MUSIC I MAKE

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BANDS

PDA / This Side Down

This was my first adventure in songwriting and playing original music. While I grew up taking piano lessons, playing French horn in concert band and singing in choirs, I was also writing lyrics since middle school, collecting them in a folder and envisioning how they would sound in a rock band. These were the pre-"mainstream internet" mid-90s, so coming up with good rhymes was a challenge until I came across an old book called "A Practical Dictionary of Rhymes" by Lawrence Holofcener. (I was also writing silly lyrics with friends for our "joke" band Food.) My lyric writing skyrocketed in the summer after tenth grade (right after dealing with heartbreak, how classic!), and from then on I embraced songwriting as a form of therapy, though they were still just songs in my head with no plans to perform or record them.

Meanwhile, my childhood friend Jonathan Ecklund played some guitar and we'd half-joke about starting a band someday, though nothing came out of it until my junior year in high school when I was talking with my friend and choirmate Lyman Smith about my "band" with Jonathan. Lyman was completely gung-ho about this, and I credit him with making the band anything more than just an idea. Soon we recruited our mutual friend and tech / production prodigy Ben Getsug, and we had our first practice in our school's band room in early 1998. The lineup was Jonathan on guitar, myself on vocals and synth, Lyman on bass and vocals, and Ben on drums. Jonathan and I brought our influences of American punk (like Bad Religion, Operation Ivy, and NOFX) and 80s alternative, while Ben and Lyman were more influenced by progressive and classic rock. The first thing we tried to play was Devo's "Auto Modown", and we probably sounded a lot like the chaotic jam session at the end of "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" when George Carlin reassuringly says, "they do get better!" At our next practice we played "Rain" by the Beatles, and this time we sounded a lot more cohesive. (I wish we had a recording of that practice session, because we never played that song again.)

Soon we started playing songs I'd written, and in July 1998 we had a couple of recording sessions at Ben's house, where he had a recording studio right in his room. During these sessions we did a lot of instrument swapping: Lyman and Ben both contributed guitar tracks, and Ben, who produced the sessions, also programmed electronic drums in lieu of a real drum kit. We were still debating about the band name at that point- Jonathan and I would spend hours on the phone passing name ideas to each other. (One of the candidates was "One Sweet Second", which became the name of our high school men's quartet that year- see below.) We all finally agreed on the name "PDA", and the result of the sessions was Blur, an EP containing five original songs. To the left is a thumbnail of the EP cover that you can click for an enlarged version (the same goes for other artwork on this site).

Our lyrics were pretty immature, but here's a couple of listenable excerpts from the EP where I sing, produced by Ben Getsug:

Later that summer, Lyman and I made some recordings in my basement using his 4-track cassette recorder, featuring new songs I'd written (most of which I re-created later on my own, with the exception of "Morning Flight"). These recordings were tucked away on a cassette tape in my room until the end of my senior year, when I was compiling most of the songs I'd recorded into a CD simply called High School (I didn't add "Demos" to the title until later on). When I found the cassette, I doubled the vocals to give them a fuller sound before adding them to the CD.

Below is one of the tracks from our home recording sessions:

Soon Jonathan and Ben left for college, but when the '98-'99 schoolyear started Lyman and I recruited Thomas Lally on drums and John (Giovanni) Messner on guitar. With the new lineup, we renamed ourselves This Side Down (a name coined by Carrie Martinson, my girlfriend at the time). We only had one new song, titled "Move On" (which I later recorded on my own- see below to read about my solo recordings). Maybe it was a hint... we disbanded after Lyman and I graduated high school.

Below is the studio version of This Side Down's "Move On" that I recorded on my own:


Food

Yes, Food. That's the name my friends in middle / high school agreed upon concerning our "joke" band. Back in middle school we'd taken on a playful obsession with Beverly Hills, 90210 and one day discovered a CD called Hating Brenda by Rump. The CD was full of parodies of the show, and it inspired us to write (and later record) songs parodying the people and places around us. (Also, there's little else to do in suburban Minnesota before you can drive.) Our only live performance took place at our school's talent show in spring 1999 (see photos below). There we performed our only non-offensive song, "I've Forgotten How to Have Fun" (which I'd written and recorded on my own - see below). We even made an album called MPA Buffet and distributed a few CDs amongst ourselves and our friends.

