About Me

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I live in Brooklyn, NY and I love it here.  I came here for my career in 2009 and haven't once looked back. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Casual reminders on a Saturday evening...

I live in New York City. Occasionally, I feel like I need to remind myself of how awesome that is. Just to keep myself going. As a kid at 17 coming here for the first time, the trip was followed by weeks if not months of dreaming that I'd one day be living here as an adult. Now I'm here and sometimes I just let life go on and get wrapped up in whatever problem I'm trying to solve. I get overwhelmed, obsessed with outcomes and altogether befuddled. Then, I recall that at least one good thing is going on. I'm living somewhere I've always wanted to live and I'm doing what I love. Sometimes I'd like to tell that wide-eyed kid what eventually happens to him.

Still in the afterglow of the concert and all the response we received, and today Tania posted the first review. I read it with great anticipation, trying to discipline myself not to jump ahead to where the reviewer talked about my piece but after about five paragraphs of the reviewer expounding on various things, I did it. I skipped ahead to my paragraph. It's the ninth one down in case you want to do the same. But do read all of it eventually. It's important to note that the idea of shaking up the paradigm of traditional classical music recitals in order to reach a younger audience was not lost on the reviewer...nor was it wholly frowned upon.

It's a great partnership brewing between Tania and myself and all the other composers and musicians I'm meeting through her. We are considering doing the same program again somewhere else in the fall. And I plan on writing more for Tania and eventually commissioning her to record some things of mine. All in good time though. All in good time.

She's off to Holland for the Holland Music Sessions Summer Academy for a bit and then off to Bulgaria for a bit as well. You'll know more when I know more.

Meanwhile, other than Lacy's show (for which we will have our last rehearsal tomorrow), the next big thing to wrap up is the music for Mohammad's film. The interesting thing is that we're working with music that has already been written and trying to make it conform to several ideas that he previously had about the structure of the video portion of this particular segment. If I haven't mentioned, it's a video timeline of events leading up to the beginning of the story, sort of an exposition, if you will. The music was going to be all Oud, and then some audio from a call to prayer which would line up with the dramatic reveal at the end of the animation. In my boredom waiting for the oud player to arrive on the scene, I came up with an electronic part inspired by the script and the setting of the film (the subway on the Manhattan bridge). I incorporated not only electronic drums in a slow 12/8 beat and a low droning ostinato string part, but actual audio from the subway trains screeching to a halt and bumping sounds made by the train as it crosses the railroad ties which I incorporated into the rhythm of the drum part. This whole thing may end up being the score for the trailer and only a small part of it may end up in the film but we'll see. Anyway, it's always fun to see how different an end product you can get based on whether the piece is cut to music or the music is composed to fit a finished cut of the video. I love this part of the process. The bouncing ideas off each other, the constant revisions, the honing of it all. Most might get frustrated in this stage but I tend to get more frustrated at the beginning before the ideas start to flow. Once I have an idea it's like I finally got the car started and can just start driving. Even if I get stuck in traffic at least I'm not still stuck where I started. Being stuck in traffic, I can at least turn off on a side road if I need to.

At the risk of exhausting my metaphor I think I'll end here. Gotta get some sleep at some point. I think we're going to try for another recording session next weekend and then get the ball rolling on a final cut of everything. Talk soon!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The concert...

Rhythmic Movement was a great success! Tania's concert received a pretty big turnout considering the size of the venue. We even spotted a few reviewers in the crowd! In addition, I had the premier of my work, "Moon, Tides, Cycles" and I couldn't have been more pleased with the outcome. Actually, that's not true. I could have been way more pleased but after a certain point you just have to accept outcomes and embrace them.

The performance itself went over really well and the piece was very well received. But the venue had limitations. Nevermind a few misunderstandings with the main sound guy (who wasn't even there that night), when we arrived for our sound check we met Ted who was much more accommodating. However, I was to find out that a crucial aspect of my piece was going to be impossible to achieve. The panning. Yes, even though I told the sound guys that I was giving them stereo outs from my laptop, I forgot to mention that I would need to be able to pan my mix left and right. There was nothing to be done in a pinch though. The house system was set up to sub both stereo channels to one output. The speakers were just a cluster over the stage pointed out in three directions at the seating area. So, no panning for me, and thus a crucial part of the piece was not heard. Well, no one knew the difference but me anyway. And when it comes down to it, it's not wholly essential for the piece to come across. And I still did the panning while on stage mixing because he told us that the recording could have two distinct channels of stereo. So, at least we'll be able to hear the whole piece at some point.

