About Me

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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. 

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Stupid mistakes, disaster, and birthdays...

Has anyone out there ever gotten to the point in their life where they become tired of learning hard lessons, of making stupid mistakes? While I'm there. At the present moment, I feel as a college freshman who has just pulled the plug on his desktop computer and lost an entire afternoon's worth of work on some stupid assignment. Although on a much grander scale.

When I got the virus a few weeks ago, I laughed and said, well at least my files are backed up. And before checking to be absolutely certain that nothing had gone wrong with this marvelous new concept of backing up all my files online to avoid disaster, I wiped my fucking (excuse my French but I'm really pissed off right now) hard drive clear and clean and reinstalled my operating system thinking la-di-da and whoop-dee-fricking-doo, aren't I clever?! Let me just go and download my entire life's work from some distant hard drive over the internet.

Well, Mozy.com has a great system set up, don't get me wrong. A set it and forget it interface that lets you just go about your effing business free and clear, not having to worry about viruses or a fire. But, my advice is, if you are ever going to use it, please be sure to select all your folders and not use their "backup sets." With the latter, you are telling it to find certain types of files on your computer and back them up no matter where they are. This sounds like a great idea, in case you've missed something but it's useless if the system itself is going to miss something. My notation program opens .sib files, my sequencers open Reason and Fruity Loops files, my audio editing program opens Vegas project files. None of these are picked up by the backup sets. I can't recall if I chose this option back when I set up the initial backup but it makes sense to me that I probably did do something stupid like that. And if it didn't just come around to bite me in the ass. Tonight I just sat down to really get a feel for the scope of the thing and I'm feeling pretty horrible.

Now, my music still exists, obviously. It's not totally gone. If not only in my head as unfinished ideas, it certainly still exists as .wav files and .mp3 files of different versions and .pdf files of finished scores that I've printed and sent off. Those files did back up, thank God. But I'm a little angry that I had all of these files that I could still open an edit a few weeks ago, that are gone. If I want to rehash these pieces at all in any way, I may have to start from scratch, and in some cases, totally from memory! While all of it may seem totally fetchable from the void, it is quite disheartening to think that some of my ideas are just gone.

I'm trying to stay positive about this though. Maybe I wasn't so attached to those ideas anyway. Maybe I was stuck on some of the pieces. God knows there was an entire cycle of piano pieces that I started two years ago before stopping to prepare for my recital that I've been tinkering with for almost two years now and only ever finished one maybe (and let's face it, what composer ever thinks a piece of his or hers is finished).

Maybe this whole thing will lead to some kind of renaissance and I'll just start completely fresh. I guess I'll just have to see this whole thing through. I have a lot of work ahead of me though and a head cold to boot. It's cold again in New York City and I find myself looking forward to next month because not only will it be warmer hopefully, it will also be mine and my cousin's 29th birthday and I have weekends off from work all month long. I sense a party or two.

That having been said, I think I'm still going to go mourn the loss of some good and some bad ideas that I once had. Here's to stupid mistakes.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Some pictures of the new apartment and an update or two...

It's a little hard to keep up-to-date when your computer goes on the fritz. But here I sit making an effort, late at night on a Thursday, just having finished editing the most recent pics. Yes, Josee, finally, I have some pictures for you. I'm sorry it took so long but here's the new place:

New Apartment March 2010

I apologize that most of the pics show how much of a shambles the place was in, but hey, we're honest here at City Composer. You'll notice I even threw in some of the pics of the water damage during the Nor'Easter. God only knows why I went walking around Manhattan during that crazy storm, but that is a story for another blog entry. Since I snapped those photos, I have cleaned the place up a good deal but my bedroom is still a bit of a wreck, though more comfortable and spacious without the desk. I am closer to some kind of plan, however, to make things even more comfortable...in other words, to take care of the situation where my dresser is operating simultaneously as a desk...a rather ergonomically incorrect one, I might add (man, my arms hurt from typing like this).

On the good news front, you saw the piano there, right? Well, in addition to my sense of triumph at managing to get it moved up here and have it only cost me about $200, I discovered that a friend from the Unitarian Church Choir is a piano tuner. So next week, for another $150, I will finally have a tuned piano. Which brings the total amount of money I have spent in moving this piano to and fro to somewhere around $400. In other words, it's still a pretty cheap piano, as pianos go.

For your viewing pleasure, and as another way of showing that a full year has passed since my arrival in New York, I present to you now the Saint Patrick's Day Parade (along with a few shots of the UN where I was meeting my new French friend, Claire).

