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Honoring Our ‘Library of Dreams’

UC San Diego LibraryMusic students release album featuring a floor-by-floor look at Geisel Library

As response to the pandemic moved a majority of courses online, two undergraduates found themselves missing their friends…and missing campus. So, they did what any creative UC San Diego student would do: they recorded an eight-track album as an homage to the heart of campus, Geisel Library.

“Library of Dreams” by Donald Liang and Terry Feng was released during fall quarter, though the project started months before, as class hours turned into long days sitting in front of their computers.

Each of the album’s tracks represents a different floor of Geisel Library, and each floor—both literally and figuratively—has a different feel: an experience that is special to that one location. The building’s main entrance on floor two is bustling, while floor eight, titled “Nap Time” on the album and one of Liang’s favorites, makes it easier to “get away from all the noise,” he said.

But it’s not just their own memories that make up the chill, lo-fi tracks. The pair took to social media to survey classmates, asking for individual stories or impressions of each of the eight floors. They then sorted and incorporated these responses into an outline for the album together, ending by each taking four floors or tracks that they would then produce solo. Weekends over the summer were given to working on their “floors,” and they came together periodically over the computer to listen and give feedback, ultimately resulting in one seamless album.

“It was nice to have those answers to further inform how we wanted to characterize each floor, and to give a little more information about how other people perceived the library,” said Liang, a music major with an emphasis in composition. “Something that I’m particularly interested about is how the music inside our…heads gets shifted onto either pieces of paper or onto a computer program. I just love seeing people tinker around with different programs, different sounds [and] different instruments to create different pieces.”

With one focused on composition and the other on performance, Liang and Feng balanced each other well and credit specific classes in the Department of Music as impetus for their collaboration. Assistant professor Sarah Hankins, whose own research interests include sound studies and the history of technology in music, taught both students separately, but each mentioned her courses as particularly impactful.

“I remember vividly one of the weeks, we were…going out and recording different sounds, trying to make sound effects [and] recreate a space from just recordings,” Feng said about a music technology seminar he took his first year. “I think that idea of an audio montage, recreating a space with just sound, [helped to] connect the things I learned in Music 176 into this album.”

Hankins said she was thrilled to see how Liang and Feng built upon the tools and concepts explored in the classroom to create a “truly original” album.

“Their work brings the dynamic effects of site-specific sound art together with digital-electronic groove music of the slickest, chill-est quality,” she said. “‘Library of Dreams’ isn’t just a major artistic achievement, it’s also a labor of love, and a gift to the whole UC San Diego community. Donald and Terry take us ‘home’ even during this moment when we’re all feeling out of place.”

Donald Liang · Library of Dreams


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