Making music because I can.
Archive for the ‘ Music ’ Category
Making music because I can.
I spend a few minutes preparing an Ableton Live set with a variety of sounds then I hit record and start tapping pads on Push. The result is five to twenty minutes of improvised composition. I enjoy listening to the recordings, but not quite as much as I enjoy making them. The process is stream-of-consciousness and meditative; I am listening and responding in the moment, which means I cease to think about anything else and become entranced by my creation. It is a journey and it is, temporarily, the sole focus of my existence. In many ways, these recordings are more honest and true than anything I do or say in my life, and I strive to do everything in my life by those pure standards. Music embodies the soul more than words ever can; I aspire to capture a little of that indescribable beauty and magic every time I play.
Despite the many forces I am powerless to, I am still in charge of my music! It is my greatest non-human interaction and every day I continue my quest to produce the best aural art I possibly can. I have certainly enjoyed creating these cathartic and therapeutic spontaneous compositions over the past month and will dedicate myself to making more out of pure love for the process.
Summer is accelerating quickly! We have been Capeside for our annual 4th of July family weekend, bigger and greater than ever with the two newest Taylors, Miles and Julian. We spent a weekend camping in Vermont, had some friends to The Land, and enjoyed some pool and beach time in Bellport. We are headed up to Lake George on Thursday for a reprise of last year’s raucous weekend with 20 of our closest friends, then a wedding and a week in Maine. And so soon, in a short paragraph, my Summer is complete.
But these few sentences don’t really do it justice. It has been a phenomenally deep and textured few months, and it is the details within these days that make it so incredibly rich. Taking Ivy to watch her first fireworks, assisting in the construction of a tree-house, playing our first multi-day festival with Land Band, and seeing Miles instantly love swimming are just a few of the moments that may have been brief, but will never be forgotten.
I was also excited to perform some Supergood improvisation for an audience for the first time, which was recorded and will live here for interneternity!
These Summer weekends are extraordinarily delightful! Friday night was a rare mommy & daddy date night, seeing a musical we have been anticipating for years, Anais Mitchell’s “Hadestown”, which delivered a powerful and haunting score to accompany the myth of Orpheus’ journey to the Underworld to save his love, Eurydice. Amazing performances and universal themes always make great art.
Saturday morning we headed out to Bellport for some high-quality R&R with family and friends. Farm strolling, pool swimming, sailing, beaching, BBQ, and civil discussions about politics and futurism are all excellent ways to while away my weekends and I look forward to more of that over the next three months!
I snuck away for two great music events recently, both “reunion” shows after prolonged absences for LCD Soundsystem at Webster Hall and Ween at Terminal 5. LCD put on a grandiose farewell tour 5 years ago and Ween quit out-of-the-blue in 2012; I was sad to see them disappear, but they have returned as good as ever. Seeing them now is no different than in the first iteration, but my life has changed considerably with the birth of two kids!
I took Ivy to Prospect Park to see my political hero, Bernie Sanders on Sunday. She is a huge Bernie fan, as we have obviously brainwashed her to chant his name and cheer when he speaks. It was a beautiful day and 20,000 people showed up to see the Revolutionary. He spoke about growing up in Brooklyn and coming to Prospect Park, but never with a crowd like the one assembled there. His message, as always, was clear: politics is capable of doing good things for all people, not just the wealthiest, and that love will triumph over fear and hate. Whether or not he wins this election, he has changed the way I view political duties, responsibilities and potential for greater good. Bern on!
Wow. Since my last post 88 days ago, written in a moment of great leisure on vacation in Barcelona, I have been through a vortex of time and space. It has been a wonderful but somewhat delirious 3 months of my life and I have had zero seconds to compose an account of it, which I will finally do here and now, sitting in my new studio in my new home with free time that I now have since school ended last week. Things are different now: Alaina is pregnant again and we moved into an amazing home in Kensington, Brooklyn. The move has been a dominant daily feature in my life for most of the past three months and will continue to be, in some way, for years. The boxes and home improvement projects are endless and I can think of a few that are calling my name right now, but I need to make me time too.
School has been another major black hole of time. I had the pleasure of teaching every student in the school, Nursery to 4th Grade, this year and I loved it. It was a challenge with great rewards, as I learned from and was inspired by each student. I have been teaching music for 13 years and almost all of it has been with kids under 5. I was working with kids up to 11 this year and I am so impressed by the skills and passion they are bringing to music. I was interacting with some phenomenally talented children, whose instrumental abilities are infinitely beyond what mine were at that age and who demonstrate unadulterated excitement for all aspects of music. It has really been one of the most interesting and fun work experiences I have ever had and I will miss it next year when the esteemed Ms. Nelson returns from sabbatical and resumes her position. While I will miss the job, I won’t miss the long hours, typically 10 hour days, that I’ve been working over the past year. I would love to have more time to spend with Alaina, Ivy and the incoming baby, as well as a few more hours per week to make my music and maybe write about how great my life is. This blog has, I realize, just become insufferable gloating about my awesome life, but I can’t help it. I feel so lucky to have great people, homes, vacations and sports teams in my life and I need to express my gratitude somehow.