Here are the two most wholesome tracks from the album:


Ten Degree Chill (a.k.a. TDC Funk Band)

Begun as a funk band formed by members of our frat at MIT and a friend from Berklee College of Music on drums, we blended funk with jazz and hip-hop. The story of this group could possibly go back to the first term of my freshman year (fall 1999), when a bunch of us (mostly future members of the band) really wanted to have a band, or even just a group of people to jam with. Soon our resident advisor (and frat alum) Ed Hammond got a hold of a drum set from a friend, after which point we held regular jam sessions in the basement, playing a mix of funk and alternative. The next year, our new pledge class was very musically inclined and the membership of our jam band grew quite a bit.

We needed one more catalyst, and it arrived in October 2000 with an announcement of MIT's Battle of the Bands. We had one month to come up with a good set, let alone a well-defined group. That's when Chris Rakowski sent out an impassioned email that we should be a funk group, as many of us were brass players who played a lot of jazz, and the rest of us were more rock-driven. That made sense to the rest of us, and soon our group had a well-defined lineup: Chris Rakowski on saxes and flute, Mike Fabio on bass, Duane Tanaka on tenor sax, Dan Halperin on trombone, Justin Raade on guitar, Eric Gunther on spoken word, and myself on vocals and synth. We also needed a drummer, and that role was filled by Adam Nazro, a Berklee student and friend of the house.

We quickly built up a repertoire of funk covers (given that with a month left, we didn't have the time to work on original material), and simply called ourselves "TDC Funk Band". Soon the evening of the battle arrived, but when we were ready to get on stage, I couldn't get my keyboard to work. I suggested pretending to play while I sang, but the band unanimously vetoed that idea. Soon it was our turn, and I grabbed a pair of bongos and improvised as we started with an instrumental piece. We seemed to be doing all right, and by the time we started "Low Rider", I was pretty sure we could pull off a good set. The height of the set was James Brown's "Sex Machine", which lasted over 12 minutes. We ended up getting first place, and from then on we were all committed to the band.

In addition to learning more covers (like Zappa's "Peaches En Regalia" and James Brown's "Get Up Offa That Thing"), we started writing original music built upon Chris Rakowski's sax riffs and Eric Gunther's rap lyrics. We even played an arrangement of mine (of the "Crash Man" theme from the Nintendo game Mega Man 2). We also ended up buying a Rhodes on Ebay, as well as an 8-track mixer for live shows and studio recordings. We started playing gigs at parties and campus events, and in December 2000 we threw a funk party at our frat house, featuring live music by our band (by then renamed to Ten Degree Chill) as well as Fink Fank Funk, an awesome funk band from Harvard who were the runners-up at the battle of the bands. That ended up being our biggest frat party during my time there (and we were known for throwing big parties). In March 2001 we opened for Naughty By Nature at MIT's Habitat For Humanity benefit concert. Unfortunately, Chris and Dan had another concert that same night (one that held their GPAs hostage), but our friend Sumita Pennathur quickly learned the sax parts and the show went on. (Years later I recorded Sumita's Indian-themed jazz trio Ambika.) Below are photos and a live recording from the Habitat For Humanity benefit concert.

Early in April we recorded an EP, titled The Pipe Is Broke. (Our frat's basement, nicknamed "The Pipe", was also our practice room and recording studio. It was "broke" because we had to redo takes whenever the water pipes started making noise, which was often.) About a hundred copies of the EP were made and sold at subsequent concerts, and one of the songs ("Smoke") was later included in MIT Songwriting Club's Songs From the Institute, Volume 1 compilation. Half of the band members graduated in June, and that basically spelled the end for us.

Here's the song from our EP that later appeared in the MIT Songwriting Club compilation.


