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. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Reflection delayed...

Barreling towards the end of the year and finally finding time to reflect.  It's been a fun trip to NC this time around and I have one last night before I pack up and head back.  And once I'm back, it's not too long before I'm gonna be heading to Nicaragua.  14 days.  So, naturally I'm far to excited and nervous about that to really think too much about things like freelance work.  And even though my plan was to sit down and take a look at the upcoming year's goals during my stay here, I didn't really accomplish any of that.

So naturally I have a lot of things on my mind with regard to that.  I spoke once before about not stressing too much about trying to find work but rather just being ready when the next opportunity comes along.  Now, I kinda think that I should really be finding a balance between these two extremes.  I can look for work and spend time between jobs making sure I'm ready when an opportunity presents itself.  Sitting around and waiting doesn't sound like a good strategy no matter what you're doing.  I would rather be proactive and identify things that I can be doing to help myself out between jobs.  Working on tracks that I can license, writing music for the guitar looping project, trying to find a space and time to rehearse/jam with the drummer (this has not happened yet this year)...also, working on revamping the voice over demos and the marketing plan.  So there's a lot to do there.  A lot to keep me busy.

But I'd really like to talk about goals.  And not just goals for the sake of goals but targeted goals that take into account how over ambitious I was last year with some goals and how on point I was with others.  Which goals did I accomplish and which goals did I fall short of accomplishing?  Which ones did I neglect entirely?

There's a real pressure not to just do what I did last year, even if some of my moves were successful.  So I find myself sitting here reading old blogs and reflecting, as I do.  Another thing that has crossed my mind is that in order to focus on some things, I may have to leave a few things by the wayside.  I can't even wrap my brain around all that right now.  So, I think my first focus in the new year is going to be contacting producers, both voice over and film, to touch base and maybe scare up some work.  That's the big thing that I still don't have a lot of under my belt.  Work.  I mean, my website looks good, if I do say so myself, but I feel like it can never hurt to have more current material on showcase.   I could have had two feature film projects last year but both of them slipped through my fingers.  Not that I'm remorseful for that.  It was a great experience and it taught me that getting heard of is only part of getting the job.  You gotta be on your game and stand out from the crowd.   Which is a tad frustrating because it feels like it's out of your hands to some extent.  You can only do so much.  I mean, really, let's look at this: you can put together a stellar reel but you have to sort of pay attention to what other composers are doing and find ways to stand out from them with your work.  And you can have your hands in a lot of things, to get the attention of a lot of different kinds of producers for a lot of different kinds of projects, but then can you really be stellar at any one thing if you're spreading yourself so thin?  But then do you have to really choose just one area, be it electronic music, orchestral music, or pop?

All this floods my mind when I start to think about this.  And then I start to think about the licensing agency and how they haven't heard anything new from me in months.  The good thing is, there was one last piece of music that I never sent to them because I never finished it.  I liked so many aspects of it but it was missing something and I never really put my finger on it.  I revisited it a few days back and I think I have some ideas.  I may want to try some things I was afraid to before and get some restructuring underway.  I have ideas occurring to me out of the blue that I'm not sure why I didn't have before.  It's a good feeling, at the very least, to have a project I can get started on now without waiting for some job to come along.

Anyway, voice over is a whole different beast these days.  I haven't had a job since the summer.  By comparison this year has been a lot more meager.  But I did get my first out of the blue calls for work this year along with the attention of an agent...never mind the fact that she told me I sounded too regional on one of my spots and to watch for that.  I'm not too bummed about either because for one thing, that agent was way too hard to get a hold of for someone I'd like to be working with to find voice over work.  And for another thing, my lack of work in this arena can probably be directly attributed to me filling up my schedule with freelance TV work.  CNN and TruTV were great boons to my financial well being this year and are solely responsible for almost doubling my salary for the greater part of the year and finally, this trip to Nicaragua.

I think it's important, in the midst of all this stuff to remember that I worked hard this year and now I'm going to go and reward myself.  I need this.  Too much work and no play, make Tim something something...

So, I think instead of stressing over all of the above, I'm going to focus on the Nicaragua trip and then get started on all of it when I get back.  I think I'll leave New Year's Resolutions and game plans for the New Year untouched for a few weeks until I come back from Nicaragua with a tan and hopefully no tropical diseases.  At that point, I'll touch base...I may even send pics from the beach.  So stay tuned...

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Sometimes it's okay to just chill...

First big snow of the year and I'm hanging in tonight.  I had to work this morning at TruTV and was planning on getting a little Christmas shopping done at the holiday markets until this happened: 


So then, I was compelled to go straight to DSW and spend what I would have spent on shoes for the Nicaragua trip on a new pair of boots.  This is not the first time this week I've had a wardrobe malfunction either.  I was sitting on the edge of my bed putting socks on before I left for work and one over zealous lift of my leg caused me to rip the jeans I was wearing in an unfortunate place.  And of course, this led to me changing said pants but forgetting to retrieve my apartment keys from my front pocket.  Hence leaving the apartment without my keys for the first time in a long time.

There are times when rushing around does me good and I'm able to cram a lot into one day (just the other day I managed to wake up early enough to squeeze in a voice over audition and still get to work on time and didn't have to eat out for dinner that day because I had prepared way in advance...never mind that I'm pretty sure this was the same day I forgot my keys) but there are other times when I just feel like life is catching up with me and I just need to chill for a bit to regroup.

Like today.  I just bought those shoes and came home because I figured I deserved a break...and some gluten free beer and home cooking.  Although, I did swing through the market at Columbus Circle for a look.  I only stayed long enough to get a pile of snow dropped on my head from the roof of one of the stalls just for standing in one spot for too long.  That and the slushy slippery snow accumulating on the walk between stalls convinced me it was time to just give up, go buy new boots and go home.

And sometimes it takes a while to quell the noise in my head telling me that, just because I have some downtime that I should be making the most of it by advancing one or more of the projects I have on the docket but then, I realize that I'm home and I'm tired and I've been working like a dog.  I haven't had a day off since Thanksgiving weekend and I won't have one off until Christmas.  I have even been squeezing in more voice over auditions to prove to myself that there's no reason to slack off there and that even a little bit of progress is worthwhile.  So maybe, I should just take a break.  Right?

I've even talked about this before on some level, I'm sure.  How it's important to put downtime on your to do list.  So, here I am, enjoying my downtime. And what do I do?  I pick up my guitar, put on some Smashing Pumpkins to reminisce and then text a friend to see what he's up to.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Things I need to do...

It's late.  Ha!  It's always late when I'm writing these entries.  Shut up Tim and tell them about what's going on.  Anyway, I was just reminiscing and reading an entry from last year on this exact date (well, yesterday's date now).  For some reason I had a hunch there'd be some insight there.  I do this sometimes. I don't just re-read to reminisce but to gain perspective.  And sure enough, I was talking about making lists and my approach to starting tasks and allowing them to remain fluid so that I can alter my course once I get a clearer picture of what it will take to complete said tasks.  This also hearkens back to a more recent blog in the past few weeks where I was talking about the science of procrastination. 

When I wrote the more recent blog, I hadn't yet gone back and read the first one I linked and now I realize that, seriously, I was right in the second more recent blog....a lot of this stuff is innate.

That said, I know January is over a month away but regrouping at year's end and making to-do lists for the new year is on my mind again.  And starting projects, actually getting my ass moving again on a lot of things, is also on my mind.  So glad I re-read my blog about just getting started and being flexible with my approach to various tasks.

The things I need to do:

I've been thinking a lot about the licensing agency and how, since about a year has passed since they received my first batch of tracks and I haven't heard anything, I might need to increase my output to them.  I've also been thinking a lot about how these voice over practice sessions my coach has been organizing are really bringing out some great reads and I'm feeling much more confident (especially around other VO actors...I'd truly be interested in studying the psychology behind why a person seems to feel more confident in groups versus with individuals or even more confident with some individuals versus others...but that's another blog entry).  Indeed, some of these reads I'm producing at the practice sessions are worthy of going on the commercial demo which needs constant attention, of course.  But what else do they need?  You guessed it: Music.  But wait, I need to write some new music for the licensing agency anyway!

About a week ago, I took a look at all the products of my riffing over the course of the last year and selected which ones I could turn something into.  I was going to just systematically produce one after the other to completion but now, I realize it might be a fun project to just listen to the best reads that I've put out from those practice sessions and focus on writing music specifically for them.

Every previous run I've taken at improving my demos always felt rushed.  I would just go through my library of unused tracks and grab the closest thing.  But now, I can see how both avenues would benefit from me taking the time to essentially produce these ads from the ground up.  Writing music specifically for them would both give me the experience of composing for an ad again and would leave me with a finished product I could use on the voice over demos and that I could send to the licensing agency.

So there's the goal and I now have a starting point.  It's time to organize my thoughts on that one and project how long it would take me to get this done.  The idea is that it'll get me started with two, maybe 3, 30 second music bumps that I could also extend to 60 second versions that would both go on the VO demo and go to the licensing agency (remember it's a non-exclusive contract).  And then I would have the momentum, in theory to compose a few more and by early next year I could be sending a few more off to the agency and would already have a new commercial demo in hand.

Sound good?  I hope so.  That's all the eureka I can muster right now. I'm about a day away from being off for four days and I'm mentally checked out of about every other endeavor that isn't music or voice over right now.  And off for four days during which I do not have to travel anywhere.  All I have to do is bake another gluten free pumpkin pie and truck my ass out to Bushwick without the use of the M train.  The adventure continues...

Saturday, November 23, 2013

NLP.org...

I feel good.  I've been working for the past 13 days and still have five more to go before I'm off for Thanksgiving weekend.  The whole weekend. Something that hasn't happened in years.  But despite the long stretch with no real rest, things are going exceptionally well.  And not just that, but I actually feel really good.  Sometimes in the middle of it all you can get a little, not overwhelmed, but just so busy that you forget to stop and look at the fact that "hey you live in the most amazing city in the world and you're still alive and kickin' it after five years!"  So, it can be nice to acknowledge it and really let it sink in.  Pausing to admire the view, as it were.

It probably helps that, even though I'm getting up to work at my freelance job tomorrow, I'm sitting here having the last gluten free beer in my fridge and chowing on homemade popcorn (midnight snack guilty pleasure routine, you know how it is).  Overall, I have to say though, that this has been an exceptionally good year.  And while I have been driving myself pretty hard and trying to take as many opportunities as come across my path and trying to make as many more happen as I can, I had a momentary realization on the train tonight.  That, perhaps I should be thinking more about just being prepared for the next opportunity instead of frantically trying to make things happen.

Let's face it, I have a lot of things on my plate right now. I'm working three jobs to pay off my debt and do fun things like go to Nicaragua on a yoga retreat, and also eat healthy and do yoga all the time.  I'm also trying to make the voice over thing a more consistent source of revenue and trying, of course, to advance the ever important music career, taking advantage of a diverse array of projects this year and trying to court several other potential clients to hire me to score their work.  Occasionally I breathe.  Like I'm doing now. As I type. 

So, it's not like I'm neglecting any one part of my career all that much.  Climbing a mountain takes time and while you can make significant strides and look down and see how far you've come to put things in perspective, sometimes you gotta move ahead one ridge at a time and stay focused on where the next foothold is.  (Climbing metaphor...nailed it!)

And I'm really not, when I think about it, neglecting anything.  I got that into my head somehow the other week.  "I'm not pushing far enough ahead in my voice over career."  Yes, I do need to audition more.  But today, I went to another VO practice session with my coach and about five other VO talents.  What fun that was, too!  And I was nailing all the reads for the scripts she gave me.  I actually can't wait to hear the finished mp3 she's going to send me. This stuff was sounding so good and she was liking it so much (my coach) that I think I'm going to use it to buff up my demos a little bit.

And then, who knows.  I'm definitely doing better at the auditioning but I'm really being reminded why I got frustrated before and started to look for agents.  The online auditioning world is unpredictable.  I literally had nothing earlier in the week, just a few weird religious things that I couldn't pull off if I tried.  And just yesterday, when I usually work from 10am to 1130pm, I shit you not, I had no fewer than 7 auditions come through my inbox that were for jobs with budgets up in the $500 range.  What?!

Seriously, guys, it's frustrating.  I may be able to do one or two of them this weekend but I don't have high hopes.  It's like I have to take this freelance work while I can because that's money I know I can make, while the VO stuff is a huge maybe.  Maybe I can pull of an awesome read and send it in time, and maybe they'll like it.  But in all likelihood, I won't hit the mark and they'll be looking for a totally different style of read or voice type than me.

That's the trick and that's why an agent is important.  They can get to know your voice, and already knowing something about the industry can help you find the jobs you're most suited for.

But I digress.  This blog is about savoring the moment.  I may not be at the summit but at least I can pause and look down at how far I've come and center myself, refocus my approach and just look for the next foothold.

On a side note, the reason I titled this blog NLP.org is because I realized while I was typing this that The News Literacy Project has started to post videos with my bumper on them.  Go here to listen.  There's a milestone for you. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

50 Days 'til Nicaragua and a goal...

I bought a plane ticket yesterday to a country I've never been to before.  My passport still hasn't been renewed and I have yet to put down the deposit on this Nicaragua trip because my money has not cleared my paypal account yet.  But somehow, it's starting to feel real.   I'm actually doing this.  About f***** time.

That's the best part about having worked 50-60 hours a week for the better part of this year.  I can do things like put money away, save for a trip, buy an HD TV (one that I barely get to watch) and start thinking about financing a new guitar.  And the yoga retreat is sort of the pinnacle even though I'm committed to waiting until I've fully paid for said trip to start thinking about the new guitar.  Traveling in general is something that I've missed and now I get to do it like I've never done before, in ways I never thought possible.  Completely out of pocket and solo.  An adventure like none other I've experienced.

I sort of wish I hadn't bought the plane ticket already, though, because now I've restricted myself to staying only for the duration of the retreat.  Meanwhile, a co worker of mine, who's been to Nicaragua, gave me some tips to go check out this island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua composed of two volcanoes, one dormant and one active.  Something that would take far longer to accomplish than the allotted time we have on the trip for excursions.   Perhaps for another visit.   But then, who knows.  Maybe I could work it out.  We'll be staying south of San Juan del Sur on a private beach and the ferry to the island, Ometepe, is in San Jorge, a half hour drive from San Juan del Sur by the looks of it.  I guess it's a matter of having enough time to adequately explore the island.

So that's several goals of mine in sight, traveling to Central America, traveling solo again, and finally experiencing a yoga retreat.  I want to talk about a smaller scale goal, though, partially in reference to my last blog entry about carving out time.  I thought about how I was complaining about not having the time to advance my voice over career the way I'd like to and how there's a small space between saying I wish I could do something to just f***** doing it.  So I thought, "why not set a goal?"  It wouldn't have to be a large goal but any amount would be a move toward something quite substantial in the long run.  How about just saying every Monday, I will do voice over auditions, or I will do at least two a day, Monday, Wednesday and Fridays?  Or I will just be consistent and do a certain number every week, no matter when I do them?  I think it's going to go something like that.

That's how it starts anyway.  Maybe I can say at least every other week I will submit voice over auditions between now and the end of the year.  And slowly ramp up the rate at which I submit them until I can't let a week go by without submitting something.  The idea is that I'm being consistent with my practice whether or not I'm getting jobs every week.  And it's not wholly unfeasible to think I could accomplish this.  Heck, I did it with yoga.

Anyway, I got a lot of insight from this video:



While some of the things in this video are a bit intuitive to the point that I found myself saying, "hey, I already kinda do that!" I did find a lot of things that are relevant to my situation and that could be helpful.  I'm thinking mainly of the bits about just getting started on a task.  This part in particular resonated with me:

"Your willpower is simply not enough...in fact, some studies suggest that willpower is an exhaustible source that can be entirely used up...instead of convincing yourself to simply try harder, a more methodical approach is suggested.  The first step?  Get started...it may seem obvious but studies have shown, starting a project may be the biggest barrier to productivity.  Before starting, our brain visualizes the hardest parts to come and instead tries to simulate real work by focusing on small mindless tasks..."

He goes on to talk about the Zeigarnik effect which shows that if we don't finish something we experience discomfort until we do finish it.  In a way, that's the thing that propels us to complete something, having started it and left it unfinished.  I've certainly felt this in the past once I've started a project.  It begins to consume me and I start to want to devote time to it.   But starting is the biggest hurdle.   Also, it tells us that one of the reasons we procrastinate is because we tend to visualize the worst part of something when starting a task and thus get overwhelmed and perhaps abandon it.  Later on in the video he talks about breaking things up into small, manageable tasks to avoid this and that's, again, what I've instinctively done at times before as well.

Ultimately, I'd like to get my voice over practice back up to a level of prominence in my life on par with what I currently devote to yoga.  With yoga, the situation was slightly different.  I basically got a good deal on a membership to a studio and felt like I had to take advantage of it.  Then I started to really like doing it and consciously made it a priority.  Now I can't live without it.  It's certainly reasonable to think I could do the same with making voice over a priority.  It's just a matter of figuring out how to start.  So, I'm taking those steps this week.  And, in a way, I've already started.  In the past few weeks I've auditioned to more than I have in months.  Just the act of getting back into doing it on a regular basis has shown me that I can squeeze them in and that it is definitely doable.  I even discovered that Sound Forge, the software I use at home on the PC is now available for Mac.  Having that on my laptop will definitely up the quality of my auditions when I'm on the go which will afford me so much more time to do them.

Anyhow, for now, I structure and I plan.  Another tidbit from that video that I realized I already do is making lists of things to do instead of trying to multi-task.  :)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Time carving...

Carving out time has been on my mind lately.  Not just the fact that I'd like to carve out time for this electronic music project of mine and for voice over work but carving out time in general.  How I've gone about it in the past and how I might do it now given that my schedule is so much fuller than it ever has been.   I work 50 hours a week on average, I write music for film and I do voice overs, I have a yoga habit and occasionally, I like to go out to shows and meet people or go on dates. 

