The Professionally Amateur Music
of Mike Heffley
by Yul Agee Manu...
Click here for information about Yul Agee Manu and his interview with Mike Heffley.
NOTE: This site is a work in progress. Starting with the words immediately following below, it is a unified literary work, doubling as commentary on the recorded music; it is far enough along to open to the public, and is projected to be finished before 2013's end.
The music tracks too are not all enabled to buy, but are also enough so to offer and enable gradually over the rest of the year.
Once both writing and music licensing are completed, HeffleyRecords will be my hybrid ouevre of creative writing and music.
This body of recorded music began its life as the products of a personal and private hobby. Mike Heffley has been the quintessential dilettante as a public musician throughout his adult life; he never took it as far into the professional or commercial arenas as even the most marginal indie musician, opting consistently instead for the more homebody life of the writing mind, family man, and, more recently, monkish recluse. Musical hobbyist, yes, and a somewhat well-recorded one by now.
My music-scholarly interest in it rests precisely on that amateur approach. I want to explore and assess the qualities and traits of a body of work spanning two decades by an artist I see as potentially talented enough to work at what is generally considered a "higher" level, but who decides it is not only not worth the trouble to do so for the reasons mentioned above, but also because he is more interested in what music will result from that approach than from the conventionally "more dedicated" one.
All of the virtual CDs here comprise a body of work begun in the 1990s, when Mike Heffley was a graduate student at Antioch and Wesleyan Universities, working with Anthony Braxton. Through both institutions, he had free or subsidized access to state-of-the-art recording studios and professional engineers to work on his projects; he was also working as a bandleader and trombonist in the bands of others, most regularly Braxton. He stopped working as a public professional musician around 1997, but kept up a steady trickle of studio projects---some his own, homegrown, others at different professional facilities after he left Wesleyan, in 2000.
He pro/con-fesses them all as personal amateur gestures, by choice and design, for reasons best unfolded in my glosses of them and my interview with him (a few links ahead). The recording dates are approximate, if given at all; the cover art is also his.
The music and images are for download only, for two reasons:
1. the artist has liked the feel and sound of all of his music in headphones far better than speakers long before the advent of the iPod. Its mix of personal intimacy and impersonal complexity and nuance just works best, he feels, when piped directly into the thinking, feeling brain, without swimming around in the air of the world first; and
2. he likes both the price (for you) and the cost (to him) of the downloads more than those of the physical CDs (not to mention the real environmental considerations of unbiodegradeable plastic). The current value of his music past, present, and future (which is to say NOW) lies largely, for him, in its lowest possible overhead and maintenance.
Heffley has granted my request to add my running narrative about his body of recorded work as a whole to his own brief blurbs on each CD. (His account of our first meeting is also a couple of clicks ahead.) My desire to do so is threefold:
1. literary; it stems from the personal involvement with his music that has crept up on and overtaken me since we met. I want to explore what making the music here meant to him, and what hearing it means to me, treating us both as subjects of literary character studies;
2. musical; I want to trace the evolution into what I see as an emerging voice in the jazz-piano tradition of one who had been a schooled and professional trombonist for some three decades, and who took on his new instrument as a total autodidact; and, again, what kind of music generally results from a highly skilled and creative amateur;
3. ethnomusicological; from my interest in the more public issues of intellectual property rights and controls his recordings raise.
My gloss of Heffley's recordings starts with an introduction of our relationship and our decision to collaborate on my narrative about his work. It is followed by an interview I did with him about the two CDs shown at the top of his Music Catalogue page, which I persuaded him to include only after his long resistance and my relentless persuasion.
On to the music catalogue then, and the story here introduced.
NOTE: To keep reading the narrative begun here, click top link (Single Album HR026, Demos), then follow "continue to" links at bottom of each page...)
Recordings with Anthony Braxton
Mike Heffley @35, 45, 55...not so funny, how time slips away...but something of a framing concept for the music presented here, which was produced roughly from the time of the first to the time of the third photo...Time ReMembered