Luke Selden

Today for your reading pleasure, we bring you an interview with the second co-founder of Rable & Twine: Luke Selden. A musician and video artist, Luke describes himself as a researcher, experimentalist and tinkerer at heart. Luke is all about dissecting projects and seeing how they work. Growing up in southeast Virginia, Luke followed his sister into the school band, where he learned to play the tuba, sparking his life long love affair with bass instruments. He’s also been tinkering with computers since MS-DOS was a thing, making video-game inspired music. He went on to study composition at UNC-Chapel Hill, and electronic music at Mills College.  The rest is history!

Luke…when I was learning to play music I was always connected to the bass in some way. I played bass in a rock band, sang bass in chorus, played bass in the orchestra, tuba in marching band.

AnnaSo you’re saying “You’re all about that bass?”

LukeYes, I am all about that bass. I even played bass marimba in percussion ensemble. I had it covered all across the board.

AnnaHow do you describe what you do?

LukeI like to see myself as a visual musician. ‘Musician’ is still my go-to label, but I don’t see myself as just a musician. I am a video artist and creative coder too.  If I’m going to tie everything together I would describe myself as a visual musician; someone who applies musical concepts to the visual realm.  Or in a broader sense, I’m interested in how we experience events unfolding in time, whatever the medium.  I’m influenced by Oskar Fischinger, Len Lye, Disney’s Fantasia, classic music videos and those old Winamp visualizations.

AnnaWhen did you first feel like you were an artist?

LukeI think I really hit my stride when I went to grad school.  I was surrounded by other creative folks interested in the same kind of wacky art I was…It is the first time I felt like I could really call myself a composer. Before that I judged everything I wrote as student work; unfinished…not quite up to snuff. I thought that being an artist was something you achieved with some ‘great work’, like leveling up in a video game. Grad school made me feel like an artist, because I was proud of what I accomplished.  And I realized that being an artist is just about making art, not some mystical quest.

AnnaHow does what you do, being a visual musician, express who you are and/or influence the art you make?

LukeI think I am someone who goes through phases depending on what I feel interested in. Sometimes I am into making music, sometimes photography, sometimes I just want to write code on the computer. I’ll just dive into something for a little while.

AnnaDoes your medium change based on what you are trying to portray to your audience or does it all depend on what phase your in?

Lukeummm…I don’t see myself as someone who uses art as a means of expression.  I used to describe myself as a researcher. I like exploring different concepts and ideas, but I feel more comfortable with the thought that how I’m saying something communicates more than what I’m saying.  Art for its own sake. You know, Marshall McLuhan’s The Medium is the Massage and all that.

Listen to Luke’s piece “Don’t Shake a Baby”:

AnnaWhat inspires you? You mentioned you don’t make art to “say something.” So what inspires you to make art for art’s sake?

LukeWhat inspires me? hmmm….I’m really interested in cognitive science. I’m not a scientist. I kind of wish I was…I’m just not very rigorous. I get more interested in the artistic truth than the objective truth.  Or rather, art as a vehicle to convey something I find fascinating.  It becomes about how you tell the story rather than what the story is. Like the “Dance Your PhD” contest. Explaining something through dance. I love that concept.  And there’s just such an expanse of ALL the different ways people can portray the same basic human emotions. We’ve all felt love, loneliness, happiness, righteous anger…it’s all been said and done before. With art and creativity it becomes about how an individual’s unique personality and experiences shape and modify those shared basic experiences into something new.

AnnaWhen is creativity play and when is it work?

LukeCreativity is play when I’m just goofing off. Sitting down and trying something, because why not? It’s work when I have a deadline or a project to present to others. That’s worthwhile work, but its still work.

AnnaWhat motivates you?

LukeI get interested in playing off of other people’s ideas and projects. Not stealing material, but riffing on something already out there, using a different point of view as a starting off point. We live in an environment filled with ideas and thoughts and I love that interconnectedness. What motivates me is the challenge of going from A to B to C to D – grabbing ideas from the ether, mushing them together and seeing what what comes out. Alchemy, perhaps?

AnnaWhat role does collaboration play in that process?

LukeI love collaboration. It comes back to me being a bass player at heart. You’re both part of the rhythm section and supporting the harmony/melody…finding out what needs to be done to enhance the collective experience. Being a team player. I love taking all the existing components, tying them together and maybe adding something new in the process.

AnnaWhat do you feel like creativity can do for people in your community?

LukeHonestly, I feel like creativity is what makes us LIVE. What makes life interesting is what you do outside of just surviving. Creativity is how we build. ‘Creativity’ is the way adults play in the world. When you’re a kid, you’re imaging fantastical worlds and trying new things all the time because that is just what you do. As adults we define it as creativity.

AnnaWhat tickles your fancy?

LukeI find more and more that I’m a super nerd. I love endlessly clicking through Wikipedia articles until I don’t understand anything anymore. What tickles my fancy is anything that dives deep into a subject. I love to engage people about their expertise or passion because there’s always some reason why someone is SO into something. And usually it’s a story worth hearing.

AnnaWhat role does technology influence the in the art you make?

LukeTechnology is something I battle with as an artist because I’m super dependent on it. Almost all my artistic process — making dance beats, video work, creative coding – are all done on the computer.  This new virtual world is full of opportunity – there’s so much to explore.  BUT there is a frustration in that. I play banjo and like folk music. What I really love about playing a “real” instrument is that the medium of expression is already there. There are all these different worthwhile things you can do within the confines of the instrument.  With the limitation you can explore everything you can do and be satisfied with that. However, with the computer you can do anything.  There’s nothing but possibilities, and you can build entire worlds, instruments that can make any sound or generate any image.  My former professor Chris Brown always used to remind me that at some point you have to stop tinkering with your computer, and just make the art.  I still struggle with that.

AnnaAny advice for our readers?

LukeMy advice is to just go ahead and try it out, whatever it is. If you run out of inspiration, try to copy someone else. As students we learn by playing other people’s work. When I am in a stuck place, I learn some new music, or watch Wes Anderson films again. It reminds me what makes me passionate about art in the first place. Starts me thinking about what I would do differently.

AnnaLooking to others for inspiration…which is why you want to start this art space to you can be all up in people’s business!

Luke[laughs] Yeah!  I want to learn from other people.  And sometimes I just want to turn off my brain and enjoy an experience.  I love dance parties!


Luke playing keytar at a halloween party