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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. 

Friday, December 31, 2010

Progress and Resolutions...

It's always nice to find evidence that you're making progress. I'm sitting here late on a Thursday night, early on a Friday morning, too exhausted from work to do anything but sample a homebrew from last year to see if it's drinkable still (it is) and peruse old blogs and/or facebook...God save me from the black hole that is the latter. Anyway, I stumbled on this entry and it was kind of cool to read how frustrated I was back then with how much work I had to do just to stay afloat and how it was interfering with my perceived ability to work on my own music.

The blog was from October of 2009, days before I heard about the full time position at NY1 and I was going on about how I had made tons of contacts but I had no time because of the day job(s) to churn out new material to showcase for these contacts (Not that that's the only reason I'm writing, to impress potential clients, I'm just saying it's always good to have fresh music to show people...I'm not going to get away with showing stuff from grad school all the time for much longer).

Anyhow, nowadays, I've not only stabilized my job situation, but I've also learned, probably as a result of that stability, to manage my time so much better. I can actually sit down, like I did this morning, and write, even though I only had a few hours before I had to leave the house. In that way, I'm not waiting until I get two full days off to dive into a project. Just polishing off little bits of work per each sitting and not worrying about making great strides.

What I'm working on now is the notation of Collapsing Elbows for Tania, so that she can perform the piece and I can process the electronics when we perform the piece with Jahna's dancers in April. Back when I wrote the above mentioned blog entry I might have quailed at the thought of notating an entire eight-minute, unmetered improvisation (I honestly still quailed a little bit upon considering the task). However, this time, I took one look at the piece, split it up into manageable pieces and decided to just go section by section measure by measure. Such a practice even gives me built in stopping points so I can take much needed breaks during what has turned out to be some very tedious work. I remember what I played for the most part but the rhythms (being unchained to bar lines for the most part) are really difficult to parse out. And I'm met with decisions like how strictly should I stick to the original rhythms, should I even bother notating with bar lines, if I do notate it as such how do I decide where to draw the bar lines. Luckily, my graduate school thesis was on polyrhythm and the notation of thereof. So, I'm well-versed.

I must say it's coming along and I'm quite proud of my methods here. As I look into the new year and back at the old, I realize that I've really come a long way. Granted, I'm not where I wanted to be exactly, but I'm certainly not where I expected to be. I've managed to finish some works and totally change directions on others (I'm thinking of the piano pieces which are done and the orchestral minimalist piece that I decided to make into an electroacoustic piece, here, respectively).

I know I wrote about New Year's Resolutions the other day but while we're talking about music again in the new year, I think I'd like to lay down here what I wrote in my personal notes today:

Finish two chamber works
Start a new one
Submit electronic piece to a few competitions/festivals
Submit at least one other piece
Get electronic music gig rolling
Publish piano sketches

Beyond that, I think I wrote that I wanted to keep up yoga and take dance classes as well. So, I think that's pretty good for now. I'll think of tons more stuff that I want to do though, I'm sure. For now, I'm dead tired and I want to sleep for a very long time now. Good night.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Snow over your head...

I really have never seen this much snow on the ground in person in my entire life...I'm pretty sure. Winter of '88 was pretty bad and we were almost stuck in upstate NY in the ugliest conversion van in the world but this might top that. Especially vis a vis my inconvenience from the storm as compared with '88. There was the time I went to Niagara Falls in March but these were 4 foot snow drifts and there was almost no inconvenience to me except for the biting cold as the storm had already passed by the time we got to the Buffalo area.

I'm currently watching people shoveling in vain outside my window against some of the largest snow drifts I've ever seen. 3 to 5 feet. Just think about that. Last night on the way to work it had gotten pretty bad, maybe up to about a foot and the L train was delayed half an hour when I got to Union Square, so I thought, "screw that! I can make it to the west side in less than a half an hour. I could have made it in 15 if not for the massive amount of snow I had to trudge through and the automatic slow down effected by gargantuan wind gusts that get worse the closer you get to the Hudson River. All in all, it took me about 20, plus trip to the Duane Reade to pick up a snack for work. I had to go back underground at one point and use the tunnel at 6th Avenue and 14th Street. See, the 6th Avenue lines are connected to the 7th Avenue lines at 14th Street by a tunnel that goes the length of the avenue block. Convenient too because I got to go on to the L train platform while I was down there and check to make sure the countdown clock at Union Square wasn't broken. Sure enough, it still said around 29 minutes until the next 8th Avenue bound train. Of course this little excursion cost me a swipe of my metro card but, hey, that's why I buy an unlimited monthly pass...for times like these.

After getting to work, I proclaimed that I now hated snow...but I still had the commute home, little did I know. And it didn't stop all night long. My co workers were in and out all night and everyone seemed to be working a worse shift than me, some were working 12 hour shifts and crashing at the Maritime Hotel across the street (where NY1 puts us up in times like these) only to come back a few hours later. Me, I just had to stay until 8am, an extra hour.

When I left, I couldn't believe how much added snow there was. Even from the windows of the break room on the 6th floor it didn't look that high. The roads weren't even plowed all that well yet and there seemed to be almost no one out. And the wind. I had missed the worse of it being inside during the height of the storm. But there were still leftover gusts every once in a while. The highest recorded gust was 59 mph and I even overheard on NY1 that there was thunder snow! I guess that means someone reported hearing thunder while it was snowing...still sounds cool as hell though.

Anyway, I braced for a terribly slow train ride home but was met with probably the worst relative platform wait in the history of train riding. I managed to get the F to Jay St. and I transferred using the new connection to the R train(I couldn't have gone down to 4th Avenue/9th Street because all Coney Island bound trains that go above ground had been cancelled). After about half an hour waiting for that damned R train at Metro Tech, I started to curse out loud. In the strangest of coincidences though, I was in earshot of an MTA employee who overheard me saying to another straphanger that I'd been waiting for 30 #$@#$^! minutes. So she whips her radio out of her tool bag and calls the dispatcher to find out where the train was. Two stops away at Whitehall St., the last stop in Manhattan. It's almost 9am at this point, but I calm myself. There was after all, no other way to get home. I had even poked my head above ground to see what the cab situation was. There was no cab situation. There was no anything situation. The roads in downtown Brooklyn were nowhere near plowed and there was a smattering of people trudging through the middle of the street looking more bewildered than me who had been up all night.

When the R finally came, I hopped on and we lumbered out of the station, me thinking, "can this train go any slower?" One stop away from 25th Street at Prospect Avenue, the train conductor announces train traffic and says we'll be moving shortly. Then I hear the hum of the train's engines wind down, which usually mean, shortly isn't shortly at all. I waited a minute, then with an audible curse jumped up and walked out of the train. For a moment, I thought I might get some kind of overheard information, as the same MTA employee from the platform at Lawrence St. was out on the platform too, asking the brakeman what was up. But having little patience, I ejected myself through the turnstiles and began to scale the snow encrusted stairs out of the subway. And this is about what I saw when I came up:

Even More December Snow 2010


I even snapped a few more of the courtyard so you could see a comparison from last night's photos.

I slept until about 3:30 this afternoon, which doesn't sound like much but I'm rested and I think I want to go outside and snap some more photos the Canon camera before it's totally wrecked. Maybe I'll go to Prospect Park. Although it is windy out there. Very windy.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Blurb #22

Snow is now piling up on the window screens so that I can no longer watch the accumulation from inside. I just have to guess what it's doing out there. It started around 9:30 this morning, or shortly after. That's when I first woke up and there was no snow on the ground. Two hours later there was about two inches and it was picking up quite a bit. I keep hearing lines from "Let it Snow" in my head, mainly because it doesn't show signs of stopping, but also because I actually do have some corn for popping (been doing it on the stove top with olive oil, salt and pepper). There is no fire but last night's at Dawn's house was delightful. Unfortunately, I don't have "no place to go" (proper use of double negative, ha!) since I have the overnight shift tonight. I have to work an extra hour tomorrow morning too because of all the extra coverage the station does.

I tried going out in the snow earlier to take some photos and maybe grab a tea at Has Beans, the coffee shop up the street but I couldn't make it. It was just too windy and my camera was soaked. But here are the pics I took:

More snow December 2010

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Brooklyn is home and Merry Christmas...

Christmas night. Unlike last Christmas, which I spent almost entirely alone, I was able to spend my afternoon and evening with some friends from the church, having dinner and sitting by the fire in my friend's brownstone apartment (firewood provided by yours truly, which I picked up from the bodega on the way). My friend Dawn invited me and some others to what she called an "orphan's Christmas" as it was mostly comprised of people who had no place to go for Christmas. We had Tofurkey and mashed potatoes among other traditional turkey dinner trimmings.

