June 03, 2008
like the title says...
October 25, 2007
slightly northern exposure
I am getting psyched to perform at the Revolving Museum in Lowell tomorrow night. Things are definitely going our way as Game 1 of the World Series didn't get canceled last night which would have forced a make-up game during our show which - for those of you uninitiated into the madness of Red Sox Nation - would have meant no one other than the band and my wonderful girlfriend would have shown up. For that matter, it's even possible that parts of the band wouldn't have made it. But the skies are clear for Game 2 tonight, so this show will not meet the fate of our last two which sadly and decisively lost the afore-mentioned mismatch.
The other helpful news is that we got an article written in the Lowell Sun about the show and what we do:
I am particularly excited to play with Melanie Howell on bari sax and bass clarinet as well as Dan Rosenthal on trumpet. They add amazing things to the mix, and if you don't believe me, just check out how cool we all look in the event poster!
October 21, 2007
Today, we perform in Bedford, my home town. Nestled in between the Patriots in Miami and the Red Sox trying to extend their season, we'll be rocking out at ye olde Town Hall in Bedford Center. And in case you need more proof, there is evidence on the front page of the local newspaper...
August 01, 2007
That sounds kind of inappropriate, but it's not, I promise. I like to search the internet for references to myself not only to build up my wavering ego, but also for marketing and promotion purposes. My most recent search yielded this article which somehow I had never seen before. I was pretty happy with it given the depth and the fact that it is on the ABC World News Tonight website!
July 30, 2007
nature...can require participation
I recently put together this video from our Cyberarts performance a few months back. It's pretty cool to see how audience member voices are recorded and immediately used in the music. Enjoy!
May 21, 2007
umm, yeah, I agree with that...
I recently was asked to be a visiting artist at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum to work with their teen group program called ArtLab. Every year, they ask an artist to come in to expose the kids to their work, talk to them about what it's like to be an artist in today's world and then ultimately to create something together influenced by the visiting artist's style. It was a bit atypical to have a musician, but the kids were particularly interested in reaching out the their community and the whole voice collection thing seemed to fit nicely with that desire.
So we went to the Danbury Mall and collected voices of mall rats, oops, I mean teenagers at the mall, with the BYOV booth and then used those as inspiration for a mural that is installed at the museum as well a piece of music. So as to not burden anyone with my visual aesthetic, I took care of the music and let the kids create the mural! It was actually great to get back into writing new material as it had been a really really long time. With all my work on the live performance, I have not had the ability to focus on writing new music, so it was great to be forced to turn something out.
So why did you write a piece called 'Umm'?
Of course, 'umm' is something I recorded a lot of from the particular demographic we were targeting, but I actually think 'umm' is a very interesting word. On the one hand, it is the epitome of banal in that it doesn't really mean anything and we are always told to not say it because it makes us sound dumb or something. But what 'umm' really communicates is that you are thinking about something; getting ready to say something; putting together your thoughts. In other words, you are getting ready to express yourself. And this is a very exciting moment for me as a musician and for me as someone who is fascinated by human behavior and interactions. When 'umm' is uttered, the gears are turning and the anticipation is palpable.
How does the mural relate to the song?
The mural incorporates words and phrases that we recorded as does the music. But there isn't actually much direct overlap because I decided to use primarily the anticipatory words rather than the statements or expressions of opinion that the kids made. You have to look to the mural for the substance; the music just gets you ready! Maybe we should call the mural 'Post-Umm'...
April 08, 2007
on the radio
I am very flattered to let you all know that Mr. David Byrne has included one of my songs on his current internet radio playlist. This entire list contains music that uses the human voice, spoken in particular, in new and interestingly musical ways. I encourage you to stream as much as you have the time for as I think you'll find it all very interesting. I feel very honored to be included in the company of some amazing musicians including Brian Eno, The Books, Philip Glass and of course, David Byrne himself.
March 27, 2007
Ucross #11 - weathered
Turns out the weather here isn't always pleasant. Last night when I was walking around outside (on an overt mission) I could see some amazing flashes of lightning to the southwest. They lit up the overcast sky, shining through the clouds, but it must have been far away because I didn't hear any thunder. I made it back to the Schoolhouse before the rain began, but today everything seems to have passed, and when I woke up, the sun was shining for our exciting Ranch Tour. 10AM, sharp. I actually really like inclement weather. Thunderstorms, rain, generally agitated nature gives me an appreciation for the vast power outside of me. Being humbled somewhat frequently is a good thing in my book. And this is lucky because much more weather is headed our way right now.
