Sketchbook Open Access

Gray, Sawyer (Spring 2022)

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Welcome! Thank you for your interest in my music. When I look back over my work as a composition student, I find that most of my pieces investigate or explore a personally significant issue or topic—like a musical “sketch.” Collected together, they render my experiences coming of age in a new digital world.

In my Sketchbook, each work illustrates some aspect of the world as I experience it, expanded by the restraints of the medium and my developing compositional voice. While the subject of each piece varies, two main themes emerge throughout the program. The first theme is the self. As you will see throughout this program, the self is multi-faceted. Through these works, I study its many faces—the self informed by kinship and ritual, the self decoded by online echo chambers, the self enraptured by constant content, the self as a political badge, the self in intimacy, and the self as enmeshed in a network of other selves. The other theme is vulnerability, specifically the complex relationship between vulnerable selves and social media. The internet has split my generation’s social landscape between physical and digital worlds, and my identity has become, in part, a commodity for advertisers and followers. Online content repositories have also commodified my attention. Attention and identity are both rooted in the self—now troubled in the new millennium. Personally, identity and attention have been sites of turmoil for my sense of self, turmoil that manifests in my music. Here in the social media age, we are implicitly asked to make ourselves into a brand. Especially as a “content creator,” my success in the internet’s content-feeding machine depends on marketing—social media judges success in quantities of likes, shares, and followers. Not only is my attention now dependent on a drip-feed of content, my self-worth is chained to its production on the other end.

Between selves, vulnerability, and the internet, I’ve found the necessity and sacredness of community. Throughout this program, relationships serve as a catalyst for introspection and reflection. Identities form with the delineation of groups, and these identities are used to define selves. This identification is a powerful process fundamental to the human condition. Throughout my sketches, I am constantly searching for community, camaraderie, and self-identification—you can find these in the form of a muse, or embedded in a compositional process, or as an overarching philosophy of survival.

Table of Contents

Memory Creek for violin and acoustic guitar (2021)

The Cave fixed media (audio and video) (2021)

Throw it Back for violin, viola, and drum kit (2020)

Introducing Mike Espy for fixed media (audio and video) (2020)

Tell Me When, Just a Little Longer for electric guitar and drum kit

with choreography for two dancers by Hayden Hubner (2021)

Sketchbook for improvisers (2022)

About this Honors Thesis

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