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

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Rainy day musings...

Nursing a hangover from last night's company holiday party while the rain pours down outside.  Getting going on days like this is hard enough.  But here I sit, at my kitchen table staring out the window at the cold rain and typing.  I even skipped my shift at the food co-op.  I'm off work and all that there is on the docket otherwise is a yoga class, picking up groceries maybe, cooking myself some dinner and hitting a friend's party in Bushwick later tonight.  I was thinking about writing a little music, or at least working with my setup or something musical.

I keep telling myself, though, that I should just take this day to do nothing and be useless for a change instead of getting swept up in this frantic need to get something done while I have time to fill (notice I didn't say "time to kill").  A break is in order, yes.  But only because I'm working so much at my day jobs lately.  Not even as some kind of reward for having accomplished something meaningful with voice over or music.  Despite having just seen the screening of "True Love," basking in the attention that the film garnered me, despite feeling more confident in voice over than I have in a long time.

Only when I feel like I've done enough, do I get to days like this and decide to take it easy and not even go to yoga.  But that is rare.  Normally I don't feel like I've done enough.  No, it's hard to feel like I'm doing enough for my career, ever.  And I don't know when you get past that.  Maybe it's even a good thing, it's certainly a motivator.  But then again, maybe it's a form of self-flagellation.  I did all these things.  I moved to New York, got a job, got another few jobs, scored some films, met some incredible people, got a great apartment, started a voice over career, got recognized for all these things, hell, I even made a little money at it.  But I'm still working three jobs to get by and there are all these other things I haven't done, am not doing, that I go from disappointed to straight up mad at myself for not having done.  Live performance of my own music tops out the list.  I have done it but, okay, like once.  So it's a little slow getting going.  I used to call it "rock-out envy" when I'd go see a band play and think, "damn. I should be doing that."  And then every time I'd see some modern concert music, I'd think, "why did I stop writing chamber music?"

But then I remember that a few years ago I started to realize that I can't do every damn thing.  It's clichĂ© but time actually is money these days.  I had to choose what was most worth my time.  It was  one part "is there a monetary return significant enough to justify the investment of time and energy," one part "do you enjoy doing this," and probably more than one part "is this genuine."

That one is most important and I was motivated to answer that when I realized the other two things.  It came down to, if I have a limited amount of time to work, I need to eat and pay rent, then I'd better make sure of the other two things: am I enjoying this and is it what I would be doing if all things were equal and I had all the time in the world.  I even quit doing a few things that I enjoyed because they were taking up more time than they were worth.  Those decisions were hard and I'm better for them.  There's no doubt that the strides I made in my career were a direct result of reallocating my time.

This all really boils down to, I took those jobs at CNN and truTV and now I don't have nearly as much time as I'd like for live performance.  I have an open offer to book a gig performing live guitar looping and electronic music at a yoga class in Tribeca but I am nowhere near ready.  I've written a few songs, I've got the set up going, it works, but there are too many parts for me to even imagine hauling it 11 stops on the R train to City Hall or even renting a vehicle for that amount of time for a gig that's going to be tips only.  There's no doubt I'm going to enjoy doing it and that the investment is going to be worth it on a personal enrichment level.  I have to try it and see how much fun I have but will something like that be sustainable for me in the long term?  I have musician friends who pick up and tour around the east side or even go to Europe for gigs and I wonder how they do it when I know these gigs don't pay well and they have to sell merch, stay with strangers, and hope people buy their CDs to stay out of the red.

You have to really love it.  That's the obvious answer.  And I love to quote Henry Winkler on this, "Do you need to do this thing that you've found, or does it just sound exciting."  It keeps coming back to that.  I'll be perfectly honest. I was not enjoying spending so much time and energy composing a piece of music for someone or some group to perform it, for it to be heard once (by fewer than 10 people) and there to be absolutely no monetary return on it.

But therein lies the problem.  You obviously have to do this stuff to meager audiences to get started.  And I did enjoy parts of it.  There was enjoyment happening somewhere in the process.  The nights Tania and I stayed up rehearsing, the moments when my electronic equipment worked perfectly, the few moments of applause, being on stage at Galapagos Art Space (a beautiful space if you haven't seen it); all of it moved me to remember why I did all of that.  And I had to not care if anyone enjoyed it, or noticed how groundbreaking or even just f*cking cool it was to mic a piano and sample it live.  And I had to not care that the video didn't come out all that well.  And I had to not care how heavy my equipment was.  And I had to shrug off the time in Harlem when the sound guy didn't even plug my laptop into the house system and I didn't notice until we were in the middle of the piece and nothing was happening.  And I had to forget all the other times that things didn't go as planned.  Because this is what I live for.  Making music and, yes, sometimes performing it or having it performed.  I'm most alive when I'm on stage or when I'm hearing my music being performed live.

And sure there are even other ways to make your money to offset the cost of doing these things.  And no, these things almost never make money.  But that absolutely cannot be the reason you are doing these things or you are seriously deluding yourself.   One thing I can say is that I've never had any delusions (at least not lately) that I could make a lot of money playing music.  I mean, my undergraduate piano professor hammered that point home pretty good (asshole).  All I've ever wanted to do was be able to keep doing it regardless.  Because I almost stopped once.  And I don't ever want to live like that again.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

At bat...

Where have I been? Where even am I now? I'm sitting in the break room at NY1.  It's cold.  Winter has come early and with a force.  I'm hiding though the temptation to go outside and get real coffee is there.  A lot has changed this year and not just that I'm actually drinking coffee again.  But I got thinking yesterday and today about a specific moment in the evolution of a career.  When the realization comes over you that you might be finally stepping up to the plate.

A few years back now, I had a chance to submit my ideas for a 10 minute snippet of a documentary about nuns in Hong Kong in the early 1900s.  I was excited, overwhelmed even and, though I took the day off work to get the bulk of the work done, I feel like I didn't really grasp the significance of the opportunity.  I did take it seriously, that's for sure.  I knew I had to give it my all but I really just think I wasn't ready.

Fast forward to now.  I'm getting some more opportunities in voice over and I'm feeling paradoxically like I'm both more ready and more frightened to be at bat.  Maybe it's that I'm more frightened by the opportunity that tells me I'm more ready.  But I do hope to get past that.  Being confident that I can do this is winning out over being terrified that I'm not fit just yet.

On Sunday, I went to a screening of "True Love," the film I scored over the summer. The film is an offbeat comedy about two brothers who try to pick up a middle aged prostitute.  It was my first chance to really score a comedy and to actually make my music part of the joke in a lot of the scenes.  It came out really well and there some cues where the director added something after the fact that added to the laughs.  At one point, a slowed tape effect whenever two characters were about to kiss but were interrupted and a few other times to bring back the same trope to comedic effect.  In fact, the first time my underscore, which was based on the same idea as the opening title theme, came in, during the prostitute's dramatic telling of her backstory, the audience burst into laughter.  It's a heartfelt bittersweet piano piece with a string trio behind it, almost taking itself seriously but with a wink, to the extent that at the moment it comes in, it's a cue that the film knows that it's absurd.  It was such a treat to hear people reacting to my music.  Normally, in the film's I've scored, my music has a much subtler effect.

So, going forward this week with that triumph, I get an opportunity to read a documentary script at CNN, just so the producers can hear my voice (apparently it got back to them that I do voice overs).  At first I'm terrified, mostly of messing up and nothing coming of it but then, I'm terrified of something actually coming from it.  And then I'm out there and laid bare, standing in front of a packed auditorium in my underwear and free to be judged on my talents or lack thereof.  But then I go back in that booth and do a second take because I know enough to not be satisfied with my first take and because I'm confident that I can totally f*#$ing do this.

And no, nothing has come of it yet.  I was merely using that example to illustrate a point.

Hopefully soon, though, I'll be able to show you all clips from "True Love" with my music.  Stay tuned guys.  And stay warm.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Advice, plans...

My apartment is currently rather spartan.  Sounds echo off the walls.  It's the end of an era, as my cousin has moved out, leaving half the apartment empty, and I'm now awaiting the move in date of my first non family member/non-spouse roommate since senior year of college.  I've been lax about writing lately but have had a lot of things on my mind as the season changes.  Moving into a different head space on a lot of things.  Revamping plans and thinking about the future...the long future. 

It's a hard thing when you start to look at where you are and where you want to be in a decidedly arbitrary amount of time.  You start to feel overwhelmed and that you may never get there even though you've certainly made strides.  You have to sort of remind yourself that you certainly haven't been idle.  Look at what you've done so far.  Acknowledge it, pat yourself on the back.  It's hard. 

This advice, while here referring to the entire scope of my endeavors, was packaged amongst the advice I got slung my way by a voice over agent about a month ago.  My new voice coach has these classes where she'll have a slew of her students read for a chosen agent that she has a connection with.  This particular night I was the second to last person to read and it must've shown that I'd let my nerves take over.  I told her my voice over history in a nutshell, as the other students had done, maybe leaning a little too hard on the point that I had been frustrated with my lack of progress.  While she had some definite critiques for me, she was rather generous with her praise of my accomplishments.  So, I felt better and really brought my A game for the next agent a few weeks later.  That agent was a little hard to read unfortunately though. 

