28 February 2011

MEMORY, Part 6


This is the final segment of the 6-part 'Memory' song cycle (lyrics / vocals by Céleigh Chapman and mandolin played by Jake Monaco). I must confess that this is my favorite of them. The lyrics are the most poignant of the six parts, and the music is probably the most emotionally ambiguous I've ever written.

Went a little lighter than my previous entries in this memory series. I also work very quickly. Pretty much just popped a shot off and converted it, and am loading it up now. I am tired. It's late and I'm in the process of moving. March here we come.

27 February 2011



This is the metal catalyst that converts the 3% hydrogen peroxide in my contact lens solution into saline. Without it the peroxide would do a pretty good job of oxidizing my eyeballs. Ouch.
Unfortunately, not every aspect of life comes with a convenient catalyst, sitting there, driving reactions, never being used up itself. How nice that would be. Today is dedicated to the times in my memory that I hesitated, never sure of what to do in a given situation, praying that if I only had a catalyst to drive progress forward, to bail me out from having to take the first step, I'd be fine. This is a great way to never get anything done. Many worthwhile things have big barriers to overcome, ones that we ourselves have to summon the energy and courage to overcome, even without a catalyst in sight. It seems this is a lesson I will continue to learn even into adulthood.

Today's post began entirely as Andy's idea and, despite the graveness of his own thoughts on the subject, I couldn't help but take a slightly humorous approach to it. Basically the piece of music is like a Romantic piano concerto (leaping off from yesterday's 19th Century references), where we've somehow gotten stuck in the introduction. No actual music seems to come in at any point.

But my music-humor aside, like Andy I've had many instances where I seemed to stand in place, frozen and needing something to shove me forward. One particular example, three years of living across the country from my wife, seemed to drag me emotionally through the mud in every way imaginable. Yet, that lack of catalyst (and hence my lack of proactive problem solving), somehow sewed the seeds for a far stronger marriage and today I wouldn't trade one day of those three years. So, I suppose, sometimes that lack of catalyst is precisely what we need, impossible as it may be at the time to recognize it.

26 February 2011



Sometimes you just have to make room for the future. A little spring cleaning so to speak, when old memories may prevent you from growing, maturing, and progressing. I'm not saying this in a cold way, if we erased our memories, what would we learn? I'm just saying that the buildings they occupy in our mind can crowd the skyline a little too much if we spend our time attempting to relive the past, and then you tend to run low on real estate for the present/future.

I think basically everything Andy has said, both in writing and visually, can be said of today's music and my philosophy in general. Progress and evolution must always continue forward, and we must therefore be constantly re-evaluating that which we wish to assimilate versus that which we should discard. No principle or belief should be above this review process.

25 February 2011



This was a gift us grandsons received at my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary in 1996. It is a simple poem, but, without fail, reading it brings a smile to my face and the trace of a tear to my eye. It is one of the things that makes me extremely proud to be a Berglund.

This is the first of (eventually) more elaborate explorations of my German heritage. For the moment, rather than address my family's rather complex and dark history with Germany, I thought it nice to just have a quiet tribute. The 'Deutschlandlied' is here performed on solo trumpet by the very talented composer/arranger Eric Jasper.

24 February 2011



Today is a classic example of Andy and I discussing a concept, then each independently creating our vision of it, only to return with results which are remarkably corollary. The idea here is 'first love,' in the sense of playground love. Childhood love. The type that seems searingly and exhaustingly powerful, meant to endure the ages ... until tomorrow. It's a form of pure innocence. The music represents the sort of scherzo that young love is, all twisted up with anxieties and nervousness (and not without some obligato oddness).

I'm talking that nervous, dig your foot into the ground to try to abate the feeling, starry eyed, heart pounding, sweaty, time stopping, dizzy, spinning, wanting to run away, no place you'd rather be crush. I was a little bashful. I probably even played with my feet. The good news is that those feelings are almost exactly the same as an adult.

Shoes and "first love" also might mean a little something to Austin.

Strobist: LP120 @28mm, 1/4 power through the good ol' 43" Westcott shoot-through umbrella against a white seamless paper background.

23 February 2011



...is far from over.
I always forget how quickly outside of Denver you hit the Great Plains. Head east for 30 minutes and it looks like the edge of civilization. This photo was taken at that edge.

