Yale student musicians often showcase their work at venues on campus and beyond, but the coronavirus pandemic flatlined live performances for the duration of the semester. The News continues to feature recent and upcoming student-released music to provide a platform for these artists aside from a stage.
Baltazar Lora: ‘Her Name is Midnight’
Last month, Baltazar Lora ’22 released an indie alternative single called “Her Name is Midnight” on Spotify. Lora worked on the single, which has reached over 45,000 Spotify streams, with high school friend and producer Nico Pagni.
Lora and Pagni, who is a senior at Bucknell University, played at Yale’s Spring Fling in 2019 with their high school band “Trøpic.” The band’s origins lie in a humble jam session in Pagni’s basement. Even though the group’s members attend different universities, they have stayed in touch and began using Zoom to work on music “since before it was cool.” Their work has evolved into the label “Trøpic Records,” with members working on releasing more music in the near future.
“The label is a beautiful thing because it represents our relationship as musicians through high school and college,” Pagni said.
According to Lora, “Her Name is Midnight” has gone through multiple iterations and was even scrapped entirely at one point. But the musicians persevered to create a “homogenous mixture” — a culmination of two years’ worth of ideas — with live vocals, electric guitar and a synthetic bass line inspired by Playboy Carti.
Lora has spent much of his career as a concert musician, but with live performances canceled due to the pandemic, Lora found time to improve his recording and production skills.
“It’s always been a goal to put out music,” Lora said. “Now, I’ve been given the opportunity to really hone in on production and focus on putting out a recorded piece.”
Both Lora and Pagni said the song gave them insights into more technical aspects of music production, including the recording, mastering and distribution of music. Lora and Pagni are listed as artist and producer respectively, but they each take on both roles and plan to continue working together on future projects. Their listeners can expect new singles within the next few months, Lora said, featuring elements of Spanish reggaeton and hip-hop.
Lora grew up listening to Spanish music, but he has since explored rap, classic rock and hip hop. Lora named Cage the Elephant and Vampire Weekend as creative influences and added that his musical interests balance his pursuit of an engineering degree.
“Engineering is cold and tough, while music is warm and playful,” Lora said. “But they both need creativity. It’s such a necessary and complete balance for me to have both sides in my life.”
Syd Bakal: ‘In Love’
Armed with a guitar, their voice and a cardboard box, Syd Bakal ’22 released their first song last month, titled “In Love.” Even though they penned this piece in their first year of high school, they chose to return to it now, six years later.
“Even if just five people listen to it, and it’s meaningful and resonant for them, then that’s meaningful to me,” Bakal said.
For Bakal, music is a major part of their life, as they have always turned to songwriting as a creative outlet. They often use their phone’s voice recording feature to record tunes during the day so they can come back to the clips and refine and edit them.
According to Bakal, songwriting has shifted from a more personal experience to a collaborative one over the years. Bakal, whose main instruments are voice and guitar, has begun reaching out to other instrumentalists at Yale to incorporate more sounds into their music. They noted being “pleasantly excited” by the welcoming and helpful nature of instrumentalists at Yale.
“Having another person listen to your music can feel like ripping yourself open,” Bakal said, adding that it has taken them time to realize when to share music with others and when to keep it to themself.
Bakal said their song was written from a place of “real curiosity and desire.” Since writing the song about love years ago, Bakal said their perspective on love has expanded away from what was once “narrow field.”
While Bakal does not know what role music will play in their future, they believe it will always remain an important part of their life.
The song’s cover art was designed by Rahshemah Stevenson Wise ’22.
Hero Magnus: Exploring music in the Music City
Hailing from the punk scene of Alexandria, Virginia, Hero Magnus ’23 is currently taking on the music world in Nashville, bringing a unique approach towards queer history and culture.
Magnus began her budding career by opening for punk artists in D.C. on acoustic guitar and documenting these experiences on a YouTube channel. Magnus taught herself studio recording at home and has released three singles on Spotify: “Again and Again,” “Talionic” and “Breakfast Table.” She described her time at Yale as a “pivot” in her musical experience — her current work is inspired by a class she took called “Sexual Minorities from Plato to the Enlightenment” with professor Igor De Souza.
“I was inspired by the resonances that these very ancient queer experiences had with my modern queer experiences,” Magnus said. “We need to restructure the way we think about and conceive of sexuality. Labels can be useful and interesting, but also it’s important to remember that we haven’t always conceived of things in the same terms that we do now.”
The singer-songwriter plans to release new music in the next few weeks and an album by the end of the year. The album is funded by Yale’s Domestic Summer Award and the Joseph Slifka Center. According to Magnus, her recent writing is more explorative than her earlier works.
“I started experimenting with different sonic textures, rock, electric guitars — full, lush experience of music,” Magnus said. “I’ve learned to incorporate threads of stories of people who are not just myself.”
Magnus is currently taking a gap year in Nashville, where she researches Roman, Greek, Arabic and Jewish queer histories to inform her songwriting. Being in the Music City has given her insights into the “different paths that people can carve for themselves.” Magnus hopes to make a living off of her compositions, and explore film scores, music touring and album recording and eventually launch her own record label. But for now, Magnus is building her portfolio and sharing her experiences via livestreams on Instagram.
Beyond live performance and song composition, Magnus is also stepping into the role of a music reviewer, writing for publications including The Young Folks and the Yale Herald. She is also heavily involved in WYBC, Yale’s only on-campus student radio.
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