I really made a great choice picking up this coach.  Having been a casting director and an agent at one time or another herself, she has all sorts of remaining connections in the voice over world.  I've made the decision to have her help me spruce up my demo and vary it a bit so it's not all the same stuff and it has some range to it.  And then I'm going to show it to every agent she puts me in front of.  That's the best part about this new partnership honestly.  My coach knows I'm not just doing this for fun and has a plan to get me to a point where I can be a "big fish in a little pond," as she put it. 


This is part of the plan.  Yes. I have a plan.  It's multi faceted after all and both music and voice over play into it.  And it's even rather fluid as I keep checking in with it. 

With things seemingly falling apart all around me in the TV world (CNN just lost some people and Comcast is merging with Time Warner Cable), it's motivating me to really make a push to get things happening.  Music is on hold, it seems, except for the fact that I may be playing at a yoga class in a few months.  Ambient stuff, live looping the guitar and everything...been composing a little bit there too.  But, finding enough time to practice is proving a bit of a challenge. 

Nonetheless, the passion is still there.  There's talk of collaboration here and there, of finally getting a practice space with Brad, writing another piece with Tania (both were over at my apartment hanging out Saturday night).  And "The Life" remains a rather tentative yet exciting ball in the air.  The pitch bible for the first season and the pilot episode are about to be in the hands of some very influential people. I'll say no more. 

Ultimately, I'm hoping that voice over proves to be lucrative enough as to afford me more time to put into the music, so that I can bank on other things besides "The Life," and whatever the next Indie film is that comes along.  We shall see.  Again with the waiting.  Anyway, just some thoughts to let you know I'm still alive. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Steve Reich and Phillip Glass...

I got to see two legends in concert this week at BAM.  Steve Reich and Phillip Glass were playing together for the first time in 40 years so that was pretty big.  And the tickets fell into my lap.  Twice.  The first was a friend who reviews these concerts but it was on a night that I couldn't have attended because I got asked to come in on the night shift to cover the Democratic primary election. The next time, a day later, it was my dad's cousin who had an extra ticket.  This time I could make it but just barely.  So I made some shifts in my schedule to ensure I'd be able to both see the concert and have dinner with my cousin before the show.

We checked out this vegan restaurant on Atlantic Ave. called M.O.B. Please check it out even if you're not vegan.  It's spectacular and well worth it.  Two words: Vegan Cheesecake.  It's really good.

Afterward we headed over to BAM, grabbed a quick glass of wine and then took our awesome 8th row seats and waited for the show to start.  The first half was to be all Steve Reich and Musicians playing Steve Reich pieces (Four Organs and Drumming) and then Phillip Glass and his Ensemble took over for the last half, playing a slew of Glass tunes encompassing some of his film music and other pieces. I am admittedly not as familiar with Phillip Glass' music but I enjoyed it nonetheless.   This was apparently much anticipated as well.  The ensemble got a standing ovation both at the end and at the beginning when they first took the stage.

The first piece, Four Organs was fun to watch partially on account of Nico Muhly head banging and otherwise hamming up his performance, but also because you started to notice them all counting to themselves and really intensely focusing on the piece.  The piece starts with the percussionist in the center playing a steady pulse with the maracas for a few measure before all four keyboardists start hammering out chords on the organ.  Eventually though, as notes gets added here and there, and individual notes in the chords are held out longer by each different performer, the individual players start to deviate from each other and go out of sync with each other.  I'd seen it performed at least once before, once on that very same stage, but it was fun to see it from so close.  And it's just this wall of sound from the organs that blasts your face off.

On Drumming, something about listening to the overtones of the glockenspiels propagating in the space and the reflections of the bongos and marimbas off the back wall of the theater hitting your ear a half second late and messing with the perceived rhythm, was wholly mesmerizing.  The experience cannot be transmitted through a blog entry so I won't try.   Watching the musicians switch places and take over for each other really shows how grueling a piece it must be to play.  It's an hour long.  They cross the stage at one point, switching form pitched bongos to a row of marimbas, then eventually to the glockenspiels.  Near the end of the piece two female vocalists join the cacophony.

During the intermission, we snuck across the street to a bar called Berlyn, my cousin's little hack to avoid the line at the concession stand.  It worked out great because we had a drink in our hand within minutes and had plenty of time to get back to our seats before the lights went down.  Even had a sec to chat with the sound guy, whom my cousin knows before heading back in.

The last half of the show was all Phillip Glass whose ensemble consisted of percussion, saxophones, keyboards and a vocalist.  They played Music in Similar Motion to start, which I'd heard of, but never really heard.  It starts with just a ceaseless flowing line on organ which is joined by the saxophones part way through and builds to cacophonous splendor by the end.  Take a listen here.  The rest of the pieces were from his film scores and other works and were for the most part enjoyable though I was really starting to fade at this point...and I had to be up at 430am the next day for September 11th memorial coverage!

But it was well worth the fatigue to see these two greats on stage in such a historical concert.  I only wish I could have gone every night of the three they played.  I had to miss Music for 18 Musicians which is one of Steve Reich's seminal works.

I can't say I was all that tired though.  I got a good 4 1/2 hours of sleep and went straight through to my voice coaching session after work.  Which was fun as usual but I'm really starting to feel her challenging me...which means I'm definitely getting something out of it.  More on that in the next entry.  Gotta run for now!




Saturday, September 6, 2014

A hiatus is not the end...

A hiatus is not the end.  A hiatus is not me just throwing in the towel for a while and maybe I'll get back to it.  A hiatus does not even mean it's a matter of time before I give it all up and find myself a respectable job and just keep my guitars around to remind myself I once aspired to be a professional musician.  Yes, occasionally, I have to remind myself of this.  When things seem like they're getting away from me. When I feel like all of my other responsibilities are taking over.  When I wonder when the next job will come my way.  When I wonder, if I could just be managing my time better, whether I could find the time to release an album, or submit some more tracks to the licensing agency...or even secure myself a decent job scoring an indie feature.

I'd love to be one of those composers who teaches and has time to compose things, release albums, play shows and book paying gigs back to back.  Who licenses his music for commercials and videos, who generally gets paid on a consistent basis and doesn't have to work a day job that sucks his time and his soul away.  Yes, those kinds of composers exist.  Maybe I don't know any of them except in passing, the stray informational interviews I've done over the years, meeting someone at a party or connecting through a friend.  Most of us, though, do tons of other things in addition, and just because my "other thing" is somewhat unrelated to music, it doesn't mean that if I have to focus on the other thing for a while, that the music is going to slip away from me.

I really do worry that it will though and that's why I have to remind myself.  Remind myself that I didn't just come up here to succumb to doing the sensible thing for the sake of comfort and stability.  Remind myself that the day job is important but that the aspirations are important too.

I needed to write tonight, guys.  It's been a while since I've submitted anything and watching the frequency of these blogs become less and less has troubled me a little.  I want to have spectacular news to talk about all the time but then, my tendency is toward cautious optimism these days.  When I do have things to report about the trials and conquests of being an aspiring film composer/voice over artist in New York City, I find that I want more to not jinx them than I do to share them necessarily.  

But more than anything I want to share these thoughts I'm having tonight.  That this hiatus feels particularly harrowing because I'm finding myself really needing to do something musical while I'm kind of also having to job hunt a little. My extra freelance work that I'd been depending on has dried up so that I'm subsisting on just the one job now.

I need that outlet though, the music.  I've started to practice piano again for my own personal enrichment, even written a few things and put them on SoundCloud and may have a chance to perform at some yoga classes soon. I am finding more time to submit voice over auditions and my new coach has shown that she has enough faith in me to submit me for voice over auditions that she's privy to during our lessons.  But booking the job is the hardest part there.  The new coach and I are working quite well together though and I'm feeling a lot more confident.  I should probably lean on that for a while and just accept that the music gigs will come.  And the harder I work at the voice over right now while I have this good coach in front of me, the more that's bound to pay off (literally).

I'd really much rather that I had the time to go and seek composing gigs out instead of waiting for one to come around.  But even that has to wait.  I've told myself that this is just temporary and that I will get back to it once day job land stabilizes a bit.  I mean, I have a financial plan now.  I'm a big boy and I pay my bills on time.  In another life I would have loved to have lived a Bohemian lifestyle in the East Village, scraping together rent money month by month, and doing nothing but playing music, but that's not as easy as it sounds from my current standpoint.

