Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Newtown, Violence, Mentality, Bodies

My heart broke on Friday as I read the reports coming in from the online glut.  As the day continued the binge got worse.  Everyone reacted, proacted, nonacted.  Gun control this, 2nd amendment that, mental health bandied about like it was some sort of raffle ticket.

I have no words to begin to assail or even to assuage the grief those families and neighbors and friends must be feeling.  Love is all I can give.  Hopefully with time all those so senselessly torn asunder will be blessed with the balm of numb distance to mend their wounds.   Most of us will forget, some never will.   And the data-arcology that was created as everyone let loose on the internets with all of their righteous indignation, sanctimonious intoning, heartfelt pleas, anguished cries, misinformed opinions, clueless revery, and etc, all of that will be forever re-liveable if someone cares to reconstruct it.  Why on earth would anyone want to relive something like that again? Who knows.

Most of the people directly affected by that poor young man's violence are probably still in shock and will be numb for some time to come.  The brain has such wondrously horrific ways of dealing with traumas.  I feel the most for those children who survived, because they're going to grow up not even really knowing why they feel so afraid.  Some part of their brain they don't even know exists is likely going to actively suppress the formation of the linkage necessary for conscious recall of those ghastly memories, but their body will still hold on to those memories.  Their body is going to remember forever that feeling of being terrified, so terrified because everyone else around me is terrified, and what your body feels affects your brain in ways most people don't even know.  That breaks my heart so much.

Now almost a week on I am seeing the "how could an all powerful god allow such evil to happen" pieces trickling into my news feeds.  By far the best one I have seen (both in terms of its compassion and success as a piece of communication) is the indictment of evangelical hypocrisy and doublespeak that takes the form of, in summary; "please point to the place in the New Testament where Jesus grabs a weapon and pops a cap in the Philistine's asses."  Guns are guns, humans will always find new and more obscene ways to make lethal decisions.

I can forsee with a little bit of hope that maybe somehow we will all come out of this better citizens of this country.  Perhaps it is time to consider what makes one a citizen and what makes one a civilian?  Should there be a legal distinction?  What would the ramifications be throughout the socio-economic faults that lie so deep within this country?

I unfortunately don't see any good coming from what is probably going to be a protracted battle in the mental health establishment regarding this young man's status on the Autism Spectrum, Asperger's, OCD, and all of the various other acronym's and proper nouns that populate the DSM V.   I'm not a psychiatrist, but I do know that each of us is different and that your connectome is malleable, and more under conscious control than you believe, and you can change your brain in both good ways and bad.
Sadly also, there exists the potential in each of us for the ravenous, hideous beast.

Some times its just too much to think about.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Something Starts

clarinet clarinet clarinet bassclarinet
flute/saxophone saxophone saxophone saxophone/computer
trumpet trumpet trumpet
trombone trombone/euphonium
bass trombone

This is what I have to work with for the Winter Workshop.   I've already got something like the beginning of a sketch.  I suppose I should probably go back to the museum, in the room, and find the piece that muses me.  I have a feeling it is going to be one of the little bronzes, with the tiny patina on its slender curves.  

More to come in future installments.

Monday, December 10, 2012


Today is my Twelve thousand four hundred eighteenth and a half day of life.  Here's to making this next annum one that marks my continuing growth as a human being and a composer.  

Saturday, December 8, 2012


How do you conceive of it?  When is it appropriate and when is it not? Why do we do it?

Since most of my formal training is as a "classical" saxophone player, I must constantly grapple with the fact that I trained myself to play with vibrato and in some of my recent contexts, vibrato is not an appropriate expressive device.  

Listening back it also seems that I have a tendency to scoop into notes too much. still.  There is always something to be worked on I suppose.

I think I am finally coming to this realization enough to be comfortable saying it in public, I usually dislike vibrato anyway.  So why do I play with it?  Habituation and  academic saxophone culture.

Don't give in to the hegemon because it's the easiest thing to do.  Give in to it because you really believe in it.  Then one day something will happen in your life that will rend all those previous beliefs asunder.  So now I reflect and reassess.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Fantasy Basketball Bracket

Two quintets enter the arena.  Only one leaves.  

