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I live in Brooklyn, NY and I love it here.  I came here for my career in 2009 and haven't once looked back. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2010, begin again...

I've just spent another afternoon and evening working on music and man, does it feel good to be working. I've got this piece up to about 7 or 8 minutes, 36 pages and I'm now starting to run up against the typical issues you get with a piece this size. Namely, transitions from one section to another, dynamics of the whole ensemble and second guesses on orchestration choices.

I was about to post another blog a few days ago about how I can hardly believe that I'm still here. But I just decided that's not what I want to talk about tonight. I've said quite enough about that lately and though my thoughts on the matter feel new each time, I really think it's just an impulse that I have to define things every time I pass a milestone.

But what would New Year's Day be without a recounting of my accomplishments and some good old-fashioned resolutions?

My biggest and most obvious (obvious because it's one of the main subjects of this blog) accomplishment this year was moving here. The scope of that, from my perspective, evidently still hasn't hit me because I'm still blathering on about it. Second only to moving here was finding not one, not two, but three jobs and several freelance film gigs in the months that followed. I also made new friends easily, landed a full time job out of one of those freelance gigs, managed to pay rent, managed to score a few composing gigs, managed to start up a few pieces and revamp a few old ones, managed to keep my sanity despite the pressures of it all, and still managed to keep this blog up.

All of this writing in the past few weeks has really pepped me up and given me the feeling that if I just get going on a few things I could totally start the year with the kind of momentum I had back in 2007, three years ago. I wrote prolifically that semester in school and managed, at the end of it, to get my first paid commission. So, with that having been said, being a composer and being in the place where I have wanted to be for so long for the express purpose of putting energy into my career, it only seems appropriate, and it almost goes without saying, that my first resolution has to be to write prolifically again and maybe even surpass myself.

Beyond that, with the prospect of working overnight shifts, losing some sleep, being tired a lot and everything that comes with that, I think the next one would have to be the tried and true favorite of people seeking to better themselves: to work out more. But I'm going to approach this in a way I never have before. I'm actually going to join the YMCA, and take some yoga classes. I have a friend here who goes to classes and has agreed to take me to one or more of the places she goes to. The YMCA is something that will get me actually lifting weights and doing cardio on a regular basis instead of when the mood strikes. I have to first find out if my bum knee is really too bum to be jogging on before I consider any cardio routine but that shouldn't take long. I have a doctor's appointment next Wednesday and I think we'll go over the results from my MRI.

I don't think there's many other resolutions that I have other than career and general well being. I suppose those are the two biggest categories than anyone could lump their resolutions into, other than social life and personal life. I feel like I'm doing pretty well in those areas. Dating in this city is a subject that could fill an entire other blog and thankfully for you guys, I don't have the time to get into it but I will say that I've been lucky enough to make a lot of friends here in the past few months and haven't had much trouble getting dates. I still miss everyone in NC but you guys know that and I'll always be in touch.

By the way, I'm coming to Raleigh to visit with my parents post Christmas in February. Dates TBA.

For now, though, I think I shall go and veg out. I didn't sleep much this morning, only about 5 and a half hours, and I had been up for 22 yesterday. Tends to drain one's energy. I'll be blogging all my efforts with this piece and as soon as it's ready I'll try and post a bit of it. It'll hopefully get submitted to several competitions. So long for now.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

New piece

Day after Christmas. Since I last blogged we did get our wallop of snow, right after I did the overnight shift Friday night. I woke up out of my 7 hour afternoon nap around 3:30 and looked out to see it had started. It didn't let up all day or night and it was quite a sight. By nighttime it had become a beautiful, fluffy and sparkly kind of snow that blew into artful looking snow drifts up and down the streets. I went to two separate parties, one in Astoria with friends of Karishma and then another back in the adjacent neighborhood of Park Slope with a friend from church. Trains were running slower and trudging was the watchword street level.

Both parties were great fun and I got to meet some new people at both. The second one entailed playing rock band with people I had just met...which is usually fun. That night was no exception.

The next morning, no one had mentioned to me that the choir would not be singing in church and would be using their rehearsal time to work on music for the Christmas Eve service, the service I could not sing in due to my inability to attend rehearsals. Maybe next year. Either way, I was really wishing I could have slept in after all of that gallivanting around Saturday night. But it happens and it was still a good service despite not singing with the choir. Four of us, in fact, sat together in the pews and sang in parts to the startlement of those around us who weren't expecting us to be wedged into the congregation as such.

