TAC Students Release Vinyl Album

Album cover of TAC Hands like machines album

Proceeds from the recording will support Compass Family Services

Every year, students in the technology and applied composition (TAC) program at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music host a showcase concert. It is one of the extraordinary opportunities for students to step away from the guided prompts of their assignments and freely create a piece demonstrating their unique vision and evolution as artists. Styles range widely from string quintets to fully electronic compositions and performances. Music from the concert is typically released as a playlist on SFCM’s SoundCloud.

However, in 2021, select pieces from the concert have also become part of a vinyl album—a student-led, cross-departmental effort to raise funds for Compass Family Services, a Bay-Area organization that works to keep San Franciscans housed, healthy, and self-sufficient. The album is now available for purchase online.

Below co-producer Garrett Nothern shares what inspired the album.

What inspired the album?

The idea came last fall. The simplest answer for what sparked the idea was the Professional Development Grant offered by the school. Being totally honest, between assignments and work projects, this idea for any extra project wasn’t even on the radar, but then you think about this opportunity offered by SFCM to help fund a project, and it just seems sort of crazy not to go for it. As for the album specifically, a major source of inspiration is SFCM’s history as the birthplace of the San Francisco Tape Music Center. Ramon Sender, Morton Subotnick, Pauline Oliveros…the list goes on of groundbreaking music makers in the 60s who were making impactful new music and releasing it out into the culture from the attic of the Conservatory. The TAC program does a great job supporting us in our education and individual efforts outside of school, both while a student and in our future careers, but it seemed like a cool idea to actually do a release from the collective.

Around the same time, Dylan Williams (BM ’21) and I were talking about a great concert he was heading production on—this year’s annual showcase open to all students in the TAC program and Mary Ann Zahorsky’s Business for the Media Composer class. A selection of pieces from the concert seemed like a really organic choice for a TAC album.

While we’re obviously releasing it digitally, many of the students involved are more excited about the limited-edition vinyl. Most TAC students come into the program having already been able to press play on a digital file of their own work, but there’s something palpably different about (gently!) dropping the needle on a physical vinyl record and hearing your music.

Is this project tied to a class?

Nope. While closely tied to the culture of the TAC program and the school at large, this is a technically unofficial student-led project.

Is this done annually?

This is the first and we’re hoping that this is a proof-of-concept that lays the groundwork for many more releases to come. To me, the exciting idea is that we’re hopefully laying a path other students can follow in the future for all sorts of exciting releases.

Who produced the album?

The album was produced by me and David Tippie (BM ’23). Everything is more fun when you collaborate so I put the word out, and David was into the idea. David has the kind of tireless dedication that you look for in a collaborator, and we were performing together in the concert, so it worked out really seamlessly.

Did you work with any faculty members on this? If so, how did they mentor you on the project?

While this was strictly a student project, (TAC Executive Director) Taurin Barrera was an invaluable source of support. One of the things that had attracted me to the TAC program at SFCM in the first place was the sense that the program’s founder, MaryClare Brzytwa, had built a program and culture that is incredibly supportive of making projects we’re excited about happen. Taurin has clearly been dedicated to keeping that spirit alive and it shows throughout the culture of the entire department.

Hear samples from and purchase this limited-edition vinyl.

The TAC program at SFCM is one of the premier environments in the world for composers seeking an education in music and sound for film, television, and new media. Learn more about the program.