Personal and professional projects provide unique perspective in classroom for Music and Sound lecturer

Jack Stamps

Jack W. Stamps teaches in the Music and Sound emphasis in the Department of Arts and Entertainment Technologies. He teaches courses in entertainment technology, music technology and composition of popular and commercial styles. He received his D.M.A. in composition, with an emphasis in music technology, from Butler School of Music at The University of Texas at Austin in 2007. In addition to work as a traditional composer, he has completed numerous albums, remixes and other productions under the name MC Debris and has composed a substantial number of works for music licensing companies in New York and Los Angeles. We recently caught up with him to learn more about his work and career.

Tell us a little about yourself. What is your background?

I was born on the 23rd floor of the historic Nix Hospital in San Antonio, Texas. Two months later, man walked on the moon. I was raised by hippie parents who introduced me to liberal amounts of Zappa, folk, classical, jazz and The Beatles. It is no wonder that after I got kicked out of the high school marching band for being too “idiosyncratic,” I’d start writing my own music. I was in an alternative rock band for over a decade before I turned my attention to more dense musical forms and college study of music composition. I completed three successive degrees in music composition in which my writing increasingly became more cross-pollinated by classical and popular forms. Everything I do is an extension of previous works, experience and personal memory.

What are some projects you’ve done or experiences you’ve had that you are most proud of? Why?

I wrote two string quartets for Tosca, the string quartet found in many live and studio performances of David Byrne, the seminal pop cultural philosopher and songwriter. Those were great times. I have written numerous pieces of music for ad campaigns, and it is always a little surreal when I hear my mnemonic at the end of every Liberty Mutual Insurance television commercial. Six little notes that I spent two weeks writing! Recently, my songwriting under the name MC Debris has kept me busy. It’s kind of an anonymous hazmat persona that protects me from the volatility of mixing various musical elements. The work has also proven to be an invaluable pedagogical tool in my AET classes.

What can you tell us about the courses you’ll be teaching this next year?

I’m taking on a lighter teaching load to take on the herculean task of turning my very large class, Foundations of Arts and Entertainment Technologies, into a dual-credit course for high school seniors in Texas as part of the OnRamps project at UT. But, I am also teaching a brand new course in sonic branding, which looks very critically at the relationship between music, sound and products and advertising, which should be interesting.

In the spring, I am teaching another new course called Music, Technology and Culture, which will seek to find answers to questions about how technology informs our creation, consumption, dissemination and experience of music. I am especially excited that this class has been chosen as one of seven courses campus-wide to participate in the Global Classroom Initiative, established by the UT International Office. Currently the plan is to link up with the Music Department at the Lulea Technical Institute in Sweden. The music being made in Lulea is very progressive. For example, you can get a degree as a composer of hip-hop there! I look forward to the collaborative nature made possible by a connection of the two classes.

What do you hope students take away from your courses?

A greater appreciation for the range of possibility in expression that arts and entertainments technologies provide. A sense of personal development as an artist, scholar and human being. An understanding of the hallmarks of the history of AET and how such hallmarks impacted the evolution of thinking about how technology might entertain.

What kinds of projects are you working on outside of the classroom?

I mentioned a few of them earlier. A lot of my work is indirectly fed back into the classroom, and the way I think about music and music education has become increasingly mindful of the benefits of teaching what you are doing. I have long-range plans for a multi-media musical called THE DEVICE, a cautionary fable about the perils of overreliance on technology to make art.

I just finished a textbook called Pixels, Samples, Lumens Illusion, which takes a look at the foundations of AET. It comes with an online component that is stuffed with lots of media examples, etc. That kept me busy for almost the last year.

I have also been working on the release materials for the album, CARSON, written under the MC Debris persona.

What advice do you have for students who are interested in pursuing a career in music and sound? 

It is the same advice I give any student pursuing a path in the entertainment arts—find your perceived limitations of genre, technology and personal artistry then, push hard against those limits to consider new genres and sub-genres, new ways technologies can combine to express things in different ways and to redefine yourself as an artist every time you make something. And, finally, make a lot of it and take note, either in blog or journal, how you and your work is evolving.