A brief musical journey

I’m back! It’s been a while but I’ve decided to dust off my old blog and to start trying to write some more regular updates as to what I’ve been doing these last 18 months. For those of you who I’ve not seen in a while it’s been a busy time.

One of the primary things I’ve been spending time at recently has been all things music, in particular both learning to create and attending more live electronic music. Electronic music has been an interest of mine for many years ever since being introduced to the likes of Mugasha and Soundcloud by friends back when I first arrived in California. Since then it’s become by far the largest genre that I consume, serving as a backdrop to most of my daily activities. Whether I’m working on software issues during the day or doing the dishes at home in the evening you’re likely to find me enjoying some music at the same time.

Music was a large part of my childhood as I played the piano and sang in the Palestrina Choir for many years. When I moved to California however I lost touch with it due to lack of time and access to instruments in addition to my changing tastes as I discovered more and more forms of electronic music.

My favourite act among my new discoveries were Above and Beyond, specifically their weekly Group Therapy podcast, a 2 hour compilation of electronic music that they release every Friday. I immediately became a fan and I’ve listened religiously ever since. I spent the first few years as a passive listener taking in the weekly broadcast but not attending any live shows until 2013 when I was lucky enough to catch their San Francisco leg of the We Are All We Need tour with some friends. It was the first time I’d experienced live electronic music in any form and the experience completely blew me away. The combination of the music and the energy that they commanded in the room was infectous, and while I’m not usually a fan of large crowds I felt completely at home there.

To the Gorge

Fast forward to September of 2017 and I decided that I would finally attend one of their milestone shows, a traveling live broadcast concert of every 50th episode which occurs around the end of September every year. ABGT250 was being held at The Gorge Amphitheatre, a ~28,000 open air concert venue in the Columbia River basin in Washington State. It is, in my opinion, one of the most spectacular venues in the world, and somewhere I’d long dreamed of attending a show. The prospect of Above and Beyond playing such an incredible venue was a no-brainer, and I bought tickets as soon as they were available that April.

Initially the idea was for a small group of friends to attend together, but as the date approached and life made other plans our numbers were reduced to just two: myself and Cameron (a.k.a. turtletheory). Undeterred by our losses Cameron and I embarked on an 18 hour drive straight from San Francisco to The Gorge together the Friday before the event and in doing so became instant friends as we took in an epic journey together. We arrived into the campsite in the crisp dawn air and pitched our tents as the sun began to rise.

Pitching our tents as the sun rose on ABGT250

The next two days of music were an eye opening experience, and immediately crystallized something that in retrospect should have been long-obvious: that music is incredibly important to me and also that it plays a significant role in my emotional wellbeing. I discovered electronic music at a more turbulent part of my life and it buoyed me through a number of rough days. The weekly Group Therapy shows were always something that I looked forward to every Friday and to be able to finally catch one live in such a setting and with such great company brought a moment of instant clarity as just how much positivity it had provided me over all the years.

The Gorge Amphitheatre for ABGT250

After that weekend I started to dedicate more and more of my spare time to music in various ways. Given that I had some background in it already I decided to make an attempt at learning how to produce my own music encouraged on by Cameron’s helpful advice. I’ve spent a considerable amount of my free time in the last year pursuing it since, and the experience has been wonderful. The limitless potential of an empty DAW (Digital Audio Workspace - the term for software used to create and edit music) session is very daunting at first, at the same time making every bit of progress that much more rewarding. In turn learning about how this music is made has made the experience of listening to it more enjoyable as my ear develops and I’m able to distinguish more of the features in greater detail.

Above and Beyond play ABGT250

I’ve also tried to take in more of the shows that pass through San Francisco with a particular group of friends. The highlight of the year was August’s Anjunadeep Open Air event on Treasure Island. It was a pretty modest setup but the California weather more than made up for it as we danced through the evening watching the sun set over San Francisco.

Anjunadeep Open Air San Francisco - August 2018

Looking ahead

This year I’ve set myself the personal goal of one live music performance of any kind, whether it be DJing, a live performance with Ableton, or perhaps a live improvised modular performance! I’ve no firm plans as yet as it’s still early days yet, but I’ll be sure to give people advanced notice when the day comes!