Past year update

It’s amazing what you can not accomplish when you’re not actively thinking about it. Over the past year, I finally graduated with a degree in music composition (the pursuit of which was an exceptionally long and twisted path), and a lot’s changed since the last time I posted on my blog.

I’ve decided I’m going to move to LA and try to make a career writing soundtracks. This is a case of taking a long time to realize something I already knew. Back in 2011 or so, I knew that I loved writing music, but didn’t know what form that could take in a career. I knew that I could use virtual instruments and sound samples to create music, but didn’t really know too much about creating authentic sounds. It’s taken a rather long time to realize what I’m good at and what I’m not.

Bio3(2)

An exceptionally long and twisted path.

Anyway, it’s time I start taking everything a bit more seriously. Recently, that’s manifested itself in high quality music- you know, the kind that people actually like listening to, not just experiments.

Recently I got turned on to Cinesamples (www.cinesamples.com), which are a collection of ultra high quality sound sample libraries recorded at the Sony Pictures Studios in Los Angeles. I went a bit crazy and bought the entire Cinesymphony set (strings, winds, brass, and percussion) and I gotta say… it’s pretty amazing. The whole thing sounds completely legitimate, and there’s an infinite number of customization options and placements you can do that really make for a great sound.

I’ve already got a couple compositions done with the new software, and I’ll be posting them in a bit. For now, I’m rather excited about the direction I’m headed and what the future holds.

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Composers as Listeners (shared blog post)

Today, Ashlee Busch* posted on her blog (http://ashleebusch.com/blog/) a short Thought that she’d had recently. I was so moved by it that I’ve reproduced it below.

Ashlee’s a composer and adjunct professor at Grand Valley State University, which is a complicated way of saying, “Read this. It’s insightful.”

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For the first time in what feels like years, I’m writing a piece that I want to hear. I am a professional musician. I am a professional composer. Why do I spend such time writing music I don’t want to hear…?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been doing something all musicians should do more – listening to the work of my colleagues. Most notably in recent weeks, Common Tones in Simple Time (1979) by John Luther Adams. This piece is genius. The subtlety of the changing timbrel language, the constant and sustained reining in of the orchestra’s full dynamic range, the constant pull of a rhythmic motor that never tires the ear as it’s embedded so artfully…it blew my mind. And I thought – THAT is the kind of music I want to write! So why am I spending time on this other stuff…?

I don’t know at what point a young composer (or maybe they don’t and it’s only a few of us) becomes ensconced in the world of what we “should” write versus what we want to write. Take, for example, this picture above. Is it a good picture by a photographer’s standards? No. But I like to look at it. I like the colors. I like the broadness of the sky. I like the framing of the cars at the bottom of the picture as if to signify how small humans are to the enormity of the Heavens. And that picture is mine.

Countless musical mentors warn young composers not to let the crafting ruin the craft. Yes, gather the tools you need. Yes, a comprehensive education is an efficient path to honing those skills. Yes, make yourself marketable.

But…

…we must never lose sight of why we are, why we simply must be, composers in the first place.
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You know, it’s true. Often it’s been the case that I’ve written a song, and I love the hell out of it, but then I get nervous. “What if it’s not ‘classical’ enough?” I wonder. “What if people think it’s too easy to play? What if they don’t take it seriously because it’s not ‘right’?”

Frankly, that’s an incorrect and counterproductive way of thinking. Remember, the purpose of music is to be listened to and to be enjoyed. If it fulfills those, then maybe, just maybe, it is good enough.

*Amusing sidenote: for a short while, Ashlee was both a fellow student in a composition seminar of mine and simultaneously the teacher for one of my theory classes. There were pros and cons to this: a pro is that we respect each other’s opinions, but a con was that if I didn’t turn my homework in, she was legally entitled to kick my ass.

Existential question

Sometimes in life, there is a question that needs to be answered, something that you simply can’t go any further without knowing.  Such is the nature of the question I’m about to post.

How old is this guy, really?

In every Star Trek canon I’ve heard of, Kirk’s birthdate is listed as 2233. The plaque in Riverside Iowa, however, which proudly proclaims itself to be the “future birthplace of James T. Kirk”, gives his birthdate as 2228, which is… wrong.

Nobody on the Internet is talking about this discrepancy.

Do the poor Riverside residents realize this fact? Which one is correct? What does it all mean? What is life?

Somebody please clear this up for me.

Manners Maketh Man

I was reminded of this the other day when talking with various family members.  In the modern world it can be quite confusing and easy to forget.  Everyone on Facebook has a cause to advance.  Opinion articles pop up on Buzzfeed or whichever is the site du jour of the week, concerning what it means to be such-and-such or so-and-so.  Politicians butt heads.  Well, maybe that’s not so new.

Regardless, I was reminded of one very important thing: what it means to be a gentleman.  What it means to be masculine.

It’s nothing to do with perception of “bad-assery” or machismo.  It’s nothing to do with not crying being you don’t think it’s manly, or how big your muscles are, or how many chicks you’ve gotten with.

No, the meaning of a gentleman is only this:

A gentleman is someone who makes life a little bit easier for those around him.  Everything else falls into place.

Let’s not go too long without forgetting this.

Redundant Entry is Redundant

My company assigned me to a new project and provided me with some documentation to aid me in the effort.  One of the sections, I shit you not, said this (click to embiggen):

Step 1: Assume it's already done

Step 1: Assume it’s already done

“Today I will teach you how to bake a cake. 1) Assume the cake is baked, and 2) arrange on a fancy doily to present to all your friends.  Ta-da!”

It’s so beautifully mathematical.  You can solve almost any problem you want, simply by assuming it has already been solved.

Now go forth and conquer.

Random Thoughts, Vol. 4

Gratuitously gazing wistfully into the distance

Gratuitously gazing wistfully into the distance

Couple quick hits for the day:

If you hold with the idea that you get random songs stuck in your head based on what your (unknown) soulmate is listening to at the moment, then mine must be binging pretty hardcore on ABBA and the Backstreet Boys.  I think I like this girl, whoever she is.

Second – there’s a silver lining to everything if you look hard enough.  Observe:

– “The heater in our office is broken.”
– “What? How hot is it?”
– “78 degrees and climbing.”
– “…well, at least it’s not the middle of summer.”

– “Free parking runs out at 8 AM, but it’s 7:59, my car is somewhere on Comm Ave but I don’t remember where, and it’s 20 degrees out here.”
– (Finds car 10 minutes later)
– “Sweet, no ticket!”

– (Later)
– “I crashed my car headfirst into a tree at 50 mph and totaled it, but hey, at least I don’t have to worry about Boston parking now.”

Have a good day, everybody.

A Moment in Time

There's a calm surrender to the rush of day

There’s a calm surrender to the rush of day

Last week Saturday – November 22 – I wrote a post amidst a sudden rush of serenity and ecstasy both. I didn’t publish it at the time, because there were things I wanted to add to it after Thankgsiving came and went that I thought would complement it well. Turns out I was right, though in a sadly different way than I anticipated.

Last Saturday as I rode the T back from Newton Center, I stared out the window and thought to myself, rather suddenly, “This is it. I’ve suddenly figured it out.”

After the jump, I start getting philosophical: Continue reading

Random Thoughts, Vol 3

This week’s edition of Random Thoughts: sports!  Woohoo!

ESPN ran a poll today asking which quarterback you’d rather have on your team – Tom Brady or Andrew Luck?  And I can’t believe that’s even a question. I mean, Andrew Luck is an amazing quarterback, and he’s gonna have a long career. He’ll probably make it to at least one Super Bowl. But you don’t take him over Tom Motherfucking Brady. Why? Because he’s Tom Motherfucking Brady, that’s why. I don’t understand how you could see this any other way.

I mean, how are you gonna root against this?

The Lions continue to rip my heart out, although this time it wasn’t entirely their fault, and they’ll still probably make the playoffs, which – wow.

Melvin Gordon is a man among men. Sure would be nice to see Michigan run for 500 like that someday. Or 100. Or hell, anything positive, anything above -48.

I was quietly pulling for Bama, because I enjoy seeing dynasties in action. It’s for this same reason that I don’t harbor any ill will towards LeBron James and retrospectively wish that USC won the 2006 Rose Bowl.

As part of his final act before leaving Ann Arbor, Rich Rodriguez has stolen Brady Hoke’s golden anal horseshoe and now shits gold in his best Tywin Lannister impression. Be very careful when you set your crossbow down around your kids, Rich.

Northwestern, thank you for being awesome and beating Notre Dame in South Bend. Thank you also for not playing like that last week against the Wolverines. We of the maize and blue appreciate it.

In other news, my replacement power cord for my keyboard is finally on its way and so I’ll actually be able to post music soon instead of, you know, inane filler concerning nothing whatsoever. Seriously, there’s been nothing of substance on this blog for far too long and I intend to change that as soon as possible.

Random Thoughts, vol. 2

My own creative juices have ceased, so in an attempt to just write something, anything down, I’ve once again devolved into meaningless chatter about the world in which I find myself.

At my workplace, the CEO and the general manager have a tradition of playing putt-putt golf in the QA lab; every so often they’ll come in, set up the hole, and fire away. Two balls per player, per round. High score at the end of the round wins; if it’s tied, they keep going.

This time around they played a somewhat tricky course: they set the hole up at the other end of the room on the other side of the table, so you’d have to shoot the ball through the table without hitting the table legs or computer wires in order to make it in.

Well, the general manager hits the ball and the CEO stretches out his hand and says in a funny voice, “I put a hex on you!” And, unbidden, a mental image of the Hex Girls from Scooby Doo popped into my head and started singing “I’M A HEX GIRL, AND I’M GONNA PUT A SPELL ON YOUUUU” and it was the nerdiest thing I’ve done in at least the past three days.

Side note: strong-willed, independent females are sexy as hell. Rock n roll girls doubly so. Redheads triply.