Saint Patty's Day 2010 and UN

That was fun. I went solo again this year, just as I did last year but after a while, I was tired of the crowds and tired of the photos, though I did get a few unique shots this year, mostly of the crowd and not of the parade.

More random news, I spoke with George about the sequel to Peeper this evening. Got some idea of the plot and what type of film and what type of score we're looking at. Kind of exciting and I should be getting the script soon. I love working on films when I get to see the script before shooting, not just for the obvious reason of having loads more time to work on the thematic material and other planning aspects of the score. It's also fun to be part of the creative process from very early on, especially since it usually means that the director is interested in the score and not going to look on it as a last minute decision. I like directors who are already thinking of the music in the pre-production phase. They are usually a lot more fun to work with because the score isn't as rushed and because they know what they want, which means: more direction.

Granted, I've also worked with directors that give too much direction or who change their minds constantly, when given extra time to think about the score. But, I would take more direction over less any day. I got "less direction" from a director once and, a year and a half later, I found the film posted on his website with all of my music stripped from the film and replaced. I don't know if he didn't know how to tell me what he wanted then or what but ultimately it looked like he was unsatisfied with my music and never told me.

So more is better in most cases.

Beyond that brief bit of scoring news, I still haven't heard anything from the dancer who wanted to work with me. May give her another try soon because it'll be a while before I start working with George on the sequel to Peeper.

Meanwhile, I've been thinking that it's ironic that I was going on about needing "tools" as a musician/composer in the form of computer software and expensive equipment I don't have the money for, and now, my computer, after having contracted a virus, is only good for internet access (I can't seem to get the drivers for the audio card working) and next week I may finally have a piano that is in tune that I will want to play. Might alter my composing habits at least in the short term.

What it's actually going to do is propel me into the universe of portable computing when I finally get rid of the shackles of my desktop computer and utilize my fancy discounts from work to procure either a Dell, a Lenovo, or yes, even maybe a Mac Book Pro. Believe it or not, despite the hype and the incredibly pervasive marketing campaign of Apple computers, I'm probably going to stay PC for now. I know I know I know what half of you are going to say and to you all I say. Read this. That and I think it's quite safe to say that my main issue is with my current operating system. 64 bit Windows XP has so little support and so many compatibility issues. It'll also be nice to have something assembled at the factory and not to have to install everything myself and have to deal with all the hassle of figuring out which video codecs and which drivers I need for this and that.

Blah, but enough of the computing stuff. I'm psyched to have the piano tuned. And I'd better get some sleep. Work at noon tomorrow!

Monday, March 15, 2010

The new place...

Nothing much new to report tonight, errr, this morning. Just haven't blogged in a while and wanted to report, errr, something. I'm headed to a friend's wedding this weekend so I'm getting excited about that, while simultaneously, still setting up my new apartment. Though now the dust is starting to clear a good bit and I can finally start rendering some impressions for you all...and yes, Josee, eventually I will take pictures of the place. Right now, though, my bedroom floor is still 30% covered with either boxes or things that I don't want to be taking up floor space; The north facing wall around both the window in the kitchen and the window in Katrina's started to leak during this weekend's nor'easter, causing bubbles to form in the paint (bubbles which would eventually pop with a giant splash), so the walls are a bit of a mess; and there is a 50 foot ethernet cable strung across the floor because I can't get my wireless card in my desktop to work yet, why? Because, the final kicker, a virus (or spyware, one or the other) finally took over my computer and wouldn't let me get past the login page. So I had to reinstall everything...but thanks to Mozy.com, and the 5 bucks a month I pay them, I have been able to download all of my files from the web, so I've lost nothing. Only it's taking FOREVER! Almost 70 GBs is a lot.

It's amazing that so much of what we find important in our lives can be contained on a computer. Music we like, pictures we've taken, important documents, and in my case, every score I've ever composed, recordings of my work, and software that I hope will one day be the source of my freakin' livelihood. All stored in a piece of plastic and metal that fits (well in my case, barely fits) on top of a desk in a bedroom.

This virus was responsible for a moment of clarity, however. I finally decided that I need a laptop. I mean I've wanted one for some time but I always just thought that I would keep the desktop computer. But now, I don't even have a desktop on which to put a desktop computer because, as previously mentioned, I had to get rid of my desk because my room is a full 27 square feet smaller than the old one. Welcome to New York.

