Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Anywhere But Here: The I Finally Finished Blaine Edition

Eight hours. That's how long it took to clean and prepare the score and parts for Blaine, the sax quintet + bass + drums that I've been slaving over the past 2 months. Do you know how many episodes of Gilmore Girls that is, blaring in the backround as I painstakingly move around measure numbers? (Good thing I got the complete series for Christmas this year!)

Why do I always underestimate this part?

Here's where I wish was now that I'm finished:

Rock pool at Bronte Beach, Sydney

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Morning Cup: WW Flies!

Stolen from Andrew:

I totally want one!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Bottomless Links: The Lazy Saturday Morning Edition

Its a sunny, albeit cold, NY morning.

Grab a cafe con leche, turn up the brazilian music, curl up in front of your computer, and click away.
Something Positive

In light of recent turmoil regarding the tentative Watchmen movie, Something Positive pokes at the less than thrilled Alan Moore.

[Via Neil]

Wonder Dolls

My geekdom does not extend to the collection of figurines, but I do reluctantly admit to owning not one, but two Wonder Woman Barbie Dolls. And it turns out I may need to purchase another as Mattel has announced it's 2008 line that includes not only WW, but Black Canary, Batgirl, and Supergirl.

[Via Wabbitseason]

Mixtape Flashback

Long time readers are well aware of my fondness for the art of the mixtape, so it is no surpise how much I appreciate this little Valentine's Day gift from BeaucoupKevin.


Benefit Concert

Speaking of tunes, most of you jazzers out there are already aware of the upsetting news regarding Andrew D'Angelo and his recent discovery that he has brain cancer. Even more upsetting is that as a typical jazz musician, he has no health insurance.

For you local NYers, come out next week to one of the many benefit concerts being held to raise money for Andrew's illness. Details are on Darcy's blog.

In complete honesty, I am not really at all familiar with D'Angelo's music, and I've never met him. But we all know how hard this society makes it for the creative type to survive the more mundane aspects of life (and I'm not talking just musicians here). I feel especially grateful to the various musicians, comic writers, and artists of all types who have done their little bit to help me out, sometimes without ever having met me. In the name of solidarity, I will definitely be in attendance to at least one of these concerts, and I hope you, faithful reader will join me.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hearts, Smiles, & the Blues

I may moonlight as a composer, but my secret identity is that of a part-time public elementary school music teacher. I teach Kindergarten general music, third grade recorders, a 4th grade beginner concert band, a 5th and 6th grade advanced concert band, and a by-audition only Jazz Band.

Every year on Valentine’s Day, my principal expects the music and dance teachers to put together a “Brotherhood” Concert. This concert is intended to be a celebration of heritage, community, and brotherly love. In reality, it is an exercise in stress, cramming, and the fine skill of organizing a concert with children 6 weeks after our last big (Holiday) concert. With the poor timing of standardized tests that occur in January keeping kids out of rehearsals, the Brotherhood Concert is usually very short with one performance (instead of the usual three) from each group.

With the stress this concert brings, coupled with the organizational problems and clash between teachers and administrators at my school, the concept of “brotherhood” feels like a stabbing, hypocritical joke. And yet, today my heart glowed as all hearts should on a day dedicated to love.

As a composer, I spend quite a lot of time trying to perfect the music I write. I agonize over each chord, motif, and voicing so as to most accurately express whatever feeling or emotion I am trying to portray. I strive to tell stories, and communicate certain ideas through the perfection of the music. This is one reason my current commission is taking so long.

As a teacher, I am constantly reminded, as I was today, that the magic from music comes not entirely from the perfection of the writing, but from the intentions of the musicians.

My jazz band performed a simple 5 note, three chord, medium swing blues that I wrote for them last year. They work hard to get the swing feel, but overall my bass player and left hand pianist (also playing the bass line) keep a pretty steady tempo. My sax players still have not figured out how to use their tongue or remember to keep their bottom lip rolled under, and my trumpet players still miss partials. Tuning is not a word they’ve heard me use, except for with the guitarists.

And yet, to be completely generic, they rock! What makes their music so enjoyable is the kids’ excitement. They are SO into it! I have to instate 5 minute breaks of no playing so they don’t wear their chops out. This morning I walked out of the music room onto the stage to find a tenor and a trumpet player standing next to the drummer, the three of them “jamming.” My heart swelled with pride!

They work so hard at it- before the concert started, my alto player played me the first strain of the tune and asked, “is THAT the right feel?” He’s almost got it. The majority of them want a solo, asking for one, then changing their mind, then changing their mind again.

