Isa Amaro Varas ’23 awarded distinguished Watson Fellowship
Jonathan Markson '12 doesn't have much free time. As a music and technology major with a computer science minor, he has devoted his senior year - and nearly every free minute - to the creation of music through two major projects.
A scholar in the College's Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology, Markson recently composed an electronic music piece that became the first student piece ever to be performed live during the Center's biennial international Arts and Technology Symposium, which was held on campus earlier this month. He has also embarked on a completely personal project, in which he is releasing a digital EP (or short album) every month for an entire year. Markson, who is president of MOBROC, Connecticut College's student alliance of campus bands, and continues to perform with the rock group Shake the Baron and the hip-hop team Time Crisis, attributes his recent surge in musical creation to a realization he had over the summer.
"I love collaborating with people and I love making music with other people," he said, "but in June I realized I had not put out much material that was all done by me. I had never really sat down and written songs on my own."
So Markson came up with the idea to begin releasing music of his own composition on an online blog, under the title "Community of Living Things." Each month's release sports its own unique cover artwork, along with at least three of Markson's original songs. Although originally designed exclusively as a summer project, Markson says he fell into the groove of setting deadlines, coming up with a theme for each EP, writing the material, producing it, mixing it and getting it mastered, so he decided to continue the project for an entire year. The songs are all available online and are being distributed by a label out of Brooklyn, but Markson says his main goal is not necessarily to attract a huge fan base.
"The people who have given me grass roots and really supported me-they know it's there," he says. "The project is realizing itself." At the same time he has been creating music for his fans, Markson has been working on an independent study with music professor Arthur Kreiger, the College's composer-in-residence, to create "Meaning in a Word," a piece he describes as exploring the "connection between electro-acoustic and rock music."
The piece was performed live during one of the multi-media concerts at the 13th Biennial Arts and Technology Symposium at Connecticut College in early March. Accompanied by four guitars, a bass, a marimba and drums, Markson provided the live electronics for the technological side of his musical project and captivated the large audience with his unique musical presentation. Computer science professor Ozgur Izmirli, director of the Ammerman Center, called it "a very successful performance," while assistant director Libby Friedman said she was "impressed with Jon's ability to integrate electro-acoustic music with a rock band aesthetic." Markson credits Kreiger with pushing him to "get weird and think outside of the box."
He says Kreiger, and music professor Midge Thomas, have helped him to create a strong foundation in musical theory that will greatly benefit him in the future. "Throughout high school I was only playing punk rock and skateboarding with my friends. I never thought about the theoretical background of music," Markson said.
Looking to the future, Markson hopes his career will allow him to continue to make music. "I want to record and play music as much as possible," he says. "I also really love to help people realize their ideas. I feel good about helping another group find their potential." Markson is already well on his way to realizing his dream.
Following graduation in May, he will be working as a recording and mixing engineer at The Gallery Recording Studio in New York City, where he completed his College-funded internship during the summer before senior year.
"It's a competitive city, but I also hope to be freelancing and touring as much as possible," he said. - By Bailey Bennett '14