Instructor Reid Kruger

Reid Kruger is a visiting professor, music producer, multi-instrumentalist, composer, sound designer, head audio engineer for Macalester’s own Mairs Concert Hall as well as owning and operating his own recording studio in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

To what extent is this course about electronics and technology, and to what extent is it about music?

My goal is to get students into the electronic music lab as soon as possible. However, the first three weeks are entirely in the classroom and tend to function as a crash course on the basics: safety, signal flow, gain staging, automation, recording, editing and mixing techniques, audio versus MIDI, historical context and more. Once we arrive at an understanding of the tools, then we make our way into the studio and then it’s all about music.

What are some of the best things about teaching this class?

Teaching the course as a workshop seems to be a highlight for students and instructor alike! Every week, students share their creations and the subsequent conversation is always dynamic, engaging and supportive. We look at everything from technical to aesthetic considerations, narrative arc and, sometimes, more oblique strategies. At a practical level, wheeling the studio computer into the classroom makes it possible for composers to show their work and make updates in real time.

The studio is no longer just a tool for documentation, but rather a tool for creation.

What is a challenge about teaching this class?

Of course, the highlight of this class is the students—each with their own unique backgrounds, curiosities, strengths, vulnerabilities and approaches to creative problem solving. Electronic music lends itself to this reality in a beautiful way. No two pieces ever sound the same. Making up your own rules is part of the process. Conversely, being creative in relatively uncharted waters can be a challenge. My goal is to honor that challenge and encourage every composer’s unique, and often solitary, approach to electronic music composition. On the other hand, the final step (and perhaps the greatest challenge) is to facilitate and maintain a dialogue around the work that is constructive, inclusive and consistent throughout the semester. It’s a team effort.

How does this class fit within the study of music?

This course is very much about working outside any specific convention. The studio is no longer just a tool for documentation, but rather a tool for creation.

Although this idea has been around for some time, I’m amazed how electronic music scales in its production with new technologies and, perhaps, even cultural shifts on a daily basis. What we choose to make, the sounds we choose to implement— a simple sine wave that morphs into something more granular, field recordings of protest, construction, the constant howl of traffic recorded from the I-94 overpass, notes in a familiar scale—how these sounds are organized, manipulated and contextualized to say something new is foundational to our conversation.

This could work as an example: some of the more advanced composers in my class arrive knowing very little about “music” …how to play an instrument, how to discuss it in more classical terms such as intervals, chords, rhythm, notes on a page. However, they might approach electronic music composition with a much deeper understanding of computer programming, mathematics, genetic sequencing, poetry, history or linguistics. Inevitably they find ways to connect the unfamiliar to the familiar to tell a story with sound. Their strategies are among the topics that make the class so interesting.

February 24 2021

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