonic the Hedgehog when I Uhhuh. . Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's not ever anything I did. And yet, There was a DS in the middle of it, which as a acquirer That's right. Like is a very particular part of the coral mass. It's the day of wrath. It's got a whole cannon behind it of, of how to set it and, and people do it.
Fairly consistently. And then the words were like, it was so funny because the words were like semi Latin .
**Ian:** Well, yeah, it was, it was like made up Latin . Right. Well, it's, it's what I, it's an example of what I lovingly call occidental. It's a thing that I just love in anime and the anime creative sphere, a lot of just Japanese.
Creative new media is taking influences from the West that are kind of exotic and interesting and synthesizing them in new and fun ways. Yeah, so there's a piece of music here for Sph Roth. The, the villain [00:23:00] composed in the style of a das ere with kind of fake Latin. Lyrics ,
**Morgan:** that also had enough, it was so funny to me because they had enough Latin that you could actually sort of translate them.
Like it wasn't dsi, it not just
**Ian:** exactly, but it was just gibberish. I thought it was just gibberish syllables that sounded for
**Morgan:** Latin. It was like, like, DK or something like that. You, it was both.
**Ian:** Oh yeah, it's right. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Similar sounds to that. So yeah. You could imagine it being an alternative fantasy language.
Yeah. Or something that was like doing the same things. Yeah. , it definitely, it channeled the sort of essence of the feeling of that, which was really fun and but it, with this creative spin that was, It's great. Yeah. Like coming from the mu, just the musical world, knowing that the, the classics and then I was like, wow, here's this creative cool spin on a D Ice U Yeah.
For, for this like fantasy space villain. Yeah. .
**Morgan:** And I loved that. Like I, I feel like most gamers would not know that, and probably not just that connection to me really deepened like, oh, they, [00:24:00] there's a, there's more, you know, if you're hiring someone who has. Knowledge of music to do your game. Like that's, that spoke to me.
That, that told me something, you know, it made me respect the games a lot more. Yeah, sure. Like I said, I've since played several of them and had a good time. But yeah, that, that concert, I actually got the chance to kind of reprise that when I was in Portland. They came through and did Final Fantasy, and then I also did Zelda, same thing where Nice.
It's just a thing that, you know, these, these orchestras will go and they sell em every time. And it was not the same experiences, . Oh, not with that. You know, again, just we had such a, a tight choir and and this was more a group of professionals who volunteered, not all, not all professionals, but they were, you know, accomplished singers from Portland Choir and several other groups that volunteered.
Yeah. And I don't think we worked as hard, I don't think we sounded as good and interesting. We pulled it off like it was different. It was, it was just different. You know it
**Ian:** Sure it's different energy. [00:25:00] Yeah. But it was funny because the, the natural thing, of course, in choir in college we would have these wonderful parties and we'd.
Go sing our whole repertoire at the concert. We'd go back to somebody's apartment eat, drink, and be merry. And then we'd sing our whole concert rep again. Again, just for fun. Drunk, drunk,
**Morgan:** Appella , . Yeah. And then I remember every single choir tour, it was the same thing. Just constant singing on the bus.
Constant. That's right,
**Ian:** that's right. There's
**Morgan:** the poor Dr. Bus drivers were just like, oh my God. .
**Ian:** Yeah, . Either they were really lucky or really unlucky. Yeah. It
**Morgan:** really never stopped. It was kind of, Yeah.
**Ian:** Constant singing. Yeah. But it really, I, I mean it's, it's kind of amazing cuz I think just choir was a huge part of my college experience.
Like it framed so much of it. Yeah. Having that, that community. Yeah. Big anchor for me.
**Morgan:** Yeah. And I think that's part of why I continue to stick with it. I have yet to find that kind of community in a choir. But [00:26:00] there it is a community. Yeah. Again, college is a very special time where you just throw a bunch of people who are looking for growth to like, it's magical actually.
**Ian:** I, I think it's, it's totally magical. Yeah. It's, it's a magical sort of suspended time. Yeah. It's very
**Morgan:** unique. Yeah, and the connections you build are very unique. Like the friendships I have from college, I don't, it's hard to make that in the real in the quote unquote real world, you know? Yeah, it is.
Friendships are, are hard and, and music just kind of provides a like a. an environment like any hobby, I guess. But I think that's the one I connect to is I, I've, I've, I've always been in choir. There was a period of maybe two years after graduation when I moved to a new city and was just looking around trying to find groups to sing with.
Yeah. And you have to audition and then, you know, whatever. So it was, that's the only time. Where I haven't been in choir since college. I think I'm just always kind of looking for that. That same
**Ian:** community. I have gotten into this shape Note singing recently. Oh yeah, [00:27:00] let's
**Morgan:** talk about that. That stuff is crazy.
**Ian:** Yeah, it's very interesting. Very cool. A little microculture. Yeah, very interesting. Musical tradition is invented in England and sort of early colonial America as a way to educate people in part, singing people who often couldn't read music. So a lot of the older stuff often has kind of an English renaissance quality to it because it's the people who would've been starting it would've grown up singing like bird.
Things like that. And the, the shapes of the notes are sort of associated with syllables. There's, you know, rectangles and diamonds and stuff like that and can be a little disorienting. But it does end up being sort of helpful because they corresponds to the degrees of the scale. It's, it's a funny tradition because it's very educational.
