Interview: Brandon Chase Howe

Today we’re joined by Brandon Chase Howe. Brandon is a phenomenal up and coming composer who is currently studying music composition at University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. He’s mostly a contemporary composer and he’s interested in composing music for films. He’s a dedicated and passionate artist with an incredibly bright future ahead of him, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am a composer currently studying at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. My music is best described as the product of contemporary compositional techniques tempered with more-traditional approaches to aesthetic values. I am also extremely interested in writing for film, and I had the fantastic opportunity to compose an original score for UWM alum Nicholas Early’s short film, queue: Memory, in the Spring of 2017.

What inspires you?

I am deeply inspired by the work of Claude Debussy, my absolute favorite composer. His control over timbral color (timbre being the distinctive quality of a given sound) is unparalleled, and the complexity of his music’s structure is utterly jaw-dropping. Pieces such as Mouvement from his Images series, Canope from his Préludes for piano, and the beloved orchestral work Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune are three of his finest achievements, in my opinion. I am also inspired by the Finnish-French composer Kaija Saariaho, a true master of irregular meter and spectralism (a genre involving computer analysis of timbres and emphasis on the harmonic series). She is able to seamlessly integrate contemporary methods with the beauty of Classical- and Romantic-period music. A few of my favorite pieces from her repertoire include Pétales for cello with live electronic processing, Six jardins japonais for percussion and electronics, and Nymphéa Reflection for string orchestra.

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

What got me interested in composition was actually the film music of Clint Mansell, who wrote the score for The Fountain. That particular score made me appreciate film music for the first time, but it wasn’t until years later, when I heard Hans Zimmer’s score for Interstellar, that I realized I wanted to become a composer myself. I’m happy to say that once I began studying music, I was able to enjoy it on a much deeper level than before, and that newfound appreciation convinced me I had picked the right path.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

I think the most recognizable aspects of my music at this point are the lack of rigid tonal and rhythmic structures, as well as the heavy emphasis on timbre. The piece I’ve featured here is a decent example of these aspects within my work.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Natural talent doesn’t stand a chance against dedicated effort. I’ve never actually met someone who was “gifted,” and it turns out those who are apparently “naturals” actually just worked hard (and intelligently!) until they became masters of their fields. Don’t let anyone convince you that you aren’t naturally talented enough to follow your dreams – study and practice are all it takes!

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I am a heteroromantic asexual!

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

Fortunately, I’ve never been the victim of prejudice, but I did meet one person who was convinced that I needed to try sex in order to dislike it. I simply chose to ignore it and avoid the person because, after all, why surround yourself with people who try to invalidate your identity?

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

The one misconception I have encountered is the idea that it’s anything close to HSDD (Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder). Nothing could be further from the truth! Asexuality is not a disorder of any kind because it causes no distress, unlike conditions such as HSDD.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

I implore you to avoid the toxic people who invalidate your identity and show no compassion, no matter how close you may be to them. You deserve to be surrounded by those who lift your spirit and celebrate who you are! Once you are given the love you need, you will come to understand that you are not broken.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

You can find me on SoundCloud at https://soundcloud.com/brandonchasehowe. (There will be more content in the future!) I have also opted to share a piece of music for solo cello with you all! You can find it here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1rdfhFq8KlAQwpzQTY4qU8mSsHGLUwVsN/view?usp=sharing.

Thank you, Brandon, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Vel

Today we’re joined by Vel. Vel is a wonderful musician who is both a composer and a performer. When she’s not composing, Vel has started getting back into writing as a hobby. Whatever she does, Vel pours herself into it and is very enthusiastic, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m primarily a musician – composer and performer, but I have also recently been getting back into writing – a hobby I haven’t pursued in about 6 years.

What inspires you?

Other people’s art and ideas. I follow a lot of art blogs on Tumblr, and read posts of people’s headcanons in fandoms, or watch TV related to something I’m writing about. I like being excited by other people’s creations and I find it helps more than just daydreaming.

