Audeze speaks with vibraphonist, marimbist and composer Patricia Brennan

Mexican born vibraphonist, marimbist, improviser and composer Patricia Brennan is pushing the boundaries of vibraphone and mallet percussion. She has started to make her mark as an improviser and composer on the avant-garde world. Patricia is an accomplished band member and leader. She’s a member of several renowned improvising bands such as the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble and Michael Formanek Ensemble Kolossus. Also, smaller groups like Tomas Fujiwara’s 7 Poets Trio and Matt Mitchell’s Phalanx Ambassadors. Patricia’s unique voice as improviser and composer is imprinted on her debut solo album “Maquishti”. She comes to Audeze through our mutual friend David Breskin.

"I’ve been using the Audeze LCD-X’s not only during the home recording process but also to analyze the sound samples afterwards and it makes a huge difference to be able to clearly hear all the nuance." - Patricia Brennan
Here's our chat with Patricia:
Can you pick out any highlights from your work that you're particularly proud of?

One of my recent works, my solo album “Maquishti”.  The making of this album was one of my favorite musical and personal journeys.

How would you define your main role on most of the projects you work on these days?

On my own works, my main role is composer, leader and visionary.  As a band member, a supporting role, serving the music as much as possible.

How did you get started in music? What kind of music did you listen to while growing up and how has that progressed?

My earliest musical experience was joining my dad in “rumbas” (musical gatherings).  I was about four years old and would mostly play small percussion.  Around the same time, I began formal training on piano at the local conservatory.  Both of my parents love different styles of music and they greatly influenced my musical taste growing up. From my father’s side, I was introduced to Afro Cuban, Afro Latin and Brazilian music.  From my mother’s side, it ranged from Chopin and Steve Reich to Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix.  Also, I was influenced by the sounds of the local music, particularly Mexican marimba and son jarocho. Currently I listen to avant-garde and electronic music the most.  But I still like to explore and continue to enjoy other genres and styles.

Can you name any factors that influenced the course of your musical life? Heroes, role models, moments, interactions, etc?

One of my musical heroes is percussionist extraordinaire Evelyn Glennie.  I was introduced to her artistry when I was about 6 years old.  My percussion teacher at the time had a BETA video tape of a documentary about her.  There I was in a town in Mexico in the early 90’s watching this incredible musician.  I spent my childhood going back to that tape and aspiring to be like her.  Even though I was in a classical conservatory, she influenced me to be an explorer not only on my instrument but also an explorer of music itself.  This experience planted the seed of my current approach to composition and improvisation.

Can you briefly describe a moment of frustration from your past work, and what you may have done to overcome the obstacles? Would you approach it differently now?

I usually enjoy writing new music, however it can lead to moments of frustration at times. One of the main reasons is that sometimes I keep tweaking a composition in the search of the ultimate composition.  Eventually, the ending isn’t anywhere near.  What I’ve done to try to overcome this issue is to let go and just play the composition as is, even if I think it’s not done.  Sometimes, my favorite compositions are the ones that I thought were unfinished or weren’t ready.  Sometimes just trying it out gives me a different perspective.  I’m constantly learning to let go.

Is there any gear you find yourself turning to most when working on a project? What are some of your favorite tools/instruments recently?

Recently, I have been turning to the use of guitar pedals or any electronic device I can find to manipulate the original sound of the vibraphone.  I’ve been mostly experimenting with different delay and granular pedals such as the Red Panda Particle 2 Granular Delay pedal.

Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire toward a similar path for their own careers?

My best advice is to be yourself and always serve the music.  Stay focused on your own journey, and remember that everyone has their own path.  One of my favorite aspects of being a musician is that it’s very personal.  You are constantly learning about who you are, how you interact with others.  The journey teaches you to be kind and patient as well as intuitive.  I continue to give this advice to myself and try to enjoy the journey while it lasts.

How long have you been working with headphones, and how do you typically use them in your workflow?

I’ve been working with headphones for a long time.  One of my favorite things about being a musician is doing research by listening to the work of others.  I’ve always liked to do active or analytical listening with headphones, that way I don’t miss any detail in the music.  I usually do at least one or two hours of active listening daily and combine it with analysis.  Another crucial use of headphones for me is during mixing process.

How have your Audeze headphones affected your work?

As part of my composition and improvisational practice, I record samples of my work as I experiment with new sounds and ideas.  I’ve been using the Audeze LCD-X’s not only during the home recording process but also to analyze the sound samples afterwards and it makes a huge difference to be able to clearly hear all the nuance.  It’s important to me to have sound clarity during this part of the process of my work.  By using the Audeze LCD-X’s, I have a clear insight as to how it would sound on the record.  It also allows me to make adjustments based on an accurate representation of the sound sample.

Can you tell us what you've been working on with them so far?

I’m currently working on experimenting with new sounds via guitar pedals using an amplification system with my vibraphone. I have made some new additions to my set up and I am working on expanding my sonic palette.  I’m planning on incorporating these new sounds into an upcoming recording project.  I’ve been using the Audeze LCD-X’s during the process of recording sound samples during my practice and during their study, I can hear, with great clarity all the nuance of the effects from the guitar pedals in addition to the pure tone of the vibraphone. The Audeze LCD-X’s have made a huge difference in my improvisational and compositional process.