October 30, 2004

it has been a rough week...

but I didn't realize until last night what a stressed out mess I have been. My condition has mainly been brought about by my work and the fact that I am being pulled in seemingly hundreds of directions by every 'integration' team imaginable at Symantec. It's getting a little bit old. A lot old, actually.

So yesterday, I'm frantically trying to get everything completed by the weekend and I am looking forward to going to a performance of the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. After massive indecision as to whether I should drive downtown and risk not being able to find a parking spot, or just take the T, I decide to go for the T and risk being at the whim of our erratic public transport system instead. I have barely enough time, so I get off at Symphony Hall and am literally running down Huntington Ave to Jordan Hall when it hits me: Is this concert at Jordan Hall? Uh oh. The closer I get, the more convinced I become that I am running to a show that is about to begin somewhere else entirely. And I was right.

=======================

Let's take a time out here. Do you realize what I did?! I went to the WRONG VENUE! This is not easy to do. Maybe it's not quite as bad as going to Fenway for a Patriots game, but come on! In my defense, every BMOP concert other than this one has been held at Jordan Hall, but still, what was wrong with me? It turns out the BMOP faithful were filing into the Longy School all the way in Cambridge as I labored toward the NEC. Arghh!!!!

=======================

But what's this? Something is happening at Jordan Hall; a different show, perhaps? I do not give up so easily. I sidle my way up to the Will Call table which is about to shut down because it is 8:03, and confidently announce that I have a ticket being held under 'Burgund', please and thank you. Perfect timing, an under-sold show, and a subtle wink at the Will Call lady (well, maybe not the wink) conspired and two minutes later, not only was I in the show, but I was sitting in the best seat I have ever sat in at Jordan Hall on a Complimentary ticket.
And what luck(!), the program stated that I was about to hear the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio play Beethoven, Shostakovich and Brahms Piano Trios. For those of you not familiar with these performers, THEY KICK ASS! And after the day I had experienced, the more familiar and mellifluous tones of these three composers was going to be significantly more relaxing than the Bernard Rands: Canti Trilogy. Things are looking up.

This complete screw-up and total brain malfunction leads to my introduction to one of the most sublime pieces of music I have ever heard performed: Shostakovich's Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor. Dmitri wrote this piece as a memorial of sorts to his dear friend and one of Russia's leading music critics at the time, Ivan Sollertinsky. It has this melancholic wonder to it, and the way he uses the full range of the cello in particular is remarkable. He is mourning the loss of his friend with legato notes that are practically overtones oozing out of a brilliantly played cello. And the pizzicato interplay between Laredo and Robinson couldn't have been more perfect. Wow, this is good!
I went to my classical music cd library in my basement this morning and found a recording of this piece and am listening again right now. There is something irresistibly powerful about it; something that makes me feel both sad and happy at the same time; something that only music can do to me.

Somehow this mistaken cap to my day yesterday couldn't have been more perfect. I had a lot of feelings running through my body all day, and as I sat in Jordan Hall in premiere complimentary seating with my eyes closed and head back, I felt this music throughout me; I felt absorbed by Shostakovich's feelings of loss; I felt it take me over; and I felt lucky.

Posted by halsey at 09:15 AM

October 27, 2004

I am a musician and I support file-sharing

Yes, I do. And thankfully I am not alone. Everyone should check out what a grassroots organization called Downhill Battle, based in Worcester, MA, is doing. I love that they exist and that they are having success in certain arenas and that they are gathering support. These guys were behind the whole Grey Tuesday release of Danger Mouse's Grey Album and are plotting more similarly subversive-in-a-socially-conscious-way things. Everyone should join this revolution if we want art to continue to flourish in our world. If we want art to do what it can do for the human spirit. If we don't want to live in a world in which individual expression is straight-jacketed.

There was a great article in this week's Phoenix about Downhill Battle.

