Over quarantine, while most people were listening to music, this UNC student was making it.
UNC junior Benjamin Carter recently released “Coming Out of It,” his first album, under the name Benjamin Witt. All the songs are written and produced by him, with support from his friends. Jace Weyant did the final sound mastering, and Veronica Siebert had a vocal feature.
On Spotify, his album has been added to over 100 public and private playlists. The album is a soundtrack to the woes and immense changes Carter experienced during quarantine and winter break. Over the past year, he lost a family member and split up with a long-term partner — traumatic events worsened by isolation in the pandemic.
“I decided that, with all the experiences I was having, I would make something out of them and create something from these experiences,” Carter said.
Featured tracks on the album are in a pseudo-sequence, where each new emotion builds on the ones expressed previously, all coming to a head on the track “Hurt.” The song features the cello, with all parts played by Carter and layered on top of each other, creating a discordant, hurting tone.
“The whole album captures how I was feeling in all of those moments, so I played and wrote everything true to how I felt,” Carter said.
UNC music professor Brent Wissick has been Carter’s cello teacher for three years, and he is enthusiastic about his pupil’s work.
“It was a delightful surprise that he wrote all of these songs and produced it himself,” Wissick said.
The technology and techniques used in Carter’s album are skills acquired by the most recent generation of student musicians, and Carter's technological expertise is impressive.
“I didn’t quite realize how much skill he had in this creative electronic genre,” Wissick remarked. “The skill he has to create and produce an album in this style was delightful to me.”
Carter’s music is also popular with people outside of academia. TikTok users have been using his music in their videos as sounds, and Carter has been making videos himself, amassing over one million views between the sounds and the videos.
Music lecturer Timothy W. Sparks has been giving Carter vocal lessons for 3 semesters, and he sees Carter’s personality as an adjunct to his musical style.
“Although Benjamin is a soft-spoken person, he possesses a big booming bass voice with growing solo depth,” Sparks said. “Benjamin is a very sensitive artist with a keen intellect and benevolent spirit.”
Carter has always enjoyed listening to composers like Alexandre Desplat and Hans Zimmer. He enjoys composers who write to create melodies that utilize simplicity to convey emotions instead of excessive technicality.
But, “Coming Out of It” is Carter’s own vision, first and foremost.
“I really tried to not listen to other composers as I created the album because their melodies will get stuck in your head and then you realize you are composing someone else’s piece," Carter said.
Sparks said the technicality of the album is also commendable, and he finds the subliminal emotions and complexities to be comparable to film composers.
“I can totally hear and see how these tracks might be used in a feature film to heighten a story and intensify unspoken, inward emotions of a character,” Sparks said.
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