It was a rather nice dinner and great company besides. Made me happy to be in New York. Of course, I'm always happy to be here, though. I've felt particularly connected to the borough in many ways in the past few weeks. Take what happened last Sunday, when I was running late to choir rehearsal because of the train (for a change, ha!). After waiting on the platform for ten minutes, I started to notice people wandering toward the turnstiles from the far ends of the platform and, when I took my headphones out, I could hear a muffled sound on the PA. So, I headed back toward the entrance myself and found the station attendant addressing the throngs of people (the first sign it's been a while since a train has passed is an unnatural buildup of people on the platform). Apparently, the R train was stuck at 36th Street for some unknown (or undisclosed) reason and we were being told to either wait or that we could get a train at DeKalb Avenue (for those of you non-Brooklynites, DeKalb Avenue is 5 stops away from where I usually catch the train at 25th Street). I thought, "to hell with this, I'll either walk to 4th Avenue/9th Street and get the F or G or try to catch a livery cab or go back home and sleep." The last option, I hoped not to do because the choir was having one of its last rehearsals before the Christmas Eve service. Thinking there'd be no way I'd be on time if I walked 13 blocks to the F train and then waited, I started to crane my neck out into traffic and scan for any kind of cab I could spot. A passerby, who had obviously been in the train station previously, saw my familiar maneuvering and asked me if I was getting a cab. When I told her I was, she asked if she could share one with me and we began discussing our various paths (She had to go to Manhattan). Before I knew it, another two people had come up and asked us if they could ride along as well. We all talked it over and agreed, and luckily just as we had come to a consensus that we could all benefit from the same cab ride, despite our wildly different destinations, a livery cab drove up and I deftly flagged him down. We all hopped in and got chatting and it turned out that the two girls in the back seat with me were also musicians and one was even also on her way to a church choir rehearsal. Imagine that. I even ran into the other choir singer a few days later on the R train and we exchanged info, agreeing that us musicians should stick together for networking's sake at least. She's a music teacher and an opera singer.

I just loved that spirit of New Yorkers banding together when the system fails us. It just made me love this city even more, that total strangers can trust and help each other in a situation like that. Even more thrilling was the fact that, more so than anywhere else I've lived, musicians and other like-minded artistic and creative people just seem to pop out of the woodwork here. I've made so many connections just by being where I am than I have trying to go out and specifically meet musicians and filmmakers. It's beautiful.

Tonight, as I was heading back from Dawn's apartment, I spotted someone smiling at me on the train platform at Bergen Street and then it dawned on me after boarding the train that it was one of my neighbors. She lives in my wing of the building but two floors up and I've never spoken to her except for a few smiles and occasional hellos on the way in and out. So when we both made the same train connection at 4th Avenue/9th Street we started chatting. She's really nice and it turns out she's a vet tech and we both work overnight shifts so we got to laughing about that. She's lived in the building all her life and knows everyone here. It's always interesting to me when I get to talk to lifelong New Yorkers too and compare living in the suburbs to their lives growing up in a huge metropolis like New York.

I felt bad because I didn't initially talk to her, not tonight on the platform, or even all those times I crossed her path on the stairs. And then I find out how nice she is. I realize that a lot of outsiders in New York move into places with people who have lived there all their lives and see the newcomers as signs of gentrification and sometimes with a little bit of mistrust or suspicion. It's too bad and my shyness ends up playing into that. Yet, I'm at the same time curious about their lives and, without exception almost, every one that I have met here is very kind and outgoing and helpful. The guys at the corner deli (who I found out are all brothers) who always say hey, how's it going? when I go in there before work, Frances upstairs with her granddaughter that she's always apologizing for stomping on the floor, even the quiet Chinese man, who works in the laundromat downstairs, helping me with my bills in the change machine. Brooklyn is feeling like home to me because of all of these things coming together.

And I love it.

Tonight, I'm running on a few hours of broken sleep, which ended abruptly at 5 this morning when I had to go in for an odd shift covering for a coworker who had covered me a few weeks ago when I had two concerts in one week. Tomorrow I do the overnight so I'm pushing myself to stay up and sleep late tomorrow. I'll go to the Vespers service at the Unitarian church tomorrow to sing but I'm definitely sleeping until at least 1 or 2 in the afternoon.

Beyond that, I've not been doing much since I got home. Just wrapping presents and organizing my thoughts on my next couple of projects. As usual my mind is full and I now have to empty it out and try to sleep. More to come. But for now, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Twas the week before Christmas...

Last night there was a lunar eclipse. I got the chance to view it from the roof of the building where I work because I was helping the assignment editor with the camera equipment because the news department wanted footage of it but there was no one else who would come in overnight to do it. The best time to see it, apparently, was between 2 and 4am. Also, coinciding with the eclipse was not only the winter solstice but the Ursids meteor shower, which I unfortunately could not see because of a giant wisp of cloud blocking the northern sky.

There was something unique about the night as I was on the way to work. I got there early and stepped back out into the night to pick up a snack at the Duane Reade on 8th and 16th and noticed something odd. It was quiet. Of course, I didn't have my headphones in and when I say quiet I don't mean backwoods country quiet but there were few people outdoors and any ambient noise seemed far off. Maybe it wasn't that the city was quiet but that some of the din was stripped away so that it was almost like you could hear the city breathing. Some of the hum of heating vents on the giant Port Authority building and a few fire trucks some four or five blocks to the north were all I could really hear. I relished in it and took my time getting back into the building for work.

It's hard to believe I'm going into my third year in the city. I had friends in the city this weekend for a brief visit and they asked me how I was liking it. Whenever I'm asked this, I usually answer, when the person has barely finished the question, that I love it and I'm never leaving. I have found, however, that it is nice to leave on occasion, but that the place pulls you back relentlessly. I've never felt this way about a place. To some it might be laughable but a lot of other people get it, even if they don't get New York (or Brooklyn...although most people I know who know Brooklyn, get why and how you could love it).

At this time of the year, and more so now, especially since I've been deepening my yoga practice and becoming more aware, I start to think about goals for the following year and accomplishments from the previous one. I think this year, I'm going to divide it into two categories, things I'm going to do and things I'm going to change.

I just re-read a blog from this week last year and, though I only vaguely outlined my resolutions there, I figured it was a good place to start with what I'll do, by looking at what I said I'd do last year. What stuck out is that I said I'd write prolifically like I did back in 2007 after I restarted graduate school, and I can't really say that I did. I had a few good gigs and some great accomplishments, don't get me wrong. But the sheer output of new material just wasn't there. I think, in the interest of being realistic, what I did then was to focus on defining long term goals instead of struggling to do a lot of stuff. Which is why I started the voice over career and why I began to really flesh out my ideas for the live electronic music project. But now that those plans are in place, I need to focus on what's going to make me accomplish them.

I thought about what it was that made me write so much back in 2007 and it was first, emotional trauma (divorce), but more than that, it was the prospect of having it all performed. That's what I lacked last year. This year, I already have at least one performance slated and the live electronic music project, if all goes well, will have built-in incentive to write because of the potential for live performances. Hopefully, this will work to my advantage.

As for voice over, right now I'm volunteering at Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, which will ensure that I keep practicing even if I don't always get to it at home, but soon, I'll have to start applying for jobs. So that's my strongest resolution, to be aggressive in my attempts at job hunting for VO jobs. Beyond that, I'm going to get the electronic music off the ground and I'm going to submit a few of the things I did finish last year to competitions and try to plan to record them, along with some of the old stuff.

The things I'm going to change, however, I'll work on on my own in the next week or so. For now, I'm going to wind down. I get to sleep in tomorrow so I must take advantage. On Christmas morning I have to work at 6am and I'm not looking forward to getting up that early. Especially since I just went to bed today at 730am. Good night and Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Decluttering and Destressing...

Sitting at home on a Saturday night working on a piece of music, taking a little break for an update. I got done with a lot of small tasks on this particular piece I had set aside for tonight. Things like fixing a few mistakes I'd caught, writing a few new parts and finishing re-entering parts of the score from the printed copy that were missing from the older copy I had to revert to after the virus. Now, I'm getting to the point where I'm taking a step back and listening to my ideas, thinking about what the piece is missing. I have a lot of logistical things with this piece, like sampling and looping the orchestra parts, that I'm trying to work out as I write it, but some of the logistics I can't really bother with until the piece is written anyway. So, now it's time to rethink a few things. The structure of the piece is there but it's lacking in some places...there's no real arc yet.

