Sunday, December 23, 2012

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Fantasy Draft

This is what I envision when I think of a 'fantasy draft'. None o' that football nonsense! Of course, maybe also a draft beer would be nice too. But I like the idea of a magical gust coming in from under the door, whisking me away to a nonsensical place of wonder, and maybe there would be Harry-Potter-like music playing along with it.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Goodbye Scissors

In the tradition of my Goodbye Pencil Sharpener and Goodbye Stan, Sexually Abiguous Cockatiel posts, I've had to bid adieu to an old friend, a pair of yellow and white scissors that I've had since second grade. I took them to college and they were amazingly useful for crafty projects (they cut paper with out cutting you!). My roommate and I bonded that we both had brought the same pair of kid's scissors to college.

The college years have since passed. The time had come where the safety scissors no longer cut, and I got a pair of fancy titanium scissors for the holidays, which cut like butter and are guaranteed for 10,000 magical slices. So I bid you a fond farewell, friend, you've served me well. May you rest in peace, dreaming of classrooms full of screaming second-graders, and piles of colored construction paper, miles high.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Tame Your Man Tug-of-War

Promo image for TAME YOUR MAN, which I'm raising money for through Kickstarter. Consider donating even a small amount today, every bit helps! I can't guarantee the final project will have a tug of war, but it will involve a whole lot of music, and a whole lot of rope.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tame Your Man & Kickstarter

I've written a new piece for piano, electronics, and...a bondage artist! You read that correctly. It's called TAME YOUR MAN, and will premiere in Boulder, CO on November 9th and 10th. It's my first work to try and integrate my ideas about sexuality, power, pleasure, and surrender into a 'classical' piece. Despite it being a very personal work, I think the piece will speak to a lot of people--you might not like bondage but you might enjoy the music. You might not be into classical music all that much but you like the intrigue of a professional bondage artist who's going to tie up the pianist to the piano while he plays. Or you might like neither of those things but you really like theatre, or supporting entrepreneurial ventures! Sometimes it feels like a risky work to undertake, especially at an academic institution. Am I giving away too much personal information by writing this piece? Is the value of the music on par with the interesting visual aspects? But surprisingly, the faculty have been some of the most supportive voices behind my work, and that makes me realize I'm attempting a good thing here.

The performance is free to the public, and will be recorded and videotaped! But to really make the work a success, I'll need the support of readers like you to help raise the remaining funds for the show, paying for my performers, and professional editing and documentation of the performance.

I've started a Kickstarter campaign that runs through October 4th. Kickstarter is a great website to raise funds, but it's all-or-nothing! If I don't raise all the money, none of my 'backers' get the awards that they've selected for their potential donations. So consider donating today and be a part of the TAME YOUR MAN team!

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Palm Tree Stirrer

Given to me on my artist residency- a tropical drink stirrer at the one bar in town- which happens to be a Tiki-themed bar, complete with an outdoor thatched-roof hut, and a skull-and-crossbones flag beckoning guests further inside to the main "Pirate" Bar.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Erathy Aromas

Spotted in a coffee shop in Denver. I am certainly not faultless when it comes to spelling errors, but in a high-traffic place such as Starbucks, don't you think someone would notice that the sign by the bags of coffee looks a little funny?

I think "Earthy Aromas" is what they were going for, but I might buy some coffee just to see what "erathy" tastes like. Maybe it's like "umami".

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Residency Thoughts

The CATWALK Residency is over and I'm back in Denver, safe and sound (and due to some ticketing issues on the flight home, with my very first ever first-class flight along the way)!

I certainly learned a lot about residencies in this first experience, though truth be told, all residencies are not created equal. This residency only has two artists stay at a time, and each has their own housing. Pretty luxurious.

I made a few short works there, and am happy with a couple of them, but for the most part, the residency became a chance to experiment with some new ideas, try them out, and sometimes fail. Though that can be a good thing too!

I ended up working on about four projects. In summary, here was my progress.

1. A solo organ video! The harmonium from the shed was hauled out to the woods for videotaping. Little did I know how heavy it would be. I wrote a very minimalist piece for it, planned on videotaping it around sunset- where the halfway point of the video would be that evening's sunset time. I wanted the performance to be about an hour, but I only played for about a half hour. I then took the video and the recording and sped them up, so hopefully we could see the light fade in the woods. Problems with this performance (aside from the fact that the organ was nearly broken) included all the bugs in the woods biting me, and the fact that the light in the woods changed so subtly that you can hardly see the difference from the beginning to the end of the video. This project was about 70% successful, I'd say, but gives me lots of hope for future similar projects involving time and light outdoors.