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I’ve always been a creative person, my parents are creative, and I was the nerdy kid at school who spent lunchtimes in the library writing a book. I used to want to be an author, but that dream has faded.

As for music, I never really considered myself good enough to be a professional anything, so I never seriously considered it, though I still have music-related goals in life.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

Not particularly.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

I know it’s a cliché, but just keep at it. Also, don’t assume everyone will think it’s bad or pathetic, especially if you’re at school. I rarely let anyone hear or read anything I wrote or composed, but on the rare occasion I did, people were astounded. Creating stuff is damn impressive, and if you share it, people are much more likely to be impressed than to criticize. And those who criticize without invitation to are dicks, so.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Both grey-ace and grey-aro. They’re both fluid, though, with bi & pan (both sexual and romantic).

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

Not in my field, no. In fact, I’m in a jazz band where 2/3 of the members are coincidentally ace.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

People thinking that it’s about action rather than desire. It blows peoples mind that I’m ace because of my reputation for being fairly … promiscuous.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

Honestly, find the right people online. There are toxic people, as there are against every community, but there are good people out there who have been through similar things, and having a support network can make things so much easier. I know this is easier said than done, but there are some popular blogs which are a good place to start.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

My AO3 is Vel16. I don’t really post much music anywhere, but if anyone’s interested in what I do feel free to contact me through my main Tumblr – somewhatvellum

Thank you, Vel, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Kyle Etges

Today we’re joined by Kyle Etges. Kyle is a phenomenal musician who specializes in quite a few styles. He’s a saxophonist who plays with the band Contraband. He’s a composer (some of his music can be found here: https://soundcloud.com/kyle-etges-463890162). Kyle is an incredibly passionate and dedicated musician, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am a saxophonist, educator, composer, and bandleader. I have been playing music professionally for the past 12 years in the Denver area, and have been writing music for probably even longer. I’ve led or helped lead 6 bands in that time, and I’ve written several pieces for all of them, particularly my Afrobeat band- Contraband. I also work for commission, and have arranged music for a few funk bands in the area, as well as a handful of guest entertainers with Celebrity Cruises.

If I had to characterize my writing, it would be an eclectic mix of jazz, funk, and reggae with a touch of classical. I like writing large through-composed works that leave a lot of room for improvisational interpretation from my band members.

What inspires you?

Oh boy… it’s different every week, it seems like. Right now I really like Snarky Puppy, and have been trying to emulate their sound in my writing. I’ve also been incorporating some hip hop elements into my music as of late, and have been checking out a lot of Hiatus Kaiyote, D’Angelo, Kendrick Lamar, and Brotherly. I really like music that grooves hard and gets people dancing, and I especially like Snarky Puppy’s (namely their primary composer, Michael League’s) ability to transition and weave through several different grooves in one tune.

I’m also heavily inspired by a jazz composer named Maria Schneider, especially when it comes to writing in solos. Many composers will just have a soloist play with the drums and bass, maybe with a few backgrounds thrown in. But Maria Schneider always paints these beautiful tapestries of sound that take the soloist and listener on a journey on their own. It’s something I’m still trying to master in my own writing, but I’m already pretty good at nerding out about it.

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What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I knew I wanted to do something in art since I was very young. I loved visual art when I was a kid, and I also got into theater from a young age. Music sort of took a side seat until I was 12, when I began listening to jazz and decided I wanted to pursue that full time. I think I was attracted to the idea of jazz more than the music. I like the image of being in a smoky club at three in the morning, surrounded by my friends calling out tunes to play. It all has a romantic quality to it, and I’ve been fortunate enough to experience that on multiple occasions.

As for writing music specifically, I think video games probably played the biggest hand in my interest. I was raised on Nintendo, and grew up listening to pieces by Koji Kondo. I’ve been told some of my pieces sound like overworld themes from a Zelda game, and I can’t say I’m surprised. I still get goosebumps when I put in Twilight Princess

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

Hmm… I kind of do, but it’s difficult to explain. Do you ever have a tune stuck in your head, but you’re not sure what it is or where it came from? I get those all the time, and naturally as a composer I eventually get to thinking, “is this a song already, or did I make this up?” I had this one a few years ago that was driving me nuts, and it became an inside joke amongst the band that it was every/any song. We started throwing this little melody into our solos, and eventually I started throwing it into my pieces.