Anyway, so right now my other big thing has been this ongoing battle to get the room to a point where it doesn't feel so cluttered so I can work in here more effectively. I had a discussion with my roommate/cousin about all the things that are hanging about with no real home and cluttering up the common space and it started to make sense to me to rent a storage space for these things. The only big things are my beer equipment, camping gear and window AC unit...so now I have to justify other things that might go in there. Some of the boxes under my bed come to mind. Musical instruments are all staying here, of course.

If I'm going to stay in this apartment another year or more, I do want it to be comfortable, so it's probably best for me to just stop fighting the fact that my bedroom is so small and start really working to solve the problem. I have a friend donating her flat screen monitor to me soon, so I imagine that this monitor I'm looking at now that takes up 1/4 of my room by itself, will probably go in storage until my dad takes it back.

But blah blah blah. The best news of the week is that the six piano sketches are all done and ready to be performed...better yet, published. That's the next thing to do. More on that later.

Additionally, I've done my second volunteer training session at Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic. Mainly, I've just been "directing" which entails merely, listening to the narrator, catching mistakes and marking page numbers. It's fun though, and I'm learning their conventions for how they read certain passages. It's interesting to note that they are required to describe photos and diagrams in these text books as they go along. I've met some nice people there so far and hope to be doing it once a week until I get fully trained and then maybe once or twice a month.

What else is there to tell? It's getting cold in the city and will probably snow soon. Work is going well but taking it out of me slowly for all the schedule switching but I could be doing something a lot worse for a company that sucks quite a lot more. The company isn't bad, though. They threw us another great Christmas party and I even won one of the raffle prizes and then danced my face off while full on some excellent catered food.

I should get back to work though. I may be burnt out on the orchestra piece but I think I'll work on some electronic stuff. Laters.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Tania Stavreva...

The concert at Fez Art Cafe was a hit. It was sort of unique in that it was in such a small venue. I said "small"...I meant tiny. I walked in and my first thought was, "I bet there's a room in the back with a piano in it." As soon as I had thought the word "piano" though, I saw the actual piano and it was in that same tiny room right next to the bar. Not what I was expecting at all but hey, cool, right? Tania was playing a lot of music that was originally meant to be performed in salons (Debussy, Chopin, Satie...me.), so it fit the venue.

In addition to those and my piece, she performed a few pieces by another living composer named Scott Wollschleger, who was also in the audience and whom I got to meet. One of his pieces, my favorite of the two had one of those interesting graphic scores and entailed a whole lot of smashing the piano and leaning elbows on the keys. Pretty fun to watch. There was also at least one piece by Mason Bates, which had some electronics (a track that was played back on CD along with the piece). She planned to play the whole set twice so that all of her friends could get a chance to hear it, although, most of the people who were there when I arrived at 7pm were there all night. One of my friends showed up with his wife but they couldn't find a seat so they had to leave unfortunately. So it was at least a good turnout.

After Tania's two sets, another singer/songwriter named Natti Vogel performed a set. Natti and Tania are good friends and Natti is such a strong personality that the whole room was pretty much taken over by a different, more comfortable vibe at this point. Natti is like a male Tori Amos but a lot more theatrical and histrionic even, with a little bit of a cabaret singer feel. Somewhat goofy and eccentric and quite the show stealer. Since the show was so intimate anyway, and most of the people in the audience were friends, at one point, the show boiled down to Natti playing covers of Mariah Carey songs and rehashing a Bulgarian Idol contestant's version of "Without You." Even before I could make that comment about Natti being a male Tori Amos, we got talking about Tori during a break and before I knew it, we were all singing along to this and that Tori Amos song. Of course, he's a fan. Later, because it was Tania's birthday, the owners of Fez Art Cafe brought Tania a cake of which we all had some and finally left at around midnight.

A fun night all around and I was proud to be surrounded by such fantastic musicians. This evening I'm taking some of that creative energy and putting it towards my own music. I spent the evening finishing up a piano sketch that was started in the spring of 2008 and never finished. I'm glad that this is moving along now because it's the last of a series of piano pieces from that era that never got finished. Now, I have a handful of other chamber pieces floating around that I'm going to dive into and then, the untitled electronic piece I initially wrote for Jahna Bobolia's Collapsing Elbows but which didn't end up fitting with the project. I've been meaning to polish that one off and submit it to a few places. Needs a title too. Maybe I'll put it to some of my friends?

At noon today, I sang with the jazz choir (tentatively named the Uni-Tones) at the Brooklyn Unitarian Church's yearly fundraiser, Unifair. That was a lot of fun. We sang two jazz arrangements of popular Christmas songs (one of them, "White Christmas," arranged by our director Bob Bero, and the other a jazzy arrangement of "Let it Snow") and then invited people shopping at the fundraiser to sing carols along with us. By the end of the day, though, I think I'd had my fill of Christmas music.

Right now, I'm debating staying in for the night and getting more done or just taking it easy. Might be time to do the latter.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving...

I went to upstate NY for Thanksgiving to see relatives and slept 10 hours straight the first night, more than I've managed to sleep on any night for a very long time. It was much needed. And now it's back to work. I just spent way too long figuring out how to mass email my friend list on Facebook and the best I could come up with was to just send a mass invite that I'm hoping won't get overlooked. If you're seeing this and I didn't email you the Facebook invite, then please don't be offended. Facebook has some things they need to iron out.

Meanwhile, that brings to light one of the things I need to work on figuring out...a good way to send a newsletter out monthly. I've had too many musical events lately that some of you have missed out on so I'm detecting a need for improvement there. Hopefully, with the release of the new website and subsequent rebranding of various web portals I subscribe to, I will add newsletter to the list of things to do.

Expect this blog to change a little too. I want to start offering music software tutorials as a way to drive more traffic to my site. I've already got a lot of content here which should look good for search engine indexing but I want more visibility definitely.

More on that later as it unfolds. Currently, looking for my copy of Ableton Live right now because I wanted to start tinkering with that today while I had the time. No luck so far so I may just be heading out of the house to meet with Pamela. We're going to be probably just hanging out and tossing around musical thoughts and debating the future performances of Teletextile and how they will go.

Half of me wants to clean this room up first before I leave, while I have a full day off, but it's such an overwhelming project. It will need to happen though. I just built one of these and it's sitting on my floor currently because I have nowhere to store it when I'm not using it. I am excited to have the portable sound booth action going on and am excited to try it but I have to wait for a smaller mic stand, which I just ordered, to come in the mail. Then, only then, oh finally, at last, for the love of god! can I actually start auditioning from home. And even then, I definitely want to eventually get a new audio interface because I'm oh so tired of the crap Tascam thing I got two years ago which lasted three months before crapping out the left channel output. It's usable now but wouldn't it be nice to maybe have something new and with a nicer preamp? And something I can eventually take out with me when I play live.

All this equipment lust has gotten me thinking about a site called Rocket Hub again. It's what they call a crowd funding site, where you can create a project, tell people about it, and solicit donations in exchange for incentives (in my case, things like a signed copy of the album I'm going to record next year, or perhaps I'll name a song after you or come play in your hometown...within the continental US of course and with the caveat that there'd better be a crowd there). Check it out...you'll be hearing more about it from me soon. I'm going to be honing my project description and the list of incentives and eventually publish it and let you all know about it.

For now, I think I'm going to go drain my brain and restart. Apparently a calming weekend upstate with my relatives isn't quite enough to fully relax and center me.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A weekend full of music...

Time to update on one busy and exciting weekend. First, there was the performance with Teletextile on Saturday night and then the world premier of my piano sketch titled, "The Way We Dream" at the Brooklyn Unitarian Church service Sunday morning.

The weeks leading up to the Teletextile show were so much fun. Practicing and bonding with a band again was really amazing. As I may have mentioned, I came in originally to arrange all of the vocal parts and to help Pamela with translating the recordings to the stage. I ended up singing in the backup group and playing Pamela's Wurlitzer on "I Don't Know How to Act Here." The show went well too and the group was really tight. The whole band consisted of myself and two to three other backup singers, also playing percussion, claps, foot stomps, etc., a guitarist, Pamela on vocals, harp, violin and guitar and a friend of Pamela who was brought in last minute to trigger samples and backing tracks...all of us wearing a motif of gold and feathers as per Pamela's request. Pictures might be forthcoming, though I'm not sure I saw anyone other than one person taking photographs in the crowd. One of my friends did snap this one though:



Other than playing most of the new EP, Pamela also played a few new songs, one called The Unknown, which had a pretty extensive backup vocal part. Another new one, called Fistfuls of Fire, had to be cut because the sound guy at Pianos was a bit of a stickler for time. Watch for this one at future Teletextile shows though, because it's really good.