I'm still poking at the piece of music that I'm composing for the ensemble. It's all for lack of inspiration at the moment. I decided to compose something like an Alleluia and I have an opening motive and some rhythmic motives and a basic structure in mind...but it's always the same. You hear it in your head when you're in one place, far away from instruments or paper and the only thing that remains of it when you finally do get paper or an instrument is the basic rhythmic idea. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes you just have to accept that certain ideas never make it out of your head entirely before their corrupted or altered by time and the infinity of variation that abounds in the trials of writing but that corruption and alteration can often lead to something far more inspiring than what came before. This is all, of course, relative and opinionated. Like, how do I know it's more inspiring than my original idea? All I'm really trying to say is that your first idea, the purest idea that's in your head and the onset of musical inspiration, almost never comes out like you thought it would in that moment. I suppose it's more important that something does come out at all.

It's not as though I have complete and total writer's block though. I'm happy to report, in fact, that I spent the better part of the past few days diving back into a minimalist piece that I started months ago in Astoria. I set a teapot down on my cousin's stove top and the water splashing around inside made the most amazing rhythm...or at least the start of the most amazing rhythm and I finished out the rest of it in my head and while patting it out on my thighs and chest (this is something I do, probably to the complete vexation of those who spend a great deal of time around me). After letting some melodies and rhythmic ideas bounce around my head for a part of that afternoon, I did the most rudimentary of pre compositional planning and even composed some of it but left it sitting for the entire summer. Now I've extended it, come up with new ideas and even revamped my original idea for orchestration to include electric guitar and some electronics (samples and a drum track). This should be fun. I think I'm going to shoot for a healthy length and submit it to the Bang on a Can festival...the deadline is January 15th. That's close but hey, I'm pretty inspired now.

At any rate, the snow, which was actually mostly gray slush and desultory piles of crunch by mid week this week, is all melting now with the rain coming in now. I got loads of work next week at both jobs and I'm spending New Year's Eve working the overnight shift. Hopefully, I'll find some way to get it all of my work done on this piece.

With that, I'm going to go and probably do a little more work on it. Good night.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Blurb #16

Waiting for the sky to open up. It's supposed to snow a handful tonight and tomorrow, lucky us. This may not be that first "wallop" I predicted but it'll be substantial I think. At any rate, I work my first overnight tonight but not before I go into the city for dinner with a friend. Last night was a fun time. I was invited to the Technicolor Christmas party and brought a friend. There was free food and booze, gambling, Karaoke and a raffle...from which I won a nice portable DVD player. Good time was had by all. This is actually 2 out of 4 Christmas parties that I am planning on attending. Two in one night tomorrow night. Should be a blast. As always.

Just wanted to drop a blurb on you guys since I've only got a few minutes. Here's a pic that represents the extent of my getting into the Christmas spirit:

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

On why I moved to New York...again.

I attended a birthday party in a high rise with roof access in Lower Manhattan Saturday night. I'm getting...I guess tired is the wrong word to use. I guess I'm starting to see a trend in conversations with veteran New Yorkers. I've probably mentioned this before, but every time I mention my having just moved here, my only having spent ten months here or my not growing up in a huge city in the context of my general positive sentiments about the city, I always tend to get the same response from these veterans. One of those, every one grins and nods their head knowingly and says something to the effect of, "you'll see what we mean in a few years" kinds of things. Are people that determined that no newbie should go on feeling enamored of this place or is it just that fun to hate this place?

I haven't gotten there yet. I still love this place and I'm rather unashamed of it. And on top of that, after months of loving it but hating my situation in relation to it (i.e. wanting to do more, meet more people, grab at every aspect of the city while feeling hopelessly confined to my apartment and the daily grind), I'm finally feeling a part of this place. I have friends that I've met here that are starting to really feel like my friends, I'm going out more and dating, my job is full time (which has been for a few months but it's really starting to set in with regard to all the benefits and the feeling of inclusion with my fellow full time co workers...e.g. NY 1 holiday party), not to mention the feeling of accomplishment that goes with all of this. I can't help look back to last year and relish in the boost it gives me to remember the helpless feeling of wondering how I was going to make it here without a job or an apartment lined up and simultaneously wanting to try and encapsulate everything that led up to where I am now. But it's so massive.

And no one can take all that away from me. Not in the course of some party conversation about how weathered and jaded they are by this place and how suburbia seems like a cozy option to them. Bollocks to that, I say! And Bollocks to suburbia.

Anyway, just saying it's not for me is all. One of the many reasons I moved here was to get away from the small town atmosphere. Another was the draw of the excitement of this particular city...which is why I'm still a tourist to a degree.