Fight Song

Please read this and check out their site and think about this issue. Currently we are being fed music that is hand selected for business purposes. Currently we are being prevented from easily browsing and listening to independent and under-funded music. Currently our government is trying to tighten copyright to the point where I won't be able to use the word 'copyright' without paying the copyright holder royalties. Some things that are well intended and good in small doses can be disastrous when taken to extremes. I am incredibly afraid that this is the direction things are headed, but thankfully I don't think the masses agree. We must be heard.

Let me pull out some of my favorite quotes from the Phoenix article.

"Britney sells lots of records not because sheís particularly talented or even much beloved, but because the major labels create a market for her through practices such as pay-for-play, where major labels dole out millions to independent promoters to make sure their songs get on the radio."

"So we tell people, ĎDonít buy [major-label] CDs. Itís unethical. Youíre not giving money to the musicians you like, youíre just giving money to prop up this old system. Go to the show. Itíll be more fun, and money will actually be going to the right place, to a nice split between the local venue and the musician.'"

"These are important times"

Yes, they are.

Posted by halsey at 02:12 PM

I am a musician and I support file-sharing

Yes, I do. And thankfully I am not alone. Everyone should check out what a grassroots organization called Downhill Battle, based in Worcester, MA, is doing. I love that they exist and that they are having success in certain arenas and that they are gathering support. These guys were behind the whole Grey Tuesday release of Danger Mouse's Grey Album and are plotting more similarly subversive-in-a-socially-conscious-way things. Everyone should join this revolution if we want art to continue to flourish in our world. If we want art to do what it can do for the human spirit. If we don't want to live in a world in which individual expression is straight-jacketed.

There was a great article in this week's Phoenix about Downhill Battle.

Fight Song

Please read this and check out their site and think about this issue. Currently we are being fed music that is hand selected for business purposes. Currently we are being prevented from easily browsing and listening to independent and under-funded music. Currently our government is trying to tighten copyright to the point where I won't be able to use the word 'copyright' without paying the copyright holder royalties. Some things that are well intended and good in small doses can be disastrous when taken to extremes. I am incredibly afraid that this is the direction things are headed, but thankfully I don't think the masses agree. We must be heard.

Let me pull out some of my favorite quotes from the Phoenix article.

"Britney sells lots of records not because sheís particularly talented or even much beloved, but because the major labels create a market for her through practices such as pay-for-play, where major labels dole out millions to independent promoters to make sure their songs get on the radio."

"So we tell people, ĎDonít buy [major-label] CDs. Itís unethical. Youíre not giving money to the musicians you like, youíre just giving money to prop up this old system. Go to the show. Itíll be more fun, and money will actually be going to the right place, to a nice split between the local venue and the musician.'"

"These are important times"

Yes, they are.

Posted by halsey at 02:12 PM | Comments (16)

October 26, 2004

this weekend, I...

-almost got high on carpet glue
-installed a mic gooseneck

miC_gooseneck_sm.JPG

-did some grommeting
-hung some packing blankets
-divided 16 into 148

carpet_blankets_sm.JPG

-pretended I was an electrician
-did some more stenciling

enter_speak_sm.JPG

-blasted TOOL


I'm getting really close now.

Posted by halsey at 08:43 AM

October 24, 2004

I never want to meet Richard Wagner

Seeing Richard Shindell and Lucy Kaplansky last night got me thinking about how there is much much more to a live show than the music. Now this might seem obvious to most of you, but please don't stop reading just yet.
If you recall, I saw CAKE a few weeks ago and complained a bit about John McCrea's arrogant attitude on stage. I haven't listened to any of my CAKE cds since then. Nor have I recommended them as frequently as I did before. Has the music changed? Am I simply over-CAKE'd? Have my music tastes shifted? No, no and no. The reality is that I was just so turned off by him as a person that it has tainted my interest in listening to his music. I'm actually not very happy about this, but there is little I can do.
So then I go and see a folk show with two folk stars - who are definitely not rock stars - and I feel myself liking their music more and more as I like them more and more as the people I perceive them to be. I feel happy supporting such solid and good people and want to promote their success.
From a purely musical standpoint, the CAKE show and this show were comparable; talented musicians, good songs, professional performance. But I think that the main reason this show was better was because they just seemed like normal people up on stage doing what they love to do. They engaged the audience not by making fun of us (a la McCrea) but by telling jokes, giving us background on the music, and by generally being their humble selves. Hooray for folk musicians!
At the end of the day, I actually like CAKE's music more than most folk, including Richard and Lucy, but if I ever have to decide between who to miss Game 1 to see (go SOX!!), I will certainly choose the latter.

