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. 

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.