I'm really excited to see where this goes, playing and helping out with this band because I'm meeting all sorts of musicians through Pam and already have some prospects for future jam sessions. More to come on that.

On Sunday morning, Bill Peek, the Brooklyn Unitarian Church's choir director premiered my piano sketch as a prelude to the morning service. It was quite exciting to hear it live. This particular piece is one of a handful that I wrote the same semester in graduate school when I was beginning my thesis and studying for my comprehensive exam so it, unfortunately, got swept under the rug for a while, as I was focusing on those two projects intensely. It took the possibility of it being performed to get it finished this year a few months ago and I took it to Bill about a month ago. He graciously accepted playing the piece for the church and took a few weeks to practice and solidify the piece. He played it very well. It was a nice interpretation. I'm always talking about how a piece always seems more real once it's been actually performed instead of just played back by a computer or plunked out by yours truly. Now this piece has life and hearing it yesterday morning makes me want to really work hard at getting the other piano sketches finished. "Quivering Filament of Incandescent Bulb," another of the three sketches written about the same time, was finished in early 2009, and revamped earlier this year while I was recovering from my computer virus. The final one, "Misery Pages," I now have incentive to finish because it will make the three into a whole cycle which can be performed together. So, that's my next project.

And with any luck, Tania, the pianist, will be playing them at one of her concerts soon. The upcoming one, on December 2nd at Fez Art Cafe in Brooklyn will feature my piano sketch no. 1 - "Snowfall" which will be its Brooklyn premier (having had its world premier at UNC Greensboro in the fall of 2005). If you're in New York, I expect you to try your hardest to make it to this concert, it's looking like it'll be a good one. Take a look at the Facebook page for Tania.

For now, I gotta run. Heading to work and thinking up more ideas for the new website. Coming soon. I'll be in touch.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Teletextile...

Did I mention I've been busy? Yes, of course I have. Of all the projects on my plate, one that I didn't mention last time and one that is starting to take precedence over everything is that I'm currently doing some arranging for one Pamela Martinez and her band Teletextile. It's been a fun project so far, mainly arranging her background vocals for her rehearsals. Her recordings are well produced and rich with instrumentation and harmony so she's been looking for a way to get that translated to the live show. On November 20th at 8pm, the band is playing at Pianos on the LES, so if you're in New York you should try to come see it.

Excitingly, and as previously mentioned, that same weekend on Sunday morning, Bill Peek will be playing a piano sketch of mine titled, "The Way We Dream" as a prelude to the morning service at the First Unitarian Church in Brooklyn. Service starts at 11am sharp for those interested in coming just to hear the piece.

This morning I'm working the second to last overnight shift before I go back into my regular schedule. And I'm lacking a great deal of sleep right now but I feel pretty alive nonetheless. Quite surprised actually to not be rubbing my eyes as I type this. It's been a struggle to manage my time over the past few weeks but I must say that I'm coming out on top of that struggle. All thanks to the sense of routine that my yoga practice has instilled in me. It's remarkable how dedicated you can find yourself to something if you're paying for it...and here I was avoiding getting a gym membership thinking I didn't want to pay for something I wasn't sure I'd find the time for. Then I realized that simply making time for something that grounds me in some kind of routine helped everything else to fall into place.

Now, I don't know how much I've said about the Anusara Yoga studio in DUMBO that I've been a member of for almost two months, but it's a great place and all the teachers are really nice and experienced too. The location is nice too (I can gaze out at the Manhattan skyline from the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges on up to the Empire State Building and the rest of midtown from the wide windows on two sides of the studio). I've been deepening my practice as well and finding out I can do things I never imagined I could do...like Wheel Pose or Urdhva Dhanurasana for example. The first time I got up into that pose, I just felt this incredible rush and I was so aware of my body when I came out of it. Also, learning about proper alignment in these poses has really helped me get around problems I've been having with my knee. I'm finding that it's the best form of exercise for me, much better than running or lifting weights or even doing yoga on my own at home.

Another part of my routine is the Park Slope Food Co-op, catering to my need to be environmentally conscious and at the same time, not pay too much for organic groceries. It's not too far out of my way, in fact, closer than Trader Joe's and much more convenient to post yoga class grocery trips. I've worked two shifts there so far stocking and processing produce in the basement and enjoyed it both times, despite being so out of it the last time from having just woken up that I knocked over a box of mushrooms and spilled an entire crate of hot peppers within the first hour of my shift. Yikes, right?

So, my new routine has certainly helped with productivity and I've even had some great networking opportunities in the past week alone. On Sunday, my friend Anne, the co-owner of Tate Street Coffee House in Greensboro, NC, came to the city to run the NYC Marathon and later took a bunch of old coffee house employees out to dinner in the East Village. At the dinner I met the wife of one former employee who is an actor/dancer and we chatted for a long time and exchanged cards.

On Monday, I went with a friend to a silent auction for Forward Motion Theater and met another UNCG Alum who is a choreographer. Also exchanged cards.

And working with Pamela's band I've met some talented musicians too. I'm excited because any number of these connections could be beneficial and I can see new projects popping up everywhere.

Anyway, tomorrow morning, er, afternoon, when I wake up, I'm going to jump right into finishing the background vocal arrangement for Pamela and will probably meet with her at some point to go over some things. For now, I get back to work. And sleep is thankfully not far off either.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

It's good to have ideas...

It really is. I've been buzzing the past few days with them and trying to write them all down. Not just piece ideas but about new ways to realize pieces and perform pieces. I won't say much more because it's a new idea that I don't think anyone else has tried. But I will say that it's gotten me salivating over new software synths and hardware controllers.

But beyond that, I'm still in a stage where I can't get those things yet so I'm biding my time writing more music. Working on currently, and simultaneously: a new piece for Tania, the pianist, finishing an orchestral minimalist piece that was started earlier last year (this one is based on a simple rhythm that I derived from the sounds that water in a tea kettle made one morning after I placed it back on the stove top), the last part of a three song piano cycle, the first of which is being played on the 21st of November at the Brooklyn Unitarian Universalist Church and lastly a handful of electronic music ideas that are hanging loose and unfinished.

This is, believe it or not, how I prefer to work. It may not be very efficient but the combination of small steps on several projects and the prospect of having several options for what to work on on any given day, keeps my momentum up and keeps me from getting distracted.

Also, happening, is the new website...to be revealed soon. Hoping to get that off the ground soon because I've been out advertising that I do voice over now. I went to Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic the other day to see about volunteering there recording audio books for the print disabled. That seems like it'll be fun.

This'll have to be a short one because I'm heading off to work now. But more to report soon, for sure. It's getting cold in the city.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Blurb #21

Two blurbs in one month...Tim must be busy. I am. Just dropping in to mention the many amazing things that have happened and have been going on. First, things that are on my plate, projects, etc.: The Bulgarian piano player has agreed to premier one of my pieces on an upcoming concert probably on December 2nd, I have joined forces with a friend whose band needs some help with arrangements (more on this later), one of my newer piano sketches is being performed at church in three weeks and I'm finishing the rest of three piano sketches that were meant to be a cycle and will probably be performed together soon. Also, secondly, good news about what's been happening: I'm writing again (with some fantastic ideas regarding orchestra with electronics about which I'll not say much just yet), I keep making contacts both in VO and music and the new website will hopefully be revealed soon so I can start putting myself out there again.

For now, I just got back from voting for the first time in NYC and in NY State for that matter and I'm going to head off to yoga in a moment, sufficiently bleary eyed and not even sure why I didn't get much sleep last night...oh yeah, that's right, I work a god-awful shift that has me sleeping during the day. Oh well. Can't have everything.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Burning both ends of the midnight oil...

Blogging from my phone while sitting in my favorite park. I uploaded pics from the upstate trip the other day.

Best of Upstate NY October 2010


The trip was fun and renting a car was actually not a total disaster. Though it did take a little extra time picking it up, but only because there were people in front of us who couldn't make up their mind whether or not they wanted the insurance or not. We were on the road before 10:30 though and with the help of my mix cds, we had a relatively smooth trip, minus one minor traffic jam on the thruway (...and yes, I said mix cds...I programmed the whole trip!).

