Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Wrap-Up, Happy New Year

2008 Highlights.

2008 was a pretty good year, all things considered (economic and otherwise). I happily told people that because artists never have any money to begin with, the shock of losing all the stocks we never had seemed less shocking. Here are some of my random moments, in no particular order, all to have happened in 2008.
-Premier of my orchestra piece, and reading by the Pittsburgh Symphony
-Getting my first paid commission for writing music
-Getting strep throat twice (maybe thrice by the end of the year, oh, to be so lucky)
-gay mansion
-Midnight Shoveler's performance with guests
-making music with Wungsten
-meeting composers John Corigliano and John Adams, and percussionist Evelyn Glennie
-Getting hired at Mattress Factory and getting health insurance (and dental!)
-Using my dental insurance to fill cavities
-Boston, Washington DC, Bloomington IN, and Niagara Falls visits
-MIDI interface finally working on my keyboard
-Visiting Fallingwater for the first time
-selling jewelry
-Seeing the Pittsburgh 250th Anniversary fireworks from a rooftop
-um, Barack was elected president, and he uses great typography
-joined Mendelssohn choir and started teaching piano lessons
-concerts: Iron & Wine, Railroad Earth, Now Ensemble, my first professional opera (The Grapes of Wrath)

I'm sure I've forgotten to list plenty of other things, too. I hope those moments won't feel left out.

In 2009 I'd like to travel somewhere far away again. I have a friend in Germany and a friend in Montana, both places I've never been and would love to go (and I once made a vow that I would take shameless advantage of the exotic locations where I knew people). I would also like to get a date. I promise I won't slurp my spaghetti.

(Photos: Top: not me. source unknown. Second from top: me. indiana university museum of art. Second from bottom: a mustache that lasted for five seconds. Bottom: keep it real in, 2009, okay?)

Friday, December 19, 2008

God Child

If you could imagine God as humanoid-like figure (as if Joan Osbourne didn't already do that for us in the '90's) what would he say if he were a child? Not yet fully matured? And if he spoke to some other God–I'm picturing two God-Children in a galactic sandbox–what would be the response?
"You think you're sooo special."

Or perhaps:
"Give me back that planet!"
"No! Getcha own! Okay, you can have the Asteroid Belt."

"I'm bored."
"Let's go swimming in the sea I just invented."

Or better, as teenagers:
"I had a great time six billion years ago. Why haven't you called me?"
"I'm sorry, I was busy creating the Heavens. What was your name again?"

Monday, December 15, 2008

Playlist Shuffle, Resolutions

Five songs on shuffle mode from my iTunes...

Orbital, "Funny Break" (from Work 1989-2002)
Erlend Oye, "Like Gold" (from the album Unrest)
Laverne Baker, "Smoke and Drink and Dance the Hoochie Coo" (I don't even know if that's the real title, and the album is unknown too)
Peaches, "Diddle My Skiddle" (from the album Fatherf*cker)
Christopher O'Riley, "Thinking About You" (from the album True Love Waits- O'Riley Plays Radiohead")

Finnish composer Rautavaara's "Vigilia" came on next but it didn't make the first-five cut. Who doesn't love a little sex-electroclash up against lush piano improvisations next to modernist scandinavian choral music? With a little nordic dance break in there somewhere too. Shuffle features make me realize I have so much music I only know on the surface level, and that I should take away everything I currently listen to and replace it with oddities every once and a while just to freshen the ears.

I made three New Years' Resolutions of sorts for 2008, and they all have come true, with qualifiers. Well, they weren't absolute resolutions, more like goals.
1. sell something from having a website. This sort of came true as one of my old college friends emailed me and wanted a collage triptych for her new place in Arizona. It's happening right now!
2. get one paid commission. This sort of came true with the Drama School production for incidental music. Technically it was through Carnegie Mellon, but it was a hired gig nonetheless.
3. sell my jewelry or art at Handmade Arcade. This didn't happen, but I did sell my jewelry at another craft fair, Sweetwater Center for the Arts. So I count it anyway.

Next year my resolutions should include getting married. So when it doesn't happen exactly like that, at least I can qualify it by saying I went out on a good date or two...but we talked about other people's marriages, and how I would rather spend the money on a big party, and besides, it's illegal in most states right now anyway. It's good to qualify.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

More jewelry

While I sold a couple pairs of earrings at Sweetwater Center for the Arts, I still have lots of pairs available should anyone want to snag up a pair for holiday know your loved ones would look good in some chandelier crystals, or globular clusters, or lime green daggers. Just let me know if you're interested and we'll tawk.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

King of Kings, Lord of Lords

I made this quick "poster" for the holiday season, just for grins. It's a total knockoff of Warhol, and I don't have the typeface Din which would look awesome on this, but it only took a few minutes and Jesus looks pretty awesome there in hot pink. If this was an ad for a holiday church service I'd be there with bells on. And by bells I mean bellbottoms. Click image to enlarge.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

