Quite frankly, I have trouble writing these blogs. Honestly, everything I write-after reading them a couple days later-just comes across as pretentious BS. Maybe I am too hard on myself, but while I don't blog about whiny drama like many blogs, all my writing seems to have just about the same level of depth. It's like listening to ESPN. seriously, no one cares about "Brett Favre getting revenge on the Packers" or any such nonsense. all they care about are getting the latest scores. analysis is not needed.

And that's pretty much how i feel about this blog. I go back and read about these ideas I've had, and, yeah, they seem like alright ideas. And then, i keep writing. and writing. and writing. and don't say a damn thing. really lame.

Again, perhaps I am just being too hard on my own writing. I'm far from an eloquent writer. Rambling is a huge problem of mine.

Still, here's the questions: Does analysis always come at the possible price of being perceived as pretentious? Is analysis worth the effort, is there some deeper truth attained by looking at every note, rhythm, dynamic, and its relation to every other? I don't know, the answer. feel free to comment.

As for a "news brief." Trying to do an electro-acoustic radio program for Electronic New York's International Electro-Acoustic Music Festival. should be interesting. Trying to do it from a radio station as well, not just a podcast.

One movement done of the HS band piece. hopefully i hear back soon regarding my "graded" writing ability. it's certainly a skill that needs much practice.

The extended vocal piece for David Whitwell has hit a standstill. Can't reconcile the story into a workable model for the piece. May switch direction in some way. Might go to some random number generation. When they mind can't make a decision, let the environment do it for you.

And i'm waiting to hear back from UMKC. hopefully i get into their doctoral program, but i have reservations about my own abilities and wouldn't be surprised if i wasn't up to snuff. If i was a professor, i would severely question the portfolio i turned in

and now, to sit and consider F. Scott Fitzgerald, haiku, extended vocal techniques, and various effect processing units


some current projects

As i am failing at this real world thing (1 interview in 5 months of applications, at that was a fiasco), i'm turning back to the blog a bit. I never blogged a great deal, but i'll talk a bit about current projects and how i'm going about their creation.

First off is a piece for my buddy, trombonist David Whitwell. If you are interested in writing for trombone, especially if you're into the more avant garde, he's a good man to know. I wrote one piece for him already, "A Little Noise in the Trombone," for interactive pd patch and trombone. He seemed to like it, so requested a second piece. This one is to be, well, different.

David is a big fan of Charles Amirkhanian. I'm a fan too, as a matter of fact. So, he requested a piece Amirkhanian-esque, no trombone work (well, maybe a little), based on various sounds that he can make.

I struggled at first. I didn't want to go straight for a text piece a la "dutiful ducks" or any of Amirkhanian's other great text only pieces. At the same time, taking it as a piece using "a bunch of random sounds" just wasn't working for me. Considering the large amount of sampling work i do, Noah Creshevsky-esque one might say, you'd think translating it into the acoustic realm would be easy. not so much...

I was lacking a clarified vision. Without a clear vision, no artistic work can reach its potential. It will be prone to wandering. Carlos Carrillo taught me this, and its something i always struggle with. I hear sounds, i head lines, a snippet of, dare i say it, a melody, but hardly ever do i hear everything, start to finish. Don't have the memory i think, lol.

So i searched for a vision, and i came to realizations. first off, regardless of who is requesting the piece (in this case, a trombone player) it is a vocal piece. it's no schubert art song, but it is a vocal piece. So then i started thinking about how i start vocal pieces


Yep, even if am not going to directly set a text, for me, at least, starting with a text is a great place to start. First off, it gives me an idea of phonetics available. Limiting yourself is a wonderful thing. When the whole world is open, sometimes telling yourself that you only need these 10 things. It's like going to a supermarket...when you decide on a recipe, you don't buy the whole store, just the ingredients you need...well, and coke and a chocolate bar...

So, I'm waiting to hear back from David. he's an F. Scott Fitzgerald fan. I am not a huge fan, but it's his piece. heh. I know Fitzgerald does detailed and "lush" descriptions. This type of (post)impressionistic writing isn't my cup of tea, but it does lend itself well to descriptive style pieces. So, i pick something of Fitzgerald's, take my handy dandy list of sounds, check out my book on extended vocal technique, listen to Meredith Monk, and channel the Zen. or something like that. More on the process later. guessing the notation will be aleatoric in nature. open interpretation is wonderful

Now, piece 2: It's a piece for my good buddy Kendra (who has been referred to as "my good buddy" for 7 years now. i think it's a part of her name). She got married in July, and i was broke, so i couldn't go and i couldn't even buy her a present. What an ass am I?!? so, we struck a deal; how about i write a piece for her HS band and dedicate it to Kendra and Joseph. PERFECT!