2. Bell trees! I crocheted long strands of yarn that were attached to bells, and then wired them up in 20-foot-tall tree branches so you could ring them from the ground. This was probably the most simple idea but the most successful project. I was worried that the bells might rust as it was very rainy; I had to wait for the groundskeeper to help me with the ladders after a weekend away. Thankfully the bells stayed pretty dry, were sheltered under a lot of leaves. With the help of the other visiting artist, a painter named Alexis Neider, we made a little video of the bells in action too. The background noise of the camera is a little distracting but overall success I'd grade myself at 85%.

3. Outdoors 1. A song, with words from the 19th-century philosopher John Ruskin, mixed with texts from the original builder of the residency's structure, the Hudson River School painter Charles Herbert Moore. The song is pretty cool, it's like an electronic dance jam with cicadas buzzing and sampled choir sounds from the residency's old Kurzweil keyboard. I came up with a performance piece for this song and we videotaped it. Again, there were some problems. My lipsynching abilities apparently suck. It was very hot, and very windy, so I'm super sweaty in the video and things are blowing off of the table we're trying to videotape. Not very convenient. I am also not a video editor and have no intentions of training, I'd rather hand the project to a professional. Still, there are some good ideas in the video. About 2 minutes of it are pretty snazzy. The rest I'm still a bit embarassed to show people. Performance success: 90%, video success, 70%. Enjoyment of the Upstate New York heat and humidity while carrying a heavy table 500 yards: 0%.

4. Outdoors 2: This piece was/is a companion piece to Outdoors 1. Outdoors 1 is like the 'daytime' piece and this is the 'nighttime'. Unfortunately I didn't have time to finish it. Perhaps later this summer I will revisit. It has some great sounds of machinery around the residency, chainsaws, thunderstorms, and windchimes at the local Wal-Mart, so I do think it has the most geographical 'flavor' of that area.

I went on a lot of art-seeing trips on the residency, which was great, something I rarely get to treat myself to even though I love galleries and museums. I went to New York City for a day, and to Mass MoCA for another. I talked a lot about my work with people, which was also good. The time to relax and enjoy some new scenery was also really beneficial. I met a woman who talks to angels. I met a Columbia poetry professor who lives in a seventeenth-century Dutch farmhouse. 17th century! I also met up with friends who I haven't seen in years, got to see my parents for a few great days, and experienced the kindnesses of local residents curious to meet someone new in the area.

All in all, it was a time I'd surely repeat. It was a time that helped me think about music, time, nature, and using the resources around me in new and interesting ways.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Catskill, New York

I'm here in Catskill, New York on my first artist residency! Okay, so the Fulbright Fellowship was a lot like a really long artist residency. This one is only three weeks though, and I get to stay in the same country.

Catskill is a small town on the Hudson River, close to Hudson, NY, and between Albany and Poughkeepsie. There are a lot of fancy homes and estates out here, but the town of Catskill itself seems quite working-class.  There's some pizza places, a hot dog stand, a church converted into a 24-hour fitness club, and an ice cream parlor on a creek that is super creamy and delicious. There are even boats and kayaks you can rent, though it's not as fancy as other 'weekender' towns where wealthy Manhattanites come up for a few days a week to their summer houses, escaping the buzz of the city. It's surprisingly racially mixed for a tiny town. It's also blazin' hot and humid here, about 100 degrees and 90% humidity--after living in Denver for a year, I've sort of forgotten about humidity and sinus pressure, and don't miss it a bit.

The CATWALK residency, where I am, houses two artists at a time to make work. It's quite a fancy place, built originally as a 'cottage' by the Hudson River School painter Charles Herbert Moore (contemporary of renowned painter Thomas Cole, whose estate literally abuts this property) and expanded over the century to include private residencies, barns, and an impressive art collection by its owners.

I'm working on several projects, and who knows what they'll turn out to be, but the nice thing about an art residence here is that there aren't a lot of expectations to pump out work; time to oneself and time to explore are first and foremost. There are 60 acres of property for me to be inspired on, with a small section of 'beach' at the Hudson River as well as forest trails, ponds, a tower studio, and several workspaces.

I hope to make some nature-based works, but lately all I can think about here is man's involvement with nature. Nature here isn't untouched in the same way that Iceland was/is. Here, one likes to put a stamp on a good view, take down some trees, plow fields, and build roads through the landscape--anything but the pristine 19th-century ideal of romanticized sublime Nature. Catskill has a home where the figure of 'Uncle Sam' really lived, which is the same building where President Martin Van Buren Lived! But right next to this home is a trash-looking (though hilariously placed) Tiki Bar subtitled 'grub and pub'.

