Bradford A. Rogers
Man's love for music seems to be nearly universal, a virtual given assumption of human nature. It is a unique and endlessly expressive language of tones that has bridged cultural, linguistic, and geographical boundaries for centuries. It is a language that has served mankind invariably as the voice of entire communities or that of an intimate personal identity. Most may not be able to point to the specific moment when they first discovered their own appreciation of music, but for me that moment transpired in the early 2000's during a viewing of U2's rockumentary Rattle and Hum.
Watching the film, I was immediately awe-struck by how passionately the musicians were able to express themselves and their views concerning nationality, love, and war through their songs, and how much that passion resonated with the audiences to whom they performed. After the credits rolled, I remember going straight to a cheap toy keyboard to attempt to mimic the expressive capabilities of the likes of Bono and the Edge. But, having no prior musical experience, I found myself frustratedly staring at the keys, metaphorically speaking, incapable of forming a word let alone a sentence. It was that sense of frustration and a desire to express myself the way U2 could that initially drove me to pursue my own studies in music.
I then briefly pursued piano lessons, but I quickly discovered that I couldn't stand the pedantic process of learning “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” in an old recluse's house that smelled ominously of cat urine. Instead, I was eventually attracted to the guitar. But, as I had forgone structured musical education when I gave up on the piano, I would need to teach myself the instrument if I wanted to play it. After receiving a small three-quarter sized guitar as a gift, I scoured guitar instruction websites and began teaching myself simple chords and riffs and learning some of my favorite songs. I struggled arduously at first, with my fingertips worn sore and my knuckles aching, as I attempted to learn the hand positions necessary to form chords and to develop the muscle memory necessary for performance. There were times when I would feel defeated or that I would never improve enough no matter how long I practiced. But something always drew me back to the guitar and before I knew it my technique began improving geometrically along with my confidence with the instrument.
After years of playing, I eventually got involved with the burgeoning music scene of my high school and discovered my love for composition and performance. Through playing with several bands, countless after-school jam sessions, and my own musical introspection, I began to put together my own compositions as I fully fleshed out my own musical voice. Those first original songs were laughable tunes at best. But, as with the guitar, the more I practiced, the more quickly I learned, and the more confident I became with expressing myself through music.
In the summer of 2011, I finally compiled my years of compositional work into a five track demo using simple music production software and my mother's desktop computer. I was pleased with the finished result and, on a whim, I decided to send the demo out to a few record labels just to see what sort of response I could get. Realistically, I didn't expect many, if any, responses. Yet within the week, I heard back from a post-rock label who offered me a spot for one of my tracks on the label's upcoming charity compilation. Of course, at first I couldn't believe it. I assumed the label and its offer must be a scam somehow, that there was no way they would be seriously interested in a track that I had produced. Nevertheless, a quick internet search indicated the label was most certainly legitimate, as were the label's charity initiatives, and I happily accepted their offer. The compilation ended up raising quite a bit of money for the charity and was surprisingly well-received. My long-time favorite post-rock blog even posted a review naming the album “compilation of the year” for 2011.
I can say with confidence that when I first watched Rattle and Hum over a decade ago, I couldn't have imagined that one day my music would be featured on an acclaimed international compilation. Yet through the whole experience, I have learned inexorably that anything is possible with a bit of hard work and a lot of persistence.