A Year in MP3s

R. Luke Dubois is an Assistant Professor of Digital Media at Polytechnic Institute of NYU

Last September, my best friend, Susan, told me that I didn’t make enough music anymore. She was right; between 1996 and 2003, I put out a new record every year, played a few shows a month and did quite a bit of composing, mostly for solo musicians or small ensembles I’d met over the years.

Like most composers these days, I use a computer to compose music; unlike most composers, my compositions are created with software tools that I write myself. In the 1990s I began to integrate visual media into my work, originally using projected imagery as a way to amplify and embody the underlying structure of some of my compositions. At a certain point the visual side of my creative life began to dominate and I found myself juggling several artistic identities. “Composer” was just one of the many labels regularly attached to me, along with those of more modern pedigree — “new media artist,” “software designer,” “live visualist” (a great term), or “laptop performer” (a more problematic one).

The composer in me, which I’d always thought of as paramount, was being snowed under by other things that didn’t have much to do with music composition: gallery shows, film shoots, public art commissions, improvised audiovisual performances, and the development of software made for use by other artists. I stand by that body of work, but as Susan pointed out, I should never forget that I started my creative life at 18, by falling in love with splicing tape and restoring 40-year-old synthesizers up at Columbia University.

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