Patty's On Fire

While Ten Degree Chill gave up the funk, other members of my MIT frat (including a few members of Ten Degree Chill itself) wanted to play in a darker, hard-edged group, and our upcoming annual bondage party (spring 2001) was the perfect setting for it. With three weeks leading up to the night, several of us formed a goth / industrial band and built up a set of cover songs. The band consisted of Jessica Hinel (my a cappella bandmate from Resonance) on vocals, myself on keytar and vocals, Mike Fabio on bass, Justin Raade on electric guitar, Erik Larson on vintage synth, Andrew Hires on modern synth, and Aman Loomba on drum machine.

We called ourselves "Patty's On Fire" or "Why Is Patty On Fire?" (which has a long story attached to it), and our setlist for the show included Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer", Gary Numan's "Metal", Lords Of Acid's "Pussy", NIN's "Happiness In Slavery" (featuring Phil Bannister on 'slave screams'), and X-Ray Spex's "Oh Bondage, Up Yours". I wish we had a recording of the set, because apparently it sounded pretty good (and we had no monitors!), though the vocals were apparently hard to hear. I do, however, have pictures from the show. Click on the thumbnails below to see enlarged versions (I'm the one looking like a giant Smurf).


The Wreckage

After spending my first quarter at Stanford wishing I was in a band again, in January 2004 I reached out to my music program's email list, inquiring about starting a rock band with new wave influences. I got some replies and soon had a great jam session with the following lineup: Paul Larson on drums, Miguel Chavira on guitar/bass, Jeremy Liu on bass/guitar/vocals/keys, and myself on synth/vocals/guitar. After a few practices, we agreed on the band name "The Wreckage", which came from the title of a Gary Numan song, "This Wreckage", as well as a lyric from his Replicas album ("The wreckage of a hero lies / broken in a corner and / everyone pretends they like to live that way").

We ended up with a sound that was more alt-rock than new wave, though we did play a cover of "Mad World" by Tears For Fears. We also played a couple of my own songs, "Thank You" and "Kelly" (we played "Kelly" in order to perform at the Stanford Soundtrack CD release party, since that song was on the CD). For our band's originals, Miguel would provide the core musical structure (often from his many preconceived instrumentals), while Jeremy and I took turns writing the lyrics and vocal melodies to go with each song.

When Jeremy and I graduated and Paul left town over the summer, we were no longer a Stanford band. We started a long search for a new drummer, finally ending up with Scott McClendon of Napa Valley. (When Paul returned in the fall, he joined me in playing with another group called Zen Finger Painting.) For a while we rented out a practice room at H.I.T. Wall Studios in South San Francisco and played a few gigs downtown. We even made a few more studio recordings with Miguel's equipment, but they were never mixed down and we eventually disbanded. I hope those studio recordings will resurface someday.

Updates:

  • "Return" and a demo version of "Traffic" were featured in a short film by Ryan Kaci.

Here are the two songs we recorded at Stanford's CCRMA.

Here are songs from a live set (post-produced). Miguel Chavira wrote the music, except where indicated.


Zen Finger Painting

Zen Finger Painting is (fellow CCRMAlite) Gregor Hanuschak's project, which has seen many incarnations over the past few years:

pre-2004: Around 2001 Gregor recorded an album of quirky laptop rock under the name Zen Finger Painting. Later he formed a band called Gregor and the Mechanix that played his songs, and he continued writing and recording more originals.

2004-2005: I met Gregor and ate up his album. At one of my parties he suggested forming a new band (the Mechanix had disbanded by this time) and I agreed. We were soon joined by Gregor's friend Jonathan Solnit on lead guitar, and my former Wreckage bandmate Paul Larson on drums/vocals. Most of our material was very kooky and stylistically reminiscent of Ween and early Devo. We played as that lineup for about a year, re-arranging a lot of ZFP's past material and adding a few covers (such as "Trunk Fulla Amps" by Self). Below you'll find a few pictures of us during this time period.

2005-2008: We went on a hiatus while Gregor went to the east coast for business school. During that time, Gregor and I collaborated on each other's songs (which resulted in the orchestral arrangement of my song "Sixteenth Summer", as well as a collaboration with Alisa Tantraphol), and we filmed a music video for "Quantum Physics Girl", directed by Gregor's college roommate Bill Gienapp.