I promise to stop with these piano miniatures soon! But for the moment I felt a companion piece to "Childhood" from the post two days ago was needed. "My Heyday" as Andy titled the photo, had my mind in the same sort of place that "Childhood" did, despite the completely different subject matter of the photos. So I (perhaps awkwardly) tried to merge the two with this plaintive and subtle, childish piano solo (with just a slight touch of hay-inspired Americana wistfulness).

22 February 2011

MEMORY, Part 5


I absolutely love the sound of Céleigh's voice here. Pure, but not childlike. There's a subtle darkness that's also in her lyrics. The mandolin (again, played by Jake Monaco), has almost no presence here. Just a moment alone, lost in a thought.

My lovely hand model holding the possessed statue head. It's glowing eyes searing yours, suffocating you in memory... or something like that. Just trying to go with the lyrics.

21 February 2011



For whatever reason I've been particularly gripped by these smaller, more intimate 'character' pieces this month, and today is no exception. Andy and I had discussed trying to capture the drama and simultaneous innocence of our early childhoods. The soaring highs and decimating lows of such pivotal turning points like scraped knees and lost toys.... I didn't want to write something so obscenely over-the-top as to be a caricature (though honestly, in the case of my own childhood, I suppose it would still have been apt), but instead a fiery, virtuosic piano solo.

I feel like my head a splode today. I did manage to trek out into the cold, gloomy snow, though. Went to a playground. The lack of sun/blue sky made for some dreary options for this "childhood" shot. Not my intention. I converted to black and white to attempt to cancel that out. I do wish they had a tire swing, though. We clocked some serious g force on one back in elementary school.

20 February 2011



I think the title should offer all the insight necessary for today, particularly juxtaposed to yesterday's post (sometimes I guard my opinions, sometimes I lay them out rather overtly). I also must say that I couldn't resist a few more (not so subtle) allusions, in keeping with the thread of so many recent posts ....

Just not what I wanted to shoot for this. But illusions of grandeur aside, this is what I made. Limited time, limited sleep, limited resources. It'll have to do for a drop in the 365 bucket. Enjoy.

19 February 2011



Nothin' too much to talk about here. This was shot at one of the first places I ever shot a photography assignment. Back in high school. Had to revisit the site. It was typically cold and muddy. Thanks Colorado.

Andy took this photo evoking the pre-20th century era, but his title got me thinking in a slightly different direction: the wonderful times of the 50's which, at least in retrospect, seem so innocent and simple. Songs of that era, captured here, have such soul and warmth, but also seem to completely lack the overtones of the Cold War which were so dominant elsewhere. Opportunities like this to soak myself in the musical vocabulary of those are songs are pretty rare, so a little over-indulgence should be forgiven ...

18 February 2011



Nothing like a $10 double soda to get you good and toasty. Set my white balance too warm to emphasize the warm feel of the restaurant lounge and the narrow depth of field to mimic having one too many sodas. Some bokeh for you too.

There's something so ordinary about the action being captured here, yet surreal in its execution. It led to me thinking about how I really feel after drinking soda (something I've recently almost totally cut from my diet), and the notion of expansion seemed to jump out. So, put through a surreal filter, that's most of what's happening here. The rest exists as bubbles clinging to the edges ...

17 February 2011



"I've been beat up, I've been thrown out
But I'm not down, no I'm not down
I've been shown up, but I've grown up
And I'm not down, no I'm not down

So I have lived, that kind of day
When none of your sorrows will go away
Go down and down and hit the floor
Down and down and down some more
But I know, there'll be some way
When I can swing everything back my way
Like skyscrapers, rising up
Floor by floor, I'm not giving up"
- The Clash
Strobist: 2 LP120s on either side of me both @ 28mm, 1/1 power, 1/2 CTO and 1/4 CTO on either, no other modifiers. Canon 40D, 30mm, 1/250 sec, f/11, ISO 200.

This is the follow-up to previous "Train in Vain" post initially drawing inspiration from those two songs by The Clash (at the suggestion of my collaborator. I admit to having never heard of The Clash before this). As a sort of continuation from the earlier post, today's "I'm Not Down" sort of veers into the world of the rock drummer who had so rudely interrupted us two days ago. I like the sort of joyously optimistic lyrics for this song, and so for me the drummer sort of represents that resilience against adversity. In this case, he's challenged by a surreal haze that ends up turning brutally dissonant. He hangs on though and emerges successfully, moving out of the washy reverb directly towards us. Soon, though, he accelerates and spins out of control, quickly shorting himself out. He didn't win, but he was better for having tried.

