About Me

My photo

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, May 26, 2011

Many hats...

I'm sitting at one of my favorite coffee shops in the village right now (The West Village) killing time between working Technicolor this morning and working at NY1 this afternoon, drinking mate and charging my phone. Yes, I can do all these things and type a blog. I'm pretty sure I just saw Keri Russell on the street on the way here too. Which is weird because she was in August Rush and one of the films I screened this morning at Technicolor had Freddie Highmore in it who was also in August Rush. Weird coincidence. She had a very floppy hat on to hide her face but I saw it was her.

Speaking of hats, (kick ass segue I just thought up) I've always worn many hats in my professional life. Currently, I'm a projectionist, broadcast media operator, composer, performer and voice recording artist (I used to joke that I was like Tyler Durden from Fight Club because of the multiple jobs and that one of them was a projectionist job). I am all these things to varying degrees. Because I can't be them all at 100% I've recently realized. I was starting to get a little overwhelmed last night in fact, which somewhat prompted me to write this blog. Last night, despite being sleep deprived from the night before and having to switch my sleep schedule around so that I was waking up when I usually get off work, I couldn't sleep. Juggling so many of these things, having a professional career, a side career, music as a hobby and then trying to have a social life as well can be daunting. So, in a moment of clarity, I thought it might be a good idea, instead of tossing and turning, to do a little exercise in compartmentalization. Dividing my life into five categories seemed to be the way to go.

1. Professional Career, i.e. day job.
2. Side Career, i.e. voice over and composition
3. Music as a hobby, i.e. performing with Lacy and singing with the choir, as well as working on my own live music projects
4. Social life, including dating
5. My health.

The reason I put health up here is that it's important to me that I remain healthy and if my focus is taken up by too many of these things my health will suffer, no doubt. Not only from lack of sleep, negative effects of stress could really put a damper on things quickly. It becomes necessary to put all these things in an order of priority then for this exercise to have any real effect on my life. Of course, health is always going to be in slot number 1 or 2 because of how important it is to me to remain healthy. It is also necessary to point out that if one of these "hats" is lower in ranking it doesn't necessarily mean I don't work on it or that I neglect it entirely. It merely means that I work on it next, after I finish working on those things that are higher ranking. Or if there's a day where I have a limited amount of time, items that are lower in ranking just might not get worked on. On any given day (well, day of my work week), my day job will of course be in slot 1 or 2. And all the other things will fall somewhere else on the scale. Health will always waver between 1 and 2, likelier to be in slot 1 on days when I'm not feeling myself.

This system, now that I've worked it out, should keep me slightly more sane, in theory, because I won't be hassling myself if I don't get to work on a particular project on a given day. And I will be making sure that I keep things in perspective. And that alone should reduce stress significantly. Particularly the kind of stress that makes me toss and turn when I know in my mind that I should be tired enough to fall right off to sleep.

At the moment, for example, here is my current ranking: 1. Health, 2. Professional Career 3. Social Life 4. Side Career 5. Music as a hobby. The reasons: health is 1 because I'm feeling a little off today from lack of sleep. Professional Career because first, I'm working extra shifts and freelance at Technicolor this week, and second because I'm job hunting…shhhhhh. Social Life is 3 because I've started seeing someone and I have a few friends that are moving away or leaving town soon. 4. Side Career should be two sub-categories, music and voice over separately. Right now, I've put VO on a small hiatus while I save up for some more seminars and coaching session. I'm figuring out if I want to do a new demo for audio books or commercial work as well. Music is on an even smaller hiatus because Mohammad and I are meeting today to talk about the first bit of music I've submitted to him (sans oud) and then we have to wait until we can finish anything else because, while I have finally come by an oud, it will be a few weeks before it is in my hands. My choir director has to get his oud from his parents' house in NJ. And then I might need to re-string it. 5. Music as a hobby is on a small hiatus because Lacy and I won't rehearse until next week and I'm skipping choir Sunday to help a friend move, a friend that helped me move in back in 2009. A move that involved three very scrawny people heaving a piano up 4 steps and down a short hallway. I think I owe this friend.