Today, my cabin almost blew away. It was quite remarkable; the doors kept on blowing open and sucking shut and sometimes the whole cabin would shudder and make me think of unsuspecting witches. Back when I sailed competitively in college, we used to say that it was blowing like stink, and sometimes even like snot, but since I can't remember which one is higher on the Beaufort scale, I'm not going to choose. Suffice it to say that it's windy. Yeah, really windy.
And on top of that, I heard we are supposed to get one to two FEET of snow in the mountains tonight and tomorrow, but no one seems to know whether or not that will translate into much down here at lower elevations.
OK, so here is the official forecast:
Tonight: Showers and scattered thunderstorms. It will be windy at times, especially early. Low 43F. SSE winds shifting to WNW at 25 to 35 mph. Chance of rain 60%.
Tomorrow: Windy...cloudy with rain and snow. Morning high of 45F with temps falling to near freezing. Winds NNW at 25 to 35 mph. About one inch of snow expected. Winds could occasionally gust over 50 mph.
Tomorrow night: Periods of snow and windy. Low 29F. Winds NW at 25 to 35 mph. Chance of snow 90%. 6 to 10 inches of snow expected.
Thursday: Snow along with gusty winds at times. Cold. Temps nearly steady in the low to mid 30s. Winds NW at 25 to 35 mph. Chance of snow 80%. Significant snow accumulation possible.
Thankfully, it appears that this system will have passed through by the time I am driving to Denver on Friday and flying back to Boston on Saturday.
As I mentioned, we had our Ranch tour earlier today. Two hours of driving around to the outer reaches of the Ucross 22,000 acres with one of the employees who was very knowledgeable about the property, especially the flora, fauna and the general ecology. It was fascinating. Among other things, I learned that currently there are 42 rabbits per square mile in the state of Wyoming. Multiply that by the land area of Wyoming (97,105 sq. miles) and you have 4,078,410 rabbits in the state. With a human population of 493,782 (2000 census) that's eight and a quarter rabbits per person; enough to feed each of us for at least a month! That is, if we ate rabbit stew, which I think I'll pass on. Just the fact that this is a statistic someone keeps out here is really funny. I doubt if anyone knows how many rabbits there are per square mile in Massachusetts...how have we survived all these years? Even after a week and a half out here, this is still a very different place.
March 26, 2007
Ucross #10 - across the river
Sometimes I feel like I am living in some sort of experiment out here on the high plains. Almost like I am on a secluded nature preserve which prides itself on the herds of deer, prairie dogs, rabbits and turkeys. Oh yeah, and the herd of eight artists. I don't mean this in a bad way at all. I think it's because there is much less separating nature and humans out here. Every day, I get a veritable performance of wildlife right outside of Jesse's Hideout. And the animals are remarkably brave and curious, especially the rabbits. Maybe they are just stupid, but they don't run away until you are essentially within touching distance.
This whole notion was amplified on a run I went on the other day. I decided that there was no way I was going to leave Ucross without climbing the twin peaks that sit right behind my studio.
Climbing these peaks is really no amazing feat of athleticism or strength, but the reason everyone always runs on the other side of Route 16 is because there is a river the passes between the studios and the peaks. There is no bridge, and it's a good 25 feet wide with significant flow. Not a raging torrent, but what it lacks in ferocity, it makes up for in sheer bone-chilling temperature. I made the mistake on the way over of going upstream looking for a narrower and easier spot to ford the river. This makes sense but for the fact that I didn't realize going upstream meant that I had to ford two rivers! No matter, I made it and headed towards the eastern peak.
On the other side of the river I felt like a visitor; like I wasn't supposed to be seeing everything. The first pack of mule deer I ran into made me think I was in Jurassic Park seeing some wondrous new animals gliding in their posse as they have done, unnoticed by human-kind, for thousands of years. And then a T-Rex swoops out of nowhere making a snack of three or four in one bite. OK, so that's probably a bit dramatic, but it really was an other-worldly experience.
And today, the wildness has continued. There is a woodpecker on the roof of my studio! This thing is big and loud and for some reason thinks it can find bugs in the cedar shingles of Jesse's Hideout. I like woodpeckers, I really do, but this guy is sadly not helping the peace and solitude that I find so inspiring about Ucross. Let's hope this is a temporary situation...
