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.