Anyway, things may change with that list in a few days, but I like the idea now of having a priority list like that. It means I can more easily tell myself that it's okay that I'm not doing everything. It acknowledges that I simply can't. And I should be okay with that.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Biking and Sailing....

Got into a cleaning frenzy today and all that could stop me was the prospect of finally having some time ride my bike. So, I just got back from a round trip to the library in Grand Army Plaza, up Prospect Park West and back through the park. It feels so free to ride your bike in the park, even with the idiot pedestrians (sorry, if you're a pedestrian) wandering diagonally across the path. I still don't understand this behavior. And it was starting to rain as I was heading back, though not pouring. It was just right.

Anyway, I took today off work so I could make it to see a concert, part of the First Acoustics series at the First UU Brooklyn. The Bob Cunningham Trio will be playing and I'll be taking a friend from work. The same trio is actually performing with the choir tomorrow morning as well for our annual jazz service. Should be fun.

I'm culminating this week with one part disappointment and two parts accomplishment. The disappointment was that I was so close to buying a Middle Eastern Oud off a guy on craigslist out of the budget from the film but the guy backed out last minute. His wife wouldn't let him sell it. But we (both Mohammad and I) are on the hunt for something else. It's looking more and more like I'll be the one to play the part on the recording. Which is totally fine with me. I'm, in fact, excited to do so.

I've gotten most of the work writing the rest of the music all but done. And that's one of the accomplishments from this week. I just edited together the beat I was working on with the subway sounds sample and the Muslim call to prayer sample mixed together and (I think) it sounds awesome! I just laid down a loop of some Darbuka playing to lead into that part as filler until I can actually lay down the tracks for the Oud part. It's all coming together!

The other accomplishment is that I sat with my VO mentor (I'm officially calling her that now) and asked some questions and got a clearer picture in my head of what my next steps should be. I've decided I'm going to keep up applying to jobs on voice123.com (even though I've had no luck) because I'm getting incredible practice out of it. Another thing she brought up is that the order of the cuts on my demo is not the best it could be, i.e. my best read is not up front. It is now. I just edited it together and cut out a glaring mispronunciation that was in one line of a museum audio guide script I read (I should be ashamed of myself). Miraculously the edit that cut out that mispronunciation somehow worked with the background music so that it doesn't sound disjointed at all.

Anyhow, I could stand to take a nap or clean more or eat dinner and I have no idea what I'll do. The sun is back out again and I have half a mind to go back out and soak it up. If only it had come out while I was still at the park. I don't get up there very often, in fact, I went the entire winter without wandering further west than 7th Avenue in Brooklyn. Sad. It's also a bit sad that I let the first three weeks of May pass without taking much advantage of the opportunities I had to get out and do things in the city. (!) I was planning on the Statue of Liberty (booked until September), the Guggenheim (missed my chance to with a friend because I was too busy that week), a boat ride of sorts (didn't have the money at the time for a Circle Line Tour at $36 for the 3-hour cruise around Manhattan) and countless other things. The boat ride keeps coming back to my mind, though, as the next fun thing. Mainly this time around because I just heard about my dad's little sailing adventure out on the Outer Banks of NC where he went to help a friend pick up a boat he had just purchased and sail it to where they were getting the bottom of the boat painted. I got a little jealous but mostly just enthused. I don't know where this desire came from. I think I've wanted to learn how to sail for a long time now, probably ever since the first time I looked on New York Harbor and saw all the sailboats out there in the summer time the first year I was here. I was talking to one of my yoga teachers about it before class the other day because there are always boats going past in the East River while I'm in class and I just struck up a conversation about it. He mentioned to me that there's a volunteer program where you can learn how to sail at the Seaport Museum by South Street Seaport, where two schooners are docked, the Pioneer and the Lettie G. Howard.

I'm going to have to look into this further. Sounds like good times. Anyway, I gotta get some dinner ready here and get ready for the concert tonight. Happy Weekend!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The beginning of another week...