We were the only people at the orchard when we arrived so we had the run of the place. We picnicked and then took our bags down to the orchard to explore. Not very many apple varieties were still on the tree but we picked a peck each and, after buying some goods at their store (a pumpkin pie and some apple salsa among other things), we headed down the thruway again to the sculpture park. Because of a truck passing us at the wrong moment, we accidentally missed the exit and, with time running out before closing at the park, I opted to pull an illegal u-turn to get us back on track in lieu of going 20 more miles and paying another toll.

In the end we had about a half hour longer to explore what was a beautiful sculpture park. It was opened back in 1960 and is probably one of the biggest collections of its kind. Some of the work was even commissioned for the park. One in particular being a spot where the earth itself was sculpted into a row of hills.

Meanwhile, I've had some interesting developments here in the city. Last year around this time I got a message from someone who had been scouring the internet looking for music he could arrange for his orchestra in Phoenix. He found "Of Slowly Falling Rain and Autumn Chill" and liked it enough to request a copy of the score. I obliged because I saw it as great exposure but later that day I realized that, if one person likes my music enough to play it others might and i'd be doing myself a great professional disservice if I didn't put it up online and sell it. So I did and I haven't had a bite since. Granted I haven't exactly advertised it's existence but I'll get to that.

Yesterday, in the middle of what was turning out to be another one of those days where I'm feeling like complete shit because of some extraneous factor, probably money, I got an email from someone else who had stumbled on my webpage while scouring the internet for music. She wanted to know how she could buy my music because she had liked a certain song and wanted to use it for a dance piece. This was great, I thought, but it raises a couple of issues. The first being how and what to charge. I, at one point, had an online store but have been spending so much time lately revamping my music and wondering if any of it is "finished" enough to sell, that I haven't even considered keeping up such a venture. Of course, now I'm reconsidering. The other issue is whether to charge for the music as though it were a regular music download and let ASCAP do the job of collecting royalties or to charge this person as though I were licensing them the music for their personal use. I opted to give her the choice because after all, she didn't tell me much about the project other than that it was being thrown together for a show which is happening tomorrow at Triskelion Arts in Williamsburg. Of course, she chose the cheaper of the two evils and I obliged anyway, figuring, all potentially damaging precedent setting aside, at least it's exposure. And exposure of a different sort. Having something posted on the internet, though it is more widely available, does not feel as exciting as having my music played, no matter how small the audience is. Case in point, it was the dance performance a few weeks ago that exposed this person to my music in the first place. When someone's name appears in the program of a performance, they seem more real than a webpage.

Of course, the object now is certainly to make my webpage make me seem more real. That is what the past few days have taught me. That and you should always check on all of your webpages and email accounts as often as is possible. When I went to go check on my online store and see if it was still up on Myspace, I noticed an email from April in my Myspace inbox from someone who said she works A&R for a music supervisor in L.A. and was interested in my music. I immediately started kicking myself and wondering how in the hell I could have missed that. Then, of course, I emailed her back and apologized for missing the email and directed her to my webpage and the rest of my reel.

This all just leads me to the final point I've decided to take from all of this. Be prepared. If you're going to put music out in the ether, be prepared to deliver more of the same...i.e. keep your chops up. Don't neglect it either and let it sit up there and get old. Refresh it all the time. Incidentally, this is why I haven't advertised my music's existence aggressively. I haven't been ready before now for people to actually be interested in buying my music either to perform or listen to but now, or at least within a few weeks, I will be. That's the idea, at least.

I actually find it to be quite lucky that all this happened the week before I sit down and talk to my web designer about what I want from the new website. It brings up some great points and ultimately is going to shape how well my webpage works for me and harnesses the massive marketing power of the internet.

In other news, I sat down with the Bulgarian piano player and talked ideas about how my work is going to fit in with her upcoming concert plans. She may play the dance piece, Collapsing Elbows, and potentially a cycle of three piano sketches (one of them being the one my choir director will play at the Brooklyn UU next month!). She has great ideas and I'm quite excited to be working with her. I'll keep you all updated on what will happen next there. The first concert may be around New Year's.

For now, I should go and start burning that midnight oil. Lots of work to do!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Blurb #20

Leaving for Upstate New York tomorrow...we're renting a car in downtown Brooklyn and driving up to Stone Ridge Orchards to do some apple picking and then heading down to the Storm King Sculpture Park. Should be loads of fun and I just barely remembered to bring my camera. While I was checking it to see if the battery was good, I realized I never uploaded these:

Best of Owen and Raleigh


...from my stay in Raleigh back in August. There are pics of the NC Museum of Art with my brother and a few shots of Josee's kids. I'll post tomorrow if I have time with pics of the leaves and apple picking. See you around!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Massive Excitement!

Massive excitement here. Lots to report. The voice over demo is here so it's time to hit the ground running. When I received it in my email, I almost immediately uploaded it to my web page and posted it up on my voice123 profile. All that's left to do is figure out what I'm going to do about hard copies of the demo on CD (I.e. designing the cover and labels, etc and ordering materials) update the look of my website and then start marketing like crazy while simultaneously auditioning as much as I can. So, in effect, I still have a ways to go.

That having been said, I still feel like this is a real turning point. Maybe, turning point is the wrong phrase. It feels like I can finally move on a ton of things whereas before there were only so many things I could do. A lot of planning and no implementation. Everything after this will feel like real action instead of just tentative planning.

Anyway, after an overtime week this week I'll finally get a day trip out of the city. I'm renting a car with Stephanie and heading upstate for hopefully some apple picking and definitely a look at the Storm King Sculpture Park near Beacon, NY. Getting out of town will be nice and I promise to post pictures.

The business cards are also here...if I didn't mention. They finally arrived on Monday and I've been trying to contain my excitement about them as well, to no avail. They look awesome. A nod to Mollie Craver and SunSign Graphic Design.

Later next week I'm hoping to meet with the piano player I had talked about. We'll discuss her playing one of my pieces or me writing a whole new one for her. I've got some innovative ideas there that will remain secret for now.

Outside of music news, I've recently been going to yoga classes at a studio called Abhaya in DUMBO. It's Anusara yoga which until meeting Stephanie I was unaware of. It's nice. It takes the technicality of Iyengar's school of yoga and combines it with a much more fun loving user friendly approach to the poses that makes it far less intimidating than other styles. I've been going three times a week for the past month and I feel pretty amazing. I'm learning a lot too and getting more flexible in the poses. The studio itself is amazing (it's on the 6th floor of an old building on the waterfront in DUMBO) and the teachers are all great. One of them I had taken classes with before at Mala in Cobble Hill.

So, the yoga has made a change in my life in that it has been easier to keep a routine going. Since I have to plan around classes I find myself much more aware of how I spend my time during the day...and since I'm planning more I get more done...hence getting the piano piece finished. Hopefully I can keep up the trend.

The next few weeks to months should be pretty exciting. Watch first for the change in the look and feel of my website. After that, I'll probably have more to say about the wonderful world of voice over. Soon, in fact, I may start doing some volunteer recording for Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic. More on that later though. For now, it's off to work.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The dance piece and some words about web design...

This afternoon, I'm brainstorming and researching for the new website. Which will be happening soon now that my logo design is done. In fact, my business cards should be coming via UPS any minute now. How exciting. They were supposed to be here Friday but there was a mix up. I had tried to rush the delivery so they'd arrive before the dance performance in Williamsburg this weekend. It wasn't a big deal though. I didn't have very many opportunities to network anyway.

The performance went off without a hitch, though. Of course, on my end there wasn't much chance for failure as the music was already recorded and there was no actual performing. Seeing the dance with the music and hearing it all on big speakers was pretty awesome. I'm pretty sure someone took video of the whole night. There were two main choreographers, one being the person I worked with and the other being my friend who introduced me to her. They performed a duet first that was choreographed for them and then Julia, my friend, showed her piece. Jahna, the one I worked with, had her three pieces performed after the intermission. Julia's was a long piece with about nine dancers and several changes of costume (incredible costumes, too...at one point, two of the dancers wore a dresses that were sewn together). Halfway through the piece, some of the dancers filtered through the audience and started to interact with audience members, myself and my friend Lacy included. That was bizarre but quite innovative I thought.

Jahna's three pieces were pretty awesome too, of course, I'm biased toward the first one which had my music. I enjoyed it thoroughly even with a few people rudely whispering through part of it.

