Why subscriptions?

6/2/2017 | read

Over the past six years, we’ve accumulated lots of recordings. Hours — days — of premiere performances, first-time collaborations, and conceptual chance-driven audience participation events. And they’re all over the place. We’ve got three hours of Jürg Frey up for download on the Free Music Archive, “Remarks on Color” by Billy Gomberg & Anne Guthrie and much more on Soundcloud, a Vimeo channel with Teodora Stepancic, Lucie Vítková, Weston Olencki playing Michelle Lou, and many more pieces that rely on visual elements to come through. That doesn’t even scratch the surface of quick mixes and unedited recordings, all of which are on a couple external hard drives a few feet from this laptop. 

But there’s something missing in the steady onslaught of recordings from all corners of the ‘net. First, the simple historical context: the work was created in a time, and a place, and as we draw further from that moment it begins to lose its distinction as part of a certain scene (more on this remedy in a future post). Second, its justification: the reasons for its existence and the resources that enable it are tenuous. Did the recording only ever make it into the world because of a grant application deadline? Was it only possible because of generous friends with gear and expertise? And finally, the more complicated context: new work requires a committed audience. Believing, and even knowing, that there are people out there waiting to hear your latest project makes a world of difference in approaching the recording, editing, and mixing process.

Indexical believes that these problems are solvable. We’ve decided to adopt a subscription model for our project The Essential Indexical, because we want to be able to freely document the new work that comes through (and out of) Santa Cruz, and index this work by year, concert, and collaborators. Moreover, we want artists to know that there is a community listening, and that their work will make a mark on the public sphere in a significant way. Finally, we want to ensure our financial stability — because sometimes there’s a project that requires more than a “no-budget” recording, and we want the flexibility to take that step.

A little over a month ago, we spent the morning in a beautiful redwood space in the Santa Cruz Mountains, with Mivos Quartet, a rack of vintage Universal Audio gear, and composer David Dunn engineering alongside the house engineer. Mivos performed a few pieces from their concert the evening before, in our focused recording environment, with rain occasionally coming down hard on the rooftop. (The studio engineer placed a “rain mic” out the window in case we wanted to use it in the mix. We did.) Among the pieces was a quartet by Anahita Abbasi, who had revised and extended the work for this performance, and came from San Diego to work with the quartet on these revisions. This seemed like an essential part of the trip — there were the ideal performers, the composer, and a beautiful space present, and we just needed to bring them all together. Unfortunately, these recording projects require funding that goes above and beyond what we have available. (Don’t worry, we did it anyway.) But then we thought, why don’t we try to find others who agree that sometimes it’s necessary to invest a little extra?

Here’s the simple math: if 50 people subscribe to The Essential Indexical, we can hold 4–5 extra studio sessions this year. This is in addition to the live recordings, and other documentation we have always made a priority. It’s because, on the occasion that something unique crosses our path, we want the option to get it down. We don’t just want a room recording, with occasional semi trucks passing on the freeway, and we don’t just want a single take, when the sound check was better anyway. We want to document, properly, the intentions of the artist, and then share that document with you.

We used to think of this work we’re doing in Santa Cruz as bringing important artists to a slightly out-of-the-way town. But that hasn’t quite cut it lately. We’ve since reformulated. We’re creating a series that we would be excited to go to were we still living in New York, or San Francisco, or Seattle, or elsewhere, and we believe that it’s worth sharing this work with others. There is a certain focus to being out in the woods (or by the beach) that lends itself to new work. We hope we can share that focus with you, wherever you are.

(You can subscribe on our Bandcamp page. Thank you.)