I could systematically look at my days and nights and subtract all the time when I'm not at a day job or somewhere that I need to be and then systematically rank things I do in order of importance but then something always gets left out and I start having to assure myself that I'll get around to it eventually and resign myself to the reality that some things may have to get put on the back burner for a while.   I don't really like operating this way to be honest but that's what it comes down to. 

The good thing is that I'm now at a point where my work schedule is steady enough that I could feasibly rethink all the other stuff I do and set days to do that (voice over and music on Wednesday and Friday mornings, and at some time during the day Saturday and Sunday, for example).  And I actually try to do that, yet somehow my schedule remains fluid and ever changing.  I'm always trying to squeeze in yoga here and there, and then I forget I have to find time for laundry or groceries or cooking so I don't have to eat out all the damn time.   

I've also always believed in the importance of scheduling free time into your schedule.  Without it I'd soon go insane.  Plus, having free time gives me that all important wiggle room when planning things.  Too often what can happen is that I schedule my days down to the minute and then if something comes up that I want to do or that I need to do but just forgot about, I have to give up something.  Too often it's yoga, other times it's cooking and then, in that case, I end up having to eat out. 

It's never simple either because if I want to cook to save money and also go to yoga, then I have to (like I'm doing tomorrow), go to work first with all the food I've cooked, drop if off in the fridge, then go to yoga.  And tomorrow I can't go straight home after yoga because I have a dentist appointment to get a cavity filled at 1pm and then by the time that's over I don't think I'll have time to go home so I may as well go straight to work.  But then the problem is I'd like to have my laptop with me so I can work if I need to but then I have to carry it around along with my yoga mat. 

Then, if I've done all that, I have no time to put in voice over auditions.  I may be staying fit and saving money by not eating out (also avoiding gluten) but I'm not advancing the voice over career at the pace I'd like to.  I just wish that I didn't have to sacrifice those two things that I love, yoga and digestive harmony (haha!), in order to advance my career. 

But I'm resourceful and I'll find a way.  I always do.  I was trying for a while to record voice over auditions on my laptop during my break from work but it's not always feasible.  It's only an hour after all, and any audition that I throw together in that amount of time is probably not going to be my best work. Plus, in order for it to be worthwhile for me to do auditions, I want them to be good quality, something that's unpredictable when I'm doing them away from the home studio.  Also, I often want to do multiple auditions in order to increase the odds that they will be heard and that I might get called back, but I can't really do a good job on more than two auditions in the space of an hour.

So that's out.  But I've found that, if it's a direct invite, then it most definitely is worthwhile to squeeze an audition out in such a small amount of time.  After all, my first job came from an audition I pulled together at work.  And I nailed it. But it wasn't ideal. 

Now, I've certainly cleared my schedule when I've had a music job before that needed to get completed so it's not unreasonable to think that I could do the same with voice over.   So that's the next thing.  I'm getting close to starting to score the pilot episode of "The Life" and am just about to master the recording of the song Amanda and I wrote for the show.  With the lull between those two, maybe I'll treat my voice over stuff like I do the music.  I really just want to sit down and start contacting people I've worked with again and possibly find some new clients. 

But then, I started off this blog talking about the electronic music project which I still haven't figured out how to devote time to.  The last time I devoted any time to it was when I knew I was going to be performing.  So I'm a little more concerned about that not getting its fair share of attention than I am the voice over work.  I've managed to find time for that in all this craziness and even pulled off squeezing in a few gigs in between CNN and NY1 when I was working 60 hours a week back in the summer time. 

The electronic music project is a colossal undertaking though.  One in which I will I have to devote loads of time not just writing the music but also working out the logistics of performing them with a drummer, getting time and space to rehearse with said drummer.  I guess I'm in no rush to make it happen which is part of the problem.  I can spread out my progress on it, no problem.  But it is something that I've been talking about for far too long.  It is nice that I can look at it and at least acknowledge that I've advanced to some degree. 

With that said, though, it's hard when you've basically already planned out most of the month ahead to fathom squeezing in that one added project.  That's about all I have time to think about tonight because there's that one thing in my schedule that I can't shove aside to make room for other things...and that is sleep.  Good night.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

So much for recharging...

Back to the daily grind after a wonderful slow paced weekend in the country.  I should do that more often.  But here I am tired again, mainly because I couldn't sleep last night.  As usual, there's lots going on up in my brain.  I talked with George about the end credit music for "The Life" tonight, before I left work, and I'm thinking I'll be finished with the final mix this week and ready to master everything next week.  After that, we start talking about the final edit of the pilot and what kind of underscoring we'll need.  It's shaping up to be about 40 minutes long so, it may be the longest thing I've scored solo since Kisses and Caroms.  Zero Sum Game I scored in part with two other composers chipping in and some of my stuff not getting used in the final cut.

Anyway, I'm as excited as ever about it and all the other projects.  Even the ones on hold right now.  Tomorrow, to add to the excitement, I have a voice over practice session with my coach and a few of her other students in Midtown at 1pm.  So I have time to get back to yoga tomorrow morning and to pitter around town before I go into work at 330pm.  Should be a great day, great to dive back into voice over again...but I have to be up in about 7 hours.  It never ends.

So with that said, I think I am going to start taking more opportunities to recharge...and reward myself.  I've had a long and hard but also fun year.  But also grueling.  And also brutal in some ways.  But also fruitful.

The point is I deserve down time and thinking of how to spend such down time (and some of the money I've saved up) has led me to decide to finally start traveling again.  I don't always believe in such stuff but I have been toying with the notion that our thoughts create our reality.   Central America and the Caribbean have been in some of those thoughts and so has the idea of doing a yoga retreat at some point.  So, a few Sundays ago, while meditating before a yoga class, I decided to direct that thought energy toward such a venture.  "I'd like to make that a reality this year."  I said to myself.  Wouldn't you know it, at the end of that yoga class my teacher mentioned a yoga retreat in Belize that she leads in April, right around my birthday.  I took it as a sign and started doing my research.  After a few days of looking into it, I started to think about how I should probably weigh all my options.   Then, yet another yoga retreat popped up that one of my teachers at a different studio leads.  This one in Nicaragua.   Unfortunately, it's sooner and I don't think I'll have the money in time to put down a deposit but then who knows.  Things could change.  Things always change.

I've been thinking about that, too.  How you can plan so far ahead in the future but your planning can only take into account what you assume will happen given the set of circumstances that you are aware of, i.e. how much money you will be making at your current job(s), or if a new job will come around in time to help you out.  Now, instead of waiting for such a thing to happen, why not just say what you need from the universe out loud.  Again with the thoughts creating reality, if I say, "I can't afford it," then I won't.  But if I instead ask, "how can I afford it," I'm that much closer to figuring it out.  I have to believe it's possible before I can entertain the thought.  Of course, I've never been the kind of person to think you can just draw something from thin air but I do think it's powerful to state your intentions because it gives your conscious mind something to latch onto, a goal to work towards.  You need a certain amount of faith of course, but what I mean when I say faith, is faith in yourself, faith in your abilities.  There is still work to be done.  Oh, no doubt about that.

It always helps me in these situations too, and especially when I doubt myself to look at my track record...I'm here, aren't I?  Good night for now.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Recharge...

I did something amazing last night that I've not done in years.  I slept.  A lot.  Several hours in a row.  I don't know exactly how many but I will say that I got in bed around 10:30pm, also something I haven't done in years, and I got out of bed around 9:30am the next morning.  Somewhere in the middle, I did wake up, but I refused to get out of bed for at least a half hour, mainly because the bathroom here is up a flight of stairs.  I'm currently at my sister's house in Virginia, hanging with her family.  Basically recharging for a weekend.  And man, am I recharging, or what?  I actually took a nap a few hours ago, one from which I awoke to hear my niece yelling about zombies (she was playing Minecraft across the kitchen from me).  So far, the only other thing I've done today besides eating that was mildly productive was win a game of Magic the Gathering, a game I've never really played, against my brother in law and my oldest nephew.

Yesterday, I took the train to DC from New York and had my cousin pick me up at Union Station.  We spent some time driving around DC and ended up at Jones Point Lighthouse because he wanted to see one of the old DC boundary stones, actually the first to be laid.  It exists under the lighthouse and you actually have to look under the porch in front of the lighthouse to see it.  Check out my photos.   My cousin then took me to Alexandria to meet an old friend for dinner, one I haven't seen in 13 years.  We caught up over gluten free pizza and then she drove me to Potomac Mills where my sister picked me up.

It occurred to me that all day today, I have not even once put shoes on and gone outside.  So a little bit ago, I stepped out on the back porch and looked up at the moon.  I haven't had a day this lazy in a very very long time.