2008-2010: Gregor and I resumed practicing when he returned to the Bay Area, but without a drummer we had to come up with synth backing tracks to songs. While we came up with new arrangements to the originals from our last lineup, we added a bunch of new covers. We even filmed a second music video for our new arrangement of "Down on the Farm" (a.k.a. "Why Do We Eat the Ones We Love"), a song that was originally on Gregor's first album.

Soon we resumed playing gigs at various venues in South Bay, our last one being at Bay Area Yuri's Night 2010, a lineup that included N.E.R.D. and the Black Keys.

We now had enough material for a new album (more like a compilation), which we posted on Spotify and elsewhere (via TuneCore). The album Quantum Physics Girls includes all of Gregor's originals since his first album, plus our collaborations, two live tracks from 2005 (which were recorded by Miguel from the Wreckage), and our new version of "Down On the Farm (Why Do We Eat the Ones We Love?)".

2010-present: After releasing the compilation, we were once again in different parts of the country, so with the exception of a one-off gig at Maker Faire we had stopped playing live (though we experimented with practicing online using the JamLink).

Meanwhile, I had already started recording tracks for studio versions of our last setlist, and soon Gregor recorded his instruments and vocals as well. The recording and mixing process was spread over many months, and while I hammered away with the mix and overdubs, I helped Gregor set his friend Daniela's ESA contest-winning essay on the value of human spaceflight to music in 3 sections. The result of all this was a coherent 21-song album called This Is Nerdpop that I had poured a ridiculous amount of time into.

SOLO EFFORTS

Synthpop Period (1998-1999) - Album Name: High School Demos

While my initial recordings were done with my first band PDA in the summer of 1998, my first solo recordings didn't happen until that fall. When my bandmate Lyman Smith and I recorded new songs in my basement soon after PDA's recording sessions for Blur, I realized that making and recording my own music wasn't out of reach. I already had a good synthesizer / sequencer (Ensoniq TS-10) that I'd been using for the band, making sequences here and there just to get outlines of our songs. At first I didn't think these sequences would sound good on their own (or with my voice), but when PDA suddenly shrunk to two people, I looked to the synth in a new way and started elaborating on the sequences I'd made. I was heavily influenced by the Human League and other 80s synthpop that I was listening to at the time, as well as some 90s dance and Sean Lennon's "Into the Sun".

Soon I got a 4-track cassette recorder of my own (a Tascam), laid down the sequenced tracks, and recorded vocals alongside them. I didn't have a sophisticated production environment when mastering the songs (I just used Sound Blaster's Wave Studio), but something can still be said about taking what technology you have and pushing it to its limit (or somewhere relatively close). You might notice a funny accent in my early vocals (including the PDA-era stuff)- that was based on the choral diction I learned in school, with open vowels and sharp consonants.

At the end of my senior year I set out to compile all the music I'd recorded in high school, which involved lots of touchups and overdubs to make everything sound consistent. The end product was far from perfect, but I had to stop at some point and burn the CDs. The copies I distributed to my friends varied in tracklisting, initially including the songs from PDA's Blur that I'd written, my recordings with Lyman Smith, as well as my own versions of some PDA / This Side Down songs. Here's the final tracklist (in MP3 format):

All tracks written, arranged, performed and produced by Rego Sen, except:
* written by Rego Sen, arranged/performed/produced by Rego Sen and Lyman Smith

All tracks copyright © 1999-2004 Regaip Sen


Industrial Period (1999-2000) - Album Name: Observer

I continued making sequences with my Ensoniq TS-10 when I started at MIT in 1999, and my songs continuted to get darker and more layered, covering topics of betrayal, disillusion and isolation. My high school bandmate Ben Getsug had given me an effects module he wasn't using anymore (an Alesis Microverb III), which I'd used sparingly at first in my high school demos, but now I was using it prominently on many of my vocals (mainly for echo and reverb). When I was back in Minnesota for part of the winter, I also recorded a couple of songs (including "Don't Touch Me") on a Yamaha PSS-480, a small 80s digital synthesizer that our family had owned for over a decade. I was continuing to listen to Gary Numan and other dark wave, so a lot of my new music was inspired by their sound, as well as that of industrial bands like Nine Inch Nails and KMFDM. During this time, I had also started to teach myself chords from a small book I'd bought, using an acoustic guitar belonging to my college roommate Sidney Burks. Soon I added acoustic, electric and bass guitar parts into my new songs (as well as overdubbing a guitar part onto "Move On" for my High School Demos album). Now my songs were starting to sound the way I'd envisioned them.