I can't imagine giving up the music altogether just for that level of comfort that everybody craves sometimes.  I meet people up here all the time that gave up acting or whatever monumental endeavor they came here for and they tell me they're happy not being part of the rat race anymore.  Whenever someone has to tell me they're happy though...I just wonder if they really are, or even if they really wanted it all that bad to begin with.  But I try not to judge.  Everyone has their path, their limits and maybe they are happier.  But you have to participate in a rat race just about everywhere you go, any industry, any job.  And if you just slide into a comfortable position at a job you have to pretend to like, and try to coast through the rest of your years until retirement, than what are you even doing?  I don't want that to be me.  I've told myself that even if I never make it to where the bulk of my income is from music gigs, I'm always going to be doing what I love.  I'll make sure of that.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Hitting the ground running...

And we're back in.  Vacation was great, adjusting to the new work schedule has been smoother than I had imagined, and I just saw one of my favorite artists in concert at the Beacon Theater.  Tori Amos.  I could just die it was so good.  But we'll get to that.  Also, I just met with a new voice over coach for a consultation and I have good feelings about the future.

Every night now, I try to get myself into bed around 9:30 - 10:00pm and I wake up at 5:30am.  I spent my vacation sort of slowly acclimating myself to the schedule, because, let's face it, mountain sunrises in NC are worth waking up for.  That and everyone in the house was going to bed around 10pm anyway.  By the 1st of August, upon my return I had absolutely no problem getting up and going to work and surviving through the day without feeling tired.

Another aspect of my routine has changed as well, now that the Brooklyn Yogaworks studio is open.  A much shorter ride to class for starters but also, taking all evening classes has totally flipped my days on their side.  Now, I'm working first, then doing VO gigs, depending on the availability of auditions, and then going to yoga, eating dinner and going to sleep.

I'm looking forward to seeing how I'll manage the next music gig but now my focus has shifted back to VO until that comes along.  I mentioned an agent I was waiting to speak with only briefly a few weeks back, but didn't elaborate.  What happened was, right before my vacation, I got in touch with him and got some advice and pointers from him.  While it was mildly discouraging, I did glean a lot from the conversation and made sure I walked away from it with some clear direction for my next steps.  I pulled a few names from him of coaches I should work with, classes I should take.

So, I picked one that I researched pretty heavily and who had worked with Jane Lynch before and ultimately reached out to her after I was settled back in post vacation.  The consultation was yesterday and it went really well.  I went in there expecting to get torn apart because, after all, I'm well aware that there's something I'm lacking.  After speaking with the agent, it came clear that it's obvious to anyone in the business who hears my demo that I need more acting training.

I did not get torn apart however and in fact, had a lot of fun with the new coach.  She had me fill out paper work and whatnot and then we chatted a tiny bit about what I've done and she told me she can already hear what it is I need to work on.  So she stood me in front of a condenser mic hooked up to her iPad and threw some copy at me and I just dug in.  Her direction was not uncommon but something about the way she explained things made it sink in so much more quickly and before I knew it I was really nailing the copy, and incorporating all her directions with ease.  I think that impressed her and, as we were finishing up, talk turned to all the agents she'd like me to meet once we get working.  So I signed up for a package deal and a handful of coaching sessions over the course of the next month and a half, even marking my calendar for a day when one of these agents is going to be there specifically to listen to her other students.

Psyched doesn't even begin to describe it.  But, oh yeah, Tori was amazing.  And the Beacon Theater was an amazing venue.  She played only two songs off the new album and the rest were scattered from just about every other album, with a heavy selection from Little Earthquakes and From the Choirgirl Hotel.  I'd always heard about how her concerts are like a religious experience for some.  This crowd was no different.  The were appropriately boisterous during the wild parts but they always shut the f*ck up immediately after their outbursts because they, like me, wanted to hear every single note she sang.  For me, I was just on the edge of my seat listening, overcome with glee when she'd break into a favorite song of mine.  I've always found her melodies and vocalizations hauntingly beautiful.  A favorite moment from the show was her closing with Hey Jupiter.  Listen to the song, especially the part where she vocalizes at the end of the chorus in "oohs."  I almost cried it was so beautiful.  And just her up there singing and banging on her Bösendorfer alternately swiveling around to the keyboard behind her (at one point it was an organ they wheeled out during a changeover), sometimes playing both at the same time (she had a microphone at each instrument and would sustain a note at the end of the line as she switched mics to hilarious effect), occasionally slamming the lid back on the piano for emphasis (and scaring the shit out of most of us when she'd do it).  She even busted out a cover set in the middle of the show, including Faith by George Michael, Blue Jeans by Lana del Ray and Wicked Games by Chris Isaak.  Add a four song encore and I was satisfied.  One of the best concerts I've seen in my life.

There are other things on the horizon that I'll keep secret for now but I will mention that I have already secured my hotel reservation for Costa Dulce for next February, the real start of my trip planning.  For now, even though I don't work until 10am, I think I'm going to drift off to sleep and dream of being a voice over god.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Fruits...

Of labor.  Lots of labor. Lots of fruit.  I just came home to a shipment of wine from Naked Wines.  Joined, used the $100 voucher they reel you in with and now I have more wine than rack.  It's kind of a nice feeling.  I could get used to it.  My cup runneth over...quite literally.

So life is full and love is real.  Things that I've spent my short life on are starting to come to fruition.  But there is still work to be done.  Not now though.  Dear god.  Remember how I was saying I wouldn't have a day off for 50 days straight?  Between the rush of freelance hours at my two part time jobs, the film score and three VO gigs, I didn't stop except to take the day to go to a wedding on Long Island and a few days off to host a friend who might end up rooming with me in the fall.  But it's coming to an end a little sooner than I'd thought.  CNN wants to cover with staff before freelancers now so I end my streak early, as of this Saturday, but I'm not too terribly fussed about it. Heck, CNN has already secured me for another weekend morning in August.

But this week, not just wine but money came flowing in. Paid from a VO gig and all three jobs plus a bonus from NY1, a rather unexpected bonus that came with a raise. F*ck yeah.  Oh what a feeling.  And soon I get to take a vacation to see my family and when this film score is done in less than a week (I confidently predict), I will be getting the final payment from that.

This film score I've slaved so diligently over for the past month and a half.  I love scoring comedy, I've found.  When I can make it work.  I got thinking about process the other day while watching a video on YouTube the other day with Mark Isham, composer on such films as Crash, Point Break, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans and The Mechanic.  He was talking about his process and I got thinking about how mine tends to differ with each director and their personal style.  I've worked with some directors who couldn't care less what I wrote and are tickled with anything I send them, and, while offering little direction, just let me have free reign.  Others are very particular, going so far as to ask me to emulate a rhythm they have in their head.  Others let me do my thing but only after we've discussed in detail where the music should go...then they come in and say they want me to move this note or that note or change this chord or that.  I can't decide which method I like best.  I think a huge part of me is just so damn giddy to have this work that I dive in and do whatever they tell me (within reason, of course).

Mark Isham talks in this clip about how his method works.



What stands out to me is that he asks that directors just leave him alone for 2-3 weeks.  I do enjoy that when they let me have free reign to just come up with my ideas in a vacuum.  At the same time, though, sitting down with a director and hearing what their notions about the film and each individual scene when they wrote and shot it is immensely helpful.  The director I was working with on this film, "True Love," will do that but he also will ask me what I think about certain scenes...not just what music I think should go where but things like, "did this certain emotion or plot detail come across," "did you follow this scene," "can you tell what this character's motivation is."  And he will listen to my input.  These are the moments when the director can tell me something very specific about what he needs the music to do but I can also listen for something that he may not be explicitly saying and derive an understanding of the scene that's totally my own and may take the scene to a whole new place.

I love what Isham says at about 4 minutes in about finding that one scene that "defines the overriding communication of the film" and just starting from there.  It's a brilliant idea, even just when writing a composition.  To start where you'd like the piece to peak and work up to that.  To know where it's going first.  In a way, it's a bit like rocket science.  You have to decide where you want your rocket to go first and then do the math to figure out how much fuel you need and how much acceleration you need to refine your trajectory and hit your target, be it the moon or the ISS, or low Earth orbit.  

In a short film, it's a little different because all the exposition, character development and resolution happens in such a short amount of time that you may not have enough time to really flesh out any thematic material in such a cinematic way but there is definitely still an arc.  Wow, arc = parabola, trajectory...this metaphor of rocket science and film scoring is a pretty good one.  I think I'll stick with it for a bit.

Anyway, the way I scored this film was by sitting down with the director and talking about the individual scenes and, since it's comedy, there were a lot of moments of parody where the score was highly instrumental (no pun intended) in getting the laugh.  The pivotal sort of "characters are changing" moments, were all kind of compressed into a montage scene that I scored with a techno dance beat that incorporated some distorted guitar that built in layers until the scene ended.

There was a little bit of talk about making the whole cohesive in some way between the underscore, the main title theme and all the bits of electronic dance-y pop music that sort of would take you out of the moment to get a laugh and remind you that it was a comedy.  Ultimately though, the only real cohesion was between the title theme and the underscore in a few of the scenes.  The rest of the score ended up being pop and rock influenced styles that in some other, more commercial films, may have been covered by source music or other licensed pre-recorded tracks. But it all works and I'm pretty happy with it.