Still, there's something interesting in that juxtopósitión. I've been taking a lot of recordings of machines working, or combination sounds of nature and man's involvement in it. Chainsaws for example. I took a sneaky recording inside a country Wal-Mart today (I haven't been in a Wal-Mart in years!) and there had been a lot of birds that fly in and out of the garden section. It sounded like an aviary in there, only with pumped-in soundtracks of pop hits and electric fans whirring. I think I might make some electronic pieces that change daytime sounds to nighttime ones and vice versa. Perhaps also do a live performance during them; I need to find some good texts for speaking and singing.

There's an old, dusty, almost-broken harmonium here as well; I'd like to take it out into the woods and play it. Only one bellows works, so you can't pump both feet anymore- just the left one! Still, it makes sounds. Perhaps I'll do a performance where the organ returns back to nature, back to its wooden beginnings, before man came and carved it up and assembled it for me to play.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sun and Moon at the Dentist

It's been just about a year since I finished the music for my album 'The Origin of the Sun and Moon'. (If you don't have your copy already, please by all means buy one here or download, it would be most appreciated!) I've sold many copies and have many more to sell; my last album was made in such a limited run that in less than a year I had no more copies to sell or promote, and I didn't want that to happen to my hard work this time!

It's been very interesting to do as much self-promotion of my music as possible. I've taken the record to local music stores, I've played a couple concerts as 'CD release' shows, I've mentioned the album in other performances. The Museum of Contemporary Art Denver is selling the CD, and I hope to get it in a couple more stores. Of course, it's never enough PR as I'd like, but slowly and surely, good things come.

Several great 'Sun and Moon' related things have happened recently. I sold a limited-edition album to a listener in Paris. I just had an idea yesterday to try and perform at a local store that deals with lots of crystals and celestial objects; I think the album and its music would be a good fit there. The best 'Sun and Moon' moment recently was when the entire staff at my dentist's office listened to the album, in its entirety, while I got my teeth cleaned (this picture is the actual waiting room at the dentist, it is super luxe). That was pretty hilarious, hearing my music as I'm lying back in a chair with giant lights and mirrors over me. The dentist made it through the song about pulling teeth, but had to turn it down when it came to the whale noises and shouting random texts from books. I don't blame the dentist. The album starts off all easy-listening and gets thornier.

Listening to the album after a long pause is an interesting experience. When I made the tracks, they were like experiments. They can live in a variety of different sound-states, so there doesn't need to be a hard and fast definitive version. Nevertheless, some of the sounds on there I thought, oh yeah, that's the version that's on the CD and not the version I perform live (which would be much trickier to time all the sound samples and get people to sound like whales). A couple tracks I had not heard in months and I was pleasantly surprised to think, hey! I made that.

I have never been a musician who looks back on his work from years past and never wants to look at that material again. Some pop artists are practically disgusted with their early work. I still find great things in the first pieces I've written, though I'm glad that I'm always exploring new ways to combine sounds, new ways of organizing forms, and fun new methods of delivering those sounds to live audiences.

I'm always interested to hear your thoughts on my works and what kinds of images you get from listening, or what strikes your fancy (or what you frankly wish I had left out). Feel free to let me know!

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Conceptually Punk'd

A new show just ripe for cable TV: Conceptually Punk'd. An artful spinoff of shows like Candid Camera and Ashton Kutcher's Punk'd, Conceptually Punk'd will feature frat boys merely telling others about the crazy antics that they would do to prank them. Artists, in return, get to 'Conceptually Punk' the frat boys by presenting them with a theoretical art dilemma. Celebrity cameos could be made by both Hollywood stars and stars of the contemporary art world. Featuring knee-slapping exchanges and retorts by Anderson Cooper, David Duchovny, Marina Abramoviç, Matthew Barney, and the late Sol Lewitt.
Here's a sample episode:

Frat Boy: 'HAHAHA! I just filled your van with shaving cream and then poured a bucket of water on your head!!'

Man Off the Street: 'Really?'

Frat Boy: 'No, not really.'

Okay, that was a short episode. Here's another one.

Sol Lewitt: 'I just drew an infinite number of lines to an infinite number of points in the room using this red pencil!'

Frat Boy:(silence)

Sol Lewitt: (silence)


Saturday, June 02, 2012


I moved to Denver and currently living with A, also known as Boyfriend. It's a funny thing, living with a partner for the first time. Funny mostly because it's not about 'me' anymore but about 'we', and I have a lot to learn about it.

Some of the things we've had discussions about seem like 'first-world gay man problems'. We need more night-blooming flowers in the garden! Woodcuts or screenprints...or decorative plates? Other conversations seem like the oldest marital issues in the book, or common to most any two people living together. In no particular order, here are some things we're currently working on.

