August 11, 2015

Encouraging the ‘Shuffle’ Attitude

Let me introduce myself:

My name is Johnny Gossick and I am about to begin my second year at Lafayette College as a Creative and Performing Arts Fellow.  My major is currently undecided, but one of my main passions is music.  Over this past summer I began to take the first steps of my long-term CaPA project.  The project is still in its planning stages, but my long-term goal is to organize events that bring diverse music styles directly to the Lafayette College campus community and compose, record, and produce a large portfolio of music defying typical genres.

What does this mean and why does it matter?

A promotional poster for the band Interstellar Stereo with stars in space

The generation I belong to is the “iPod generation,” meaning we most often play music on repeat or shuffle on our digital devices.  Most of us no longer take a trip to the local record store, sift through physical media content, take a chance on a new artist out of curiosity, and then listen to an album the whole way through.  Most of us are picking one or two “popular hits” from albums on online services such as iTunes or Spotify and playing them on repeat.   We tend to play the same thing or similar sounding things over and over again until we get our “digital fix” from a song.  This is the curse of the digital age.

The curse is not pop music as many music critics might suggest.

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with catchy music that gives us happy feelings.  The danger is in limiting oneself to only one particular “sound” or style and never stepping outside of that top-40 playlist on repeat.

The opposite is true when we play music on shuffle or use online radio-esque services.  In shuffle mode, the potential for a diverse and rewarding musical experience is much greater.  If one fully utilized a digital streaming service like Spotify, they could be listening to jazz in one moment, pop in the next, “classical” music a few minutes later, and end their listening session with something like Carnatic music. Think about all the cross-cultural concepts that could be created by playing a seemingly endless supply of online music on shuffle mode.  Good music is not limited to one specific sound or style.  To be redundant, good music is just good music.

A student rock band performs on a stage

What could we do as a campus community to end the “repeat” attitude and promote the “shuffle” attitude?

The Williams Center does a fantastic job of bringing diverse and accomplished performers to our campus.  I have seen some of the greatest concerts of my life there in just one year of studying at Lafayette.  They even make all shows other than the college theater performances 100% free to Lafayette students.  However, I work in the Williams Center as an usher and I know that student attendance is often discouraging.  I have been told countless times by my professors that as modern musicians, we must create our audiences and bring our music directly to the people.

The CaPA program exists to strengthen the community of artists on campus and to engage the campus community in diverse and enriching artistic experiences.  Through the CaPA program, I hope to organize multidisciplinary events that epitomize the “shuffle attitude” by bringing great music of many different styles directly to the campus community.  This is a new trend in arts consumption and is being done by my favorite radio station, WTMD, which has teamed up with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra to “present a new concert series, PULSE, pairing the orchestra with prominent indie bands to explore musical connections that cross genres.” More information on PULSE can be found here:   http://wtmd.org/radio/2015/07/07/wtmd-and-bso-announce-pulse-a-revolutionary-concert-series/

The events I propose would be held everywhere and anywhere the administration will allow them in an attempt to boost student attendance. Some of my early ideas are spaces like the quad, the football stadium, Lower Farinon, the Spot, and the parking garage.

What have I done and plan to do musically to encourage the “shuffle” attitude on campus?

The Jazz Ensemble poses at night before a statue of a leopard on the Lafayette College campus

I am always trying to compose music and during my first year at Lafayette I performed three of my original compositions with Lafayette College ensembles in concert.  I performed two of these pieces with the jazz combo and the third was my first full “classical” piece to be played by an ensemble in concert.  I wrote this piece as part of the Introduction to Composition class I took under the instruction of Professor Kirk O’Riordan.  This class opened me up to writing music in a completely different style and gave me the inspiration to break the traditional distinctions between genres.

Since then, I have developed a strong interest in electronic and electroacoustic music and have spent the summer learning music composition through electronic tools.  I also formed a band, Interstellar Stereo, that me and my fellow band members compose and arrange prolifically for.  We play music with elements of jazz, funk, rock, hip-hop, and even include some avant-garde characteristics.  I hope to bring this band to campus to share our music with the Lafayette community as well.

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1 Comment

  1. Wow, this is very exciting that you are taking such in interest in educating your fellow Lafayette students in the new sounds of music. I can speak from experience, having heard your band Interstellar Stereo that it should not be missed. Your band is great. I wish you all the luck and success in promoting music at Lafayette. I know you will be a huge success.

    says Kim Hultberg
    August 11, 2015 at 4:59 pm
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