Ivy is really fun. She talks a lot and some of it is indecipherable, but when she can communicate a food or activity preference or a song request (we have listened to Bop To The Top and Let It Go hundreds of times in the past three months) I am truly amazed at her growing ability to shape her life experience and fascinated by the choices she makes. The one aspect of Summer break I am looking forward to the most is not traveling or composing music or visiting friends and family, but simply spending five days a week with her. She is joyful and always learning and exploring, teaching me about basic survival and a world of wonder. I feel my Love expanding every day and I look forward to sharing my life with another baby soon!
A few years ago, I witnessed a performance that still ranks as the most incredible live event I have ever attended. Sufjan Stevens’ BQE at BAM: video of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway with a live score performed by large ensemble and hoop dancers. It was such a unique and special event and I cherish it as an inspiring and beautiful demonstration of audio-visual possibilities.
Last night, he performed his newest piece, Round-Up, with slow-motion rodeo footage and an entrancing score performed by Sufjan and quartet Yarn/Wire. It was phenomenal. The music was layered and textured, with a propulsive Steve Reich feel, and the musicians played pianos, organs, vibraphones, percussion while Sufjan conducted from his laptop. The score was synced tightly with cuts in the film and the long, detailed shots matched the pace and depth of the composition.
The rodeo is a fascinating study in human culture and ritual, and of our dominating and violent relationship with animals. In the faces and character of its participants, Cowboys and Indians, and the raw chaos to be tamed of the wild beasts, we see through time to our primal ancestors and the quest to conquer their domain.
I am lucky to have Brooklyn Museum as my local art collection. It is classical and cutting edge with interesting and eclectic permanent collections as well as a fascinating and evolving mix of current exhibitions; it is a wonderful space to revere and contemplate art. And when they announced an open-call for submissions to score the fountain, I was inspired to make music! My compostion was chosen as one of ten pieces to be played in a program on August 14 and I watched the fountain dance to my work. I spent many fun hours in the pursuit and truly enjoyed creating the soundtrack, so it was exciting to be a part of this event and share it with family, friends and strangers.
Thank you Brooklyn Museum for celebrating and inspiring artistic creation!
This baby is late! The due date was July 29 and we are now into August and patiently awaiting the arrival. We are anxious to meet our new friend, but also focused on enjoying our final days as a couple without the enormous responsibility that will come with this child. One benefit to holding out: when I looked at the Celebrate Brooklyn schedule earlier this summer, I noticed many shows I might not get to see…
Philip Glass and his ensemble performed his score to the original Dracula, which I have been waiting to see again for years. I saw him perform it at the Orpheum Theater in Boston in 2000 and instantly claimed it was the best performance I had ever seen. He brought it to Celebrate Brooklyn a few years ago but a few minutes in, violent lightning was striking directly overhead. This time the weather was perfect and we watched on a packed lawn with a wonderfully focused and appreciative audience. If our small fry delays just a few more days, we will get to enjoy a live score to Beasts of the Southern Wild!
Dan Deacon is one of my favorite performers, playing spastic electronic music and manipulating the crowd into various dance games similar to what I use with my early childhood classes. By being a gregarious goofball, he has always pushed his shows with novel experiences and this one included the best stunt I’ve seen: creating a smartphone app for the audience to download then asking everyone to hold their phones up while he played. Across the crowd, hundreds of phones audibly performed with him and the screens lit up in unison, flashing different colors and incorporating a strobe effect with the camera flash, producing a spectacular and unique light show. I have never seen anything like it and was once again incredibly impressed with his creativity and technological wizardry. Jamie Lidell would be good enough as a straight up soul singer but he also uses technology to enhance his performance, recording vocal loops to add persussion or chordal harmonies to his drums and keys trio. It is a big, groovy sound and at the end, they were joined onstage by a Brooklyn girls dance crew that brought a great visual energy to the show; a very fun double bill of Deacon/Lidell.
While they didn’t play the Bandshell, I was also able to enjoy a live Phish show. From San Fransisco, on a projection screen in my living room. I discovered them in 9th grade and was instantly obsessed. For the next 10 years, until they took their break, I spent enormous time and money going to shows and trading tapes. It was the early days of the internet, when dial-up access got you onto a BBS where you could post a list of bootlegs and find others to trade with. I accumulated days worth of Phish tapes and I spent weeks worth of time going to see them live. They were always doing something new and had a charm to keep me wondering what they would do next. I have a greatly reduced obsession with them now, but I was still a bit disappointed to miss them on their East Coast summer tour, so I streamed one. And for all the great and weird Phish concert memories I have at countless different venues, watching at home is a great way to experience a show; the sound is great and the view is better. It’s not the same as being there, but it’s definitely not a bad alternative. Trading tapes has its quaint appeal, but streaming any show instantly is the best and most efficient music delivery system I could ever dream of. While their music sounds almost exactly like it did 20 years ago, they have grown with technology and provide a constantly improving experience for their fans.