Tomorrow I record a violin player friend of mine and push the final mixes through by next week. It's great to be working like this again.  And it's so great to have a vacation on the horizon.  For now, I need to, you guessed it, get some sleep.  More soon!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Planning ahead...

I really like to plan ahead.  It's just something I do.  Which is why I'm taking a break at the mid point of my work on this film score, to do a little Nicaragua planning for February 2015.  Going to the Apoyo Lodge I stayed at last time on the last night, ending the trip at Costa Dulce but then, hiking a volcano in the middle somewhere.

Hiking up a volcano sounds completely crazy, but don't worry it's an extinct one.  This has been the centerpiece of this trip from its inception, when a co worker heard me talking about my last trip to Nicaragua and told me about this island in Lake Nicaragua called Ometepe that I should go to. The island consists of two volcanoes, one active, one extinct, joined buy a narrow isthmus, covered in coffee plantations and ancient petroglyphs and accessible only by ferry from San Jorge or Granada. Putting this crazy adventure in the middle of my trip and being able to get rides to and from the ferry dock from people I already know in Nicaragua (our hosts at both the Apoyo Lodge and Costa Dulce) seemed like the best idea.  But, the Apoyo Lodge is booked through the 24th, a day after I had hoped to arrive, then there's a one day gap before another group is considering booking it.  This wouldn't be a big deal except I'm trying to align my trip with something.  I want to wind up at Costa Dulce on the 27th or the 28th when a friend may be there.

Going to the volcano island straight from the airport in Managua is not an option.  It's too far and there are too many modes of transportation required (cab-ferry-bike-feet).   But going to the crater lake for just one day before going to the volcano island defeats the purpose almost.  Another reason for starting there this time is that we didn't get but half a day and one night there the last time...and that wasn't nearly enough time for such a gorgeous locale.


I mean, papaya trees on the property, a resident yoga instructor, a beautiful outdoor yoga platform and a 23,000 year old crater lake in which you can float in an inner tube.  How can I miss out on that? 

So, in typing this out, I realized what makes the most sense is to start my trip on the 24th, the one day that Apoyo is free and stay there one night, travel to Ometepe the next day, spend the same amount of days there as I was going to originally, then go to Costa Dulce, arriving there on the 27th or 28th, spend 3 nights there and then go back to Apoyo and spend 2 more nights.  

Perhaps.  I have to write the Apoyo people a few months from now closer to the dates to see if anything has changed.  And see if I can even stay there on the last few days of my trip.  I still need to type an email to the hotel on Ometepe that I've zeroed in on, though, so there's yet more planning to be done.  

Anyhow, this and budgeting for the trip has gotten me excited about my little light at the end of the tunnel.  Sure there's fun to be had between now and then, summer weather to be enjoyed, other trips to take.  But it's nice to have the thought of going back and having another adventure to tide me over until then.  And to help me with bracing myself for all the work that's ahead. A month and a half more of CNN, still working at truTV, the current film score and all the other potential projects coming up.   

Voice over is on a bit of a hiatus, or maybe just a lull, while I figure out things.  I let my membership to Voice123.com lapse and may not subscribe again for a while, so I won't be doing as many auditions.  I'm waiting to hear back from an agent though...and man I hate talking about that because it's probably nothing and I don't want to get my hopes up.  I had a co worker here at NY1 in Creative Services send my demo on to a few agents in the city and only one got back to him, so far, just saying that he wanted to give him some feedback on my voice.   Whatever that means.  

At any rate, I have a wedding to go to tomorrow so I'm going to actually take an entire day where I don't do any work on anything.  Which is cool because I was thinking I'd need it, what with all the extra freelance work at CNN and truTV, and then this came up.  A friend of mine from the college days was planning on going to our friend's wedding out on Long Island and asked to stay with me in the days leading up to it and asked if I wanted to go, too.  So I managed to get the day off from CNN and bought myself a suit.   I'm not looking forward to traveling back from Long Island late at night...nor am I looking forward to wearing a suit in hot weather.  But I do want to look good.  

Not much else to report tonight.  Just wanted to get all that out.  Maybe I'll have some insight into my writing process on the next blog.  For now though, I'm just going to enjoy a too short weekend and an old friend's wedding.   

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A freelancer's dream...

When I let three weeks go by without posting, you can assume I'm busy, which is a good thing. When you're a freelancer, like me, you gotta take all the work you can get.  I'm working full time nights at NY1, Monday through Friday, both Saturday and Sunday nights at CNN until the end of July, still picking up two shifts a week at truTV in the mornings before NY1 on Tuesday and Thursday.  This makes it so that, save for taking next Saturday off to attend a friend's wedding out on Long Island, I'll be working for the next 50 days straight.  On top of all of that, I've picked up three and a half voice over gigs in the past month (the half gig was a pickup that I recorded from home for a book promo...they decided they wanted me to say the author's name in the spot) and I'm also scoring a short comedy/drama.  So, yeah.  Lots to do. 

It's summer solstice today, though, and I'm missing all kinds of fun stuff because I'm working.  Not the least of which is the weather (oh my god) but also the yoga in Times Square and the Mermaid Parade and I'm sure there's several live concerts happening around the city, some of which my friends are playing in.  But, I'm missing all of it.  I probably have said this every summer since I moved here, but there is way too much going on in the city every summer to do everything anyway, whether I'm working or not, even if I just stuck to the things that sound particularly awesome.  I guess this just proves that I'll never get sick of living here...I just have to keep my ear to the ground so that if I am able to attend something, I actually know about it in time to make plans to go.

Sure, there's always next summer for most of this stuff.  Though, it still does bum me out a little that, whenever I remember that Celebrate Brooklyn concerts at the Prospect Park Band Shell are a thing, I realize that the few artists that I would go see, fall on days that I can't go.  It's like this every summer.  I mean, I always try to make it to at least one and I usually succeed, but last year, because I work nights, I wasn't able to make any because I didn't find out about the one concert I could make in time to get enough friends interested in going with me.  This year, St. Vincent is playing on August 9th and, while I'm just getting into them, I going to make it a point to go.  It's one of the first weekends I'm going to have off again. 



Summer shenanigans aside, it is nice to have a foot in so many different places and to be getting so much work.  For one thing, it's given me the faith that I can one day quit full time work and be totally devoted to both sides of this career of mine.  Of course, cautiously optimistic is always the way to go.  But add on top of the gigs I am getting, the fact that I'm getting a lot of attention for my VO and music work and have been quoting people for projects just as often as I am booking them.  Granted, at least one of those was a friend asking.  But still.  It's definitely a good thing if my name is out there. 

And for the piece de la resistance: I found the finished versions of those two book promos I voiced online.  Check them out on youtube.com:





I'll have more to update soon with the film score.  It's been coming along nicely though and the director has liked most of my initial ideas.  We're still in the writing phase but I'm nearly done with that and will soon move on to mixing and finalizing everything.  In the meantime, it's also nice to see that it's totally possible for me to work three jobs, get three voice over gigs and still find time to write music. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Change your attitude...

Slap the snooze bar, decide to get up anyway, pants, shirt, scrambled eggs, toast, green tea, pack lunch, shower, shave, train.  If only going to sleep was as easy for me as waking up.  Again, last night, I was up until past 3am, all because I decided to stop at a friend's bar after work even despite the fact that the trains were not cooperating and I ultimately ended up having to get a cab from the Financial District (not an easy task) which promptly got stuck behind a garbage truck for 10 minutes.  So naturally, I stayed out a little later than intended. 

As I've mentioned previously, I've been trying to overhaul my nighttime routine, get in bed and sleeping sooner, but I just like unwinding too much.  I was never good at being systematic about going to bed and sometimes when I get home I want to write or read articles or drink wine, and otherwise enjoy the space that I pay rent to basically sleep in.  It's healing in a way, too, to be able to spend a certain number of my waking hours not working or commuting. 

Part of it, too, is that I can't just say, "okay, go to sleep now," and actually fall asleep.  It's no surprise really. My mind is pretty busy these days regardless of how much I've gotten to unwind, full of thoughts about what just happened and the day ahead.  And when one of those thoughts is "I need to be going to sleep soon," it makes it that much harder to actually do the thing. 

I have my methods, though, when I start to realize that I'm in danger of tossing and turning for hours.  The first thing is to relax.  I know.  Sounds obvious but so many times I've been trying to sleep and noticed myself tensed up, trying not to move, trying not to scratch every itch, trying to ignore the fact that I need to eat something/drink something/go to the bathroom.  All I need to do in these situations is just lie on my back and breathe for a few minutes straight, sometimes pretending I'm at the end of a yoga class doing Savasana (Maybe even get up and eat something/drink something/go to the bathroom).

The next thing is to shut out that "oh shit, I need to get to sleep soon" thought, so I try to let my mind wander toward any thought but that.  Not in a "don't think about sleep," kind of way, though, because sleep is the first thing anyone would think of when told not to think about sleep.  No, I just daydream.  I try to imagine positive thoughts, like me getting an award or scoring a really fantastic gig.  Or getting my ass back to Nicaragua to the beach.  Any rich imagery that can completely fill my head and leave no room for stressing about getting to sleep.  Because when I stress about it, that results in the opposite effect.  I'm wide awake.

