Both my mom and her sister played the piano, so it was always around, and something that I loved the sound of. We also had a harmonium, mridangam, tambourine and guitar in the house, and we played them constantly.
While growing up, I would hear music in my head or hum melodies as most people do, while walking or riding a bike, and often improvise at the piano for fun. I didn't understand music on an academic level, but was astonished at the way it allowed moods and feelings to be communicated.
My introduction to electronic music came when my dad was taking a class at a community college. One evening at dusk we went to the campus and walked to a tiny little room in an outbuilding where a couple of synthesizers were. That evening spent playing with them was really exciting. I was amazed at the range of sounds that could be created and how each one lent a particular quality to the music.
Early works, 1987-1992
Around the age of 10, I started to spend longer sessions playing and began making music about the things I enjoyed most in life, but everything was upended when our neighborhood was torn down to create a flight approach zone. We moved to a distant country town and faced a difficult year, losing everything before returning to San Jose where we began life in a downtown motel. In order to continue playing, I'd go out in the evening and ride the bus with my brother to an electronics store where dozens of keyboards sat on shelves in several aisles, and then play and play until they finally made us leave.
The next year we moved to Berkeley, first living in a homeless shelter, then in the car and a mix of overnight shelters that set up cots and served dinner or breakfast. Whatever pianos were available at various churches and shetlers were mostly what I played during that time. There were also keyboards at The Good Guys on Shattuck, and at Uncle Ralph's on Telegraph, which I would occasionally play.
In April of 1990 we returned to San Jose, to begin a new life with our mom and stepdad. At home we had two synthesizers and a piano, so I was now equipped to play at my leisure and continued to make music inspired by our adventures around town.
This early period consisted of hearing music in my head and then figuring out how to play it, or else looking for the sounds that matched my mood. Melodies would be developed slowly over the course of many sessions.
Serious pursuit of composing, 1992-1996
By late 1992 I had saved up enough to purchase a video game system that I had wanted for a long time, but when the moment came, it felt like some kind of a betrayal of the self, and I wisely chose to buy a keyboard instead.
This was the beginning of a new phase of serious composition. Whereas the music that I had made previously was focused on the joyful activities of life, this was a shift to reflection, the thoughts and feelings brought about by specific sculptures and structures at the places where I hung around. The music inspired by these locations was composed over a period of four years between 1993 and 1996.
Electronic music and formal considerations, 1996-2002
In the fall of 1996, I enrolled in several classes at San Jose City College, including Music Theory, Electronic Music and Beginning Piano. The former two classes were taught by Elvin Rodriguez, who I found to be a truly engaging, friendly, and passionate instructor. Elvin was a composer and accomplished pianist that also had a love of electronic music, and had authored one of the first music notation software programs, whic we made use of in our classes.
After delving into these courses, I began to feel conflicted about my direction and focus. Music theory seemed like a great subject to explore, yet I worried that my own unique methods and approach to composition might get lost forever. The piano was demanding and I felt technically unprepared, since I could not sight read, nor did I have any knowledge of music theory. Playing music by my favorite composers was a wonderful experience but learning the pieces was a slow and laborous process as I had to memorize them one note at a time.
Meanwhile, the ability to sit down at a keyboard with a built-in sequencer, and then play and record an unlimited number of takes, sculpting and forming an exact sound that communicated a specific feeling, was so perfect that I could not get enough.
My drive to compose was constant and all consuming, and it was difficult to pursue other subjects adequately. I would get up early every day and ride the bus or walk to San Jose City College, so that I could enter the music room the second that it was opened, showing up with my 3.5" disk every morning right as the room was unlocked, to sit down at the Korg 01/W and continue working on various compositions until I could no longer ignore the urge to eat and drink. Before long I was skipping other classes just so that I could continue making music for as long as possible in "the lab". Once a day of classes was over with, I would head back into the music room and stick around until dark when the custodian finally came to lock up the building for the night.
During this period I came to realize that there was no simple answer for any one person, but rather that since music is a language of emotion, it is personal, and therefore different for everyone.
In my own case, I chose not to learn music theory because I wanted to explore the reaches of a trajectory bound purely by emotion and intuition, and figured that it could be learned at any time in the future, once a yet undefined zenith had been reached. Similarly, I stopped worrying about my lack of technical ability and formal knowledge, in order to relax and simply embrace the sounds that I liked. Transposing states of being and the emotional resonance of beloved places into music was something that delivered infinite joy, while presenting an endless challenge, which was reason enough to continue down my path.
Piano and percussion, 2002-2008
In 2002 I finally obtained my first workstation, a Roland XP-80. This was the beginning of a decade long stretch of compositions that frequently featured both piano and percussion, with multiple tracks of percussion and several pianos playing in unison, and often exhibiting complex and multi-layered sequences. During this period, Town (2002), Baleful Sky (2004), Spaces (2005), Resurgence (2007) and Eventide (2008) all fit this description, while Outpuring (2006) was a return to strictly piano. This period came to a halt when the Roland was sold in order to make rent.
New methods, 2012-present
Being without a keyboard meant having to create music one note at a time. This led to a period of divergence and experimentation, creating music that was beyond my own playing ability and was planned rather than spontaneous as most of my previous material had been.
In 2014, yearning to play again, I obtained a keyboard and dived back in, soon composing sets of preludes and nocturnes, as well as many other piano and electronic pieces on a variety of subjects. These pieces contained an increasing amount of improvised material as my confidence and ease slowly expanded.
By 2016, my approach had shifted nearly entirely to improvisation. Typical sessions now involve a lengthy series of takes that are left intact. Uneven playing, mistiming, and unintentionally struck notes are accepted as part of the complete experience of total liberation. Original, unaltered performances retain vibrancy and mark a route of evolving technique.