Tag Archives: book

Making Your Life as an Artist

Making Your Life As an Artist by Andrew Simonet is a free, concise book that can be downloaded at the Artists U site. It took me less than three hours to finish the book, but it gave me great tips and advices on how to live a balanced and sustainable life as a musician.


The author is an active choreographer, but the principles discussed in the book can be applied to music (or any other art). I was stressed for not having enough time and space to work  in the past week. After reading this book, I learned good strategies on how to plan, finance, make time, and focus on artistic mission. I’m not so stressed anymore.

The first three chapters discusses about the role of artists in the world, why artist have challenging life, and the skills that artists already have to overcome such challenges. The last five chapters provide practical examples and how-to’s on making a living as an artist. I was also enlightened to read about entertainment vs art, science vs art, career vs mission, perfect vs good enough, and other analyses. I particularly love the analogies and examples:

“[Seed savers and some farmers] grow things that don’t fit with industrial agriculture. They preserve the seeds for plants we may need someday. This is what artists do culturally.” -p29

“Art is not cultural broccoli, something you hate but should consume.” – p33

“A lot of artists’ lives are built for 23-year-old single, frenetic, healthy, childless workaholics. That doesn’t last. Our lives change and our needs change” – p77 

For its price and quality of information, the book has great value for my artist friends. It has even greater value for my non-artist friends since it will help you understand their art/music/dance friends a little better. I am planning to use the book as a reading material for my improvisation ensemble and upper-level music classes. I look forward to have a great discussion with the students about artist sustainability.

 PS: For my musician friends and students who are starting their post-college music career, I also recommend Beyond Talent by Angela Myles Beeching. 

PSS: Since I mentioned about art and dance, here’s a little clip on my  collaboration with a dancer friend.


I’ll be teaching a course in algorithmic composition in Fall 2014. To prepare for this course and other projects, I decided to reread books on the subject during the summer. The first book I am revisiting is Form+Code in Design, Art, and Architecture by Reas, McWilliams, and LUST.

I learned about the aesthetics of generative and code-based art from this book. I enjoyed applying the ideas and concepts I have learned to my music. The book taught me how to think about composition in numbers and codes.

I am thinking about requiring students to read at least the first chapter of the book. The summary of the chapter includes some great sentences:

“Learning to program and to engage the computer more directly with code opens the possibility of not only creating tools, but also systems, environments, and entirely new modes of expression. It is here that the computer ceases to be a tool and instead becomes a medium.” (p25)

The chapter also mentions that using a computer in art reduces the production time, so the artists can use the extra time and energy to explore the procedure and structure. Coding in art also enables a person to customize and “hack” the tool. These ideas are easily applied to computer music.

I also like the chapter because it gives succinct definitions on algorithm and code. Algorithm is a specific instruction to do a task (p13). Code is an algorithm written in a programming language (p15). Thus, an algorithmic composition is a process of making music with specific instructions written for computer.

Here’s a simple example of such algorithmic compositions. Introvert has algorithmically generated computer accompaniment for live melodica player.  The computer part generates same chord progression, but the timing, volume, and octave position of each notes are chosen by the computer. This makes the computer part somewhat unpredictable, and makes the part unique for each performance.