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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. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Birthday me and some musical jibber jabber...

Yes, I had to work on my birthday. But honestly, I had a great day spent with friends and I still get to celebrate on the weekend so it doesn't bother me that I had to come straight after dinner, or that I had to sleep until 3 yesterday afternoon after having worked an overnight shift the night before. Life goes on.

At any rate, I tried a fantastic gluten free restaurant on Bleecker Street called Risotteria. If you're Celiac or gluten intolerant you have to check this place out. Apparently it's pretty well known in Celiac circles and nationwide as well. The food was fantastic. Risotto was a centerpiece of the menu (I had a bowl of such with parma ham, fontina and arugula, which was on special) but they also had gluten free (and regular pizza). Oh, and these incredible gluten free breadsticks the recipe of which the waitress had no problems divulging (tapioca starch, potato flour, rice flour, sea salt, gluten free yeast, xanthan gum and tap water). Of course she didn't give us the proportions. The restaurant also has gluten free beer and a decent wine list along with gluten free baked goods (the coolest of which was a gluten free twinkie, called a winkie).

The room was small and we had a bit of a wait for a table but it was no problem at all to get the four of us seated in a timely manner. We did have to stand outside for a bit but once the bar cleared out we sat there and munched on their breadsticks.

In other news, the first take of the music for the dance piece was well received however the dancer told me she doesn't think that it's a fit for this particular work. I was preparing myself for that possibility and I'm not really surprised. The whole time I worked on it I realized certain incongruities between certain aspects of the dance and the music, mainly tempo related, but I kept going with it trying to fix some of those aspects along the way. And, sure enough, tempo was where it missed the mark. So I may need to start from scratch, which doesn't bother me at all because I still have this piece of music that at least two people have listened to and liked and that I may finish and eventually even submit to some electronic music festivals. Even more exciting is the fact that since this piece is not for anybody anymore I can tweak it to my heart's content and put things back in that I had originally thought didn't work. Here's the piece:



Interestingly enough, this afternoon while I was hanging out with my friend Lacy who came up from Philly to deliver some software to me, the topic came up of how long to work on a "work for hire" piece of music before showing it to the director/choreographer. I've had this question come up because, on film projects, I've always been worried about wasting time on an idea that was not what the director wanted. But I've also not wanted to show them something that was unfinished lest they be unimpressed or not be able to understand where I was going with an idea. I suppose the answer is that, where deadlines are more lax or nonexistent it's probably okay to bring a piece to relative completion before risking having it rejected because at least then, you have an established piece that you can do anything with. However, in a case where you have a deadline and you don't want to risk putting a lot of time and effort into an idea that misses the mark, it may be better to come up with ways of making something sound complete or at least getting the basic jist of the piece together, not worrying so much about making it perfect, before sending a sample to the director to see if you're on the mark before proceeding. But sometimes it's hard having to explain to the director that what you are sending is not finished and it may sound different, they don't always understand that. It's a bit stressful, also, when a director expects you to just know exactly what he wants after one meeting and to crank it out as though you were some kind of music factory, no questions asked. I've had first meetings with directors that will leave me with more questions or even if I don't have them right then, something always comes up later. And, those times, it's not always easy to communicate these questions through email, or by putting the phone up to your speakers. I'd be intersted to hear what other composers out there do in these situations, especially where you have a deadline and you aren't certain what you are composing is what the director wants. I suppose these things come with experience and that the main thing is getting as far inside the director's head as possible as early as possible. That might sound funny out of context.

Anyway, hope you enjoy the music. Happy that I'm able to show you what I've been working on. Stay tuned for more!

Monday, April 19, 2010

My musical mind and the Cloisters...

I've spent the past week working on the music for the dance piece. Sampling the piano tuning was a good idea and has provided me with a nice palette from which to draw ideas. I've composed the main ideas of the piece, strung it all together and gotten the music up to the right length and am pretty close to finishing a first cut. Still left to do is to smooth out some of the rougher parts, add some reverb and effects, do a final mixdown and master. Of course, the bulk of the remaining work lies in smoothing out those rougher parts.

The piece is ambient for the most part, meaning essentially sustained sounds that slowly change over time (most of the work I did tweaking the samples was time-stretching them, slowing them down and reversing them). However, I had an idea at the beginning of the piece to use silence (rests) in the music in between the first few sounds you hear. If it were a stand-alone piece that might have worked but I found that, introducing those rests hinted at a rhythm that is not present in the dance. Since, the music was never intended to mimic the rhythms in the dance, I knew the solution was to keep the piece completely and strictly ambient, i.e. no obvious or implied rhythms that would either have to sync up with the dancers or else not work. So, I have to go back to the beginning of the piece and rework some things.

Feeling pretty good about the way things are sounding though and I think the piece works well with the dance. It's eight minutes long. I haven't composed something this long since grad school.

Meanwhile, I spent Saturday at the Cloisters with a friend (the French girl) whom I also had to help file a police report at the Midtown police precint. She had her wallet stolen at a club last weekend and, before she could block her accounts, the thief had spent about 1000 Euros (read: many more dollars) between two of her cards, charges that didn't show up until Friday. In order to refute the charges, she needed a police report. So that was the first order of business Saturday, a trip to Times Square and about a half hour of sitting in the police precinct talking to a desk clerk and subsequently (and rather briefly) to a detective.

