On Repeat Interview: Rudi Seitz
His latest project, and how it directly supports indie musicians.
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Rudi Seitz is a lot of things; Yale graduate, software engineer, composer, singer, and more. And now we can add “benefactor” to the list.
In all of the fallout out surrounding Spotify and the ongoing debate about how artists get paid, it seems like everyone had a hot take. Rather than just add to the noise, Seitz is actually doing something about it; he’s put up $1000 of his own money to buy/promote the work of indie artists. He then took it a step further by crowdsourcing suggestions on Twitter.
I added some of my own picks to his thread, but my curiosity was piqued and I wanted to dig deeper. More importantly, this is the kind of work I want to signal boost anytime I can.
Rudi was gracious enough to answer my questions via email, explaining his background, what drove him to start this, and what he plans to achieve.
To contribute your own picks to this project, please click through to the tweet thread and/or visit his site. You can also explore his discography via the link to Bandcamp further down the page.
The interview below is lightly edited for clarity.
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Can you tell us a little bit about your background as a musician/composer?
I've had an unconventional background.
I was a high school kid who dreamed of becoming a guitarist and composer, then got frustrated and put those dreams aside, but returned to those dreams and found a way to build his adult life around them. There's a story here that I'd like to tell (elsewhere).
In my classical work, I focus on counterpoint. That's the art of taking two or more melodies and putting them into a conversation. When two melodies are really in conversation, they'll be playing at same time, and maintaining their individuality -- you can pick them apart as you listen -- but they'll also be "collaborating" to make each other better. This collaboration between two melodies to enhance each other is one of the most wonderful things you can hear.
Within the art of counterpoint, I focus on a form called "canon" where there's a leader and a follower that imitates the leader in some way. I've written 94 canons to date. I suppose you could say I've got my niche.
Back in 2017 I released an album of 45 of my canons performed on harpsichord (here's the first track) and that was really the biggest project I had ever undertaken in my life, of any kind. [Note: I'm not a keyboardist, I have wonderful collaborator Matthew McConnell who performs & records my canons.]
In 2022 I've got a bigger album coming out. This one has 35 new canons performed on an early keyboard instrument called the "clavichord." I said "bigger" because the album is longer than the previous one at 90+ minutes. It's longer because I've learned how to write longer canons, which took years to figure out.
Notable things about the clavichord: it's one of the quietest instruments to hear in a room, and to me it's the keyboard instrument that sounds closest to a guitar.
How did I learn to write canons? I started learning counterpoint when I studied with a composer named Stephen Siegel back in high school -- he gave me a set of exercises that I never stopped practicing. When I got older, I finally found a way to turn those exercises into music!
Along with my classical work, where I believe I'm working at the frontiers of my particular niche, I'm also a fledgling singer/songwriter. I learned to sing in my thirties after having concluded, in my earlier life, that I "couldn't sing." I played my first original song at an open mic in my forties. As I continue in life, I've become more and more interested in the healing power of group music-making -- whether it's group singing, jam sessions, open mics, karaoke nights, songwriting retreats.
Who are/were your musical influences?
I sometimes think this question is actually three questions: who do I admire the most, who do I sound the closest to, and who has actually shaped my writing style the most?
Now having identified those three separate questions, well, I can't answer all three separately right now, so I'll just say some stuff... :)
In the classical arena, well, I'm a Bach fanatic. And I'm an "early music" fan and can't get enough of Medieval and Renaissance composers including Perotin, Machaut, Josquin, Lassus, Obrecht. In the 20th century, Shostakovich's Preludes & Fugues and Bartok's Mikrokosmos are works that resonate. Favorite jazz guitarist: Joe Pass. But I don't think I sound like him. If I think of who I might sound like on guitar, the name Sandy Bull comes to mind. John Fahey. I studied with an Indian classical guitarist named Prasanna and he greatly influenced my guitar style. So did my studies with jazz guitarist and sitarist Amit Chatterjee. As well as Indian vocalists Pandit Nirmalya Dey, and Warren Senders. More to say here but I'll have to leave it at this for tonight.
In the tweet, you referred to this as a "soft launch." Is it part of a larger project? If so, can you expand on its scope?
I wanted to start with a simple tweet and gauge the response. I was planning to write a blog entry with a longer announcement, which I eventually did here. The way the project could get larger is that beyond just buying albums and listening to them, I hope to actively promote some of these albums, and I also hope to encourage other people to do the same thing I'm doing.
Imagine if every music lover made a resolution to spend $1000, or just $100, or whatever they could afford, buying music from independent musicians throughout a year. If this could happen at scale, the whole world of music making would be better off -- obviously, musicians would benefit from more people buying their stuff, but listeners would benefit too, from having more investment in what they're consuming, and so appreciating/enjoying it more.
Supporting indie musicians & shops is a worthy goal on its own, but what else are you hoping to achieve here? Is there an optimal outcome?
So here are my goals:
Support indie musicians
Spend more time listening myself and learn how to be a better & more supportive listener and fan
Engage folks to send me recommendations and perhaps follow me and learn more about what I'm up to
I see the project as a win/win in that by supporting other musicians, not only do the musicians get a purchase & plug from me, not only do I feel good supporting them, and not only do I get introduced to wonderful new music that I can enjoy for years to come, but I also might gain some followers who want to know more about me and what I'm up to.
How has Twitter reacted? Has the response been good?
I tweeted about it once and pretty quickly got 4 retweets, 2 quote tweets, 9 likes, and well over 10 music recommendations. I've already come to love some of the new albums that entered my life via these recommendations. Stats are relative. For me these stats are amazing because I have under 100 Twitter followers as of Mar 2022, and many of my tweets get 0 engagement. So, to tweet about this once and immediately see it get some responses and begin to spread -- that tells me there's lots of potential here.
Have you picked up any of the suggested albums yet? If so, which ones?
Yes! I'm keeping a spreadsheet here. I'm still getting to know the music I've purchased so far, but I can mention two highlights:
Jazz Drummer and composer Scott McLemore's album "The Multiverse: Knowing" puts me in a state of gentle flow, I just feel "at home" when it's playing.
Carissa Johnson's album "Blue Hour" -- particularly my favorite track "Tourist" -- takes me back to the 80's and gives me energy.
Besides Twitter, where can people find/learn more about you?
Thanks for being here,
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