It is nice to have a big living space and a big kitchen now though. I think this is a good point to start talking about the things I do like about the apartment. Right. As mentioned, kitchen = big, living area = big. I just got free cable installed the other day, part of the benefit of working at a TV station owned by a huge cable company. The piano made it up in one piece. I have loads of windows to open in the warmer months, for things like cross-breezes. The cat is lovin' it, because she has two couches as well as two different beds to curl up on (yet she still curls up on the floor more often than not). The building is big but there is a laundromat on the premises, loads of a security because, to enter any of the apartments you have to go through the courtyard. I basically have three keys to get into my place. I'm still street side but street and not avenue (which is important) and second floor, so the place is quiet. Improving upon the quiet situation is the fact that across the street is all businesses that are closed at night. The subway is one block away, the C-Town grocery store is also one block away (and I just spotted that they carry organic produce, some Bob's Red Mill products and other gluten free stuff...frickin' gluten free granola!...no cash back at the register though). Another cool thing about that grocery store is that the deli has a hot bar with Spanish food, arroz con gondules and stuff like that for only $6 during the week. Which is a great go to meal for me when things are tight and I don't feel like cooking.

Moving ahead, the commute is not as bad as I had originally predicted it would be. Sometimes I've gotten home in 30 minutes flat, other times it's taken almost an hour, but I have options and I'm starting to get the hang of when I should take one route and when I should do another. The weekends are easy because most of the time the trains are running local so I don't have to switch trains at Atlantic-Pacific.

I also like having a roommate again. We're getting along just great, in fact, we went to a party in Queens last Saturday at her co-worker's apartment. That was fun. And warrants an entry all it's own. But it's one of those stories that's much more fun to tell in person.

I'll leave it there.

So I'm feeling pretty good about the new place. And the best part hasn't even happened yet. And that is, April rent being $400 cheaper, and me actually having money to spare at the end of the month. That'll be great.

What'll be even better though is having some extra money to throw at my debt and eventually (hopefully sooner rather than later) some money to throw at my career. Like any musician, I'm sure, I have a long long list of equipment, software and musical instruments I'd like to own. Like it'll make my life composing so much easier if I just have more stuff to do it with. Yes, I'm sure I can compose just fine now. But a laptop, an M-Audio MIDI controller, Ableton Live Software and all the hardware to run it live, the hardware that goes with NI Guitar Rig (my virtual guitar processor), a new guitar, a new amp, a new audio interface, and someone to come and tune my freakin' piano, would all be nice.

There was a big discussion in graduate school about composing with tools or without tools and whether or not it made you less or more of a composer. My opinion stands somewhere in the middle, leaning toward favoring the tool side, especially when you consider all musical instruments tools for composing. That sounded funny. Anyway, in theory one can compose with nothing but a pen and a paper and two lips through which to hum a melody. But if you're going to transcribe something for piano, you need that piano in front of you to see how you're going to play it...realistically. I've tried composing for an instrument without that instrument, or anyone to play it, present and the result has never been great. In fact, often, I find that some to a lot of revision is required because I've written something either impossible to play or that just doesn't sound good.

Having tools does make composing easier, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. The main one and the easiest one to use for the sake of this argument, is the advent of notation software. Would Mozart and Beethoven have scoffed at it? I don't know. Maybe, maybe not. While it does help to create some bad habits, like the aforementioned composing without an instrument or player present, it certainly speeds things up. So tools are good but you obviously can't rely on them entirely?

Here's a good question though...does having nice equipment and instruments foster better composing and composing habits? I'd like to think so. Whenever I sit down at my clunky, raggedy, out of tune piano that I'm so unfortunately chained to, to the extent that I just can't give this thing up, I'm rarely inspired to write anything brilliant. In fact, I usually have to avoid the key of F major because the F below middle C sticks.

You see my point? I've been feeling lately like I won't be complete and ready to compose again in earnest and prolifically like I've wanted to, until I have nicer things. It's a horrible feeling because I know deep down it's just another excuse and that I can start doing things right now, like rarranging that old electronic piece for a saxophone ensemble with piano, bass and drums. (I was listening to an old song of mine called Pastel today...man would that rock with a live band playing it!) So, there you have it. I have all these ideas of what I want to do but I just keep getting sidetracked dreaming of cream colored SGs with three gold humbuckers and a piano that's actually in tune.

That having been said, I think after this wedding I'm going to just come back and start composing in my cramped bedroom sitting at my not so ergonomically correct desk which is actually the top of my dresser and/or sitting out in the living room at my twangy but somehow endearing piano. Wish me luck.