Leading up to the performance, I felt that familiar thrill of nerves (yes, I know I was just twiddling knobs up there but there's a performance element even in that!) and had to meditate to not let it overwhelm me. I then realized that it had to be compounded by the amount of caffeine I inadvertently ingested throughout the day (cup of green tea, two cups of mate and a ginseng black and green tea that had mate in it as well!). The nice part about performing though is that all this energy gets to be channeled into something you're creating. And the release of it all is the best part of the act. If you've ever performed you know what I'm talking about.

The most exciting part of the evening for me, aside from actually performing, was spotting the reviewers out in the crowd. I saw at least two gentleman sitting by themselves and writing on their programs in the dark and I figured them immediately for press.

The response afterward was nice, too. I met so many people who enjoyed my piece and heard some very nice compliments. One of my co workers, actually, the gentleman who introduced me to Tania and effectively made this collaboration possible, Asa was there with his wife as well (he showed me some photos he took of us today at work). And both of my parents came as well. They had been spending the weekend up in Athens, NY with my aunt and just took the train down Tuesday evening to Grand Central, where I met them. I spent some time up there as well over the weekend and I never got around to blogging about it!

After I met my parents at Grand Central, we took our time getting back to 25th Street in Brooklyn, stopping at my favorite GF pizza joint in the Flatiron district (an area I'd be spending a lot of time in over the next few days) and went and ate in Madison Square Park. Then we stopped by one of my favorite bars in Cobble Hill, Local 61. We tucked in relatively early because we had designs on getting up early and biking. I dragged my bike through the turnstiles and carted it all the way to Whitehall Street while Mom and dad rented bikes in Battery Park city at Bike and Roll. Mom wanted to get from Battery Park all the way to the George Washington Bridge and we just about did it. I think we turned around at 165th Street and rode back down to 44th Street near the USS Intrepid where we could drop their bikes off. From there I walked my bike back to 8th Avenue and 34th Street to get the A train back to Brooklyn.

All in all, it was a great experience and one I intend to repeat soon with a biking buddy. There are parts of the greenway on the west side that are absolutely gorgeous. There's a causeway at around the 70s and 80s that takes you out over the Hudson River a little ways. Beyond that there's a lane of cherry trees and a fairly wooded stretch. We reached a spot around the 150s where we had a clear view of the bridge (which is actually around 178th Street) and stopped for a series of pictures.

Instant Upload

Additionally, in this album is a shot of our reward which waited for us at 4th Avenue Pub, and me, all suited up back in the Flatiron District before the show last night. There are also a few pictures of the Irish Hunger Memorial that we stumbled on while trying to snake through all the downtown bike lane detours in place from all the construction. You'll even see a pic or two of the new world trade tower.

Yeah, I figured out what I could delete to get a little more storage space on my SD card for my phone so I was actually taking pictures yesterday!

There'll be more on the aftermath of the concert pretty soon as I hear about it. Meanwhile, I have a deadline now with the film score and next Wednesday is mine and Lacy's show at Bar 82.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I'm gonna be on TV!

Today's shoot went well at the Metropolitan Room. I admit I was a little nervous with all the elements involved: reserving and renting the space, me getting the reporter on board with covering us, Tania getting the body painter to come and me getting myself there with my equipment and getting everything to work while we were shooting. But, everything worked out great. Aside from the fact that we had a little bit of a problem getting the guy to turn the lights up for us (he was afraid to touch the board without the audio guy being there, but we impressed upon him that we were doing a report and it was sort of crucial to have more than just wall sconces to light the place) and then we had a problem later on as he was rushing us to finish (he said he'd have to charge for the extra hour but he'd give us 10 more minutes, which you'd think would denote that he would make good on that. When we still weren't finished we offered to pay for the next hour but then he said he had someone coming to clean the place and the guy had to be somewhere else right after). Oh, and until I showed up and he actually made a phone call, he had no idea that anyone had the space rented today.

Beyond that, it was fun. I'm sitting here wondering, though, if I made any sense at all talking on camera about my piece and if I wasn't too fidgety and if she's going to have anything at all worthy of a sound bite in that interview. She interviewed both Tania and Danny, the painter, as well, then got some shots of us performing as well as shots of Danny painting Tania's back. All in all, I think she's got the makings of a great report there. Watch for it on NY1 on Friday and Sunday this week. I'll try to find out exactly what times they usually air the arts reports. I'm sure it'll be airing all day. And if it's posted online I'll definitely link it.

