Saturday, May 30, 2009

Nuclear Babies

This collage was a goodbye present of sorts to J & B who are moving to Washington, DC for better work (and real-people salaries...sniffle). They'll be missed, but they'll always have this strange collage to remember me by. Who doesn't love the combined forces of engineering drawings and pyschological subjects, and one picture of a lolcat, with some graphs and charts over top of it all?
I hope it finds a good spot on the walls of their new place so when I come visit I can point out how I really captured its owners essences (not really).

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Concert thanks

Thank you to all who came out to the concert in support of Wungsten and the Nathan Hall + David Bernabo CD release. We have very few of the first limited edition left, and may need to print a second edition soon! A great group of people came to show their support and I received lots of good comments on the music. It was also great to play in the same space we recorded the album in- the acoustics are lovely and there was a backdrop of a thousand piled-up instruments and stands which added I don't know what. Charm, maybe?
We also received one review from a fan, which you can read here. I'm glad that I surpassed expectations in some way!
My piano student also came and said that the next time we play, I need to play the song about otters because otters are her favorite animal, but Blackbird was a close second.
Here's one of my songs with Wungsten, called 'Tropical Depression', courtesy of Matt H.

Monday, May 11, 2009

CD Release: Nathan Hall + David Bernabo

Hello rabid fans! Or should I say, hello one unfortunate fan who got bit by a raccoon and many loyal fans! You probably wondered where I went after my retirement world tour, crack binge leading to rehabilitation, resurgence in the paparazzi, photo shoots with Christian Bale, and eventual clambering back into to the studio for another shot at the top of the charts. But wonder no more!
None of that is true. But the following is the real deal!
I wanted to let you know that my very first CD, titled Nathan Hall + David Bernabo, is hot off the presses and available for purchase. I'm very proud of this album, which has been a collaboration with a very fine guitarist/musician/artist extraordinaire. It was a practically painless process from the outset of rehearsals of my compositions to Dave's improvisations over top, to the typesetting of the package (I did the inside and the collage on the cover, and Dave did the outside text and back!). Brandon also deserves thanks for helping me find Library of Congress subject headings for the inside 'slide cards', which reference the topics of each instrumental piece. But that's a lot nerdy, isn't it?There are six tracks for $8 (or $10 if I ship it to you), for a total of just over a half an hour of listening delights inspired by David's and my love of the ecm record label. It's famous for its quiet music and nocturne-like jazz albums, and I think you can hear the similarities on first listen, though multiple listens should reveal a little of my personality and a little of Dave's avant-improvisational skills mixed together.

The release is a limited edition, and will be available on CDBaby and the album's record label, Abstract On Black, sometime soon. For now, of course, if you'd like the album, you can just email me, send me a check and you'll be on your way to guitar/piano/wurlitzer/vibraphone/improvisation/nighttime bliss.

Dave and I are also having a CD release concert May 21st so you can hear the songs in real-life, real-people, real folk-pop opening band times. If you're in the Pittsburgh area, you should come.

The processes of recording and releasing music still amazes me., it is an entirely different animal than just performing and composing (which I'm so much more comfortable with than the business side of music). Certainly this is a smaller scale than a major-label global distribution, but in a way that lets me know just how many steps go into making a recording, and I can be a part of each of those steps. I'm still shocked that I'm holding a CD in my hands that has my name on it! Next on the road of recording, maybe within two years? Midnight Shoveler's greatest hits.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Musical Interlude: Walking the Line

Time for some saccharine self-reflection!
My musical output thus far has often walked a fine line – somewhere between the wafting of chamber pop while still grasping for higher Music (with a capital M). This presents a problem in academia. Music institutions accept composers who write 'academic' music that challenges the mind and furthers composition as an art form. Yet, part of the composer's job (if he or she is able to accomplish it) is to make their voice fresh and unique, possibly bring recognition to an academic program, as well as, if they're very lucky, bread to the table. Suffice it to say, many young composers have found themselves in a headlock between imitating classical role models (not very original), and say, playing original music in a rock band (songs about giraffes in parallel fourths, anyone?) whose music doesn't pretend to transcend anything. Many of my works are somewhere in a vague-middle-crossover area. (And no, I don't mean Il Divo.)

For example, I've written a great piece for two french horns and piano which is challenging but idiomatic, spunky yet dynamic. It also has fragments from Radiohead songs embedded in it and incorporates bag of broken glass played with drumsticks. So where does this piece fall? Is it academically 'acceptable'? Is it Art Music? Is it too much like a cover song? I feel that it's a misfit in both the academic and the popular music worlds.

All this confusion sometimes leaves me frustrated. I shouldn't be writing music to cater to an institution's particular academic standards just to win acceptance in that crowd. But I also want to have a real career in music, and receiving academic critique inspires me to work harder.

I could make a decision never to think about going into academia, but the biggest roadblock lies in the fact that I think I could make an excellent teacher for composition students. I've wanted to teach for a few years now. And while I may not be the most famous composer, let's not forget there are often differences between a famous composer and a good composition teacher – not always one in the same.

A colleague of mine was kind enough to say that he felt that my music has one of the most unique voices he's heard, which approaches music from many different and personal angles in its creation, while still managing to be personally identifiable.

I also received interesting advice from one young, now famous, composer. He wrote to me saying to not go back to school. Instead, I was to find the craziest musicians and artists around and perform, write, collaborate, and write, write, write! Anything in academia, he stated, would always be viewed as academic. However, anything I did on my own could be made exactly the way I wanted it, which is truly original – perhaps lacking funding, resources, and audiences, but original all the way.

Writing good music takes skill, training, and time, no matter what type of music it is. Steve Reich left academia but spends his days thinking about music, and he's now praised by his scholarly colleagues for his Pulitzer-Prize winning work. The same goes for Phillip Glass. Will composers who write infectious, hip chamber music or rock-based violin loops be looked upon in future years with the same critical praise? I hope so, but the collegiate world may never quite catch up to what's happening outside of university walls.

Until the day comes when I am some tenured professor or sought-after composer, I'll try to write what challenges me, and what I enjoy doing in the process (and maybe also hope that some part of my music pays a bill every now and then). Admittedly, it's also time to try my hand at something totally different this summer; I want to prove to myself that I can write intricate, brainy music that may not be my personal preference or a part of my identifiable aesthetic, but will be good, solid music.