Music

Album Update

I’ve been very lucky in the past five years to have had the time, the focus, the health, the overall life circumstances that were necessary for writing music. When I consider that I’ve created a sampling of the music I dreamed of creating, that I’ve given shape and substance to the music within me, I feel a sense of peace.

My goal now is to set up a context that might allow listeners — that’s you — to experience some of the same joy that I felt in writing this music. That means planning an official album release. Commissioning artwork. Making videos. Doing interviews. Planning events. Sharing the stories behind the notes.

In the meantime, I invite you to preview all the music in my new album, Meteorite.

The music is complete, but the music is only part of the album. The album itself, in the larger sense of what an album can be, is still evolving. If you leave me a comment, ask a question, tell me what moves you, what you want to know more about, you can be part of the evolution of this album. I’d love that.

Here is the music:

Personal Development

A month of essays

In March and April I took on the challenge of writing a 300-word essay each day for 30 days. And then I wrote a few more. If you’ve heard of “Ship 30 for 30,” that’s the challenge/course I was doing. Common themes are music and personal development. I posted these essays to Twitter each day. Here they are all together:

Music, Songwriting

Song: Drifting At Sea

Drifting at sea
No land I see
All that I see
Is sky and sea

Hull’s got a crack
Main sail is torn
Compass has lost the will to spin

Seagull above
Gliding with ease
How does it feel
To fly so free?

Someday perhaps
I’ll be reborn
I’ll be a seagull flying free

Trapped on a boat
Hope is remote
Inside a jar I’ll float my note:

Sweetheart I miss you and
Mother I love you and
Father I thank you for my life

Dolphins at play
With me, please stay
Show me the way
And I’ll obey

Seagull above
Soaring so sure
Guide me along
To my destined shore

Words & Music by Rudi Seitz, 2020

Life

May Update

Friends, readers, anyone who stumbles on my blog, here’s a brief update:

  • I have new music that I’d love to share with you. My upcoming album Meteorite is a cornucopia of musical ideas that I’ve been developing for the past five years. Perhaps these ideas could excite, challenge, or please your ear as well? You can hear the first track and preorder the album here. It will release this summer and I will post again here when the date is finalized.
  • I’ve started publishing guitar improvisation videos. In March and April I posted improvisations to YouTube on a daily basis. The breakthrough was finding a way to transform the material from the experimentation that I’ve been doing on guitar for as long as I can remember into “short stories” that I can conceive and record in under a day, sharing them as little pieces with a beginning, middle, and end. You can follow my channel here. I hope you find something there that inspires you as a listener, a creator, or both.
  • In March and April I participated in an online writing challenge/course called Ship30, where I wrote a 300-word essay each day for 30 days. All my essays were published on Twitter. I’ll be getting that material up here on my blog in due time, but for now the best way to check it out is follow me on Twitter and look at my history there. Here’s a summary of the writing theme I’ve been pursuing:
    • Many of us are drawn to music and other arts because they bring us joy. We seek fulfillment through creative expression. But the more serious we get as creators, the more pitfalls we encounter. Greater aspirations bring stress, confusion, blockage, and disillusionment. How can we pursue creativity in a way that actually delivers the fulfillment we seek? If art can help us learn about ourselves, connect with others, and experience the infinite or the divine, how can we realize those possibilities, growing as individuals by making art, building community by making art, connecting with “God” by making art? What ideas, practices, and tools can help us stay on track to growing more whole through our creative endeavors?
Guitar, Improvisation

How To Improvise With A Detuned String

There are many ways to incorporate a detuned string into an improvisation. You might want to try this if you’re interested in making sounds that you’ve never heard before. Here’s one improvisation template or schema that worked for me this morning. If you play guitar or another string instrument, you can apply this template too. It goes like this:

  1. Use palm muting to play a punchy rhythmic phrase that’s comfortably anchored to a tonic.
  2. As you keep playing, make a transition from palm muting to a clear, sustained tone, using nail. Let some of the open strings ring after you strike them, to create a background resonance. Slow down.
  3. End the gesture by striking a detuned string and letting it ring, stealing focus. You’ll need to have detuned one of your strings to do this part! You should generally avoid the detuned string in the previous steps so that it comes as a surprise here and captures all of the listener’s attention.
  4. Now use your right hand fingers to gently and slowly mute the open strings at the bridge (possibly skipping the detuned string) to create a gradual fade out. Practice doing this as slowly and gently as you possibly can.
  5. Keep repeating Steps 1 through 4 until you feel ready to stop.

