summer recap

So, this summer happened. It was. A beast.

I’ve been speaking a bunch about “beasts’ lately, but this is an experience more than an actual beast. I’ve been avoiding putting this one down and even sense myself avoiding it now, though I intended to write it when I sat down. How do you write the actual words to something so jarring and real as

“my mother died on July 10, 2012”

Everything that precedes or follows that statement seems cheap and inappropriate to such a degree that I feel like I should start a blog just to make that statement. That’s it. So I can keep that experience over there and present, but I can speak freely about the rest of thethingsthathavehappened without having to compare them to that: the one big thing that has happened.

I spent precisely three weeks in her apartment caring for her along with hospice nurses while she died of lung cancer. Not a good way to go, I’d like to add, though it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I mean her actual symptoms, that is. The process of watching the woman who birthed me dying–moment to moment– was excruciating. I am not exaggerating when I say that. Each day was a new reminded that SHE IS DYING. Sometimes something small like the first day I noticed she didn’t ask for any solid food, or something big like the day I realized she could no longer pick up a glass. That was the day she started getting moisture in her mouth via these cheerfully pink oral swabs. First held by her hands, then by her lips, then by instinct, by me, because she couldn’t communicate anymore. Her lips, twitched a little her mouth barely sucking out the drops of water, but really by this point I was pressing the little pink sponge against the inside of her mouth.

See what I mean? What am I supposed to write after that?

Mangleton

I have had a piece on the back burner for a while that is coming to life and I am so excited. I’m so drawn to interacting with sound, playing keyboard and using text in different ways at all the same time. This is why I wanted to learn Ableton. Working on this new piece over the last couple of days has me really fucking psyched for what I am doing and figuring out how do do 8000000 things at once with software. I just found myself speaking, triggering vocal effects on my qwerty keyboard, triggering drums, loops, glitchy whatsits and basslines on my APC40, recording new loops into Ableton clip slots, and playing live piano/noise lines on my Yamaha S90 XS all without stopping the flow of what was happening. I’ve just been spending so much of the last year learning this software, and these moments when I am suddenly at one–living and breathing with a piece of fucking SOFTWARE and a bunch of buttons and keys—— I’m just amazed and thrilled about creating music and sound so effortlessly!

Anyway this piece is in much the same vein as “When It Will Bloom” and “Shadowing” though it seems like the text and music are interacting with one another in a much more organic and relaxed way. The whole piece just erupts at the end in this swell of lush static noise that completely made my morning.

Summer is upon me and for the next couple of months I have so much time to write. The plan is to continue writing with this theme of text/electronics/piano/strings and complete and evening length piece with an accompanying album. Fun and spooky to say it out loud.

Laurie Anderson’s words have been in my mind for the past couple of days:

“No one will ever ask you to do the thing you really want to do…do not wait for this to happen, it will never happen…so just think of what you’d like to do, what you dream of doing, and then just start doing it.”

Here’s the clip from whence the words came, with thanks to Madge Weinstein for making me aware of this.

Beat The Clock!

Last Sunday/Monday I entered this contest from Ableton. After downloading a bunch of loops and instruments, I had 24 hours to put together a track and submit it. You can listen to the results on here.

I had fun getting all 80s for a bit and screwing with things in Max for Live to get that crunchy messed up middle section. More details on the Soundcloud page. let me know what you think!

Concord Road

My good friend (and fellow Yoko Ono junkie) Jordan Scoggins asked me to write some music for a video series he is creating around his book Jordan’s Journey. Here’s the first result, Concord Road:

Jordan asked me to use some Sacred Harp recordings as a jumping off place, which gave me a good opportunity to hone my skills at warping loops in Ableton Live. I also used a couple of Ableton and Max For Live devices, most notably Beat Repeat on the bells and drums and Buffer Shuffler on the banjo you hear drifting in and out.

I like this piece, so I may build it into a stand alone piece as well….maybe an EP of everything I write for this series? Who knows!

Be sure to check out Jordan’s site for more information about his work!

drop the marks

“My work” feels like such a pretentious/faker phrase to me. Maybe because I feel myself to be such a youngster in terms of what “my work” is. That’s been a challenge, I guess, as I’m pretty clear on what my work isn’t. That’s easy. What it is has to be defined more by “is” than “isn’t.” Not my forte.

For the past two weeks, it’s been the work of getting Billy Bishop Goes to War on its feet here at Unity Theater in Brenham. It’s such a great show and I am happy to be doing it again. I’m also happy to be getting pushed and directed a bit in this show. Like most theater gigs I do, I am spending the bulk of my time at the piano, but I get to do a little bit of acting and a lot of singing in this show, which I love. Especially the acting, as that is an area I want to bring into “my work” more and more and it’s also the area where I have the least amount of experience. I’m happy to be working with a director who is willing to push me out of my comfort zone instead of settling for a “pianist who acts a little” performance. I really want to grow in this area.

Inbetween, I’m working my way through Jon MarguliesAbleton Live 8 Power!, which is a fun read for such a tedious subject. The thing that’s tough is that I am not so much interested in learning as I am in knowing. I can’t wait to be done with this book, because I see Ableton as an instrument as much as a Digital Audio Workstation, but you gotta know the workings of it….yadda yadda. I would love to get back to my studio in NYC ready to just leap into work without feeling crippled by always having to refer to manuals. I can get there.

I want to keep updating here as a sort of history of the journey I am making to who knows where, and I really do get the sense that I am indeed headed somewhere, and it will be nice to be able to look back and see how I got there.

That’s what my lady voices are telling me anyway.

Stripped

I’ve been chipping away at a rewrite of a piece I performed at DiverseWorks back in September. “When It Will Bloom.” I am wrapping it up now, so yesterday I decided to give the original a listen to remind myself how I ended the thing.

What I found interesting was that the “problems” with that version of the piece still seem to be there: just a couple of ideas that never get fully developed. Last time I listened to it, I did so with a highly critical ear and the whole thing made my skin crawl. “This thing just meanders along without going anywhere!”

But yesterday I realized that it still had something that the new version doesn’t. It moved me. Granted, the new version exists only in Finale so far and what I hear is the computer’s only slightly expressive playing of the piece, but yesterday I started to wonder if, in my eagerness to make something happen in the piece I took it to the other extreme and it’s all thought and no emotion.

I have a new computer on the way and this really excites me. My going-on-six-year-old MacBook Pro was really struggling with the recording for the yoga project and I have been wanting to dig deep into Ableton Live and Max for Live using Christopher Willits’ What YOu Talkin’ Bout Willits? tutorials. The idea of combining clicky, staticy washes of loops with my stories and acousticy-synthy pieces really excites me.