It happened by accident.
It was January 2016 and Tirelle Barron, AMD’18, was looking for a book in Snell Library. He was on the second floor, roaming around the space, when he stumbled upon the Digital Media Commons recording studio.
It’s one of campus’ hidden gems, complete with everything an artist would need to create a piece of music. The live room is ready to rock, with a drum set, a bass, a keyboard, and a guitar, as well as high-quality amplifiers, microphones, and monitors. The control room is the recording engineer’s dream, including a 24-channel control surface and a Mac Pro with Pro Tools HD, the most powerful digital audio software in the recording industry.
Barron, who had already released three studio albums under the name “The Noise Above,” was awe-struck. As he puts it, “It was my ideal set up.” In short order, he got to work, penning lyrics and designing beats on his drum machine in preparation for recording and mixing his fourth record at Northeastern.
By fall 2016, Barron was ready to turn his beats into full-fledged songs. He booked studio time on a daily basis, programming drum parts in Pro Tools then rapping his lyrics over the groove while a co-op student recorded his rhymes. He learned how to use the software on the fly, “by trial and error.” The studio was his happy place. For me,” he says, “making music is no less natural than sleeping or eating.”
By February 2017, Barron had completed a 17-track album, which is now available on Soundcloud and Bandcamp. He called it “Blossom!” in honor of his ongoing effort to grow as a person. “It’s introspective,” he explains, adding that “creating music is my way of separating myself from my ego so I can understand why I make the decisions I do.”
Some of the tracks have quirky titles—there’s “LUKWRM” and “The Lemon King,” “Stepss” and “Space Cowboy”—but his lyrics are often compelling and heartfelt, relatable and even picturesque. A sample lyric, from the song “What If:” “What if I frame life as a picture/ build snapshots of moments/ every fragment collates/ the bounce of life is a flicker.” From “The Lemon King:” “Paint my pain in my limits/ sketch the line of my sentence/ see the colors of passion/ I’ll fly away with your interest.” As Barron explains, “When I rap, I want people to fill in the blanks with their own stories.” He’s at his best, he says, “when I’m able to connect what’s on my mind to other people’s lives.”
Barron’s influences run the gamut, from soul legend Stevie Wonder and avant-garde jazz composer Sun Ra to hip-hop superstar Pharell Williams and rapper Kanye West. His studio name—“The Noise Above”—reflects his eclectic taste in music, his drive to remap the sonic boundaries of the traditional three-and-a-half-minute track. “I’m striving to reach a different frequency,” he says, “a different stratosphere.” The moniker is also on full display on “Blossom’s!” abstract album cover, which Barron, a fifth-year design major, created using Adobe Illustrator. Here he is, decked out in sunglasses and bandana, leaping high into the air, above the tree line and the sun, reaching toward the sky with left hand outstretched. “Always rise above the common perception of things,” he says, explaining the story behind the name.
Barron recently finished a co-op as a media intern at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and then returned to his home in New York for the summer. But he’s writing again, penning rhymes in anticipation of returning to the Snell Library studio to record his fifth album this fall. He says he doesn’t create music in hopes of making it big, of finding an agent to book live shows or catching the ear of a big record industry player. “I just do it to have fun.”
The Digital Media Commons recording studio is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. If you are interested in using the studio, you must reserve a block of time using Northeastern’s Space Scheduling Online portal.