This'll be the first time I've been on television I believe...other than the occasional wide shot of the studio I've been in when I've worked floor directing at TV studios. I have also had my name on television in the Triangle area in NC for that show that I wrote the music to. But those don't count.

Anyway, it was fun getting to talk about my music and chatting with my co workers. We even joked a little about how those data cards she was recording on are probably going to go through my department at work (I work in the media department at NY1) and that I'm probably going to be the one making sure they get into the system and don't get deleted by accident. You can bet I'm going to be on top of that tomorrow.

Meantime, Lacy and I rehearsed all afternoon but opted not to perform this evening. She's feeling a little under the weather so we just attended Bar 82's open mic and stayed for Blueberry Season, the featured artist, a guy we've seen at many open mics in the past few months. He's quite energetic and has this gravelly Tom Waits/Kurt Cobain thing going on. It works. You should check him out if you get the chance.

Our other motive for attending was to try and talk to Wayne, the organizer about the logistics of playing with our laptops at our show. Yes, we've decided to do a partly electric show, about which I'm very excited. I don't want to give too much away but there are a handful of songs that we will do in the middle acoustically and then we will sandwich those between electric songs. Stay tuned. That's on August 3rd. Here's the Facebook invite. Please come if you can. I'll be pestering you all more closer to the date.

Anyway, we got to talk with Wayne a little after the open mic and subsequent show about random stuff. Turns out he used to do music stuff at Marz Bar on 2nd Avenue, an iconic rock bar that was a mainstay of the East Village for years, until it closed a few years ago. He also runs the open mic at Banjo Jim's, a paid bartending gig for him, but which is also about to close to make way for a new artisanal wine bar. There was some talk of the East Village gentrification and the loss of rock clubs like this being a shame. Although, it sounded to me like the reason for Marz Bar closing down was that they were going to renovate or rebuild that block and that the bar just had to move for a while. At least that's the impression I got from this article and this article. One article said that low income family's already living in those buildings would be guaranteed a spot in the new buildings. So maybe it's not such a bad thing...not that I want rock clubs like this to go away, it just sounds like maybe there'll be a new incarnation. It is a shame that the damned rent will probably go up.

Anyway, it's always disheartening to hear people, old school lifers, talk about how older New York is better. In the grand scheme of things, I just got here, and it still seems pretty effing cool to me but to some extent I feel like I missed out on a bunch. But then, the way I tend to look at life is that no matter what you missed there's always something spectacular out there that you're inevitably going to catch as long as you put yourself out there and go explore your world. I know it's often hard to feel this way about anything new especially if you feel you've already lived your glory days but sometimes you just have to let the old go and embrace the new...sometimes.

That's the end of my train of thought for the evening. I've got a busy couple of days ahead and should get some needed rest. Talk soon!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Intensity in ten cities...

...is what the next few weeks are going to be like. Between rehearsing for Tania's concert (and my premiere) and Lacy and I arranging a set list for the 3rd of August for our first full length show AND working on the last touches of the film score, I may go insane. But, the good kind of insane. Luckily, I can sort of organize my thoughts in my spare time here.

Today, after Harry Potter 7 part 2, I worked with Lacy on the set list and deciding which ones we would do electric with laptops and which ones we would do acoustic. We've arranged with Wayne, the organizer of both Bar 82's and Banjo Jim's open mics, a full 40 minute set on the night of August 3rd at Bar 82. It's exciting to take this project to the next level now. Plus it's been a long time since I've played that long of set with a band...I mean, I played with Teletextile back in November but I believe that was only 30 minutes and I only played and sang on about 3 of the songs out of 5 that we did. I'm remembering the days with Brilliance as a Fashion and with Buggstar, though, rehearsing for shows and working out logistics of set lists and things like that and I didn't realize how much I missed it, the excitement of presenting all the work you've done, pieceing it all together into a cohesive whole.

Intense though today was. I had to scarf down dinner after that rehearsal and pack up all of my electronic equipment to head to Queens to rehearse with Tania for the electronics and piano piece, now being called "Moon, Tides, Cycles." I'm going to post program notes to it eventually once I get a recording of the new performance. Here's a link, for those interested, to how I'm setting everything up with the Macbook and my mic, interface and keyboard.

