An Interview with Darcy James Argue

Professor Heebie McJeebie interviews Darcy James Argue, who with Secret Society, will be performing at the 2nd annual 3QD ball. (Via Lindsay Beyerstein.)

The young composer Darcy James Argue conducts Secret Society, an ensemble of urban hippies who perform his original compositions at various underground locations. On August 26 and 27, Secret Society will perform in various outer-boroughs of New York City. I recently spoke with young person Darcy via my MIDI dictaphone.

Professor Heebie McJeebie: After listening to a few minutes of your music, I would categorize you as a “jazz composer,” yet you have studied with at least one composer of serious music, and you are very skilled at music notation. As someone who thinks carefully about writing things down, where do you draw the line between improvisation and composition?

Darcy James Argue: Some jazz musicians feel that improvisation is just composition in real-time. I don’t actually buy this. Open-ended improv is really its own thing, and it creates a very different set of expectations and reactions in the listener than a pre-structured piece does.

As for my own process, I find improvisation can be a great way to generate or mess with raw materials — to fill up the sketchbook with ideas, to assist with the pre-compositional work, and the like. But then I have to hunker down and figure out how to structure those ideas. It’s like what the faculty are always telling the kids at jazz camp: “play drunk, write sober.”