London Cuckolds recording session

A couple pictures from the recording session to the CMU School of Drama's spring play, The London Cuckolds. It was very early in the morning, hence the picture where everyone's asleep. We had to tip the harpsichord on its side to get into the recording studio (thanks to about five extra sets of hands) but we managed to wrangle it in, record in record time, and the music should be edited and ready in about a week!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

November dentists, jewelry, operas

November has been full of surprises. I went to the dentist today and I am bummed that I have a cavity which will need to be filled. On the other hand, I have been cavity-free for twenty years! That's a pretty good track record. I chose the dentist because his office is super close to my apartment, but it's also in a really great retro building with great a midcentury-modern sign. Indeed, the interior is funky too. And the staff includes a hilarious lesbian dental hygienist. She told me, "I can't cook for sh*t, but I'm a total gay man when it comes to decorating". They also have a resident huge dog that wanders the office, but the dentist said nobody is allowed to pet it until the end of the day. Thank goodness. No dog germs in mouths allowed.

I got some of my jewelry accepted into the Holiday mART at Sewickly, PA's Sweetwater Center for the arts. I made a mix of funk and traditional things in hopes I could make a little cash and raise some money for their arts programs. Here's some samples.
I recorded the music to the Drama School's spring play, The London Cuckolds, and it's being edited now. I think it's going to sound great in the space of the theatre, and I can't wait to see the show go up. I was surprised that the editing is going so smoothly. The engineer is able to speed up some movements slightly without sounding distorted, which I think will give the scene changes an extra boost of vivacity.

I'm feeling pretty good about feeling like I have a direction in life, which includes eventually teaching music, hopefully specifically composition. Though other projects may happen in the meantime, I think it's the first time in my life where I'm able to feel like I'm not wishywashy about what I'd like to do for a long period of time. It feels pretty solid. Just in time for my five-year college reunion this summer.

I was also asked to join my friend in seeing The Grapes of Wrath, a new opera by Ricky Ian Gordon that played in Pittsburgh for the last two weeks. I really enjoyed it; it was my first professional opera experience and I'm glad it was 1. accessible, 2. theatrical, and 3. in English. There was also a great harmonica part in the orchestra. I had met the composer last year, and it was great to hear his personal perspective on writing the work and its drawn-out revision process. There was one ridiculously over-choreographed scene, but the rest of the 3 hours went by quickly (thank you to whoever included a men's shower scene with a real working shower). I also teared up twice, as well is to be expected in Grapes– like the book, the opera don't end so hot. The orchestration also thins out to nothing by the end of the opera, with a silent curtain call, and it is very effective.
Opera is not my genre of choice- I know little about it and I've only recent come to understand more fully why the music and actors interpret it differently than musical theatre or art song. I feel like I'm ready for a more "classical" opera performance. But I will not be ready for any Wagner any time soon.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Rothko Veggies

Sublime painting by Mark Rothko:
Chopped up vegetables in a curry I once made:

Coincidence? I think not. Art is everywhere!

Friday, November 07, 2008

French Toe Sticks vs. French Toast Sticks

It's easy to get them confused. Here is a helpful diagram so you can learn which is the accoutrement pour le pied, and which is breakfasty deliciousness.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Gay Mansion

Instead of walking through the other night's activities, which led me to be thrown into one of the more surreal evenings of this year (aside from visiting my bosses' art loft) let me run you through my thought process.

I can't believe I had to take an hour-and-a-half bus ride to pick up sheet music for my piano lesson.
Cool, Ryan is going to pick me up and we'll drive back home together. But first we have to drop off his colleague at this mansion he's staying in for a week during the Obama campaign. Okay.
Wow, this house is totally on the top of the mountain. I bet there's great views. I hear the owners are gay too.
Oh, I definitely want to go in and look around. This could be an awesome place.
Hooray, we got the okay to come in!
Hey this place is totally amazing, and what did you say about the owners being nudists, I mean not that I have a prob--
I. Uh. Hi. Uh.
Um, is this happening?
Wait, is that a dance floor with its own DJ booth? And all the lights are controlled by laptop computer?
Is that a foam machine?
What a view of the skyline. It don't get much better than this.
Wait, you're naked. And now you're checking your email. No wonder there's no leather furniture around here- too much chafing. Now you're asking me for wine. Well...what the hell.
Hey, thanks for the pamphlet on naturism.
Seriously you guys?
If only I lived in the Netherlands I could have naked lunches all the time.
Four bedrooms? Each one is the size of my entire apartment. This is how I envision L.A.
Not quite my style, but I wouldn't complain about living here.
Of course there's a multiperson shower and separate wet and dry saunas.
Hey, you guys are pretty cool.
I can't help but feel weird for my straight guy friend here. He's a minority in this room. Though he is the one who knows this guy staying here, I'm just the friend of a friend of a friend.
I'm feeling pretty casual from that wine?
We should go.
Thanks for the invite to the pool party. In November.
Oh, it's still raining out, bummer.
Maybe I'll go to that party.
So, remember that time, five minutes ago, when your friend was staying over at that gay mansion? Yeah, that was pretty ridiculous.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Festival of Firsts

In a clever tie-in to Pittsburgh's recent Festival of Firsts, this weekend was full of first-time things for me, and I can almost hardly stand all of the excitement from it!

