Mapping My Musical Twitterverse

The Idea:

A couple weeks ago, I was struck by the idea that I should improve my relationship with the music made by the musicians I know through Twitter. Although, I am very active on the social media platform, I’ve only sporadically used its powers of connectedness to find other people’s music.


To be clear, I don’t know feel like people who use Twitter are supposed to use it in any specific way, but I am aware of scholarship that suggests online networks do not reliably lead to exploration and communication between groups that do not normally interact with each other offline. To this end, I’ve seen the following question posed a number of times in my feed, “how often to you actually listen to the music made by the people you follow?”


My self-consciousness on this subject made me ripe for the influence of another source, which contributed enormously to my decision: Howard S. Becker’s tremendous book Art Worlds. Becker, a sociologist and jazz pianist, investigates the networks of intra-group activity that contribute to the production, distribution and evaluation of works of art. Becker proposes an understanding of aesthetics, which was very new to me and the way my education has portrayed this concept: aesthetics result from collective activity. Intrigued by the idea that aesthetics happen instead of disseminate from the persuasively communicated ideals, I began to wonder how I could put Becker’s view to the test with myself and my peer composers.


Designing this experiment, however, proved more difficult than I anticipated. Awkwardly, my education has not prepared me very well for accessing the works of my peers. I am only formally encouraged to listen to the music of those composers attending my composition program, and this support is only institutionalized in our regularly occurring composers’ concerts. As valuable a resource as these events are, they represent too small and homogenous a group of composers for my purposes, and, because they are conducted with an experimental spirit, are not intended to be analyzed publicly.


It did not take me long to realize my Twitter feed is a much more hospitable testing ground for gauging the collective aesthetics of living composers. First, the people who self-identify as composers and song-writers on Twitter, by participating in the social network, produce a public image of themselves that they design and submit for consumption by and feedback from the other members of the network. Furthermore, by focusing on my Twitter followers, and not those who I choose follow, I can better avoid the homogenizing self-selection that tends to limit how we interact in online forums.


As of yesterday, December 15, 2013, I had 518 Twitter followers, 172 of which self-identify as composers or songwriters. While it would be wonderful to also include the performers, ensembles and other musical minds who follow me on Twitter, that would lead to challenges of definition and, to be honest, overload me (and I have a history of biting of more than I can chew with my blog). Perhaps, in the future, I will do a more comprehensive study, but, for now, sifting through these 172 composer/songwriters will be a large enough challenge.



The Method:

I will do my best to give each composer the same “airtime”, if you will, and limit them to no more than 100 words of description. I intend to listen to at most three works by each person, chosen impartially from what I can find online. My goal is not to judge anyone’s music, but, instead, describe it in an attempt to gain a better understanding of the collective aesthetic landscape that’s out there (…among the self-identified composers/songwriters who were following me on Twitter as a December 15, 2013…).


I’m thinking of this project like an ethnography. Although its subjects are part of a very specific population, their behavior (i.e. the way their music sounds) may be applicable on a larger scale. At the very least, I will have a better understanding of what composers around me are doing, and, as a result, be able to understanding my work, as it relates to theirs, more thoroughly (yes, this is a little selfish…I’m posting this on my blog, after all!).


At the start of every week, starting January 1, 2014, I will publish my responses to five composers’ music and, obviously, include links to their websites, soundcloud/myspace/facebook/YouTube/whatever pages and Twitter accounts so you can connect with their music, too. Because I feel my “subjects” should get attention for their work, I will only link to, and not re-post, recordings or videos of their performances.  Ideally, you, my readers, will take the time to explore these composer/songwriters’ websites and creations, as well.



A note on terminology:

Because my aim is to describe these composers/songwriters’ music, I will need to use adjectives. However, this is not to say I will be “labeling” the music I write about. Rather, I view this project as a kind of musical/aesthetic cartography; and, while making a map requires comparing comparing objects and their qualities, it does not involve assigning an intrinsic value to them. Also, because the boundaries for this study are set so arbitrarily – the self-identified composers/songwriters who were following me on Twitter on December 15, 2013 – there is no point in my giving the group I’m focusing on a more enduring title.