I am going for a piece that will run around 7.5 minutes, 6 short vignettes based on Haiku by Matsuo Basho. I've had the text sitting around for, well, three years, and i've been looking for the moment to use it. Because of how i was envisioning the piece, it always lent itself to a HS level piece, grade 3 or so, than to the post-minimalism that is popular in NYC these days.

Basho's haiku's are perfect expressions of Buddhist sentiment. in other words, conceptually difficult, not something the "modern man" deals with well, but technically, well, simple. not saying simple in a bad way, in fact, simplicity is a thing of beauty. Reminds me of the works of Morton Feldman for some reason. I know they are demanding pieces, but, to me, exude a certain simplicity and beauty in a perfect performance.

So, i am taking 6 Haiku and writing 6 short movements, a minute or so each. I tailor all my HS pieces to the group somewhat, meaning, when i write it out "full" i do a lot of doubling of, say, bari sax and baritone/euphonium because the band doesn't have a bari sax. I think this will work out well for her group. gives her that multi-cultural standard that can be somewhat difficult to hit in an ensemble situation.

The last piece i'm working on albeit not very hard, is an electronic piece using mostly pd. it's based loosely on a sample of a friend saying the word "scream." I made a quick Shepard tone generator using that sample as a "canvas" and am now working on programming various scrubbers, grainers, and such to create sounds over top. Everything, of course, will use the same original sample. Starting with something small and simple and creating something large. Gotta love it. I have it planned to be a 1 minute piece and hope to enter it in 60x60, if i ever finish it. always a big if...

Now, i think i'm done sitting in this starbucks using the internet. I came to this Barnes and Nobles to buy a pricing guide for hockey cards (i am trying to sell off my 25+ complete sets i collected when i was much younger...), which failed, and buy an F. Scott Fitzgerald book. Guess i'll buy the giant compendium of short stories. All i know, is i don't want to use The Great Gatsby or A Curious Tale of Benjamin Button. I'm sure i will find something. i think there are 20 short stories in there. Ah, research.

Till next time quarter (HA!), peace my friends.


Sorry bout that

Sorry for being gone for so long. I'm sure my "loyal readers" were wondering what's been happening in my compositional world. here's the summation:

the opera previously discussed "Cake" was finished in piano redux form and performed April 3rd and 4th, one show at Brooklyn College, the other at Jimmy's No. 43 in Manhattan. "Cake" runs about 21 minutes in its current form. It was presented along with other one act operas and opera scenes by Remarkable Theater Brigade in conjunction with Brooklyn College.

In addition to composing "Cake," original story by Eileen Wiedbrauk (speakcoffee), i staged directed two shows; the final scene from "The Ace of Diamonds" composed by Whitney George, and "No Shoes, No Skirts, No Service" written and composed by Marie Incontrera. It was the first "professional" directing debut in NYC and i think it went pretty well. I was a bit rusty at first and with school, work, and composing (as i was writing up to the last second, and past the last second a week or two. lol) so i felt the overall design was a bit lacking, but i still stand by my work.

On top of that, the decision was made to use projection as the scenery. Since its what i do professionally, i stepped in to work out the technical details. That went perfect smoothly. I think i would do it slightly different next time, since there was a mixture of video and stills, but i manuevered everything alright. i would probably use a program like QLab next time. Programs like that are set-up to load just about any sort of media cue you'd like. I haven't used QLab too much yet, but i haven't had many chances either.

During the opera production, EM-NY's bi-annual occurred, i think the week of March 16th or something like that. it all blurrs together for me. As usual, i had a piece performed, "Brooklyn Bridge Blues." This was my first truly mult-media piece. I shot low quality video (on purpose) of my travels to and from NY from NJ, including an "artsy" shot of some cables swinging between the cars next to the wheels on the train. With that, I composed an electronic piece as a soundtrack. These were two firsts for me. I've done camera work and a little film editing now and then, but never taken 15+ different 2-3 minute segments, cut, spliced, faded, etc a 9 minute movie from those segments. Amazingly, it was easier than i thought. I used Final Cut and was amazed how easily my skills in audio editing translated to video editing. I'm still missing all the fine points of video editing and video in general, but i at least put together a pretty good looking movie.

And i've never really tried to do a soundtrack. It was an interesting process. There were times i was dead set on trying to get interesting things to line up and other points was far more interested in the compositional process. I used mainly sounds taken straight from the videos. I also stole a bass line and screwed it up large amounts. it wasn't stolen by the end. lol. Then, i read some Kerouak, and had a little interactive program slinging out short 2 second samples of NYC based musicians.

