Debuting her first album has been years in the making for Paradise Valley Community College Adjunct Faculty Megan DeJarnett.
As an interdisciplinary narrative artist, DeJarnett creates sound art, primarily intended for live performances. As a narrator and improviser, she collaborates with composers and other performers around the world with one goal: “to create and present new works that stretch an audience’s emotional capacity while reminding them of their humanity.”
Most comfortable on stage, last spring the pandemic sidelined DeJarnett, opening up time to head into the recording studio, where she completed WEAKNESS, a collection of love songs loosely assembled into a story, nearly eight years in the making.
“Weakness is an album of love songs I never thought I’d let myself write,” she said. As a genderfluid individual presenting more feminine, navigating the various male-dominated careers she’s encountered has been tough, often leaving her feeling like she wasn’t taken seriously enough to cover the topics on her album.
“I am visibly marginalized in ways my male peers usually are not,” she explained. “Classical musical education can often involve either a subconscious or overt effort to prove you're a ‘serious’ composer, writing music that matters about things that matter. The men in my profession can usually get away with writing about love and still be seen as serious; however, a lot of my early experiences with my own writing led me to believe I was silly or selling out if I wrote about falling for someone.”
DeJarnett’s immersive music, which she describes as sound art or noise music, takes on deep-rooted subject matter focused primarily on power imbalances and gendered violence, and explores heavy topics including sexual assault, rape culture, trauma and recovery.
“My words are in service to the musical devices I perform with, as the musical devices are in service to my words,” she said. DeJarnett believes the words are just as much a musical component as any other aspect of a piece, noting, “the timbres of the human voice, even when not formally singing are, for me, really important additions to any score.”
DeJarnett has been a musician for as long as she can remember; learning to read music went hand-in-hand with learning to read. A native Californian, DeJarnett came to Arizona State University in 2013, where she earned her Bachelor’s in Music
Composition. ASU’s program gave her the technique and fundamentals necessary to be a good craftsperson, while CalArts, where DeJarnett received her Master’s, is where she found the freedom to prioritize both playing and composing.
Much of DeJarnett’s career has been structured around using music as a community-building tool that invites people instead of only allowing them to exist in certain spaces. In addition to teaching, composing, performing, and improvising, DeJarnett plays many brass instruments and the piano.