Every September, the state of Wisconsin seems to transition from summer to fall to winter in the blink of an eye. As the old saying goes, “If you don’t like the weather in Wisconsin, wait 10 minutes.”
When faced with sun and humidity one day and falling leaves and chill the next, everyone has a different reaction. Madison producer Abe Stoffel-Murray becomes introspective, an instinct he channeled in his recent album “Seasons Change.”
Stoffel-Murray, who goes by _09_9 Productions in the music world, celebrates his birthday every year in early September and uses the occasion as a time to reflect on the past year. With graduation from the University of Wisconsin-Madison on the horizon this year, his 23rd birthday marked a significant time of transition in his life, which he channeled into his music when devising his latest project.
“My birthday is in September around when the seasons do start to change and I feel like that goes nicely hand-in-hand with growing another year older and, with each birthday, reflecting on how my life has changed,” Stoffel-Murray said via phone.
Growing up in Wisconsin, Stoffel-Murray took piano lessons for a decade before joining his middle school band as a percussionist in fifth grade. At a marching band competition in high school, a friend introduced him to a beat pad smartphone app preloaded with different sounds.
Stoffel-Murray spent the entire bus ride home playing with the app and creating compositions. When a friend caught wind of his budding interest in producing, he connected Stoffel-Murray with a fellow classmate with modest music production experience. It was this interaction that jump started his interest in producing.
“I talked to him and that’s how I learned about producing. I learned it’s a lot more than just pressing buttons on your phone, but that’s how I got into it. Ever since then I’ve just been trying new stuff,” Stoffel-Murray said.
At UW, Stoffel-Murray continued to make music a large part of his life, pursuing a degree in Jazz Studies and joining the UW Marching Band. Also obtaining a degree in Consumer Behavior and Marketplace Studies, he continued to dabble in producing, putting out the EP "Entangled" and some scattered singles.
It was in August of 2021, after producing the track that would feature on “Seasons Change” as “Disassociation,” that he decided to take his hobby seriously in order to see his goal of creating a second album through to fruition. Though he often made beats intended for use with other artists such as rappers, Stoffel-Murray felt compelled to keep "Disassociation" for use in his own project.
“It was in August that I decided ‘I’m going to really put my head down and try to make this thing work,’” he said.
Throughout the next year, Stoffel-Murray did just that, producing nine more tracks. The result was “Seasons Change,” a soundtrack inspired by his yearly rendezvous with self-reinvention. The project is a triumph of change and adaptation for Stoffel-Murray who used it as a means to show how far he has come in his journey with music.
“['Seasons Change'] is a lot more of a reflective experience. My main thought process behind everything was that I’ve been doing music for a while and I’ve always wanted to put out my own music. With graduating, there are a lot of life changes happening all at the same time, it was definitely meant to be self-reflective about ‘how much have I changed?’” Stoffel-Murray said.
“It involved me taking a couple samples and playing with those, trying to make a few beats, trying to keep the ones that stuck,” he continued. “I also took some risks, too, I wanted to really show off my versatility and how far I’ve come since I’ve been producing.”
Much of the album revolves around sampling other sounds and imitating sampled media. Using scattered vocal breaks throughout, Stoffel-Murray employs voice filters and audio distortion to encourage the listener to reflect on the past year much in the way he has, at one point likening our lived experiences and beliefs to leaves on a tree.
Going along with the theme of change, “Seasons Change” is a listening experience that changes as it progresses. The earlier tracks feature high-pitched backing strings and long slow vocal lines that call to mind falling leaves and the slowing of life that comes with fall.
This is contrasted by the latter half of the piece which transitions to feature sharp staccato bursts of electronic instrumentation throughout, each hitting like icy flecks of falling snow on a chilly winter night.
The album concludes on a hopeful note with the heavily textured “The Only Choice We Have,” a track that inspires feelings of optimism before challenging the listener to make a change for the better, or remain the same.
As for Stoffel-Murray, changing for the better remains a part of his post-graduate plans as he looks to further develop his skills while working on bigger and better projects. With plans to network with other artists and branch out into new genres such as EDM, Stoffel-Murray is well prepared for this new season of his life.
“If I can find a way to become heavily involved in the music world, whether it's a producer role full time or whether it's having some role in music, that would be a dream come true for sure,” Stoffel-Murray said.