July 12th, 2016Current Mood: Sneaker Pimps, 6 Underground
Sometimes I am shocked that a week has passed. I'll teach a student, and then later that day think about things I need to accomplish that week. Before I know it, I'm having another lesson with the same student, and I'm reminded that the week is over, and I might be in exactly the same position as the week before. And then it happens again.
Roger Reynolds once lectured to some students, myself included, that most people do not do what they think they do with their time. He advised us to experiment for one week by keeping a journal, and tediously recording all of our activities for seven days. At the end of a week, we could look back and examine how we passed the time.
It's important to step back and consider how your time is being spent. If all that matters is today, then we should do our best to avoid doing things that we think are urgent, things we do not feel are that important to us. You don't want to run out of time.
I hear a lot of similarity between Alessia Cara and Portishead.
July 1st, 2016A friend of mine showed me a fretless electric bass that he made himself. Parts of it, like the neck, were built from a gorgeous light colored wood that had several marks in it, that looked to me like freckles. The back of the neck had emerald markers in the shape of sharks. The pickup was custom. The entire instrument seemed so unique that way. It made me think about the customizability of instruments, and how that allows musicians extremely personalized avenues of expressivity.
The guitar family is a great example. Many guitarists build their own custom guitars, deciding on what kind of pickup to use, the shape of the guitar, the wood, the strings, and other factors. Some players go even further and design hybrid guitars that have more than six strings. Bear in mind that these guitarists also have the option of setting their own custom tuning for their instruments, and many do just that! There are players who have no competition because they are the only one who can perform on their specific instrument. It's an incredible union, absolute uniqueness, allowing a musician to explore new ways of expressing themselves, and pushing forward the tradition.
June 17th, 2016There has never been a society discovered without a history of music.
I treat sounds like possessions. When I compose, the combination of harmony and rhythms I select reminds me of the culture of body modification and adornment, the way people select different artistic styles to implant or tattoo onto their skin as representation of who they are. Jimmy has the dragon tattoo on his arm. Alicia has the septum and tragus piercings. Dani makes glitch music.
There is so much layered into a composition. An entire lifetime of musical study plays a role in the decisions made during the writing process. Maintaining a consistent composition regiment will invariably give the composer greater experience, and his music will evolve and (in theory) improve over time. The composer is arranging sounds that have a personal meaning or significance to him, and assembling them in an order to create audible decorations for the passage of time. The listeners all travel through time together and experience an individual's perspective, a personal expression that the composer meticulously constructed having exhausted several other possibilities that the listener does not hear.
I began another composition yesterday as a form of therapy. Sometimes the act of creation is the most logical outlet for overwhelming emotions. The resultant creation is a historical artifact of one's life that will always represent that moment in time. Which is why listening to music sometimes feels like time travel.
June 8th, 2016This month has been very busy. I have 36 students now, 6 gigs this month, and my EP mixes are complete and ready to be sent out! It is important to avoid overexertion.
I recently saw a video that was urging young people to stop attempting to follow their passions, because by doing so they might miss out on many wonderful opportunities, and they might not have the skills necessary to fulfill their dreams. Although I can understand and appreciate the warning of that message, that is, do not allow one's passions to blind one of great opportunities, I still feel that taking an opportunity for the sake of it being an opportunity might ultimately not be in the best interest of the individual in the long term. If we are considering a person's self-worth, we must presume the individual cares to secure a living doing something that grants her satisfaction. That doesn't mean that the work must perfectly align with the passion, but it must contribute in some way to the person's attainment of that passion, and provide a sense of worth to the individual.
I think when people are underemployed or misemployed, they perform poorly at work and feel little self-worth from the hours they sacrifice earning someone else good wages. A lot of people find themselves underemployed or misemployed because they seized an easy opportunity which was presented to them. I think those who follow their interests into the workforce might also find themselves underemployed at some points in their career, but at least they are unlikely to be misemployed.
With the world being so interconnected, the global markets trade without limits, social media reaches the farthest corners of the planet, it seems like a new generation has embraced the possibility of pursuing passion by focusing on niche products and niche markets. Whether that be specialty goods, archaic knowledge, or a unique style, the buyers are waiting, and even searching for you.
So yes, follow your passion. And be very very good at it. Be unlike anyone else. Study it and continue to improve at it for your whole life. Others will take note.
May 30th, 2016What a nice day.
Should that have ended with a question mark?
