The Reckoning

MUSIC by Jeremiah Glazer

The last thing I want to do is explain or analyze this song. That’s precisely the reason I left the Humanities in the first place.

About halfway into my time in Chicago I realized I didn’t want to be an academic anymore. I didn’t want to be an analyzer, an explainer, a codifier, a translator. I wanted to be a creator.

I was studying philosophy and learning a great deal: how to really write and craft an argument, how to analyze texts, how to glean meaning from works that didn’t seem to make much sense at first glance. Over time it got easier. It also got deeper; I entered a realm of academic inquiry I never thought possible. There were more than a few times when I had my own little “Aha” moments, when the tremble of excitement sizzled through me as the words gained new clarity. I was enjoying my time at school. I was learning a lot about the world, and I was learning a lot about myself.

One thing I learned, or maybe more accurately “rediscovered,” about myself is that I had an itch, an itch that no thesis or term paper could scratch, and no humanistic insight could assuage. And the itch was music.

Music has always been a part of my life and my heritage. I’ve been told my paternal grandfather was blessed with a golden voice, that he could have been a successful operatic singer were it not for the pressures of raising a family. And while I wasn’t fortunate enough to hear him sing (he passed away well before I was born) I’m convinced I inherited that musical bug from him.

My own musical education started when I was 6. At the behest of my parents I started to learn how to play the piano. At 12 I moved onto guitar, because, of course, the electric guitar is much cooler than the piano. In middle school I started a band that formed the basis of my social life all throughout high school and college. And even after my band broke up, my interest in music did not wane; I took up music theory and sight-reading classes in addition to the sociology classes that fulfilled my major. But most significantly, I was always writing, always composing, along the way. So when I moved from New Jersey to Chicago to see if a life of academia was right for me, I also brought my Martin DM-15 acoustic guitar along for the ride.

At school whenever I felt burnt out from reading Lacan, or writing about intentionality, or trying to understand what Nietzsche actually meant in his poetic prose of “The Gay Science”, I would put the book down, stop typing, pick up my guitar and start to play. Invariably a wave of calm would immediately wash over me. Nothing to parse, nothing to dissect. Only sound, rhythm, melody.

After school I decided to try my hand at video post-production, specifically editing. The work involved a lot of the values and skills I wanted to utilize in my professional life, and I spent the next three years interning and freelancing my way up the ranks, finally landing a full time job at Etsy, first as their Video Operations Coordinator and then as their Post-Production Supervisor.

A major reason for the move to full-time was to create the time, space, and financial ability to focus more on my music. I initially thought that taking on freelance work would give me the time to work on my music whenever I wanted. But instead, whenever I had free time I spent it looking for my next gig and paycheck with a constant worry in the back of my mind. This was not an ideal way to carve out a safe and stable creative environment.

As my work situation changed, I also became more interested in music production. Instead of coming home from work and picking up my guitar, I began pulling up a chair to my desktop computer and throwing my headphones on. I was tired of the same old guitar/bass/drums sound found in rock and indie music and became much more interested in the details of the recording process. But this is not just production; it’s composing in the 21st century.

Music composition used to be a paper and pen activity. There were no audio recordings, only notational records. Now, with the advent of powerful computer recording programs, composing and recording are no longer two disparate activities in music-making.

It’s this melding of the two that interests me. How technology has changed the concepts, tools, and practices of composing. For instance, how changing the overall EQ of the tracks with a low shelf filter can act as an introduction to the piece. Or how a reversed and stretched snare sound can act as a bridge to the chorus. Or switching the quantize settings to different tempos to create various rhythmic swings in a song. This is what lights my fire; this is what I’m trying to learn.
And I’m the first one to admit I have a long way to go. I’ve only scratched the surface of my abilities. But I’ve started scratching that itch. And it feels good.

Having studied piano since the age of 6 and moving onto guitar at the age of 12, Jeremiah Glazer (MAPH ’08) has always been writing and composing songs, mostly in the confines of his bedroom. Currently the Post-Production Supervisor at Etsy.com, Jeremiah has lent some of his work for use in the website’s videos and is now also producing his own material. For more information check out his website www.jeremiahglazer.com.