So, I'm going to feel great by the time I get back to NYC.  I'm at a standstill with the workload anyway because I just sent in the finished mixes of the long and short versions of "Another Day in the Life," and am waiting for the director's input.  Plus, the piano theme for the other short film hasn't been touched in weeks because that director hasn't contacted me yet.  I'm also going to be diving back into some voice over things next week.  I put the agent search on hold while I focused on my other projects but next Wednesday, my coach has put together a VO practice session at the studio where I've been doing my coaching.  There should be a couple of other VO talents there and we'll just run through whatever scripts we bring or whatever Sylvia has there.  Should be lots of fun.  I've been needing something like this for a while.  I lost two good auditions in the past week and then got a reminder of a client who was wildly underpaying me last year when the same guy contacted me to do a few scripts for the same amount of money.  I turned him down.

Anyway, I spent the remainder of my evening eating a fabulous meal (gluten free Yorkshire pudding prepared by my brother-in-law), playing with the kids' remote control helicopters and sucking horribly at rock band even though I'm a musician with two degrees.  Tomorrow, my train back to the city doesn't leave until 845pm so I'll have another nice long day with the kids.  I heard something about a hay ride and a pumpkin patch.  Sounds fun!

Hopefully, soon I'll hear some feedback and Amanda's song for "The Life."  Meanwhile, it's back to work work on Monday.  First week back on the regular schedule.  I'm really hoping that the work at TruTV will not dry up anytime soon, because I've made a big life decision to finally travel next year and, following a few signs from the universe, have already picked a yoga retreat in Belize that will happen in April right around my birthday.  It's not terribly cheap and I'm probably picking the first option that has presented itself rather than finding something as affordable as possible, but a yoga retreat and a Central American/Caribbean destination has been on my mind for quite some time.  I've never been further south than the airport in Miami, FL.  So here's to that.  If I stick to my budget over the next few months and if a few small miracles occur, then I can pull this off.

For now, I'm going to get to sleep, early again but NYC has left me with the need to recharge and I plan to take full advantage of that.  Talk soon.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Molecules...

Well, the rest of my day after that last blog in Philly was really fun.  So fun I forgot to blog about it.  I decided on the Eastern State Penitentiary for my afternoon activity.  I opted for an immensely informative guided tour and, after it was done, walked around a little on my own, saw Al Capone's cell, learned about the tunnel escape and took a ton of pictures.

Afterward Virginia and I met up and had a bite at, you guessed it, the only place I eat in West Philadelphia: OCF.  Luckily, she had to be somewhere relatively near where I had to go for Darcy's dance performance, so we opted to walk it, a good 4 1/2 miles, because that's what we do when we're together.  Funny, I avoided taking public transit for most of the weekend, except for one bus ride to Center City Friday night.  Cabs are really cheap there compared to NYC as well, so it was tempting, a lot of the time, to just take a cab.  The walk was much preferred though.  I got to see (and smell) a lot of the city I might not have seen had I taken the bus.  Seriously, South Street in Old City was buzzing with activity and smelled strongly of cheesesteaks. 

Anyway, Darcy's dance performance was at Christ Church Neighborhood House in Old City, right next to one of the oldest buildings in Philly, a church, that, when it was built was the highest structure in the 13 colonies for a number of years (I think I heard one of the guys there say 40 years, can't remember).  The dance actually started out in the courtyard of the church and featured video projections of footage shot in the Redwood Forest in California, as well as music composed by Andrea Clearfield, featuring field recordings from the Redwood Forest, violin and didgeridoo.  The music was emanating from a couple of boom boxes, some nestled in the bushes, others carried by the dancers.  One dancer recited poetry through a bullhorn by Quintan Ana Wikswo with themes of destruction of natural habitats and the ills of colonialism.  After the courtyard, the dancers led us up to a space on the third floor of the neighboring building, a dark theater space with no fourth wall (we were standing around the dancers as they performed) and sheets hung from the ceiling.  Overall, I thought it was a pretty compelling piece and really enjoyed the dancers' performances. 

Here are a few pics taken in Old City and around the Church.  That night we cabbed it back to Darcy's apartment where her new roommate had a house warming party of sorts in full swing, complete with wine and a spread of gluten free food (she's gluten intolerant, too).  Met some nice people, had some good food and conversation and then slept it all off.  After one more breakfast at OCF, I snagged a cab to the train station and headed back to NYC for my performance. 

It went really well, by the way.  Only, I forgot to hit record.  MC took video of most of it and I ended up with some extra time last night to re record it at home and edit it a little.  Just posted it to soundcloud too.



The audience enjoyed it and gave me some good pointers, all stuff that I was thinking was wrong with the piece, i.e. there wasn't enough of a build (I still don't think there is). I can't remember what else right now but I have since come up with a few more critiques like the fact that it's kind of long right now but as the song congeals a little more, I will be able to scale back the length of it and still effectively cover all the things I want cover.  There are essentially four different loop layers each with harmonies and syncopated counter melodies built into them, so the overall number of layers tops something like 10-16 depending on which harmonies I play.  The only real ramp up in the intensity of the piece comes with the introduction of a sixteenth note pulse drone on the lowest guitar string, which, when I recorded this version, I layered harmonies on top of.

I solo melodically over the cacophony of layers at least a couple of times throughout and only the first one on this version was pre composed.  The rest were improvised.  The distortion effect on the backwards loop is something I'm still toying with a little.  It's still kind of unpredictable because I've been recording it silently and not fading it up until it's been effected with the reverse function and the distortion patch that I'm using from Native Instruments.  I'm using my controller to change one of the parameters which, as far as I can tell is a sub audio control wave (for those of you who know anything about sound synthesis).  Anyway, once it's up in the mix, I am getting some wicked awesome sounds.  Later in the piece I even slow it and another one of the actual loop tracks down by half to get some even cooler contrast to the rhythmic drive of the piece.

In later versions of the piece, I'm going to focus on ways to ramp up the intensity even more, possibly exploring drones with syncopation in them.  Syncopation is lovely.  Anyway, I hope you all enjoy the piece.

The rest of MC's salon was great.  She danced, Morgana Rose danced, Gilbert-Michel Rolle, the tenor, a Swiss man actually from MC's hometown, sang a few French Renaissance pieces a capella, Lacy and I did three songs scattered throughout the performance and lastly a man whose name I can't recall now came and gave us an impromptu poetry reading.  Lost of wine and good conversation followed and then I went home ate dinner and watched Breaking Bad's finale.  Great ending!

I'll keep updating as I record new versions of the song, Molecules, and I will even be writing some more and trying them out on you guys and also performing again at the next Marie-Christine Giordano artists salon.  By the way, I still don't know exactly why the piece is called Molecules. 

Also, as the week goes on I've been working a lot more on the recording of Amanda Brecker's song, "Another Day in the Life."  It's going well and tomorrow we'll finish up recording backing vocals and vocal effects and hopefully, I'll manage to record the two guitar interludes.  Updates on that as well once it's finished and mastered. For now, it's back to work!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Chilling in Philly before a show...

Hanging out at OCF in Fairmount right now.  Just spent the better part of the afternoon so far editing the song for the end credits and the full length trailer of "The Life." Amanda and I worked part of the afternoon yesterday at my place recording the guitar and vocals on isolated tracks so I could mix this weekend.  All that remains is to redo some of the backing vocals and vocal effects, and for me to record a few more guitar parts for the ending guitar solo.  I feel good for having made some strides with it this weekend.  Especially since I've been able to effectively utilize several chunks of time during which I might not have gotten much done.  Yesterday night I had the vocal tracks edited before the bus to Philly had even left New York City.  Today, I'm killing time while Darcy has her tech rehearsals for the dance tonight.  I'm going to the 8pm performance at New Spaces, New Formats tonight.  Sort of my whole reason for being in Philly right now.  One of Darcy's companies is dancing this, which looks way cool...so meanwhile, I sit in a cafe contemplating my next move.  Yoga might be involved, also the Eastern State Penitentiary looms across the street.  And so do some weird temporary gargoyles.

This has been a nice welcome break from the pace of the city even though, last night we had a bit of a wild night.  We went to an apartment party in Center City, someone's 30th, and then went to the Trestle Inn to dance.  We didn't get in until around 3am.  Now, I bounce back with caffeine and sunlight and figure I'd better enjoy my day while I can.  I don't need to head over to the area until around 7pm.  At some point, I will try to meet up with Virginia for sure.

Meanwhile, I'm also trying not to think too hard about my premiere tomorrow.  Most of the stress involved is going to be in getting there from here.  My bus leaves at 930am and arrives in NYC, in theory, at 1130am.  The salon is not until 3pm so that, in theory, gives me a few hours to run it again if I should so choose.  The Lacy is driving me because we intend to perform a few of her songs as well.

The piece has come together quite nicely and the few people I've shown it to over the past week have responded by either spacing out or being wildly impressed that I can coordinate all the pedal tapping with my feet and knob twiddling, etc.  Luckily, when I performed it for Amanda, I found that her energy and interest in the piece kept me focused for the most part.  So I can reasonably presume that a similar energy from the salon's attendees will keep me focused on performing the piece and hitting all the right buttons at the right time.  That's really going to be the hardest part.  Focusing.  Because I've found myself wanting to get lost in the piece like I do when I play and am really enjoying the act of creating the music as well as hearing it come together.  But if I do that I miss tapping a pedal to loop or switch tracks and I get flustered and the piece could fall apart.  

