cheyenne_h on 10/02/2018 at 01:57PM
If you've looked for instrumental music for podcasts or film, you've probably come across Blue Dot Sessions. They are a group that write and record music for public radio, podcasts and more. They're based out of Turners Falls, a small town in western Massachusetts. They are a studio, not exactly a 'band,' since various composers and musicians appear in their catalog. They are approaching their 100th release to FMA, and we wanted to ask them some questions about their work. My conversation with member Galen Huckins follows:
FMA: How would you describe Blue Dot Sessions (as a group and in terms of genre/style)?
GH: It’s a very pared down style. We’re often trying to strip away a lot of instrumentation to get to a core small ensemble, figure out how few instruments and textures are needed to really make a piece of music work. In terms of genre, it’s hard to say exactly, we’re often working in very different mediums, trying to get a minimalist sound out of a garage-rock setup or working with ultra-quiet classical players, or even drum machines. It feels like more of a density than a genre or a style sometimes.
How did you start off making music (as a group or as individuals)?
GH: I originally started off writing and recording music for my own radio and podcast projects. Some friends and I were traveling down the Mississippi River on an old riverboat and making a podcast about the trip (The River Signal). I found that there wasn’t a lot of music that worked well with long-form audio pieces where the music needs to be so understated and unobtrusive. I started writing more and more and found and we ended up with a whole library of music by the end of the trip.
FMA: What drew you to the Free Music Archive, and why did you want to put your music on our platform? I’m a real believer in alternative copyright and the work of the Creative Commons. Making my own personal projects, I’ve often turned to the Free Music Archive and other CC-licensed work, it’s really an amazing community. I figured that people starting out would really benefit from the work we do like I did from other CC artists. It also helps people find your music, many producers started out scoring little projects with our library because they found it right here at the FMA. Because podcasting has boomed so much in the last few years, people ended up monetizing their projects with ads or crowdfunding. When that started happening we figured out how to blanket license with podcasters and radio producers so they could have access to our whole library on a monthly basis. Our music is now on hundreds of podcasts, NPR, Radiotopia, Gimlet. Honestly, I think that’s just because a lot of the producers on public radio and podcast networks knew our music from their own pre-professional work.
FMA: Can you tell me about some of the places your music has ended up as a result of being on FMA?
GH: The first time hearing our music on the local NPR station was a rush, now we are often on Morning Edition or other programs that I can listen to right where I live. That never gets old. I make a point to look at YouTube every few days to see new uses of our library out in the wild. Sometimes sitting around the studio all day obsessing about fret noises you forget where the music you’re making actually ends up. I have to say I’ve picked up some strange things from YouTube instructionals just because they use our music. I’ve learned fly fishing techniques, fluid-dynamic modeling principles, the history of Nintendo 64 speedrunning. Just this morning I was watching a Christian ASMR channel, I would have never guessed!
FMA: Blue Dot Sessions is a very prolific group. How do you make so much music on such a regular schedule? How do you stay inspired?
GH: One thing that has helped me stay productive is to always be mixing fully composed music with improvisational work. Sometimes you run out of ideas in front of a blank sheet of paper, but if you can get yourself to just play around for a while, you’ll come up with something. We make a point not to stop rolling tape (or whatever we’re supposed to call tape in a mostly digital studio). We make a lot of alternate versions and stem files available through our website and weird little ideas that never quite seemed like a song end up out there in the world... in a Croatian fly fishing tutorial.
FMA: What project are you working on right now (musical or not) that you're excited about?
GH: We just finished a project recording a custom soundtrack for a podcast called Heavyweight. We were working with a mallet percussionist from a nearby university and string players to do a whole session of light and pizzicato ditties with concert marimba in the middle of it all. Scoring short films and podcasts is always a joy because you get to make up a whole little sonic microcosm. There are 2 other podcast scores we’re working on right now as well as our regular recording schedule, it’s been a really busy summer!
To hear some of their music or contact Blue Dot Sessions, check out their page at sessions.blue or their FMA collection here: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Blue_Dot_Sessions/