Composing Herself: Kiarah Hortance ’17 Infuses Emotions into Musical Compositions

Pressing the play button on her computer, Kiarah Hortance ’17 took a seat in the audience as her new song, “Hide with Me,” rang through the Samuel Phillips Hall classroom where she was holding a songwriting workshop. Although Hortance was nervous because this was the first time she shared an original piece with a live audience, the haunting melody was met with enthusiastic applause. Hortance recounted this moment to The Phillipian as one of her proudest in her songwriting career.

“[‘Hide with Me’] is one of my favorites,” said Hortance. “It’s one of my best and I don’t know what happened, it just really fit well and the production process was a lot easier and it sounded really good.”

Hortance draws inspiration from whatever emotions she is experiencing as she writes, which often lends her to begin composing songs spontaneously. Although songwriting was initially difficult, Hortance has improved with experience and now finds songwriting to be an effective way to grapple with her feelings.

“[I write about] mostly emotions. I will try to hone in on a specific emotion that I am feeling and then I guess whatever comes to mind. It is really hard to explain. It is not as calculated, it is more ‘I’m feeling happy’ or ‘I’m feeling sad.’ [I] focus on that emotion and then try to write whatever comes to mind,” said Hortance.

Composing music mainly with the piano, acoustic guitar, ukulele, and GarageBand, Hortance finds inspiration in alternative music, a broad genre that encompasses music influenced by rock and pop music. The wide categorization of alternative music reflects the uncategorizable nature of Hortance’s music.

“[Alternative music] is such a broad genre. You can have alternative that sounds closer to rock or alternative that sounds more [like pop],” she said. “So I think a lot of the songs that I’ve written, I would place in that genre just because there is nothing specific you can’t listen to that says this is definitely country or this is definitely metal rock. But I would say it fits there because of the music I listen to and it is inspired by the alternative genre.”

Hortance also draws inspiration from two artists called Halsey and Twenty One Pilots.

“[Halsey] is a relatively new artist. Her music is so different. She uses a lot of synthesizers but she also has kind of hip-hop beats so she kind of mixes a lot of that together. I think the way her songs are produced and the melodies, those influence me,” said Hortance.

“In terms of lyrics, one of my favorite bands is Twenty One Pilots. Their lyrics are amazing. Listening to them makes me want to strive to be more metaphorical,” added Hortance.

According to Hortance, producing a new song can take hours. Because of the lengthy process, she has struggled to find time to produce music since coming to Andover.

“At Andover, it is harder to produce music because that takes a really long time… It is a lot harder to create a final finished product, it is more just rough drafts that I have. My notebooks are just full of a bunch of rough drafts basically,” said Hortance.

On campus, Hortance is involved in Keynotes, Andover’s co-ed a cappella group, and Azure, Andover’s all-female a cappella group. Although she does enjoy arranging a cappella covers and mashups, Hortance is thinking about using WPAA as a resource to produce and record more of her own songs at Andover.

“That would definitely be helpful as a resource for me, considering it is an actual studio… instead of just closing the door in my room and hoping it sounds good, you don’t catch all the ambient noises in the background,” said Hortance.