Friday, January 22, 2010

The Music of Coriander Woodruff

The Following appeared in the regional newspaper insert “All About Her” in January 08.

Coriander Woodruff has been her own kind of musician since she was a toddler making drums from empty coffee cans.

When she was ten years old, she heard a segment on NPR radio about GarageBand, a software program that features a virtual soundboard for mixing and recording sound. She knew it was the next step in her music exploration. With GarageBand, Coriander could sample a variety of instruments, loop sequences, and synthesized sound to create her own musical collages in the comfort of her home.

Her father is a computer programmer and her mother is an artist. Her older brother leads a Floyd Ghost Tour with a theatrical flair, and another member of the Woodruff household is a musician. Considering Coriander’s background, it’s no wonder that by the time she was thirteen years old she had composed and produced two CD’s of electronica music.

“What was your party like?” I asked her. We were in the Black Water Loft, a café in downtown Floyd where the October release party for her second CD, Black Light Blue Frog, was held.

“There were plasma balls and lava lights,” she answered. She described how her father projected a light show onto the café wall. And what would electronica music, also known as house party music, be without a black light? There was one, she said.

In between sips of tea, Coriander’s mother, Pat Woodrufff, told me that the October 26th CD Release Party was also Coriander’s 13th Birthday Party. Coriander described how the black and white costume she wore to the party and in the photo on her newest CD cover came from a Halloween costume search. “I wanted to be an “optical illusion,”’ she said.

According to Coriander, her early music was “awful stuff that had me pulling out my hair.” In the first year working with GarageBand, she did a lot of “testing.” It took a year before she composed something she was proud of, a song from her first CD, Spirit Web, entitled Galaxy Seeker. More recently some of her music was featured in “Floyd Home Companion,” a parody of Garrison Keillor’s Radio Show, Prairie Home Companion, with a Floyd twist. The play was recently performed in Floyd by Coriander and other cast members of Floyd’s Young Actors Co-op.

As with her early coffee can drumming, Coriander has been using a computer since she was very young. She taught herself touch typing after being involved in an “adventure chat room” in which you had to type fast to keep up with the game. That kind of self-motivation is a thread that runs through her and her family’s life. As a homeschooler, Coriander’s curriculum is based on the learning that is inherent in pursuing her interests. Her parents encourage her hands-on learning style. Working with GarageBand puts music making in Coriander’s own hands. It also allows her family to avoid expense recording session fees.

We left the Black Water Loft and went to Coriander’s home, where she showed me her digital audio workstation and explained how she can find a sound to match the mood of a piece by searching under headings, such as Happy, Relaxing, or Dark. She can also overlay everyday sounds into her compositions. One of my personal favorite examples of this is in a song called “Please Turn Off Your Cell Phone,” in which she incorporates recorded phone sounds into a beat, everything from dial tone, to ‘if you would like to make a call, please hang up and try again,’ and her brother talking on the phone.

When I asked her if she was working on a new CD, she explained that she wanted to create music that would feel like the stars and the beginning of the universe. “It’s going to be hard, but I want to do it.” She added that making a CD takes a year or two because she can only work when she feels inspired.

At one time electronic music was a genre of its own, but these days many well known musicians incorporate it into their songs. The term “electronica” was first used in the early 1990’s to describe the rave movement and global-influenced dance music, but now it is also created for forefront and background listening. Also known as techno-music, electronica is a fusion of many types of music. It was once categorized with jazz and has been used heavily in New Age Music.

To those who think electronica music isn’t real music because it’s more about composing and mixing than it is about playing an instrument or singing, Coriander says, “If it effects you makes you happy, and moves you; it’s music. She promised me she’d invite me to her next CD Release Party. ~Colleen Redman

Note: Coriander Woodruff’s CD’s, Spirit Web and Black Light Blue Frog, are available at noteBooks in downtown Floyd. They can be purchased by mailing $10 plus $2 postage to Gryphon Studios, PO Box 190, Emporium, PA, 15834. You can visit to hear selections from her CD’s.

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