It's cold here now. I just came back from Williamsburg, having a drink with a friend after work. To get home from there, it's a bit of a hike, mainly because of the weird train connections one has to make. It's either back into Manhattan on the L to Union Square and then the N back to Brooklyn...or taking the L one stop to the G at Lorimer/Metroplitan and then getting off the G at Fulton and walking a few blocks to Atlantic Avenue for the D train. I decided I'd take whichever train came first and the winner was the Canarsie-bound L train, which meant the G train and that walk between stops that was so cold this evening. But I had major train luck and made the trip in only 45 minutes. Almost unheard of for a Williamsburg-Sunset Park commute.

Back at home, I'm thinking, in between all this new excitement, about Christmas and how this is my first alone. I mean, family far away, working Christmas, mailing all of my gifts and cards, etc. I've spent Christmases working before but family time (Christmas cookies and ornaments) was always a short drive away and never put off for more than a week if I couldn't make it day of. I needed to do something the other night to make it feel like Christmas so I wouldn't forget or let it pass by unmarked...so I put ornaments on a succulent plant that a friend gave me and downloaded James Galway's Christmas Carols (an album that I loved as a child) off of Amazon.com. It's working for now. Christmas lights might be in order as well.

Meantime, I keep trying to remember that there are supposed to be a lot of beautiful things about this city at Christmas time and that I'd better enjoy them. I'm occasionally stumbling upon the more subtle and tasteful street decorations and seeing people selling Christmas trees, always stopping to bristle the needles between my fingers to get that wonderful pine scent.

It'll be a different Christmas this year though and I was always prepared for that moving to a new city hundreds of miles away from anything familiar. Luckily, I have friends here, I have family here (a family member) but also I have all of these keepsakes; the ornaments that my siblings have copies of hanging from a plant sitting on my kitchen table.

I was up early this morning to get an MRI on my bum knee (long story there but I'm at least taking advantage of my new insurance plan), so I'm tired and delirious but I have to adjust to staying up late because Friday, I'm doing my first overnight shift at NY 1. It can't be all good all the time, I guess. I'm probably going to adjust to doing the shift and find that I like it. News 14 had me on an overnight and I remember slightly dreading that before it started but it turned out to be a gift to my music because I could work all afternoon on my music without necessarily worrying about losing track of the time. So we'll see.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ideally...

I've realized that I really don't like my options at the local supermarket. Maybe it's because I'm a bit spoiled by the good quality cheap stuff at Trader Joe's but on days like today, rainy disgusting cold and windy days that is, days when I'm forced to shop in my neighborhood because my lack of interest in schlepping groceries on the train, I really feel sort of limited in what I feel comfortable buying at the local C-Town. It's all either bad quality for the price (I'm generally talking produce here) or just bad quality in general and then the variety is also slim, plus the store brand (historically cheaper than any name brand) is not great quality either.

Ho hum. Ho hum indeed. One of many inspirations to move to a much nicer neighborhood. If I lived in Cobble Hill or Boerum Hill I could walk to the Brooklyn Trader Joe's. If I lived in Manhattan, I could stop by the Trader Joe's on 14th Street on the way home from work.

In all honesty, I could have done much worse choosing the neighborhood I was to live in my first year in New York. In truth, my main criterion for a new place is going to be the price range. Hence my motivation to live with a roommate.

I was bound to make a few mistakes my first time around anyway. And that's half the reason I often write about these things. Perhaps someone else wanting to move to New York will see these musings and it may help them or it may just add to the cacophony of advice regarding the subject of moving to New York City. Either way.

Tonight, is the first snow of the season. And it's not even really that much of a snowstorm. It was raining most of the day and I hung out over at the Brooklyn UU's rummage sale and got coffee with friends afterward. Walked through it all day, toes soaking wet and chilled to the bone. Happened to be outside, having just mentioned the snow to my friends, when it actually started to switch over. It's not even properly snowing now. But I guess that's fine by me. It'll be sunnier tomorrow and then we'll probably get our first wallop of snowfall in the coming weeks.

And with that another test of my resolve to live in this fine city. Can I handle the winters? I grew up regarding snowfall as an occasional pleasantry. Something that came every few years and, if we were lucky, got us out of school. Here, the general attitude towards it ranges from moaning and groaning to all out dread of the event and it's ensuing inconveniences. Most people are hardened enough that, even when the temperature wanders back above 50 degrees F, they still wear their scarves and bundle up against the cold. As though, they'd rather be prepared for anything than risk leaving a potentially necessary article of clothing at home just because it's slightly warmer out.

I contrast this often with the mostly collegiate mentality of defiantly wearing flip flops in the winter time, not wearing jackets, or wearing them open, or just never really properly dressing for the weather. That always amused me. It's a curious thing to me but I think the fact that most can get away with things like that in the south is due to the fact that it's much more common to drive everywhere and, as a result, no one really spends that much time outside.