Afterward, we hopped the subway up to 81st Street to hit the Upper West Side Shake Shack, because I had been craving a burger and wanted to convince yet another person that Shake Shack has the best burgers in the world. I also wanted to investigate the allegation that Shake Shack has gluten free options (stupid gluten). They do. Unfortunately it was as I suspected...their solution to the gluten pollution? Have a burger without the bun. Be that as it may, you can be sure I had a bunless burger. Though it was chilly for a Saturday in April, the two of us scarfed our burgers outside while sitting on a bench across the street by the History Museum.

After that we headed all the way up to Claire's place in Washington Heights to regroup (and locate the Cloisters) before heading to our destination. Now, I had never been further north than 125th Street before but I have to say, it's another world up there. The call it Heights and they're not kidding. I thought I was in San Francisco crossed with the mountains of North Carolina or something. Check out some of the pics of Washington Heights and our long walk to the Cloisters (and of course pics of the Cloisters themselves):

Best of the Cloisters


The Cloisters, for those of you who don't know, are a branch of the MET Museum comprised of fragments of old Medieval and Rennaisance architectural elements, tucked away in a northern most corner of the isle of Manhattan. Complete with quiet courtyards and terraces overlooking the Hudson River and Engelwood Cliffs.

I had a great time up there. And as I sat in one of the courtyards listening to a fountain babble, meditating, I thought, "I'm never leaving this place." Not the Cloisters, because I obviously came back. I mean New York City. I have almost everything I need here. There's such a diversity of locales here in the city that I will, one, never get bored, and two, never be without a place to escape the more hectic and busy aspects of life here. And if all else fails and I really just need to get away, I can always take a train Upstate for a few days.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Prolific...

Okay. I admit it. I haven't been blogging as much. But I honestly prefer this to when I wasn't as busy and I would struggle to come up with something to blog about. These days, each time I do write a blog it's more than likely because I genuinely have something to report, or even better, some kind of meaningful observation about things in my life. I think it's healthy to take a step back and acknowledge things every once in a while. It's also important to come up with a more definitive and descriptive word to use besides things. And that I intend to do by means of clarifying exactly what I mean by things.

Things. Ya know? Stuff. Okay, that's enough.

Really though, I'm working a lot lately. Yesterday I did a lot of editing on the new piece. It's all recorded samples of my piano being tuned that have been processed in various ways, as I may have mentioned. So far it's been pretty rewarding and I've come up with some fantastic sounds but I'm far from done. I'm thinking I may have moved too fast from the intial editing samples phase to the actual composition phase. It's good though because I was just trying out some ideas. Ideas which begot more ideas and so on and so forth. Now, I feel like I need to go back to the raw material and come up with even more ideas.

It felt good to just dive in. I haven't had a project in what seems like a while, and to do it with a fresh start (i.e. after having reinstalled everything on my computer) was kind of nice. I even checked online on Mozy.com today to make sure that they've been backing up my project files and everything...and they are, thank god. Still heartbreaking to think of all the things I lost.

Anyway, on top of that I managed to record myself reading some practice scripts for the voice over endeavour and I'm going to be honest. It was a little disheartening but I don't think I'm hopeless. You know how you sometimes cringe when you hear your own voice? Well, add to that the fact that I may not have the right mic for my voice type. I figured a condensor mic would be good for my deep bassy voice because of the frequency response but I'm actually talking about the quality of the mic and the software, and even my preamp. I already have to do some noise reduction because my room is not the quietest.

Really though, I don't expect anything I produce at home to sound professional right away, or even at all. I'm fully prepared to do a demo elsewhere. But I really do think I need to get more comfortable in front of a mic, lose some of the dipthongs and even work on my smoothing out my accent a little. And it probably wouldn't hurt to take a little better care of my voice. Sad, that I sing in a choir and I don't.

I even got a little down hearted yesterday as a result of all of this stuff. (Not the music work from yesterday but the voice over practice). See, the industry guidebook I'm using which Edge Studios provides for free is very thorough and also very honest. There's a whole section on talking you out of doing voice over if you don't have the stuff. And it's sad really that my first reaction to hearing my voice back and not thinking it was professional enough, was to recall the brutal honesty in that particular section of the guidebook and to start getting discouraged. A lot of us do this though, I'm sure. You get your first impression about something and then you run with it instead of coming up with an alternative way of seeing the situation. But I'm talking about myself here, so I'll speak for myself when I say that I'm too hard on myself in these cases and I know it.

One thing I will say for myself though is that even though I can be so hard on myself, thanks to the experiences I've had, my therapy years back and a little bit of Buddhist wisdom thrown in on the side, it's easy for me to bounce back and have no trouble pointing out to myself that whatever thoughts I'm thinking are not necessarily reality and I don't have to accept it as such. I heard a good quote from Anais Nin tonight on a movie I was watching: "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." Could be applicable here.

