"When I think of music I think of singing! THAT's what I associate with music. The vocal part of it."
To say I am profoundly inspired by music is an understatement. It is a language I do not speak but am endlessly fascinated and seduced by. I take great comfort and wonder in how someone wrote something that exactly defined a specific set of life experiences and the complex emotions that went along with them.
I recently sat down with a musician friend of mine, Andrew Zapanta (Z), and had a conversation before he modeled for me. I (A) asked questions about process and where he, a musician, gets his inspiration. Our conversation will be portioned out as this large scale drawing evolves.
A: OK, so, numero uno, why music? How did that happen for you?
Z: I grew up and EVERYBODY was ALWAYS singing in my family. Singing was something you did from a very, very early age. We would have these very large Christmases where we all had to sit around with my grandfather, the minister. He would give us a sermon and we all had to sing hymns and all that and we all had to harmonize together and I HATED those sermons because they were boring. I wanted to play basketball, and nope, can't. They were like two to three hours, these sermons.
A: How old were you?
Z: It started from when I was a little kid, I can remember my first one probably when I was three or four. And it would be the whole extended family. There would be twenty of my cousins there, all my aunts and uncles, you know, friends of the family, and all that, just sitting around, and the kids would all be sitting on the floor. OK, we're going to sing this song now. And I remember from a very early age people picking parts like in a choir. So on that side the older guys would be doing the lower parts, and then suddenly we were all singing in harmony. And it was the ONLY thing I looked forward to, because I liked being a part of that... OK... what's my part? I always wanted to figure out what my part was. So for me it was just like singing... When I think of music I think of singing! THAT's what I associate with music. The vocal part of it. And I realized I had sort of a knack for it. So then I would keep pushing it and my brothers would invite their friends over when I was a little kid and, "Hey sing! Sing something for 'em. Do that like that thing when you shake your voice." Like the vibrato...
A: Yeah. The vibrato.
Z: And so I would basically want to just sing all the time. I was always just walking around singing because it was a pleasant thing for me to do. It was something I could do. So if I heard a song that I liked I could emulate it. And I would walk around and try to emulate the voices I liked the most.
A: Did you feel that you saw the world in song? In singing? In other words, how did that paint your view of the world?
Z: Well funny enough, when I got to Purchase my second roommate was a guy, Steve Yungst, and he was a music major. And he was super hippie looking guy, long hair, tie dye shirt, like everything you would think. He was a drummer, a percussionist. And... he would just hear things in the room. Something that would happen, like a chair moving, and he would imitate it. And then he would hear a car horn go off and say, "Aww, man, that was in the key of this Beatles song that was just playing, did you hear that?" And the song is doing that like... and suddenly I started to pick up on that. I started to hear what he was hearing. And that, to answer your question, is what really started making me... because it used to be me in my own little world singing. And I just enjoyed it because I could do it, and I could excel at it. And then when I got to Purchase, even though I was studying art, he started teaching me to hear like the music and the tones and everything. And I still do it to this day, it's so fun.
A: That's interesting. So you go through life in a world of sound? And that sound sets of or inspires the way that you think, feel, and see?
A: Or what is it? Is it a background? Is it a rhythm? Is it a soundtrack to life?
Z: That's funny you'd say that. Um...
A: Do you know what I mean?
Z To me, I hear things and I'll hear word and it's not uncommon for me to hear words that trigger off songs in my head.
A: Sure. Lyrics.
Z: And almost all day. Especially if I'm in a social environment, 'cause, you know, it's one thing if you're not talking. But I would definitely say that I've come to appreciate sound, for sure, like soundscapes and what they can mean, even the tone of how somebody says something to me.
A: Give an example.
Z: So just today somebody walked by me and was like... (I cannot put into words the sound Andrew made) ... and they didn't mean to say it that way.
A: They sound like a parrot.
Z: But it got buried in my mind as just this weird sound. I was like, did they mean to sound like that? And it even wasn't grating or unpleasant, it was just such an extremely unique noise. And it made me think, wow, we are just these animals that just make noises, but we are able to decipher and translate what that noise... Noise triggers thought in our heads of pictures of things.
A: Yeah, exactly. That's exactly what I meant.
Z: Ultimately we're just making noises to each other and each noise means something different. But yeah, it's funny because this just happened before I was leaving... (makes the noise again).