Saxophonist Marcus Miller: I’m extraordinarily curious, that is what drives me
Discover what's on Marcus Miller's mind
I liked math as a little kid but was discouraged by my math teacher in the 6th grade, which was when I really got into music. I was really good at school so my mentors urged me to academic college instead of a music conservatory. I decided on Harvard. Looking through the course catalogue I was drawn to math because words like “Riemannian Manifold” or “Noetherian Rings” sounded exciting to me, and I asked myself “when would I have the chance to learn it again?” I fell in love with math at Harvard.
I don’t think in mathematical terms when I think about music. There are artists who are into that sort of thing. For me my background in math has taught me how to solve problems. It has put me in a mindset for discovering new things. It makes me feel right when things are a match.
People are looking for the deeper connections, thinking of queries such as “Does listening to Mozart make you smarter? And if so for how long does it last?” The research is undecided, but Every culture has had music, so it has to be important at least anthropologically. You can look at music from a scientific standpoint because music is basically physics, it’s vibration. But if you think that vibration makes it spiritual or mystical then everything can be seen as spiritual or mystical. People like to see it in music and in math. They don’t consider it in technology like an iPhone, but it’s the same thing.
In the American school system you got to try different instruments in 4th grade. My father played the saxophone, had one, and taught me a little bit. I played as a kid and had my first professional gig at 13 thanks to excellent training by my music teacher Bruce Williams. I took a break from it during college. And after college I didn’t want to go to grad school immediately. Then things happened. One day during my senior year a friend of mine called me out of the blue. It was a Friday and he told me that I had a gig on the following Monday in New York. I told him that I couldn’t do it, but he said I had to, so I took the bus down to New York from Harvard, and after the gig I took the bus back again at 6am for morning math class. I did this all through my second semester senior year. When I graduated I went to work at a hedge fund but I realized quickly that I didn’t want to work in finance after I started. I was really a musician and creative. That was when I moved back to New York.
I want to understand what people are listening to and for. The sax has tradition in jazz and soul, but not so much in music that my friends were listening to. I wanted to learn about how to make modern popular music, electronic music, and hip hop too. When got to New York, I learnt to engineer and produce, and I learnt from one of the best, “Bassy” Bob Brockman. That enabled me to make my own music and experiment with software, different sounds and broaden my imagination. I did all the production, engineering, writing, and performance on my own album, Love in Absentia.
New York is great. I’m working, getting cool gigs and good tours. This summer I’m doing a European tour with a New Orleans-band, New Orleans Swamp Donkeys. I played in a lot of genres, I played with big bands, I love electronic music. I’m extraordinarily curious, and that is what drives me. After the tour I will be back in New York, and I plan on moving forward with my band. I will also do work with Av8ted, a creative collective that I collaborate with.
Marcus Miller "After All"
Marcus Miller [Marcus the Artyst] is a saxophonist and recording artist, based in New York.
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