Whose artwork goes on the wall. And where??
What chores get done before or after work?
How to ignore a little mess, which will get picked up eventually.
How to politely say, pick up your little mess, it's not going to get picked up eventually.
Who will take care of indoor plants versus outdoor plants.
How to sleep with the light on.
Do you know how to water the (insert plant name here) properly? 
Planning romantic time.
Spontaneous romantic time.
Saving money for a vacation when lots of other important expenses arise (ugh, dentists).
Throwing out stuff that hasn't been used in years.
Saving space and organization (though I find these tasks very fun).
When to do the laundry.
Who's going to put the laundry away??
Making time for our 'alone' selves too, and our own friends. 
Leaving dishes in the sink/dishwasher. Luckily we have a Lindsay Lohan magnet on the dishwasher that lets me know if the dishes are clean or dirty. It's hard to envision, but it's very funny, and it works.

I freely admit that most of the issues are mine. I think that if Boyfriend had his druthers, there wouldn't be anything to worry about, we'd watch a lot of TV and live a very carefree existence. But I love a plan, I love making lists (see: above list) and I'm much too neurotic to not know when the bills need to be paid. (I'm beginning to let go a little though, I swear...!) So thanks to A, I'm starting to live a little and not worry all the time about all the dishes in the sink, and I know he's making a lot of compromises too to make our home one of the best around.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Not Done with Pittsburgh

I visited Pittsburgh this month and it was a blast. My visit confirmed to both me and Boyfriend that our time there isn't quite over yet- the city has a strange attraction to us both (though Boyfriend would love to uproot us to Seattle first, if he had the chance).

I love so many things about Pittsburgh, including its many neighborhoods with individual character, like this wall on the North Side that has both ghostly remnants of attached buildings, and shadows of other buildings around it. Boyfriend and I agreed that the city has one of the better-integrated racial mixes of many cities- not that it's all hunky-dory, but perhaps people from many races and cultures just happen to have to interact more here than in sprawling Denver.

Pittsburgh's mass-transportation, however, is a hot mess. The Port Authority bus system was bad when I lived there from '06 to '10, and it's gotten worse since I left (with the one exception of a new light rail over to the North Side from downtown so all the football fans can take a shuttle home drunk rather than driving). I waited for a bus that should have theoretically come every 15 minutes; 45 minutes later, I missed my meeting as the bus never showed.  Thankfully I was able to reschedule; I walked the whole way and arrived on time. Nowadays in Denver and Boulder, CO, I rarely have to wait more than 15 minutes for a bus to show up. Buses here are scarily efficient, but it does help to have a flat, gridded, and arid topography to work with, compared to Pittsburgh's vine-winding and hilly landscape. But that's something I love about Pittsburgh, so it's a blessing and a curse. What would a view of the Golden Triangle be without Mount Washington and its inclines.

I went to Pittsburgh for a premiere of a new work by Trillium Ensemble, which went spectacularly, and a friend's wedding, which also went spectacularly. Boyfriend saw some old friends from his days in Pittsburgh, and I saw some of mine. I conducted some Biznass about music and hoped to plan a trip back in the fall to guest lecture. We both got to visit Mattress Factory, where coincidentally we both have worked in the past and is one of the best art museums, hands down, in the world.
(On view: Nina Marie Barbuto's 'Glory Holes', part of the 'Gestures: Intimate Friction' exhibit featuring local artists' works.)

Pittsburgh is constantly popping up on the 'hot cities to watch out for'-type blogs and newspapers, and I can see why (aside from transit systems). The Andy Warhol Museum, cheap rents, big spaces, friendly hip places, and new stores appearing regularly. Phipps Conservatory (Botanical Gardens) is one of the most "green" and energy efficient greenhouse buildings in the world. They're adding a new building to the back which should be beautiful, behind this cascading pond and waterfall.

I even got to visit a place I had never been, but had always wanted to visit: Allegheny Cemetery. Known for its old mausoleums, winding paths, and lush greenery, it didn't disappoint. It was a post-rainy day, common to the city, and the skies were grey: perfect gravestone-viewing weather.  This tomb's the King of them all. Or at least houses the King family.

Perhaps one day I will have a reason to settle down here, maybe buy a house and work as an artist full-time. I would eat burgers all the time at the new Burgatory restaurant, and fancy cuisine at 'Salt of the Earth' (cuisine of the duck/sweetbreads/endive/polenta/cardamon/tartar varieties, but not all together in one dish, that would be so gross). Until then, I do love to visit, and thank all my friends, colleagues, and relatives for making it such a memorable trip.

