For the past year or so, Kelly Marie Musselman and I have been collaborating on a set of 10 pieces. Kelly and I went to Grinnell College together. She's a dear friend and a fantastic poet. We have each written 5 texts, and they are my lyrics for a composition/recording project. The material is finally complete, and we have just launched a Kickstarter to fund the recording of this music!
Kelly and I have been living in separate places throughout the process. When we began collaborating, she had just moved back to Colorado after finishing her education program. I had just graduated with a music degree and ended up staying in Grinnell another year. We decided to work together on a choral piece for SATB choir and electronics. She'd write the text, and I'd write the music. Her text was spot-on, and I finished a draft, but the piece sort of stalled as I got distracted with Victorian Gaslight and then my work with Wes Phillips.
Then sometime last winter Kelly sent me a new poem. Well, the poem was new to me. She described it to me as sort of a "leftover" from one of her poetry classes at Grinnell. The text planted itself deeply into my head, spitting out pieces of melody and orchestration. I immediately wrote the demo, recorded it to soundcloud, and sent it to Kelly. So began the process for the two-part album we are now calling Eavesdrop & Elevate.
Collaborating across two different states had a strange influence on the material. As we worked primarily through Google Drive, I became hyper aware of Man v Machine relationships. One piece (that did not make the final track list) explores this bluntly through a Man that falls in love with a Machine. (Stay tuned, folks, that piece will someday exist.) In terms of process, though, my steps for constructing a song were blurred. I would see a new document uploaded, find a stanza or chorus, and if it resonated with me I would set to writing before I even heard Kelly read it. Then I could send Kelly a demo, and that would inform the rest of the poem. Sometimes this method worked splendidly, other times it could be frustrating to be without the human element of creation.
Eventually our Drive folder really was driving the project. Because we were removed from each other, we each had to maintain exceptional organization and motivation. I've had a tab of our project open on at least one laptop for about three months straight. Seeing a new document or folder in bold kept our work constantly at the forefront of my mind. We have been aware of the way current technology encourages the creative act. Whether on Drive, a blank canvas made up documents and forms and charts, Instagram, Facebook, or right now as I write this blog on my website, we are frequently called to create.
As Kelly sent me new lyrics, and I continued to write my own, we began to see similarities in our work. Birds. Technological anxieties. Gender/identity angst. While this is not explicitly a "concept album," we did make a distinct effort to connect these themes and create a unified world, aesthetically. My musical arrangements should reflect the lyricism and eccentricity of Kelly's verse. Our world is full of tinkerers and transvestites, carnies and craftsmen.
We want to free this universe from Google Drive, from our minds, from our hearts. We want to bring our creation to people. We plan to record the album in my basement studio, Yorick Studio, in January. As new artists get on board, the music will continue to evolve.
I am pleased to introduce our project, Eavesdrop & Elevate, and our wonderful cast of characters (so far).
Cast of Characters
Kelly Musselman-- poet, producer, linguistic guru
Erik Jarvis-- composer, producer, keyboards, vocals
Mike Everson-- guitar, vocals, bass, percussion, engineer
Caleb Neubauer-- artist, producer, vocals, tech guru
Matt Everson-- videographer, tech guru
Brandon Bakke-- drums, bass, winds
Phil Smith-- horn, drums
Leah Meyer-- violin I, vocals
Axelle Verboon-- viola, string contractor
Katelyn Kukkoly-- violin II
Mindy Dauner-- cello