16 February 2011

MEMORY, Part 4


Part 4 of 6. I like this one becomes it seems to be setting up something longer (as with part 2), that then fails to appear. I think that that just came instinctively from the inherent frustration in Céleigh's lyrics. Both on their surface, and subtextually in how she wrote them, her lyrics communicated a restless anxiety. But they were never overt. I guess that's how I'd describe this particular entry of the cycle too.

I was looking for a way to visually communicate the concept of being blacked out without another alcohol shot. This would be an example of not really knowing how creepy a concept is until you have the final product. Sheesh... I desaturated the image and then ran a copied layer through a high-pass filter for the muted but sharp and lit overall look.

15 February 2011



"You say you stand by your man
Tell me something I don't understand
You said you loved me and that's a fact
and then you left me, said you felt trapped

Well some things you can't explain away
But the heartache's in me till this day"
- The Clash
Strobist: 1 LP120 @ 28mm, 1/32 power, into a 43" shoot-through umbrella camera right. Canon 40D, 50mm, 1/6 sec, f/1.8, ISO 200. I-25 for bokeh.

Today's and the 17th's posts began somewhat unconventionally. Andy pointed me towards a pair of songs by The Clash that he liked called "Train in Vain" and "I'm Not Down" to serve as the inspiration. At the time I wrote the pieces I had no idea what Andy's photographic interpretation would be. For me, it began by looking up the lyrics and pouring over them a bit. For "Train in Vain" I was struck by the simultaneously bleak, heartbroken lyrics and general peppiness of the actual music itself. They seemed bizarrely incongruous to me. This led me to a sort of surreal, post-heartbreak kind of introspection. Then, unexpectedly and obnoxiously intrusively, it's infringed on by this quasi Clash-inspired rock drummer. It's sort of a piece inspired simultaneously by "Train in Vain's" content, and the song itself.

14 February 2011



I was going to write something of a romantic paragraph about the emotional and physical response to a budding relationship or perhaps even just how meeting someone can completely inundate and intoxicate your senses. Then I heard Austin's interpretation and it changed my view completely. I really love what he wrote for this. Now, for me, instead of representing those specific emotions it has transformed into a longing for them. Perhaps a reflection of a time when these emotions were very much alive, but no longer... Not angry, in fact fondly remembering good times, but accepting that the current reality might be a little lonely. I completely agree that today's entry is a shining example of why this collaboration is so great.

On a side note I actually laughed at a TV commercial, which is markedly rare. It was this.

This is a particularly good example of what I love about this collaboration. When I saw that Andy had added a photo on Valentine's Day called "Enchante" I was expecting some sort of romantic image in the spirit of his "Birth of a Union" photo (Day 29). Yet this photo did not immediately conjure those types of emotions in me. This was dreamy, almost surreal. At once both warm and rich, yet multi-layered and even perhaps a little lonely.

13 February 2011



On January 29th ("Birth of a Union"), I mentioned John Cage's idea of trying to remove a composer's ego from the act of composition. Despite my own knee-jerk reactions to that idea, I have often felt a desire to explore it and see what fruit it might bear. So in this case, what you hear is as close as I've ever come to fully removing myself from the composition process. I sat down with cellist extraordinaire Tina Guo, discussed a vague concept of memory, played a few random chords for her on my piano, then switched on the mic and told her to play. The sheet music I presented was completely blank except it said "memory" and suggested a key of b-minor (which I felt lent itself towards the sort of nostalgic quality I had in mind). Here are the results of Tina's improvisation, unfettered by my pesky "composer's ego."

Following the same idea, I removed myself entirely from this photo. This photo credit goes to our friend Patrick Henthorn. I gave him the one word "memory" and asked for a photo. This is Caesar, a loyal family cat for years. This is in honor and memory of him.

12 February 2011

MEMORY, Part 3


The next entry to the 6-part song cycle. I rather love composing music like this ... something about its refusal to commit to a blanket emotional state really resonates with me. It's almost like an anti-pop song (whose success is generally dependent on their ability to instantly communicate a very specific, usually very "primary color" emotion). This sort of floats in-between. (for the record I enjoy a good pop song like I enjoy a good cheeseburger ....)

