“Music that has brought me closest to tears is both traditionally beautiful […] but also has a degree of intentional imperfection embedded into it.”
Choosing the opening quote for composer & trumpeter David Acevedo’s (CC ’19) post was tough, because there were lots of good ones:
- “You don’t have to force yourself to play art you don’t like.” (why isn’t this something we practice more?? Wouldn’t it save us from many unnecessary existential crises??)
- “Improvisation is just spontaneous composition. Composition allows you to edit what you’ve done in improv.” (We’re feeling all the Jeremy Corren vibes here.)
- “Harvesting & distributing memes.” (when asked his favorite hobby aside from music. Check out his Insta for reference).
David’s music, which he writes and performs with his band, Eyehear, is a lot like his favorite food, pastelitos: layered and heady, satisfying, and a bit surprising, with its familiar flavor profile presented in a slightly tweaked way. In his own words, his music “allows for the improv I want to do.” It’s funky, jazzy, rough around the edges–a “multi-informed” sound that is strangely beautiful and very human.
David’s jazz background almost paradoxically enabled the eventual formation of jazz-based Eyehear. He “never really vibed with” the improv he grew up with in high school, “done over a cycle of harmonic chord changes”; he prefers what he and his four band members have adopted as their signature: “open, free, avant-garde improv where there aren’t set chord changes attached to what you’re playing.” As Eyehear’s band leader, composer, and manager, David finds the most humbling aspect of the band to be the guys’ sheer talent. When David writes in his trumpet solo, his band members only see free accompaniment in the score. The music happens, quite literally, in-the-moment, with keyboardist Sean Kim and Joseph Freund (electric guitar) listening to the groove drummer Daniel Mesko and Conner Duke (electric bass) establish, and improvising off of it. The resulting “piece” is an ever-evolving entity: “played 10 times, the piece will sound 10 different ways. Similar to itself, but not the same.”
One of the most striking things about the tracks on Eyehear’s debut album (released March 30, 2018) is a distinct unripened quality, like a key that requires some wiggling in the lock before the door opens. A dissonant guitar riff here, a slightly wonky chord there–these are, for David, “humanity coming into the music over technical perfection.” Music that’s too clean, for David, misrepresents what is most human about us–our emotional diversity, our less well-rounded moments. If “totally pure music is not possible; composers will always be influenced by their life,” then David’s approach to music offers us an honest, sincere look into the mechanics of the music itself, and what they represent.
Who are David’s favorite influences, then? Some perfectly-imperfect musicians: “Steve Coleman, Francis Poulenc, Stravinsky, my band.” He takes after Thelonious Monk’s timeless advice, “A genius is the one most like himself” (snaps for Thelonious Monk and being unapologetically yourself in 2018!!). He hates food on his hands of any kind and insists on eating even fries with silverware. He’s also a Nintendo® head.
We’ll end on a particularly good quote out of the many great ones: “Everyone, to some extent, has some desire to express their life experiences creatively.” Go out and express yourself, whether that’s through your own brand of improv or a particularly relatable meme. Kudos to David for reminding us how freeing that can be.
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contributors: Jordan Lee, Cindy Liu, and Adrian Traviezo
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