Once the piece gets going though it becomes easier to do what I need to do.  I will say that a lot of it is going to be improvised.  The structure will not be but what I do during each section will be largely improvisatory.  I'm really really excited to be doing this finally.  And really really hope that a lot of people will come out for this.  The other artists should be fun as well.  There's Lacy and I, a dancer and a tenor who will sing French Renaissance music.

Here's a link to the event on Facebook.

Monday, September 23, 2013

You Are a Tourist...

I just spent the most amazing couple of days doing two things I love.  Composing music and wandering my city.  Had a friend in town for a few days and we even squeezed in a few live shows in the mix.

Whenever I have a guest in town I always make sure to show them my city.  The way I see it.  All the fun and amazing things I've seen since I've moved here.  Random things I've stumbled on myself, things people have shown me, things that make me happy, all the places I like to go.  The views from my apartment window to the random stained glass water tower atop a building in DUMBO you can see from the Manhattan Bridge to the animated Subway art you see from the Q train just after leaving the DeKalb Avenue stop on the Manhattan bound track. Being a tourist, or rather a tour guide, in my own city, is one of the best ways to remember why I moved here.  And to get back in touch with why I still love it here.

We went all over on Friday, from Prospect Park where we stumbled on a Japanese flute player hiding in the woods and unwittingly serenading us, to the views from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and the Brooklyn Bridge all the way to happy hour at a pub in downtown with wine on tap, topped off by a stroll down to the Battery to catch the views of the harbor.  Plenty of amazing things to show my friend, both planned and unplanned. And that was just one day that we spent together.  We hopped around the bars in my neighborhood on Wednesday, from Korzo to Freddy's to Barbes to Skylark.  She even got to see one of my favorite bands at Barbes that night.  Thursday we saw Crystal Bright and the Silver Hands at the Dr. Who themed Way Station (the bathroom there is a TARDIS...it's bigger on the inside).

On Saturday, my friend did her own thing and met with her friends while I spent the morning and afternoon, alone in my amazing apartment with the fall breeze flowing in my open windows, pushing ahead on all my music projects; the song with Amanda Brecker, the piece for Ben's film and a new project.  Yes, another new one.  This one, my own.  For once.  I'm working on a guitar looping piece that I've been dabbling with for months.  I got invited to play it in one week at Marie Christine Giordano's artists' salon.  The good thing is, having to perform it has forced me to push forward on completing it, so the piece has gone from a mere idea to something semi structured and almost complete in under a week.

Good thing too, because it's not like I have all that much free time to work on it.  I also spent a good amount of time getting all of my equipment to function properly together and learning what all I can do with it.  It's going to be a lot of fun performing this piece.  I have my M Audio Axiom keyboard set up to mix four tracks on which I can now set up layered loops of guitar parts using my Behringer FCB1010 pedal which is programmed to record, overdub, multiply, trigger effects and even reverse.  So, just having all these functions available to me is multiplying my creativity and I'm coming up with all kinds of cool stuff.  It'll be epic.  I promise.

It's happening at 3pm on Sunday, September 29th at Marie Christine Giordano's dance studio at 220 25th Street, Suite 202 in Brooklyn.  I hope some of you New Yorkers can come.

Meanwhile, I've got the Amanda Brecker song to work on this week as well because we're hopefully taking another crack at tracking this thing in my apartment this week sometime.  I'll keep updating that as always.  Meanwhile, seriously, come out if you can to the Salon on Sunday, the 29th at 3pm!!!

Monday, September 16, 2013

My head's going to explode...

...okay, maybe not.  I think I'm all right.  I just started to look at the next few weeks and my time frame for some of the current projects I have going on.  For a second it looked like I wasn't going to have nearly enough time to work on them in between day jobs and other things I want to do.  I'm getting to that point where I'm so busy that I'm having to put off things like doing voice over auditions, chasing down VO agents and practicing VO.  Unfortunate, because I've been thinking a lot about that fact lately.  And not just VO.  Everything else I'm missing out on doing because I've taken on so much.

One of my good friends, who is also a musician, a creator and a fantastic singer-songwriter, just posted a status update on Facebook that said "I should be making something right now..."  Exactly.  I feel like that on a regular basis these days.  Granted I'm only partially sure she's talking about making music or art or anything creative.  She could be talking about baking.  But either way, it does echo my sentiments.

I got in a panic yesterday when I started to type this blog because I've been invited to play some of my original guitar looping music at a Salon in a few weeks.  I initially thought I wouldn't be able to do it but I managed to get the day off and agreed to come play.  I have not finished writing the piece of music I'm going to perform.  I've been dabbling with it for months though and I could finish it in no time if I apply myself.  

But therein lies the rub.  I guess I shouldn't have used the phrase "in no time" in that last sentence.  It would take a not insignificant chunk of time to finish writing the song, decide the logistics of performing and decide things like what FX I'm going to use in Guitar Rig (my software for amp modeling).  Therefore, time is of the essence. And I don't have a whole lot of it between now and then. So I have to start prioritizing.   And I have already been back burner-ing one of my projects far too long while the other is starting to ramp up.  Tomorrow night, with any luck, I'll get a window into what my timeline is for the one that's ramping up, that being Amanda Brecker song.

Amanda and I met and recorded some scratch tracks on Friday, which went quite well.  Now, I'm listening back to them and trying to figure out what other layers we're going to add.  It's such a fun process.  On top of that, the piano piece for Ben is finished but I need to find time to practice it and sit down and record it.  It's so simple and short that I keep putting it off.  And I'm worried that this could be a trend.  I should go back and read my own blog about procrastination from the other day.  Maybe that'll help.

Back on the guitar looping song, what's exciting about this opportunity is that it'll be the first time I've performed my music (meaning my own) solo (meaning just myself) in front of an audience, I think, ever.  I know you're thinking, "But Tim, you've played in bands before, right?" Yes, and some of that music that I played, I wrote.  But I always had other people performing with me.  I've even had my own music performed where I did a solo or two, whether it be a guitar solo in a rock tune or that time that I sampled Tania Stavreva playing my piano sketch and played with the samples during an interlude in the piece.  But never before have I, myself, gotten up, unaccompanied and performed a piece of my own creation.

And this is a new medium for me to compose in as of a few years ago.  I started this looping project years ago when I started to amass the equipment to execute it.  And over the course of the past few years in learning to use it all, I have written a few song ideas but nothing has gotten as fleshed out as the current piece.  Current unnamed piece that I must now think of a name for.  I'll probably come up with something lame like Song 1 or something.

I'm immensely excited about the opportunity as it's a big step for me into finally doing this thing.  It'll be a good testing ground too.  Small audience (hopefully not too small, you're all invited after all!), intimate space and just me and my guitar...and an amp, a laptop and interface and a MIDI pedal.  But you get the idea.

The salon is Sunday September 29th and starts at 3pm at Marie Christine Giordano's dance rehearsal space on 25th street in Brooklyn between 4th and 5th Avenues.   Here's a link to the Facebook event in case you're on Facebook and would like to come.  

Friday, September 6, 2013

Procrastination...

http://jamesclear.com/how-to-stop-procrastinating

I read the above article on how to stop procrastinating today and the irony is that it's been open in a tab in my browser for over a week.  I can't even remember how I found it.  It was linked in some other article that I read a while back, I think.  Anyway, the writer talks about the 2-minute rule, which means basically that if you can do something in 2 minutes, do it now.

It's something that I've kind of said before, in so many words.  I blogged ages ago about how I used to lament never getting anything done because part of me didn't want to start any tasks (be they related to music, voice over, or just general networking stuff) unless I had a good two hours to devote to them.  Two's just an arbitrary number really.  Any amount of time that I deemed not long enough to work on those important tasks would be shrugged off or delineated to chores that I actually could finish.  I used to nap. Ha!

But, I actually realized that if I could at least start the tasks in my hand, the next time I returned to them they would be partially started or maybe even partially finished.  In this way I could chip away at them instead of being married to the idea of always making huge strides each time I sat down to work.  More importantly, and this is something the article above doesn't specifically mention, I could potentially find (and this happened more often than you'd think) that the task that was looming was a lot simpler than I had originally imagined and that completion of said task would not turn out to be such a colossal undertaking.

The article actually mentions that this applies to starting new habits as well.  Without even realizing it, probably because if you think about it, this is pretty intuitive, I was applying this in many areas of my life over the past few years.

When I was saving up to move to NYC, 5 years ago, and trying to stay fit and keep my mind centered on my goal, I decided that my fitness was key in this endeavor.  One morning in the early summer of 2008, when I had just started taking care of my sister's dog Nigel, I decided I would take him for his morning walk as soon as I woke up and that it would become my jogging routine.  Part of what made it work so well, is that the dog made me run with the leash so it just made sense to put on jogging clothes every time I took him out and, also, that I did it in the morning before I had time to think about anything else or to get started on something that would eat up my time.  The last thing that probably contributed most to starting this habit was already having a routine that was the same almost every day of the week (working overnights 8pm - 4am during the week, sleeping until midnight and waking up refreshed and working on music all afternoon).  At any rate, just diving into it every morning and going outside to jog with the dog suddenly became a routine.  I don't think I skipped it once that summer.  Even after the dog was shipped off to be with them in Okinawa I kept up the jogging.