Anyway, we had a few good run-throughs and then I had to truck it on over to the Chelsea Market for work at NY1, the trains running all screwed up in normal weekend fashion. (Tania's apartment and studio are right off the E train in Queens at 23rd St./Ely Ave, yet the first train to come was the F, allegedly running on the E line until West 4th, which would have gotten me straight to work at 14th Street/8th Ave with no connections. Yet, the F was actually running, not as advertised on its regular track after 5th Ave/53rd Street...so I had to take the L at 14th Street one extra stop). Dizzying I know. But luckily the train came as soon as I hit the L train platform at 14th Street/6th Ave.

So things all together felt much smoother than my day on Friday, when, though I began my day with a perfect sans spatula flip of my eggs without breaking the yolks, all hell broke loose. I was planning on buying Harry Potter tickets using a Groupon and then packing all of my stuff together for work, including my equipmnent, so that I could head straight to Queens for rehearsal with Tania right after I left work at 8pm. I would have gotten there way too early and needed to kill time but it would have been better than going all the way back to Brooklyn to get my stuff...which ironically is what I ended up having to do anyway. I was all set to get the movie tickets for just $2 a piece with the Groupon codes but I wasn't sure if Fandango would let me use both Groupon codes a the same time so I figured I'd just buy them separately. After hitting back on my browser though, I forgot to reset the correct date in the date field and ended up buying a ticket for Friday's matinee. So, with an hour before I had to be at work, I now needed to somehow manage go by the theater in downtown Brooklyn and exchange the ticket. The sooner the better they told me. And then I had to still buy the second ticket and hope the show wouldn't sell out before I could get to a computer again. In all this frenzy, I thought I already had everything packed: lunch, laptop, keyboard, cables, microphone, stand, etc. Until I got to work (late because of the effing 2 train being stuck for 10 minutes on the track), I didn't realize that the audio interface was still sitting at home plugged into my PC. This set up of mine will not function without an audio interface. Even if I could plug the mic directly into the computer it's a condensor mic and needs phantom power to operate. So, I cursed for a while and then realized that I'd have to just leave on time and pickup the 15 minutes I'd missed, being late, on another work day, and head home to Brooklyn. First, I decided that I wasn't going to drag the keyboard and laptop all the way home and then back so I left them at work to come pick up later. Since the E train was actually running on its proper track I would only need to take one train from work to her place in Queens. And wouldn't you know it, I got home and back to work in just an hour and 15 and, after leaving work with the rest of my equipment, that put me in Queens squarely on time. All that fuss and everything still worked out.

There's a lesson here I think. Barely anything will go as planned. Not to diminsh the importance of planning, it's probably also a good idea to know how to improvise.

Simultaneously, the film score is coming together quite nicely. Tonight I just saw the first piece of the film, an opening scene. Ideas are pouring out of my head and can barely write them down fast enough. Most of them revolve around taking the Oud performances and sampling them and layering them in the background along with other ethereal sounds like sampled vocals from the Muslim call to prayer we've been using for the full piece. But also, I'm considering some music bed for the opening scene I just saw which centers around a press conference held in 2015 about the new law that is put in effect requiring all Arab Americans to be registered with the government. Soon we will have the animation timeline that follows and at that point we'll start to see the whole thing come together. We may or may not need another studio day. I'll keep you all up to date on it.

For now, I have to work on getting all those ideas in print before they disappear.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Gearing up for concerts...

Some of the best moments being a composer are when you hear one of your pieces performed by someone else. It's the moment when the piece starts to live. Before, it's just an idea you've been tossing around in your head and then one day you wrote it down but until it's actually articulated, it's like it's just a theory. Then, it's suddenly an actual valid work of art just by simply having its notes plunked out in a practice room.

Tania and I went to Queens today to go through Moon, Tides, Cycles in one of the practice rooms where she teaches lessons. We really only got to go through the piece one time before I had to head back into the city for work. We were just going over certain improvised parts and interpreting some of my ridiculous notation. It was nice though to hear it realized by a performer not myself. It's also a joy to work with a performer who doesn't complain about a piece being difficult or that there's meter changes in it. (I would get this a lot in graduate school!) She shouldn't have any problem with the piece at all and we're going to get in a couple of rehearsals with the electronics and everything soon. I'm so pysched. We're getting pretty close to the date of the concert and there's still so much to work out just logistic wise. Who's going to tape it, are we going to get it recorded by the people at Metropolitan Room, how are we going to get the word out to the press etc. They're unfortunately not giving us any comp tickets at the venue and there's a freaking two drink minimum...but I hope that won't dissuade any of you from joining us. It really is going to be a unique concert.

