“Exceptional” EP combines black and white

by Shannon O'Connor / Beacon Correspondent • October 4, 2012

Emily Onofrio’s cover for her EP “Exceptional.”
Courtesy of Emily Onofrio
Emily Onofrio’s cover for her EP “Exceptional.”
Courtesy of Emily Onofrio

With only a dented MacBook, a few strikes of the computer keys, and the assistance of the music composition software Logic Pro, Emily Onofrio,  a senior visual and meida arts major, composed the four-track extended play (EP) album, “Exceptional” which was released on Thursday, Sept. 20.

During her time spent living in Brooklyn, N.Y., Onofrio,—who goes by the producer handle “Fifty Grand”— found the inspiration and drive to compose the EP “Exceptional.”

“In New York, you’ll find that people are either running away or looking to be something,” Onofrio said in an email interview. “They’re either hiding their secrets or unleashing them on you full force. I sort of grew up — came into a new self — dealing with that this summer, and there are certain aspects of the EP that reflect that musically, if you will.”

Onofrio found the stimulus for her sporadic tones and beats in the minimalistic music of Philip Glass, hip hop, and heavy electronic. By blending these genres, each track on her album contains a lighter, softer, more classical undertone and a darker and more psychedelic sound.

“People tend to comment on how my music reflects a constant battle between light and dark, which is something I didn’t set out to do, but decided to approach consciously this time around,” Onofrio said. “I’ll start with these uplifting, poignant piano compositions followed by utterly dark, dismal moments and vice versa.”

In fact, the Auto-Tuned voices heard throughout the album’s title track “Exceptional” are actually snippets of vocals from a 1970s documentary on schizophrenia.

“There actually exists a community of people — both mentally-ill and otherwise — who consider the disorder to be a gift of seeing — a typically repressed way of expressing one’s inner mind,” she said.  “I find that fascinating.”

Onofrio said she was classically trained in piano and eventually wrote her first song in the fourth grade. While Onofrio’s passions may lie in musical composition, she said she found her niche in the film production process, which includes her love of music composition and direction.

“Devoting so much time to making films in college helped me find my niche, which is definitely music directing, but more specifically, scoring,” Onofrio said. “My primary goal in life is to soundtrack features with my own original music.”

Onofrio also believes studying at Emerson motivated and encouraged her to achieve more.

“I feel incredibly blessed to be surrounded by such goal-oriented, career-minded people my age, and as I approach graduation, it’s been really exciting to see what direction everyone is going in,” she said. “My friends and peers have pushed me harder than anything else, and luckily I think I’m going in the right direction.”

Onofrio is currently working on another EP set to drop in January 2013 and producing music for senior Olivier Gagnon’s B.A. feature film  All Lit Up as well as Mike Fink’s senior thesis film Paralarva. She is also collaborating with two underground electronic artists, Party Trash and Madden. For now, though, listeners can download “Exceptional” for free through the label Aural Sects.

“Exceptional” is available for free download: http://auralsects.bandcamp.com/album/exceptional