Charles Ives, Ornette Coleman, Bela Bartok, Tony Williams and Paganini


Igor Stravinsky, Charlie Parker, ?uestlove, Franz Liszt, and Ray Brown

who wins?  on what do you base your decision?  Please, I'd be curious.

See, said it would be silly sometimes.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What Does It Take To Listen?

Really rewarding rehearsal with friends tonight.  A NORD and a bass clarinet and a saxophone can actually come up with quite a lot of different textures if the players are listeners enough.   When all players fall into synchrony it is quite a nice thing.   I think trios are my favorite format, as ideally everyone must have at least one hand on the ball at all times.

Most illuminating was the fact that we talked about our playing afterwards, a post-mortem if you will.  In those it was a great exercise to engage memory of what just happened and elaborate on each other's internal states of mind at those points the others found salient.

I've always wondered how many people actually engage in that kind of post-discovery/feedback phase in their collaborative music making.   In a self-regulated learning loop feedback should inform/alter the next phase of planning.

For instance, my co-conspirators and I all agreed the second segment felt a little forced, as if we were consciously trying to avoid the sounds we had made in the first incarnation of the night.  While there were moments that stood out, they were less conspicuous than the ones from sections 1 or 3.  As we discussed this, it altered the way we approached section 3, for the better I believe.

The hard part always tells in the pudding, which for me, is the most difficult to stomach.  I have a terrible time of listening to myself play.  It approaches listening to recordings of one's voice in terms of discomfort.

So I guess, dear reader, we have arrived at the thing I can set as a goal.  Force myself to listen to past recordings with a less/more critical ear and really parse out what needs to be improved upon.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Devils of Loudon

My main man Kryzstof Pederecki is insane.  Last night I attempted to follow the score and listen his opera.  I couldn't even begin to look at the images on the youtubes, instead just try to follow the masses of sound about as they leapt across the page. This is some pretty heady stuff to watch go by.  This music is more than anything about the viscerality of the movement more than any kind of coded meaning that could be derived from the pitch content.  Whole masses of sound that consists of lots of instruments playing lots of iterations of lots of fast 16th notes and rests isn't perceived as a collection of individuals, its more like a flock of birds changing course in mid-flight.  I didn't make it past the first scene it was so much information to take in at once.

But, this is a good task.

To try and digest the music of this man.  He's nuts.   Opera is nuts.

One more significant thing.  Access to this score was granted by the Kansas City Public Library.   Authentic Kalmus Editions and everything.   I think that says quite alot about the quality of said much -beloved public institution here in this town.  

Good evening.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Recently I have been revisiting pages and pages of lyrics written by a younger self.
Most of them are quite atrocious.  Laughable actually, the attempts being made to pay attention to rhythm in such arbitrary ways.  I paid little attention to meaning back then, preferring simply to look for clever self-recursive little rhymes and think it was clever.

But today, I think a lot about the meanings of words. With an opera to be pondered, I am thinking even more about that.  What the hell kind of a story is this going to be?  I'm mostly decided on a scene with  a trio with a man and two women in some kind of ritual of "preparation".  I imagine them going through their personal/private preparation to get ready for performance of a more public ritual that is big-mojo-juju for all involved.

Ritual also makes me think of fetishes.  Not the kind that you are thinking of, no.  I think of a fetish in the anthropological sense, more of a ritual object that is for use because of its supposed power.  The knife of a great long-dead warrior perhaps, or the skull of a vanquished enemy, or the skull of a powerful animal, etc.

What sorts of fetishes to you keep?


Did you know that historically humans used to break their sleep up into to different nightly sessions?  

They were called, inventively enough, first sleep and second sleep.  

Ever since the invention of high-luminosity artificial lighting we have been trying to cram our sleep into one uninterrupted block.  

Perhaps I should try this method.  But that would mean not using lights at night so that my pineal gland can adjust any circadian rhythms accordingly.  

Most of you probably don't believe me, but thats the way of things.  

May your day be productive and filled with joy.