Here’s how you can make your improvisation different from mine while still using the same template:

  1. Use a different instrument.
  2. Use a different tuning and detuning. I’m E A D G C E-half-sharp.
  3. Choose a different string to detune. I chose the highest string.
  4. Use a different muting technique.
  5. Use different rhythms and melodic motifs.
  6. Be a different person 🙂
Continue reading
Criticism

Beauty is an experience, not a thing

The composer and podcaster Samuel Andreyev recently posted a video asking whether avant-garde music can be beautiful. In answering yes, he claims that “The category of the beautiful is incredibly elastic and unstable.”

I agree that beauty is elastic. And there’s a reason why it’s elastic. That’s because beauty is an experience, not a thing, and our experiences are partially created by our expectations.

We find beauty where we expect it to be. Some people who expect to find beauty in avant-garde music might not expect to find it in a pop song; and some who expect to find it in a pop song might not expect to find it in avant-garde music. These expectations are self-fulfilling. They set us on different pathways of perception.

I don’t meant to say that expectation alone creates beauty — there’s more to it than that. But expectation plays a bigger role than we often assume.

Every person should ask: Am I sometimes finding beauty in places where I didn’t expect to find it before? If the answer is yes, your fortune is good. If the answer is no, that’s an indication that you might be missing out on… unknown beauty.

There’s a second point that’s important though, particularly when it comes to avant-garde music, however one defines “avant-garde.” Just because something is complex, confusing, and unfamiliar doesn’t mean that it is necessarily profound beyond your comprehension and that you are merely failing to appreciate its greatness. It’s pretty easy for an artist to generate things that are complex, confusing, and unfamiliar. Not all such products reward our attention and faith — some are just bad.

I used the word “bad,” but how can I do that if I’m arguing that beauty is elastic? How can I do that if I believe that beauty is an experience shaped by expectation?

For me, being an active listener involves a tension between keeping an open mind and ear, and being honest about how something actually makes me feel. Let me emphasize the word tension. You can only grow by opening yourself to new possibilities. But at some point, after you’ve worked to learn more about a piece, to understand its particular aims and techniques, you have to return to your own experience: are you moved? Or not?

If we never allow ourselves to draw the conclusion that a piece is bad, always trusting that there must be something in a bewildering piece that we just haven’t understood yet, we’re not being authentic. As much as we try to keep an open mind, conclusions are inevitable: there are some albums we reach for, and some that stay on the shelf. There are some paintings we hang on our wall, and some we skip over when when we see them in a museum.

If conclusions are inevitable, the important question is what do we do with our conclusions? I’ll argue that positive and negative conclusions should be treated differently.

If we draw a negative conclusion — if we decide we don’t like something — we should question the conclusion every once in a while. Give the piece another chance. There’s no value in broadcasting a negative conclusion to the world, because all that might happen is that we discourage someone else from exploring a work of art that they might have the potential to appreciate, even though we don’t.

But if we draw a positive conclusion, we should trust it. If we decide we really like something, we should tell everyone.

See also: Art And Weed.

Audience Building, Music, Personal Development

What can I learn about myself from a video?

Can video be a tool for self-discovery? If you make short videos with your phone, capturing little slices of your life, what can you learn?

I decided to put my camera in selfie mode while I was doing one of the things that’s most important to me in my life: listening to music. What does it look like when I do that, and what can I learn from seeing it?

Here is me listening to my piece, Garnet:

And here is me listening to my piece Birdsong:

What are my takeaways?

