Music artists share original compositions on living in Indiana

Eric Salazar knew after a high school jazz band bass clarinet solo what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. After his Brownsburg High School band director Joe Vrabec credited him as the reason the band won a judge’s choice award from a 2007 Purdue University jazz competition, he said he wanted to become a music performer to “help people feel their feelings and help people through music.”

Now, almost nine years after receiving his bachelor’s degree in music performance from Ball State, Salazar is a professional musician who manages his own music business and markets classical music events around Indianapolis.

One of Salazar’s recent music composing opportunities came from a Facebook post by Andrew Gustin, who was collecting instrumental submissions of two-minute original songs describing what living in Indiana felt like to the musicians who submitted songs.

“I happened to be on [social media] that day, and saw it and was like, ‘Ooh, that would be cool. I’d love to do that,’” Salazar said. “Apparently, I made the cut.”

Salazar said he wanted his composition, “Under the Tulip Tree,” to capture how he felt as a child lying under a tree in his backyard.

Donate to the vinyl fundraiser

To financially support the effort to press “Two Minutes in Indiana” on vinyl, or to pre-order your own copy, visit the crowdfunding page at https://qrates.com/projects/25064-2-minutes-in-indiana.

Any eventual profits made from the album sales will be donated to the nonprofit Musical Family Tree. The campaign ends Feb. 1.

Source: Andrew Gustin, curator of “Two Minutes in Indiana” and Ameliorate Records owner

“I was sort of fixated on that idea of this lazy, beautiful, serene relaxation,” he said. “I did some research and realized the tulip tree is the state tree, so I’ll have that be the title.”

Salazar is used to playing classical compositions that are often longer than 10 minutes, so he said composing his own piece of exactly two minutes was a fun challenge. He said he is also looking forward to the album printing on vinyl because he likes having physical copies of his music.

Through a crowdfunding campaign on the platform QRates, Ameliorate Records — which Gustin owns — is raising money to print 100 vinyl albums of “Two Minutes in Indiana.” If there are more than 100 donations and pre-orders, Gustin said he can print more than that, which he hopes to be finished with sometime this spring.

Salazar said, of the tracks composed by other artists he’s been able to listen to, they all encapsulated a feeling of open space.

“I get a feeling of space and openness, which really makes sense when I think about Indiana and our agricultural stereotypes we have here about these big, open fields,” Salazar said. “Being from Indiana is quite comforting to me because it’s not all packed in and busy like a New York City depiction might be. It’s just this open, spacial experience — which I appreciate.”

Some of Salazar’s songs have been printed on vinyl, including “Records for a Reason,” which Ball State’s student-run music label Beneficence Records released in 2017.

“It feels to me like a more purposeful and deliberate experience to listen to a record on vinyl because you have to put in more effort than just using your thumb to tap three times on your phone,” Salazar said. “I’m excited to think about someone deliberately dropping the needle and maybe listening to my music and feeling more connected than they would just through streaming.”

Eric Salazar, 2013 music performance graduate of Ball State, plays his clarinet in the Cardinal Music Group recording studio. Salazar’s performances were featured on vinyl pressings from the student-run label Beneficence Records. Cardinal Music Group, Photo Courtesy

Gustin said the physical vinyl release emphasizes tying together multiple Indiana-based artists and gives them the opportunity to own physical copies of their work. He added he limited everyone to two minutes because he worked on a digital album previously that asked artists to limit themselves to one-minute compositions, but he thought that time was too short.

“I kind of wanted to take that to the Indianapolis and Indiana music community and just kind of give a creative prompt,” Gustin said. “So, in April of 2021, I put out an open call to artists on social media with this challenge to create a new solely instrumental composition that lasts exactly two minutes with the theme being to capture what living in Indiana feels like. So, the idea was to have the participants think of their composition as being a scene in a larger work.”

Gustin didn’t limit anyone to what genre or instrument they could submit or sounds they could record. Some people submitted classical works like Salazar, while others used electronic instruments or recorded sounds of nature.

Sorting through the submissions and deciding what order to place the tracks in took about three months, Gustin said.

“I feel like the tracks do have kind of a sense of home to them in a way of people trying to convey Indiana as their home,” he said. “It was a little bit challenging [to curate], but I think the results turned out really well.”

In addition to putting out open calls for submissions on social media, Gustin personally reached out to musicians he knew in the Indianapolis area and invited them to contribute to the project, one of them being Michael Moskaliuk, whom he met through mutual friends in the music industry.

Moskaliuk, who plays synthesizers, said his work has been printed on cassette tapes before, but never vinyl. After growing up in Chicago, Moskaliuk moved to Indiana in 2008 and said living in the Midwest his entire life has helped him appreciate both busy cities and rural areas.

“Chicago was, of course, noisier [and] busier. There’s just more of a density to it than Indiana, but it was still the Midwest,” he said. “So, when I moved away from Chicago and came to the central Indiana area, it was a lot more relaxed, and there was more space to breathe. It helped me appreciate both aspects of the Midwest and appreciate what Indiana had to offer as well.”