I was practicing this morning for some upcoming shows. I took a walk after that. And then I felt hungry for new music to hear. I've been browsing SoundCloud and YouTube using the power of the hashtag to find sounds with key words of great interest to me. Glitch. Piano. Ambient. It's amazing where the metaverse of music of today. There is a lot of amazing content out there, buried beneath layers of web code, and outshined by heavily promoted major artists.
Today's happiest discovery was the track "Missing Screws" by Melopsych.
The inspiration from that music fills me with determination and drive. Time for work.
May 30th, 2016La Cita Bar
336 S. Hill Street
Los Angeles, 90013
May 24th, 2016My tracks are in the very last stages of mixing. Dux and I have gone through four mixes already, and now that we're approaching our fifth mixes, everything is sounding incredibly clean and full.
Right now, I'm checking for any last discrepancies or issues with the mix.04 tracks. It's great listening to a track and deciding, "It's ready for release." I was listening on my Yamaha HS8s, comparing with my Beyer Dynamic Pro headphones, also to my Beats Executive headphones, apple headphones, and car stereo.
At this point, we're looking at a June release for the EP.
May 10th, 2016I was talking with Vardan today during our lesson. I was saying to him that in music, I like to create expectations for the listener, through repetition or sequencing, and then disturb the listener by denying them that expectation. The feeling of surprise that overtakes the listener is simultaneously shocking and exciting.
The listener cannot possibly know ahead of time what a composition's structure will be. They rely on their first experience listening to determine how the piece develops. As they hear patterns, the brain makes expectations. Certain chords should happen here and there. The first wave of surprise at a substation or alteration forces the listener to stand guard, suspecting more surprises to come. But when? And how? The listener becomes tense with anticipation, not knowing when the next surprise will appear.
I think there is joy in that. That's what makes the music interesting. It leaves things to be desired; questions to be answered.
May 5th, 2016I had a very productive session with Dux yesterday. He has helped me to modify my innocent tracks that held potential into polished works ready for distribution. I'm looking forward to a wis release. If CD Baby works quickly, the music will be available this month.
If I have to choose between exploring a musical path where I pursue the calling of a jazz pianist, or the calling of a solo electro-acoustic artist, which one makes more sense? They both interest me. Does a decision need to be made? I suppose in a manner of speaking, in terms of day to day work focus, there are only so many hours in a day, and therefore, pick something. Do this or that.
I was at a jam session a few weeks back at the Blue Whale. My main reason for going is to remind myself of the growth available. I love hearing the other pianists who have such diverse skills in exploring that music. I always leave very inspired to practice. At this particular session, I remember playing a few tunes I didn't know (I read them off of someone's iPhone). We ended with a blues.
I left Little Tokyo thinking, I should probably make time to work on some Blues things. And then I thought about the time I've been spending developing new ambient, glitch, downtempo electronic music, layered with pretty harmonies, on top of which I'm working out ways to improvise. It seems clear to me that at this point in my career, the electro-acoustic path is my most important (and personally satisfying).
The other huge advantage of focusing on solo electro-acoustic music at the moment is that I can rely on myself. Hiring a drummer, bassist, and horn players is not free. And scheduling between 2-5 players is difficult. Also, paying gigs in LA.
Does that make sense?
What till you hear what I've made.
It's off to a jam session at USC now.
April 19th, 2016This week's musical focal point has been mixing in Ableton Live. I'm taking rough tracks that are close to completion, and isolating every sound. That means every hiss, every buzz, every hit-hat hit, and every synth. I look at the frequencies across the spectrum with one of Live's tools, and look for appropriate ranges for each sound. It's like finding a sonic 'home' for the noises. Then I color code everything by category (lows/basses/kicks, snares/hats/percussion/, synths). It's so organized; it's relaxing to observe.
Meanwhile, I'm working on laying behind the beat as an improvising strategy. It is difficult to master because one must avoid being too much behind the beat, and thus, late. I suppose the appeal of this tactic is that it gives the performer more of an edgy, organic sound, versus a rhythmically quantized even stream of sounds.
I'm reading "The Sixth Extinction." It's incredible. Surveying the geological epochs before studying the current Anthropocene, Elizabeth Kolbert reveals devastating predictions scientists are making for our future. A great companion to "The Doomsday Book" by Gordon Rattray Taylor.
Earth Day is Friday. Do something good for the planet that day. Don't contribute to pollution or other destructive acts.