"Once you start doing something, it’s easier to continue doing it."

I have found this time and again with everything I attempt that's difficult (or perceived as difficult), if I just do it, I realize that it's a lot easier than you thought it was.  Not that I ever wanted to procrastinate when planning my move to NYC, but this mentality certainly helped along that endeavor.  Also, every piece of music I've ever written started this way.

Anyway, I've been faced with the opportunity to procrastinate and even nap in the past few days and I avoided the temptation by simply starting something else.  Today, I plugged away at the piano piece instead of napping...luckily, I was working on my laptop so I didn't even have to remove myself from the bed...and also, luckily, the piano is not that far of a walk from my bed...it's practically right next to it...did I mention that I love my apartment?  I also managed to go shopping and cook some food for the next work week when I could have just lazed around watching TV.

Don't worry, I did actually relax a little bit today so I'm not overworking myself either.  Now I have a phone call to make, yoga and a date tonight!  The moral of this story is to get off your asses and do something even if you think it's too big of an undertaking.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Working Composer...

I get paid to compose music.  If I could say that to my 23 year old self he probably wouldn't have believed it.  Or he would have been psyched to hear that his efforts would eventually pay off.

Still a little surreal though.  It's a good feeling.  But I know to be proud of my accomplishments and at the same time, not in utter disbelief.  I have, after all, been hard at work for the past 10 years and, to some degree, I was always confident that I would achieve some level of success.  Hopeful yet realistic, I never found myself getting ahead of myself with my expectations.  I always knew it would be hard work; that I would need to overcome many challenges and that it wouldn't happen overnight.  Any musings about Oscars acceptance speeches were exercises in pure imagination, meant mainly as pep talks to keep me going and not as a realistic goal in themselves.  

I'm still floored at the realization that I am, in fact, what one might call a working composer.  With three simultaneous projects, all with different deadlines and all for different types of projects, I'm feeling more creatively stimulated than I have in quite a while.

Just this week things started to move forward with two out of the three.  The bumper for the .org, and the song collaboration with Amanda Brecker for the end credits for "The Life" have both moved on to the next stage.  The bumper is almost done and the rest of the team likes what I've done so far.  I'm in a holding pattern while they talk final stages and decide if they need any further revisions.

Amanda and I are talking about getting together next week to hash out the structure of the song and talk instrumentation, etc. and possibly do a scratch recording.  We will likely eventually record the song with a friend of hers who has a pro tools set up.  Meanwhile, I will take some time this week to come up with more ideas and solidify the ones I've been playing around with.

For the piano theme for the short film, I'll be writing a lengthier version for the end credits in addition to the shorter opening theme.  I have some time to work on that so I've been taking a bit of a break from it. I want to get started again pretty soon though I haven't found enough time to sit back down at the piano and write a contrasting section.  After my trip to NC, I worked 17 days straight and had my first day off yesterday, a day which I used to catch up with friends.

I began notating the piece just so I can have it in front of me when I record it.  I like using the software to expand a song idea but my general feeling about composing almost anything is that I want to be able to write it all while at the piano and then bring the ideas to my laptop to notate and flesh out the ideas into something coherent.  Never writing solely on the computer.  That way what I write will be more organic and playable.  I was met with this dilemma a few times in grad school, especially when composing for instruments I did not play myself.  It was too easy to compose in a vacuum with the computer software and then get to a rehearsal and find that the instrumentalists couldn't play (or had trouble playing) what I had written.  Beyond that though, when composed away from the instrument, the music often sounds not as honest, perhaps even contrived.  It doesn't have that certain something.

Anyway, so far I've been lucky that the deadlines for all these projects have been pretty flexible.  Plus, I've found myself between revisions on one or more when feedback comes in on another such that I've never felt too taxed throughout the process of working on them all and have never had to work on more than one at a time.  Now, while I wait for the next round of feedback on the bumper, I can be working on ideas for the song Amanda and I are writing together and at some point, I can casually revisit the piano theme.  Compartmentalization.

The cool thing is, the experience of juggling all of these projects on top of the full time and freelance jobs gives me a sense of how I would manage multiple projects (potentially more than I have on my plate right now) were I just composing and doing nothing else.  Can't wait for such a time to come.

That's all I got for now.  I'm insanely tired because I stayed up far too late last night.  Now, it's back to work.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

More train analogies...

It's late and I feel alive so I'm writing.  It's been a bit but I have more train analogies.  I swear waiting on the train platform is better than sitting on the toilet for generating ideas sometimes. 

Anyway, the New York City subway system, the MTA, short for Metropolitan Transit Authority, is notorious for delays and night time and weekend service changes because of the simple fact that it runs 24/7.  It's easy to forget this fact and get angry at your predicament to the point where you forget to appreciate that at any hour of the night, you could feasibly hop on a train and get somewhere...maybe not always as close to your front door as you'd like but still...somewhere.  But last night, trying to get back to Brooklyn after the Mets game was an epic ordeal that took me almost two hours.  Back when I lived in NC, a two hour car ride would be unacceptable unless I had planned to be somewhere for 24 hours or more.  I'd probably even plan to sleep at my destination as opposed to braving the return trip at an ungodly hour.

In truth, the main frustration on nights like these is that, in my almost 5 years of living here, I like to think that I've gotten better at figuring out what the best way to get home is, factoring in service changes for construction and reduced frequency of train arrivals late at night.  But sometimes you just eff things all up by making one snap decision, thinking it'll get you somewhere quicker and it ends up extending the length of your trip long enough that you find yourself standing on the platform for the third time in one night muttering rapid fire F words because your phone is dead and you can't even listen to music or play cell phone games to pass the time and all you wanna do is get home.

So this past Friday night I went to a Mets game in Queens with some coworkers from the freelance gig at TruTV.  A fun time all around and I got to see one of my favorite bands play a show after the concert (Third Eye Blind...a band I haven't seen perform in 15 years!).  But because I stayed so late and because every single train line that I might take home from Citifield is having some kind of track work related to Hurricane Sandy damage, it took me, as mentioned previously, 2 hours to get home. 

I can trace my mistake back to one pivotal moment at Roosevelt Avenue when I took the first train that came, an E train, thinking I would just catch up with the F in Manhattan and take it the rest of the way home, and walk the extra ten blocks from 7th Avenue and 9th Street.  I somehow forgot (let's face it, I never go to Queens anymore) that the E is local and the F is express (or maybe I was thinking both would be local at that hour...I don't knwo).  So, no sooner do I get on the E train and it goes two stops, do I see an F train passing us in the tunnel on the express track.  It probably arrived at Roosevelt Avenue mere minutes after I jumped on the E.

Now, because I did this, I found myself waiting for an absurd amount of time for the next F train to come.  The lesson?  Maybe it's not always the best advice to jump on the first train that comes along...even if it is late at night.  Even waiting at Broadway Lafayette for the F, I had to pass up two D trains that rode by because I knew they wouldn't be stopping at Prospect Avenue due to construction on the R line.  They might have gotten me close but not close enough unless I wanted to take a cab the rest of the way.  I found out earlier in the week that the D, N and R were not only not stopping at my stop Bay Ridge bound but also Manhattan bound.  So there was essentially no way for me to get to the stop closest to my apartment and I would have needed to take the F no matter what.  Now, if I had waited two more minutes at Roosevelt Avenue I'd have made it onto that first F train and could have freaking napped on the way home if I wanted to and been home a good 45 minutes earlier than I was!

But, that is not what happened.  No, in fact I stayed on that E train all the way to the LES, gave a group of kids some directions because our E train wasn't going to Canal like they had expected, noticed they had beer cans in plastic bags and watched one of them light up a joint on the train (even joked with him about getting a contact buzz), made it to Broadway Lafayette, waited for three trains to pass through that weren't mine before finally landing on the F train and riding home, all the while people watching and listening in on people's conversations since my phone battery had died at the game and I had nothing do but be a fly on the wall. 

It was fun, but ultimately, considering my aim was to get home in a timely manner and get a decent amount of sleep for a change, not the way I wanted to spend my Friday night.   What if I had waited for the right opportunity?  Patiently....Then I got to thinking about that in terms of my career, because, let's face it, that kind of thing always comes up when I have the extra time for introspection that these long train rides afford me.  I have a lot of opportunities here.  That's literally the main reason I came to this amazing city.  Often I'm compelled to take the first ones that come along.  It's easy to think that's all you might get and that you'd better seize it while you can.  But, as evidenced by my train trip, you could take the first thing that comes along but then immediately realize (or maybe not always immediately realize) that there was something else coming that you are now going to miss out on because you've devoted your energies elsewhere. 