Lastly, if I really can't go to sleep, I just go ahead and deal with the thoughts about what tomorrow's going to be like.  Big deal if I'm tired tomorrow.  I'll just come home and be tired enough to drop right off to sleep.  That usually does it.  Letting go of results.  I'm going to sound very Buddhist here but I'm okay with that.  One of my yoga teachers uttered this gem on the morning that we heard that Maya Angelou had passed:


I'm sure the Buddha said something similar as well.  There are two aspects to this.  I was thinking about a lot of the things I've been going through and how just letting go of results can do wonders in terms of changing your perspective about whatever it is.  When I was going through my depression about 10 years ago (wow, 10 years ago?), thoughts like this basically saved me and turned my life around.  How easy it can be to spiral down into a pit of despair over something when if you just stopped and said, "well let me look at this another way," you could reverse everything and get back to square one.

I'm finding that every time I get discouraged about any aspect of my career, whether I'm just bummed I didn't get an audition or I am full on berating myself for sucking so bad at something, I can back up a few steps and say to myself that it's not nearly as bad as I'm painting it.  In fact, it might not even be bad at all.  And then, I'm free to look at it however I want.  I just accept my situation and move forward from there.  It's already 3am, I'm already going to be tired tomorrow, there's nothing I can do about that part of so I might as well change my attitude.  I didn't get that VO gig, it's probably not saying anything about the quality of my audition, they were just looking for something else.  I'm still on the right track. 

Lots of people want to tell you that this or that is not possible, or they want you to look at the reality of a situation and not get your hopes up.  "There are so many people doing what you're trying to do," "There's so much competition," "Just don't get ahead of yourself."  Well intentioned stuff, for sure...or maybe not.  I think people just get so mired in negativity, they forget to dream about what's possible.  And they forget that you should never let something like a negative thought stop you from acting on something anyway.   Why would I not try?  How else would I know if I could do it or not? By listening to my negative thoughts that are probably not even grounded in reality?  Of course not.

Anyway, that having been said, I also had to change my attitude about the inordinate number of hours I'll be working so that I don't go insane thinking ahead to how overworked I could potentially be in a few weeks time.  This past weekend, I was supposed to re-train both Saturday and Sunday nights at CNN but, upon getting there on Saturday and talking with my co worker, we both deemed it unnecessary for me to even stay too late that night.  So I left at 8, went out with friends and then decided to make Sunday a day to just relax and enjoy the weather.  Yoga, gluten free pizza, gluten free cupcake, East Village community gardens and a quick drink with a friend before cooking dinner, watching Cosmos (doing a tiny bit of work on the film score) and then heading to Barbes to watch Stephan Wrembel.  All around a great afternoon and evening.  And now, after this Thursday which I have off, I'm probably going to be working about 50 days straight on top of scoring a film and trying to get more VO work.  Don't worry, though. I'm not going to burnout.  Tim Daoust doesn't burn out. 





Friday, May 23, 2014

Killing procrastination and thinking about trips...

I learned something today.  I can overestimate the scope of a task.  But I can also bypass my own thinking.  At the start of this week, I had a semi impromptu guest and, rather than worry that I wasn't going to have enough time to do what I said I would do on this project, I just hung out with my friend who I hadn't seen in over a year and got very little sleep.  A few days later, when she left, I started to panic that I was behind schedule and assumed I wouldn't get done half of what I said I would in the time I had left.

To clarify, I told the filmmaker I'd be able to get him some samples by the end of the week of a beat that he wanted for one scene and a piano theme that we discussed the tone of during our spotting session on Sunday afternoon.  Having shunned my work for the first three days of this week (somewhat shunned...I did a good bit of work on the beat while I was at work a few nights in a row and did come up with something that I like), I started to panic a little.  I knew I'd need the piano to work on the theme and wouldn't be able to actually sit down and play it without waking up my cousin until this afternoon.  I even tried to use my keyboard and listen in headphones the other night but, as I mentioned, it's a little messed up right now.  I said to myself, "well, I guess I'll just tell him I won't be done by the end of the week and push it back a few days." After all I'd have the weekend to catch up.

I was pleasantly surprised, though, to realize that I could come up with something of a theme for this film in the limited amount of time I had just today.  And I was able to stretch my ideas to cover some of the underscore in one of the first scenes while working on it more tonight.  So, boom.  I just surprised myself.

And you know how?  I just got started instead of letting myself get overwhelmed with the weight of what I still had left to do.  I just sat down at the piano and started playing.  And god, it felt good.

Now, I can relax a little.  Maybe have a glass of wine when I get home and put my feet up.   The rest of the weekend I'll spend mixing the beat that I wrote for the other scene.  But that can wait until I'm at home and have my monitors and headphones at my disposal.

Earlier tonight, in my down time, I started to look at flights to Nicaragua for next year since I decided on my dates.  Even found one for $378 round trip (although it leaves from Newark International and includes an overnight stay, each way, in Miami).  I figured out that it would still be cheaper, especially if I took the path to Newark Penn Station and the shuttle to the airport from there in lieu of taking a cab or a car service.  The hotels in Miami would add to the cost though and probably make that itinerary ultimately no better than the next option I saw which also left from Newark but returned to JFK and had no overnight layover.  That one was $550.  I've been keeping all this in a Google doc along with my planned itinerary.  Apoyo Crater Lake, then the island of Ometepe and finally Costa Dulce for one last night.

So that's what I do.  I think waaaaay ahead.  I've always been that way.  Even as a kid.  When I knew we were going to the beach, even though it was months away, I would always be asking my parents about it.  "What floor are we staying on? What are we going to do when we're there?" Etc. Etc. I probably annoyed them a little.  But I was always eager and still am.  Besides, there are benefits to being so into planning things.  First it helps build excitement and also, see cheap plane tickets above. I'm also tracking them using this site: www.yapta.com.  Get into it if you haven't.  It will alert you when the price of your tickets drops so you can buy them at the cheapest possible price.  Hurray for penny pinching as well.

That said, I need to get out of here.  Wine awaits.  Weekend awaits.  Music and fun awaits.  Also work but we'll get to that.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The rules of troubleshooting...

Just a quick one before I head to bed.  Yeah, I did it.  I opted to try and work late at night instead of working on changing my bed time routine.  The crappy thing is that I might have been productive if I hadn't needed to troubleshoot some problems first.

I was about to sit down and tinker with some piano ideas using my MIDI controller through Logic and one of my piano samplers but the stupid M Audio Axiom keyboard that I use has this problem where, all of a sudden, when you turn it on, two notes (usually an augmented fourth apart, i.e. C and F#) just don't work.  So, before, I had found that all you had to do was just turn the thing off hold down the offending keys and then turn it back on and hold them down for 30 seconds.  Okay, so a lot of trial and error and reading forums led to that and I'm still not even sure if what I did was what worked to fix it or if it fixed itself or if some random hit of the keys jostled the electronics and put something back in place.  It's ineffable.  Because this time around it's A and D# that aren't working and my fix that I was so proud of is not working either.

I needed a win tonight so, I shifted gears (all while still sipping my glass of wine) and started to work on a hunch about what was wrong with my looping software Mobius.  This is going to become one of my favorite rules of troubleshooting: "Ask yourself what has changed since the problem started."

Duh.  I got a new audio interface about a month or so ago and hadn't yet tried it out with my guitar setup and, over the past few days, I was tinkering a little and noticed a problem with Mobius.  Usually the screen will animate, so you know what state it's in, whether recording, overdubbing, playing back etc. But this time around when I'd tap the buttons on my pedal, it would move and freeze and only when you interacted with the program again, whether clicking on the screen somewhere or tapping another button, would it actually update.

So this is a problem when you're performing because you want to know what's going on and what state it's in, and whether the pedal tap you just executed actually did anything.

But, when I had that eureka moment about the change in my audio interface, I decided to try the old audio interface out.  Sure enough, it worked fine.  Well, sort of.  It worked fine as a standalone but I usually use it in MainStage, Apple's live performance software that allows me to add all kinds of effects and have multiple channels that I can mix live.  In MainStage it was having the same problem.  So I had to tinker more and I think I've found a workaround but I have to test it more.  I basically have to go through a series of weird steps to get it to work correctly, which is frustrating enough but then add in that normally, I have to turn things on in a certain order and sometimes have to restart the computer so that one piece of software will recognize all the bits of hardware I have plugged in.

So, anyway, I feel somewhat accomplished tonight but it's all still underscored by the fact that my jobs are still coming so few and far between that when I go to dive into my work and dust off certain programs and pieces of hardware, I realize that I almost always have to fix some problem before I can even get started.    That is pretty frustrating.  All I wanted to do tonight was play some keyboard and riff a little.  Now I have to wait until Friday morning/afternoon when I can bang on my piano and think something up.