Mmmm crown... good day to you all.

11 February 2011



Not too much to say here. Ask anyone in my family if Ghostbusters was an important part of my youth and you'll get a resounding yes. I think you'll get a similar answer from Austin's. Great fun piano piece today.

Without a doubt Ghostbusters is of central importance to both Andy's and my childhood. How to capture that ghost fighting team which was so crucial to the awakening of my imagination as a little kid? Well, the obvious thing was to tip my hat a bit to Elmer Bernstein's tremendous score to the film and its jaunty jazz piano main theme. Unrelated to this, I happened to watch Michael Ritchie's 1972 film THE CANDIDATE before sitting down to improvise this piano piece. My cynicism about politics tends to be 100% consistent, and this film only confirmed that. Watching the talking points and one-liners from 1972 politics was like watching CNN today. Somehow this influenced the piece, for better or worse. The childhood innocence of Ghostbusters, and the amazing fantasy that represented, looked back at through a slightly more cynical eye. There's something "off" and almost vilely circus-like about the improvised solo I performed (other than being fairly poorly performed) and I suppose I have politics, new and old, to thank.

10 February 2011

Memory, Part 2


Part 2 of the 6-part mini-song cycle. Lyrics by Céleigh Chapman, mandolin performed by Jake Monaco. Nothing to say I didn't cover before....

Took me forever to come up with something for today. I've been pacing around the apartment scrounging through a few different ideas. This one kind of fell into my lap on accident. I'll take it.

Setup: LP120 @ 28mm, 1/16, into an umbrella camera/me right. Canon 40D 28-135mm 3.5-5.6 IS @ 135mm, 1/250s, f/8.0, ISO 400.

09 February 2011



Continuing with the idea from yesterday, (though with a bit of irony today) here is a Bach-style canon for the same percussion quartet as before. This is even more strictly executed than yesterday's, and is probably the best canon I've ever written (though I suppose it's a bit of a cop-out since it lacks definite pitch).

Continuing with the concept of the hunter, today we move into the modern world. I just talked with my friend Lauren this morning about how tough the job hunt can be, how intimidating it is and how altogether isolating unemployment can be. That conversation steered the direction I took with this photo. I was quite literally very cold while taking this photo, which I felt was a good analog to how the job search can be. I have also been in the middle of interview season for med school. I feel it is important to keep the mindset of the hunter, sharp and focused, dedicated to making the kill. I'm checking my imaginary watch and listening to some pump-up music in preparation for an interview in this shot.

08 February 2011



The idea behind this short series is that of the innate memory for survival in each of us. We all hunt, for sport, food, to find a mate, et cetera. Used a warm gel on a flash to simulate early morning rays of sun. The hunter must start early.

Today's post began with Andy's rather beautiful and evocative photo, and for a good week or more I grappled with how to set it to music. Writing yesterday's fugue seemed to reinvigorate a long-held passion for Bach-style counterpoint, so despite the radically different subject matter of today (and tomorrow's) post, I decided to continue with some Bachian fun. A fugue, rather strictly executed, for percussion quartet is what resulted.

07 February 2011



I've been obsessing over Brahms lately and, by proxy, Bach. My whole life I've been fascinated by the intersection of "raw" musical ideas and the refinement of counterpoint and craftsmanship and technique. Bach is perhaps still the all-time great master of combining those while sacrificing nothing from either. Today's post features a fugue based on a subject I wrote while studying counterpoint with the great Morten Lauridsen. I never did anything with that melody, so this seemed like a perfect piece as a segway from the recent "Old Friends" series. The counterpoint is flawed, though hopefully minimally [and in a few places, deliberately], and admittedly this isn't playable by one person on a real piano. But still. Turned out nicely I think, all things considered.

Charlie just woke up like this. He couldn't remember anything. Sure he'd been having trouble with his memory recently, but that was the stress. This... this was different. Everyone. The whole village. Gone. How could this have happened? What had he done and why couldn't he remember the last two days?