Cutting to the chase: In rehearsal on Thursday night, I got to meet John Adams. This is HUGE! John Adams is my favorite living composer. I'd say my favorite composer of all time, but that place is hard to say, what with Steve Reich and John Luther Adams and so many other composers working today. But John Adams, I've already written a piece in tribute to him! And he was just sitting in the audience, listening to the rehearsal, and Sally, Kate, and I were able to go up to him and chat. I just said hello and small-talked for a moment, but it was a moment of being in the presence of one's idol and knowing that he's just a cool-seeming guy. A guy who is also living history in the story of great American classical music. His music continues to get better and inspire me more and more, and I hope to talk with him for realz when he returns to Pittsburgh to conduct the choir in January.

Friday day was crazy. A tour group came into work and ate at the cafe without giving us advanced notice, causing me and my administrative colleagues to take up restaurant duty, and as I'm trying to take orders and calm people down, I don't know how to work the cash register, so I'm running to work the admissions desk (meanwhile screwing up my sales reports for Monday), and also worked the shop that morning. Lindsay in Membership is an excellent dishwasher, however.

Then, Friday night, I sang with Mendelssohn Choir to premier a work written for Pittsburgh's 250th Birthday (aka Sesquibicentennial Hooplah and Fireworks Extravaganza). The piece is by composer Derek Bermel and lyricist Wendy S. Walters. There are some really cool textures in the piece, and it is my first time on Heinz Hall stage, first time premiering a large work, first performance with Mendelssohn Choir, and first performance sharing stage space with the Pittsburgh Symphony!

I also premiered a pre-concert song by a friend, Scott Wasserman, with fabulous texts by Julie Brown. So I also played piano on Heinz Hall stage, and my, is that a beautiful-sounding instrument. I savored the moment.

More firsts! Saturday night I played and sang at the Warhol Museum. I accompanied Scott's piece again, and played and sang (simultaneously) a second Wasserman song called "Dirty Spoon". Dare I say I rocked the house with it. It was by far the best song of the evening, being a raunchy blues from the perspective of a kitchen utensil. But it was the best only in part due to my delivery of the lines "I make you come...undone" and "I'm a spoon, mama, caress my curve..." and mostly due to the fact that Scott is an insanely talented composer. Also, Scott is only 20. And also knowing how cool Julie is makes me want to find a librettist with whom I can write a gazillion songs.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Lists of Late

Lately there have been so many things I think about posting, and then the concept slips my mind...mostly because I'm at work. But now that I have a weekend cold, and am stuck sniffling at home while the world frolics in the autumn sun without me, here are some lists.

Things that have been fun:
Mattress Factory work (and first paycheck)
Pittsburgh 250 fireworks
Preparing for the Warhol concert next weekend
leaves turning
morning fog
bluegrass concert
indie band sleepover
reading for fun again

Things that have been annoying:
barking dog downstairs
Sarah Palin
finding a tuxedo
bags of clothes to goodwill
broken washing machine
transferring buses
choir rehearsals

I have to think about these inevitable things:
Doctoral programs?
The next loan starts in November
Rehearsals for recording music to this Drama School play
Retirement account?!

Funny things:
seeing a man playing two saxophones at once (counterpoint on alto and tenor!)
It's almost funny that the broken washing machine won't work because it is so jammed-full of quarters. This washer is probably one of the few things in America right this moment that has so much money it doesn't know what to do with it.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Pale Young Gentlemen (and Two Pale Young Ladies)

Last night I had the pleasure of hearing the Madison, Wisconson-based band Pale Young Gentlemen. The cellist in the band, Beth, is a friend of mine from undergrad, and I'm so glad she joined a hip band and isn't stuck playing 'Pachelbel's Canon' at weddings. Instead, she gets to see the country, be signed to a record label, play great music with cool people, and visit friends along the way. It was really inspiring to see a group of people my own age so relaxed about playing music and grateful for the opportunity to play for whomever shows up. All they wanted to do after the concert was enjoy some hot cocoa and apple cider! So, basically I am in love with all of them. To save them a little cash, Amy and I hosted them overnight and they all received an A+ in houseguest manners. What? No coke-snorting, furniture-in-the-swimming-pool, celebrity temper tantrums? Thankfully not present. Though we did talk about freebase spoons, and how they should be used more appropriately. Like for when you want some ice cream.
Composer speak: I think PYG's songs have great promise, and their first album already sounded pretty great (especially the dancey songs), so I'm looking forward to the second album, which came out today! I fully expect PYG to be well-received, especially with good performance conditions, and varied instrumentation of the songs on their studio recordings. Mike's songs have an unpredictably fun quality: a chorus might turn into a verse unexpectedly, or the drums kick in with a sudden dance beat, disappearing seconds later. Cello and viola lines intertwine and then change to bells and tambourine. A craptastic venue like Garfield Artworks in Pittsburgh wasn't exactly ideal for their chamber-music style, and the owner of the place is notoriously difficult, but through it all, their songs had my toes tapping, my diminished chords resolving, and my inner glockenspiel glocking.