Plus, my parents are bringing up my tuxedo for me to wear...I have no idea why I didn't have it with me before now. Guess I just didn't foresee a time when I would wear it when I left NC. There are two in existence and one is from high school while the other is from college. I had to skype with my mom so I could show her which one to bring.

Anyway, Lacy and I had a long rehearsal today and no open mic because we're preparing for the eventuality of a full 40 minute or more set. Spent the first half of the rehearsal working on the logistics of performing with our laptops and the last half doing all the acoustic stuff. Meanwhile, I'm dozing off with my guitar in my hand because for the last year and a half, every Sunday, I take a nap. So, despite getting 10 hours of sleep last night, at 4pm sharp, my body says, "Take a NAP!" The rehearsal went great though despite my lethargy but I've seriously gotta find something else to pay the bills that doesn't require me to basically give myself jet lag every week.

That having been said, I must get back to work.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Goings on and other fun things...

I've really gotta catch you guys up don't I? I've been hard at work on the film score for a while, mixing and remixing, recorded the oud player the other day and we may do some more recording, plus things are really ramping up with Lacy and we've been playing more consistently at open mics and working on her new stuff and some covers (We just played "Anthem" by Leonard Cohen at this week's Bar 82 open mic). So, things are crazy. I've kind of been trying to build up things to talk about in the next newsletter, which, get excited, is coming up soon!

In the past week, I've had some fun times though in addition to all the work. Monday night, the 4th of July, I went to a cookout at my friend Kirsten's, whom I know from undergraduate days and with whom I reconnected at the Unitarian Church last spring. Met two electronic musicians both named Phil while there and hung out most of the afternoon and all of the evening up until I had to go to work the overnight shift. Some of the Unitarian folks were there too and we all got talking about going to see a concert in Prospect Park, most likely this one, and doing other cool Brooklyn summer things (God, I love this borough!).

Tuesday nights are always fun when I go to Adriana Rizzolo's yoga class at Abhaya. Wednesday night, Lacy and I went to Bar 82 to play the open mic as usual. We did a new song of hers and the Cohen tune, which went over well. Our organizer, Wayne, was highly complimentary of our performance. The rest of the open mic got a bit rowdy but we stuck around until the end. Now, I'm really wishing we hadn't because my very good friend Crystal Bright was in town with her band Crystal Bright and the Silver Hands playing not one but three shows. I stupidly didn't look at the second Facebook invite she put out which announced the three shows as part of her band's whole tour. The first Facebook invite only mentioned the show last night which was at Pete's Candy Store. There was one Tuesday at Pianos and one Wednesday at The Delancey. Man, what a good show at Pete's though. She plays accordion and keys at the same time while balancing a musical saw between her knees and a Ugandan stringed instrument on her nose and occasionally drops it all to pick up a drum she got from Argentina...all with a spectacular backing band. If any of you anywhere ever get the chance to see Crystal's band, go see them, or else! You won't regret it. I had a great time and the other band headlining were great too, Tin Pan. Check them out as well. They rocked the place clean in half with their raucous 1920's style swing. They even sing songs about pirates and toss used CDs at the crowd if you answer pop culture questions correctly between their songs. I caught four.

The ride on the G train home and subsequent walk through downtown Brooklyn because the G wasn't running all the way to Park Slope, was worth it.

This evening, while tired, I'm excited because Tania and I are getting closer and closer to the show we've been talking about for months. I won't give away too much yet but we're working on getting more press on the event. Here's a link to a Daily News blurb about it. We're meeting tomorrow to discuss rehearsals, etc. The show itself is on the 27th of July, a Wednesday night at the Metropolitan Room in the heart of the Flatiron district. So please come all you New Yorkers...and you too mom and dad. I know you'll be up here in the city!

Other than that, some exciting news on the health front: I just had my first appointment with the Celiac experts at Columbia U and I am happy to report that this is the best doctor I've had since both moving to NYC and being diagnosed with this disorder. I spent about an hour and a half there and an hour and fifteen minutes of that was spent talking to the doctor. So, I'm happy about that, especially since I left with Dr. Peter Green's expansive tome on Celiac which is more informative than anything I've read on the subject. Happier days are on the way.

That having been said, I must get some sleep.