Let's see...after that i wrote a piece for David Whitwell, a fabulous trombone player in NYC. He wanted something with electronics, so i came up with "ALNT" or "A Little Noise in the Trombone", titled in honor of Pauline Oliveros (in case anyone had any questions about that. lol). It basically is an evolution of trombone playing, starting with simple overtone exercises then running the major western art music trombone playing styles, ending with an improvisational section. I put the whole thing together as a graphic score using Scribus, an open-source desktop publishing program. Took me a minute to get the hang of it, but since i was already familiar with InDesign, it didn't take too long. The electronics also followed a concept, running from a basic bass line to harmonization, complex FM modulation resulting in harmonic overdrive, and finally into noise run through a bandpass filter where the center frequency follows the trombone improvisation and the Q follows the intensity of the bass line. It's an impressive bit of programming. No idea how long it took me to put it all together, but the bassline took some work, as did figuring out the harmonization. I finally settled on a single side band modulation style. it doesn't work great, but i'm still a novice programmer.

Finally, i did a "party" piece entitled Urban Tribes. What follows are the complete instructions.

"Urban Tribes"
for Dancers, Drummers, Warriors, and Disklavier, and 4 mics. PD Patch is included.

There are three roles. 1) Dancer 2) drummer 3) warrior. the first two are self-explanatory. the third comes later (and its something we're not using this time around). There is no time limit, though a minimum of roughly 7 minutes is preferable. All percussion instruments should be "found" instruments: paint cans, paint buckets, sand pails, trash cans, kettles, oil drums, chairs, break drums, car doors, etc. All instruments are beaters are to be strewn in the performance area. The disklavier (or synthesizer) is triggered by a pd patch controlled by 4 microphones. the 4 microphones should be placed at the parameters of the performance space. Each member of a tribe should wear something to identify them as a member of the tribe.

1) at the start of the piece, the first "leader" yells "Let's go!" At that point everyone stops whatever they were doing and bum rush the stage. Drummers grab a bucket, can, or whatever. Dancers run to the middle of the stage and get set for fun. Whoever ends up with the biggest drum is the drum leader.

2) Start up a drum circle! if you've never done one, the basic idea is everyone gets together going on the steady beat the leader starts. the leader then sets a basic ground rhythm and everyone else moves in and out, sometimes soloing, sometimes playing with the leader, or sometimes syncing into smaller groups.

Dancers, start dancing

Warriors are hidden as drummers to begin

3) everyone minute and a half to three minutes the current leader yells "SWITCH!" at that point everyone drops their instrument and grabs new instruments. OR people can change their role from dummer to dancer. Warriors are fixed and are to remain in "hiding" until needed. One big key is that the beat must NEVER stop. A new leader is crowned by whomever ends up with the biggest drum.

4) everything is a drum. use everything that happens to be around you, even other people if necessary, to keep the beat moving!

5) Separate Tribes. if a large amount of people are participating in the piece (30+), they can be separated into separate tribes. One tribe would begin the piece as normal and the second (or third, fourth, fifth, etc) would gather in separate areas. once the piece begins, All tribes are considered hostile. The point is for each tribe to try and take control. There are several ways to do this. A) The tribes can try and steal unused percussion instruments to start their own competing drum circle. B) Tribes can steal instruments being used from other tribes and start a drum circle. C) Tribes can sneak into a drum circle and try and completely throw off the groove, make changes, or even prevent other people from playing. D) get members to defect from one tribe to another.

The main goal of each tribe is to be the most important tribe with the largest circle and most dancers. This can become full contact. that is perfectly allowed. whoever is the largest, loudest, and strongest group at the end of the piece wins.

Warriors job is to prevent any hostile takeovers, theft of instruments etc. The warriors should stay hidden until an attack. Warriors should also be the ones doing the attacking, taking drums, getting people to defect, and generally causing havoc.

6) the disklavier is a commentator, completely unaware of the reality of the situation, but somehow thinking it is qualified to tell us all about it.

Feel free to perform the piece as you wish, just e-mail to get the PD patch. it's a simple bit of programming, and you'll need something with 4 mic inputs as your ADC. I used a Digi 02. Yeah, that was a crazy piece. We had like 20 people jumping around on stage just getting crazy till i yelled "It's the fuzz!" I even made up a song when the digi 02 crashed and i had to restart the whole computer (LAME!).

On top of that, i submitted my opera as my masters thesis, got it approved, and, supposedly, i've graduated. I guess. Haven't officially heard anything. So, yeah, have a masters, fat lot of good it does me. lol. Anyway, that's about it. I'll prolly update again in 10 months or something!