Live folk music on the whole seems to be geared towards audience interaction in the way of a conversation, almost. Perhaps it is the simplicity of the music and instrumentation that requires this approach, or perhaps it is simply reflective of the musician's personalities. I don't know, but I do know that I have never seen a folk musician perform one song after the next without any extensive verbal digressions, and I am happy for this. Not all are as voluble and comedic as, say, John Wesley Harding, but the good ones know how to connect with an audience and make us feel like we are old friends at a reunion.

------------------

I'd like to get some opinions on a related topic here. What do you guys think about the whole 'song explanation' thing? You know, when a performer starts telling the audience what the song is about and where it came from and when he/she wrote it etc etc etc. Part of me really likes this, as the additional context can add lots to the experience of hearing a song. But part of me sometimes would prefer to have it be more of a mystery and would prefer to be allowed to interpret the song for myself in my own personal way. Which side do you guys come down on?

Posted by halsey at 02:52 PM | Comments (3)

October 22, 2004

your formula is frightening

Download: predictable?

This song has been a long time in the making. I have been traveling a lot lately and the company I work for was recently acquired, increasing my work load significantly. This has all led to dramatically reduced time for me to spend in the studio which has been quite frustrating. It is difficult to work on a song in little spurts now and again when I get the time. I work much more effectively when I have time every day to actually be writing and recording. That way, it's always in my head. I am lucky to ever have this time, I suppose, but I do make it about as high a priority as you can get (often to the detriment of other activities like, say, a social life). Ahh, the price of creativity. Enough of that.

As I mentioned before, this song is about me in the corporate world. This is not a 'me' that I carry around out of the office so much, not that I try to hide it, but I get enough of it when I am there. There are uses for having a corporate job for sure (you get paid, for one), but I have to admit that much of what happens in this world is very funny when viewed with a certain perspective.


Who are all those people speaking?
Every last one of them is someone I work with currently and have worked with for at least three years.

Where do you work?
It used to be @stake, but now it's Symantec.

Where did those words come from?
Way back in the first weeks of my employment at @stake, I was required by the 'People Team' to take a personality test to see how I could be most effective at work. You can imagine how useful the results were. They are more useful now, four and a half years later, in this song then they ever were before.

Do you hate working for a corporation?
Are you trying to get me fired or something?!?!?!

Will this song be funny or at all interesting to people who don't know you personally?
I have no idea, but I'm hoping that the resistance to corporate classifications and foolish consistencies is fairly wide-spread.

Do you believe in personality tests?
Oh yes, absolutely!! Any way the intricacies of the human emotional existence can be reduced to an algorithm and computed at will is something I have a HUGE amount of faith in!!

Are you a sarcastic lying bastard?
yes

Posted by halsey at 09:58 AM | Comments (1)

October 21, 2004

I remembered

The jackets the ROOTS were wearing said ENDICOTT LACROSSE on them.

I have no idea how that makes any sense, but there you have it. Aren't you glad you are now in the know?