06 February 2011

Memory, Part 1


This is the first of six mini-songs written on the subject of memory itself. The lyrics were written and performed by Céleigh Chapman, a fantastic singer and songwriter with whom I've worked multiple times. Her lyrics were simple and direct, but also subtly, darkly funny .... expressing her own frustration with memory and its unwillingness to cooperate. There was a nuance to the emotion they communicated. In an effort to capture that I scored the vocals' accompaniment for a plaintive solo mandolin (played here by the talented musician / composer / songwriter Jake Monaco). The music across all 6 parts tends to be emotionally ambiguous and rhythmically unsettling ...

Memories, memories... Love the music for this series. Still formulating where I'll take it visually. Here's the start. Far away eyes.

05 February 2011

5 OLD FRIENDS - Part 5


To round off this little tour of older works I end with my piece "Dance Under the Winter Skies" which I wrote as a senior in High School (and like parts 1 and 2, can also be heard on the album "Spirit of the Cosmos"). Originally the piece was written to showcase a violist friend of mine, with the intent that midway through piece in-concert, I'd walk out on stage sporting my accordion and we'd finish the piece as a duet (I hadn't considered at the time who stupid one looks while playing accordion). Only problem was I didn't own, nor know how to play, an accordion. So I bought one, and have played it pretty consistently ever since. This particular track takes my original tune as a sort of two-voice quasi-canon for two accordions, including a brief reminder of the original recording in the center. I suppose my plan was to end the series almost as if waking from a dream, leaving these old friends nostalgically, though firmly, in the past.

I've never really played around much with light painting. Writing backwards is difficult, especially when you're doing it in midair. Used a small LED flashlight, gelled with different colors for the word 'DreAm'. Danced around in the dark (thankfully) to make the ribbon. Anyway this one was purely in response to the airy romance that comes from my interpretation of today's music. I have a new appreciation for talented light painters, and although I'd hardly call it a future focus, it's really pretty fun.

04 February 2011

5 OLD FRIENDS - Part 4


This piece, like yesterday's, dates from my time as a student at NYU and has never been heard by anyone. In fact I myself had basically totally forgotten about it, only stumbling onto it by accident while looking for a different piece to arrange for this post. But something about this piece makes me smile; on the one hand, I really had quite lacking composition technique, but there is a sort of fun to this piece. The original version was scored for Piano Trio, so this is a reworking of the entire piece for two pianos instead.

Andy Most of the ideas I had for this one died when I ran out of daylight. Then I figured I'd just take a nice night time exposure and let some of the house lights bleed in. No lights were on. It was freezing and I didn't have much of a jacket. So this is what I got. One out of focus night shot of a house with its lights out. But this is no ordinary house. This is a house I spent quite a bit of time in growing up. My esteemed collaborator's childhood home. So needless to say it was a little strange to see it with no lights. I was going to scrap the idea, but when I told Austin how creepy it was, he insisted we use it.

03 February 2011

5 OLD FRIENDS - Part 3


This piece dates back to my undergrad days at NYU, and has basically never been heard by anyone (thus making it a very private old friend). The original form was an orchestral work called "Passion," which sort of told the story of a lover who's obsession destroys him. It began with this very lovely little tune here, before progressing into an orchestral maelstrom. In no way is the orchestral work re-created though ... Instead I decided to create these clouds of electronics, hovering behind the solo oboe (here performed spectacularly by Alison Lowell on her special extended-range oboe). The result is quite different than the original piece. To me it almost feels like listening to the work of two different composers simultaneously, considering how I've evolved in the time since first writing it.

Some stock photo styling. Mmm mmm.

Two things behind this one. We got a 486 when I was maybe 8. Like the rest of my generation, I've been more or less dependent on the computer since then. The keyboard is, as such, a dear old friend of mine. The gel color on the flash is cerulean blue. I spent innumerable Friday nights as a child at Austin's house. We also watched The X-Files routinely. I remember that color from one episode. The specifics of the episode are lost on me, just that the color was central to the plot. So in the spirit of memory, I went with it.

02 February 2011

5 OLD FRIENDS - Part 2


Part 2 of this series revisits a fairly popular old piece of mine titled "On the Seas", originally written High School but sort of re-worked multiple times subsequently. The more or less original version can be found on my album "Spirit of the Cosmos." The piece was my attempt at capturing the sort of Errol Flynn swashbuckling adventure movie sound. For this (hopefully final) return to the piece, I thought it'd be fun to write a jaunty little bassoon solo for my friend Maciej Flis with an all-percussion accompaniment.