Starting off another week here. The right way. Sort of. I pulled off a two hour nap after spending all of my morning and most of my afternoon at the church. It was our annual meeting today so I sat through that for two hours so I could vote on the budget at the end. After that, for the love of being outside after being cooped up for two hours, I walked with a friend one extra stop into downtown Brooklyn to Lawrence St./Metro Tech and then headed off to the co-op to pick up a few things. The 5th Avenue festival was apparently this afternoon, too, so I wandered through that for a few blocks, post co-op trip, until I couldn't stand being in the crowd anymore. Saw a band for half a minute but mostly just got grill smoke in my eyes and noted that everything there, all the food anyway, cost at least $5, more than I had in my pocket at the time.

By this point, the sun had come out and the humidity was on. So, I headed home and slept, but not before hashing out another quality to-do list for the week ahead. Items ticked off tonight other than napping: voice over! I submitted to another gig tonight (earlier, I had done one from my phone during the meeting because it didn't require a custom audition). I am potentialy meeting with a voice over friend sometime this week so we can pick each other's brains about our various processes. She's used voice123.com a lot more than I have and I come from an audio background so we should be able to help each other out a lot.

Beyond that, I'm diving into the score for Mohammad's picture tonight and the rest of this week. I'll be working mainly on the electronic part since the opening Oud solo will have to wait until our Oud player resurfaces or I can get my hands on an Oud of my own. I'm fully aware that I may be changing certain aspects of this piece to fit whatever I (or someone)end(s) up playing on the Oud. But probably no more than the key the piece is in. I have a slow, swung 4/4 beat running, with a low synth and cello playing an ominous ostinato and have been experimenting with layering samples of subway train sounds underneath (sounds awesome!). I have a sample of a call to prayer from a well known Muslim Imam that will signal the end of the animation and will segue into the electronic beat. So, it's mainly about placement of all those elements right now. The beat, I feel I need to work on choosing the sounds of my kit and the mix of everything. I may experiment with more parts other than the ostinato. Certainly the Oud will be in the mix but I'm also considering some clean delayed guitar. We shall see.

Saturday was another great open mic at Banjo Jim's. Lacy and I really rocked it out, bringing two songs that the crowd there had never heard, Vengeance is mine (which we only played once before at Pete's) and Silverback which was new for us this week. We arranged an acoustic version of the song last Wednesday at rehearsal that has a somewhat different feel than the album version which you can hear here.

Again, I love this crowd and the sense of community and camraderie they bring to the place. They have their regulars but are so supportive of newbies. Highlights were a Welsh girl getting up and singing with an electric uke and then reciting a poem she wrote, and then a brother and sister duo that covered I shall be released by Bob Dylan (the boy was 10 and sang and played piano).

The same 8 year old Asian girl came but we didn't get to hear her sing because I had to leave at 6pm. Lorraine Leckie came again (brought her dog into the bar) but we missed her performance, too. She was great last time.

The videos of our performance are here and here if you're interested.

Anyway, I had one of those stupid commutes tonight. It was just back and forth between good and bad train luck the whole time. First, I catch the R train right away at my station. Then I jump on the N train at Atlantic and before I know it, some urine smelling dude jumps on behind me and sits right next to me on a mostly empty train (I'm thinking, "thanks, dude!")...the next stop after Atlantic was over the bridge in Manhattan, too, so I'm pretty much stuck in this car until Canal St. Then I see the Q train on the next track over when we're in the tunnel and realize that our train has to stop to let that train go first over the bridge. If I had taken the R train one more stop to Dekalb Avenue, I might have been able to jump on that Q, go first and then bypass all the local stops and potentially not have to sit next to someone who smells like urine. Then when I get to Union Square, I just miss the L train and the next one won't come for 12 minutes according to the countdown clock. So, I try to grab the M14D bus but it's leaving once I get up into the street. The next one doesn't show and I figure, I might just have time to get back down into the subway before the next L train arrives. Sure enough, once I get downstairs, there's the L train rolling up. And I make it to work at 10:55. I guess the moral of the story is that sometimes it just doesn't matter what happens in between as long as you get where you're going on time. Even if you have to endure the smell of urine...which was what greeted me coming up the stars in the 8th avenue station.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

To do lists and the rest of my weekend...

