Musical Endeavors Outside The Conservatory: Keanan Wilson

By Izzy Yellen

It is no surprise that the students of Lawrence do a plethora of different things over the long, six-week break. Some have jobs, some take a break from the everyday business and nearly all sleep a lot more. But in the minority are students like junior Keanan Wilson, who spent most of his break writing and recording an extended play, “Free Bass EP.” In its eight songs, Wilson explores mainly his improvisational and technical skills. This culminates as a relaxing, bubbly and beautiful listen.

Wilson, a cello student of the Conservatory, from which he gets most of his technical chops, mainly plays electric bass guitar outside of the Conservatory. With this instrument, he has found he can better express himself and create the music he wants. He certainly has the time to create, as he has already completed his Bachelor of Arts, leaving only general education requirements to graduate. This has allowed him to focus on just a few musical projects—playing solo, collaborating with others to play his music and composing for the cello studio.

His EP, which showcases his solo projects and style, is an intriguing look at how he typically composes and improvises. For nearly every song, Wilson began with a main riff idea and followed it with other riffs he practiced prior to recording. In between the riffs, he improvised in a logical yet interesting way to get to the next riff, or the end. This approach to composing gave the tunes an organic and loose feel that was easy to follow.

It also allowed Wilson to show off his compositional skills—a combination of classical and self-taught composition—and improvisational skills, which I have firsthand seen him develop even further through the Improvisational Group of Lawrence University (IGLU).

While the EP is a substantial work in itself, I am more excited to see how it will function as a jumping off point. Wilson was happy with how “Free Bass” turned out but was noticeably more animated when discussing his future of more releases, collaborations with various other students and live shows. While nothing is set in stone, he hopes to start all of these soon this year.

In addition to hinting at a similarly-styled acoustic instead of electric EP, Wilson previewed some ideas he has regarding collaborations with the track “*(Phase~Shift)*.” The track, which was the only one that incorporated instruments other than bass—electric guitar and a drum machine—had a tighter, more constructed feel than the remainder of the EP. The other pieces were very enjoyable to listen to, but because there was a larger collection of them, the contrast of “*(Phase~Shift)*” made me want more of that sound.

Fortunately, he plans to do more with his ideas on “*(Phase~Shift)*,” incorporating friends on live drums, guitars and possibly other instruments, with himself on bass. However, he will most likely go beyond this, as his plans are flexible and limited only to his imagination and time. Luckily for his listeners, Wilson has plenty of both of these.

When I talked to him about his involvement in the Conservatory and its affect on his music outside of it, he was thankful for his classical training and relaxing times at the couches but sees a divide between his instruments. Thus, he relies on bass to create music he greatly enjoys and cello to improve his overall expertise on both instruments. “As long as I’m working on music I like, it doesn’t really make a difference to me,” Wilson said regarding the divide between the Conservatory and outside of it.

It was exciting to hear a good friend talk about his musical passions and aspirations, and the connection I have with him only makes me more eager to hear his future projects. You can hear all of Keanan Wilson’s works, including earlier pieces and cello compositions, on his SoundCloud, <>.