I happened to see the F train passing my E train in the tunnel but I thought about how you may not always realize that the choices you make cause you to miss out on opportunities.  That's sort of a mind job if you think about it.  How do you know what the best opportunities are?  I have had occasions where I didn't realize for years that something I had seized upon, thinking it was a great opportunity, whether it was career-wise or relationship-wise, had potentially caused me to miss out on other opportunities.  Or maybe not so much miss out on them but delay them while I wasted time on something fruitless.

I'm not terribly depressed by this thought.  There are valuable lessons to be learned from every single encounter one has.  It does kind of make me reconsider a lot of what I'm doing though...the recent focused search for a voice over agent, some live performing opportunities, film scores I've written for films that never got finished.  I've spent a lot of time paring back some of my activities and bringing others to the forefront and slowly over the years I've gotten closer to satisfied with my endeavors. Fruitful or not.  I had to give up some things that I really enjoyed because they were simply taking up time I could have been devoting to making ends meet or spending time on my own creative work.  

That said, I'm thinking there's going to be some changes soon.  I'm revamping my approach to the voice over agent and I'm going to start writing again with a mind to perform my originals.

On that note, I'm in dire need of sleep.  Why am I still awake?!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Anticipation, a baby, some mountains and a thunderstorm...

The D, N and R trains are finally not skipping my stop at nights and I began to realize this week how long it's been since I've even been in the Prospect Ave. R station on the Bay Ridge bound side.  I had been taking the F to 7th avenue on my way home from work and walking the 10 blocks south to my apartment.  While it did afford me a little extra time to walk and think, and, on some nights when I didn't feel like the hassle, got me a little more comfortable taking cab rides that would eventually be reimbursed by Time Warner Cable, it also put me dangerously close to Barbes on more than one occasion, which excused a few random stops during which I got to meet some interesting and cool people.

To be fair I only went in once directly after work last week for a drink and it was to kick off a nice 4 day weekend during which I traveled to NC to see family and meet a brand new addition, the nephew I spoke of  a few entries ago.


The mountain house in which we stayed was also quite comfortable and came with an amazing view of the mountain ridges.  We watched a thunderstorm one afternoon while we sat outside on the porch drinking, too. It was pretty spectacular and calming to sit and listen to the rain. 



After two nights, getting to hold my sleepy 2 week old nephew a few times, a few games of ping pong, some Dr. Who and Nintendo DS with the nephews and neice (my sister's kids), I took a ride down to Greensboro in my mom's convertible to see some old friends and paint the town.  Saw my old haunts and caught up with a few friends.  It all ended with me lazing around in the pool at my parents' house with my other sister and her kids and spending too much time in the sun before heading off to the airport.  Couldn't have planned a better trip unless it were longer and involved more relaxing.

Now I'm back to the daily grind, jumping right back in with a day at both jobs (for which the MTA made me 15 minutes late), some work on the trailer for "The Life," and even a phone call to an agent I've been trying to chase down.  There, I said it.  I told myself I wouldn't say anything so as not to jinx it but it's getting close enough I think I can mention it.  I'm also realizing I'm not as superstitious anymore.  If it doesn't happen it won't be because I got my hopes up but because it wasn't the right time.

And now I wait.  But I spoke about waiting a few entries ago.  Sometimes the anticipation can be just as stimulating as the outcome.  And it is an experience in and of itself.  Certain things may not pan out but the important thing is that I've worked hard enough that I'm up at bat for a change and that alone gets me pretty ecstatic.  Yes, I used a baseball analogy.  They're useful sometimes. What can I say?

Anyhow, there are lots of other exciting things that I have varying levels of confidence about coming up, some musical collaborations, some film scoring work and even a few concerts.  2013 has already been a pretty amazing year and I only expect it to get better.  Now I have to find some way to get to sleep amidst all this excitement. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Oh yeah, I'm a composer...

It feels good to be composing again.  Seemingly, under a month ago I was complaining about doing all this freelance TV work and not having much time to write.  Now, here it is mere weeks later and I've got several music projects lined up, only one of which I knew about in advance.  In fact, the one I did know about developed into several projects in one.

The trailer for "The Life" is being produced right now as we speak and on top of that I'm going to be working on a song for the end credits of the series with singer/songwriter Amanda Brecker.  Extremely excited about that collaboration which came out of the blue earlier this week.

I'm also currently composing a piano theme for a film I'll be scoring, prior to shooting, for a director I worked with last year.  So far the director and I have zeroed in on an overall mood and tonality and a basic melody which I will be fleshing out later this week.  They begin shooting on the 19th of August.

Add to that, a friend connected me with a .org that she works for that is looking for a 7 second bumper for their online learning channel (kinda like the opening to TED Talks).  The News Literacy Project is an educational program that promotes media literacy among high school kids.  So, that project is happening concurrently with the above and I'll likely be working directly with the motion graphics editor this week to find something that will highlight her animation.

All of the above events have me in this strange euphoric state right now.  I can't believe I got so much work all at once.  I'm still working every day of the week, sometimes at both jobs (TruTV and NY1) so finding the time for all these projects is going to be a bit of a challenge.  But that's never stopped me before.  I'm hoping to meet with Amanda this Friday to talk about our collaboration; it sounds like I'll be seeing the first drafts of the animation for the .org by Friday or Monday; and I'm hoping that tonight I can start drafting some musical ideas for "The Life" trailer.

Recording in my living room in the last few hours before my cousin returns from vacation seems like a good idea...even if it will be after midnight.  My downstairs neighbors have never complained even when I would play the piano, which, I'm sure, they would have to be able to hear.  A little acoustic guitar, post midnight, never hurt anyone.

As for the theme for Ben's film, I've got a leg up on it and I just need to start dragging my laptop around with me so I can work on the structure of the piece.  I think I'll actually score this one out using Sibelius, which I realize I haven't used in a good long while because I haven't really had a need to score anything since last summer.  So that should be fun.

Another thing I may need to try and accomplish tonight though is to submit an audition for a voice over job I was invited to audition for at Edge Studio. The deadline is 3pm tomorrow so hopefully I can hammer that out tonight.

And this leads me to my next exciting piece of news, and ya know what? Never mind. I don't want to jinx it. You'll know when I know. It's voice over related, I will say that.

On to a final piece of news: this past weekend my brother and his wife welcomed Donovan Eugene Stewart Daoust into the world. He was born at 8:06 pm Saturday night, just as I was going on stage with Lacy at Jamey's House of Music in Philly. I'm incredibly psyched to visit them in a few weeks and meet the little guy. He's adorable. :)

That'll be a nice little break as well, getting out of town for a slice and then a little nostalgia, likely visiting my old college town and some friends there. Updates to come on the projects as they advance!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Doldrums...

Yes, it's summer.  Yes, there's a heat wave.  Let's get that out of the way.  I've been so exhausted I barely have any energy left to rant about how it's just now occurring to me, after having a ceiling fan installed in my living room, that the A/C unit we have is just not powerful enough to cool this apartment.  It reads what I think, or must assume is, ambient temperature and currently it says 89 degrees.  It feels slightly cooler than outside in here so I don't understand where it's reading that temperature.  I round up and that says 90 to me.  At this point, I really can't even have a sheet on me in my bed because it's so so hot in my room.  The situation is that the A/C can only be plugged into one outlet due to the old wiring in the apartment.  One breaker is wired just for the room where the A/C unit is and the other breaker is for everything else.  We found this out over a year ago the first time we tried to toast and microwave at the same time and I had to tumble down 4 flights of stairs to the basement to trip our breakers.

So, that's where I'm at as I come back from Manhattan at 2 in the morning and start thinking about trying to sleep in this.  I know it happens every year but it just sucks.  And I know I'll feel different when we hit that week where the temperature drops to the teens in January but we've got autumn between that and this so I'm not thinking about that right now.  I am thinking about another A/C unit with a higher BTU than our current.  And the great music I just saw tonight at Rockwood.  Mieka Pauley again.  I think I'm in love...or something like it. 

But, that's not what I want to talk about tonight.  I'm finally writing again.  For a film that the director I worked with last year just sprung on me.  At the moment all I'm doing is developing a theme for the main character in a quirky dark comedy with nothing to go on but the script and a few youtube links with music he'd like it to sound like.  I'm struggling with something though. Often, as a film composer, or a composer in general, I get asked to compose something that sounds like [insert style, genre, specific song here].  My question is always "how do I do that and still be original?"  Don't get me wrong.  I can emulate with the best of them.  Comes from having experience singing, piano-ing and guitar-ing in a very wide range of styles and having a freaking masters degree in music composition.  But some days I just want to write what I want to write and have the director say "yes, that!  Keep that shit coming! More of that Tim Daoust signature shit!" Instead of having them say, "can you make it sound like [insert style, genre, specific song here]?"  

