Interdependence is a love letter- Rachel Mulder
My name is Rachel Mulder, and I have the unique position of working with MG via Zoom from my art studio in Portland while she physically attends Cornerstone’s Living Studios in Corvallis.
As I write this, we have so far only worked together over seven sessions since the beginning of August 2022. DJ Michelle has so many incredible ideas, and her enthusiasm is infectious. We’ve only just begun to get the ball rolling as, together, we discover ways to bring her ideas to life.
Collaborating with MG is fascinating on many levels. We are building a mutual web of strategies to make sure what is being created is truly hers. While I’m often acting as MG’s hands, it is essential to me that whatever is being created is undoubtedly MG’s choice. For example, I have scant training in music (middle school clarinet), and MG is interested in music theory, so we have found Youtube videos so that we can learn about this together.
As we create MG’s music together, I use my amateur GarageBand skills to record music by her design. This part is a work in progress; we are both artists and teachers to one another. Daily we discover something new inside GarageBand that helps us better align with MG’s vision (or I guess, her ears!). For example, we accidentally stumbled upon a way to view the in-progress recordings in GarageBand that showed us either the musical notes as sheet music, or viewed as a simple dot on what looks like a landscape. This visual discovery may help prevent me from supporting MG’s creativity in contrived ways, where she can actually see the image and share which note she would like. Formerly, I was playing a note, and saying the note’s name that the computer was showing us–but the immediacy was lacking here, and it didn’t feel authentically hers.
More recently, we encountered a truly monumental shift in our working together. I asked MG what music she liked to listen to at home, and we learned that we both love the album Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys. MG asked to hear God Only Knows, and since then we have been working on a few re-imaginings of this song. On Youtube, we located and downloaded a vocals-only version of it.
At first, due to my own paranoia about copyright violation, I was apprehensive about indulging in MG’s request to use the actual vocals from the Beach Boys. We had a few conversations about copyright laws, so our first versions capture MG singing along into the computer, me recording her voice, and practicing bit-by-bit to complete the song, with a rudimentary bass-line I played from a digital instrument.
However, MG is a DJ, and how had I forgotten what DJs do? They sample and remix music all the time! So when we discovered “loops” of pre-existing drums and other musical arrangements, we also found a new way where MG’s choice was more her own (compared to me playing some kind of mediocre one-note-at-a-time melody on a computer keyboard and hoping her guess and my guess are aligned). The loops have fascinating names, and as a person that some of my friends have referred as “pastel goth”, I was delighted to find that MG was drawn to some of the spookier names and sounds found in the public domain loop library in the program. Don’t overlook us cheerful types, man. We are into weird stuff!
As a self-suspected neurodivergent person myself, this last bit feels important. I’ve collaborated with many people experiencing intellectual and/or developmental disabilities since 2011, and often these folks get flattened into one-dimensional, cheery, inspirational beings. Every single human, no matter how they communicate, or move their bodies, or interact with the world is a complex tapestry of experiences, ideas, passions and desires.
We have already completed a few songs, and have since uploaded them to the Living Studios Youtube page! Since it’s a video page, we had to choose images to go along with the music, and MG was the creative director for these. Together we would search the internet for a suitable image of MG’s choosing, and then in Photoshop I would layer images and MG would choose how they were edited and what filters to apply to make them our own. She also co-designed the layout for the Living Studios Youtube page itself, giving input into how the banner should look and approving the final uploads.
"It’s important to me that this doesn’t all have to be “productive.” I believe art and music can and should be experiential. There are many “frivolous” by-products or experiences on the fringes of every single finished work of art. For example, even if we don’t “use” the space sounds* we downloaded from the NASA website for the music MG creates, what makes us believe that this moment was insignificant? Discovery is an essential part of the creative process, no matter what makes it into the final cut or not.
Whenever we play-back the music we are working on, MG often wrangles together a live-audience from the Living Studios crew, and counts us in with, “a-one, a-two, a-one, two, three, four!” and her face explodes with joy. I am so grateful to collaborate with this amazing person, and can’t wait to see what she wants to make next.
*YES! You can actually download FREE, public domain space sounds from NASA!
Listen in at Living Studios Youtube channel!
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"Waiting for the Meteor"
Oregon Fringe Festival
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