I’ll try and upload a picture of it, but in solfedge it would be do-me-sol-^do-te-sol-me-fa-sol do-me-le-sol-me-do-re-me. I know it shows it’s face in 3-4 of my pieces. I guess I should make it more of a thing!

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

One of the biggest lessons I had to learn -or perhaps am still learning- is to foster discipline for your art. Many people are inspired to make art, and some of those people are even motivated enough to go through with it and create something beautiful. But I believe a true master is marked by daily regimen and improvement, even in the absence of motivation. In short … to truly master something, practice it every day, even if you don’t want to. Between inspiration and daily discipline, discipline always wins- hands down. It’s the only way to ensure growth improvement in your craft. No matter what, you always need to strive to be greater. Keep going!

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as Panromantic Demisexual, but usually I just say Asexual for simplicity’s sake.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

If there has been any prejudice, I haven’t heard about it directly. There are of course many musicians who don’t understand what it is, particularly musicians I met when working on a cruise ship. For most people, it’s a simple matter of educating them on the subject.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

My asexuality is a recent self-revelation, and a big part of my self-acceptance was upon meeting another asexual, with whom I proceeded to get into a queerplatonic relationship. For that reason, many people think my asexuality is a choice for the benefit of my partner (now fiancé!). It’s true that she played a huge role in helping me realize and accept this aspect of myself, but the truth is it’s always been a part of my life, and it’s dictated all of my past romantic relationships. Still, many people still tell us that our relationship ‘isn’t fair to me’ or in one case ‘is a waste of my penis’ (I really hate the guy who said that one). However, the truth is I’m happier than ever to be in a relationship that finally makes sense to me!

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What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

No matter how weird or different you feel, there’s at least one person out there who feels the same way. You are probably not as special as you think you are, and that’s not a bad thing! Find like-minded people and connect with them. I would not recommend trying to fit in by doing things you don’t want to do. I did that for an embarrassingly long time, so take it from me- it doesn’t work out!

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

Follow my Facebook page for now: facebook.com/etgesmusic. You’ll hopefully see some information soon about my website launching!

Contraband can be found at contrabandco.com or facebook.com/contrabandco

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Thank you, Kyle, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Epril SiDragon

Today we’re joined by Epril SiDragon (who also goes by Eppy).  Epril is a very versatile and talented artist who works in a number of mediums.  She does a lot of visual art, but also writes and composes.  Her pictures demonstrate a very unique eye, as you’ll soon see.  My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I draw, write, and compose, and sometimes paint, make digital art, and photograph.

What inspires you?

Music and stories inspire me, giving me characters and events, plots and words to give a picture.

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What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I’m not sure where I started, I’ve been creating art most of my life. I’ve been drawing since forever, writing since 2nd grade, and composing since 1st.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in our work that you’d be willing to reveal?

The only thing i can think of is how i tend to include text in my art, whether it be lyrics or my own quote, used as a caption or background.

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What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Don’t give up on your dream, and don’t let anyone tell you its unrealistic. Use other’s art as a motivator, and draw every day, whether it be a few lines or a complete piece.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Asexual, though I am still slightly questioning.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

I haven’t met any, other than people taking my anatomy studies sexually.

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What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

They think I’m a plant. Every time.

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What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

Don’t feel pressured to have to decide on something solid now. Sexuality is fluid, and it’s OK if your feelings change, or if you don’t know your feelings.

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Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

My art blog is eprilsart.tumblr.com, my deviantART is Epril-SiDragon, my Wattpad is RitualofDeadDragon, and I also have a separate blog which is eprilsidragon.weebly.com. My YouTube is Epril SiDragøn.

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Thank you, Epril, for participating in this interview and this project.  It’s very much appreciated.