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When music meets Computer Science – Dakota Wagner

Music is a very important thing in my life. It provides me enjoyment, fuels emotion, and provides a fulfillment that I personally love. I’ve never thought of being a music major, or of taking music up as a profession – however, what I do want to do is use the music I create to help bring the joy I receive and pass it on to others.

My first take at recording

I started “recording” music in 2011, when I had first acquired some recording software, which is now known as “FL Studio.” It was very primitive, but so were my skills at the time. I took piano lessons from 5th to 9th grade, and while I enjoyed the music, I didn’t enjoy the tedious practicing and time spent working on the aspects of sight reading and technique, etc. I think those that can do such things are incredibly talented people, but I did not have that talent. But that was okay!

The music I made and the way I work with music is based off of the way I feel about the music, and I compose in the methods that work effectively for me. There can be two songs with the same chord progression, but the one with the better tonal and instrumental choices will always be the better one – and that is my passion.

I would take clips of vocals from one song, and add it in to the instrumental track of another – essentially mashups – and enjoyed the different sounds and melodies transposed in different chord progressions and feelings. In 2012, I released a little album online with the bandcamp.com service with some of these mashups.

Mixing music with Computer Science

Being a Computer Science major, I’ve always been drawn to technology and the latest innovations in that field. I began getting interested in synthesizers, which are electronic musical instruments that generate electric signals that are converted to sound through instrument amplifiers and loudspeakers or headphones. They are very complex, technical instruments and allow for fine-tuning and crafting of the sound of my music.

I either sequenced these keyboard synthesizers or recorded them straight into my new recording software and interfaces, Ableton Live 9 and Apogee systems. My understanding of music theory grew in this process, and I learned to play guitar and bass guitar, which require essentially the same theory.

Getting my music published

I continued to post some of my music on the bandcamp.com service along with my Soundcloud channel for a while, and I eventually got a call that a publishing company would be willing to give me a special deal for publishing my music on major music services like iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Music, etc.

I agreed to the terms, and while I don’t make all proceeds from my music, that is okay, because that is not my goal. I released my first major song, “If I Wrote You A Song, It’d Go Something Like This,” in 2015. I wrote this song back in 2013, remastered it that year, and decided to try publishing one of my works. Time went on and I took a new path on musical styles and tastes, experimented with rawer, earthy, human elements, and spent a lot of time listening to ambient and electronic music.

Releasing new music

In this year, 2016, I released “Ascending the Rainforest Atrium” and I am very proud of the musical piece. It features synthesizers, a physical 808 drum machine, and grand piano and baby grand piano. It is a very moving piece and I believe the musical element is secondary to the feel and sound of the instruments playing the notes that are heard. From the reverb to the tonal qualities of the synthesizers, to the compression of the drums, everything is important to me.

The secret to succeeding

I think it is very important to find a happiness and fulfillment in your life – a passion to pursue. It doesn’t always have to be your job or your profession, it just has to fulfill you. It has to make you happy. And if you do that, you are succeeding.

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Posted:November 14, 2016


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