Tuesday, March 24, 2020

March 24

Yesterday I listened to Marc Maron being interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air. He mentioned something that came as a surprise to me, that he attended the Lighthouse Music and Arts Camp. I also attended the camp, two consecutive summers, so there's a good likelihood we were there at the same time. Even though we're the same age (separated by a few months), I am pretty certain we were not in the same cabin together.

Marc mentioned Hankus Netsky, who taught at the camp for years. Terry knew the name immediately, having interviewed Hankus at least once or twice in the past. Hankus was then young faculty at New England Conservatory, and still teaching there today.

I played in the camp big band my second summer there. I recall that we were playing an arrangement of "Manteca". It was handwritten, unpublished. There was one passage in which my part had a line, by myself, that sound really wrong. As in, clearly incorrect. I was sitting next to Ed Jackson, himself a NEC student at the time. He asked what I was doing wrong, so I played the passage and was clearly doing everything as written.

Hankus listened and said, "Jazz is all about the wrong notes. Leave it in." That was influential on me for sure.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

March 17

What defines a "musical experience," I wonder?

Let's assume it is primarily but not exclusively an auditory experience, from a sensory perspective. Air molecules are pushed around, exciting one's tympanic membrane, and the mechanism of your inner ear sends a tiny electrical pulse to your brain, which not only perceives but interprets the sound. That's of course a clinical description of hearing, but doesn't describe what happens to the person who is listening.

I'm making this a short entry today, because I want to follow up in more depth in a future posting.

Monday, March 16, 2020

March 16

My wife and I spent the weekend in Washington, DC. We arrived just in time to take in a few hours at some of the Smithsonian museums: African American History, the Hirshhorn, and the African Art Museum. Then it all shut down Friday evening. Not just the Smithsonians; the Phillips Collection and the National Arboretum were also shuttered. We spent Saturday ambling around DC, and found some fun spots we hadn't visited before. We still had a great time.

The subsequent shutdown of bars, concert venues, and other non-essential gathering places, will  deprive musicians of their livelihood. We all understand, but it's still hard times.

Might I suggest, this would be an excellent time to buy at least one recording off Bandcamp, or other similar service. The more obscure the group, the bigger a difference it will make.

Here are some friends:

...to get you started. Go exploring. Here are things I am on:

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

March 11, 2020

I'm sitting at an auto service center as I write this, for hours. News concerning the corona virus, and more importantly the actions of people and governments in response to the virus, are coming at a minute-by-minute basis.

I'm probably going to be expected to teach my courses remotely for the rest of the semester. This is going to be challenging, a challenge I wasn't looking forward to facing.

In general I am trying to be more disciplined in my work and life. I want to get back into regular work habits, stay focused and positive, create more and gripe less. I can be very good at the latter sometimes.

Part of that program will be to try to post to this blog regularly. I'm probably never going to write a book, I don't know that I have enough original ideas to warrant trying to collectt them in book form. But I do feel as though I should document some of my thoughts on a regular basis. I considered trying to make this a daily exercise. If I can I will, but if I have nothing of interest to share or document, why add to the general noise of the internet?

These are trying times. I suppose all times are to a greater or lesser extent, but I know I haven't seen anything like the political and social circumstances occurring at this very moment.

After the Tree of Life murder spree, I made the point to some people that this was the time that what we do was at its most important. Music is an inherently social art. We as musicians are forced to be social, whether it comes naturally to us or not. (Pointing inwards.) We form relationships with other musicians, with an audience, develop networks, and try to expand all of the above. Strengthening bonds strengthens community, and music can bring people together in mutual joy, sorrow, and support.

But what do we do when we're forced to not engage with others on a face to face basis? It's not impossible given our online resources, but it's unquestionably more challenging. I am concerned about the state and status of live performances in the coming months. It can be difficult enough to attract an audience under normal circumstances.

I've probably said this more to people in the past year than at any other time: be good to yourselves. Maybe I need to remind myself of that too. I'll check in again soon.
Photo credit: Mara Rubin

Addendum: CMU just announced that we transition to remote teaching until further notice.

Monday, March 2, 2020

So, back again

Hello! In case anyone's noticing. I see that my previous posting was a year ago, announcing a new website that I have not maintained properly. Certainly during my summer break, if not considerably sooner, I'll get back to updating these resources and posting more regularly.

I am happy to say that Live! at Kingfly has been going well a year on. It was a slow burn for a time. I don't think I'm revealing anything secret when I was asked by the ownership to make the series more like Space Exchange. Well, I have, and we've been gaining and holding an audience pretty consistently.

Oh, we still have jazz groups; the Lynn Speakman Quintet will be playing March 12, for example. But her band doesn't just play standards, and they bring heat. But Live! has expanded in scope to be more of a creative music showcase, including groups such as electroacoustic Balkan instrumental band Bombici (returning March 19), the improvised grooves and plunderphonics of Throckmorton Plot and Sound/Unsound (March 26), as well as Space Exchange regulars Thoth Trio and Jeff Berman's BLINK!

I'm especially happy to mention that world-renowned Thereminist Pamelia Stickney will be playing Kingfly April 23, with Jesse Stiles and me.

I'll try to stay on top of these lines of communication better in the future, as there are definitely some things to announce hopefully in the near future.