March 25, 2007
Ucross #9 - excursion to neighboring metropolis #2
Every Friday, one of the staff at Ucross has the exciting job of taking the residents on a town trip to either Buffalo or Sheridan. Last Friday, it was Sheridan, so I decided to join not only to explore a new town, but in hopes of finding presents for people back home. How can I spend two weeks in Wyoming and not return with at least a few tastes of the wild west to share?
Turns out Sheridan is a pretty depressed (depressing) town, or at least this is the impression I got. I only walked around on the main drag, but half of the stores I went into were either in the process of down-sizing or were having a clearance sale in advance of shutting down for good. Sheridan has a population of about 14,000 people and is the fourth largest town in Wyoming. 14,000 would probably be the fourth *smallest* town in Massachusetts. I think the entire state has less than half a million.
In any case, the one encouraging part about Sheridan was King's Saddlery. This place was amazing. It had a store selling any kind of horse paraphernalia someone who knows about this sort of thing could imagine as well as a shop where they made ropes for lassos and then if you were brave enough to cross the alley behind the store, you could check out the King's Saddlery Museum.
Don King, the owner of the place, was apparently one of the best leather craftsmen and rope makers of his time, and his company has kept this reputation going to the present day. The museum has about a thousand saddles from the past 150 years as well as some other historical equipment and tools and a bunch random stuff. So this made me feel better about the prospects of the town, though it didn't help in my present search. Thankfully, Dan's Western Wear and the Crazy Woman Trading Company provided some good gifts. But I'm not giving any hints in case the recipients are reading...
March 24, 2007
Ucross #8 - scoring
I waded through the voices from the penultimate BYOV Museum Tour event at the DeCordova yesterday and it felt good. The ICA event is the only one left, but it's a biggie; over one hundred voices recorded. It's going to take a while, and I feel the need to not only split it into two days, but to take a break from the listening before diving in.
Today, I worked on scoring pieces for my performance at the Boston Cyberarts Festival. It felt great to be finalizing certain aspects of these pieces for the live performance. There is something very different about my music in the live setting than in the studio. Of course, this is always the case to a certain extent, but it seems more significant here. Pete and I have worked out how to play most of the pieces on our own, but when we add the strings and horns (and the associated personalities and schedules of the players!), things get more complicated and require a more concrete approach. I like to keep the live pieces as flexible as possible so that we can all create something slightly new each time, but this becomes harder with more musicians. All Pete and I have to do is look at each other while playing to communicate what we want to do, but with a bunch of other players with whom we have not played very often, this becomes nearly impossible. This said, the advantages of having real musicians playing real instruments during the performance far outweighs the downside.
So here's a page from 'The Clouds':
Today marks the mid-way point of my trip out west. I feel like I have accomplished a bunch of stuff thus far, but there is much more to be done before I head back to Boston. Hopefully tomorrow I'll make a big dent in the additional 7 pieces I need to score and then I can tackle the ICA.
And I almost forgot the most exciting thing I did today: my laundry.
March 23, 2007
Ucross #7 - excursion to neighboring metropolis #1
As promised, I will now report on our big excursion into Buffalo last night. There are eight residents here at Ucross at any one time, and the current mix is two painters, one writer, four dancers, and don't forget the one composer. It is a great group, and I was able to (easily) convince all but one to join me at the Occidental Saloon. We hopped in two cars and headed west on Route 16 for 20 minutes into Buffalo. Turns out that the deer come out at night to graze along the edges of the highway, and sometimes they wander into the middle of the road. I think I gave my passenger seat companion a heart attack when we had to slow from 65 to almost a stop to avoid hitting one. I don't even think it looked up...
The Occidental Saloon was not quite as packed as I had hoped, and the music was dramatically less good than I had hoped, but the atmosphere was great, and my friend, the proprietress, was her usual ebullient self which was entertaining. We got some dirt on the seven-year-old girl ghost who lives upstairs, and checked out the old, yet newly restored, wing of the hotel which was completely amazing...original furniture and everything. The bordello was apparently in operation until the mid-seventies.
It was great to leave the ranch and experience a bit more local flavor as well as get to know the other residents better. It's a good group. And it was pretty funny how glaringly we stood out in the saloon. I think we would have looked different anyway, but our accents and the fact that I was taking a bunch of pictures left no doubt in anyone's mind. But I never felt that being from out of town was anything negative to the locals. I'm sure they get roving tribes of Ucross residents all the time...
