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.

21 January 2011



This third section continues the forward trajectory from the first two, having become slightly less tense and perhaps more thoughtful and introspective. Dare I say that? I hate overly describing my music. It either dictates how people feel about it, or it turns them against it for its failure to do so. Best to let it speak for itself, in general (there is the occasional exception). Let people form their own opinions about what's "being said," etc. Uh oh, I'm sensing a tangent ....

Again continuing on with the anxiety motif. I stumbled upon this chair behind a tall fence. It was quite out of place. It made me uneasy. Seemed to fit.

20 January 2011



This continues from the last study 2 days ago. It's simple, to the point, no time wasted. As I stated before these works aren't overtly programmatic and 'about' the healthcare debate, so much as informed emotionally by my own time spent watching the news for hours on end. They all have a unique quality, this one seeming to twist around like a venomous snake hanging off a tree branch. Ok maybe it is somewhat literal ...

Focusing again on anxiety, I tried to create the feeling of twisting down a long corridor, lost and confused as in a dream. A shallow depth of field and some overkill post vignette help create the lack of clarity.

19 January 2011



An iPhone photo while out to get a breakfast burrito in "Sweetridge" aka Wheatridge, Colorado. Modified, like most of my iPhone photos, with Best Camera. This sign caught my eye, it invoked nostalgia for a simpler time I never knew and may not have even existed. Most importantly: proof of economic recovery! Having served my time in the restaurant industry, I am particularly fond of today's track. Genius juxtaposition of the audio clutter of a restaurant with the music.I feel like I'm on the expo line and the printer won't stop printing tickets. I love it.


This was a bit of fun, blending an emotional interpretation with a literal interpretation. A day in the life. Real-world restaurant sounds blend with their emotional counterparts. Actually I composed 10 different small pieces, which were all stacked on top of each other. The resulting texture is a bit of an emotional maelstrom, which hopefully speaks pretty concisely for itself ...

18 January 2011



The correlation between these 5 works and the current healthcare debates (at least current, as of when I wrote this, and presumably for all eternity thereafter) is really only that I wrote these while the cable news pundits endlessly yammered in the background of my studio (though I admit I eventually muted them so I could actually focus). But I think the result is that there's a certain tension and anxiety in each movement, even the more plaintive ones. This movement, somewhat animated in nature, is rather simple and I think will generally speak for itself. The English Horn was performed by Tom Boyd.

I started off with the obvious here. Again in response to what Austin had written, and the way each has a very anxious feel to it. Although my photos tend to be pretty apolitical, there is an undeniable tension right now surrounding health care reform. For the rest of the series I focused on trying to convey a feeling of anxiety.

17 January 2011



I found myself spontaneously wanting to write an acapella choral work, and probably because of 100 years of cinematic programming, I can't help but feel that this sort of music evokes a rather biblical epicness (aided by the fact that choral music essentially began in service to the church hundreds of years ago, where much it remains today). I chose "wrath" as a vague reference to the "Dies Irae" (which is quoted rather transparently towards the end of this piece) of the Requiem Mass, meaning "Day of Wrath." Something so 'end of days'-ish seemed like a great counterpoint to all the incessant 'birthing' we've been doing ...

It took me forever to try to shoot something that could do visual justice to this choral piece in one still shot. I contemplated interjecting humor, shooting something very dark and foreboding, attempting some epic scene... but nothing quite clicked in my mind. I decided to focus on the idea of retribution. Here we have our subject. Dead. Poisoned for perpetrating some untold sin.

16 January 2011



Ok this time I basically completed that which was done only halfway the last two days: every element you hear is now totally new. As per the parameters of this exercise, I restricted myself to the musical palette of the original loop, and I also stuck to its general structure. However each rhythm, exact sample choices, and all melodic ideas and their subsequent manipulation. So finally I can ask with a bit more meat whether I wrote this piece? Certainly you could argue it both ways, and I have a definite opinion ...

It's alive! And so concludes the series. Plenty to contemplate about what makes something your own. Time to take it in and move on.

15 January 2011



This iteration is exact opposite of Part 5; I retained all the original drum loop's rhythms and sample choices, and wrote my own melodic ideas. As with the last one, I didn't change the palette or step outside the world of this piece. Just worked within it. Did I write something new? I'm trying not to answer it though, I think strangely it's less debatable today than it was yesterday. That's strange, especially since rhythm is usually the last place to find originality, but I think this case I feel that way because the piece is essentially entirely about rhythm ....

