Wednesday, June 30, 2010

House of Physics/Psychics

I don't know why I find this comic so funny, because it really doesn't make sense. In all honesty I was thinking 'psychic' and wrote 'physics' and tried to run with it. But I did end up liking the fifth-grade shwoopy handwriting style and the weird combination of religion, science, and the sixth sense with a neon palm tree, eyeballs as coconuts, and a moon for good luck. "Now accepting Visa. Ten minutes is all I need, come right in! I tell you your future, and it looks like Newton's Third Law."

Friday, June 25, 2010

Post-Gazette Writeup of North Side Spaces

Sunday's music event got some great press in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, hopefully it will get some interested folks to hear it! Many thanks to Diana for interviewing me and coming to hear the brass quintet rehearse.
There's also a video of the quintet, check it out!

Musicians to add notes to North Side tour sites
Friday, June 25, 2010

If Lake Elizabeth were music, what might it sound like?

A free tour Sunday of four North Side places will offer Nathan Hall's interpretation of what each site would be if it were a piece of music.

The tour, from 3 to 4 p.m., begins at the New Hazlett Theater and is open to the public.

A different group of musicians will play at each of the sites -- the New Hazlett, the Children's Museum, Allegheny Commons Park and the Mattress Factory -- while tourists move from one to the next.

Mr. Hall had vied for a Charm Bracelet microgrant to present this musical itinerary "outside the composition box."

"I saw the opportunity to tie all these sites together" through music and "make it interactive. Usually, the audience is removed from the musicians, but this will bring them up close and personal."

The tour venues are among those in a "Charm Bracelet" of cultural sites on the North Side; Charm Bracelet became a brand in 2007.

"It is a network of cultural, educational and recreational organizations [collaborating on] projects that come together outside our walls and through the neighborhood to foster an attractive North Side," said Chris Siefert, deputy director of the Children's Museum.

The Grable Foundation granted the bulk of funding for this round of seven Charm Bracelet microgrants. The $6,700 grant pays the 20 musicians and for technical support.

The next round of funding will be announced in the fall for small projects that are art- and design-oriented, said Mr. Siefert. The grants of $500 to $10,000 will be funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Mr. Siefert called Music of North Side Spaces "an original idea that touched on a few different layers. It really excited reviewers in our stakeholder group, mostly for its interpretation, making the streets lively. These are what we call everyday space, places people encounter by walking around or getting off a bus."

Last Sunday, amid kayak rentals and bouncing dogs, a brass quintet assembled beside Lake Elizabeth in Allegheny Commons Park to rehearse. The group began at the Civil War Memorial and paraded across a bridge onto the lake's island, each horn making punctuations of sound, both abstract and plaintive. Trumpeter Josh Boudreau popped down into the water and stood, calf deep, as the others stood near the water as it lapped over a slope of Belgian blocks.

"Each composition is based on the architecture and the history of the site," said Mr. Hall, 27, who works as the office manager at the Mattress Factory and has a master's degree in music composition from Carnegie Mellon University. "The inspiration at Lake Elizabeth is that there used to be a music pavilion."

At the New Hazlett, seven musicians -- vocalists and percussionists -- will present a piece inspired by the fact that the building shares space with what was Andrew Carnegie's second oldest library. The percussionists will be playing typewriters.

At the Children's Museum, three glockenspiels, singers and a bass guitar will provide music inspired by the science exhibits that once were at the Buhl Planetarium on the same site.

A flutist and soprano saxophonist will play along the walkway leading toward the lake. To signify the proximity to the National Aviary, the duo will play music adapted from a 19th-century transcription of bird song.

"When the flute plays at a certain register, birds are responsive," said Mr. Hall.

A string quartet, singers and improvisors at the Mattress Factory will present a work inspired by a piece John Cage performed at the art museum in 1990.

Read more:

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Music of North Side Spaces Update

Music of North Side Spaces (MoNSS from here on out) is just over three weeks away. My day-job's insane fundraiser, the Urban Garden Party, is just over two weeks away, and the combination of these two things is really intense! I feel like I could be working full-time on a project like MoNSS and it still wouldn't be up to my level of satisfaction, and I'm already working overtime at the museum preparing for the Garden Party. I had a really sleepless night the other night thinking about planning for MoNSS as my mind kept racing with thoughts like "He needs to take the music stand here and what if it thunderstorms but what about costumes will they get up in the trees do I need to hire someone else I don't have a photographer yet and we need one more rehearsal but ugh I hate scheduling I forgot about the crotales".

I should have requested more money from the grant that funded me, but as this is my first grant, I haven't had enough experience yet to know about all of the back-work logistical things that have to happen with a multi-site performance. Luckily I have enough support from friends and colleagues that I think no matter what happens it will be successful. So what if I didn't think of putting in the budget some money for ten yards of fabric, I can do without it. I didn't have to rent a sound system, therefore I can hire a professional photographer, those kinds of things. It will still be a cool event, with brand-new music written for it, friends and family there to support everyone, and that kind of event hasn't happened in that area before. Please don't thunderstorm. I really didn't prepare for that kind of thing. Rain, okay.

So far for MoNSS we've recorded about 50% of the music in the studio (I want to have a non-live version of things to possibly put out an album of the works, or at least for posterity), and two big pieces are all set and ready to go. This leaves a piece for the New Hazlett Theatre (about Andrew Carnegie) to rehearse and polish up, a brass quintet piece, and a string quartet + vocals piece yet to be heard, recorded, or rehearsed. I'm so glad I made a calendar in advance to help me keep a basic schedule! I can just barely wrap my brain around who's supposed to be where, who's rehearsing at what time, are there enough music stands, does everyone have their music, let alone think about performing in some of the pieces.

I think some of the things are going to be even better than I expected, too! The birdsongs piece in the park will be awesome, and in our dress rehearsal, the flutist mesmerized a squirrel with her trill stylings. The musical typewriters I have planned are going to sound really good, and I think there will be a great-looking 'installation' of lights, seating, and furniture for the Mattress Factory piece.

(Photo, right: mesmerized squirrel.)

In other news, Eyafjallajökull has stopped erupting, much to the pleasure of my impending plane ticket to Iceland on 30 August.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Names of Places

Short list of places I would like to visit purely on the pronunciation of its name:

Addis Ababa
Cote D'Ivoire
Saskatchewan (obviously)

I know that these names are totally random, some cities, some countries, some islands. Some of these places I even blogged about before, as I'm fascinated by places that are scarcely populated. But once you go, you get the pleasure of having the story around the dinner table, "Remember that time I went to Baffin Bay just because I thought it sounded good? That was a good time."

We've past the 20,000th visitor! Congratulations to whoever you are. Perhaps I'll have a party on the internet for the 25,000th patron. You'll get a slice of internet cake, your choice of flavor. (Insert joke about delicious "bytes" here.)

Photo: skyline of Nuuk, capital of Greenland. Courtesy of Wikipedia.