Monday, March 8, 2010


I've decided that I love watching the Oscars. In years past it was this thing that everyone else got excited about but I didn't so much. I'd watch the ceremony if the people I was hanging out with were watching but I usually hadn't seen most of the movies that were nominated. This is still true actually, although this year I had seen many of them without having to try. (Last year on the other hand, I actually did try to catch up on all of the nominations a week before the Oscars). Normally, I kind of just catch up with movies on my own time typically and the Oscars was not something that was on my calendar yearly.

But watching them is not so much about seeing who won or predicting who's going to win. It's more about watching the speeches. I just love seeing people get awarded for their hard work and accepting graciously. And not only because I hope one day to be awarded for my own hard work. There's something inspiring about it. I know it's potentially decades and mountains of hard work away for me if it's going to come at all but I like to dream...and it may not be an Oscar nomination that will be the culmination of my career but watching the Oscars is one way of visualizing a goal for me, that goal not necessarily being acclaim or honor but acheivement, recognized or unrecognized. In this regard, watching the Oscars actually keeps me going when I get discouraged like I did a few weeks ago.

I was reading an article in Time Out New York about a Cobble Hill, Brooklyn-based composer making her way in the music world and, incidentally, being compared with Mozart by some, according to this particular reviewer. What struck me about her was that she not only has her hands in the classical music world, having just premiered an opera, but she also has a postclassical postrock band that just released a debut album. This all should be very inspiring for me because I have all of these musical ideas that span genres and I'm still trying to wrap my brain around how to implement them all. And to know that someone else out there is making it happen is just awesome.

But instead, I give in to jealousy. Jealousy is what keeps welling up inside of me, every time I read an article or see a successful composer's website, someone who started young and had monetary support and made smart choices with their money even. I'm jealous that this person took a path that allowed them to focus fully on music early on, to the extent that all they have ever done probably is music. Wheras I, on the other hand, decided that I'd get a full time job in television news directly out of college, one with weird hours, which would exhaust me and take up all of my time that wasn't spent with my ex-wife, let music casually slide to the back burner while I wrestled with how to pay for graduate school while in a controlling relationship and wondered how I would ever make a name for myself as a composer with all of these obstacles. I see composers that have acclaim and I want acclaim, I see composers that have pieces of music performed and albums recorded and reputations and I want it all. If I'd had a trajectory from the beginning, I might be somewhere else altogether by now.

But that sort of thinking, should haves and might bes and whatnot, is counter productive and I know it. I can't go back and redo, so I have to start from here. Nor should I assume that it can't be done, that these successful composers took the only path that leads to success. While it does seem nearly impossible for me to jump from working in television news, on an overnight shift, no less, trying to make enough money to pay rent in this city, to being a working composer up against all the competition for good jobs, when I hardly have the time to hone my craft, let alone sit down and write a piece of music that I say I'm going to write, it's not. It would be nice if I had nothing but time to work on music, if I had funding from royalties from all my past recordings, if I had gone to a good school for a program in film scoring and had loads of industry connections and was already ghost writing or doing music editing for some big shot composer who was mentoring me. But that's not the only way. I'm convinced that as long as I have musical ability and motivation, my guitar and my sequencers, and the knowledge to use them, I shouldn't have any trouble producing my music and getting it heard.

But perhaps, I should just write and not think about the prospect of acheievement. While it can be a powerful motivator in the right context, sometimes that prospect can just be discouraging. Why should I waste my energies on trying to get somewhere instead of just being here and doing what I love?

Anyway, a lot of this is just the frustration of the last few weeks speaking. I had started the minimalist chamber piece at the beginning of the year but then had to grind to a halt to focus on finishing up George's score. Then I had to focus on apartment hunting and now that that ordeal is finally over, I'm trying to unpack and rearrange my room so that I can still have a space to compose despite the fact that my room is a full 39 square feet smaller than my bedroom in Sunset Park. I'm making it work though.

Before I go though, the latest piece of news: I have another potential collaboration with a dancer coming up. A different kind of project but something that I've definitely dabbled in before. More details on that later. For now, let me just end by saying that I am not discouraged, I am empowered and that while the Oscars would be nice, it would also be nice to just keep composing music. Maybe people will hear it and like it, maybe not. SFW.

Oh and a sidebar...Apparently, Mo'Nique's family was at the Oscar's party I skidded into for a hot second before coming to work. Kind of cool.