There's nothing more satisfying than ticking things off a to-do list. Well, I suppose I could think of a few more things that would be more satisfying. Anyway, I opted not to take my regular 4pm yoga class today so that I could stay home and work on that to-do list, most of which was either errands or music-related tasks. The first thing was to splice together a minute and a half long reel of music for the new website; the idea being to showcase my ability to write music for commercials and television. It's posted right now under the VO narration demo on the sidebar of the front page.

And speaking of narration, I took the extra time skipping yoga afforded me to apply to another VO gig on voice123.com. Unfortunately, there was really only one that I felt I was right for out of the projects from the past week that were still open. I applied anyway even though there were some 30 auditions already submitted by other VO talents. This is going to be a hard road. My unofficial mentor told me (and I suppose this goes for just about any and every job in NYC) that the trick is to be among the first people to submit. Difficult for me because sometimes these projects are posted in the middle of the night or when I'm otherwise indisposed and I can't always jump on them immediately. Imagine my frustration when I was on my vacation and away from my equipment, getting some 30 emails a day. Monday afternoons when I'm most available, there will be anywhere from 2-5 projects posted. So, I've been having a heck of a time finding enough time to actually push forward on this.

After that, I began to work on the project for Mohammad. I have audio of the subway sounds and a call to prayer that I'm working into the mix and my goal today was to work on the drumline for the end when it segues into the film from the opening animated timeline. I got some cool sounds and experimented with the timing of everything but not much more. I'm still waiting to get my hands on an Oud so I can learn to play it enough to feel comfortable writing for it. Half of me just wants to learn to play it so I can play it on the recording myself. What can I say, collaborating is fun, but it's so much more efficient to work alone.

Anyway, the morning after my last blog entry, I got to go with my brother, after breakfast, to visit the house I was born in.

As my brother and I wandered up onto the property, I was slightly nervous we'd be seen by the current occupants of the house and be confronted by them. Paul continuously reassured me that we'd be fine and finally mentioned that my mother had called and given them a heads up. They were, after all, in Stanfordville before I was Friday and had even had time to go to the old swimming hole we used to refer to as "the Rec" (short for recreational area, I guess). No one did come out of the house the whole time we stood by the creek but as we were leaving the driveway, the owner came rolling into the driveway in his truck. My parents had mentioned it was an Irish couple but I had assumed that meant "of Irish descent." When he rolled down his window he said, "You must be da two bois that was barn heeeer." Love it! He was kind enough to, in fact, excited enough to, let us in the house and show us around. At this point, I felt much more excitement. I have been back to the house before since I left in 1984 as a bumbling 3 year old but never at an age where it could have meant as much to me as it did on this visit. Just seeing those rooms, small as they seem in my giantness, brought back floods of memories that the outside only hinted at. And it even put those memories in a very wide perspective. To think, that was 27, 28 years ago and the place, despite they're renovations and additions to the outside of the house (the most notable of which was an in-ground pool), was so vividly familiar to me. The wood of the counters in the kitchen, worn down from the years, the island where my mom would prepare meals, the railing of the balcony upstairs, the front porch outside, all of it spoke to me as though it remembered me. I couldn't really look into the room where I was born because Sean, the owner's wife was still asleep. But I did get a good chance with my brother to look around and chat with the guy about what had changed and what we still remembered.

After we parted with them we walked back over to Patty and Greg's house and said our goodbyes, packing the car up and getting ready to head up to Albany for the memorial. The memorial itself was very moving and I was surprised (although not too terribly surprised) that my uncle drew such a crowd. People were standing along the sides of the room and all that was up front was a series of wreaths and bouquets and a podium where people, from the hospice chaplain to my uncle and whoever felt moved to speak, stod. Gary had chosen to be cremated and my aunt had chosen not to to display the ashes.

I cried a good bit but, as had been predicted, the tears slowly subsided, for everyone, into laughter. Especially when Gary's number one rule of fishing kept coming up in conversation: "Don't hook Uncle Gary!" I imagined the way the man's ghost might have responded had he been in the room (he probably was). And that just about made me lose it. When we were all done sharing our thoughts and memories of Uncle Gary, my dad played two songs on the stereo, one by John Denver and another by the Doobie Brothers. So Uncle Gary. And we were all invited to sing along if we felt moved to. If had known the words, I might have.