Again the clay begins to take a more defined form, much like the hand that carries it.True originality can be hard to come by. Particularly when the hand you're cradled by is all you know. With media being what it is today, I am surrounded by influences. This is both inspiring and suffocating. I love how easy the internet has made idea sharing and self-publishing, but sometimes it leaves me with the feeling that it's all been done. A constructive exercise can be born from this though. If it has been done then it warrants a good study. Ask of it any question you can think to. Can it be done anew? How can you make it interesting? How can you add your mark to it?

14 January 2011



Returning now to the 5th installment of my pursuit for defining the precise moment of originality ... this time I decided to keep all the melodic elements (ie the stuttery, staticy stuff) 100% intact from the stock loop, and write my own rhythms to accompany them. I followed the basic structure of the original, but all the rhythms and exact choices of which drums/percussion samples to use were my decision. Have I finally crested into originality?

The once lump-o-clay is really coming into its own, which is surprisingly similar to the hand holding it. Although I again stress that photographically this series isn't all that appealing, it really got me thinking about originality and mimicry. There are quite a few photographers whose style I both love and envy. What better way to improve my own skill set than to study and practice their styles? No one wants to be a copycat, but at the same time there's little sense in reinventing the wheel. There is lots of experience to build on and gradually incorporate into my own unique style.

13 January 2011



Tequila makes her clothes come off... and I'm a man who enjoys a good tequila. Again the joke speaks for itself, so I'll talk about the shot setup. Really basic, a strobe set high camera left through either a white umbrella or beauty dish, I forget. The bokeh (blurred background) are my LED Christmas lights.

Another brief break from the 'Originality' series, this time once again first inspired by a photo of Andy's. He took this rather gorgeous shot of alcohol but obviously completely spun its meaning with the title. Not to be out-irony'd, I decided that that bottle needed to have something very against-the-grain to musically accompany. So I wrote this very lyrical, rather sentimental passage for strings and a solo soprano (performed here by my wonderful wife). But on reflection somehow the straight-forwardly ironic approach seemed a little too on the nose, so I went and started re-working it to include this sort of "off-stage" alto sax to give it that proper dose seedy back alley-ness...

12 January 2011



For this iteration I restricted myself to "shuffling" only, meaning that all original sounds/instruments were maintained, and all original rhythms maintained, but I re-arranged when exactly things were happening. This was basically done two ways: 1. by taking whole chunks out and inserting them elsewhere, and 2. moving around constituent parts within the overall flow. You can really hear this towards the end, when the 16th-note offset of some of the drums creates a very unpredictable, sort of disjointed sense of rhythm (I must say, I rather like it this way!). Again I ask ....

Here the ball’s appendages are becoming quite noodly. I should have scrapped my idea and just sculpted the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

11 January 2011



And yet there is nobility in any profession. Albeit tongue-in-cheek, this was not meant as a jab at truck drivers but rather an acknowledgment that our childhood dreams sometimes, sadly, go unfulfilled. When I was maybe three years old I wanted to be an elephant when I grew up. As of today, that dream remains unfulfilled. I'm still holding out though. I took this photo on a walk around town just to see what I could see. Sort of an empty slate day creatively speaking, but I like doing that from time to time, every once in a while inspiration finds you. Austin This is one of my very favorite photos of Andy's thus far, and one he took very early on. I spent several weeks debating how best to try and capture it with music. It seemed it needed something special. What I've ended up with is something actually quite simple ... a longing French Horn solo over a humming choir. This piece of music is a particular example which makes me desperately wish it was feasible to record live orchestra each time I need it. How I would kill to hear one of my LA horn players on that melody ... but alas I have to live with samples for now. In any case, the sense of nobility, and quite humility, which leaps out of this photo for me is obviously the final direction I went in. No irony, no hidden winking or any of the sort. Just warmth.

