Doug Bielmeier and The Inside Story: Experimental Electronic Music and the Creative Process

Composer Doug Bielmeier, who is an assistant professor at The Purdue School of Engineering and Technology at IUPUI and a freelance engineer at Noisy Buffalo Productions, has 15 years of studio and live engineering experience under his belt. Today, Bielmeier is our next featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. Read on to see Bielmeier’s thoughts on what it means to be creative and writing experimental music.

Who was your first favorite artist(s) growing up? 

I remember my sister and I listening to a 45 rpm single of “La Bamba” (not sure if it was the Ritchie Valens version or the Los Lobos version done for the Lou Diamond Philips film of the same name). At the time, we didn’t speak Spanish, so the words were meaningless to us. Nevertheless, we understood the excitement in Ritchie’s voice and the frenetic Quecha-like rhythms. The B-side of the single was Valen’s more famous “Oh Donna.” It was a slow and sighing ballad about a girl he pinned over. We were more interested in “La Bamba” because of the rhythm and excitement. The A-side was worn down to the vinyl where the B-side remained pristine. I think it’s a wonderful idea that two kids from suburban Buffalo, NY, in the 1980s could understand a Mexican-American pop hit from the late 1950’s and be excited about it. It’s this “dulcet excitation” in music that I’ve been drawn to ever since.

When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist/ composer/creator?

I don’t think I woke up one day and said, “I want to be creative and will create from this day forth until the rapture.” I think being a creative person is a lifestyle: The process of creating intertwines with your daily schedule and becomes your ritual. I was a very creative child. Luckily, my parents supported my creativity and paid for piano, voice, and even composition lessons throughout my youth. I wasn’t allowed to watch a lot of TV, and my mother required that we read a particular number of books per month as well as keep a journal. I grew up learning that days were meant to be filled with “doing.” I’ve grown to embrace the creative process, deciding that the process itself is almost more important than the outcomes.

If you could do any job in the world and make a living at it, what would that be?

I really enjoy my life, which includes teaching music technology, hosting a podcast about creativity (The Process), long bike rides, lots of coffee, and creating and producing music and video. I’d really like to shape my music for use in TV and film. I think it would be rewarding to have the music utilized beyond listening and performance. I’ve always loved film and cinema. Using my music to enhance a scene on the big screen is something I’d really enjoy and I think my music lends itself to this end. Some days I do contemplate giving it all up and training to become a park ranger in the Pacific Northwest, but, I think, I need to write a movie score or two first.

Experimental Electronic Music

What was your favorite musical moment on the album? 

Track 2 on the CD, “The Rocking Chair,” is a great track to get a sense of what the album’s all about. I also feel it is the most musical in that it has a rather straightforward form: it builds to a vocal crescendo or chorus and then dissipates into the next section/track. This track feels the most revealing of my process and my ideas for the album, specifically Windowing. The practice of windowing in electronic composition deals with the manipulation of found sound files by the stretching and compression of time, sample rate, bit depth, and window size. The layering and temporal placement of these windows create larger sonic landscapes for the creation of new musical works divorced from the source context. The original source material for “The Rocking Chair” was a short four-bar acoustic guitar sound file that was dropped several octaves in pitch by digitally slowing the playback speed. This track also features my live and processed vocals. I look forward to exploring vocal processing and manipulation with the process of windowing in upcoming releases.

What does this album mean to you personally?

“Betty and the Sensory World” is a celebration of the short life of vocalist Elizabeth “Betty” Reed. Her untimely death should be a wake-up call to anyone who is currently “coasting” through days or is “waiting till tomorrow” to make a change. The piece is a statement about leaving the “cave” of entitlement, victimhood, addiction, depression, and isolation, by returning to the sensory world of “true reality” (as described in Plato’s ‘Allegory of the Cave”)

Overall, the album represents my creative output in the spring and summer of 2016 while living in Indianapolis, IN.  These days were filled with warm weather, long bike rides, lots of coffee, and music. These sonic landscapes became the sound track for my return to the sensory world and renewed creative output. I spent hours bike riding around Indianapolis listening to versions and drafts of the album on my earbuds. For me, the music and its creation were a form of meditation and an affirmation of the sensory world. From this perspective, the process itself was just as important as the outcome.

Is there a specific feeling you want listeners to tune into when hearing your work?

I composed this work to function like a guided meditation, so it is best, if possible, to experience it as a singular statement. That, however, doesn’t mean it should be listened to in a vacuum. I think it’s most effective while doing something else relaxing. Turn it up loud over some speakers while you paint the garage or do the laundry. Throw on some headphones and go for a walk or bike ride. My hope is that eventually upon hearing the music you will be able to drift into a place of contemplation and calm.  The music’s ability to create these meditative sonics relies heavily on repetition, pulse, and the use of found audio. This combination, known as Windowing, evokes a sense of familiarity while creating an electronic landscape that appears organic to the sensory world. I hope the listener enjoys the composition, finds some serenity, and uses the sonic landscape to reconnect with the sensory world and themselves.

Doug Bielmeier’s BETTY AND THE SENSORY WORLD releases on Ravello Records and will be available to purchase and stream, Friday, August 11th.

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