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

Friday, 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!