As I update things in my online life, I realize that Twitter has mad my online journal fairly uninteresting. Since I wished Mr. Crumb a Happy birthday almost a year ago, I have had quite a year! I have been thinking big and saying yes a whole lot. The result has been lots of concerts three totally improbable percussion events, two upcoming CDs, and a percussion seminar. I am having a blast! I am going to try to do more here but if not, find me tweeting. Here are a couple of pics from my show at Central Park Lake. See you soon!
I performed a George Crumb Birthday concert at the University of Vermont last week to celebrate his turning 80 this week. I imagine there would be a lot more hoopla about this had Carter not burst all future birthday bubbles with his centenary last year. None the less, this was a very meaningful concert for me. I, not unlike many of my contemporaries, credit the music of George Crumb as one of the really big first influences that inspired them to explore what was possible in music. His piece “Music for a Summer Evening” had an immediate and lasting impact on me from the first time that I heard it back in college.
Thinking back to when I first encountered Crumb’s music, I recall being amazed by the unusual timbres and colors that he was creating. These sounds piqued my interest to the point of doing exhaustive bunch of score study. Not surprisingly, I was rapt by all of the beauty and idiosyncrasy that these scores contained. I would spend hours listening and imagining what all of this meant. Since I was such a superfan, one of my friends (MCC) even found him at Penn one day to get an autograph for me that still sits in a box in my basement along with hockey legend Mario Lemieux.
The thing that sticks with me from back then is when I took my score of “Music for a Summer Evening” home with my for school break. I was attending CCM in Cincinnati and home was in Pittsburgh , PA, so Zanesville, OH was the halfway point for food, bathroom, gas… My exit of choice really only had a McDonalds, so that was where I always went. For some odd reason, I was compelled to take my halfway to home break at McDonalds with my score. I guess earnest Doug just could not wait another minute to explore the depths of this masterpiece (which I would not actually perform for another 14 years, BTW…) So, me and my McDonalds coffee sat and pondered the wonders. I was apparently so moved that I returned to my red Geo Prizm, placed the score on the roof of my car and headed for Pittsburgh full of inspiration, and after getting back on the highway, without my score. It became part of I-70. I still love that piece and for all of the inspiration that it has brought me. (Below is a pic from my “Summer Evening” setup.)
Happy Birthday George Crumb! Your music has brought me much joy and your music makes me always reminds me about how to find wonder in what I do.
My summer performing has ended and has been wonderful. I started my my first solo recording project with a session on Nathan Davis’ Simple Song’s of Birth and Return and spent two weeks at Monadnock Music playing some solos, chamber music, stepping up to the podium as a conductor.
Nathan and I recorded his piece last week over a couple of days at my house in Concord. The piece is for mbira and electronics and thanks to my funky basement, we were able to do some great things. First of all, my house has a funky old sauna in the basement (a remnant of the swinging 70′s and living in ski country.) Turns out, it is a really great sounding room for mbira. We had mics perched on heating rocks, music stands precariously placed on benches and me squeezed in a barely functional way. For the electronic effects, we setup a storage room with our tin can amplifiers and far too many mics. The only casualty there were my sons popsicles (turns of the freezer for noise issues and never turned them back on, sorry little man!!!) I am really excited to share it with you. I should have a rough mix to post sooner than later. Here are some pics from the sauna:
Monadnock Music is summer festival in Peterborough, New Hampshire that I started attending about five years ago. It is a festival of amazing performers from New York and Boston that get together to play some great music in the woods. It is funny for me since I now live in these woods. While this is a road gig for everyone else, it is a chance for me to stay local. This year, we did our second annual “On the Beaten Path” percussion show. Nathan and Dave Schotzko (this year joined by the great Toni Arnold, Robert Black, and Stacy Shames) get to spend a week goofing around, catching up, and putting this concert together. We did some Crumb Madrigals and a host of other solo pieces. I also managed to do one of the dumbest/ funniest mid piece stick adjustments that I can think of (will post video if I get it.) In short, we had a blast and are looking forward to next year.