After my freshman year, I started assembling these new songs into a dark concept album. For most of that summer (2000) I was in Turkey, where I added synth overdubs to many of the tracks while visiting my uncle in Ankara. My uncle Hikmet is the only other musically-inclined person in my family that I know of. He had converted a guest room into a recording studio with several synth modules hooked up, including the Roland JV-1010 (which I liked so much that I bought one afterward). I also composed a new piece based on drum & bass loops, which became the song "Welcome". During the fall semester I continued to add finishing touches to the album (including artwork and a lyric booklet), and in December 2000 I distributed a few CDs (in blue-tinted jewel cases) to my friends and uncle. At first I wasn't comfortable with having my name on such a dark depressing album, so I experimented with aliases like Parvenu and Observer (I took the name from the Gary Numan song "Observer"). Eventually I came around to having my own name on it, though I kept "Observer" as the album name.

I created two versions of the album: a seamless version with longer sections and transitions between songs, and also an album of standalone "single" versions. Here are the album tracks in MP3 format.

All tracks written, arranged, performed and produced by Rego Sen, except:
* includes drum loop samples by Groovster, The Stereo Logic, and DnB Breaks Collective

All tracks copyright © 1999-2004 Regaip Sen


Acoustic Period (2000-2004) - Album Name: Decade of Novembers







This period began in late 2000 as I was finishing up the final touches on Observer. Fred Choi announced that Aron Eklund of WMBR had agreed to team up with the MIT Songwriting Club to record songs by members of the MIT community and create a compilation CD to distribute amongst ourselves. I chose "Kelly", the first song I'd written entirely with the guitar. (I had just learned how to play guitar that spring and had been teaching myself covers over the summer, so at that time "Kelly" was also my only guitar song.)  I loved Fred's piano-playing style and asked him to accompany me on the song, and he was happy to do so. I then recorded a quick demo for him to practice with, but there was one problem: I'd unknowingly tuned my guitar a half-step flat and was already singing at the top of my range. When we went to record it, I had a hard time singing that high and ended up singing falsetto for the last couple takes. Instead of choosing a single take, I tried mixing them together to combine my chest voice and falsetto vocals in an effort to get the best of both worlds. This turned out to be really tricky, since we hadn't used a metronome and I did a lot of cutting and pasting to get the multiple takes lined up. The work was definitely worth it, as "Kelly" is one of my favorite tracks. When I took over the songwriting club, I got more funding for the CD project and our distribution jumped from 50 CDs to 1000 (professionally labeled and shrink-wrapped and everything!) on the condition that we give them away throughout the campus. The CD was optimistically named Songs From the Institute, Volume 1 (but to my knowledge there is yet to be a Volume 2).

Inspired by the success of "Kelly" and influenced by Dan Katz and others in the MIT Songwriting Club, I continued to write songs based on the guitar instead of the synthesizer. This resulted in a marked change in my songwriting technique. I still usually started with lyrics and a tune in my head, but now instead of coming up with a cool hook on the synth and fitting my lyrics to it, I was coming up with riffs on the guitar and working my lyrics into that. As I was self-taught on the guitar, I wasn't aware of the standard playing technique where the strumming hand is constantly moving up and down, regardless of string contact. Instead, my hand remained still when not hitting the strings, resulting in a unique (but difficult to maintain) strumming pattern. I also wasn't adept at finger picking, so I made up for it by coming up with more interesting chord progressions to strum, which in turn forced my vocal melodies into a wider range.