  1. Music makes me really happy. I already knew that. But these videos make me think about how I typically project (or don’t project) my experience of music to the outside world. When I write about music, I’m often concerned with communicating technical details, and all the theory can seem pretty dry and serious, I bet. And when a friend asks me what I’ve been up to and I say I’ve been struggling to finish a composition, perhaps it’s not evident to them how much I actually delight in that struggle. These videos give a direct look at how music actually makes me feel, and I’m not sure most people in my life have had a glimpse of that before. This get me thinking that as I move forward in life, I’d like to do more to convey my pleasure in music rather than keeping that pleasure inside.
  2. The ultimate way to experience a piece of music, for me, is to gesture as I listen. I’ve been doing this for my whole life, but only when I’m alone. This kind of gesturing is not conducting, where you’re guiding a performance using specific motions to convey your intentions. It’s also not dancing as we might typically think of dancing. You can do it sitting down, with your upper body alone. You just move spontaneously in response to what you hear, to imitate or interpret it, to express your excitement in it, to release the energy that it gives you. You don’t have to get anything “right” or keep accurate time — you can do whatever you want! Spontaneous gesturing is such an important part of experiencing music for me that I’m amazed by how little attention it gets when we talk about music appreciation, especially when it comes to classical music. If you want to get to know a piece of music, especially classical music, move to it, any way you want!
  3. When I think about sharing these videos, I realize I’m grappling with some perfectionism. I find myself asking: are these videos the best they can be, or should I make some more and see if I can do better (gesture more fluently, coordinate better with the music, improve the lighting and overall presentation)? As the composer of the music, I feel some reluctance to show myself getting “fooled” by one of the pieces — Garnet — thinking that it’s going to end a few moments before it actually does, even though that trickery is an explicit intention in the composition. The piece is working on me exactly as it should. But do I need to justify that? Sharing videos that aren’t perfect is a good exercise in personal growth, if one is looking to become less guarded and more accepting.
Audience Building, Social Media

Social Media and Me: An Update

Me: I’m an introvert who wants to reach out more. I’d like to make it a higher priority in my life to connect with fellow creators, to share my own music and art more publicly, to be part of a community, to build an audience.

Me: How do I that? Social media, maybe? I left Facebook in 2019 but I’m still on Twitter. Let me go to Twitter and see what’s happening.

Twitter: Here are some amazing people you should get to know, Rudi.

Me: Wow, great…

Twitter: And here’s an endless stream of devastating news about the worst things happening in the world, the depths of human cruelty and ignorance: senseless and brutal wars, ongoing genocide, the abuse of refugees, the destruction of ecosystems, the rise of authoritarianism, the threat of climate catastrophe, the specter of nuclear annihilation. You might want to follow this, Rudi, it’s IMPORTANT and it’s URGENT.

Me:

Twitter: And here are some cat videos and advertisements for you, Rudi.

Me: ….

Twitter: And here are some alerts and notifications for you, Rudi.

Me:

Twitter: And by the way we’re tracking absolutely everything you do and say here, Rudi.

Me:

Twitter: And here’s your next dose in the endless stream of devastating news about the worst things happening in the world, the depths of human cruelty and ignorance: senseless wars, ongoing genocide, the abuse of refugees, the destruction of ecosystems, the rise of authoritarianism, the threat of climate catastrophe, the specter of nuclear annihilation. You might want to follow this, Rudi, it’s IMPORTANT and it’s URGENT.

Me:

Question: Is it possible to use social media with intention and personal agency, without becoming overwhelmed, paralyzed, and addicted? Or is it best to log off?

Music

Help me spend $1000 on independent musicians

Resolution: I’m going to spend $1000 buying albums made by independent musicians.

There’s been a lot of talk about the injustices of the streaming economy, and a lot of hand-wringing about Spotify recently, but if every listener committed to investing a non-trivial amount of money on independent artists and albums each year, the whole world of music-making would be better off. Back in the CD era, I used to spend all my spare cash on albums, why not now?

The twist in this project is that I’d like to build my new record collection from your suggestions. Instead of collecting music the way I did in the past, carefully selecting what I thought would please my very particular taste, I’d like to listen to whatever my network suggests I listen to. That means friends, acquaintances, readers, you.

I’ll do my best to promote each album I buy by favorably reviewing it in person, on Twitter, through this blog, and possibly elsewhere. And while this project lasts, I’ll be listening to my new purchases exclusively, staying away from any “free” content online and any music I had collected in the past.

To anyone who knows of an interesting new album created by an independent musician, tell me about it in a comment here on this blog post, or contact me on Twitter, and I will strongly consider it for purchase. Artists, please don’t be shy about suggesting your own work — I do want to hear from you directly. Wondering what kind of music I like? Read below…

FAQ:

What’s the timeframe?