I’m not one to call out or hoot and holler when I hear something I like. When I’m into the music, I find myself smiling.

Listening to my shy right hand pianist manipulate her F blues scale with confidence as the drummer and bass get super soft to accommodate, I can’t help but smile. When the drummer crescendos his 1 bar fill into the showy tenor solo, who has figured out the trick of the trill, I can’t help but laugh. THIS is music. The audience applauds loudly after I myself applaud, letting them know its okay to clap after each solo. The coda offers a Basie piano wink, followed by the only non-unison part of the song- the typical loud, dominant 7 chord finale. One of my trumpet players aims for the super high D in the staff, but misses. Its okay- the audience roars, and I smile.

Later, the chorus performs and I can’t stop smiling. Their faces are so intent as they start off softly, “Some… times in our lives, we all have pain, we all have sorrow.” They over enunciate the “t” in “but” and I smile. They go all forte on the chorus- “LEAN ON ME!”… and I smile. They even manage to clap on the 2 and 4! They performed a second song, a two-part rather cheesy song entitled “Gonna Rise Up Singing.” This one featured two soloists- a 6th grade veteran, and a newbie third grader who is reminiscent of a young George Strait (or so I imagine!) Seriously, this song literally brought tears to my eyes. Not because of how well it was written, but rather from the passion and honesty with which it was sung.

Perhaps I feel this contrast so sharply because I am struggling to finish up this sax quintet. And I’m certainly not saying music should have no intelligence in its composition. I just appreciate the reminder that music does not have to be complicated to be wonderful. It just has to be heartfelt.

Valentine’s Day brings the blues to many, but today, my kids gave me something much better that a heart shaped box of chocolates (especially since it’s Lent again, so no sweets for me!).

They gave me the Blues. They brought magic to music. And that makes me smile.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Saturday, February 9, 2008


The Magnificent Neil Gaiman has for years been giving us magnificent stories to provide escape from our less magnificent lives. Neil now takes the leap from story-telling to fortune-telling. For all those pondering their next move in life, I give you...

Neil & His Magnificent Oracular Journal

What did I ask? I asked sage Neil if I would ever finish writing Blaine.

His response? Get off your blog and maybe you will! (or something like that...)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Anywhere But Here: The Fat Tuesday Edition

Three places I'd rather be this Fat Tuesday:

Carnaval, Rio de Janiero

Carnivale, Venice

Mardi Gras, New Orleans

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Bottomless Links: The Premeire Edition

Taking a cue from Occasional Superheroine and her clever Occasional Links feature, I give you a brief list of links that have caught my attention recently:

Good Morning Captain America

This morning's edition of Good Morning America featured a cheeky interview with the new Captain America regarding his decision to carry a gun. The cool thing about this video is that it features short interviews with Joe Quesada and patrons at Midtown Comics!

Fair is Fair

Andrew Durkin from Jazz: The Music of Unemployment reports on a Craigslist posting regarding the continual audacity of Starbucks:

In response to this CL ad:

Beaverton Town Square Starbucks is reaching out to musicians and bands alike to come play for us. Gigs would be Fridays and Saturdays at 9pm, sorry but we can't offer reinbursment of any kind, but you can sell cd's and put out a tip jar. We don't
provide equipment, and we don't comp drinks. If interested E-mail Paul at
"" for more information.Thank you and we hope to hear from you.

There was this:

Come make coffee for me at my home! I am reaching out to all Starbucks to come to my home and make coffee for me. The gig would be Fridays and Saturdays and sorry, I can't offer reimbursement of any kind, but you can put out your tip jar. I don't provide equipment, and I don't comp donuts. If interested email me for more information.Thank you and I hope to hear from you.

It's all here.

If you're unfamiliar with Durkin's Industrial Jazz Group, you really need to check them out!

Tourblogging: Latin America

Speaking of jazz... drummer John Wikan is on the road in Latin America. Check out his guest blogs on Darcy James Argue's Secret Society blog where he recounts his time in Nicaragua and Panama.

Some Serious Serialism

I've decided to make the opening statement of Blaine a 12 tone row. I haven't studied serialism in much depth so as I played catch up this morning, I came across this amazing scan of a Schoenberg tone row chart:

I suppose I should study and analyze it, but really, I just think it looks pretty!

Friday, February 1, 2008

I don't care what you think of me

From the too-kind K.D. Bryan, a little 70's woman power to get your funky juices going this Friday AM: