Saturday, September 15, 2012

Moving Day

In the Wings has moved! After a long dormancy, I'm writing again. Please find me here.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

The End

I've sung this song, but I'll sing it again...

So long, it's been good to know yuh;
So long, it's been good to know yuh;
So long, it's been good to know yuh.
This dusty old dust is a-gettin' my home,
And I got to be driftin' along.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Hesitant Postscript

Generally speaking, a composition is something to which I cannot make dinner. A composition cannot be an accompaniment to chopping, stirring, tossing, roasting, waiting, watching, plating.

Generally speaking, a composition cannot murmur beneath the conversation between me and my dinner date.

A composition is not what I dance to when I step out of the shower and decide what to wear. A composition is not for the weary cyclist (post-thirty-forty-fifty-odd miles, thank you very much) with beer in hand. A composition fails me as I strip and remake my bed. And to frost this here realization cake: very few compositions reside in my iPod.

I love my dinner making music. I love my conversation music. I love my clothes folding, back rubbing, hamstring stretching music. Yet, if I contemplate this music, none of it strikes me as a composition. And none of the performer/composers singer/players strike me as composers. Such roles and definitions are much too muddled. Composers are of no use to me. Composers tend to be "not useful." They require my sit still, do no other task, straight spine, ears perked skyward.

As of late, such posture does not become me. So what does? Well, the spoon in hand dance, sock fold wiggle-hip, or very simple 8 p.m. double-bed snow angel sprawl ... oo, accompanied by my dearest, most beloved "tunes" ... those are true moments musicaux. Lyric perfection. Elixir. Not compositions. No composers. Just uncompositions by noncomposers. An iPod full of balm.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Making Crazy Beautiful Perfect

Something struck me recently about people who are experts in their field: they make decisions immediately, without a second thought, and those decisions tend to be right on. I observe the smooth ease as they turn a question or problem into something satisfyingly perfect and beautiful, and I think, aha. That's why we all do what we do, why we follow our individual paths and hearts' desires, why we become specialists and know-it-alls. Knowledge, when delivered without labor or hesitancy, allows others to trust. It's a beautiful loop, like a platinum engagement band. Experts deliver knowledge effortlessly, and curious minds bow in trust.

I never studied how to compose. The closest I came, perhaps, was completing my theory assignments in the car on the way to my piano lesson. I didn't dislike theory--it's just that it came so easily to me that I put it off until those twenty minutes en route to my lesson. I was genuinely surprised when my piano teacher corrected the assignments and remarked that my "composed" antecedent or consequent phrases were quite lovely, correct and creative at the same time.

Now, decades later, I find myself creating music for dance. This music will be heard by a lot of people, and you can bet I'm giving it more than a commuter's casual attention! Composing "in my computer" is a far cry from writing Bach-like harmonic progressions and Mozartean question and answer phrases, yet I realize that I could not do the work at all if it weren't for the thorough classical training I've received. That training, as far removed as it seems from the "type" of music I'm making, allows me to make decisions instantly. I arrange snippets and samples in a GarageBand "score," give it a listen, and without thinking twice, begin to push things a few seconds to the left or right. My rhythmic sense is intuitive but rooted in a training of "counting aloud," "count while playing hands alone," "conduct while singing each voice of your fugue solo." And, of course, there were those love affairs with one metronome after another. Strict rhythmic study eventually becomes a habit that, to a listener, simply comes across as "good timing," and I like to think that I arrange my musical materials with a savvy or demented or sophisticated sense of timing. There's not a lot of melody in my digitally derived "music," but perhaps I create a melodic structure by timing things in a way that was once informed by original antecedent/consequent ditties.

I never really associated elegance with speed, but lately it seems all around me, from how city planners and building inspectors interact with the public to how certain moto-racers I know drive around town with more surety and calmness than some of my friends who drive every day to work. I observe how people's intellectual expertise allows them to make a split second decision and thus nourish the most crazy, imaginative, or spectacular idea. (Sometimes choosing to NOT drive on the freeway is a spectacular idea!) Randee, too, summed it up: I may make "crazy beautiful perfect sound for [her] dance," but it's only because the ideas are filtered through years of discipline, practice, curiosity and performance. That's what she's really placing her trust in, whether she knows it or not!

Hmm...a new theory anyway.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Mining the Minutiae

"You can try to live your life on pirated 10 second audio clips...but it's hard turning a penny into a million dollars."

I like to pillage the internet for audio samples. Ducati has recently been most generous. Grazie mille. When composing music for dance, I have also used sounds of me playing various acoustic instruments, but I haven't had a recording session in a while and am reluctant to visit the old files yet again. The thing about recordings, and sound effect samples, is: they never change. (But then, neither does the pitch that results when my finger depresses a piano key...)

Whether ten seconds or ten minutes in length, I become familiar with an audio clip in a relatively short amount of time. I memorize the frozen sound and use the mistakes, go instantly to the spot where the timing was a bit rushed, or make play of the "perfect" arrangement of notes and melodies. Transforming and developing these clips is next to impossible, and it becomes clear to me why looping and surprising rhythmic designs have to become the compositional focus.

As frustrating as the work is, it is FUN, and so I keep at it. I spent much of the Christmas holidays in headphones, listening to my pennies and contemplating their someday existence in a secret Swiss bank. While mom and dad watched movies in the next room, I rocked out to my motorcycles, swingsets, and tinny tambourine. It was a scene fit for a modern day Norman Rockwell. My discipline, triggered by the important upcoming performance at Mondavi, has paid off! Music for Randee soars and clinks in my head all day long and, hand in hand with my new full-time job, occupies much of my time. There's change in my pocket. I can not complain.

See you at the performance!

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Friday, January 04, 2008

The Soundtrack 24

Gustavo Santaolalla, Ronroco
Van Morrison, "Brown Eyed Girl"
Serge Gainsbourg, "Bonnie and Clyde"
various songs from George and Ira Gershwin in Hollywood
Piano Sonata in e minor Hob. XVI: 34, Franz Joseph Haydn
children at Christmas, ages 0, 2, 3, 5, 10 and 15, respectively

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wrapping the Year

This was a bittersweet year. I recognized more clearly where my musical passions and ambitions lie, and I endured a few melodramas along the way. Here's a year-end top-ten:
1. my first solo performance sans piano at The Field in April
2. hearing the roar of the motos in my studio apartment while watching Faster in May
3. playing Fauré artsongs at Notre Dame des Victoires in June
4. debuting The Children's Hour at the Chapel of the Chimes on June 21
5. the purr of Grenny's motor in July
6. every Sidecar performance June 21-August 24
7. accompanying Sven Olbash in concert at Old First Church in October
8. mixing video for the duration of Sidecar's set at Monkey Town in November
9. seeing Anne Carolyn (and dreamboat Bryn Terfel!) in The Marriage of Figaro at the Met in November
10. the silent music of an act so fast, furious, and perfectly designed: Felipe spinning his web on my porch in December

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