Michael Moskaliuk, who plays synthesizers, is one of the 20 artists featured on the album “Two Minutes in Indiana.” Moskaliuk said he decided on a two-minute composition to submit to the project within a few hours. Michael Moskaliuk, Photo Provided

Moskaliuk said he tried to reflect the state of being relaxed in his composition, “Inspire.” He said he hopes listeners will be able to appreciate the cityscapes and nature of Indiana when they listen to his song.

“When I was composing, I was trying out different things, so it was a little bit of a surprise to me as I was making it,” Moskaliuk said. “I hope that the listener will also be a bit surprised and even a little bit inspired.”

Though all artists featured on “Two Minutes in Indiana” are Hoosiers, they aren’t all career musicians. 

Nate Gonzales, 2005 Ball State journalism alumnus, said he picked up guitar and singing as hobbies when he was about 12 years old and played in a few high school and college bands. At Ball State, he took a few introductory music classes, but never considered a major or minor. He found himself meeting Gustin through mutual connections in the Indianapolis music community, and they even played together for a few songs in summer 2020.

When Gustin presented Gonzales with the opportunity to compose a two-minute song for his album, Gonzales said he wanted to use some of the sounds around his house that fade into the background, like the refrigerator or air conditioner running.

In his final composition, Gonzales said he used some background noises of his house and electronic sounds to create a somber tone. He thought about what being inside for most of the COVID-19 pandemic felt like — a feeling he wanted to reflect in his song.

“It’s kind of melancholy at first,” he said. “Then it kind of picks up, and there’s a little bit more of a happy refrain at the end, so that was kind of my thing was it was coming out of my least favorite time of the year … and then knowing that spring was right around the corner and it was time to go back outside.”

Nate Gonzales, 2005 Ball State journalism graduate, currently performs under the MSA label as a musician and producer. Gonzales has been involved in multiple Indianapolis bands, but is currently his own act due to the pandemic. Nate Gonzales, Photo Provided

Gonzales named his song “Sleep City,” as a reference to how he has heard people say Indianapolis is boring.

“That’s a little bit of a play on the ‘naptown’ moniker that Indianapolis gets,” he said. “It’s just a little tongue-in-cheek thing. It’s one of those cities that it’s not quite a giant booming metropolitan city that stays up late.”

Gonzales said he wanted to make sure he included optimism in his song to reflect the “duality to living [in Indiana].”

“I didn’t want my contribution to this, my two minutes in Indiana, to be like this sad take, because I love Indiana in a weird way,” he said. “I lived in Florida for a couple years, so missing the Midwest was something that I’ve experienced, and I think it’s one of those old things that when you travel, you appreciate what home is.”

Gonzales, who grew up with a vinyl collection and has one of his own, said he is excited for the album to be printed on vinyl, as it encourages people to listen to the whole album.

“People are going to listen to both sides and get to hear everything,” Gonzales said. “For me, the artwork was always a big component. There’s this big, tactile thing that you hold in your hand.”

Morgan “Sunny” Smith, Indiana-based graphic designer who designed the “Two Minutes in Indiana” album art, has never had her art printed on vinyl before, though she has designed for CDs.

“This project was different because I had to generate artwork that represented 20 different artists with 20 different takes on what Indiana means to them,” Smith said via email. “I really had to layer and refine to get to the final piece.”

Smith listened to the entire album while she was designing the artwork and said each track sounded like home in a different way.

“You truly felt like someone was stepping into a chair every two minutes, but the scene, the encapsulated reality, would change,” she said. “In almost every track, it would invoke another typical ‘Indiana feeling,’ but each time different than the last.”

Morgan “Sunny” Smith, the artist who created the album art for “Two Minutes in Indiana,” aims to reflect the theme of music tracks in her visualization of album art. She said she “give[s] the sounds the reigns first” when capturing the feeling of music. MorganSunny” Smith, Photo Provided

When Smith designs for albums, she said she listens to all the tracks and tries to reflect their theme in her artwork. Because she’s been around records her entire life, she said her art being printed on vinyl is “a dream come true.”

“There’s just something special and classic about the needle on the vinyl reading the bumps and grooves,” she said. “It’s like getting back to your hometown — it just feels right.”

Even if people don’t own record players themselves, Gustin said the artwork is unique and the vinyl can be displayed in homes if not played. He said he commissioned Smith to design the art because he knew she could capture “the feeling of the album.”

Smith said she “jumped at the opportunity” to design the “Two Minutes in Indiana” album cover and said the final product is a keepsake for Indiana residents.

Morgan “Sunny” Smith is an Indiana-based graphic designer who has designed for album covers, websites, mobile apps and more. Smith and Andrew Gustin, curator of “Two Minutes in Indiana,” are both from Franklin, Indiana, and Gustin commissioned Smith to design the “Two Minutes in Indiana” album art. Morgan “Sunny” Smith, Photo Provided

“I don’t think anything has been done like this before and I know it would be a welcomed conversation piece in any Hoosier home,” she said.

Salazar said he looks forward to other people listening to the album because he enjoyed listening to everyone else’s compositions, especially because he knows all the other artists.

“I knew who all else was on the album and I was just so excited to be on the album with all of them, but we didn’t have interaction about, ‘what’s your’s going to be about?’” Salazar said. “It was just a surprise I was really looking forward to — to finally listen to everyone else’s tracks.”

Contact Grace McCormick with comments at [email protected] or on Twitter @graceMc564.


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