This is obviously the part where I say that I hope they become well-loved and well-appreciated by the crowds. And once they get famous (but not too famous that they start throwing furniture out of hotel rooms), I can boast about having two members of the band sleeping in my living room. "...and then, they made me a delicious omelette for breakfast! And they're even cuter in real life..."

Best of luck on the rest of your tour, everyone!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Red Necklace

I made a necklace for a friend's birthday, and it was pretty simple but effective, with some twisted wire, red glass beads, and silver chain. And seeing how she is a contemporary art historian, I thought something modern would do the trick. Turns out it matched the birthday outfit for the evening quite well! And Birthday Girl doesn't have pierced ears, so I'm glad I didn't make her earrings. Again. I made that mistake last year!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Clear the Aria!

Grunehilda in her Broadway debut: Zing! Went the Rivets of my Breastplate.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Art Unnoticed

It's like that old saying... "You know you work at a contemporary art museum when...
...when a giant 12-foot tall, 10-foot wide winter parka is resting casually over the handrail, and no one notices anything out of the ordinary."
Is it a large-scale replica of a winter coat? Part of avant-garde fashion? Or a jacket for giants?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Hazy Collage

I made a new collage! It's untitled, but the inspiration began with the hazy background squares in the upper left. In a way, the work is also a response to a CD that I've been loving, by the artist M83. I just got the CD for my birthday (thanks, Cassandra!) and I love the autumnal-looking nostalgic photography. The new album is called, appropriately, Saturdays=Youth. This collage reminds me of the cooler, hazier parts of summer, and coincidentally, also of my childhood. As a kid, I would play outside in the woods, finding interesting plants and twigs and making houses under the branches of low trees. We have a creek at home and to this day I find old pieces of bottles and mugs half-buried in the creek bed and I save them. Perhaps that's why the cut-out of the ceramic sieve found its way in there. Or perhaps I just needed something white to balance out that hot pink thing.

Some collages that I make for myself never turn out as good as the things I make for other people. But with this work I was determined to just enjoy whatever became of it. I tried to use both torn papers and cut papers together, in geometric shapes and abstract shapes. I noticed that in previous collages I've really stuck with geometry- squares on squares, straight lines, et cetera. Who doesn't love a good grid? But I think I can do more interesting things when I add strategically-placed blobs, or layers of photographs, and underlying layers. There's also some windshield glass and actual pebbles from Boston Harbor thrown (glued?) in there for good measure.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mattress Factory

I landed a real job! I am now the Administrative Assistant at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh. And no, we definitely do not sell mattresses, though the building is indeed a converted old mattress factory. I'm excited for the job, which starts on Tuesday, and I'm hoping that I'll settle into it easily and not make too many mistakes. I'm also excited about having health insurance. And dental! Clean teeth are a-comin'. My work hours are the same as business hours, which is good because I can still have weekends and evenings to do my art and music stuff
I'm really hoping that the Port Authority bus system does not go on strike like it is purportedly going to do next week because I'll be one of 600,000 people who needs to take the bus to get to work every day! The commute should be between 40-65 minutes, which is a lot more than I would like, but the transit people tell me there's two ways to get there so I'll see which one is faster and more reliable.
I'm also excited to be a part of this museum because along with their great mission, maximally hip staff, and rotating installations, they also have several permanent works, including this awesome room covered in mirrors, dots, and mannequins that you can walk into (with sock booties on). Why, you ask? Because Yayoi Kusama says so. You've got to see it for yourself.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Goodbye Pencil Sharpener

This weekend my favorite pencil sharpener (Did know you could have a favorite pencil sharpener? Well, you can, so now you know.) broke, and it had been with me, faithfully sharpening #2's since second grade. It was pink. Now the one I'm using is my fifth grade pencil sharpener, which is black, so I hope he's happy now that he's promoted after all these years.
Rest in peace, ol'sharpener! (More like rest in pieces, at the bottom of my trash bin.)

Monday, September 01, 2008

Cartoony Pants- The Sequel

A colleague in the music office liked my collage Cartoony Pants so much that she commissioned me for Cartoony Pants Part Deux! Nothing quite compares to the original, because how can you ever use the same pieces of paper over again when they're all found from magazines and clippings and old books? But I attempted a similar feel, this time with a frame with a depth of about 1.5". I also ran the images over the sides, including a lobster, whose claw you can only see poking out from the left-hand side, and a wierd Hungarian folksong that went something like "if you don't know how fat a mosquito is you are dumb as a horse, dumb as a horse, oh". Snappy tune. I think it turned out pretty great. I love that the pants are leaping over paper clips, and out of its backside comes a giant speech bubble.