Friday, May 11, 2012

One Year of Teaching Music

I'm just wrapping up my first year as a Teaching Assistant for a class called 'Aural Skills'. I'd rather have the class be called 'Musicianship' but I have no decision in the matter. I did however, have a lot of decisions to make this year about what to teach and how to teach it. The saying that goes something like 'the thing you learn about something when you have to teach it' is totally true as well. Here are some things I've learned this year, in no particular order.

-Get people up and moving. I wish it was a Dalcroze Eurythmics class! Unlike most teachers, I have everyone stand at the beginning to warm up, and then during dictations, I have people come up to the blackboards to write examples. It's a new perspective, having to be 'on call' and work on a giant board rather than paper, but there's less pressure if you're not the only one in front of the class, and the whole class can also use the examples on the board to sing from or critique.

-I make a lot of mistakes, and sometimes the timing of the lessons isn't what I envisioned. But then I teach the class a second time to another section, and I can refine things a lot.

-I try to call on every single person at least once in class. Even for tiny questions or observations, it keeps people on-target. Even though they're put on the spot, it's also okay to be wrong or just take a guess.

-Perfect pitch people need extra challenges. How do you make it worthwhile for a student who can recognize every note played on the piano and write it out by rote? Bring in a different instrument to play the examples, or have students write out dictations in alternate clefs and keys.

-It's amazing how much you can learn about a student's learning habits and work ethic by hearing them sing individually for five minutes.

-Attendance is to be taken seriously. I'm super-forgiving about someone letting me know they might be gone for this week's classes because of a trip, or that they're not feeling well and they might not be in class tomorrow. But I'm not forgiving about just not coming to class and not letting me know. Take a tiny bit of responsibility, kidz.

-Some musical topics are just hard to explain, mostly because they're hard to hear. If you can't break down music into small chunks first, or play examples that show the relevance of what you're talking about, it's really hard to make people 'get it', and then hope that they do well on a quiz. Also, if you don't get the material, seeking out extra help=super bonus points with me.

-It's important to teach the material in conjunction with other classes, so connections can be made between what's conceptual and what's practical. The theory class just learned about augmented 6th chords, and now we're practicing how to sing them! We just learned about church modes and now we're dictating in Lydian! I wish I had more of those inter-curriculum connections in my studies.

-Nobody actually wants to be there, and it's not your fault. The class I teach is required; it's mostly practical applications of what they learn in another class. Though you can't do much with making diminished sevenths fun, you can make class as amusing as you possibly can by playing ridiculous music examples, warming up with tongue twisters, and very seldomly but surprisingly, bring a snack for everyone. Nobody turns down cookies!

Saturday, May 05, 2012

One-Word Sleeptalker

My boyfriend talks in his sleep, but unlike general nonsensical sleep-babblers or perhaps even Sleep Talkin' Man, who swears like a sailor and makes hilarious British sentences, my boyfriend is a one-word sleep-talker. Rarely does he ever say more than one word or phrase, but it's very clearly spoken, and then he's silent for the rest of the night. He'll startle me awake, but he's sound asleep the whole time.

I've been keeping a list to tell him in the morning so we can have a good laugh about it. Here's a few so far.

"Oofda!" (Boyfriend said this is a foreign slang word meaning "oomph".
"Penumbra." (Said in a very sexy voice)

The best one so far came last night, when he said quite loudly and confidently:


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Violin Phase Torture

The other day in my music theory class full of graduate students, we got to talk about Steve Reich, one of my main music role models. We've studied a lot of other composers this semester: Schoenberg, Beg, Webern, Carter, Dallapiccola, and I was looking forward to hearing about some theoretical interpretations of minimalism, music written since around the 1970's with repeating patterns that often change over time or have more conceptual frameworks. The teacher asked the class what this piece, Violin Phase, reminded them of.

To me, it's music to my ears. Steve Reich's 'Music for 18 Musicians' was the first piece I ever heard when I walked into my undergraduate advisor's office for the first time. It changed my life, I could safely say. I love the concept of Violin Phase, usually for four violins (or a number of pre-recorded violin tracks); I love Reich's use of diatonicism; I think the subtle tempo changes that lead to intricate overlapping rhythms and hidden 'ghost' melodies that pop out unexpectedly is pretty genius. (Though side fact: I finally got to meet Steve Reich and tell him my life-changing story involving his music, but he only seemed meh about it. Such is life, when you're so over the work you wrote 35 years ago, and people are still talking about how great it is.)