Posted by halsey at 12:43 PM

October 19, 2004

the visitor

I don't know what is happening to me
I don't know what to do
I'm sitting here, in my bed
coming unscrewed

thinking about the power of depression
thinking about my own self worth
the summer's coming quickly
after this time of rebirth

a day can be
a terrifying proposition
the bus to school
surviving the pool

my face is hot, my hands are cold
all I feel is my surface
I know that I am radiating
an ultraviolet purpose

you've got to cry yourself to better
you've got to cry yourself to better
you've got to cry yourself to better
you've got to better yourself to cry

I feel this weekend looming
like an irrepressibly tall asterisk
like a building on fire
with pieces falling off

last night I got a taste
a taste of what I fear
a taste of what I want
it could not be less clear

it tasted like the ocean
it tasted like the wind
it made my mind overheat
to the wall with a tack, I am pinned

I've got to write myself to better
I've got to write myself to better
I've got to write myself to better
I've got to better myself to write

too many thoughts are floating through my head
too many words are trapped in my hands
too many rocks are filling my whole mouth
too many hours are insisting on this day

too many lights are shining on my brain
too many stones are stuck in my shoe
too many notes are wanting to be released
too much pain I have locked away

wantingandnotwantingandwantingandnotwantingandwantingandnotwanting

your smile made the ocean
a suspension of golden eagles
backs rippling in the sun
feathers holding to the wind

the cold air has frozen
the diamond on the drawer
I am photographing my life
swimming further from the shore

it's two o'clock in the afternoon
and I'm still still still lying here
the fan hasn't stopped spinning
the walls haven't moved

they haven't moved in
in to compact me
to turn me into a little fleshy cube
easily disposable

from where did you originate
who invited you out to play?
it feels more and more like
a song a day will keep you away.

a song a day will keep you away.

now I can get up;
the house is warm.

============

listen to 'the visitor'

Posted by halsey at 10:47 AM

October 18, 2004

poly and math

Being a numbers geek, a music lover, and a glutton for beauty, I particularly appreciated this NPR story:

Manjul Bhargava: An Artist of Music and Math

I firmly believe that for something to be art, it has to actually be created, not simply discovered. But there is no doubt that the act of discovery can be incredibly exciting, thrilling, difficult, awe-inspiring, and beautiful, just like art.

This dude is unbelievable.

Posted by halsey at 04:27 PM

October 15, 2004

just in case you didn't know...

predictable?

I am such a nice person
I get along well with everyone.
Just give me good instructions,
and I'll work and work to get it done.

thank you for this information
it really is enlightening
sorry if I don't calculate,
your formula is frightening

Posted by halsey at 07:54 AM | Comments (2)

October 14, 2004

a brush with fame

I had the pleasure of riding out to San Francisco last weekend on a plane with The Roots. I was surprised to see them because I was sitting in the back of the bus (of course) and I was on a flight that no one, let alone hip-hop artists, should be awake enough to take. They were disguised as lacrosse players too, which I found quite humorous for a variety of reasons. They had on these long navy and white athletic jackets with {I forget what} LACROSSE emblazoned on the back. Needless to say, they didn't really look like lacrosse players (there was no way that afro was going to fit inside any helmet), but they did look like a team.

It was funny to be standing next to them at the baggage claim as they hauled off their instruments - tastefully stenciled with THE ROOTS in black - and tried to make sure nothing was left behind. Apparently I already travel in the same luxury as famous musicians, so I guess I'm closer to my goals than I thought.

Posted by halsey at 08:50 AM

October 09, 2004

all work and not enough play

I haven't had much time for work on any of my fun projects lately, including making progress on my portable bring your own voice booth (OK, I gave it away). But I did do some stenciling the other weekend and thought you might like to see the results. My basement does not provide for getting a good shot of it from far enough away to actually be able to see it for what it is, but hopefully this gives you an idea.

stencil_basement_sm.JPG

Posted by halsey at 09:16 AM

October 08, 2004

the utility man

So it turns out the John McCrea is an ass. Or at least he comes across on stage as if he would be a total ass in person. Now this is not to say that he didn't make me laugh, or that I didn't enjoy last night's show, and this is really not to say that he isn't still a great song-writer; but it is to say that his onstage demeanor was the biggest detractor from the overall good experience of seeing CAKE live and in person.