The big thing for me was getting to conduct at the festival this summer. It was immensely fun!!! I had never considered conducting before this and really enjoyed having the ability to engage music in a different way than I am used to. The ensemble was incredibly helpful and supportive and we rocked pretty hard in the show. We did Four Settings by Melinda Wagner. It is a great, rich, and complex piece. I really loved getting to study the score and work with this ensemble from a position other than behind a percussion setup. I think the best part was making music without the years of baggage inexorably attached to everything that I do as a percussionist. I could be alone in this thought (but I bet I am not) but I think that when people like me perform, we are always carrying with us the ghosts and experiences of years of schooling, teachers, defeats, victories, prejudices… to everything we do. While I was by no means approaching conducting as a nube, I really did not bring all of this “stuff” with me. I spent a week simply waking up and preparing for rehearsal, hoping for the best, and leaving rehearsal feeling invigorated in a “just played basketball/ rode my bike/ took a hike/… insert hobby here” way. I also found myself really open to feedback in ways that I may not otherwise be. Whether or not you ever see me on the podium again, I am so grateful for this opportunity for knocking out a bunch of cob webs in me and reinvigorating my curiosity in a big way.
Here are some links to some press and footage of recent events:
This is an interview with Todd and me for Classic FM in the UK. This is from backstage at the Ojai Festival.
Lastly, here is a snipit of video from a Music for 18 Musicians show with them from NYC last year. (Not so recent but still fun.)
Some old friends came up to Dartmouth last night for a concert and it was great! QQQ is my old bandmate Jason Treuting and his wife Beth Meyers along with Dan Trueman and Monica Mugan. Dan plays a Norwegian Hardinger Fiddle that is an endlessly alluring instrument (he always gets the good shout outs for this) and the core of the bands sound. The beauty of the group is that they play these amazingly well crafted tunes with all of the compositional rigor of “serious music” (I will use that title today…) and all of the warmth, thoughtfulness, and silliness the is at the core peoples personality.
I think the highest praise that I can give these guys is to say that this music is incredibly honest and true to the members of the group. It is really refreshing to watch people find a musical environment where they can be themselves. I am often a critical guys musically and was in love with this show. It was jam packed with good music and positivity. It had plenty of charming rough edges (mostly in the on stage banter) that made the show great!
Lastly, Monica, the QQQ guitarist, does lots of amazing things during the course of a set. I just mention her as she frequently flies under the radar. She mentioned that audiences often comment that they cant hear her. It is not that you cant hear her, it is that cant hear her play the thing you thing you expect a guitarist would play. She plays selflessly and spends most of her time musically jumping around the ensemble, finding places to make the other players sounding bigger, better, and more complex. She is the super-tasty point guard of the classical guitar!!! Check them out here!
Also, check out Dan and Monica’s duo Trollstilit here! This is Dan and Monica’s first group and the predecessor to QQQ.
I spent the beginning of the month of June at the Ojai Festival in California. This festival is one of the most amazing events that I have ever attended. Ojai is a week-long celebration of contemporary music held in the mountains north of LA. The concerts are in an outdoor amphitheater and it is a truly magical place. Everything at the festival is done right! The staff is amazing from the Directors through the Interns and the result is the perfect environment to perform and listen to music.
Great music was made too!!! eighth blackbird were the Music Directors this year and they (along with the gentle guidance of the amazing Tom Morris) put together a great crew of young musicians to come and blow the doors off the place. The programming was largely centered around “anchor” pieces like Music for 18 Musicians, Pierrot Lunaire, Music for a Summer Evening, and even the Goldberg Variations as well as some brand new works to keep things spicy. Everyone worked their faces off and gave amazing and committed performances. I left with a whole new bunch of musical crushes (only in the artistically inspired sense, of course…)!
There were great audiences for all of the shows and they were extremely enthusiastic! So fun! Here are some of the reviews.
Here is a pic from the stage:
I was personally thrilled to be out there with so many friends. My duo partner, Todd, was out there and we were able to have the MP Duo serve as the marimbists at the epicenter of Music for 18, play some trio with Matthew Duvall, and be the percussionists who got to play Trimpin’s sculpture in Nathan Davis’ new piece. Here is a pic of the sculpture we played:
If the pic does not quite make sense, do a youtube search for Trimpin for more.
There were so many musicians there that I respect out there and I am so proud of the birds! I have know them since they were students with a dream and have watched them one of the most focused and disciplined musical organisms I have ever seen. They are currently accomplishing the impossible with their careers and that is cool! Good on them!
Twas fun to be in Ojai!
Welcome to my journal! I will try to post some updates about my goings on and hopefully a good story every now and then. Enjoy and please drop a line any time you have comments!