Jordan Munson's musical tastes might differ from those of most of his students, but his composition prowess reinforces his lessons to the sound design pupils in the Department of Music Arts and Technology.
Munson creates works from piano, percussion, voice and a lot of electronic manipulation. It might not have the beats or pop sensibilities his students prefer to create, but the instructor's work gets their respect.
"They see that you're actually practicing in this field -- you're not just talking about practicing in this field," Munson explained. "It does help legitimize the concepts you are trying to teach them."
In Munson's 10 years at IUPUI, first as a graduate student and now as a faculty member and coordinator of undergraduate recruitment in the Department of Music Arts and Technology, he has built experience and technique. He has brought some of the principles he has picked up at IUPUI and funneled them into his original work, which has been available on records and via digital means for the last several years.
Description of the following video:
"Jordan Munson talks 'Until My Last' " video on https://youtu.be/Qqyy-PQqVco
[Video: Jordan Munson in the recording studio.]
[Words appear: IUPUI Presents]
[Munson speaks: For many years, I've done a lot of free improvisation, just playing really long performances. Started out on drum set and percussion and then moved to electronics and things. So that's how I start, is just improvising for a long period of time and then that sort of informs the structure of it.]
[Words appear: Jordan Munson, senior lecturer, music and arts technology]
[Munson speaks: It's kind of like an abstract painting for me. You make one decision, and that first decision might be hard because there's so many options. And then after that, you have fewer decisions to make, and then every move, it just gets tighter and tighter until you determine there's no more decisions to make.
So, it's kinda like just shaping and reshaping sound objects until you get something that seems cohesive.]
[Words appear: IUPUI Fulfilling the Promise, iupui.edu]
[End of transcript]
Munson's newest release, "Until My Last," is available now exclusively via BandCamp membership. It will have a broader digital release in late July or early August by New Amsterdam Records, an independent label out of New York City.
Munson utilized collaboration and new technology for inspiration during the creation of "Until My Last." Vocalists Abby Gardner and Hanna Benn (who co-wrote the track "Anew"), violinist Robin Cox, and percussionist Alex Weir accentuate the pieces "Anew," "Where Light Escapes You" and the title track. The mix of organic instruments with technology continues to be a wealthy source of inspiration.
"It's nice to have students to inform you of new music, art and technology," said Munson, who will teach a summer course on the history of electronic music. "I'm working now with a new drum trigger from Sensory Percussion. It's a new piece of technology that sits on an acoustic drum, and it can trigger 11 different electronic sound areas from one drum. It's really expressive and will help guide some of the work."
Most of Munson's compositions blend well with video, as evidenced by a teaser trailer for "Until My Last." He often performs his music live -- from bars to art spaces to IUPUI venues.
"The studio product is something totally different from how it can be interpreted live," said Munson, who usually uses Ableton software for live performance and Max for studio work. "I'm working with new technologies and new tools and things to make it exciting -- interactive lighting, video, different ways to engage people."
Collaboration is key
Munson also balances his work with Big Robot, a trio with fellow Music and Arts Technology faculty members Michael Drews and Scott Deal. Being in the group helps the educators flex their performance muscles while coming up with ideas for their classes. Munson likens Big Robot to "a support group" where ideas get bounced around and dissected.
"A lot of composers and artists don't have that kind of support. Usually, there's a lot of competition there," said Munson, who also leads the ExME student electronic music ensemble. "It helps your confidence to have people like that to work with."
Deal has heard "Until My Last" throughout its development in studios within the Informatics and Communications Technology Complex.
"He's come up with some really great ways to combine electronics, and the textures are particularly gorgeous," Deal said. "He's a very creative guy and very innovative. He can find new sounds. His work is sophisticated but very accessible."
Some "Until My Last" sounds were realized during Big Robot rehearsals. Whether in a trio or solo, Deal said, Munson's sound is "distinctive."
Munson worked closely with colleague and sound engineer Doug Bielmeier throughout the project. Bielmeier served as recording, mixing, and mastering engineer for the album. "Having this partnership with Doug really allowed me the time to explore every creative possibility," said Munson. "He has an amazing ear and approached the project very openly."
Munson's newest project will feature 20 to 30 collaborators, he said.
"Figuring out how to do that live will also be pretty interesting," he added.
Sounds like a plan
Before his time in Indianapolis, Munson earned a degree in music performance at the University of Kentucky. He wanted to expand his music technology talents and found IUPUI's Music and Arts Technology program. Along the way, he has found the ability to harness his free improvisational music background with digital recording techniques.
"How I start is just improvising for a long period of time, and that sort of informs the structure of a piece," Munson said. "It's like abstract painting for me. You make one decision, and that first decision is hard because there are so many options. After that, there are fewer decisions to make, and then with every move it gets tighter and tighter before you determine there are no more decisions to make."
While Munson spends hundreds of hours a semester in the studio, his first priority is students. His latest recruitment venture has been bringing the popular Girls Rock! Indianapolis summer camp to the Informatics and Communications Technology Complex. The weeks of music-making by elementary, middle and high school students is a creative marketing tool for his program at IUPUI.
"My job tends to feed into creativity, and vice versa," Munson said.