It's definitely part of like a Christian religious tradition, but it's not like a church service. It's sort of more like the intention was to train you so that you could sing good music during the church service. So a lot of the. The, the vast majority of the repertoire, it's very [00:28:00] kind of these religious lyrics and it has kind of this coming together quality of that I associate with a lot of American, like, like I guess the Quaker tradition and, and sort of more non-hierarchical American Christian traditions.
It's about fellowship and equality and getting to the point of things without a lot of extra dogma around it. Yeah, so there's, there's kind of an unspoken rule at these gatherings that nobody talks about. Religion or politics. It's just about the music and, and the kinds of people that this tradition draws in.
It's very eclectic, like it's this group of misfits basically, who are all different types of musical training, all the different kinds of backgrounds and interests. But then the crystallizing point is interest in singing shape note music. Enthusiasm, forcing in shape note music. So which,
**Morgan:** which starts by an awareness of shape note music.
**Ian:** That's right. Existing . Yeah. You have [00:29:00] to know that it exists, which most people don't cause it's this obscure thing that was, it was dying out and it used to be very big, but then gradually it was replaced by other things that people did. Maybe it's Mus mission succeeded and people got more educated about music through the 18th and 19th centuries and the 20th, and by the mid 20th century, from what I understand, really was only sung still in the very deep south, you know, like the mountains of Alabama and stuff like that.
And at that point some people in the north were interested in some of these composers, like William Billings who lived in New England. He was like a Boston, it's like a leather worker or something. You know? There's a lot of these people who were big in the tradition were. , you know, just kind of trades people.
And then the, the music was a vocational thing on the side. They decided they, they wanted to try to revive this, so they went down south and were participating in these gatherings. And then they started a sort of a circuit of these singings again. And [00:30:00] they had the big convention in Chicago at one point.
And all these people from the deep South came up for it and, and were like, helped to kind of relight the flame a little bit. And then it just sort of spread around. And now, . There's small groups all over the country and even the world. And you can find them. There's sort of these central databases online of where the singings are when they are, and and it's a very, it's a very welcoming tradition.
That's one of the things I appreciate about it. Yeah, it's really the only kind of rule. That is expected of you is that you, you're sort of earnestly approaching it. You know, you sing with gusto and do your best. And it really is like that. It's like, not like, Ooh, you sang a wrong note. It's like, Nope, that's not, that's not important.
Yeah, like, it's, it's not that people shouldn't try, but , I
**Morgan:** dunno, it reminds me so much, it's like the singing version of Contra Dance, which is something that I do as well, which is just much like that. , you know, it's got historical roots. It's very [00:31:00] just kind of messy and smiley and . Yep. Very open to beginners can get technical if you want it to, but you know, yeah.
You, you don't have to have any experience walking in and, and just doing it.
**Ian:** Yeah. I think contra dancing is a perfect analogy for it. I bet
**Morgan:** there's crossover too between people who do shape no singing , there are Luke Con dance. There
**Ian:** definitely are . Yeah. That's sort of a group of misfits too, isn't it?
**Morgan:** Yeah, definitely. So in our college class that zeitgeist, that to me was what I now call because I have a business, a zeitgeist moment where like, yeah, you're in, you're in experiencing something, and, and the history and the, the whole. , everything of it just comes alive for you and you're like, ah, I get this, and you're kind of overwhelmed by it.
So I've just started calling that a zeitgeist moment. Nice. Where was your last zeitgeist moment?
**Ian:** Ooh, I've, I've had a few of those recently. Where was my last zeitgeist moment? [00:32:00] So where sort of like this, like this synthesis Right. Of a lot of things coming together And you have this, Stephanie, you just feel it.
Yeah. You really feel it? Yeah. Gosh, I feel like. I've had a lot of little ones as I've been exploring jazz. Yeah. Where I'll be playing a piece and things will click and I'll just really kind of get it at a certain level. I think a lot of these little moments have been for me when. A technique I'm trying to learn crystallizes a bit.
Like I know I, you know how you can know something abstractly and agree with it. Yeah. But you don't really know it until you experience it or practice it.
**Morgan:** Execute it. so successfully. .
**Ian:** Yeah. Execute successfully. So one of the things I'm trying to work on in my playing is to play enough complexity basically to satisfy me, but play like the bare minimum.
if that makes any sense technically. Sure. So that I'm not focused on all these technical things, but I'm really thinking about the music. [00:33:00] And I think then the, the specific little zeitgeist moment I had was this realization that I can really just play like one or two notes in my left hand and that can sound really good and that can provide a, a foundation for the chords and the feeling.
And, and then I was starting to do, Fairly simple left hand patterns, but get, get a lot of mileage out of them. And all of a sudden I was, it was like I was flying a little bit and now I, I'm like focusing on the right hand. It's like, okay, well this is great. I can do sort of melody in the right hand, focusing mostly on melody.
and then eventually I, as I have the bandwidth for, I can add in some extra chord tones. So I think the, the zeitgeist moments have been these little revelations that just get me a little closer to, it's like this feeling of merging in. Yeah. With the music that I love where I'm like able to inhabit it for these brief moments, it's like, it doesn't matter that I'm not, I don't have the full level of knowledge that [00:34:00] I'd like to have because in that moment, Like, I am the music and the music is me.
You know, . Yeah. It's, it's so tho yeah, those are the kinds of zeitgeist moments I've been having. Sweet.
**Morgan:** Thanks . Well, Ian, thank you so much for being on my podcast.
**Ian:** Oh, thanks for having me. This is a pleasure.