The Marks It Makes is a solo album comprised of nine original piano pieces. Each one spawned from an idea fragment I scratched down on manuscript paper at some point in the last 15 years.
Listen to The Marks It Makes for free
You can listen to the entire piano album for free below. You can navigate to the previous or next track by hitting the back or forward buttons to the left and right of the pause button. Just hover your mouse over the video player window to see them.
For example, one fragment that I expanded into a full piece for this album takes us as far back as 2001, when I was 12 years old. It’s the music snippet that the second piece on the album, The Kind Years, came from.
I have hundreds of these fragments, and I wanted to see if I could make a set of quality pieces that really fit together out of them.
Lots of these half-concepts sit in my old sketchbooks doing nothing. A half-concept scribbled in bad handwriting that only I can interpret might as well not even exist. I think of projects like this album as a sort of responsibility I have over what I’ve made. Nobody can make my ideas real for me.
I waded through loads of these old idea fragments and carefully chose nine. And I know, I’m biased—but I think the finished pieces came together to make something pretty special.
The Marks It Makes was released in April 2016.
You can listen to the whole album for free here on this page.
You can also keep scrolling to learn a bit about each of the pieces. I’ve added a video player to each one so you can listen individually.
1. Little Fires
Little Fires is a fast-paced, rhythmic piano piece. I wrote it in a complex time signature (11-8). The melody jumps and weaves from right hand to left hand throughout. It’s the most technically complex on the album from a music theory standpoint.
2. The Kind Years
The piano piece, The Kind Years, comes from a melody fragment that I wrote at the age of 12. I have a goofy tape recording of little me demoing the melody for my future self. I listened to it over a decade later and recognized a lot of potential in it as a moving line.
Vessels is my personal favorite track on the album. It’s more of a textural piece than many of the others, and I’ve been told it’s reminiscent of a suspense or science fiction movie score.
This track is one of the more easy-listening pieces on the album. It’s a peaceful, mellow track, hovering largely in major tones and a simple repeated chord pattern.
The piece, Prognosis, was written to represent the slow, tortured decision-making process while in crisis. It plays heavily with the harmonic minor scale.
6. Too Far
Too Far is a modal experimental piece. The sound of a single chord change from a classical orchestral piece I heard on the radio inspired the whole thing, and I still haven’t been able to track down what that piece was.
7. Empty Room
The piano piece Empty Room grew out of a 9-note musical fragment I scratched down into my notebook while traveling in northern England.
Acres is the shortest track on the album, and also one of the most popular.
9. A New Home
A New Home is the first composition I wrote on the album. In fact, the process of writing it inspired the entire album. I think it might be the best-written piece of the whole collection—but don’t take my word for it.
Purchase or stream The Marks It Makes
If you want to stream the album in Spotify or your music player of choice, it’s available to stream or purchase in the following places:
- Amazon music
- Google Play
- Microsoft Groove
- And, of course, YouTube.
I’ve been creating original music for a long time, but this is my very first official album. I’m really proud of how the project turned out. The entire process from beginning to end was entirely solo. I was on my own from composing and recording (and re-recording), to mixing and mastering, even to all the miscellaneous things like creating the album art and setting up the distribution assets.
The composing process was easy compared to the learning curve I had to deal with when it came to mixing and mastering. I still have a lot to learn, but I am really happy with the quality of sound I was able to nurse out of each track.
More about The Marks It Makes
This album is essentially a concept album. My idea was to play on the nostalgic theme of how the passage of time changes a person throughout their life. Hence, the title, The Marks It Makes.
The whole album has a very moody, nostalgic undertone, without being overly dark and broody. Some would say it’s kind of dream-like. Incidentally, “dream-like” is a common definition of the term “surreal.” So I guess, like most of my visual art, this album is kind of surreal.
It’s also fairly minimalistic. I have a big appreciation for minimalism, and even attempt to apply it to areas of my life like how I use social media. So I guess it’s not a big surprise that that value of mine would express itself in my first music album.
How I applied minimalism to this album
First, I reduced complexity by narrowing down to one instrument. I chose the piano for my first album because it’s instrument I have the most mastery over. And it’s one of my favorites.
With that chosen, I then focused on using the elements I had to evoke specific feelings—difficult feelings to describe, but distinct ones nonetheless.
I hope you’ll see what I mean when you listen.
The process I went about while recording is a big part of the finished result. It wasn’t my expected method, and I was surprised to stumble upon it.
Here’s how it worked: first I structured and composed each piece by creating a skeleton for it on paper. The next step in bringing the piece to life was using the skeleton, but adding flesh to it on the spot as I recorded. The initial recordings were all semi-improvisational.
I used a weighted keyboard with a sustain pedal for the recordings—both of which transferred midi data to the computer. Using midi basically means I was able to “edit” the notes after they were played.
So when the recordings were complete, this is where the process got interesting. I found myself deleting notes to make the piece more simple.
I whittled down the notes, removing a note here and removing a note there. It felt like carving down to the heart of the piece, as I removed all the notes that felt extraneous.
That’s what gives so many of the pieces such a stark feeling.
About the album art
It’s a 30-second exposure shot of the Atlantic Ocean, taken off the coast of North Carolina. The moon was full that night, and it provided a ghostly glow across the water, especially when the reflections blurred together over the length of time the shutter was open on my camera.
The haunting yet peaceful vibe of the photo was the exact visual complement to the thoughts behind the music of the album.
If you enjoy the album, I’d love to hear about your listening experience in the comments.
Other music projects
- Sicut Cervus—a new take on an ancient piece
- AnthemBible: the Psalms—I’m working on a project to create a song for all 150 Psalms.