After the service I got to mingle a little more with my aunts. Yvonne, Marie and Yvette were all sitting directly behind me, and as usual, kissing everybody on the cheek and bragging about their ages (87, 89, and 90 respectively, I believe). The reception was at a Hibernian clubhouse just down the road (at which I arrived slightly late so that my Uncle Flip could drive Aunt Cheryl by the house where she had grown up in Latham, NY). There, I got to mingle with my first and second cousins and talk with Aunt Suzy a little.

After the reception died down and we had cleaned up all the leftover food, we all headed down toward Athens to land at Aunt Suzy's where I was staying the night. I was glad for this extra time to visit and ended up staying up watching SNL with Suzy, Cheryl, Flip and my cousin Katrina. The following afternoon, Katrina's brother Anthony came by with his girlfriend on their way to D.C. and we all visited just a little more before heading back to NYC.

Final parting words: avoid the Holland Tunnel. That is all for now.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Uncle Gary

The Hudson River is flying by me outside at the moment, with all it's glorious cliffs on the New Jersey side. I'm currently riding the train up to Beacon right now where I'm meeting a family friend. I'll be staying tonight in Stanfordville with my parents and that family friend (a family friend that lives down the street from the house I was born in!). Saturday morning, we're heading up to Albany for my Uncle's memorial service, who passed away last Friday. It'll be nice to see family but it's with a heavy heart that I go. He was diagnosed with cancer a little too late.

My uncle was a great, fun-loving, jovial, easy-going guy who died way too young. I will always remember him as this laid back sarcastic person with such an arresting belly laugh that you couldn't help but laugh along with him when you heard it. I remember him teaching me how to fish when I was 8 or so, showing me that the best way to extend my bait was to rip the poor earthworms in half, which I did…multiple times. And I recall him always being quick witted. One day, as a young kid, probably on the same earthworm visit, when I hailed him with his full title, Uncle Gary, one too many times he began referring to me as Nephew Tim. I respond to my nephews the same way now.

Always young at heart, one of my favorite memories of him was recent, when we all were visiting at Thanksgiving two years ago in 2009. Groggily napping off a turkey binge on the couch I overheard him and my cousin talking about whiskey. Gary's line was, "I like a good sipping whiskey." Opening one eye and turning my head I said, fully awake now, "me too." As I was about to turn back over and go back to my napping, he says, with one eyebrow raised, "Really?" So, the three of us, my cousin, Gary and I, tiptoed down to the completely-finished basement room of their recently moved-into house where Gary had a makeshift bar set up. Feeling a little delinquent, but not too terribly much, we all sipped Crown Royal Reserve whiskey for the next hour until we were found out by one of the other aunts (Linda, who is part Irish and objected that we didn't invite the only person of Irish descent to our little whiskey party).

Beyond sneaking around like a teenager, I will always remember my Uncle Gary when I'm on a boat or near water. As long as I've known him, he and my aunt have lived near water and had a boat of some kind. Gary was in his element on the water. I remember rowing around Lake Elisabeth with him, kayaking in Pamlico Sound in NC, and most recently, tooling around Sleep Hollow Lake in Coxsackie on his pontoon boat. One of their favorite vacation spots was the Outer Banks of NC where he happened to be the same week of my honeymoon there with my ex-wife, staying in a 3 story rental house on Hatteras, an island away from where my ex and I were camping. Kayaking and wind surfing were primary activities but one morning, Gary found crab traps floating in the sound right by the shore line. So he immediately and enthusiastically drove to the grocery and bought turkey necks to place in the traps to catch crabs with. By the end of the day, we ended up with about 14 crabs in total which contributed to the massive cookout we were already planning on having on the top deck of the house.

So the memories go. I'm certain there will be a lot of laughing tomorrow in addition to a little bit of crying. He is at peace now but will be greatly missed by us all.

