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.