I also planned on writing synthesizer accompaniments to most of my new songs, as my next album was going to feature a balance of acoustic guitar and synths. At one point I even intended to incorporate the electronic pieces from my computer music classes. The working title for the album was "Songs For Leaving", and unfortunately I didn't get further than recording a few songs on guitar and vocals. (At the time I blamed MIT's course load, but looking back I admit that a certain leafy green substance was the bigger culprit.) By the second semester of my senior year, I had come to grips with reality and decided to scrap my plans for an electro-acoustic album. Instead, I assembled my existing recordings into a compilation of songs on acoustic guitar, hurriedly recording more songs I'd planned and adding ones written as far back as high school, some of which I had intended for my first band PDA. My new vision for this album was to remain acoustic (no drums or electronic instruments), but for many of the songs to have accompaniments like "Kelly". It took several years before I got around to getting the overdubs recorded, some with the help of my later bandmate Gregor Hanuschak. The album artwork features an eviscerated classroom in MIT's Building 4 that students occasionally used for solitary studying; the barren walls and floor with protruding pipes and fixtures made it a nice backdrop for this "unplugged" album.

Updates:

  • During grad school, I submitted "Kelly" for Stanford Soundtrack, Vol. 3 (my first choice was "When You're the Other Man", but it exceeded the maximum allotted track length), and it ended up as the final track on their compilation album.
  • "Kelly" was featured in a short film by Scott Nagle that premiered at the 48 Hour Film Project in San Francisco. It ended up winning Best Script and Best Film in SF, and went on to be in the Top 5 nationwide! Here is the IMDB entry.

Below is the final tracklisting of Decade of Novembers in MP3 format. Additional credits are listed per song.

All tracks written and arranged by Rego Sen, except:

  • "Sixteenth Summer": orchestral arrangement by Gregor Hanuschak
  • "Kelly": piano arrangement by Fred Choi
  • "I Knew Her Name" based on "I Know Their Name" by Men Without Hats

All tracks produced by Rego Sen, except:

  • "Kelly" produced by Aron Eklund and Rego Sen

All tracks copyright © 1999-2004 Regaip Sen


Singles Period (2004-present)

After my acoustic period, my own songwriting had slowed to a crawl in favor of other musical activities (such as performing / producing music with Zen Finger Painting, and other audio production and restoration). My solo output since then has been in the form of singles instead of albums.


"Telecommunications Act of 1996"

A tentative political album had been brewing in my head since college in the early 2000s, though it sat on the back burner while I played in the Wreckage and Zen Finger Painting. At one point it had a tracklist, all the lyrics were written, and several of the songs were recorded as crude demo versions. But the material was dated and I was losing interest over time.

But then in the late 2000s I joined an online community called F-Jam Studios, where I was encouraged to share some of my songs for collaboration. I had a few false starts involving my acoustic songs, but then I shared a demo version of "Telecommunications Act of 1996" and that project really took off. I ended up sharing the individual tracks from my demo with Fred E. Jam (the site owner), who polished up the tracks for me and recorded himself on drums. Eventually I took the polished tracks back from him and added additional tracks for synth, bass guitar and backing vocals. The final version of the song was completed in 2010, and you can hear it below.

Written, arranged, performed and produced by Rego Sen. Drums and additional production by Fred E. Jam (Keeper)

Copyright © 2004 Regaip Sen


"Now That You Found Me"

I wrote this track for my girlfriend (now wife) in 2006, and then recorded it in early 2007. I played the Turkish bağlama and tambourine over the Ensoniq TS-10.

Update: I'm having my own music pressed to vinyl, and you can visit my Instagram post to watch this play as a 7" record.

Written, arranged, performed and produced by Rego Sen

Copyright © 2006 Regaip Sen

VOCAL GROUPS

High School Men's Quartet '97-'98: One Sweet Second


 

My high school had a men's vocal quartet with a lineup that changed every year. I made it into the group as baritone in my junior year, along with three seniors: Dave Steffes (top), Adam Paul (bass), and Andy Commers (lead). We were directed by Marlys Fiterman, who also directed us the following year. Our repertoire included the Beatles' "Blackbird" and "When I'm Sixty-Four", Phish's "Bouncing Around the Room", Billy Joel's "And So It Goes", and barbershop standards like "Coney Island Baby." We also got to sing the national anthem before a Twins baseball game at the Minneapolis Metrodome, alongside a few other choir members (see photo).