As much as feels strange and frustrating to transition out of grad school and into a working world again (though I don't quite know what I'm doing yet) it also feels good to do things other than music all day! I've had more time to read actual books and make collages again. And on Labor Day, I can relax and write this post. I ran into a British man on the street this morning who asked me directions to the coffeeshops near me. He wondered why the streets were so quiet and everything was closed today, and assumed it was a national holiday or something. He doesn't usually get the pleasure of Labor Day, but then again, I don't get the pleasure of Guy Fawkes Night. Or being British, for that matter. Bollocks.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What Technology Refuses, Humans Do

The music office closet where I used to work was previously a copy machine closet. I would joke that the copy machine overheated, so the school put people in there instead. It was almost as if the copier demanded better working conditions. Now it sits in a beautiful, bright, air-conditioned office with plants and a sofa, and four graduate students staff the closet space.
Well, that copier was pretty smart.
I'm at my new job and I continue to enter data mindlessly. I also realized that I'm doing the work which could easily be done by a computer. Except that the computer thought the work was too boring, and spit all the information back out, and told the humans to do it themselves.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

First day of temping

This might not have been how the actual conversations went today, but you get the jist.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh

I made it through my first "Retreat" practice with The Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh today, marking my first singing with a real choir in almost exactly seven years! It was exhilarating, and I like a lot of the people there. I'm singing some sweet low Bass parts. We also did some Dalcroze Eurythmics. I'm most excited to be a part of John Adams' work, On the Transmigration of Souls, his gorgeous and haunting "memory space" response to 9/11.
Speaking of quotation marks, I also start a new "job" on Monday, as my last day in the music office was Friday. Sniffle...but also, hooray! I don't have to deal with some of those (unnamed) divas ever again. And I will be back to visit, as I'm writing the incidental music to one of the Drama School plays in February.
I start temping for two weeks, and/or until a "real" job may materialize for me downtown, which I'm really hoping will happen soon. But after hoping that I'd have a few days of pseudo-vacation while I look for work, I was psyched up for some relaxing, and I wish I was inside this collage right now! Perhaps I'd be enjoying cucumber sandwiches on a boat in the Bahamas, surrounded by a coral reef of precious stones. While butterflies waft by. That's one good way to enjoy unemployment. I made the collage for Kate, for whom it is totally suited.

In other news, Amy has an amazing steamer/wardrobe trunk in her apartment which she found on the street and it has a tag inside of it from its previous owner. The man, Percival Hunt, checked into the Pittsburgh Sports club exactly 100 years and 10 days ago. That's luggage longevity.

In other other news, I bought for the first time a pair of pants size 32 waist. I've been a slim 29 or 30 waist for 15 years! I think the one pair is a bit of an anomaly, but I can actually notice my body type changing. A little more hip fat, a little more arm muscle, but hopefully no beer belly any time soon.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Cathedral Disturbances

A performance of mine from this summer is now on Youtube, thanks to the Alia Musica director Federico Garcia and his technical prowess. My original idea for the work was the feeling of being in a quiet cathedral, and someone disturbs the peace (i.e. the piccolo, obviously). Squabbles ensue. But as arguing never gets anywhere, all the congregation decides to have a dance party. Or something like that. It's scored for piccolo, soprano and baritone saxophones, violin, cello, and piano. Many thanks to Alia Music Pittsburgh for requesting a piece just for them. Check it out!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Shoveler concert a success!

Saturday night I unveiled the latest Midnight Shoveler concert, featuring some of my favorite musicians, Mark, Sally, Rich, and Liz. My parents also surprised me with a visit! The turnout was awesome- thank you to everyone who came and showed their support. I think my personal highlights were a jazz recomposition of "Papa Don't Preach" with drums and bass; using a megaphone for Sally's voicing of "Let It Be", and the encore, an accordion version of an art song I wrote called "How Can We Hear". The accordion belonged to my grandfather and it's on loan from my uncle, to whom it's willed. I think gramps would have been proud that it's getting some use. I don't think he'd appreciate my song about a one-night stand, though. Sorry, gramps.
The concert hall I played in was really lovely and reverberent, probably a bit too much so, but it also lent a version of the Beatles' "Blackbird" extra gorgeous spaciousness.
Afterward we enjoyed food and drink at a long table of friends, and this weekend my parents and I got to spend some quality time together walking around Squirrel Hill.
Now I'm coming down from the excitement and I have to face the fact that I'm only working for two more weeks and then possibly facing unemployment (well, probably temping, but it's not ideal) and a punch-to-the-gut's worth of loans. Luckily amidst those working woes I have an acceptance into Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh to be excited about, a commission for a two-clarinet chamber piece, typesetting projects for a little extra cash, and music to write for the School of Drama's play next winter! So why am I wasting time blogging? Back to work.

P.S. Anyone have Shoveler show pictures I could post?

