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Joel St. Julien: 'Masking Two'

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A collage of photos of a Black man wearing glasses looking off to the side in dim light.
Composer Joel St. Julien (Courtesy of Adam Neal Gochnauer/Collage by Spencer Whitney of KQED)

The Sunday Music Drop is a weekly radio series hosted by the KQED weekend news team. In each segment, we feature a song from a local musician or band with an upcoming show and hear about what inspires their music.

Composer, musician, and songwriter Joel St. Julien has lived in the Bay Area for almost 20 years and grew up playing instruments like the piano and clarinet.

He describes his sound as emotionally charged ambient music that creates a space for the listener. His song “Masking Two” is from his album Masking that was released in June 2022 and is a collage of samples that incorporate his voice, guitar and synthesizer.

“T
his album is all about the idea of masking. So, we all in ways mask different parts of ourselves and sometimes we know that we’re doing that. Sometimes we don’t know,” Said St. Julien. “The song is about things coming together, things being more clear.

While he has been writing songs for years, Joel St. Julien said it wasn’t until the pandemic that he began to see his music as part of a healing process.

“When I’m doing my own music, there’s an element of it being a way to process what’s going on either within me or with what’s going on outside that still affects me,” said St. Julien. “So that process usually involves using my voice or my guitar or my synthesizer and improvising recording a ton of work.”

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St. Julien is Haitian-American and grew up listening to a mixture of Kompa music, hip hop and drum and bass. He said the Bay Area’s landscape and nature also has impacted his creativity.

“The natural landscape of the Bay Area is just such an inspiration for me and my music,” said St. Julien. “If I’m just walking around or sitting around, so many ideas just kind of come up in those natural spaces.”

Joel St. Julien will be performing with Christopher Robin Duncan and CGRSM at the Episcopal Church of St. John the Evangelist in San Francisco on July 22, 2023 at 7:30 p.m. The concert is part of the Latitudes Series presented by Other Minds.

Joel St. Julien can be found on Instagram: @joelstjulien and his website.

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