It makes we wanna shake them and say, "let me do my freaking job for Chrissake!"  But I know that would be unprofessional and that I should really center myself and ask, the question I just posited in the last paragraph: "how do I do that and still be original?"  I know I can do it.  I did it here with the help of the inimitable Crystal Bright on the accordion.  A director wanted accordion music à la the Amélie Soundtrack for his production reel so I picked this song to sort of model it after.  And I think I did pretty well plus I put my own rock edge into it (listen around 1:28).  So, now I need to figure out how to do something along these lines for the current project.  And it hit me the other day, that yeah, I can do this so stop being such a sour puss about it.  It's a challenge in its own rite and if I put myself in the right mindset, it could certainly be a worthy one.  I don't always have to be working on a project where I'm doing exactly what I want to be doing. After all, this is all work for hire stuff.  Of course, to some extent, I'm going to have to bow to the desires of whomever I'm working for.  And it may be years before I meet a director who likes my stuff and seeks me out for it instead of just liking working with me and knowing I can emulate what they want.

It does sort of bring me down sometimes though.  I get to thinking, "am I ever going to get to where I'm writing film music that's highly personal and unique to me if I keep writing for people who just want it to sound like their favorite music?"  I'm sure every film composer in the history of film composers have asked this question, on down to John Williams himself (sorry, I just went with one of the most recognizable film composers there).  I'm sure he had to compose a bunch of stuff that wasn't unique to him first before composing the stuff he's known for and, in fact, probably sought out for.  Or did he?  I'll have to ask him sometime.

Anyway, it's late and I'm rambling and I wish I lived alone so I could sit down at the piano right now.  As it stands, it'll be a few days before I can do so again.  So much work, plus Lacy and I are gearing up for the great city of Philadelphia next week.  More on that later.  Good night kids!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Lots of Live music...

Another weekend chock full of live music.  I ask myself, did I ever once think I wouldn't deliver on my promise of going to see more shows this year?  Seriously, I could probably have done it by accident with the amount of music to be seen in this city.  Add to that that I've found a new favorite music venue on the LES.  Rockwood Music Hall.  I guess I shouldn't say I've found it or it's new, because I've known about it for some time and it's been around itself for quite some time.

Rockwood is on Allen St. just below Houston and consists of two stages, the number 2 being the bigger and the one I've yet to check out.  Stage 1 is truly intimate, usually packed and I've now been on two separate nights.  First to see a band called The Get It a few weeks ago, a night on which I was exposed to yet more amazing music on top of what I came to see.  This past Friday night, I was just looking for something free for me and a friend of mine to do and it turned out that Lacy had also planned to come that night to check out Niall Connolly, an Irish rocker with a six piece band including two lead guitars and a trumpet player.  Niall was high energy, a fantastic performer and his songs were great.  Before going I checked out the other performers and became highly enamored of the singer who played after Niall, Mieka Pauley, a soulful bluesy rocker with quite a bit of acclaim so far.  Her songs are gripping and her voice show-stealing.  Check out a track called "You Never F*** a Woman That You Don't Love," and "Marked Man" which she sung a capella at Friday's show.

As if that wasn't enough, I finally got to see Lorraine Leckie and her Demons at Zirzamin, the club Lacy and I are playing on Sunday, the 14th.  Lorraine has been an open mic regular and we'd seen her perform solo tons of times at the mics we would do, but last night, I went to Zirzamin to hear her with the full band, The Demons.  It was everything I could have hoped for...minus the heat in the backroom where the A/C was not working.  Lorraine's songs are bluesy and sometimes comically macabre.  Hearing them realized with a full band was quite satisfying.  The band itself was tight and Lorraine had her backup singer crooning along with her.  I chatted with their phenomenal lead guitarist afterward about his '98 Gibson SG, too.

After the show wrapped up we headed over to Otto's Shrunken Head because one of Lacy's new friends wanted us to see his friend's band Danny's Devil's Blues.  Never have I seen a more raucous rockabilly blues get up that was this tight.  And thank god the A/C was on at Otto's.  These guys are definitely worth checking out.  Unfortunately, I could not stay for the whole show but will definitely have to check these guys out again another time.

So that was that, another weekend of live music in the city.  And next weekend, I may try to go see something at the Prospect Park Bandshell (the lineup this summer is pretty awesome) on top of performing myself with Lacy at Zirzamin.  All you New Yorkers who aren't afraid to stay out on a school night should come out and support us.  It's Lacy's birthday after all!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Performing vs Composing...

Am I becoming more of a performer than a composer?  Is that a good thing? And am I becoming a different kind of composer in that I'm composing different genres of music now than what I was composing years ago?

Okay, weird questions, but they've been cropping up every once in a while and I thought I'd address it tonight because, in a rare moment of solitude and relative tranquility, I actually have the time to stay up late blogging without worrying about getting enough sleep.  Tomorrow (Sunday, which is today because it's taken me this long to finish this blog), I literally have nothing planned except an afternoon yoga class I may not even attend because I tweaked my wrist a few days ago and it's not exactly easy to do things like plank pose and hand stand or any arm balances for that matter.

So, to hell with going to bed.  Lately, I've been thinking about not getting to compose enough  of my own stuff and how it's affecting me.  Not only that, but I've also been thinking about what I've been composing now versus what I've been composing over the last few years.  My enthusiasm is waning for some types and all but gone for others while I'm becoming much more enthusiastic about still others.  I remember a time when I first moved here and I was still fresh out of academia imagining that I would be writing chamber pieces and symphonies and having them performed and blah blah blah.  Those things never really crystallized and somewhere along the line I sort of abandoned the contemporary music scene.  I started to realize (shortly after my last premiere with Tania) that I was tired of spending so much time composing and rehearsing something that would be performed maybe only a handful of times and be seen/heard by a only a few people and which I might get a good recording out of that I could throw on my reel.  Beyond that even, I wanted something that I could relate to as well and that would have some kind of staying power.  Something maybe that I was performing myself. 

And then, on top of that, I wasn't even sure I was connecting with the music I was trying to write.  In a way, it just stood as sort of an exercise, like grad school itself, to learn how to compose, arrange, rehearse an ensemble and put on a concert.  I started to realize, however, that this stuff I was writing was false.  It wasn't organic.  To some extent, it was even a stretch that I was writing it.  And I mean mostly the particular genre: contemporary academic art music.  Something about the audience, the venues and the ultimate end product just doesn't speak to me anymore.  And I'm not sure it was ever my scene. 

What really hit me is that part of what was wrong is that in a lot of these cases I wasn't the one performing.  It's not music I would necessarily perform on the instruments I can play and the genres in which I started out performing, i.e. rock music (guitar) and classical music (piano).  Okay, so with this song I sang in the bass section when it was performed and with this piece I sampled Tania's piano playing and performed the electronics live.  But ultimately, I'm writing these pieces for instruments I don't play and trying to get other people to realize them and hence it doesn't come across as organic to me.  It doesn't always turn out like you want it.

It's funny because it reminds me of back when I played in rock music and I first found my motivation to start composing my own music and stop collaborating with band members in a one for all, all for one kind of approach to song writing.  I was tired of having to bow to other people's desires about how a song should turn out so I wanted to write my own stuff but now I realize that composing ensemble pieces, even where I'm the sole composer, represents its own challenges.  Challenges I've no doubt learned a considerable amount from, but challenges nonetheless.  That was really a sidebar though.

What I'm getting at is that in the last few years, I've started to accept that the music I write really ought to be a lot more personal.  That's a lot of what this journey has been about.  Some of the best work I've done, meaning that which I'm most happy with, have been works where I played every instrument, recorded, produced and mastered everything.  But that's not to say that I haven't had some wonderful collaborations.  Working with Murat Keyder on this one was one of my favorite experiences since I moved here.  And working on the score to Sword in the Shadow with the amazing Japanese flute player, James Schlefer, was great experience.  

But what's more personal than Tim Daoust writing rock and electronic music?  Things like this song that I wrote over 10 years ago.  And this song that I also wrote almost 10 years ago that I recently revamped.

Granted, none of this is to say I won't ever write for the contemporary concert hall again.  I may someday.  But right now I want to revisit that side of me and performing again with Lacy has made me remember how much I enjoy performing in popular genres versus academic esoterica that nobody gets but I swear people pretend to like just to seem worldly and educated.

Lucky thing is that the music for my next project, the finished pilot episode of "The Life" is so guitar driven that it comes extremely easy to me.  Once I zeroed in on what George wanted for the underscore and the main title theme, everything fell together.  And I'm really happy with what we've done so far.

More than that, I'm happy in general now that I've come full circle, gotten the experience in composing orchestral music and working with exotic instruments and come right back around to composing the music that I enjoy but with a dusting of influence from everything I've touched on along the way.  Mind you, this doesn't mean that every score I do is necessarily going to be guitar based, but it does mean that the stuff I write for myself is going to be a lot more focused on guitar and electronics and is not going to bow to the standards of academia that I felt were boxing me in so much.

Of course, now the thing is finding the time to finish the songs I've started.  And when will I perform them?  Stay tuned.  I really need to sleep now because tonight, the night after I started this blog, I still need to get up early the next day.  My last regular day at CNN for a while.  I'll be starting at TruTV on Tuesday.  Wish me luck!