Friday, August 01, 2008


This morning I almost put up a sign on my downstairs neighbor's door saying, "I'm so glad your annoying Bichon Frise has stopped its incessant barking! I think its neutering must have done it some good." But I realized it was because it and its owner moved out this morning! Hooray! Now I don't have to deal with its schizophrenic explosion every time someone walked down the sidewalk.
Then, what should happen not thirty seconds later, but a new dog and its owner moved in to a different apartment in my building, and it started barking from the back yard! I don't know what it is with my building and dogs. Will the barkfest never cease? If your dog barks that much, it should not live in my tiny tiny building, in a crowded neighborhood, with no place to run free. I'm praying that someone quiet moves in downstairs and spares me from Dolby 5.1 surround-sound yelping.
Pictured right: The culprit in question. From the I'm-disgusted-it-exists website Precious Pet

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Amy Winehouse

Meaningless celebrity update: I read on CNN this morning that the singer Amy Winehouse is only 24 years old. In fact, she's almost exactly a year younger than I. But why did I think she was at least 35? Oh, right.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cool Ministers

I subbed as the pianist for two Lutheran Church services this weekend and I chatted with a very cool husband and wife minister team! The husband is totally batty. But in a good drinking buddy way. The female minister and I chatted for a bit in between services and she seems really cool, as she said she likes giving sermons because it gives her a chance to use "guerilla faith" and try and motivate people or inspire them. Well, it's a little sneaky sounding, but I don't think she has any intention of trying to convert me or anything. In fact, she added my name to some list of available musicians for hire within the church world. Maybe it'll result in some side gigs pounding out Joyful, Joyful a few more times. Cool with me.

The lady minister also said another thing which I admired, which was very plainly stating, "I don't shop." Not like "I don't buy groceries" or "I've worn the same worn-out shirt for 37 years" or anything, but in the context of "I don't fall into anything resembling consumer culture". And being a minister seems appropriate to that way of life. I oscillate between wanting to own every book and cd in existence, and then wanting to get rid of everything I own and live with my one book, one shirt, and one drinking glass elegantly arranged on the immaculate floor. But in any case, I think it's pretty awesome for someone in this age to admit without pretention, "I don't shop...I've been to Shadyside once, with all the fancy stores, but it was for a gift for someone."

Monday, July 21, 2008

Part-Time International Male Model

I can't believe I've neglected to mention that I've also become a part-time international male model. Semi-professional, of course. I'm looking for a part-time semi-professional agent.

A while back I posed for some photos that Sally took in an entry for exhibit at Pittsburgh Filmmakers. The exhibit was showcased as 'Uncensored!' and Sally's idea was to take several long panoramic (and vertical) photos and affix them to a spinning cylinder (actually a lazy susan), then encasing the cylinder in a box with a hole cut into it. The piece is titled 'Intimate View' and the viewer can only see a tiny fraction of the photo at one time, piecing together what the photo actually was without ever seeing it all at once.

I've included a photo for scale, and then a tiny photo of one of the interior views. Suffice to say being a show called 'uncensored' the photos were slightly scandalous, and NSFW, so they say on the internets. I, for one, was delighted to be a part of the experience, and I applaud most chances for people to have an excuse to be naked in the name of art. And hundreds of people saw Sally's work, which is great, ahem, exposure for her as an artist and photographer.

Now that the show is over, Sally has the box looming large on a table in her living room, allowing house guests to unsuspecting view my every thing.
I'm available for future photo shoots on a part-time basis, preferably at exotic international destinations.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Night Vision Composition

Rare footage of a composer in mid-composition, won't get to see this one very often. Look how he wears his music like a stole and hides from public view...Oh, and look over there, a zebra. Are they black with white stripes or white with black stripes? Maybe if we're lucky we'll see the wallaby today.
So I'm writing a piece for two clarinets, strings, and a bass drum, and I was having trouble "seeing" the piece as a whole even with a map drawn out and computer playback and all. Not a particularly good sign, but I'm trying a new kind of form, a quirky instrumentation, and some new polytonality as well, so I didn't expect a quick churning out of a piece. I wanted to see it printed out in long form, so I shoddily cut all the pages of the score up and taped them together. Well, the piece was a bit longer than I thought, so now I use it more like a scroll rather than a tapestry. Luckily it helped! And more edits can now be made.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Turkey Hunting Alarm Clock

In my parents' hunting catalogue there is an alarm clock for sale in the shape of a turkey, which, when time to get up, sounds an alarm with the "realistic" sounds of a rifle, and a bird scurrying off into the trees. I'm totally serious. Now I know nothing gets me going in the morning quite like gunshots next to my head, but this seems a little out of control. Then again, some hunters are out of control, camouflage-ing both their trucks and their tool boxes inside the truck beds. As if we couldn't see it driving down the highway the other day.
But what should really happen with the ideal turkey-hunting alarm clock is for a life-size shotgun to unfold out of the back end of the alarm clock and actually blow your turkey-shaped clock to smithereens each morning (well, just once, unless you have a good supply of crazy glue). This will certainly get you up on time without having to ever hit that pesky snooze button.