Looking Ahead:

I have written about contemporary music for nearly four years, and my writing here will not differ in style from my other reviews or commentaries. I tend to focus on what music is or does, as I experience it through my listening, and not what it fails to be or do. It is likely I will emphasize similarities or cohesion between and among the individual composer/songwriters’ works because I want to get as clear a sense for the identity they have expressed in these works as I can. My purpose is not to portray certain works as superior or inferior to others, and the same goes for the people who create them.


With this said, I am very excited to begin this project on January 1, 2014. I am optimistic about what I will find because my exposure to this music is not influenced by geography or scheduling. Although relative chance is at play here, you will see that many of the composers/songwriters I am examining are people I have met in person or have connected with outside of Twitter, which is a significant limitation from a research standpoint. Nevertheless, I would never be able to spend time with all these writers-of-music and their work on a single concert or concert series, which speaks to the unprecedented access many of us idealize in our understandings of Twitter and other online music-sharing platforms.



The Subjects:

Below is a list of the composers/songwriters I will be looking at, numbered in order of when they followed me and described with the terms presented on their Twitter biographies or websites. With 172 people to look at, it will take me 35 weeks to get through them all; and, at 100 words/person, it will take me 17,200 words to catalog their music.


I hope you are ready for the long haul, I know I am!


1. Elliot Cole*; composer
2. Kristin Kuster*; composer
3. Jennifer Jolley*; composer
4. Chaz Allen*; composer
5. William Zuckerman*; composer
6. Roger Zare*; composer
7. James Holt, composer
8. Ken Ueno; composer
9. Crystal Collier; composer
10. D.J. Sparr; composer
11. Donia Jarrar*; composer
12. Joseph Prestamo*; composer
13. Corey Smith*; composer
14. Armando Bayolo; composer
15. Tony Harshbarger; composer
16. Christian Carey*; composer
17. Garrett Schatzer; composer
18. Daniel Schlosberg*; composer
19. Steven Snowden*; composer
20. Joel Puckett; composer
21. Tony Wardzinski; composer
22. Steven Berryman; composer
23. Steven Bryant; composer
24. Kevin Wilt; composer
25. Nick Norton*; composer
26. Alex Eddington; composer
27. Thomas Deneuville; composer
28. Patrick O’Malley*; composer
29. Joseph Eidson; composer
30. James Bean; composer
31. Tina Tallon; composer
32. Kenneth David Stewart*; composer
33. George Heathco; composer
34. Laura Olson; composer
35. Rusty Banks; composer
36. Julia Adolphe*; composer
37. J.M. Gerraughty; composer
38. Jessica Rudman; composer
39. Aaron Alon*; composer
40. James Stephenson; composer
41. Nelson de Quinhones; composer
42. Bongani NdodanaBreen; composer
43. Amy Beth Kirsten*; composer
44. Frencesco Di Fiore; composer
45. Daniel Lis; composer
46. Oliver Caplan*; composer
47. Luc Martin; composer
48. Joel Love*; composer
49. Robert McClure*; composer
50. Kevin J. Cope; composer
51. Christopher Healey; composer
52. Corey Cunnigham*; composer
53. Hannah Kendall; composer
54. John Arrigo-Nelson; composer
55. Daniel Zajicek*; composer
56. Charles Halka*; composer
57. Dennis Tobenski; composer/vocalist
58. Paul Dooley*; composer
59. Sarah Clevely; composer
60. Thom Norman; composer
61. Greg Simon*; composer
62. Isaac Schankler; composer
63. RA Moulds; composer
