From the soul

Exploring the motivation behind MVHS students’ own music

Diya Bahl

Pop, rap, R&B, indie, rock, heavy metal, lofi … the list of music genres goes on and on, but of course, everyone has their preferences. For senior Conner Yin, not only does he like listening to a variety of music, he enjoys producing his own music as well. 

“I actually do a big variety of stuff. I know a lot of other musicians will just stick to ‘I’m gonna release pop songs’ or ‘I’m gonna release instrumental songs’ but I’ve been, you know, I don’t want to limit myself to just one thing and I’m interested in everything so I’ve released some like, for some instrumental stuff like lofi beats, things like that, as well as some pop/rap songs.”

Yin uses his band, acting and theatre experience to make his own music, and has been producing music he describes as “simple tunes” since middle school using digital softwares such as FL Studio. However, he has only recently begun to post his music on his YouTube channel during the beginning of quarantine. He describes his meaning behind his music and where his inspirations come from.

“Honestly like a lot of the songs come from however I’m feeling that day so it’s just a way for me to express myself and for me to, sometimes also to like let it out when I’m feeling stressed out, I’ll just play some relaxing songs to, you know, help lighten up the mood a little bit. It’s usually just based off of my mood, especially the lyrics are always true to me, at least to some degree. And, yes, that’s my inspiration kind of comes from just however I’m feeling and I just project my mood into my music.”

Similarly, junior Anant Chaudhary began making music through his interest in poetry and because of his friends’ encouragement and support.

“My friends thought that, you know, if you’re so interested in poetry, why not add a little bit of music behind it? So I tried it out, you know, they gave me a little bit of critique, and then I continued making a new one with, like I made more songs with their critique, and I kept going because I had a lot of free time this summer. And, it ended up turning into two albums, and a single.”

According to both Yin and Chaudhary, writing a song is made up of many steps. Composition, writing, production and more are all important parts of the process. Chaudhary describes step- by-step his journey of creating a song of his own.

“So usually what happens is I usually start off with the instrumental. So, I either make it or find it off YouTube, depends on how much time I have. So when I make it I just kind of, whatever mood I’m in I decide to make it based off that mood, because all my songs are based off the current mood I’m in. And if it’s about the instrumental that I’m finding on YouTube, it’s always about what mood I’m in as well. If I find … see, I can find as many good beats as I want on YouTube. I always save all the good beats I find but it’s about the moment, because I usually make my songs in like one or two days, in total, so I usually find the beat, I write the lyrics and then I produce it. And so what happens is I have the beat, I find the beat, so if I’m in a very happy mood I’ll find a very happy guitar-y type beat, and I’ll use that. If not that I’ll use a very dark sounding horror movie type beat.” 

“But then after that, I go into this like … like I lock myself in my room for a bit and then I just like, kind of pour down the thoughts that are in my head, start writing the lyrics because I feel like poetry is again like something I’ve done for my entire life so it’s very easy for me and I write the lyrics and up to like, usually within a few hours. If not, if not then, if I lose focus, then it ends up being like a few days, but usually in a few hours I come up with the entirety of the lyrics and then I give myself a break after that and then I start recording. 

“The recording part is probably the most painstaking because you have to keep re-recording yourself until it matches the beat perfectly. And then after that I give it a good day’s break after I finished recording like half the song. As for the editing, because after, like the next day I just continue recording and finish it up.” 

The following is a snippet of one of Chaudhary’s songs titled “Life/Dreams” which you can find on Spotify by searching his username “The Chowder.”

Different from Chaudhary and Yin, freshman William Zhang dabbles in the production of heavy metal and symphonic music, which do not include lyrics. Along with his love for creation, Zhang uses his experience of playing violin with the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra to compose his music on the software Musescore.

“I usually make a mixed genre. Either it’s symphonic or heavy metal. I really like making heavy metal, well because it’s not very popular but I like the uniqueness of every heavy metal piece, rather than you know the pop music that got repetitive and repetitive. Heavy metal, it’s usually always unique.”

According to Zhang, he gets his musical inspiration from the novel he is currently writing, and focuses most of his music on dark topics, such as death. In most of his heavy metal pieces, Zhang includes the use of electric bass and guitar. The following is a snippet of one of Zhang’s pieces titled  “Necromantic Fury,” which you can find on Musescore by searching his username, “StormGem.”

In addition to writing and producing his music, Yin will also sometimes make music videos to go along with his songs. These videos can be found on his YouTube channel, “Conner Yin”.

“So first I have to finish the song, both the vocals and the backing track, and when I listen to that I kind of think of what would best fit the theme, for example, does it fit better if I go outside and be in the nature and go hiking? For one of the upcoming videos actually, I’m using footage from when I went hiking, or it’s like an outdoors area because I felt that fit better. And then after that, I’ll just record various scenes so I’ll record usually from just beginning to end, like, one, like, a couple times in different locations, and then I’ll piece them together to make it the most interesting and also to cut out any mistakes. I could record in one location, you know, one time through and then another location one time through, and then I’ll mix and match the pieces, making the best overall product.”

The following is a snippet of one of Yin’s songs which includes a music video titled “Fall Asleep on Call.” This song can be found on his YouTube channel, or on Spotify with the same username.

As his music evolved from a just personal hobby to publicly releasing it on streaming platforms, Chaudhary explains how starting to make music has changed him as a person.

“So I think it’s really helped me be more open, because I don’t think I had a way to express my emotions prior to this, I feel like I always used to lock them in. But, I feel like with music, I was always given the opportunity to kind of let everyone know, through my music, what type of mood I’m in at the time of writing. It might be delayed in the way it’s released but I feel like it does give me a way to kind of express my emotions and get it out there to know like, if I’m in a bad mood, here’s why I’m in a bad mood, here’s what’s going on in my head right now. I feel like, in that case, it’s made me a lot happier because I don’t have to have all these emotions stuck inside of me. ”

Similarly, Zhang believes composing music has helped him realize his love for music theory, and he mentions that he sees himself continuing his hobby in the future.

“It’s made me more appreciative of a lot of stuff  before I’ve never really got into music theory, but now I think music theory is a really important part of understanding a lot of pieces of music, and how it connects to the composer itself as well.”

Yin uses his music to consider and reflect on his own life experiences. His music provides him with a source of emotional release, and according to Yin, all his lyrics are as genuine as can be.

“When you write music, again, a lot of it’s coming from the soul, a lot of it’s coming from how I’m feeling. And so, when I sit down I’m like, I need to, I want to make more music. It comes directly from the soul so I have to really reflect on, you know, what I really want to do in life, you know, how I’m feeling about everything. And so I feel like music has been a great way to express myself through that way and through expressing myself, it’s been a good way to think of those feelings in the first place. I feel like a lot of the time, life is moving so fast, people don’t really sit down and think and reflect and music kind of forces you to think and reflect.”

Though Yin primarily uses his music to express his own feelings, he also hopes his music can serve as a getaway for others at times of stress, as well as inspire other individuals to gain more interest in music production.

“I actually do feel like it’s really important to, like the impact that music can have on other people, it’s really important to acknowledge that. I know that a lot of the time, I get inspiration for the music that I’m listening to through, you know, watching any other creative works. For example, when I’m watching movies, I feel a certain way and that inspires me to either like, you know, push harder, keep going through even when things seem rough, or to make music based off, kind of the feeling that I got from watching those. So I’m hoping that when I post my music, other people will listen to that and either, it can improve their mood or inspire them to maybe make music of their own, or just inspire them to keep going because times are pretty rough right now.”