Elsa M. Lankford
is a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the Radio/Audio track of the Electronic Media and Film department at Towson University, just north of Baltimore, MD. In addition to teaching audio production, audio documentary, and sound for media classes, she is an interdisciplinary artist who works with sound, photography, music, and the written word. Many of her works focus on urban/suburban issues of the past and present.
1. I began making music when I was in college. I started off on the guitar and synthesizers and moved on from there with both electronic and acoustic music.
2. My living environment informs my artwork and music. While I live in the city, my house is surrounded by wildlife. I record sounds here, both inside the house and out, and work on my other art media as well. As I record the soundscapes around my house and in the park near my house, I am continuing to learn to listen, which is a critical skill for musicians and sound artists.
3. I teach audio and sound at a university. My music and sound work don’t come up in classes that I teach, but they are definitely part of my job, as I have to make creative works as part of the tenure process. Music is a passion of mine, that tends to happen in spurts. I will sit down at the piano or pick up the guitar, and I will create a bunch of songs in a row and then have a dry spell for much longer. I do work with music in my sound work, and I incorporate sounds into my electroacoustic/synthesized music.
4. My composition process is different for the type of music that I am working on. For my electroacoustic music, I usually start with trying out different instruments and sounds and becoming inspired by their sounds and then layer the work from there. My acoustic music tends to start from a very basic melody, and from improvised lyrics, I begin building the framework of teh song. I think if I actually used rules for creating music, I might be more productive, but I worry I would lose the passion from where my music starts.
5. For my acoustic music, I use my Ovation guitar and a piano. I record either straight to tape or minidisc if I need to get something down quickly, or to Pro Tools if I have time to setup. For my electroacoustic music, I use sounds recorded from minidisc or a flash recorder through a shotgun microphone. I might go directly into Pro Tools and layer the sounds and the effects, or Reason. I also have Max/MSP, which I really need to use more, because it seems like a very powerful tool. I have a Korg Triton Pro keyboard which gets used less than my Novation Remote 25 SL USB keyboard, which despite having only 25 keys, I love for its portability.
6. Music and audio complement New Media very well. In addition to being a mechanism to collaborate and share compositions, it offers availability that has simply not been possible before. Personally, I am working on putting my sound works and compositions online. I have a website, but I really need to update it.
7. I have gotten some small grants for getting some equipment through my school. My undergrad degree is in Music & Technology, and I ended up doing IT work because I was worried about paying bills. In a large way, teaching is financing my work, but I am constantly looking for grants and competitions to try to get more equipment and/or software.
8. I work as an individual. I have always wanted to work in a group and/or collaborate, but so far, it has not happened on a large scale. The few times it did, it was wonderful to be able to work off of somebody else’s ideas and have them work off of yours. In those few times, I created songs that I would not have been able to do on my own.
9. R. Murray Schafer is important to me in my electroacoustic sound work. He really was/is a pioneer in music education and the acoustic ecology movement. I have also been inspired by Danny Elfman, for his visual style of music, which I sometimes create as well. I like the idea of music telling a narrative or having an image in mind when you close your eyes and you’re listening to music.
10. My future plans or dreams as a musician are to continue to learn and grow. I need to play live and simply more often. I need to find more time so that I can spend more time creating music and sound works. I don’t have any intention of fame or fortune from these creations, although if we’re dreaming…..
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