Right now, I sit finishing this blog at my friend's house in Poughkeepsie, about a stone's throw away from the house where I was born. Man, does it look different now, too. They've fenced a portion of the yard, put in a pool, rebuilt the stairs, it seems, to the front porch that my sister knocked me off when I was barely 3 years old (long story...and it wasn't her fault), and they paved the driveway as well. The family that lives there has adopted 5 special needs kids and probably wanted a relatively safe place for them to live. Anyway, it's weird seeing it again, barely recognizable after all these years. I should be getting off to sleep soon. My brother is sharing this room with me and I might be keeping him up (by the time I was done proofing this blog he was already snoring on the bed). Good night for now.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Music filled weekend...

This past weekend started off with an hour long trip on the Q train to see my friend Tania Stavreva perform a program of modern and impressionistic works from Satie and Stravinsky to up and coming composer New York composer Scott Wollschleger. The concert was in Astoria at a little cafe called the Waltz-Astoria. An unassuming little venue that hosts a variety of musical acts and also charges a drink minimum, one I was particularly at odds with that night because my only option was to buy 6 cups of tea to make the minimum as I was not planning on drinking (my week back at home was a little rough). I still enjoyed myself. In fact, an important highlight of the evening was that I got to meet Tania's violinist friend who will likely be performing "The Death of September" with Tania at some point in the future, yet to be determined. The piece that her friend performed with her was magnificient and was held off until the end of the program as a closer. I will recall the title of the piece at some point and post it here.

The following day, Lacy drove up from Philly again and we played Banjo Jim's open mic as I previously posted this weekend. Then, Sunday morning, as I also mentioned, the Brooklyn UU choir performed my piece (which I've just posted on the new site complete with program notes and soon there'll be a link to buy the score!).

The whole weekend was capped off by a voice recital in a church near Union Square. Remember a few months ago when I told the story of how I ended up sharing a livery cab with several stranded straphangers on a Sunday morning? Well one of the women who was riding with me is a singer and we keep running into each other on the train, heading to and from work and at random times of day. The other day I was coming home from Tania's concert and ran into her on the train platform at Dekalb Avenue. We had chatted before about her recital when I ran into her on the street a few weeks ago and she mentioned it again then so I decided I'd go instead of trying to get into one of the last few showings at the Tribeca Film Festival (next year, I guess). The recital was at the First Presbyterian Church on 5th Avenue and 12th Street in Manhattan. So, on Sunday, after having a brunch with a friend of mine in Brooklyn Heights and subsequently wandering over to Fulton Street in downtown to kill time there, I headed into the city to check it out. My friend performed Debussy's Chansons de Bilitis, all 10 of Samuel Barber's Hermit Songs, some Rossini and then finished out the afternoon with some Cole Porter.

A good weekend is one that is filled with live music, and a very diverse array thereof. Or so says I. I enjoy how I can so easily surround myself with opportunities to both see and take part in live music, these days. It does a lot for my psyche, to tell you the truth. Seven years ago I was doing nothing of the sort and living in Raleigh, discontent in my job and my home life. Now I'd say almost 50% of the extra-work activities that I take part in are of a musical nature. I count myself lucky that experiencing things like this is not outside the realm of possibility for me. And that it's sort of becoming par for the course! Anyway, there's no hustle here at work like there was last night but I'd better get back to archiving video.

Wherever you Go...

Yesterday morning, the choir at the Brookly Unitarian church premiered my choral piece, "Wherever you go." The choir did a terrific job despite having only seen the piece for the first time that morning at rehearsal. Luckily, my director brought his handheld recorder so we were able to get a recording of the performance and the last run through in rehearsal. Here is the recording from the service:

It is a live recording so be prepare to hear all sorts of chatter and bumps in the background. Adds to the character of everything.

Seriously, though, I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of this choir and this church. And I'm incredibly grateful to them for lending their talents to the realization of this piece. I was positively giddy all morning getting to hear the piece performed by performers of such a high caliber. Hope you all enjoy the recording!

More musings later on on what turned out to be a very musical weekend. Now, it's back to work. It's been a long night, what with the news of Bin Laden's death!