No one really knew us by a name, but one night we were singing before another act and needed to introduce ourselves as something. I had in my planner a list of band name ideas Jonathan and I had come up with (see above) and I read it out to the other quartet members. Adam Paul really liked the name "One Sweet Second" and the rest of us agreed. He then went up to the microphone to introduce us as such, and so it became our official name. Toward the end of the year when we performed "Bouncing Around the Room," we featured Lyman Smith, another junior (and fellow PDA member) who would later become a quartet member the following year.


Minnesota All-State Men's Choir '98

During the summer after my junior year, I spent a week at St. Olaf College (in Northfield, MN) for that year's All-State Choir session. Our director was Axel Theimer, a former Vienna boys' choir member who grew up in Austria and now works at St. John's University and the College of St. Benedict. He was a great teacher and carried around a model of a larynx that we referred to as "Larry the Larynx". Our repertoire that year included "Zion's Walls", "Tarantella", "When I Fall In Love", and "O Filii Et Filae", among others.

One event I'll always remember is from our concert later in January 1999. Prior to going onstage, we were waiting in an adjacent room and a few people started singing "Prayer of the Children". Having learned it in my high school men's quartet (see below), I joined in, followed by others. Soon most of us were singing it out with all our hearts, and by the end many of us had tears in our eyes.


High School Men's Quartet '98-'99: Quadra Sigma


 

During my senior year, our high school men's vocal quartet lineup was Lyman Smith (top), Mark Fredrickson (bass), John Knoedler (baritone) and myself (lead). Mark was the only junior, while the rest of us were seniors. Our repertoire that year included "And So It Goes" from the previous year, as well as Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" (with Ashton Allan beatboxing when we performed live), "Prayer of the Children", and barbershop standards like "Charlottetown", "Climbin' Up the Mountain", and "Keep in the Middle of the Road". We agreed on the name "Quadra Sigma" to mean "Sum Of Four" in a mix of Greek and Latin, and in the spring of 1999 we toured Missouri and the Ozarks with our school's concert choir.

As graduation approached, we decided to work on a recording project with producer (and ex-PDA member) Ben Getsug. We set up equipment in the Knoedler home and recorded most of our repertoire in one day, a very long day. Looking back I wish we took additional days to record everything, because it was rushed and we settled for takes that could've been better. (I've since used modern audio software to fix the tuning in some of these songs.) Afterward, I designed and printed CD labels and booklets, and soon we had 50 CDs burned and packaged in gold-tinted jewel cases.

Here are some post-produced highlights from the album. "7" was self-arranged, if I remember correctly.


Sound of America European Concert Tour '99


 

During the summer between high school and college I sang with a nationwide choir and band, touring across west-central Europe. First we spent a week in Dickinson College near Healdsburg, PA to learn and rehearse our sets. I remember it was ridiculously hot that week, and at one point I had ice cubes sitting on my nest of hair just to keep cool.

For the next few weeks we toured through Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France, and Luxembourg, where we sang in hotels, music halls, and cathedrals (including the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris). We forged a lot of friendships and great memories, and my most memorable singing experience took place in Venice, Italy where we sang in St Mark's Basilica. The reverb in that cathedral lasted for seven seconds, and hearing the heavenly echo of our last note was a sensation I'll never forget.


MIT Resonance


 

At MIT I was one of the inaugural members of Resonance, founded by Sara Jo Elice and Jessica Hinel in January 2001 as a sixteen-person co-ed a cappella group. While the other groups at MIT were demanding on their members in terms of time commitment, ours was billed as a more casual alternative, though we still wrote our own arrangements. Below are a couple of tracks of us in concert:

"Tainted Love" by Soft Cell was the only song arranged by me.

Here's my favorite solo: "Badly" with a brief segue into "Seminocturnal Stabwound", both songs written by my fellow classmate Dan Katz. (His original version of "Badly" appeared on the MIT Songwriting Club CD.)

We released our first studio album during my senior year (spring 2003)- the following songs feature me as a joint soloist.

That project marked the end of Resonance's status as a "low-key" group, and from what I hear they've become much more competitive and involved now. To drive the point home, a song from their second album made it into the BOCA 2006 compilation. (Congratulations, everyone!)