Get to know Elizabeth and Joseph, founders of Brooklyn's cheeky-cool Walk Up Press (and possibly Philip Glass's biggest fans) in this week's Lifework profile, Playlist.
What do you listen to while you work? Joseph: Like most people, I'd like to think that I have diverse tastes. But in practice, I get focused on a certain artist or piece of music and will listen to just that for weeks. Theses days I'm listening to a few things from these four artists: I'm quite fond of the orchestral suites Aaron Copland adapted from his ballet suites; Philip Glass, specifically his solo piano pieces, score for Mishima, and his opera Akhnaten; Pete Seeger's live concert at Carnegie Hall in 1963; and Jay-Z.
Elizabeth and I often work separately, but when we do work together we end up listening to Radiolab and Studio 360. Elizabeth loves the Sunday Puzzle on NPR, but I never get them right.
Elizabeth: One of my favorite things about our Walk Up Press work is that I am able to be both designer and maker. And though the two are holistically linked, designing and printing are two different things in practice and I find that I listen to different music depending on which role I happen to be filling. When I am doing design work, I get distracted by music that I can sing along to, and so I listen to a lot of tonal and instrumental music. Nowadays I'm listening to a lot of Zoe Keating and Philip Glass. A few exceptions to my instrumental rule, however, are David Byrne, David Bowie, and Beirut. When I print, I want to be on my toes, so I listen to anything from alt rock to hip-hop or pop music. Last time I was in the studio, I think I was listening to Dara Puspita and Beyonce. Oh, and yes, I am very good at the Sunday Puzzle on NPR.
How do you listen? Joseph: I love my cheap little Sony MDR-V250 headphones. Not so much for the sound quality, but for their size and weight. Being on the smaller, lighter side, they don't make me feel like I'm some house-music DJ.
Elizabeth: If I'm at my desk, I listen right out of the computer.
Do you have any favorite music websites/providers? Joseph: I'm off Pandora for now, maybe permanently, and I'm spending more time using YouTube to listen specific performances. And, of course, iTunes.
Elizabeth: I still listen to Pandora from time to time, but I usually just stick with my iTunes playlist, and recently I've been listening to podcasts about music. My favorite is the New York Philharmonic's podcast.
Does music influence your work? Joseph: Certainly, especially if the piece of music captures a moment of cultural or historical importance. Did you know that when Martha Graham performed the ballet Appalachian Spring (which was composed by Aaron Copland, of course), the set was designed by Isamu Noguchi? They had the Noguchi rocking chair on stage for a ballet whose music was inspired by 19th-century Shaker hymns. That's incredible, right? A confluence of creative work like that greatly inspires my working process, but not necessarily my work's aesthetics.
Elizabeth: Agreed. Music absolutely influences my work, though I think of it a little differently. Since my design training is architectural, I generally think of everything, even two-dimensional design projects, spatially, and when I listen to music, my mind has a way of connecting the pieces to visuals, usually in a cinematic way (think like a less silly version of Fantasia). So for me, music with a great deal of balance influences.
I find that a composer like our beloved Philip Glass is a great example because his music has so much tension and becomes more about the negative space than the positive—just like a successful design project. Listening to that kind of music while I work allows me to make better decisions and think of my project in a dimensional way.
Where do you find music recommendations? Who influences your musical taste? Joseph: For the past 10 years or so I've been much more of an influencer than an influencee. But I've recently been enjoying consistently great recommendations from people close to me. My brother Matt just sent me this fantastic song "Likambo Ya Ngana" by the Congolese guitarist Franco Luambo. It's wonderful. We had heard it before in pieces as part of William Kentridge's film Tide Table and hearing the complete track is fantastic. I've been sharing music with Seth Weber, a close friend of mine for so long that it would be hard to keep track of who introduced whom to what band.
Elizabeth: Like Joesph, I'm really lucky to be surrounded by friends and family with diverse musical taste. As a kid, I remember my dad listening to a lot of jazz, which drove my mother crazy, but really influenced me. My older brother Chuck listens to a lot of chamber music and chant, while my younger brother Andrew listens to country music. I am also friends with a few musicians making differing types of music (listen here and here) and feel really grateful to be around that as well.
What song or artist best represents the work you create? Joseph: Oh, I don't know that any one song or musician represents our work, but personally, I aspire make work in the spirit of innovators like Andre 3000 or Philip Glass.
Elizabeth: I don't think we will ever be cool enough to be Andre 3000.
- Das Rheingold: Vorspiel, Wagner
- Oh Louisiana (Live at Carnegie Hall), Pete Seeger
- Confusion, Fela Kuti
- Hard Knock Life, Jay-Z
- Billy the Kid Suite, Aaron Copland
- Rodeo Suite: Saturday Night Waltz, Aaron Copland
- Clarinet Concerto: Second Movement: Adagio, Mozart
- Symphony No. 7, Allegro, Second Movement, Beethoven
- Ma Vlast Moldau: Vltava, Smetana
- Love Cry, Four Tet
- The First Mad Rush, Philip Glass
- Closing, Philip Glass
- 1/1, Brian Eno
- Etude No. 1, Philip Glass
- Etude No. 2, Philip Glass
- Escape Artist, Zoe Keating
- Second Song, TV on the Radio
- Hysteric, Yeah Yeah Yeahs
- Nantes, Beirut
- I Feel My Stuff, David Byrne & Brian Eno
- Annie’s Song, John Denver
- Trolley Song, Dave Brubeck
- Suite for Klavier No. 4 – Saraband, Alisa Bratslavskaya
Images: Walk Up Press>