Featured Drone: Ben Cosgrove '10

I’ve been afforded the rare treat of a second life at the Signet. At present, I am serving as the Society’s 2012-13 Artist in Residence – the third person but the first former member to hold the position since it was created in 2010.

Prior to this year, I was working full-time as a touring musician. I spent the years since my graduation driving around the country, playing shows and selling my CDs. In addition to performing, I wrote music for TV, film, and radio spots, did instrumental session work on other albums, and for a time, researched the natural sounds of national parks while on a journalism fellowship. I stayed on couches, camped at waysides, and slept in the back of my car. I traveled with a gigantic case of instant coffee. I loved it (as I’m sure I’ll love it again when my residency ends), but it has made some of the benefits of my position at the Signet - a mailing address! a bed! - feel even more luxurious.

I suspect that all good artists in residence are supposed at least to appear a little bit tortured, but the simple fact is that life here is pretty brilliant. I wake up each morning and work (my major project this year is writing and recording a new album of instrumental music, mostly right there in the apartment), wander downstairs to chat with the undergraduates about all the impressive things they’re undertaking and then retreat back up to my apartment with my ego sufficiently knocked back down to size.

There are a lot of places where it takes stubbornness to remember that being an artist is good, honest, and important work. I can admit to some recurring personal crises of purpose over the past couple of years when I found myself playing to a half-interested crowd of two somewhere in Kansas or spending a night folded up next to a keyboard case in the back seat of a car on a 30-degree night. Even (or perhaps especially) in the more thrilling moments – a successful show or a gratifying collaboration – it’s sometimes easy to feel that I’m cheating the system by coasting along doing the things I love while others are trapped in jobs they may need but do not feel passionate about.

Here at the Signet, surrounded constantly by a buzzing throng of undergraduate Drones and inspiring associates, I am regularly reminded that the work I do writing and making music is a valuable thing and that I’m lucky to be able to do it. It keeps me inspired to work diligently at it every day, even when it isn’t coming easily. I can’t imagine a better environment in which to live and work as an artist.

Ben Cosgrove is a composer, pianist, and multi-instrumentalist currently based in Cambridge, MA. He performs regularly both as a solo artist and as a sideman and has written scores for films, plays, radio, and television, toured widely across the US and Canada, and produced several well-received albums of his original, often geographically-inspired work.

Yankee Division, named for Boston’s circumferential highway and independently released in spring 2011, is the newest addition to this series. As on his previous releases, Cosgrove not only composed the music and self-produced the entire album but performed nearly all of the instruments himself. Here, these range from ukulele to accordion to bowed wine glasses, with the whole unconventional ensemble anchored by the familiar sounds of Cosgrove’s dazzling piano and acoustic guitar.  More information at www.bencosgrove.com.