The Composition Game

I was recently asked to participate in a pilot program connecting me with an artist of the same discipline to work with me and coach me achieve an important next step in my career. My peer mentor and I talked about using music composition as a way of stretching out to meet some artistic goals. The other goal was to get me to work around my writer’s block.

The game was to set aside an hour every day for the month of July to compose and explore ideas. There is no restriction about what I need to write, nor barriers to whom I was writing music for. The only stipulation was to set aside time to write music. By the end of the month, I would share with my coach about my process and some of the work created.

There was no stipulation that I would share any of this work publically, but I guess I need to put something out into the world. In any case here is one of the drafts I came up with. (forgive the MIDI sounds) This piece could still be orchestrated for any number of ensembles.

All of the pieces I started during this game used a 12 tone matrix. I gave myself this obstacle as a structure to help foster ideas.

 

Give these two a listen…

Toward the end of the school year, a few of us were sharing cool music and videos of performances we thought were really cool. Even after the end of the school year, I find myself looking up these videos and listening to some of these performances. Here are two that stood out and are still blowing me away.

Jacob Collier performing a version of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” and Nora Jones in a tear-jerking tribute to Chris Cornell of Soundgarden performing “Black Hole Sun” shortly after his death. Both fantastic performances.

Rabbit Hole and then Jennifer Hudson…

Sometimes I start listening to music and looking up different videos, just to see if I find something new and interesting. This time I landed on Jennifer Hudson. I must have listened to this about five or six times. Her inflections and phrasing are simple and beautiful. The kind of music making that makes me rethink the use of space within a line. Give it a listen and see for yourself.

Finals week approching

DCI finals are approaching and I am catching up with videos on Youtube and Facebook. Of course, this starts me down the rabbit hole of reminiscing. I start to think about all the years of drum and bugle corps I marched.

In 1990 I started marching in a drum and bugle corps in the Bronx. Those years were transformative for me. I learned a lot about dealing with people and becoming a participant in a large ensemble.

I went to the Jersey Surf Drum Corps camp with a buddy after we participated in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade with an Allstar Drum Corps in 1992.

My buddy showed me what it was like to belong. He showed up and settled in and asked to be taught. Later he became one of the leading members of the organization and eventually became an instructor with the drum corps.

I marched the 1993 & 1994 seasons with the Jersey Surf. However, if I’m being honest, I was really marching with my friend.

The summer of 1995, I went to the  Boston University Tanglewood Institute Music Festival. That HS orchestra music festival, the summer after my senior year taught me a lot about being a musician and responsibility of making music and being a chamber musician. A humbling experience for me. I felt most of these music students were much better at this music thing than I was. But somehow I felt I still belonged. I’m curious to see where my kid spends summers.

Singing President

Recently I listened to another installment of the New York Times Popcast and became even more impressed with the level of discussion about America and in particular it’s relationship with President Obama. This is as close as I ever hope to get in communicating anything political in this forum, however there were a lot of good things mentioned about Obama in this podcast and I feel the need to share.

In my opinion, his most powerful moment was his performance of Amazing Grace at the funeral for victims of the Charleston church shooting. I still get chills when ever I hear or watch this moment unfold.

Talking

This time of year has traditionally been a time of reflection on the year which had just passed. Sometimes I even look through some old journals just to see what I was on my mind previous years. Recently I had opportunity to participate, prepared and give a TEDx talk. The process of putting it all together offered a level of self-reflection which I was not really ready for. However by the end of this undertaking I felt the message in the talk represented some of my journey as an artist. The self-doubt, the persistence, the tension, and the development.

In the end, I would not have done this with out the help and encouragement of the TEDx coaches, my wife, my family, the other TEDx participants and ultimately the my friends.