He’s a neuroscience concentrator, but Pat LeGates ’18 is spending the summer exploring a very different interest. He’s composing experimental electronic music and video and studying the relationship between the two through an Emerson Foundation grant.
LeGates is not using a traditional instrument for his compositions but rather a laptop as instrument. He was inspired by “techno” music but remarked that using a computer to actually make music is a new way of thinking about it.
As he described it, “Laptop music is very experimental – it can sound distorted but it also has music in it; there’s beauty to it but at times it sounds chewed up and disgusting. It’s ripe with dualities.”
A jazz saxophone player, LeGates said creating laptop music has involved a lot of trial and error. He said, “I make the sounds, listen to them and decide for example ‘this needs to be punchier. ’” His project is meant to explore the importance of what sounds mean. “For example this sounds happy, or this sounds warm or sad. Music that sounds like anxiety or is shy, skittish,” he explained. LeGates is using Ableton live software, which, he noted, offers many composing capabilities.
The programs he’s using “ take a bunch of little sounds that are distinctive and merge them into one – that adds density to the sound, and adds a lot of elements to the music. This project is just me trying my hand at making this in my style, so it’s my music too,” LeGates remarked. He’s collaborating on the project with Monk Rowe, the Joe Williams Director of the Jazz Archive.
For the video piece, LeGates shoots close-ups and zoomed photos with his DSLR camera. “Most pictures end up edited I ‘key out’ colors; for example, an image of the sky with a color missing and drained out. I make visuals that correspond with the music.”
In the end LeGates hopes to have eight tracks with eight videos – a mini-album of songs. He hopes to do a live DJ set this fall in the Kennedy Center screening room.
As for the future, LeGates thinks he will pursue a Ph.D. in neuroscience but he’s confident that “music will be part of whatever I do.”