The biggest protractor (now I realize this word isn't the opposite of detractor and, in fact, means something entirely different - and happens to bring me back to my geeky successes in grade-school geometry class - but I am using it anyway because, well, just because) was the guy who I will refer to as the Utility Man. Every band should have a utility man (Calexico would shrivel up without theirs), and CAKE's was just great. Now what do I mean by that? This guy did so many different things on stage and each one of them was the key extra sound or melody or moment of coolness that made the song what it was. He played trumpet, and we all know how great the trumpet in CAKE is, but he also produced piano, organ and synth sounds on his keyboard, played various percussive instruments and did a fantastic job with the backup vocals. He wasn't over-powering ever; always fit into the mix as he should, and provided a nice humble alternative to Mr. McCrea. Oh yeah, and he was wearing Red Sox hat; not a cap, but a knit hat, so it was even cooler. Thank you, Mr. Vince Difiore, for protracting so effectively.

And one final thing: I couldn't help but think about how interesting it would be to hear a band with Mr. McCrea on drums. He has the wackiest sense of timing. I don't think he sung one note on the beat...but it just works so well.

Posted by halsey at 08:28 AM

October 05, 2004

the matter of beauty

It turns out that beauty is actually helpful. Who would have thought?!

A Taste for Beauty Has A Purpose

It also turns out that males who can create beautiful things tend to have more luck getting the females to fall for them(!) Is this true, my esteemed female readers??

Posted by halsey at 09:58 AM | Comments (3)

October 02, 2004

mission accomplished

I bit the bullet this year and became a season ticket holder to the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP). I know that I have written some positive and some critical things about BMOP in the past, but at the end of the day, I always come down feeling very grateful that BMOP exists and that I have the opportunity to see them 5 or so times a year. So why the hell not be a subscriber? It's really quite inexpensive too, so you should all join me! I've never gotten season tickets to anything before, so this is a new and exciting form of membership that I am feeling.
The opening show of the season was last night at Jordan Hall. The program was called 'Voices' (which got me particularly excited for obvious reasons) because it was comprised solely of pieces written for solo vocalists. As I listened, I realized that it is not an easy thing to do to write a piece of music for orchestra and vocalist without sounding goofy; especially if the singing is in English. Both baritone soloists were great, but the female soloists and the tenor came across as not having resisted the goofiness. This might have been due to the over-dramatic facial expressions, the painfully wrong color of the mezzo's dress and the coif that sat on the tenor's head which made Lyle Lovett's most extended days seem insignificant.
However, there is nothing at all like hearing a full orchestra live in a concert hall. Eighty musicians all locked in and cranking. There were even moments in the Fussel piece where I thought to myself that is was almost loud enough for earplugs. That was cool! The orchestra is such a versatile instrument, and Gil Rose did a great job wringing all the dynamics and power out of it.

Speaking of Gil Rose, I had another motive for going to this concert. I thought that given his focus on voices, he might appreciate my 'words and voices'. So I decided to make a special cd for him and try to pawn it off on him after the show. This is not something I am good at. In fact, I am pathetically bad at meeting new people without an introduction and thrusting my needs/wants upon them. So at the after-show reception, I stood around for half an hour quietly observing the musicians and other guests all the while feeling fairly silly for not having anyone to talk to. Sometimes I even write to myself in these sorts of situations to busy myself and not look so out of place and also to psych myself up to interact more. So after writing "Gil Rose is standing ten feet from me though I haven't yet given him the cd", I became determined.
He was quite nice and accepting, it turns out. I thanked him for the wonderful concert and he put my cd in his suit pocket after a brief discussion. I don't anticipate hearing back from him, but I am feeling good that I put it in his hands, and if he listens, I will be honored. My music, of course, is not something suited at all for BMOP, but this is not why I wanted him to hear it. I want him to hear it because he certainly has a much broader taste in music than what he performs, because he is a great musician, and for some reason I felt he might just appreciate what I am doing. Who knows, but I feel good for having done what I did, and the old addage of "you never know unless you try" will always hold true.

Posted by halsey at 09:52 AM | Comments (32)