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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.