But instead, the loudest voices in class said that Violin Phase was, literally, torture. They could only listen to the first couple minutes of the piece (it's only about ten minutes), and they had to shut it off. Of course, they couldn't articulate why they felt the music was torturous. I'm assuming it's because the repetitive patterns were too chaotic for their ears; they didn't like the simple use of patterns which can become monotonous for some. To me, it's paced beautifully, you sometimes don't know something is changing until it's changed, and then you wonder, how did we get here?

Why such fervent responses though to this piece, seemingly unexpected and conservative? And why strangely, not the same kind of anger directed toward more traditionally 'thorny' and theoretical music like Elliot Carter or Milton Babbitt, who we discussed in classes prior without a lot of dissent? I left class disappointed in my colleagues.

I have come to appreciate my open-mindedness when it comes to listening to new music, but I think I might be in the minority. I am in full support of all that is new, interesting, and often eccentric. I at least want to judge it on its own terms, not compare it to Beethoven. Learning about new(ish) music helps me write my own pieces, and helps me interpret works of the past in new ways. Of course I have my own preferences to what I like to listen to and don't; I love historically valued music too. What I don't understand is that there are still lots of people I'd consider the young pplz that think that the only classical music worth listening to comes from the 18th and 19th centuries, and MAYBE the 20th century, if you let in Debussy and some Stravinsky (but don't go too crazy). If these people don't land a rare job in an orchestra, I don't know how they're going to wrap their brains around a hybrid career that I think will be necessary in this day in age. Nowadays you might have to have a different performing career than just the one established in the 1900s and passed down through weird, underfunded, greying institutions. Why not join a slightly more hip crowd and give new a chance?

My boyfriend noted that music people still talk about the twentieth century being 'contemporary music'. The start of the twentieth century was now one hundred and twelve years ago. I think there were giant ferns growing then, and dinosaurs, I'm pretty sure. I'd rather think about the recent past, the living composers, and all the exciting potential for what comes next.

The next post: likely less ranting, and more comics.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Jacqueline Bouvier

If Boyfriend and I get a dog, which will probably be never because I mostly hate dogs (okay, with a rare exception), the dog I would like to get is a Bouvier. For one reason only, that I could name her (or him!) Jacqueline. If it's a boy then 'Jack' for short. But boy doggie or girl doggie, that pillbox hat will never leave its elegant head.

The pearls can also double as a dog collar, used for casual strolling, or trots to the neighbors for tea.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Two Congrats: Choirs and Museum Shops

Two shouts-out for this post; one congratulations goes to my boyfriend for winning Denver's 'Best Museum Shop' award in Westword magazine. I'm so proud of A! He is the shop manager of the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, and does a heck of a job making it one of the most fun places to visit. The shop is full of creative books, jewelry, funky gifts, a CD for sale by yours truly, and a giant Tom of Finland XXL book (oh, and the museum itself is pretty cool too).

 (photo credit: site)

 Another congratulation to Sigurður Árni Jónsson (Siggi for short) for recording two of his choir pieces in Iceland recently. Siggi and I first met when he sang in a choir for one of my pieces ('Utan Hringsins') on my CD, and we've stayed in touch since I've left Iceland. Well, it's more like I'm unusually bad at keeping in touch, and he's unusually responsive for an Icelander, so we don't have the most frequent communications but they are wordy.

I looked over a couple of Siggi's works for choir and gave him a couple pointers from one composer to another. But all the toil is his own! I'm glad he's got video of them as well as audio. The choir singing looks very comfortable; I've never seen such a relaxed bunch sound so good! The song below, 'Tunglskin' means 'Moonshine'. I'm particularly fond of the secundal-heavy ending of this one.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Nuclear Winter Snowglobe Pt. 2

If you haven't yet been obliterated by a nuclear disaster, well then come on in to Midnight Shoveler's Home for Apocalyptic Souvenirs, and pick up your Sunny Florida snow globe today. Complete with igloos and seal cub!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Two songs about love

Two thoughts about love that I've had stuck in my mind lately.

In listening to Michael Torke's work 'Four Proverbs'; this is the first movement's text: 
'Better a dish of herbs where love is, than a fattened ox and hatred with it.'
I hadn't heard this proverb before, but I really like it. As weird as it is I'm sure this one's going to get added to my everyday repertoire.

In listening to Robyn's 'Body Talk', the track: 'Hang With Me' has the chorus:
'And if you do me right, I'm gonna do right by you
And if you keep it tight, I'm gonna confide in you
I know what's on your mind, there will be time for that too,
If you hang with me.'

I love that the 'con' of the word 'confide' comes on the downbeat of the third beat; not the strongest beat of the measure but it throws off the text just enough that it makes the near-rhyme with 'right' in the previous phrase kind of interesting; in singing the word 'confide' alone, it seems more natural to put emphasis on the second syllable (perhaps because I'm an American-English speaker?) but Robyn's way keeps it confined within the rhythms of the lyrics in that way that only the Swedes can pull off.

