All Kinds of Music-Making

The composer Anna Clyne and I got together yesterday evening to catch up, and since we were at my place, and there were microphones lying around, we decided to make a track. I met Anna at the University of Edinburgh when I was 19 or so, when she got me to sing on one of her first compositions, a knotty choral thing where the time signature changed every bar (and they were short bars, too). She’s now the composer in residence of the Chicago Symphony, and has been making some awesome music.

Here’s what we came up with โ€” it ended up sounding like some kind of post-modern tribal thing, with Moby Dick and Beckett thrown in. We used whatever was close at hand.

It’s always so interesting to me to see what direction different collaborations lead you in. Gary Peacock asked me last year to make a duo record with him, and we’re going into the studio tomorrow. That music will be totally different from the above, for sure, and yet I like to think that there’s a common thread, that the difference just reflects the fact that my voice would have a slightly different tone in a conversation with Gary than it would in a conversation with Anna, and that we’d most likely be talking about different things in the first place. And even if we were to talk about exactlyย the same thing, the rhythm of the conversation, and the language used, would be different, simply because Gary and Anna are two different people and they each bring out different aspects of myself.

Selfishly speaking, I sometimes think of friends as variously tinted mirrors: they each reflect a unique image of myself. That’s why solitary confinement is the most extreme form of torture there is: without these external mirrors that are other people, a person loses all sense of self (Atul Gawande wrote about this at length in the New Yorker a couple years ago; it’s worth reading).ย We see ourselves through other people, and we can sometimes hear ourselves through our collaborators, too.

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7 Responses to All Kinds of Music-Making

  1. Vincent says:

    “Selfishly speaking, I sometimes think of friends as variously tinted mirrors: they each reflect a unique image of myself.”
    These are the perfect words for something I feel sometimes but couldn’t really say out in words. But as I grow up (grow old, maybe) I’m starting to think that real friends, the best ones, are the ones that show the best image of yourself. More and more I avoid the contact of people that reflect and image of me I don’t like, or I don’t fully recognize as mine (but as grow old, it’s becoming rarer, thankfully)

    But I believe in music, all kind of mixtures can be really beneficial.

    (excuse my English, I’m French…)

    • dantepfer says:

      That’s a great point, Vincent, and well put, too. I agree, although we also don’t want to go too far in the direction of surrounding ourselves with yes-men โ€” we need friends to tell us things about us that might occasionally be hard to hear. If we’re comparing friends to mirrors, I would think that what we really want is for the sum of our friends to amount to something like an untinted mirror, one that reflects as real an image of us as we can get.

  2. Vincent says:

    3 months without blogging ! We miss you ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Andrew says:

    I really like your “post-modern tribal thing”. Very cool ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Guy Shuman says:

    Dan, Very excited to hear you are going to do a recording with Gary Peacock. I have been hoping for something like this since Montreal 2011. Your first set at Upstairs was wonderful and stands out in my mind as one of the most magical shows I have ever heard / seen. Really looking forward to what comes out of this. Thanks for all the wonderful music and please come round to Chicago soon. Best, Guy

    • dantepfer says:

      Thank you, Guy! Great that you were there for those shows with Gary. We’ve been doing more recording, actually, and I hope we’ll have something out in the coming year. I’ll keep you posted…

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