Happily, said piano was most recently banged on by the inimitable Crystal Bright just this morning before she left, showing me a new piece of hers.  Perhaps she will have imbued it with some of her creative energy.

Before I forget though, here's a little riff that I was toying with the other day and put up on SoundCloud.  Enjoy!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Musical Saturation...

My weekend was filled with incredible music as per usual.  Positively saturated, in fact.  And some of my favorites as well.  This is how I like things to be.  This is a blog in which I plug those amazing musicians, some of them good friends of mine.

Saturday afternoon began like any other Saturday.  I was leaving yoga when I noticed a text from Lacy, saying that her neighborhood bar in Ditmas Park was having a 1 year anniversary party with BBQ and music all afternoon long and that I should come.  I returned the text and, on a whim since the Q train was the first to arrive as I stepped onto the platform at Canal Street, I decided to just go straight there, yoga mat bag and all (Lacy didn't see my text and called me a ninja because I just appeared there in less than an hour since she had texted me).  The music was varied and of good quality, some Rockabilly, some Bluegrass-y stuff and it was good catching up with Lacy.  The BBQ was damned good, too and the ciders cheap.   So commenced the day drinking.  I even ran into a friend of mine whom I hadn't seen in ages.  Got to meet some new friends too.

But I was headed out around 6:30 or so because I needed to touch down at home before heading to The Way Station to catch Dahlia's band DecaDence.  These guys rock my face off, consistently.  I've come to see them about five times now and it just gets better.  Their songs are reggae influenced with some French lyrics and accordion and ukulele and lots of dancing.  All of them world class musicians and great guys.  Too bad, I was feeling a little bummed because I had no one to dance with, as I had arrived solo, and the place was full of couples (even a bride and groom that had just gotten hitched).  But seriously though, if you have a chance to check these guys out, take it.  They're currently playing every Monday night at District 12 up in Inwood plus a handful of other shows including The Way Station again on June 21st.

I ditched the scene a little early because I had to work at TruTV in the morning on Sunday and also had to meet up with that filmmaker whose film I'll be scoring.  After work Sunday afternoon, I met Ben at one of my favorite gluten free restaurants in the city, Hu Kitchen, and we spotted the whole film.  Talked about which cues should go where and how the music should be in general.  This is always a fun phase, pulling the film apart and discussing characters and their motives and how the scenes are edited, etc.  Next I sit down and watch the film a few times and then start riffing musical ideas.  The film, "True Love," is a 20 minute short about two brothers, the older of whom is trying to get a hooker for his brother so he can have his first time.  It's a quirky comedy disguised as a drama, so there'll be some tongue-in-cheek humor in the music.  Really excited to get working on this.

After our meeting I took the train back to the Slope, swung by and picked up a few things at the co-op and went home to cook dinner.  I had been texting with my friend Crystal, whose band is in town to play a few shows (that I'll unfortunately miss).  She needed a place for just her to stay so she's crashing here for a few days (currently passed out on the air mattress).  I was psyched because we actually got to hang out for a change.  Usually I just go see the show and then they have to head on to the next town.  She and I have been friends since undergraduate days and she's an incredible musician.   If you're not doing anything on Tuesday night I strongly suggest you go to Goodbye Blue Monday and check her and her band out.  Crystal Bright and The Silver Hands.   I'll give you one of my favorite descriptions of her music that I've heard elsewhere, probably in a review: "A Kaleidophrenic Cabaret." She plays, among other things, accordion, keys and musical saw.  Go see her dammit!  

I met her and the band at Superfine in Dumbo yesterday evening where they were watching a bluegrass band, (cannot remember the name of them now) and stole Crystal away to head into Manhattan because a mutual friend of ours from Greensboro named Caitlin Watkins was playing at Bowery Electric.  Caitlin is writing some amazing folk rock and just gets better every time I see her perform.  The last time was at a singer-songwriter round at Jalopy in Red Hook and I remember just being pulled inside the songs she was singing.  On the edge of my seat, feeling every emotion in the songs.  Last night was no different. Her voice does some incredible things and she reminds me a tiny bit of Ingrid Michaelson.   Last night she had a banjo player, Bennet Sullivan, with her who was pretty incredible and complimented her songs nicely.  Also a Greensboro native.  You should also see her and Bennet if you get the chance.

When the set was finished we hung out for a little longer (Bowery Electric has a card minimum of $10 and my wine was $9...I really hate drinking in Manhattan sometimes), and then went over to Barbes where the rest of Crystal's band was hanging out on my recommendation.  They also are interested in playing there so I'm going to try and help out with that as much as I can.

Who was playing at Barbes? Who else?  Stephane f*cking Wrembel.  As usual Stephane and has band tore it up.  They had a guest guitarist and violinist playing as well.  The violinist even did some vocal improvisation that just blew me away.  Great way to end the night.  Great way to end the weekend.

So, another weekend full of music under my belt and now I gotta get back to work...in more ways than one.  I have a film to score now.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Rough sleep...

I'm writing in the morning for a change.   I've been actually debating changing my evening routine a little because, with or without the writing and snacking and drinking wine and web surfing and otherwise looking at a screen and reading, I have not really done all that much to unwind and get a decent amount of sleep lately.  Most of it is the things I have on my mind lately that have been forcing me to stay up pondering until I reach a point where I just tell myself to go the hell to sleep, usually pushing 2am by that time.

Luckily, I have things on the docket.  Yes, things.  Things to dive into.  Things to distract me.  Things that will pay money.  So not only do I have something to occupy my dizzyingly frantic mind, I also have incentive to try harder to get a decent amount of sleep.  On top of the 7 day a week cluster f*ck I'm about to dive into with day time work, I will now need to score a 20 minute short film by the end of June.  I'll forgo cliches about the degree to which it precipitates when it finally does precipitate.

This is the short that I wrote thematic material for a few months back in the fall of 2013.  They are picture locked and will probably want to go in a slightly different direction than the first material I wrote them.  That was written merely to have something to play for the actors before they did the scenes to give them a sense of where the director wanted to go with the tone of the film.

The music, I'm told, will now encompass some poppy electronic stuff in addition to some piano pieces.  Probably about 5 - 7 minutes worth of music, all told.  So it should be a decent amount of work.  But here's the thing.  I can only write during the day when I can actually make noise around my apartment so then, getting enough sleep and getting up at a decent hour will be crucial and will make sense.  The other day though, while working on "The Life," I spent the hours before sleep when I usually unwind, working on the mixes in headphones, and I found myself just as productive.  So maybe I'll try both.  Working at night and working in the morning.

For now, though, I think I'll be good during the week, get home, brush my teeth, maybe play guitar for a little bit and then do some breath work/meditation and try to just drift off.  See if I can get past these past few weeks of rough sleep and recharge before I dive into the insanity to come.  It all starts May 26th.  Really only about a week away. And I haven't even seen the film yet.  Wish me luck!


Friday, April 25, 2014

Time management again...

I'm gonna go ahead and say it.  I really much prefer writing at this time of night/morning.  I have a clear head, I'm having a cider, listening to a friend's music, and unwinding.  I don't have to spring out of bed so early tomorrow morning either.  I was just reading a blog from around this time last year where I was going on about "how am I going to survive working 64 hours a week!" Happy to report to my one-year-ago self that I made it through and it wasn't all that bad. 

This is actually good knowledge for me to unearth, polish off, and reexamine in a different context.  See, in a few weeks, I'll be starting up that racket again, only this time, it's basically 8 days a week versus the 4 days worth of doubles followed by a regular Friday and a weekend off.  I'll be working Saturday and Sunday evenings 3pm-11pm at CNN for 2 months, while continuing to pull 3:30pm-11:30pm shifts at NY1 Monday through Friday.  When I was asked about covering someone's maternity leave there, I came up with the plan to disperse my remaining personal days at NY1 during the weekdays throughout the months of June and July so that I could ease the load a little bit. 

In the end, I wound up just taking two big chunks of time off in July, so June might be rough.  Just sayin'.  But I'm ready for it.  I did something this crazy last year and in fact, continued to do it after the CNN work dried up, albeit a little less, working only twice to four times a week at TruTV (the third and fourth shifts being short weekend morning shifts when no one else was there).  In fact, barely a week has gone by since last April that I haven't worked at least 50 hours a week.  And I've still worked on music and furthered my voice over career and kept up with yoga and still had time to get out and see some great music and travel. 

So, yeah, it's remarkable what a little time management can help you accomplish.  I've actually thought about writing a book on the subject of time management and how I pull this crazy stuff off.  I could boil it down to a handful of important maxims.  The first and most important being to auto pilot as much as you can (this is not entirely my wording but the idea did come to me on its own...I already know exactly what I need at the grocery store most weeks and for the most part, for example, so that goes pretty quick).  The second is to know how much time it takes you to do certain things (the most basic being showering, cooking, eating and commuting...but then other things more specific to your situation come into play, i.e. for me, how much time do I really need to record a script for a voice over audition and do it well?).  Additionally, you have to identify the gaps in your day during which you can squeeze certain tasks in, what kinds of things can you do simultaneously (for me, an example is laundry and cooking...getting good at that one.  I have to run down the block to do coin laundry so I start my brown rice cooking before I walk down the hill with my laundry bag, etc.).  Also, and this is probably the most important, how can you fit in exercise and relaxation...because let's face it. I'd probably go nuts trying to do all this if I didn't stop and center myself once a day at least.