64. Bri Arden*; vocalist (pop singer/songwriter)
65. Ethan Greene*; composer
66. David Biedenbender*; composer
67. Tony Solitro; composer
68. Lane Harder*; composer
69. Geoffrey Gordon; composer
70. Michael Oberhauser; composer
71. Esther Hopkins; composer
72. John Mackey*; composer
73. Tyler Harrison*; composer
74. Patrick Harlin*; composer
75. Alex Burtzos; composer
76. Asaf Peres*; composer
77. Joe Phillips; composer (“sonic poet”)
78. Viet Cuong; composer
79. Christopher Rountree; conductor/composer
80. Ryan Keebaugh; composer
81. William Dodson; composer
82. Paul Wilkinson; pianist/composer
83. Lou Bunk; composer
84. Ezra Donner*; composer
85. Tai Livingston; composer
86. Andrea Reinkemeyer; composer
87. Ben Stevenson; composer/guitarist
88. Everette Minchew; composer
89. Luke Gullickson; pianist/guitarist/composer
90. Karen Siegel; composer
91. James Ricci; composer
92. Nilo Alcala; composer
93. Kirk O’Riordan; composer
94. Alex Temple; composer
95. Bill Sallak; composer
96. Peter Amsel; composer
97. Noah Luna; composer
98. Marc Yeats; composer
99. Chip Michael; composer
100. Carolyn O’Brien; composer
101. Tim Buckner; composer
102. Nat Evans; composer
103. Daniel Gilliam; composer
104. Ryan Noakes; composer
105. Nicolai Jacobsen*; composer
106. Peter Johns; composer
107. Michael Kallstrom; composer
108. Chris Jones; percussionist
109. Maurizio Schembri; composer
110. Adriano Fontana; composer/guitarist
111. Cheryl Camm; composer
112. Jenni Pinnock; composer
113. Gitte Viuff; composer
114. Alain Lefevre; composer
115. Jay Batzner; electroacoustic composer
116. Beki Smith; composer
117. Matti Kovler*; composer
118. Kiren MacMillan*; composer
119. Ash Madni; composer
120 Joseph Hyde; composer
121. John Teske; composer
122. Scott Worthington; composer/bassist
123. Scott Gehrett; composer
124. Ben Fuhrman; composer
125. Clare Shore; composer
126. Owen Davis; composer/percussionist
127. Randi Botnen; composer/pianist
128. Gill Civil; pianist/composer
129. Jordan Randall Smith; conductor/composer
130. Cesat Viana; composer
131. Claire Jordan; composer
132. Erin Rogers; composer/saxophonist
133. Steve Hicken; composer
134. Trevor Weston; composer
135. Charles Burdick; composer
136. Justin Giarrusso; composer
137. Alan Theisen; composer
138. Eric Nathan; composer
139. Ben Hjiertmann; composer/vocalist
140. Eric Malmquist; composer
141. John Clare; composer/violinst
142. Daniel Felsenfeld; composer
143. Nina C. Young*; composer
144. Julia Milahy; composer/vocalist
145. Felix Leuschner; composer
146. David Braid; composer/guitarist
147. James Joslin; composer
148. Ian Dicke; composer
149. Rebecca Kerhart; composer/guitarist
150. Greg Wilder; composer/pianist
151. David Dies; composer
152. Hayes Biggs; composer
153. Stace Constantinou; composer
154. Peter Van Zandt Lane; composer
155. Scott Brickman*; composer
156. Luis Tinoco; composer
157. Brad Fowler, composer
158. Karl Henning; composer
159. Sarah Wallin Huff; composer
160. Brian Kozaczek; composer
161. Ian Miles Becker; composer
162. Mohammad W. Alsaad; composer
163. Garrett Gillingham; composer
164. Ian Dorsch; composer
165. Matt Schoendorff; composer
166. Jess Hendricks; composer
167. Annika Socolofsky*; composer
168. Dylan Arthur Baker*; composer
169. Lawton Hall; composer
170. Andrew Rodriguez; composer
171. Ariel Lanyi; composer
172. Matthew Kiichi Heafy; guitarist/songwriter for heavy metal band Trivium



*In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve used the asterisk to designate those composers whom I have met in person.




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