I was recently listening to an interview with David Lynch for Wire magazine about his new album, Crazy Clown Time. When asked if he thought of himself as a musician, he answered “No. A musician can play the thing again.” I really identified with this as a definition. I mean, I don’t “play” anything per se but I do combine recorded noises together so I think the logic still applies, maybe even more so. Since there aren’t even any musical instruments in what I am doing, maybe the distinction is more clear than even I think it is.
It also might just be a semantic difference in another direction. I arrange field recorded noises together in order to develop sound compositions but I am by no means a composer. I work with sound but I am not a musician. I have played musical instruments in the past but that was a long time ago. I am of course very much interested in musicians, music theory and various musical genre histories and different approaches to musical composition. This question of working with sound while not being a musician is something that I’ve spent a good deal of time considering. I do like working with sound. I love the process of capturing noises, editing them, building compositions out of them, investigating different ways of listening to the noises that I find and so on. But I definitely do not consider myself to be a musician, even if some of the things that I make might border on music, depending on ones definition. I come from a background in graphic design which means that I have spent time considering and discussing what I am not and there are a couple examples I generally return to. I have a camera and I work with images but I am not a photographer. I take the photographs that I make and when they do appear in my work, it is generally in some manipulated form like the collages in my sketchbooks. Similarly, I build projects with code sometimes but I am not a programmer. I stumble around looking for references and examples of all the separate pieces I need and then I just keep jamming things together until it works that way that I need it to.
I do, however, have desires to become more informed about music and learn aspects of musicianship. Something to work towards in the future, definitely.