Hearing my voice back after recording may have initially made me think I wasn't cut out for voice over after all, but instead, a day later, I'm thinking that all it really means is that I need practice...before I can say with any authority that I truly am not cut out for it. So let's proceed I say.

A bit exciting to be trying something new. Now it's going to be part of my routine when I can fit it in to record myself reading at least up until the seminar on the 28th of April.

Another thing I've been trying out too, in the name of organization and productivity, is to keep a word processing document of all my notes on pieces I'm writing. Starting with Jahna, the dancer's piece. It helps me between sessions to write down what I did during each session and what I think I should try to accomplish for the next one. Keeps me on point and keeps me from having one of those experiences where I sit down and wonder what the hell I was thinking the last time I worked on it, or wonder where to start. This way I'll stay focused and no ideas get lost...or rather, fewer ideas get lost.

All that having been said, I think I need to make a pact with myself not to let my shyness and the way I'm unsure of myself sometimes dictate the way I react to situations like the aforementioned. Sure, my voice on those recordings should make me realize I'm not quite ready yet but I shouldn't automatically assume that it means I'm no good at something. The same applies to music as well. I think too often over the past few years I've given up opportunities or let them pass right by because I thought I wasn't ready yet or capable. I feel like Marty McFly at the beginning of Back to the Future. "I just don't think I can handle that type of rejection," was my mantra when I'd read down the list of music festivals and competitions, commissions and whatnot. I didn't think I'd measure up or fit in with the composers submitting their compositions there.

Granted, that never kept me from composing. It just kept me (and keeps me) from ever having my work showcased or even heard by anyone except you guys, over the internet. But that's why I'm making a pact to not let thinking like that paralyze me. I've already shown that I can come up with alternative ways of thinking of my own volition and without needing anyone to talk me out of any ruts, so why not just switch it on when I start to think like that?

Watch me in the coming months, I think I might just go crazy and someone might have to use the word prolific in a sentence. On that note...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

April...

Well into April now, my birth month...and my cousin's. So this is looking to be an exciting month because we'll be celebrating not only our respective birthdays but also throwing a housewarming party late in April. And here I'm still trying to get my room set up like I'd like it to be. The dresser should sell tomorrow and then I'll try and get a smaller desk and dresser at Ikea or on the internet...preferrably Ikea because it's so close and they could probably deliver whatever's too big to carry.

Meanwhile, in current news, the piano has been tuned. It was a long ordeal and my friend who came by to do it was kind enough to fix the F key below middle C. There was a spring dangling loose and he had to remove the entire action to get at it but it was rather a quick fix in the end, in fact reassembling the action took longer than the actual fix. Ultimately, it all took 5 hours, mainly because he had to do a double tuning...by the time he reached the upper register the middle register was out of tune again. But thankfully, with the exception of a few keys that have slipped out of tune since (he told me to expect this since it was so far out of tune), it is fairly well in tune and far more playable...he even cleaned off all the keys for me of all the gunk and dust that were clinging to them.

While he sat doing that I milled around the apartment between cleaning and reinstalling software on my computer because, yes, finally, I got the sound card working. So it's not a useless piece of shit like I had thought and with any luck it'll hold out on me long enough to take care of the first paying gig that I have gotten since moving to NYC last year! Yes, the dancer is going to pay me. I'm excited to work with her too because this is a different kind of project for me all together. I'll be doing something ambient that will not necessarily be mimicking the dancers movements but will only serve to set a tone. But I have tons of ideas. One involved sampled guitar and the other involves me taking apart and manipulating some of the samples that I recorded of the piano being tuned the other day. They were recorded on my handheld digital recorder so it all kind of hangs on how good the quality is...I've used it before but not for production level stuff. So we'll see. I've yet to listen to the raw stuff.

More news still, I'm close to finishing the new web page. Using a different host and a different template but I kept my domain name. The new site will have clips from the most recent film, Peeper, some testimonials, some added clips from Kisses and Caroms and Zero Sum Game, and more music! Quite exciting too, is that I will have the new head shots up soon as well. Chad Heird, my co worker who took the photos, should be bringing them by the next time we work together...probably Thursday. Can't wait to show those off. Chad is really talented.

Now, I'm sitting pondering my latest endeavour: voice over work. Currently pouring over the Voice Over Industry Guide Book and anticipating a 4 hour evaluation seminar that I'm signed up for the 28th of April. I've known for a while that people thought my voice would be good for it but only last year did I start to really think about it and now, after one of my co workers (incidentally, one who is on the air all the time) told me I had a million dollar voice and that I was throwing money away not following a career in voice over work, I realized it was time to do something about it.

The first session is where they tell me whether or not my voice is marketable and then I can go ahead and record a demo. And the money I spent on the session can be credited toward making the demo if I sign up for it in one week. Rock! Right?

That's what I thought. Anyhow, this is slightly longer than a blurb but probably not going to be much longer. Regrettably, I don't have any other reflections or deep thoughts for the evening. Mentally exhausted but excited about life.

Food for thought, though: I realized recently that the cause of a lot of my underlying stress is that I'm chasing after a lot of things right now and that the solution is most likely going to be an acceptance of my being incomplete.