Student News

To Gallery a Cloud Ground

Ethan Koss-Smith '21 speaks about the process of producing his debut album To Gallery a Cloud Ground.

Album cover with chair on mylar backdrop

Ethan Koss-Smith ’21 has always been interested in how to capture an essence.

“When I was a child, my favorite thing to do was go to museums or to create dioramas; I’d put them all over my room,” said Koss-Smith.

Now, Koss-Smith is taking these curation skills into the auditory realm with the release of his debut album, To Gallery a Cloud Ground, which explores his transition into adulthood and the solitude, idealism, and alchemy that come with growing up.

To Gallery a Cloud Ground was released on April 19, though the album’s development was a several year process.

“It started as an independent project my senior year of high school,” said Koss-Smith, who attended Newton South in Newton, MA. “We had the opportunity to replace a class with an internship or in-depth project, which felt like a Bennington kind of pursuit. We found self-motivated projects we wanted to work on and got to pursue those projects in a structured way.”

For his project, Koss-Smith, who enjoys music directing, conducting, and arranging, decided to write an album.

“Nearing the end of my senior year, I had a lot of things to say, and I wanted to figure out whether or not the way I wanted to say it was any good,” said Koss-Smith. “It was my first time writing original music, and I found I work well under a tight creative deadline.”

At the end of his senior year, he put on a show of his work.

“I thought it would be low-key, but 200 people showed up,” he said.

During the summer before college, Koss-Smith revised his album. When he arrived at Bennington College, Koss-Smith took a job working as a waiter at Pangaea in North Bennington. There, he met Sam Clement ’08, who offered to help Koss-Smith record and develop the album at his Hoosick Falls, NY-based Akin Studios.

Over the ensuing year and a half, Koss-Smith and Clement saw the project through fundraising, recording, and post-production. The end result is a musical tribute to Koss-Smith’s journey into adulthood and the varied, conflicting emotions that transition brings.

Koss-Smith’s music experience ties into his Plan, which also includes environmental studies and entrepreneurship. He is interested in examining how sound can help determine the health of an ecosystem, how music composition can be of service to the environmental justice movement, and how the music industry may be made more environmentally sustainable.  

Koss-Smith plans on taking CAPA Senior Fellow Judith Enck’s tutorial course in Fall 2020, which will address student activism and how organizers can make gatherings more environmentally sustainable.

I see myself continuing to fuse my different passions in this distinctly Bennington way, working on something I love to do while also doing something socially viable for the world.

Ethan Koss-Smith '21

In the meantime, Koss-Smith organized a gathering of his own called Summon, Spring!, an Earth Day activism event meant to generate letters to representatives and artwork capturing the urgency and need for climate change legislation.

After spending a Field Work Term interning at Washington, DC-based I.M.P., a concert promotion and production company, Koss-Smith was inspired to start viewing his music work through an eco-friendly lens.

“I’m eager to address sustainability in the music industry, particularly where tours and festivals are concerned,” said Koss-Smith.

Since concert tours are booked based on venue availability, he explained, travel routes often crisscross the nation, increasing their carbon footprint.

“I’d love find a way to work with artists, labels, and event groups to manage booking and events so we can rein in that impact,” said Koss-Smith.

In his future career, Koss-Smith hopes to find a place for both his love of music and his concern for the environment. His recently launched music group Down Wapiti is his first step in a larger process toward blending these passions.  

“I see myself continuing to fuse my different passions in this distinctly Bennington way, working on something I love to do while also doing something socially viable for the world,” said Koss-Smith. “Having that balance is important to me.”