I have an extreme love for paisley. I also like ties. Strangely, I can barely stand wearing ties. Anyway paisley is an old friend of mine. I do not care if it goes in or out of style. It's simple, but I love it.

01 February 2011

5 OLD FRIENDS - Part 1


As February has begun, with so much emphasis last month on birth and creation, it seemed refreshing to look backwards a bit. Here i've revisited a work I wrote at age 17 called "Furious Filaments" (performed here by Utah Symphony from my first album, 'Spirit of the Cosmos'). It's a remix, of sorts, putting a sort of electronica slant on this otherwise very neo-Baroque piece (in fact, I taught myself the basic fundamentals of Bach-style counterpoint for the purposes of writing this piece ... something I look back on with amusement considering how flawed it is in that light).

Meet Patrick. He's one of our oldest friends. He also happened to be in Denver at a time when I could take a quick photo of him. It was miserably cold and windy. Optimal conditions, of course.

31 January 2011



Another iPhone photo. Really no thought given to the composition, but this one's all about the feeling for me. Whenever I look out the window of an airplane in flight I can hear Going to California by Led Zeppelin playing in my head.

This was one of the very first photos Andy took, and I sat on it for seemingly ages before deciding on a direction to go with musically. One morning, weeks after he'd sent it, I happened to be reading over the score to Brahms' "German Requiem," and this photo flashed in my mind as the opening line came in: "Selig sind, die da Leid tragen / denn sie sollen getröstet werden." This translates to "Blessed are they that mourn / for they shall be comforted." This seemed to perfectly fit into the "New Beginning" concept Andy was pursuing with the photo. What you hear is the melody the sopranos sing in the opening bars of Brahms' "Requiem," set to my own quasi-folk arrangement (with just a little bit of production on the vocals). The guitar is played by Tom Strahle and the soprano is Ayana Haviv.

30 January 2011



...Advice for the newly born.

This penultimate entry for January began with Andy's photo. What I must say I reacted to most powerfully in his photo is the glossy, glassy quality of the reflection, more than the band itself. For whatever reason, that was tremendously emotionally evocative, so I sought to compose something which eloquently and simply summed it up (including the obvious association of the wrist bands to cancer research, survival and all the associated tragedies and triumphs). Apparently that resulted in this little miniature for solo piano. I spent as much of the time composing as I did configuring the reverb, and how the piano sounds in it (as an obvious analogy to the reflection in the photo).

29 January 2011



Two great friends recently got engaged. This was a shot from the engagement photos that I borrowed for the project. It was a blast taking their photos and, rather conveniently, it fit the theme. Call it sappy, but marriage (or engagement) makes me happy.

Andy brought me this photo taken of his recently-engaged friends and by chance I was at that moment contemplating the composer John Cage. Cage had explored this notion of trying to remove the composer's ego from the composition, and he'd used various tools like the Chinese I-Ching to do it. Obviously he also once rather famously used silence itself in his work 4'33". The idea, it seems, is that a composition isn't really a subjective entity resulting from a series of decisions by its creator, but rather that it exists in some pure, spiritual, almost ethereal sense and that it's the composer's job to reach into that ether and capture it. The more the composer's ego interferes, the less pure the result will be, and hence the implementation of 'universe-controlled' random chance. It's all very intriguing, and an area which I've more or less never explored in my years of composing, and so, staring at those interlocked hands with the nice engagement ring, now seems like the time! I brought my wife into the studio, played around with a few pitches and musical ideas, then showed her Andy's photo. She was then told to sing how it made her feel (The sort of 'amateur musician' quality from this sort of unrehearsed and unprepared setting is another parallel fascination of mine, principally inspired by Bartòk). What results is exactly what you hear, and I didn't change it a bit (including the hilarious and adorable hiccup-like sound at the end) ...

28 January 2011



I can't decide if this is a cop out or a statement on my part. Anyway, these are electrical conduits and cables that provide precious internet to me at work. Quick iPhone photo.

The quiet morse code which ended yesterday's piece leads us today into symphonic instruments that have been transformed into a sort of electrical haze. They build around the sound of the morse code, growing, then suddenly cutting out and leaving behind only a wisp of electrical life. The fragility of our technology ...

27 January 2011



This symbolic (in that this is not the actual car the trip to California was made in) photo is a tribute to our friend who just moved out to LA. From the Eisenhower Tunnel in Colorado to the Arizona border it was snowing. It was a trek.

