Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lips as Umbrella, Cameldog on Volkswagon

An oldie but a weirdie: a collage comic that could only be explained with Surrealism or crack, and I've never done crack.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Fast Openings

I'm finishing up a piece for two French horns and piano for a friend/colleague Katie's recital in March. Chamber music for horn & piano abounds, but I don't know if there's much out there for two horns, which is a trial in middle-range tonal blurriness (I'm trying hard to avoid monotony). My piece is a mini-narrative of the hornist's coming-of-age of sorts, and also rewrites a couple of Radiohead melodies-- a bit unexpected in classical horn repertoire. Also, the second horn may or may not play a bag of silverware and broken glass shards.

I'm excited to premier this piece. I think it will be a great performance, but I've also come to realize that most of my music begins slowly, and this is the first work to break out of that habit. The spark of realization came from an interview at Indiana University, when one of the professors pointed out that to get accepted into Indiana I would have to write some "tonally aggressive, hard-edged music". Well, I didn't get accepted anyway, and that's their loss. But something positive came from that interview, in that I suddenly saw myself lacking works that began with a good kick in the pants. And perhaps they could go somewhere else during the piece, tempo-wise (the french horn piece is more like fast-slow-fast) but there's no reason why I can't try some crazy opening bars. In fact, almost every one of my works begins slowly, or at least sort of ambiently, except for some pop tunes.

I don't know if this is a result of my personality, or habits of composing. I'm certainly a pretty calm person, and for years now I'm drawn to slow-tempo classical music, that of John Luther Adams, Arvo Part, Takemitsu. And to minimalism, which isn't always that slow, but can often seem "out of time". Perhaps it's a refusal to give in to fast-paced living and take time out for a contemplative experience. Brandon and I were talking the other day about music which resonates in us: some people get all a-quiver for Stockhausen and some feel the vibes of Debussy, and perhaps that's one of the many reasons that music is so personal and subjective. In other words, why music=awesome. And despite listening to a lot of quiet slow music, I love dance parties, so why don't I try writing more dance party jams?

Working on this piece has been a big help in me thinking of other things besides slowly-shifting gauzy tonalities: I'm more curious in this piece about off-kilter rhythms, combined with sort-of-singable melodies and a hott left hand line in the piano. I'm less concerned about the chords lining up, or whether this random F-sharp will fit in with this horn line. I think my music could get really interesting if I could write intricate fast music and crazy rock and roll chamber music along with other Impressionistic passages; the combination of the two could be exciting. Also, on a less intelligent note, I read two different horoscopes for my sign this week and they both said essentially to Embrace the Raucous. I better do what they say.

Oh, and if you say I need some more tonally-challenging music, you might get arm clusters. Just so you know.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Jackson Pollock Nativity Scene

I made a nativity scene for Sally in the style of Jackson Pollock. That way you can have your Christmas miracle and your action painting too, without having to give up Clement Greenberg for the Magi. I also finally got a picture of my mid-century modern dentist's office, which was made only a few years ago. It was basically the main reason I went to that dentist (and it lived up to its expectations). The typography is so good. Also, who doesn't love addresses that are (number) and one-half?Also, I got to sing in the Pittsburgh debut of John Adams' On the Transmigration of Souls, featuring the Pittsburgh Symphony, a childrens' choir, Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, and electronic tape soundtrack. Then Sally and I met John Adams, and he was totally charming and genuine and happy! Especially for being, oh, you know, the preeminent living American composer of our time (sorry Carter, you're just so a hundred years old). Adams can also feel lucky: he now posesses a signed copy of a photo of me and Sally, which we gave to him in exchange for his autograph on our box sets of his work. My family and friends came to visit for the performance and it went really well!

Thursday, January 08, 2009


I was waiting for a bus at the IKEA the other day and wondered when the heck it would arrive. I noticed a new sign was bolted to the bus stop sign which had a number you could text, and then you'd text the particular code of the bus stop you were waiting at to get arrival times of the next buses. Much to my suprise it worked, and gave me several options of buses that would arrive. And sho' nuff, the 28x arrived exactly when it said it would, and I didn't have to wait in the snow for longer than I had to. And doubly lucky that I was right next to the land of Swedish happiness, so I had nothing to fear.
Now if Pittsburgh could get the other 99% of buses to run on time, and then put up TXT signage, I would never have to fear I would be stranded somewhere for 45 minutes in the cold. Hooray.