Overall, this was a good experience, working with the dancer and I will probably be doing more of this kind of thing sooner or later. It's good after all to have many things on your list of things I have done and can do. For those who still haven't heard the piece here it is:



In other news, I may have mentioned here or posted on Facebook that I thought my Kombucha had grown mold but I was wrong about that and now am drinking the good stuff and, let me tell you, it is good. Well, good enough. It's not bubbly like the commercially bottled stuff but it certainly tastes like it's supposed to.

Beyond that, all this work on the website and waiting for the edit of the voice over demo is what is currently occupying my mind. I'll be sure to post as soon as the website's ready to publish so you all can see. There's going to be some major linkage between all my pages. I realized two important things in all my research and reading of articles: one is that there should be as few clicks to get to music as possible. You don't want anyone losing interest or, in the case of my parents, just not being able to find your music (Thanks, mom for directing my attention to that fact). Facebook is unhappily a culprit here as it's not that easy for someone to link to my music page. I had to put my own link to the fan page on my personal Facebook page near the top. Two is that there should be as little extraneous information as possible on the surface. I've seen so many home pages of website positively littered with content to the extent that you can't even see anything of value amongst the noise. Less is more they say. I've become fond of web page designs that have simple one short word links on the home page, music or sound instead of music portfolio, for example, or Buzz instead of Testimonials or Articles and Links.

But anyway, I will additionally post a blurb when I finally get the final edit of the voice over demo. For now, I'm excited because, as I typed this blog, I was in and out doing laundry and such and the cards came while I was down in the laundromat. Luckily, being it Columbus day, or Indigenous People's Day if you prefer, my cousin was home to sign for them. They look awesome!!!!!! But I will not spoil the surprise by showing you early what the design looks like. You'll see it when the web page is ready for publishing!

Meanwhile

Friday, October 1, 2010

Performances soon!

Been a few days and I thought I'd drop in and update. Since the last blog, I finished that piano piece that I was sitting on for two years and emailed it to my choir director at the UU Church. He's looking over it now. Says he likes it so far. With any luck I'll be telling you it's being performed soon.

Speaking of performances, next Friday and Saturday, the 8th and 9th of October, Where We Fall is performing at Triskelion Arts in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and one of the pieces on the program features my music! It's been a long time waiting for this one as I started writing the music back in the earlier part of the year and finished in July. I'm pretty excited this being the second premier of my music in New York City in just over a year and a half of living here.

What a run so far, don't you think? Anyway, the combination of that thought and the fact that I've picked up momentum with my writing again makes me want to negate a few things in that last blog entry. I know I sounded a little distraught and I didn't apply for that gig but a few weeks before I applied for some other ones (no responses yet, of course). But ultimately, it didn't shake my confidence all that much, seeing the perfect job and realizing I wasn't ready to apply for it.

Anyway, the new website should be happening soon, and by happening I mean I should be starting on designing it soon. Once the logo for the new business is finished and I have all the elements in place, all that remains is to design the interface. Content will all be for the most part the same. Perhaps I'll condense my music reel but other than that, straight up, film reel, music reel, voice over demo, bio, testimonials, etc. Excited to get it underway. Hopefully, then I'll be a little more gung-ho about applying for composing gigs since I'll have a prettier web face, so to speak.

Right now, it's a somewhat painful wait. The design of the logo is all but done, for now I just wait for the next step. The VO Demo is in the can but they're now editing it, adding music etc. I told them to cut me a version with and without music so I can later supply my own.

At any rate, I'd say despite my disillusion in the last entry, I think things are coming along just as they should and with any luck I'll keep up this momentum into next year. Writing the rest of piano piece was a good way to start because it got me back in touch with my old methods and I even started to think of new ones. Remember how I was complaining about my room not being the best place to compose? Well, I found as many ways as I could to get away from the computer during the past few weeks and I remembered in the process why Dr. E was always telling me to not write at the computer. You see things so much more clearly when you're sitting in front of a piano vs. a computer. Even printing the score out and taking my idle time at work to look it over helps immensely. I make notes. I take it back to the piano. I try things. I make more notes. Then, and only then, do I come back in front of the computer and make edits. PDF creation software is awesome too. I don't have to worry about needing a place to print out my scores if I can just email PDFs to myself and to the appropriate parties.

These are the things you pick up when trying to streamline your compositional process. The whole time I was writing (and just about every other time I dive into a project), I was thinking about how much something like a laptop computer would streamline my compositional process. I mean, for starters, I wouldn't have to wait until I got home to make edits. Think of the time saving there! Of course, I'd be lugging around a laptop and risking getting it stolen but man, what I could accomplish. There's that equipment envy though. In time. When I can afford it. Which may not be that far off. I won't say much more about that though.

Sidebar, I worked my first shift at the Park Slope Food Co-Op. Just as I thought, the requisite 2 hour and 45 minutes shift breezes by. I started off helping to stock produce, grabbing boxes of zucchini and kale off of the conveyor belt and rotating stock in the cooler. Then I wound up processing produce, meaning, slapping organic stickers (stickers that say organic, not organically grown stickers) on peppers and shallots, etc. Then I found myself talking to Jesse, a fellow pianist, while peeling rubber bands off of arugula, unusable by both the co-op and the soup kitchen up the street, that was bound for compost and then carrying said compost out back. After that, I spent the last half hour breaking down cardboard boxes and I was out of there. As I had initially posited, such a requirement was totally worth the cheap groceries it has afforded me. In fact, it was slightly easier than I imagined, the only hitch being that I stupidly chose an 8am shift on every fourth Wednesday of the month. I still I think I'm going to like this.

I have to get to work now, that other thing I do with all of my time. See you soon.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Confidence...

How did I get to a point where at 29, I see an job posting on mandy.com for a freelance composer/sound designer with 3 years of experience in the business (i.e. the perfect job for me right now) and, after all the work I've done composing and recording, it's still not enough for me to feel confident enough to apply for the job?

Mildly frustrated at this point. I mean, I'm feeling a lot like I'll never measure up to a job like this particular posting if I spend so many of my waking hours at a full time job, never having an adequate amount of time to devote to honing my skills and getting better at what I do (I'm talking about the recording, mixing, and mastering part of the job that'll really make my music sound professional if I can just get good at it). Meanwhile, I sit and wonder how all these kids my age who are successful somehow managed to make the right choices.

Maybe it's just that rock-out envy I spoke about earlier and I should just disregard. After all, I chose a path here and, though it may not feel like it, I'm making progress. The plan is to work on my voice over career and simultaneously keep honing my composing and recording chops until I can be my own boss. I may not ever compete on the level of this particular job that I saw today. I gotta keep on trying to find my own niche, as it were, instead of always trying to be what I see or wishing I had done something different. Anyway, that's no way to discover my own musical identity. Because if I keep changing directions every time I see something cool that I wanna be doing (playing in a rock band again or working for a company that does commercials and film music), I'll just be a confused pseudo musician who never completes anything. Maybe in time I'll be all to do all or some of that stuff but I need to focus on honing my skills right now with what little time I do have to work on it.

I came to a realization over the weekend while reading a book called "Grand Central Winter" by Lee Stringer, a former homeless New Yorker who became a writer while living on the streets of New York City. He was writing about his brother in one of his short stories and how he was a classical musician and how his mother always said he "lacked confidence." His music was just too personal for him to offer it up for personal consumption. I thought maybe that's my problem but I'd just never heard it put so eloquently. I get squeamish when I think of how my music is going to be received or how it's going to fit in with (or stand out from) the flood of music out there. To some degree it is very personal to me, my music, and I want it to be understood, just as any composer does. It even dawned on me that all of that might have an effect on why I'm never confident to go out for these jobs.

Also affecting my confidence is the fact that I spend so much time bouncing back and forth between emulating a style for a particular project and trying to come up with my own style. This is probably a pretty common dilemma for commercial composers looking for work. I admit that some of my most uninspired stuff has been written for a director who was asking for a specific style. But then again, some of my most inspired works, where the music really gelled and really hit with the director and the audiences who heard it, were also for film directors(independent film, mind you). They were jobs where I was given free reign and I was able to write from my heart. It probably helped that the projects I'm thinking of also contained subject matter that was easier for me to relate to.

This may sound limiting but what's to stop me from just going out for those kinds of jobs where I really connect to the project? Or should I be branching out and trying to compose in different styles. Emulation is a tricky thing, most especially because doing it not quite right makes it sound contrived and contrived music never convinces. Never.