So, sure, I could probably flesh that all out into a book if I threw in some anecdotes for good measure.  But then, I gotta find the time to start writing down all these ideas.   Totally doable.  But now, I gotta squeeze in that 7 hours of sleep because that's probably the most important use of my time these days. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

33...

33.  And I almost forgot to put on Thirty-three by the Smashing Pumpkins.  Something I always said I would do when I turned 33.  So with a half hour left in my birthday, I thought I'd write a bit.  There's not a ton to report.  The weekend was fun and filled with friends and drinking.  My party Sunday ended up being small but still fun.  And today, I had a free yoga class at my old studio and got to catch up with a teacher I hadn't taken class from in a while. 

I also had a doctor's appointment with an Ear, Nose and Throat doc to see what was happening with my right ear.  What is happening with my right ear?  Okay, so a few weeks ago, I had a cold so bad I wound up with an ear infection in my right ear and, while the pain subsided the following day, sometime the next week when I was back in Brooklyn, I noticed something odd.  While playing my guitar, single notes were resonating as two notes out of tune with each other.  I thought something was wrong with my guitar and wrote it off, saying I'd check into it later.  The next day though, I heard the same phenomenon with music that was playing in my kitchen.  I was hearing an echo off one of the walls, reaching my ear a millisecond later and coming in out of tune with the left ear.  I was standing there plugging and un plugging my left ear and listening to the music jump up in pitch every time.  It was so weird. 

I researched it and found that it's an actual thing you can get if you either have damage to the sensory nerves or if you have fluid or ear wax buildup in the inner ear.  It's called, wait for it, "Diplacusis." The wiki article doesn't give you much but there's more info out there.  Anyway, I just assumed it would resolve itself, seeing as how it was probably related to the ear infection and not any damage, but it was taking a while, so I scheduled the doctor's appointment just to be safe.  I would have gotten there on Friday last week but I showed up without an insurance card on me and had to reschedule for today...by which point, it had fully cleared up.  I've been recommended to someone for a full hearing test though and I'm going to go because I need to be sure it's gone.  I have tested it tonight and it seems fine and at the doctor's office, she held a tuning fork up to both ears alternately and I heard the same pitch in both ears.  So, it seems it's cleared up.  I had to test it here as well because I was finding, when it was at its worst, that the softer the sound the more evident the difference in pitch was.  You should've seen me plugging one ear and listening to my guitar as I plucked the open strings first softer and then gradually louder and louder.  The pitch would resolve back to where it was supposed to be as it got louder.  It was the weirdest thing ever. 

And of course, only a musician would notice it.  Or anyone with any musical sensibility.  So, naturally, I was disturbed that part of my instrument (as a composer) was malfunctioning.  And in the most ridiculous possible way...like why a half step difference?  That's pretty dissonant. Another interval, like maybe a fourth or something would've been fun maybe but weird dissonance was not cool.  I admit I panicked for a hot second. 

But anyhow, that's all cleared up now and I'm feeling loads better minus the lingering dry cough that you can get with a head and chest cold.  And the weather here is ever improving so there's that. 

And I'm gearing up for a great summer, with loads of fun plans coming up including things like a trip to NC to see my nephew on his birthday in July, a trip upstate at some point, and a Tori Amos concert, one of my favorite artists of all time, whom I've never seen perform live.  I think I'm going to be working a lot during the summer months as well, covering someone's maternity leave at CNN.  So I'm hoping I won't go insane.  And things are happening with both voice over and music.  I'll be putting together that promo demo as soon as I get the audio from the last two jobs, and I'm still finishing the score for "The Life" which is getting ever closer to completion. I may even have another job soon but, as always, I don't want to get too far ahead of myself. 

For now, I need to sleep off this weekend and get in the mindset for productivity again.  Good night!


Monday, April 14, 2014

2003 Anjou Villages Brissac

I opened a 10 year old bottle of wine this weekend that I've been saving for almost 7 years.  What was I saving it for?  I have no idea.  When I bought it I was newly single and in France, in the town where I studied in 2002, hanging with my parents and my aunt. I smuggled it back to the States and put it in my wine rack.  When I think back, any number of occasions have passed on which I could have imbibed this bottle, an Anjou Villages Brissac from 2003...Brissac being a chateau that I visited during my study abroad trip all those years ago.  The bottle itself was one of which I had bought a 1996 vintage back in 2002 on that trip and drank relatively soon after returning to the States.  So, sure, it's got a little bit of sentimental value and that, but ultimately, I kept pushing back when I was supposedly going to open it. In fact, I actually never really assigned it any special occasion on which I would potentially open it.

I felt a little like Paul Giamatti's character in "Sideways" with his 1961 Cheval Blanc that he saves and saves, saying it was supposed to be for his 10th wedding anniversary but ultimately ends up drinking it out of a paper cup in a White Castle at the end of the movie.  He supposedly does this in response to a line by Virginia Madsen's character: "The day you open a '61 Cheval Blanc, that's the occasion."  So I kept thinking about that.  My weirdly oenophile boss at NY1 would always point out that a 10 year old wine that's been moved as many times as this one has is as likely as not to be peaking and/or past its prime, perhaps even spoiled.  So, the pressure has been on for a while to hurry up and just open the damned thing, occasion or not.

I could have picked any milestone along the way in my career(s).  First paid music gig (happened years ago), moving to NY (also happened years ago, with not nearly as much fanfare as you'd think), first paid voice over gig (been there, done that), first time getting two VO gigs in one month (also, knocked that one out last year), getting a voice over agent (who knows?), getting a music agent (also who knows?), the time I got a contract with a licensing agency (also barely any fanfare).   Hell, I could have even waited just slightly longer to see what happens with "The Life" and if it gets picked up and if they use my music and/or hire me as the composer.

But I opted to open it with a friend, during the day on a work day to celebrate our shared birth month. I think the point was to share it with someone versus just celebrating by myself.  That's the sad part about the end of Sideways.  Even though he finally just drinks his Cheval Blanc, he's alone whilst doing it and in the saddest of places: a fast food joint.

But let me tell you, I do have something to celebrate.  It's been a damned good month so far.  That voice over gig I had on April 1st?  I knocked it out of the park.  There were three different directions I was given to go in and on the third and final one ("tight with tension," a direction they weren't sure how else to describe), I nailed it, eliciting wide eyed excitement from the director and a woman from the publishing company who sat in on the session.

That afternoon, I was rushing over to NY1 after the job to try and knock out another audition for this same client, borrowing a mic from the head editor and using the tracking booth to do it.  This promo for a sequel to "The Bone Collector," I managed to really hit the mark, coming off the "Bourne Ascendancy" gig early that day with a lot of energy and a good sense of what works for these kinds of jobs.  So the next morning, I had an email from the director saying they liked my read and wanted to book me for the job and get me in the studio the very next day.  So, that's two VO gigs in one week, better than I've done to date.  And the money? Let's just say I made enough for my rent and then some in the space of two hours of hard work.  I'd say that's reason enough to open any bottle of wine at any time of the day.

And sure there'll be other occasions, other milestones.  But I'll go out and buy more bottles of good wine to celebrate them when I get there.  For now, you guessed it, I gotta go to sleep.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Focus on the Narrative...

It's cold in Cape Cod and how the wind howls!  I stepped outside earlier today to go and see if the CVS two doors down from this house was open and had to hold the hat I borrowed from my dad on my head to keep it from getting picked up by the wind.  I was only going to seek out tissues because this head cold has forced me to consume almost every facial tissue that was in this house when we arrived yesterday.

So far, despite having the sicks still, I've had a great time.  Today was a long day of just hanging out in the house and meeting relatives from my mom's side either whom I've never met or wouldn't remember meeting.  Been awful nice to not leave the house all day except for a fruitless trip to an already closed drug store mere steps from the house.  Oh and one slightly longer walk earlier in the day before everyone arrived when it was weirdly warmer.  I think it's helped me get over this cold a little.  Even after taking last Wednesday off, I think I must've relapsed as I have been coughing and coughing and blowing my nose incessantly.

The good thing is my voice has come back up a few notes in pitch and is not squeaky despite the veritable assault of four days of non stop coughing.  The voice over gig is slated for Tuesday at 1pm and I was told in the audition notes "younger, edgier, not voice of god."  You should've heard me Thursday and Friday at work.  People would ask, when I answered the phone, "Tim?" as if I'm the only one whose voice could possibly be that low but acknowledging that something definitely wasn't right.

