According to legend, the first official Founder’s Day took place on April 29, 1886. It was Matthew Vassar’s birthday and, to celebrate, Vassar rode around the campus in a carriage while students crowded the path and waved their handkerchiefs at him. Festivities then continued to include live piano playing, poetry and lectures.
Today, Founder’s Day is celebrated a bit differently. Instead of hording around the carriage path to watch Matthew Vassar drive by, students gather around a stage to enjoy live music. Among those headlining at this year’s festival is electronic dance music (EDM) artist Madeaux, whose original songs as well as remixes can be found on websites such as SoundCloud, Thissongissick and Hype Machine.
What may surprise most students is the artist’s similarities to themselves: Madeaux is currently a 21-year-old student at Tufts University. For Madeaux, music has come as second nature for a while now, but his artistry has moved from using physical instruments to computerized ones. “I played trumpet in my middle school jazz band, picking up guitar in high school,” the artist said. “I first entered electronic music with a MacBook and Garageband towards the end of my senior year [of high school] and I largely stopped playing guitar aside from little parts here and there for tracks.”
For many students, balancing academics with hobbies, passions and other extra curricular activities poses as a major challenge, and Madeaux is no stranger to this. “I used to be awful with attendance because in the early years I had to work on music so often to get my tracks up to a respectable level. Even now, I still prioritize music over my academic efforts for better or worse,” Madeaux said. “On the other hand, you have the opportunity to take classes that can be really inspiring. I’m in this Chaos in Literature class that has really made me think about my process.”
Madeaux’s young age comes as a surprise to many of his fans—including those who booked him to perform on Founder’s Day. “What’s crazy is that he is only a 21-year-old Tufts student, yet his sound competes with artists that are much older and who have more time to mix,” said Alex Adler ’16, co-chair of the Entertainment Committee along with Kathryn Marshall ’16. “Madeaux brings a sense of creativity that is hard to match. I hope students can recognize the production talent and technical control he utilizes, expertly layering everything from vocal samples, sharp drums and deep bass.”
Madeaux describes his own art as “music of juxtapositions.” He said, “I build tracks that contrast various energies and connotations, by way of composition and arrangement, in order to make music that brings the listener somewhere. As for where that somewhere is, I feel like it will take many more years to fully understand.”
One place Madeaux’s music does go—a place that is not necessarily associated with EDM by most—is to the emotional spheres of his listeners. “A lot of the EDM music I hear lacks true depth in emotion, preferring to focus on absolute euphoria and overzealous energy dynamics,” Madeaux said. “I follow a bunch of talented musicians who make euphoric music and the way they make that feeling powerful is by giving agency to the darkness, allowing the song to find itself in such a way so when the euphoric moment comes it is a victory that you can feel, not a contrived sequence.”
Madeaux’s music, along with the music of ODESZA, Solidisco, Jimmy Q and Modern Rival who will also be performing on Founder’s Day, can be found on websites such as Hype Machine, Sound Cloud and Thissongissick.
Those who will be performing on Founder’s Day offer a diversity of performers who all can be categorized under the larger umbrella of electronica. “Madeaux’s faster beats compliments the experimental tone of ODESZA, while Jimmy Q, who will perform with a live sax player, continues to diversify the lineup,” said Kathryn Marshall ’16. “Not to mention that Solidisco’s music is incredibly danceable and fun. Overall, I am super stoked on the talent that has been booked, and I hope that Vassar appreciates and enjoys the lineup.”
Although Madeaux offers excitement, ODESZA—comprised of two established musicians, BeachesBeaches and Catacombkid—is probably one of the biggest names to be featured on Founder’s Day. “I cannot stress how lucky we are to have ODESZA join us, since they’re on a full US tour and made time to hit some of the east coast and grace us with their presence,” Marshall said. “When we first looked at them, we thought they would be too expensive, but somehow they were able to accommodate our price range and to be honest, I’m still in shock that we were able to get them.”
Adler and Marshall selected the artists performing on Founder’s Day meticulously, in order to create the perfect line-up. “When we started the process, we created a spreadsheet where we added possible artists to categories—for example house, future bass, experimental, etc. Alex and I went through the suggestions with our committee and chose our favorites,” Marshall said.
This year’s headliners are a part of a larger movement of artists who owe their strong followings to online music culture and blogs. “I love the online culture surrounding electronic music these days. It’s been a pleasure corresponding with the writers of the blogs, trading tracks and sharing opinions as they have heard quite a bit of music,” said Madeaux. “As far as SoundCloud goes, I am infinitely thankful [for] such an excellent platform, and I find a lot of my music and inspirations through there.”
Adler and Marshall will be hosting a promo show on WVKR 91.3 fm on May 1 from 7 to 9 p.m., where they will promo the music of the five headliners—and will be interviewing Madeaux live.