P.S. I know you want to go trademark this right now, 'cause it's a goldmine in product development. Well too bad, I totally call it.

10,000 page views!

Guys and gals, we're almost at 10,000 page views! 'Course, a lot of them are me checking my own blog, but that's not important! If you are the lucky person you should let me know. Prize for you!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Bloomington, Indiana

I went to Bloomington, IN. this past weekend and saw the music school there, but more importantly saw my good friend Gabe and his girlfriend Nathalie. They showed me around the city and we experienced many cuisines, bookstores, record stores, and watched movies. In essence, it was all I could hope for! We also went to a lake, which was supposed to have a beach, but with all of the midwest flooding that's happened recently, the sand was nowhere to be seen. Instead, there was an underwater basketball hoop and this tree coming out of the lake waters. But don't you think this picture has a certain Rembrandt-y quality? The weather was a bit tumultuous but it looks great at this moment, the clouds reflecting in the water. Even that boat is Flemish school. You'd almost expect to find a skyline of Haarlem in the background. Yup, it's all Netherlandtastic except for the damp-looking grill in the middleground. That is very contemporary art of America, for barbecues are surely the installation art of the midwest.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Jerry's Records, Westminster Gold Genius

As a treat to myself for a teaching successful first piano lesson, I stopped into Jerry's Records in Squirrel Hill and discovered a vast cavern of literally millions of record albums. It was more than I could ever dream of. In fact, the classical albums alone take up an entire apartment-sized room, floor to ceiling.

I was looking for one record in particular, and thought I'd take a long shot at seeing if they had it. It's the Berlioz 'Romeo and Juliet' from the Westminster Gold collection, a record label in the 1970's that used humor and irreverence (while still maintaining great design work) for their classical album art. I'd been looking at this record on an online auction for over a year and it was about $25--more than I wanted to pay, but the image is so great I really debated it for a long time. But I found it at Jerry's! And I got it for $8, which I think was totally fair, even though I probably could have bargained. But it's totally worth it to keep them in existence!
Here is the full folio spread, in all its hilarious soft-focus glory.
Not only does it capture my interest in male nudes (and cute ones at that) but Romeo is wearing socks! When the album is closed, you think it will be the typical 'star-crossed lovers' shot and then the surprise gets you on the back. Brilliant!
They have many witty covers, one of which is this album for Flute and Harpsichord Sonatas. Think about it.
And then there are some simple yet effective beautiful designs, too. I especially like this cover for string quartets, with a clever allusion to literal string, but there are four hands working together to make their creation (Cat's Cradle). And in string quartets, the ensemble playing of all four musicians, rather than the individual players, creates the work. Also, the weight of the typefaces is always carefully chosen. It's a great package deal! I think that kind of clever design is totally missing in this modern age.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Piano lessons, Indiana

I have to give a 7-year-old girl her first piano lesson tomorrow. Have I taught anyone piano before? No! But I gotta start somewhere. And she won't know the difference between me and Glenn Gould. Yet.

Also, I leave for Indiana on Thursday for a long weekend. I'm seeing friends and visiting the university. This will be the farthest west in the U.S. I've ever travelled, except for Hawaii. But I don't think that counts, as I didn't stop anywhere along the way.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Internet date failure

Internet dating is a fickle landscape to navigate. Unlike real human interaction (say, at a bar, or through friends), one has the choice of not responding to instant messages, or avoidance to get the point across. On the positive side, internet dating can bring cool people together who might not be in the same place at the same time, and it can, but doesn't have to, involve liquor. I naturally, am optimistic that internet dating can work for me. But not this week. Several failed attempts later, and one actual coffee date finally happened, with someone that didn't click.

Perhaps I'm misreading the tone of messages. I also have the feeling I'm more inclined to meet up in person sooner than most people. I just believe you can find out so much more about someone by seeing their body language. And I'd rather get to this point early than hope that I'm meeting Mr. Fantastic when he turns out to be Mr. Meh-tastic.

Or perhaps I give off the wrong impression, that people misread what I write to be something other than the kind of person that I am. I seem interesting, right? I have a blog, right? Therefore I must have something going for me. (That's irony. It too doesn't translate well in writing.) If you didn't know me, what kind of a person do you think I am from this post? (Well, other than a guy who apparently wears shirts made out of barbed wire woven into a plaid pattern.) Or this blog in general. Or if you do know me, does the same tone equate to my real person? Curious! And fingers crossed for the next Mr. Fantastic.
"What do I have to do to get an internet date around here? I mean, what do I have, like, "say you'll get coffee with me and bail for no reason" written on my forehead??"
"Well, yes, yes in fact you do. And it's written in Arial to spite you."