March 22, 2007
Ucross #6 - remembering
I finished up listening to the MASS MoCA voices at about 1AM last night and had a great walk back to my room. Turns out that my studio is located about ten minutes walking distance away from the building where I sleep and all the residents eat. Initially I was disappointed that this was the case, thinking that it would be a pain to have to go back and forth between the two, but I will admit that I was wrong. I really like having a 'commute' and the whole 'going to work' thing provides for more focus somehow. I could drive to the studio in about 3 minutes, but I have really been enjoying walking across the huge pasture that lies between the two groups of buildings. There is a chained gate on either side to prevent the current grazers (sheep right now, but clearly cows at some point in the past) from wandering.
So my walk back last night was wonderful. It had cooled off and the sky was this azure color with a sliver of moon winking at me like it was trying to seduce me into doing something against the rules. Not that there are many rules out here... I tried to take a picture of it, but as seems to often be the case with my photography skills, it just wasn't happening. It was so quiet too. Initially, I could hear the stream that snakes behind my studio, but that faded leaving only my footsteps and occasionally those of the herds of wild rabbits darting around.
Today, I feel like I have moved to New York, as I have been listening to voices from the Chelsea Art Museum and P.S.1. It brings back the whole experience of these events, some of which were good, and some not so good. Chelsea was sadly on the not-so-good side of things as there simply weren't any people at the museum. I think I got 9 people all day, and when you compare that to the hundred plus I recorded at the ICA, it's kind of pathetic. But it was certainly less hectic, and I had a great parking spot.
I had forgotten that part way through the tour, I changed up the questions a bit, so that was a nice surprise. I think I like the new questions better; they seem to be somehow eliciting more interesting responses. One person went off on how immoral it was for the MET to charge a $20 entry fee. Art is for the people; but only if you are rich!
I am blogging early today because I'll be heading into the big city of Buffalo tonight back to the lovely Occidental Hotel to check out the free-form music they'll have going on at the attached Occidental Saloon. Apparently every Thursday, all musicians from 100 miles around, converge and play together. Whatever happens depends on who shows up and what they feel like playing. I'm psyched to check that out. I think I have convinced a bunch of the other residents to join me on this excursion. Will report back tomorrow!
March 21, 2007
Ucross #5 - settling in
I've been listening to all the voices I recorded during the Bring Your Own Voice Museum Tour here in Jesse's Hideout. It is always an intimate experience, putting on the headphones and hearing people who I don't know express their thoughts and ideas and feelings, but somehow it was even more powerful here. Maybe it is because I am in the middle of nowhere with very few people around generally speaking, yet I have imported 250 of my 'subjects' to study. I guess the isolation amplifies. I like it.
Yesterday, I listened to the voices from the first Museum Tour event at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum and picked out the snippets of expression that struck me as interesting musically or in their content. It's always an exciting time to begin the listening process because everything is wide open. I have no idea what the music I write from these voices is going to be like and I have the ultimate luxury right now of being able to make these sorts of decisions. And then I can change my mind over and over again and I won't drive anyone by myself crazy! Such are the benefits of being a solitary composer...
Today, as I dive into the Portland Museum of Art and MASS MoCA voices, I am beginning to form some thoughts about what might make up the piece. As I listen, I often wish that I had asked different questions, or phrased things differently, but there is nothing to be done about that now, and I certainly have plenty of raw material to work with. I am feeling like focusing on a few very specific recurring ideas and personal expressions of some of the participants rather than trying to somehow create some sort of scientifically equal representation of everyone. That just results in brown, which isn't something I strive for (sorry UPS).
March 20, 2007
Ucross #4 - orientation
I don't know if it is time or distance that changes out here; but one of them definitely does. I went on a run in the hills to the north of Route 16 on the other side from where the primary Ucross buildings reside and perspectives were totally different. I kept on looking back at where I had come from and couldn't believe that it seemed so far away. Did I move really quickly or is there some weirdness in the air that makes things appear farther away than they really are? It was great to climb up to the top of some hills and be able to see my new world from above. I went to my official orientation this morning at 10 sharp and learned, among other things, that the Ucross Foundation owns 22,000 acres of land here. Pretty impressive. I don't need to worry about wandering off the edge while running. I doubt I can even *see* off the edge...
I got myself setup in Jesse's Hideout and thankfully all my equipment seems to have survived the plane ride. I got going listening to voices from the Aldrich, but became distracted first by the piano sitting next to me and then by a lyric that popped into my head that I was pretty excited about. Made me wish I had my drumkit with me, but there are other things that make noise when I hit them. Things are sounding good in my head, but often I am more forgiving in that space. We shall see...
Here's an intro to the studio:
And here's a question for you techies out there: why does the sound lag big-time when I upload videos to YouTube? Very strange...