A dear friend of mine recently moved to LA, so we staged this photo as a representative of his cross-country trip. In keeping with the (apparently) recurring theme of sculpting raw sounds to form a musical final product, I decided to create a quasi-realistic portrait of the journey. There was something more appealing about highlighting the humble sounds of a cross-country, life-changing drive, instead of some big rousing MAGNIFICENT SEVEN-type call to adventure.

26 January 2011



I had a bit of an imagined narrative that went with this photo that Austin has explained well. Yeah, it's just a payphone, and not all that captivating. No fun angles or narrow depth of field. Yet, for some reason the payphone holds a strange romantic quality for me. Just this strange relic of how communication has changed in my life.


I was very intrigued by Andy's picture. This was a classic example of a photo's title completely altering the implied or even obvious meaning. He saw the payphone as a place where the call can be made to mend some derailed relationship (and thus, by implication, that same phone was maybe the location for the derailment originally). That inherent sort of tension became my jumping-off point for this piece. It was also irresistible to restrict myself to phone-related sounds. Dial tones shifting up and down (almost sounding like an engine revving) form the backbone, while the various other familiar sounds chatter along as commentary ...

25 January 2011



If January is a gauge of my maturity level...

Still I had to do it. Pretty simple setup again, just a single strobe, I think at 1/32 in a 43" shoot-through umbrella, camera left.

Andy brought me this photo, and I struggled a bit more than usual with where I wanted to go musically. I knew I didn't want some big Hollywood action hero-style music, so I decided to try and capture the brief journey my eye took over the photo. In this case, the generally dark color, and obviously the gun caught my attention first, so I responded with this aggressive Timpani material. But then my eye wanders over to Andy and particularly to his face, and there's a compassion there, even while the photo tries to suggest otherwise. I've known Andy for almost 20 years, and I know that beneath a photo like this lies a huge-hearted softy of a guy, and hence the ultra-romantic violin solo interrupting the percussion (performed here beautifully by composer and violinist Nathan Lanier).

24 January 2011



This is the final study in the piece, and certainly the most contemplative. It ends the series on a quiet, somewhat unresolved note. Maybe that's a fairly direct healthcare statement too, though I can honestly say it wasn't intended to be. By the end of composing these 5 studies, they had turned into a work of their own and no longer leaned on any political notions (as a general rule I don't typically write politically-charged music). I wrote so much music early in my life and career that almost compulsively ended with a bang that lately I've been almost obsessively writing pieces which do the opposite, and just drift away ....

All this anxiety aside, I would like to view the current health care reform possibilities as an open door. Sure that can be a little scary, but there is also opportunity. Plus I feel like 'doctor' is a decently stable career path, but it will still be interesting to watch the short and long term effects of any reform.

23 January 2011



The subject of birth offered far too many obvious jokes to not take advantage of. Also, this is about as made as my bed gets.
I love where Austin went with this. He took a lame gag and gave it wings. Reminds me of living in LoDo and the train that would occasionally lay on its whistle for a solid minute in the middle of the night. When I moved I really missed having that train go by.

I confess that this piece was dreamt up in conjunction with the pair on Day 13 ("Where Babies Come From"), and hence it owes existence to that glorious thing we call dramatic irony. In this particular case, Andy sent me a beautifully composed photo of rumpled bed sheets and clothes. As I thought about it, a narrative fiction came to mind of a young man living in an urban center somewhere, who thinks of his bed as where the magic happens, but in reality what that means is what you hear in the piece: the thumping bass of a club next door, the persistently irritating sounds of traffic below, and the occasional sigh of the man tossing and turning in an effort to finally fall asleep.

22 January 2011



The sort of agitato excitement of an earlier movement has returned for this one, though notably different in character. Normally when I work out multi-movement pieces I agonize over the inter-movement structure and architecture. However, for some reason in this case I decided to deliberately not do that, and let the ideas evolve in a more 'stream of consciousness' style. Therefore here we are 4/5ths of the way through with a quasi-recapitulation of the opening.

Just another brick in the wall. Not a subtle look at anxiety here. I went again for a narrow, constricted feeling. I lit only myself attempting a spotlight look. As a potential future doctor, there's quite a bit to consider on health care reform.