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CMU students produce and release pop albums as final projects

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Along with actors and robots, Carnegie Mellon has a newly found penchant for supporting pop music. This semester, two CMU students used the production and release of an album as their final project.

"I designed my own major, called 'creative music production,'" explains senior Anna Vogelzang. "It's a synthesis of classical vocal performance, jazz guitar and voice, creative writing and music history, and the last component is music technology."

These different scholastic aspects have kept Vogelzang busy since she finished her first independent study unit, the 2005 debut CD Some Kind of Parade. "That first one was all the songs I've ever written. But the second one was about working with a goal in mind to create an album. And on top of that, I had to do two recitals." Vogelzang's senior recital combined Mozart, Rossini and Bernstein with Anton Jobim tunes and jazz art songs her teacher, Joe Negri, wrote for her. She also performed four of her own tunes with her band of jazz-program grads.

The end product will be The Things That Airplanes Do, an album mastered at Capitol Records by Rich McMaster, the man behind the Blue Note reissues. CMU's vice president of enrollment, Michael Murphy, graciously footed much of the bill to make Vogelzang's opus a reality.

Fellow Class of '07 member Steve Goldberg, a cross-disciplinary major in creative writing and music composition, has crafted a chamber-pop album worthy of his best influences, such as Neutral Milk Hotel, Arcade Fire, The Shins and Sufjan Stevens.

On Steve Goldberg & The Arch Enemies, Goldberg spares no possible orchestration -- xylophone, strings, piano brass, and multi-layered vocal harmonies. The results range from the amped-up synth-rock of "23rd Century Identity Crisis" to the mellow balladry of "Hideaway" to the folk-pop finale "Summer's Ending."

"I'm presenting it at an undergrad research symposium as an intersection of classical and popular music," he says professorially. "Pop music is, in one sense, so simple that you have to make it complex in other ways, or it gets kind of boring -- just the same three chords that every one else is playing."

Don't expect Goldberg or Vogelzang to stick around for very long after graduation -- hey, this is Pittsburgh, right? -- but you can check them out live at the CMU Carnival. Steve hits the main stage at 5:30 p.m. Thu., April 19, while Anna appears on Sat., April 21 at 2 p.m. You might witness a couple of erudite pop stars in the making.

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