Gotta focus. So today I'm going to spend a great deal of time on the piano music I've been writing. I also have to find and reenter the score for my minimalist piece as well because that got wiped back in March after the virus. I have a printed copy somewhere thankfully. The piano piece was something I started writing in the spring of 2008, when my piano had just been moved into my old apartment in Greensboro. I, unfortunately, had to abandon it and several other pieces that I wrote during that time period because I had to ramp up my studies for my comprehensive exam and starting focusing on writing my thesis on polymeter. Where have those days gone? This particular piece wanted to be a chamber piece for a while but now I think it's going to be better suited to being played solo in front of the Brooklyn UU some Sunday this fall.

So, I'd better go and start that up.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

On Why I Moved to New York...

A lot of you have heard me say that part of the reason I moved here to New York City and to Brooklyn, specifically, is for a lifestyle change. And I've spent several entries so far elaborating on what I mean by this because it is a multifaceted lifestyle change. Many of the lifestyle changes, however, have centered on the importance of environmental stewardship and awareness of my environmental impact. In the spirit of all that, today I joined the Park Slope Food Co-Op, a Brooklyn tradition since 1973. I had my orientation this morning and met a bunch of cool folks, all who seem to have the same care about, and appreciation of, environmental issues. The importance of sustainable, organic agriculture, the dangers of pollution (in the form of excess waste from product packaging, harmful chemical cleaners and solvents, and other ills found in modern processed food and household items) and the more recent highlight on buying from local farms were all reasons my new co-op friends cited for wanting to join.

The closest such establishment to Raleigh, NC that I knew of was Weaver Street Market in Carrboro and such things were a novelty down where I'm from. Plus, I had to drive my polluting stinking car to get there and this one I can walk to in twenty minutes or so. The reason I put off joining for a year and a half is beyond me but what pushed me to join was walking through with my friend Stephanie and seeing how much of a difference their much lower markup makes. They said something like 21% versus a typical 50 to 100% in a regular grocery store. Passing the cheese section, I saw a 6 oz. hunk of good cheese (Morbier or something) was somewhere in the neighborhood of a dollar and change whereas buying it in a regular grocery store or gourmet deli could run you about five to seven dollars. Wow! They only have 65 regular paid employees and the rest of their work is done by members during their once monthly shifts. Therefore, they can do away with the bulk of their payroll and pass the savings on to the members. The produce and bulk teas are especially low priced.

So, I'm in and I can shop starting tomorrow, I just have to pay my $25 member fee and make an investment in the company ($100 that I can get back if I move) and I'm golden. My shift is going to be receiving and stocking on a Wednesday morning in the not too distant future and it'll be repeated every four weeks. Two hours and 45 minutes. Not a bad commitment at all.

Anyhow, I also had my demo prep session at Edge today and that went quite well. We cut down the ten odd scripts I chose to twenty seconds each and I suppose next week we'll record the five or six that we choose to put on the demo and then it's in the can! Getting closer.

Here are some pics from the past few weeks. Some were taken on a Sunday after church when I was picnicking in Brooklyn Bridge Park with some friends from the U.U., the rest were taken last night at Fulton Landing nearby. I was trying to make a yoga class last night at Abhaya in DUMBO because I was given a free week card but I made it there a little too late and opted to do my yoga in the park there and explore the area a bit. Enjoy!

Best of Brooklyn Bridge Park and Fulton Landing

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Another way to say sleep...

Saturday night in New York City. Saturday, September 11th. Not much to say on the topic of memorial, just that I get emotional every time I read my sister's account of her day that day (in Arlington, VA) because I remember how stressful that was not knowing what was going on before the plane hit the pentagon. Surely, it can't compare to the experience of those who lost loved ones, or those who survived or witnessed the terror first hand. Nonetheless, that's my experience of it. And I do get emotional when I stop to really try and get a scope of the whole tragedy, how many people died, how sudden and unexpected it was and what a spectacular and horrific scene it was, especially in that it played out live on television to most of America.

I made it a point to try and glimpse the tribute in light out of the south facing window of the break room at NY 1 but, because of the angle from which I was viewing and the fog rolling in, I could only see what looked like one indistinct blur of light. The view from the Manhattan Bridge was no better, as the D train rides on the track that is on the north side of bridge so the rest of the bridge sort of blocks out some of the skyline. Last year, it was completely shrouded in cloud as I tried to view it from the hill in Sunset Park. Either way, I was reminded distinctly of the Bat Signal. After all, NYC is essentially Gotham.

In all serious, it was beautiful to behold, even on an eight inch TV monitor in the room where I work, with a reporter standing in the foreground.

Now, I contemplate sleep (let's face it, the trend these days for me to talk about sleep in my blogs probably stems from the fact that, right before bed, and as an antidote to sleeplessness, is the best time for me to write). Tomorrow is the first day singing with the choir at the Unitarian Church and I find myself chanting inside, I will write music for the choir, I will write music for the choir. And I intend to, in fact, I started to a few months back but I keep getting side-tracked. The notes are all still there from what I started and in fact, I just got inspired to offer up one of my piano pieces from the spring of '08. The unfinished ones. Ergo, this is incentive to actually finish one or more of those pieces. I found one that is a perfect candidate for a prelude or postlude for one of the services. It's currently called The Way We Dream and I have no idea where I got that title but it's a very catchy bit in a 7/8 meter (for those of you who don't know what that means, I'll try and explain it sometime). I wrote it on the piano when I first had it moved into the house in Greensboro where I lived during Grad School. I've always liked it and it's fun to play, it's just that the opening motive could be played so many different ways and I would just keep going with it until my mind would say, "okay, this should be doing something else by now."

The next question is, Am I going to perform it? Sheesh, I don't know. I haven't been confident in my playing in a long time. Which will sound silly since I have a degree in piano. It's certainly a consideration. But there's also a resident genius choral director/organist/pianist/multi-freakin'-instrumentalist in the house at the good ol' Brooklyn UU, if I can't get up the gumption to play my own piece. I'll surely have to run it by him first though anyway.

Either way, between that and the Bulgarian pianist, I may finally start to build up a little momentum here. Composing is hard enough but then when you factor in needing to do something else that is not music that takes up to 10 hours out of your day 5 days a week, commute included, just to to eat everyday, it can seem damn near impossible. Especially when I come home to a wreck of a room that is a wreck precisely because it is so small that there's nowhere to put any of the inevitable accumulation of mail, note paper and general detritus, so it all gets piled on top of piles until you have to do something about it before you can do anything productive at all!

I can see this is quickly becoming a rant, as evidenced by above run-on sentence, when it was meant to be a simple checking in and letting you know what's up. I guess I get frustrated when I juggle all these things just so I can be comfortable when comfortable doesn't afford me any creative stimulation. Nor does it afford me the time to let said creative stimulation manifest. So, I ask myself some days, when in the hell am I ever going to get my momentum back? I think about wanting to write music but I can barely find time to sit down and do it. I think about wanting to play with a band, too, and I realize that it's been so long since I've even plugged in my guitar amp (it certainly hasn't been connected to any outlets in this apartment that I've been in since March...that should give you some idea).

I have to remind myself though, on a regular basis, that I can't jump to the absolute, and that I actually have made headway in the past few months. And I'm doing just fine. I'm sure Beethoven's room was a horrible mess, too.

Anyway, I'd better go and do that thing I usually do right after finishing what I'm doing now.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

New Music Tuesday....

That was intended to simply refer to what day of the week it is and the fact that I'm posting new music but I think New Music Tuesday, now that I've typed the phrase, should become a thing, like Opposite Day or Casual Friday.

These are the latest additions to my ever expanding library. They are just "jams" at this point and not complete songs. This first one, "A Million Shades of Blue,"



...the title came to me one Sunday morning when I was heading home after a particularly late night hanging out with my friend Will, talking music. We were up until about 4am and since he lives in Clinton Hill it took me until almost 5 to get home on the train. At this point, it occurred to me exactly how late I had been out as the sky was turning a deep royal blue. I know I'm normally up at this hour on Mondays and Tuesdays but never do I get to actually be outside looking at the sky. It was pretty beautiful. I guess you'll probably hear when the sun actually comes up in this piece.

Anyway, this one, I titled "Fun With Noises" because I was messing with, exactly that, noises. That it became a piece of music is just a cool bi product of that. There is definitely a need for a new name though. It evokes an emotion I haven't quite put my finger on yet.

Enjoy!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Blurb #19

Was reading a little bit more on Kombucha. Apparently I don't have to worry until about the seventh day if nothing is happening and it also doesn't matter whether the culture sits at the bottom or floats at the top. This is the current state of my Kombucha. Sitting pretty at the bottom and not bubbling yet. It'd be a terrible waste of all that organic tea and sugar, not to mention the SCOBY I spent $10 on (probably could have gotten a free one if I'd waited).