Here, I think I'm outside for at least an hour every day if not more. I often forget what it's like to own a car or don't really think about what it would be like to own one here until something happens like my parents' car getting broken into or my brother getting a parking ticket. I often do think about the expenses I save by solely riding the mass transit system and rarely even taking cabs. It's massive. My transportation expense adds up to about $90 monthly. To some that would only cover car insurance and certainly would not cover gasoline. Reason #234 for living in a place like New York City.

But I digress, and in this case, I ramble. I think I'm going to watch a movie I've seen a hundred times because I'm tired and feel like doing something mindless. Can you grant me that?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Apartment hunting...a little early...

Next on the roster is the impending doom and/or excitement of apartment hunting in New York City. Again. It's hard to believe we're approaching that. Can I just take a second to gush about my accomplishments? Can I? Can you all grant me that?

I can't believe how far I've come. Sometimes, it just doesn't cross my mind but then sometimes, I do feel like I need to just take in a deep breath, forget whatever is bothering me at that particular moment and take it all in. It's been almost a year in New York City. Random song for the moment:


Only Living Boy in New York

Anyway, I can't help but think back to what I was doing a year ago: Sitting in front of the computer looking at craigslist.org apartment ads, corresponding with potential roommates, eating-sleeping-reading-breathing New York City and actually starting to despair a little bit. Doing something like this (this being setting a goal, however modest, and accomplishing it) really does something for your self esteem. And it sort of insulates you against any negative thoughts or pessimism about future goals that I may or may not have even set yet. And that's a brilliant thing to have. It's a forward momentum. It's motivation to the highest extreme that anything I think up, dream up, I can go and, at least try to do.

All right, I'm done. It's a bit exciting, to be honest, to not only be slightly more seasoned and street smart but to also have a virtual veteran of New York City on my side in the hunt for apartments. As I said before, we've little more than thrown out some ideas about neighborhoods and talked roommate rules and the like. But it's starting to feel closer. What else can I say but wish us luck?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

An update...for lack of a better title...

Another semi productive day. After I decided to start publishing my scores on Sibelius.com, I realized that it'd be a great idea to compose teaching pieces for younger piano students. I've started to go through some old piano pieces and edit them a little and tweak them just to get a few out into the mix. Ran a few by my old piano teacher and she likes the idea so, on we go. This gives me a goal to work toward.

Also, on the plate is the idea of composing some choral music for the Unitarian Church in Brooklyn. I borrowed a hymnal to get some ideas for texts that I could set to music and picked it up today for the first time since I got it home. I also happened to open right up to the one hymn whose lyrics I remember liking when I was reading through the hymnal in the choir loft a few Sundays ago. Might be a sign.

In other news, I'm now trying to wrap my brain around some changes to my work schedule that are forthcoming. Mainly that I'll have to be working the overnight shift twice a week. Luckily, it's the last two shifts of my week and I've already started planning around it.

I've decided to look at this as a benefit to my musical endeavors. The steadiness of the schedule will allow me to actually devise my own schedule, especially the days I work the overnight shift. I may be more inclined to stay around the house those days and structure my day around composing. Sundays will be tricky though. I get up early to sing at the UU church (7:30am) and then I may have to nap in the afternoon to be able to stay up all night Sunday night when I'll work 11pm to 7am. Yikes! Then Monday morning I'll get home at 8am and sleep until 3pm or so, get up and work around the house, maybe do laundry, and then at 11pm I go in for my last overnight shift of the week.

Anyway, that having been said, I think it's time for me to start applying to postings on this site. It's a site where people can post freelance gigs and freelancers can bid on them. I've already been getting the emails and some of them have been within my reach and capability but I haven't had the time. Now that my job is full time and my other gigs are drying up, I think it's time to bid on a few jobs and see what kind of success I have. I'll keep you up to date on that.

Beyond music endeavors, lately, the big news was Thanksgiving weekend. Got out of the city again to see relatives in upstate NY. The folks drove up a day early (well a day and a few hours, arriving at almost 2am Wednesday due to some traffic in Wilmington, DE) and saw a show. Thursday morning we found the car had been broken into (rather stealthily, no damage to the car, thankfully). After counting our blessings we drove up to Queens to pick up my cousin and then drove on up the thruway to Coxsackie. The weather was cold and my family was fun. I ate a lot, as you do, and generally enjoyed myself despite another NYC head cold. Sooner or later, I'll toughen up and develop that immunity.

Came back and worked all weekend and week and now I'm off after tomorrow's shift and the NY1 Christmas party tomorrow night. Should be fun. I'll post about any happenings this weekend later on.