Taylor Deupree is an electronic musician, mastering engineer, and founder of the 12k record label. Deupree has been recording and producing electro-acoustic music for over 25 years, with his most recent efforts in the realms of modular synthesis, and tape loop manipulation. His 12k label builds on the aesthetic heard in his own music, focusing on “a form of experimental ambient music involving delicate hybrids of digital technology and acoustic instrumentation” that encourages artistic collaboration.
You buy a new album, describe your routine/experience of its first listening.
That’s actually quite dependent on what album it is, what type of music it is. For starters, if an artist I like is releasing an album and precedes the release date with a free stream of the entire album I will never listen to that. It’s not because it’s a stream, which I really don’t like anyway, but because to me the album is quite sacred. An artist has worked hard on this, poured their soul into it and to offhandedly stream it, like its a disposable “freebie” on the internet is a bit of an insult to them I think. I like to hear the album when it’s ready, when it’s released, with the artwork, in a high quality audio format… etc.
OK, so with my thoughts on streaming previews aside, as I said, it highly depends on what type of music it is I’ll be listening to for the first time. A few weeks ago, I bought Max Richter’s 8-hour “Sleep.” While the majority of my music listening is at my desk in my studio, I saved this one for when it was intended… for when I was going to sleep. I’ve listened to it every night while going to sleep since I bought it, each time starting from a different place. This, I think, was the intended way of hearing this music for the first time.
With other albums, whose concepts may not dictate a listening environment so much, I will always wait until I have time to listen to the whole album through at least once before I start listening. If it’s a CD or digital file it will be in my studio, through my wonderful speakers, if it’s a vinyl release it will be in the house where the turntable is. I’m not sure I have any particular routines on first listens besides making sure I can hear the whole thing from start to finish as the artist intended.
On subsequent listens to that same record, which aspects of the music do you focus your listening on. does this change over time? how?
Obviously, the more we listen to something the more familiar we become with it. I definitely start to concentrate and explore the production details of music as I hear it more. Maybe listening for how they created a certain effect or a particular mixing technique. Because of my mastering and production background it is difficult for me to separate listening between simple enjoyment and listening with a critical ear to the production. It’s a blessing and a curse to be able to hear this way.
I really encourage people to try to hear all of the details that an artist has put into their work. We musicians love to craft sonic subtleties which can get lost in a quick listen or on an inferior sound system. But the more you listen to something the more you can begin to pick up on the details and begin to appreciate the craft and the full feeling the artist wanted to convey.
If you could choose your favorite listening environment, what would it be? what draws you to that place to hear the music you’re listening too?
Music is such a large part of my life and goes with me everywhere that I’m not sure I have an idea listening environment. Each environment serves its purpose. For example, I fall asleep to music every night, so this is a great environment for me. If I really want to hear the sonics and production of a particular piece of music I’ll listen to it in my controlled studio environment. I listen to music a lot while driving, flying, or on the turntable while cooking. Music for me is as much about listening for enjoyment as it is for augmenting a particular situation. What I do avoid, and I hope others will as well, is ever listening to music through a mobile phone or laptop speaker or something like that. The artists deserve better than that!
As I write this now I am on a shinkansen speeding across central Japan and watching the rice fields, cities and mountains blur by. I’m tired from a week of touring but feeling happy. It’s times like this that I choose what I’ll listen to very carefully. I always travel with my iPod classic with a lot of music and a decent pair of headphones so I can make sure I’ve got the right music for any given occasion. The best music for this particular moment happened to be Mojave 3’s album “Spoon & Rafter.”
How does one make their listening listened to? What is the best avenue to communicate your listening experience to others?
I think what I said above about trying to pick up on and appreciate the details and subtleties of an artist’s song. Music can be listened to in so many ways, for so many purposes. Not every experience has to be this sacred listening session. There are times for listening while screaming and listening while crying, but do try to make an attempt to find time to listen with a concentrating ear so you can really be enveloped by the artist’s sonic world. As well, listen to the world outside and train your ear to pick up sonic details in nature. Many times I’ll go outside and sit quietly and count how many different sounds I can hear at any given time. It can be pretty fascinating as I’ll often answer quickly with 4 or 5 sounds, the obvious birds or rustling leaves, but a couple of minutes later Ive doubled that number as my ears sensitize to the environment. The same approach can be taken with recorded music as well.