Friday, June 13, 2008

Alia Musica Pittsburgh

Last night a great Pittsburgh chamber music ensemble premiered a piece I wrote for them. Alia Musica Pittsburgh is a group of University of Pittsburgh composer-performers who write music for one another. This summer guest composers were invited to write pieces, and I was honored to be . The concert was in Frick Fine Arts Auditorium, which has surprisingly great acoustics in its Fabergé egg shape and intimate seating. The building itself is also beautiful; its Medieval cloister design seemed appropriate to my work for the evening, Cathedral Disturbances.

The work is scored for a chamber group of piccolo, two saxes, two strings, and piano, and is really two separate parts: the first part ("quiet in the church!") leads up to the second ("dance party!"). The performance went well, and I was delighted to have my first real Pittsburgh premier, with an audience that I haven't personally all invited. I think the dress rehearsal went a little better, but as Mark pointed out, there weren't people in the auditorium to muffle the sound, so it seemed a bit more...cathedral-y then. And the saxophones sounded especially great in performance. Yet again, I must repeat how much I love the saxophone family! Everyone played very well, and hopefully I'll get a recording for posterity.

My piece was the most chord-based on the program, which ended in a long fade-out in texture around a B scale (with raised 4). It's funny that several people told me the piece was "pretty". I don't really know how to take that. Well, of course I'll take it as a compliment. But sometimes it feels like a brush-aside for more ear-straining, challenging works. It might be a case of semantics, but I think in this case "pretty" is not the same as "beautiful", to which I often aspire. "Beautiful" works are more difficult to pull off effectively, and could easily turn into cutesy or cheesy. Why not say something like spacious, religious, glamorous, twinkling, harmless, revelatory, fresh, fun, childlike, had a certain joie de vivre et cetera? Hooray for adjectives!

It will be interesting to see how my music progresses into the professional world. I want to challenge myself compositionally, and branching out into different stylistic areas (or processes) can only be a good thing for me. But I don't think I'll lose that desire to create something beautiful, personal...this is getting a little too schmaltzy, a little too Midnight Shoveler School of Musical Morality, and You Too Can Sign Up for $19.99 a Month. I digress.

Finally, I have to give a few words to the fantastic design work for Alia's printed materials, done by Jen Gallagher. Her subtle variations for postcards, posters, and programs were perfect, and all based around the layout seen above. The poster is clean and effective, and even looked good in greyscale if one wanted to print out a poster from home but didn't have a color printer. I think she also used the golden section, perhaps? Her typesetting in the programs is also really sharp. A delightful evening, all around! And when we left the concert hall, the sky outside was just so...pretty.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Equally Yoked

There is a Christian dating site called Equally Yoked, which I'm sure works well when that's what you're looking for in a partner, but all I can think of is this scenario:

Woman: "Honey, are you hungry at all?"
Man: "You know, I could go for some Cracker Barrel."

I'm glad there aren't literal yokes involved.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Project Nunway

This year's premise is hotter than ever: 10 nuns (and select gay friars) compete for the chance of a lifetime- a fashion spread in Elle Magazine and one hundred thousand dollars to start their own religious fashion line. Every week one nun is eliminated.

Tim Gunn gives rosary beads of wisdom like, "Have Faith in Fashion, people! Make it work!"

The flamboyant gay nun calls every outfit "fierce", "Tranny" or, at best, "Hot Messiah".

But when it comes down to the judges, you're either in or you're Excommunicated.

One nun tries to design a sexy swimsuit for a Russian nun-slash-model but ends up falling short.

Michael Kors criticizes: "Magdalene, it looks like you've fallen right back into your old habits again. What happened to sexy swimwear?"

Magdalene replies, "I don't know if the Lord intended me to be a fashion designer."
And we all know what that means.
auf Wiedersehen.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

College Graduations and Niagara Falls

So much has happened all in the last week! This blog has briefly left the world of comics and collages and has apparently taken a turn to the photoblog. Well, comics shall return soon. I just have to think of something funny to draw in the midst of looking for a job after the summer. Perhaps a funny coming about the irony of hoping your big employment break will come through at Borders Bookstore when you've just earned a Master's Degree. Hilarity!My sister graduated from college. I'm so proud of her. I graduated from second college. I'm proud of my big fat diploma which is more than twice as big as the last one. And the last one was all in Latin, so now that this one is in English I can read it all.
My dad and I went on a motorcycle ride on a beautiful day! This is over his shoulder.
My friends and I went to Niagara Falls Canada for the Memorial Day Weekend. Take that, American holidays. Well, Niagara Falls Canada is basically Canada Lite, so we weren't really escaping the United States. This waterfall behind me is Niagara Falls, and it is not a fake backdrop! But I do wish that our yellow ponchos were a little less bonnety and a little more keep-out-the-deluge-y.
We also fit into a pod at the Ferris Wheel, joined by Mark's friend Ted, who visited from Toronto.
Finally, I got back to Pittsburgh and the very next day I had a premier and a recording of a piece I wrote for bell choir! And here they all are in their Chancel Glory.
Phwew. I think the summer will be a bit less eventful than this, but I'm glad that all events went very smoothly, and not a single handbell was thrown at anyone.