Very different genres and thoughts about love, but both kind of romantic, and both pieces quite soothing to the ears. And good for interpretive dance time as well.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Music Spacing

I think my music writing program needs to learn that when I insert measures into the music, I don't want them smooshed all on top of each other, but laid out in a row with the other measures around it. I imagine this music sounds really dense and chaotic, but it's more of a graphic score right now...experimental, mayhaps, but not exactly the piano solo I was going for.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Nuclear Winter Snowglobe

I love the idea of seeing a snow globe on the mantle that shows the effects of global warming or a nuclear apocalypse; maybe even zombie invasion under a seemingly fun and glittery bubble sky. I bet a quick google search would prove these items already exists, but I'm going to pretend that I was the first thinker of this thought. Here's what one might look like for Miami; a lovely beach scene with skyscrapers, and a mushroom cloud in the background ready to decimate unfortunate sunbathers. Let's hope to all that is good in the world that what's captured in this snow globe does not become a reality.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Graduate Preliminary Exams

For my doctoral program, all the incoming students had to take preliminary exams to see where they could 'pass out' of, and which areas of study might need remediation. Post-tonal music was a sure sign for remediation for me, but I'm really enjoying learning things about music that I never learned (or at least never internalized) before. But I still worried about other areas that I thought were fairly solid. It had been over three years since I had even looked at music theory. Almost five years since I took a test on aural skills or ear training. It kind of felt like this (click on the image to make it all big-like):

Everyone is sitting quietly in their chairs, scribbling away, while I'm sweating like a pig and either staring at the page blankly, or writing so furiously that I'm breaking several pencil leads, repeating 'Oh God Oh God Oh God' as if the world's going to end if I don't pass my ethnomusicology test.

Luckily the world didn't end upon completion of all the exams. I didn't need a divine intervention from the Big Man Upstairs, and things worked out okay. And hopefully it will be the last entrance exam I ever have to take- from now on I'm only interested in tests that get you out of things (like comps or dissertations) and not into them.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Big Accomplishments for Nerds

It's a big day when normally quiet, academic folk get up the guts to be social and attempt a little flirtation. But sooner or later they return to their comforts.

Friday, February 17, 2012

From Meteorology to Music

A scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research wrote about my work 'Chinook', which is being premiered on Wednesday! His blog entry is here; it's a fun read. One of the things I love most about being a composer is an opportunity to collaborate, and this piece definitely a fun collaboration. I spoke with Jeff Weber, a meteorologist, about weather patterns in Boulder, and his graphs helped me plot out a lot of the musical structures in the piece. It was also a pleasure to film the piece up at the NCAR site, in their gorgeous 'backyard' of the science facilities!

Perhaps in the future I'll be writing a string quartet based on real-time data of hurricanes, the arms of the storm turned into varying pitches and timbres based on wind speed, rain, and pressure. Scientists have developed a program (originally for the sight-impaired but curiously useful in other ways), that turns weather data into musical tones! Right now it sounds like crude MIDI but I think I could elaborate this into a fully-formed work. The perfect string quartet for this would of course be Tesla Quartet, with its scientific and electrical connections. Commencing brainstorming: now.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Chinook premiere, gym bag

The video for 'Chinook' is finished and ready for its grand debut. And thanks to the help of Anna Vreiling, who spent hours putting in footage and editing four separate videos, we'll have a great premiere on the 22nd (in the ATLAS black box in Boulder, CO, if you're available). Here are a couple basic screen shots from the four-panel video. Eventually I'd like to have each square have its own separate television, and play all in a row simultaneously, but this is a good first step. The sound is beautifully edited by Will Dyar, and I think it will come across nicely over projector.
Also, those bird whistles I bought are being put to good use, fo' real.

I made my sister a gym bag for Christmas out of my dad's old raincoat from the 70's that didn't fit him anymore. It was the first project I've made like it and I had to make a mockup of it first. I even managed to use the raincoat's original snap closures as the closure to the bag. It's very 80's and fun. The only thing is not being breathable my sister's gym clothes might get a little moist in there. Let's hope she washes them regularly. But she liked it as a gift nevertheless.