Yes.  It was me.  Barry White had nothing on me.  But it wouldn't have been appropriate for this read.   Well it might've worked but the point is that's not what they said they want...and after all I have the range...on a good day.  The job is an ad for a new Bourne novel called Bourne Ascendancy.  Kind of an exciting gig, really.  And I really hope I can keep getting gigs like this.  I need stuff to pad my promo demo because I really only have one job and a few solid recordings from coaching sessions that I can include on there now.   The promo demo is something that I've wanted to get rolling for quite a while...really since that first promo gig, "Scarlet," that I did in November 2012.  They've got to be the most fulfilling jobs I do.  Ask anyone who's ever watched network television sitting on the couch next to me.  Whenever a network promo or movie trailer comes on, I mimic the voice style and ham it up.  I love it.

Of course, sounding like those guys is not the only thing that gets jobs.  As my coach and I have discussed in our sessions, it's about sounding believable.  Thinking about the words and not just how my voice sounds.  You can start to obsess over it and then you forget things like properly breathing and a phrase or two could drop out at the end and you have to do a retake and things get slowed down and the director gets impatient and the whole experience can be unpleasant and then they never hire you again.  Okay, that's like, worst case scenario, but you get the idea.  Focus on the script.  Tell the story.

Focus on the script.  Tell the story.  Replace script with narrative and it's good advice for both of my endeavors.  "The Life" score is the same.  If the music is not helping to tell the story and is just there because of some convoluted obsession with canvasing the visuals with aural support, then its effectiveness could be minimal to nil.

Thankfully there's a tiny bit less pressure on the scoring because I can watch the scenes over and over, retreat for a day or so and come back to it and ask myself, "is this still working?"  It's remarkable how I've actually become dissatisfied with my first takes and wanted desperately to go back and fine tune it.  At first, they sounded great (even the director liked them) but now they sound like music playing in the background.  I know that that literally is what it is but you don't want it to sound like music playing in the background.  I'd rather people not notice my music at all until the parts where it's supposed to shine.

At any rate, my first takes now sound childish and elementary, so my second takes sound like gold now that I have a clearer idea of what I want for each scene.  The opening cue is a great example.  I had music playing from the start of the scene and it was basically a structured song with a chord progression and a melody, albeit stripped back.  Just an electric guitar with delay strumming whole note chords and my token backwards guitar melody.   The mood of the music really struck a chord (boy, I really didn't want to use that phrase just then) with the director so we moved forward with it. That cue ended up being on the cut that went to the Boston screening.  But there was something wrong with the audio channels from the dialogue track and when it got burned to DVD some of the character's lines in that scene were completely missing.  So we just had background noise and my music.  So, now all of a sudden, my music is laid bare, flaws in my performances and all.

But what was most compelling was that, on my second listen, I started to realize that a continuous musical idea was not fitting this scene.  The first thing you hear in the opening scene is music.  And once you're hearing it you can't unhear it.  So, all of the other things you're supposed to be noticing about the scene are diminished (especially when the lines of dialogue are missing).

The solution, I figured, was to strip it way back.  I tried an idea with all the audio I had already recorded.  I got rid of the strums on the delayed guitar and didn't even bring in the backwards melody until a few seconds into the scene.  The I let it fade before the main character's dialogue starts.  Then the music, as it was originally orchestrated swells up once the dialogue is done and carries us into the next scene.  This is an oversimplification of what's going on but, let's face it, I've never liked writing about what music sounds like.  Whenever I had to do it in graduate school, all attempts came across as asinine and contrived.  Program notes.  Pssht! Hated that shit.

But, I digress. Essentially, on the first pass, I got the mood right.  But it took a second pass and a mishap at the screening for me to return to it and reevaluate, attempting to also hit the mark with the music's timing and cadence.  It's all about feeling the rhythm of the scene itself and figuring out how to make the music match that rhythm.  Focus on the narrative.  Tell the story.

That's all for tonight guys.  Tomorrow I'm hanging out with my 94 year old Uncle Norman again and my dad's sister, Aunt Suzy before they drop me off in Boston for the bus ride home.  4 hours in a bus and I only have one episode of "True Detective" left.  Wish me luck.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Big things...

I thought I was going to let an entire month go by with just one blog entry.  Truth is I haven't felt like writing.  Not that there haven't been things to write about nor that I haven't been busy.  I guess I just got to a spot where I was re-evaluating this whole blog, its purpose and what it brings to me.  I envisioned it, at first, as a chronicle, and, at some point, I thought maybe I could pepper it with advice on moving to NYC, on being a composer, or on just following your dreams despite the odds.  I've done all those things and various people have taken notice, gotten something from my blog themselves or just cheered me on.

At the end of five years and two months doing this and writing a blog about it, though, it feels like its main purpose is still a journal for me.  And I think I'm okay with that.  For a few months, I'd been perusing so many amazing blogs and seeing what kind of traffic they have and then questioning whether or not I had something so valuable to offer.  Maybe I could find something, if I thought about it.  Maybe I could reinvent my blog altogether.

But then again, don't I have two simultaneous careers going here? I'm getting close to a lot of big things (I've been over how I don't believe in jinxes or superstitious things before), and maybe if I ever do get there, I'll cap off this blog and save it somewhere and start a new one. I'll find the time to write something more valuable and substantial when I figure my shit out.  For now, let me talk about what those big things are.

I just got another voice over gig, slated for next Tuesday, this one an advertisement for a novel.  This is the same guy who hired me to do "Scarlet" a few years back. A repeat customer worth his salt, unlike the one a few summers ago who wanted me to work for peanuts and wouldn't give me copies of my work.  This is also the highest paying single gig yet.  So, I'm feeling pretty good. 

Minus a little bug I'm fighting with a sick day and copious amounts of ginger tea and the like (got some essential oils from a friend, too).  Oh, and one newly delivered memory foam mattress which I unraveled this morning.  You should've seen the thing inflate.  I wasn't even done stripping all the plastic off it before it start to extrude out of the bag and take over my suddenly tiny bedroom. 


It's the most comfortable thing I've ever laid down on.  I already feel millions of times better in it than I have on the old spring mattress.  I was having all kinds of problems of late, with my back, especially my neck and even my ankles (?). 

But moving along, I mentioned that "The Life" had a screening in Boston a few weeks ago.  A few new players are coming on the scene and it's still got a lot of interest behind it.  Survivors at the screening were very moved by it.  And, while we're still working on the edit and all that, I'm back to tweaking the score again.  Unfortunately, because of the timeline of this screening we hadn't had a chance to do any kind of sound design so my score wasn't best represented and one of the producers didn't like it.  The writer/creator/producer that I'm friends with stood up for me and pointed out that the lack of proper sound design basically rendered it nearly impossible to achieve a decent mix with the music.  Plus, these cues were a tad bit thrown together and, in my mind at least, still preliminary, due to the short notice decision to put music on it in the first place, for this screening. 

At any rate, I'm not letting any of that shake me. I've got a great chance to do some meaningful revisions and have already re done most of the score, aiming for much more subtle renderings of my ideas.  I'm in the throes of digesting the first season of "True Detective," as well, and listening closely to the music cues on that one.  Spectacularly done.  All of it. 

It gives me great refreshers on what kind of stuff works and what doesn't.  My aim for this score, as with any score of its nature, is to hide between lines of dialogue and to never draw attention to the score, and overall, just go with a "less is more" approach given the subject matter and the strength of these performances.  I've found that simple things like slowly fading in the musical idea, or just going with something extremely brief at just the right spot instead of covering the whole scene, or even just having the overall volume of it lower, are all very effective methods.  That last one is also why an overall mix that was not given any attention drew attention to all the flaws in the score.  When something doesn't work, you can really tell when it's louder than anything else.   

It's really hard to score like this, incidentally, with things unfinished. So ultimately, I'm going to wait to do my final mix until I've heard something a little more ironed out.  But that doesn't mean I can't keep working now on the overall ideas. 

So, that's where I am.  There's really only one cue for me to retouch.  And then countless (I hope not) revisions on the others.  I have a brand new 12-string guitar coming in the mail soon and will be using that to rerecord one of the cues.  The guitar that I have had since I was 16, I'm finally through with.  It developed a nasty fret buzz on the open E-string, so I took it in to my guitar guy to see what it would take to fix it and he spotted that my bridge was coming away from the body of the guitar.  A few twists of the truss rod got rid of the buzz somewhat but he told me it could be up to $300 to fix everything.  Some of my frets are coming up as well too.  I paid somewhere around $200 for it in 1996.  So, I figured, time for a new guitar...especially since I need it to work on this score.  I'm so psyched about having a new guitar, too.  Not about selling the old one though.  That's always a pain. 

Anyway, up ahead this weekend, for my mother's birthday, I'm heading up to Cape Cod for the weekend.  It should be nice to get away for a hot second...even if it's the Cape and it's going to probably be colder than here.  Some day it will get warmer...I keep telling myself that.  I'll update next week after that VO gig.  Meanwhile, I sleep in my new bed.