The Fifth House Ensemble performs their groundbreaking Black Violet Act I: The Leagues of Despair at the New England Conservatory’s Entrepreneurial Musicianship Expo, featuring “Kites at Seal Rock” from Piano Quintet No. 1: Scenes from Childhood. 3:00pm, Williams Hall. $10/free for NEC community members.
Way back in 2007, I had a conversation I’ll never forget with a Professor at an Important University. I had just accepted my admissions offer from the University of Colorado. Professor and I were talking about graduate school, the right choices for a young composer, and why I was choosing to go to Colorado. It was a heated discussion, as this person had some strong opinions about my decisions (not very positive opinions, at that). I didn’t pay much attention; after all, I was 21 and I knew everything. But among Professor’s diatribes, he/she said something that has always stuck with me: “Don’t be one of these composers that lives their entire creative lives in the academy,” said Professor. “Graduate with the Master’s and leave. Take time off before your doctorate. Go out and connect with real people, real working musicians. Grow up at least a bit outside of the university.”
And after I graduated, in no small part due to this conversation with Professor, I did.
Grown-ups like numbers. When you tell them about a new friend, they never ask questions about what really matters. They never ask: “What does his voice sound like?” “What games does he like best?” “Does he collect butterflies?” They ask: “How old is he?” “How many brothers does he have?” “How much does he weigh?” “How much money does his father make?” Only then do they think they know him. If you tell grown-ups, “I saw a beautiful red brick house with geraniums at the windows and doves on the roof…,” they won’t be able to imagine such a house. You have to tell them, “I saw a house worth a hundred thousand francs.” Then they exclaim, “What a pretty house!”
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
Featuring Greg playing trumpet on the Mozart Coronation Mass. 8pm in the Blanche Anderson Moore Recital Hall (BAM) at the Moore Building. Free admission.
Here’s a little-known fact: it wasn’t long ago that, for a while, I seriously considered giving up composition and going to law school.
It wasn’t because I was tired of music – far from it. It wasn’t because I was worried about a professional composer’s questionable job prospects – because as I was informed by everyone I’ve ever met, I would make a terrible lawyer. It wasn’t even because I’m super passionate about the legal system.
I flirted with the idea of going to law school because I am absolutely disgusted with the state of copyright in the United States. (more…)
This evening’s adventure in internal struggle:
I’m at the finishing stages of a choral piece, a setting of two texts by the incomparable Federico Garcia Lorca. The piece itself is written, the notes and lyrics are into the notation program. For me, the last stage is to add and finalize the dynamics, articulations, and other expressive markings in the score – I call this “painting” the score (because it adds color to the music – get it???)
Lots of composers put this portion of the process nearer the beginning of the compositional timeline; I’ve never been able to, for a few reasons. Chiefly, when my music is freshly written, I don’t frankly know what the character of it is right away, save for general dichotomies like “loud/soft” or “quick/slow”. More to the point here, though, is the second problem: I can never decide what to paint with. Every dynamic and articulation is a choice. Some are bigger than others, obviously, but every one affects the music. The ones I really struggle with don’t just stop at the music; they can affect a composer’s relationship to the performer. (more…)
NHL hockey is back.
NHL hockey is back, my friends.
Let me repeat that.
NHL. Hockey. Is. Back.
Granted, it’s back from what was an absolutely absurd lockout which insulted the sport and its fans (if you want to learn about the lockout from people who really understand it, the Wikipedia article does an expectedly-great job of outlining the core issues). Granted, I’ve been complaining to anyone who would listen for the last three months that I’ll never watch another NHL game again; that I as a fan can’t be treated like this; that from here on it’s only the college and junior offerings (of which there are MANY in Michigan) that will receive my money and my fandom.
But I’m only human. Like a recently-dumped partner still on the leash, I’m back to following stats, watching highlight reels and predicting this year’s Stanley Cup winner (hint: not my San Jose Sharks). NHL hockey officially has its greedy little hooks in me again.
Yes, I am head-over-heels in love with the sport on ice, it’s true. But the reasons for my sheep-like flocking back to the NHL are more complex, and they have a lot to do with my reasons for being a composer. (more…)
Greg playing trumpet with the Jazz Ensemble at the University of Michigan’s annual Collage Concert. 8pm at Hill Auditorium, $26/$20/$10 students.
The premiere of Blues in Red at the University of Michigan Museum of Art’s “Nomenclature.” 1pm – 4pm, free admission.
My mornings often start the same: a sunny alarm jingle. A lingering war with the snooze button. A reluctant trudge from the bedroom to the shower. Highlights from last night’s Daily Show or a brief spin of Nils Petter Molvaer. Finally, a bowl of freshly-made oatmeal… accompanied by lots, and lots, and lots of freshly-made coffee.
Coffee, either black or with a splash of skim milk, is a key thread in the fabric of my life. I have a cup in the morning, a cup in the afternoon, and often an emergency cup before class (likely needed because of the amount of coffee that I drink, but whatever). It’s not just the caffeine that fuels my coffee addiction. It’s the sensory assault of complex, yet rewarding aromas and tastes that shocks one awake; the remarkable ability of a brown-black liquid to simultaneously speed up and slow down time; the delicate balance of water, grounds and time – which I haven’t yet perfected – that will determine whether the five-minute drinking experience is a rich bath of smoky, chocolaty velvet or a charred mess of disgusting, caffeinated water. Coffee is more than a start to the day: it’s a concentration etude, a meditation. To borrow a phrase from Vonnegut, it’s a “Buddhist catnap.” (more…)