I’m planning on a six-month timeframe, officially starting March 2022 and ending Aug 2022, though I’ve already bought three albums earlier in 2022 that I’ll be including in the project. I want to have time to get to know each album I buy, so I’d like to cap my purchasing at five albums per week and have it be lower than that most weeks.

How are you tracking your purchases?

I’ll be recording them in this spreadsheet.

What styles of music are you looking for?

I’m hoping for a mix of classical, folk, singer/songwriter, jazz, and world music. I’m also hoping to broaden my horizons and get to know new styles that I wouldn’t typically seek out.

How picky are you?

I’m interested in hearing any albums that were labors of love for their creators, whether the album was made in a bathroom or a professional studio, by a novice singer/songwriter who only plays three chords or by a virtuoso classical musician. In any case where I don’t immediately connect with the music itself, I will try to learn more about the performer and their story of creating the album, and as long as there’s passion and commitment in the story, I will feel happy to have made the investment and included them in this project.

Why are you doing this?

I’m planning to release an album myself (90 minutes of intricate counterpoint performed on clavichord) but I don’t currently have a sizeable audience to release it to. In thinking about how to build an audience for my own work, I began thinking about what I’d love other people to do for me: I’d love them to “tune in” to what I’m trying to achieve, buy my music, take the time to listen to it closely, and tell others about it. This raises the question: am I doing that same thing for other musicians? The answer is: so far no, not really. I’ve been consuming a lot of “free” music online but not buying or promoting many albums or artists. But that “no” leads to a further question: would I like to do it for other musicians? Would I feel excited and proud to support other creators who are taking the bold step of bringing new music into this world? And here the answer is most definitely yes! So I’ve set myself a goal: spend $1000 on independent music and try my best to promote it. Why not do this?

What do you mean by only giving favorable reviews?

I’m of the opinion that if I don’t enjoy a piece of music, this might mean that I’m not the best person to appreciate and comment on it. I might not understand the work, or the work might not be crafted for ears that function like mine. In such a case, describing my lack of pleasure in the work provides no value to anyone. But if I do enjoy a piece of music, this definitely means that I’m a good person to comment on it. And it puts me in a position to provide value to another listener who doesn’t yet know about the work but stands to enjoy it. I want to provide value where I can and stay out of the picture where I can’t. Generally, I will try to buy albums that I think I have a good chance of coming to love; if there are few that I don’t learn to love, I might not say much about them, but I’ll try to keep listening.

What formats will you be purchasing?

I’m generally looking to purchase digital downloads of albums. If a particular album is available only on CD, I’ll still consider it. I’m not currently set up to play vinyl. I’m not looking for streaming offerings. And while I love Patreon, I’m not currently looking to become a Patreon supporter of each artist I listen to. I’m really just hoping to be able to buy an album and download it as WAV, FLAC, MP3, whatever. Best-case scenario is the artist/album is on Bandcamp.

Will you be tipping?

I’m going to keep my purchasing decisions as simple and frictionless as possible by paying the base price that artists request for their album, hoping that artists have set a reasonable base price that does justice to their work.

If I’m a musician and you haven’t bought my album yet, does that mean you don’t want to?

I’m connected to a number of wonderful musicians I haven’t purchased from yet. That’s not because I don’t want to — I do! I’m just getting started with this project and might need a reminder or nudge.

If I’m a musician and you’ve bought my album, how can I help you promote it?

Funny you should ask. What you can do is make sure I know or can find your story of creating the album and your larger story of coming to make music. What obstacles did you overcome to bring this album into the world? What does the album mean to you? When I’m recommending a piece of music, it’s very hard for me to speak engagingly about the technical details of the music. But it’s easy for me to speak engagingly about the artist’s story… if I know it. Tell me.

March 10 Update: I was interviewed by Kevin Alexander for his substack “On Repeat,” just published this morning. I have just received a slew of great recommendations today! I’ve spent $93.44 of the budget so far. Taking stock of the project overall: I’m doing very well in discovering great music. Word is starting to spread. Am sensing that folks who hear about this are curious and want to support it. My challenges so far: creating enough uninterrupted time for listening; also, breaking my old habit of just privately enjoying something — being sure to tell someone else about it!