All that aside, thanks for indulging me my anti-Celiac disease rant earlier. I'm happy I made my decision and after a long hard day at work, I'm sitting here chewing on some organic concord grapes (damn, these are the best grapes ever, even despite the inordinate amount of seeds!) that I got from the Park Slope Food Co-op. I'm joining next week I've decided. I was in there the other day with Stephanie and I really took a look at all the prices and decided I couldn't justify waiting any longer. It's going to be so much cheaper and it's all good quality. One 2 and 1/2 hour shift per month seems totally reasonable.

Anyhow, I had an opportunity today at work to meet a new musician friend. A co-worker and friend of mine who does the jobs report on NY 1, Asa Aarons, introduced me to a Bulgarian pianist on whom he did a report, or rather, whom he met while doing a story on a unique job fair in the city. She seems really cool and has a lot of acclaim so far. She's played Carnegie Hall, and tons of other locales in the city. But Carnegie Hall sort of trumps all of them, ya know? I'm sort of hoping we'll be able to collaborate but we'll see. She's headed back to Bulgaria for a while to be with her family.

For now, though, listening to her live CD which she gave me has got me on a piano composing kick. So, on top of practicing voice over in the next couple of weeks, I'm going to be making it a point to sit down at the piano daily and improvise. A new piece is born. For now, it's late and I should be sleeping...why do I always end my posts like that?

A slight post script, I've been bad about posting pictures. I may or may not have mentioned a trip to Red Hook to see an outdoor film on Valentino Pier ("Splash" with Tom Hanks) and a subsequent trip to this cocktail bar.

Red Hook is Awesome (Best Shots)


Next, these are shots from the East Village and the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival in Tompkins Square Park from last Sunday. Also a few shots, okay a ton of shots, from some of the community gardens on Avenue C.

Charlier Parker Jazz Fest and East Village Community Gardens


Lastly, Stephanie and I went over to Pratt to see the outdoor sculpture gardens there on Tuesday evening. Even peeked into the steam plant for the whole campus. Pretty intriguing. Read about it here. Apparently the guy who runs the steam equipment does a show every New Year's where he takes all of his equipment out and plays music with it. Sounds cool...I must know more.

Pratt


Coolest thing? I took these with the camera on my Droid and it records locations with the GPS so it can tell you exactly where I was when I snapped them. Too cool. And I realize now that this is way longer than a post script and that this blog is way longer than a blurb. Deal.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

KOMBUCHA!

This post will probably have nothing to do with my composing. I'm just so excited that I finally procured a Kombucha culture that I wanted to write about it. It's now sitting in about a gallon of tea in a sanitized glass jar with spigot that I got from someone on freecylce up in Inwood. And I'm sitting here all worried that I didn't cool the tea enough before pouring it in or that I made a mistake in pouring the tea over the culture and maybe I should have instead placed the culture in the tea as most people say to do.

All that aside, I think this'll be a great little project. Especially considering the $4.50 price tag on most bottles of store bought Kombucha. For those of you who nothing about Kombucha click here to save time in me explaining why I drink it. Some of you know I was diagnosed with Celiac disease back in January and that I've probably mentioned too much about my stomach problems here. It, Kombucha, certainly makes me feel a lot better whenever I've had the chance to drink it consistently for a week. In fact, it's one of the few things (probiotics in pill form are another) that have actually helped me stave off symptoms.

Which brings me to my next point. Those symptoms (I'm not going into detail but they were different from whatever symptoms prompted the diagnosis) actually arrived shortly after my endoscopy, after which my doctor pronounced that I had Celiac disease. The back story is that I went in, rather hapless, for a physical exam in December and then, when they ask you all your medical history and problems etc, I mentioned, rather offhandedly, that I was diagnosed with IBS some five years ago in NC. First mistake. Even though I told him those symptoms were now reduced to a degree where they were totally manageable and only stress related, my doc suggest I get tested for Celiac disease. I went along, thinking, "Fine, what the heck. I have insurance." The results from my blood test came back showing a vitamin deficiency (D. It's winter time in NYC of course I have a vitamin D deficiency, who wouldn't?), and the presence of certain antibodies associated with an auto immune response. So, I consented to have an endoscopy. The doctor took a biopsy and it appeared that I have damage to the lining of my intestine consistent with Celiac disease. But I still couldn't believe it.

I embraced the diagnosis rather well at first, but I soon realized that, for some reason, I was simply experiencing the five stages of grief, backwards. Yes, grief. Think for a second about how many effing things contain wheat and get back to me. It's some serious psychological torture. I was angry, defiant and depressed within weeks.

Especially since, upon going gluten-free, I started to feel worse. Now, I don't know if it was a bi-product of going gluten-free, or simply stress related to a change in my diet, or even just carelessness post-operation (I drank coffee and red wine in the week immediately following my procedure, something I rarely do because of the risk of symptoms, and developed some pretty awful, reoccurring heartburn and acid reflux symptoms). Either way, what would follow was months of speculation and research on my part and not a bit of help from my doctors at Murray Hill Medical Group.

I know that most people, I've talked to with Celiac complain of symptoms immediately following ingestion of wheat. Now, interestingly enough, I don't get that...at all. The main things that I've determined cause my symptoms are alcohol in large quantities, caffeine or coffee in large quantities or on an empty stomach, eating too fast, stressing out, not getting enough sleep, etc. In fact, the first time I had a beer (with significantly lower alcohol content than wine) after the gluten-free diet started, the next day? I felt fine. Not exactly 100% but certainly better than I'd thought I would feel.

Now, I did a little research and talked to a nutritionist. I read and she said that I could have Celiac and not exhibit symptoms but it would still be doing damage to my system. An invisible culprit that doesn't directly give you symptoms but could be causing damage that could be leading to the symptoms you have when you do other things. I thought, "well that's a bum rap!" (Does anybody say that anymore?) If I'm being told that not eating wheat will make my symptoms go away, and it doesn't, but that I should still not eat it because it's causing damage to my system, that just really sucks.

Plus, I had been off of gluten for so long, I thought I'd be seeing a change. But, no. The only things that have made me feel marginally better have been moderating my alcohol, i.e. cutting back for days to weeks at a time, taking probiotic pills for my gut and drinking Kombucha.

But I still had all these questions and was trying to look at this all logically. Because I really didn't think I had it after all that time. My favorite question and the one that really just made me decide this was stupid: What about eating a little bit? I read somewhere that it takes only a molecule of the gluten protein to trigger the auto immune response. The million dollar question in that case, "Why bother?" Stomach cancer risk, maybe it'll get worse and I'll be less able to absorb nutrients, whatever else. But the point is, I'm supposed to deprive myself of the foods I enjoy (when I already seek out good quality organic and healthy versions of those foods) and expect to feel better but meanwhile, I'm psychologically damaged for having to constantly explain to people that I can't eat this or drink that, and then what'll (supposedly) happen to me if I do. All those pizza days at work and free cake, all those times hanging out in a bar having to drink cheap carbonated cider or red wine, which turned out was worse and actually did generate symptoms.

No thanks. I'm tired of it. I had my symptoms under control, and as for a risk of stomach cancer, I simply don't (and can't) believe that cancer (in this case stomach cancer) happens to people who eat healthy whole organic foods and moderate their vices. As for not absorbing nutrients as well, how do the doctors explain the fact that D (a vitamin, well, hormone, that it turns out tons of people are deficient in) was the only deficiency. I seem to be doing just fine with everything else.

Incidentally, in the ever growing gluten conspiracy theory of mine, this is the biggest indicator that these quacks were looking for Celiac. Do I have another possible idea? Yes, I have a friend who has a Candida infection and exhibits similar symptoms to me and wouldn't you know it? Not a lot of western doctors really have much to say on this topic. I asked, I got tested for a bacterial infection in my gut but he said nothing came back in the lab results.

So I'm going to say screw all of this crap, officially, take care of my gut, drink Kombucha (and often cited aid in healing Candida infections) and eat and drink my favorite things. I'm tired of explaining, I'm tired of imposing, and I'm tired of worrying. Worrying, as a matter of fact, is probably the worst thing for my stomach.

That having been said, if any of you who know me see me eating gluten, please don't lecture me. I'll be just fine.

Glad that's out now. I'll be updating occasionally on what the Kombucha is doing.