In other news, I'm taking a Post-Tonal Theory class as part of my doctorate (essentially, learning about how music as made after 1900 until about 1945ish-1960). Many sentences in our textbook/assignments make me think I was back in high school calculus class or college physics. "Each of these sums is an index number. For each sum there will be two common tones under TnI for that value of n" and "because of its internal symmetries and redundancies, the hexatonic collection has a limited subset structure: see the inclusion lattice provided in example 3.11." But as I've always lacked this area of musical knowledge, and really need to posses it to be more well-rounded, each class is very illuminating and a new challenge. Being more and more able to recognize atonal groups of pitches is kind of awesome. "That is such an '014'." "Oh, that is totally part of Octatonic 1,2" and All. That. Jazz.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

2011 Reflections

Two thousand and eleven was one of the weirdest years I've ever had. And likely one of the best! I spent most of it living in Iceland. That just takes the cake right there. It's hard to really find 'highlights' in a year that included weekly mind-blowing events like hundred meter waterfalls, volcano ash, foreign languages, björk, and hot spring caves. But here are some personal faves, in no particular order.

-Definitely the hot spring cave.
-Having about 15 visitors come to Iceland and stay with me!
-I released my first solo album, but chock full of collaborations and help from friends around the world.
-I moved to Colorado to start a doctorate in music.
-With a lot more spare time, I read 28 real books, including novels! I also perused 10 art/photography books, and read 2 books in Icelandic (albeit very choppily and slowly).
-After no luck dating in Iceland (though a lot of fun trying), as soon as I get back to the States I meet a great man and he keeps impressing me every day.
-Singing in a choir for Beethoven 9 for the grand opening of Iceland's national concert hall. I'm the only non-Icelander in the choir and honored to be part of the shows.
-A trip to the West Fjords, where I had some amazing photos taken and great memories with friends.
-Swimming pools! Hot spring tubs! Lots of them.
-Having an Icelandic choir- no, two of them- sing pieces that I wrote. I have never been more moved.
-Filming a percussion quartet up in the mountains in Colorado
-Meeting too many interesting and amazing people to count!

I don't know if I have any 2012 resolutions; perhaps one might be to not sell myself short, and to not put up obstacles that might stand between me and success/paychecks, even if they are opportunities I might not have thought of as My Current Path. If I learned anything from 2011, it's that I should say 'yes' more to things that randomly get asked of me, because it will often take me to very amazing places.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

'Chinook' recording

Some photos that I don't think I had a chance to post yet, of the filming of my percussion quartet 'Chinook' up on the mesa of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. The piece is a site-specific work about weather patterns in Boulder, and the film will eventually be shown on four separate (but interlocking musically) screens or projectors.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Goodbye Stan, Sexually Ambiguous Cockatiel

My childhood pet bird, Stan, died while I was home for the holidays. He was a cockatiel and lived to be 23 years old--probably much longer than most of his colleagues would ever dream of! While he was more like my mother's pet (I never had much emotional attachment, as he was no fun to play with) Stan always lived in the living room, listening to me play piano and squawk when the music got really intense. A few times he squawked so much that I had to take his cage into another room so I could concentrate. But mostly he was pretty inconspicuous. He'd take a flight around the house about once a day, and everyone in the family would duck as he flew around.

Toward the last years of his life, Stan's flying became erratic and he was more like a dive-bombing bird- he'd fly right into a corner of the room, slide down the wall unharmed, and then toddle out on the floor looking around, waiting for someone to come pick his disoriented bird self up and put him back on his cage. The last few months of his life were less flight-bound, mostly shivery and sneezing to himself, a little bird flu.

Around New Years, Stan took one last daring flight and landed behind a heavy bookcase cabinet and my mom and I looked everywhere for him, unable to find him hiding under a chair or in a corner, or perhaps in a potted plant. I finally located him because of his old-age bird-wheezing, and managed to pry the bookcase away from the corner. I've come to think that this was Stan's last flight of honor, wanting to die in peace and quiet, like some animals who find a hiding place to put their heads down to take a final rest. But what do you know, my mom and I had to go make a dramatic Intervention out of it and tell Stan that he still had so much more life to live!

Stan's best quality should have been his mellifluous chirp. Stan was originally bought thinking he'd be a beautiful singing or talking bird, which the male cockatiels are especially good at. We didn't know why he didn't learn to repeat anything we said; he would only hiss loudly like a cat when anyone approached, and did a sort of bark when a car came in the driveway- our very own watchbird. But after owning Stan for twelve years, he laid an egg. Stan was technically a girl. We tried briefly to call her 'Stanette', and use female pronouns, but to no avail--Stan remained Stan. The gender dysphoria and sexless life without a bird companion could have been enough to drive Stan to madness, but he didn't seem to mind.

Stan's faithfulness to our family will always be remembered. Sometimes we'd accidentally leave the door open in the summer, and Stan would never fly out to greet his cardinal and blue jay friends. Thanks for stickin' around as long as you did.