Reflection and progression

2013 is coming to a close.

It has been quite the year. Back in March, I had a post go viral. For a blog that's been around for 5 years at that point and garnered no more than a few hits, it was astounding. That post got me linked and quoted on several sites, including an NPR station and several bloggers. I was also able to email some people in the San Francisco Orchestra, and learned more about what was happening.

From there, my readership has stayed somewhat steady, small, but steady. The year was spent more in cultural commentary and reactions, from what happened to opera to a long series of posts about "entrepreneurship" and the arts.

I jumped headlong into those conversations, had a length discussion with Jeffrey Nytch and others over at Greg Sandow's blog. It was a good conversation, and Nytch and I further sent off a few emails to each other, started mainly because his audio players weren't working well on his site, and I wanted to listen to his music!

April was a crazy month that saw my first 10 minute play, The Story: Alec and Grugh, get performances during InTENsity 2.0, produced by Frank Higgins and Tony Bernal at the Fishtank in Kansas City. It played to packed audiences (though a couple seats short of a sold-out run. SO CLOSE!) and I got to work with some of the best actors in Kansas City.

At the same time, Black House and KCEMA was ramping up rehearsals for Rites of Being. Rites was an evening of brand new short operas, all having some sort of electronic component. It was an incredibly varied night of entertainment, from the more abstract stories to fun satires, and music going from post-minimalist to improvisational to more modernist. My opera, Till Death Do Us Part, was given a great premiere by Stacey Stofferahn and Nathan Granner. Special thanks to Eli Hougland, Simon Fink, and Stamos Martin for their string work, and Brad Van Wick for hitting play on samples.

That production also saw me return to the podium as a conductor. It's something that I seem to do once every couple years, tackling projects that just happen to fall in my lap. Conducting is a fantastic challenge, and something I'd like to do more often. Some may not know, but I was originally going the route of a conductor, many moons ago, before deciding on composition. First a high school director, then wanting to go professional. The first visit for my masters was to University of Washington, to go in conducting.

The Spring stayed busy--I had scores to prepare and send for June in Buffalo and a presentation to prepare for Electroacoustic Music Studies Conference 2013 in Lisbon, Portugal. But it was the email I received at the end of April that changed my 2013 more than anything else.

I was sitting in my medieval music history course when my phone went off. I was beyond annoyed; usually I'm a good student and have my phone off or on silent during class, but my brain was foggy from too many late nights. I pulled it out to silence it and say the sender was "Fulbright." So much for classroom etiquette. I opened the email.

I got as far as "we are happy to inform you..."

Then I threw my phone. Yes, I threw my phone, in class. Everyone stopped and stared at me, so I did the only thing I could do--I quickly added to the conversation happening in the class. I have no memory of what was said, or even the topic for the day. I do remember my friend Joey coming up to me afterwards and giving me a look of "what the fuck was that?" So I told him.

Then went outside and started screaming and laughing. I fell over in the damp morning grass laughing louder than I had ever laughed in my life. And I called everyone.

April was a crazy month.

Rites of Being went splendidly. In June, I traveled to Buffalo for JiB and had a fantastic time. And I wrote a series of posts describing the experience and the various insights from the festival. I returned for a short while, the I flew off to Lisbon, Portugal for EMS 2013. I love EMS, made some new friends, and loved Lisbon.

July passed quietly. August saw me move back to Indiana for a few weeks, staying with my brothers. Most of my possessions were stowed in the empty basement of some dear friends in Kansas City (shout out to Justin and Jamie!), while various music books, my electric piano, and my recording equipment were loaded into my Jeep to go to Indiana.

It marked the last major trip for my 1995 Jeep Cherokee.

August was a wash--I was broke, living with my brothers, and just biding my time till I left for Stockholm. I did get one last trip in--my bff took me to a Cincinnati Reds game. Nothing like the American past-time right before I left the country for 10 months.

The day before I left, I was still broke. I had borrowed money from my brother to pay for my apartment. For food money...

I sold my Jeep. I had owned it since 2002, a graduation gift, partially paid for by me, and partially paid for by my parents. I put my old car down, plus another $1200 from my pocket...so about $3K down. My parents covered the rest on the car payments. It had driven all over the US, to Denver, Kansas City, Lawrence, Milwaukee, Chicago, Traverse City, Cincinnati, Columbus (OH), Dayton, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Atlantic City, Princeton, NYC, Boston, Syracuse, Rochester (NY), Wilmington, Baltimore, Morgantown, Paducah, and many more. I put roughly 175,000 miles on it myself. I never did get to all 48 contiguous states, nor to Canada like I had hoped. Still...to have a car for 11 years. It was sad to sell it for $350. I was happy for the money. I could eat. And it wasn't worth much more than that, honestly...

The first month in Stockholm I was sick and adjusting. I also wrote a great many posts about outreach, symphonies (and why I don't write them), and lots of cultural critiques, most interestingly on why I don't care that a famous person dissed a young artist. And it goes on to explain why historical context is so important.

My time in Stockholm has been amazing. I've written one 10 minute piece, wrote a piece of software for algorithmic composition (a skeleton of what I plan to use in my opera, hopefully...), got a commission from the Ghettoblaster project, which is nearly finished. And wrote a bit about what noise means to me. I've been to a ton of concerts, both metal and classical. I've finally started befriending people in the metal scene, and hopefully will get more interviews as time goes on.

But I've already gotten one HUGE interview--Anders Bjorler! Such a big deal. Anders is a great guy, and I had tons of fun in Gothenberg. Hopefully this will spell more interviews in the spring!

In the meantime, I've done a lot of anecdotal research, looked at crowds, made comparisons, and did tons of research. I found tons of songs using folk material, from various settings of Bellman's Epistles of Fredman No. 81, to less distinct influences. I found references to folk tales here and there. And started looking more into the political usage of the music. This has really stepped up after talking to Anders and hearing about the different ways that the people he knows deals with music.

The opera is going swimmingly. I did NaNoWriMo, more or less, and wrote the entire libretto. And then revised it. And revised it. And then five more times. I've written a bunch of melodic material, and come January 3rd, the blitz is on...every day in a studio working as many hours as I can...no excuses.

So, 2013 has been a year to remember. Hopefully, it's just the beginning of even more grand adventures.

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