Extended Family 40: Strawberry Moon Mix
Analog Tara - Windup Groove/Steady State Remix
Analog Tara - Mobile Sources Remix
Analog Tara - What Follows Remix
Analog Tara - Pulse and Light
Analog Tara - Density and Surface
Analog Tara - Percolation
Analog Tara - Propulsion
Analog Tara - Hexagon
Analog Tara - Undecagon
Analog Tara - Nonagon
Analog Tara - Life On Mars Is Listening Remix
When I first walked into Tara Rodger's house, the sounds of Kamasi Washington are floating through the space, as his sounds tend to do, and I try my best not to break the spells of his music as I hurriedly take my boots off as not to track water over her hardwood floors. The boots are soaking wet from another overcast and drizzly day in Washington D.C., a city not known for pleasant weather. Somehow, despite the gray murk wrapping the environment, there is a rosy light in the house; it feels like a warm and restful shelter of ease. It's snug like you would imagine a bed of velvet roses without the thorns, and it's not long before I realize that the light is not coming from the house of brick and plaster, but rather from Tara herself.
Rodgers, or Analog Tara, seems at once thoughtful, deliberate, and careful, yet in a way that seems delightedly open to new textures and perspectives. She somewhat sheepishly shows me her studio, a room with a perimeter stacked of modular synthesizers and pretty drum machines. She has been making music for 20 years (she guesses), and can claim 6 EPs and 6 full length projects, all self released besides a few compilations that she contributed to. Most of the sounds are in the techno, house, electro, and ambient spectrum, although in recent months she's enjoyed experimenting with some improvised piano recordings, the instrument she declares her "first love."
While Rodgers has been quietly making techno in her home with her little rescue pup, she's also been researching the history of sound and music technology. For a long time she's been "interested in the ways that sound and music operate on both material and metaphoric levels..." - a central theme in both her compositions as well as her research. She enjoys challenging herself with controlled deliberation, trying to think about whether sound has a surface and how that might be different from "what we perceive as texture, and how do you achieve that on a technical and musical level?" She takes her inspiration not only from the tangible feelings around her but from a more macro, cosmic level as well. She's been "taking prompts from astronomy textbooks, like: how do you play clusters of notes that function like a double star - very close to each other, sometimes indistinguishable, varying in degrees of brightness? There are probably dozens of ways to try that idea musically."
If this is all sounding really academic and intellectual to you, keep in mind that Rodgers graduated from Brown University in 1995, earning an AB with Honors in American Studies. She has an MFA in Electronic Music and Recording Media from Mills College which she received in 2006 and a PhD in Communication studies from McGill University in 2011. She was a visiting faculty in sound at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston from 2004 to 2005. She was a Canada-US Fulbright scholar in Montreal in 2006 to 2007. From 2010 to 2013 she was an assistant professor of Women's studies and Distinguished Faculty Fellow in Digital Cultures and Creativity at the University of Maryland. She established the Women's Studies Multimedia Studio while she was there. Rodgers also served on the faculty of Dartmouth College in 2013. To put it more succinctly, she's a beast, in the best way.
In the year 2000, Rodgers founded PinkNoises.com to document the works of women in electronic music as well as to provide resources. The site was nominated for a Webby Award in the category of Best Music Website in 2003. Her composition "Butterfly Effects", a song inspired by the behaviors of migrating butterflies, won the IAWM (International Alliance for Women in Music) New Genre Prize in 2007. The book Pink Noises: Women on Electronic Music and Sound was published in 2010, and features a collection of interviews spotlighting female electronic musicians, composers, products, and DJs and won the 2011 Pauline Alderman Aware from IAWM. Following the release of her book, she continued to publish essays and lecture on the history of synthesized sound all over the country.
Originally from upstate New York, then on to New York City, Rodgers came to DC for a job about eight years ago as well as to stay near some family members. Feeling overwhelmed with so much new music online, at a certain point Rodgers stopped looking for labels to support her music and continued as an avid hobbyist. When she least expected, a good friend put her in touch with Joyce Lim (zemsuyung, owner of Head Shoppe DC and curator of this series and author of the words you're currently reading now, full disclosure, extremely biased), and found herself "so impressed by the music and also how Joyce, Sami, and Dawit have built the label around ideas of music and community." 1432 R will be releasing her newest Fundamentals EP on June 26th, 2016. Preorder the EP here. Many of the track names on Fundamentals reflect the thematic explorations that Rodgers has been ruminating, and its not hard to find how those themes inform her production choices, like how she uses effects or spatialization. Analog Tara believes that working with "the material of sound via metaphorical questions can enhance the communication of that sound and, in some abstract way, affect how listeners experience the music as dynamic or meaningful."
Because she has lived in cities with enormous musical scenes and high concentrations of sound research programs, DC can feel sort of small sometimes and the high cost of living doesn't make things easier for any artist. Regardless, Rodgers has felt such a generous and supportive network at institutions like Rhizome, an intimate DIY experimental music venue in Takoma Park as well as Headroom, sessions at Flash nightclub where producers are given a chance to meet and listen to their works in progress on the sound system and give each other feedback on mixes and arrangements.
She describes it so well: "There are a lot of people here who invest their time and energy in each other's successes, and in building projects that benefit people beyond themselves; you don't always find that in larger cities where the music scenes can be more individualistic and competitive." And just like that, DC is a bit of a sunnier place to jam.
You can follow Tara on her website, SoundCloud, BandCamp, Facebook, and follow news on her book, Pink Noises, on Facebook or wherever books are sold.
Catch Analog Tara Live at the Fundamentals EP release party at Ten Tigers (DC) on July 16th. She will also be giving a lecture at MUTEK in August.