10 January 2011



This time I modified the stock loop by what I refer to as "element shifting," meaning I modified the constituent elements without changing any of the stock programmed rhythms (I also did a tiny amount of deletion, though for all intents and purposes this is exactly the same as the stock loop). The result is that different instruments are playing the rhythms of the stock loop. It's comparable to re-orchestrating a string quartet into an choral work. The fundamental music has remained, but the sound of it is different (though in this case I'd say it's like going from a wind ensemble, to a differently balanced wind ensemble, since it's not a radical shift in colors). Did I write this? I think it's somewhat debatable yesterday, but today I feel pretty strongly ....


09 January 2011



My first method of manipulation from the stock loop (heard in Part 1, yesterday), was using exclusively deletion. That is, I modified the piece by deleting things and never by inserting or otherwise changing things. I deleted whole phrases or bars, or in some cases just some instruments or sub-elements. So again I ask, did I write this?

In going with the idea of creativity and originality my weak metaphor comes in this ball struggling to take shape.

08 January 2011



Ok this piece, and it's subsequent 6 Parts began with me mulling over the notion of originality and creativity itself. My actual work begins tomorrow, on Part 2. This track I didn't write ... it's a 100% stock drum loop. The idea was to begin manipulating one element of it at a time, to try and determine at one point I felt I could safely say "I wrote this!" Clearly today, I can not.

This series was a response to Austin’s 7 part exploration of originality. My contribution is far from photographic genius, but I like the raw idea and view my part here as sort of a primer for something that would be far better suited for claymation.

07 January 2011



That I am. What more can I say that wouldn’t be blatant self promotion. Besides, you’re already looking at least 1000 words here.

I dare not waste any extra words on this one. If the last entry ("Start") was a sort of winking musical joke, this one is a sledgehammer. Andy sent me that picture of himself, with that exact title, and this piece came to mind rather instantly. On the nose? Certainly. Tasteless? Presumably.... fun though!

06 January 2011


Listen: Let's Start Something.MP3


Andy I was feeling a little pyromaniacal. A little bit of dual meaning here, if it isn’t blaringly obvious. It could be the flame of inspiration, or a darker, more sinister desire for destruction. Combine that with the music and take from it what you will.

This began with Andy's photo, which I rather liked. However, for the longest time no specific musical ideas came to mind. I was stuck .... 6 days in and already at a loss of ideas. His original title had been "Let's Start Something," and I think it was inspired by the beginning of our project in general. So the idea of 'starting' in a more general sense and less a flammable sense started to percolate and I wound up with what is, essentially, a little musical joke. Basically, it's an intro, with no actual piece. It's the start of a piece, sort of a jazz band-type thing you might expect to hear kick off "Sing Sing Sing." Yet nothing ever comes...... (I'm here all night ...)

05 January 2011


Listen: Birth.MP3


Another iPhone shot. This one of my niece being lifted into the air. In using birth as a topic it really seems only fair to see the recently born and I can’t think of much better subjects than my nieces and nephews. Uncle is really one of the best titles a guy could ask for, but I digress.

Again we began with a photo of Andy's, and it seemed fun to revisit the compositional palette of a film I scored last year called GRACE. For that film I recorded a friend's newborn baby for about a month, gathering up a rather exhaustive library of cries, laughs, coos, coughs, and endless other alien-sounding baby noises. They became, after a fairly considerable amount of finessing and programming, the main 'instrument' of my score. So, staring into the eyes of yet another baby, I thought it would be fun to reopen those old sessions and create something new entirely from those recordings. It's a simple two-part piece, starting with pure baby recordings and moving toward a hazy, distorted cloud.

04 January 2011


Listen: Afterbirth.MP3


Andy shot this photo first, a clear sign of 'The Simpson's' long-term cultural impact. I've been a loyal fan of the show its entire 20-year run, and so this image was instantly very charming to me (Andy pointed out to me that there are kids in college now who've been alive less time than 'The Simpsons' have been on the air ....). I thought my own little homage to Elfman's timeless 'Simpsons' theme seemed best (scored for solo flute and performed wonderfully here by Amy Tatum). This is not a true variation on his theme, but more a quasi-improvisational fantasia on 3-notes. They just happen to be same first 3 notes of 'The Simpsons.'

I was walking down Wewatta St in Denver after a Nuggets game when I saw this clever Simpsons-inspired tag. I had to have a photo of it so the iPhone came out.

03 January 2011


Listen: Birth of a Movement.MP3


Aptly tagged on the old Gates Rubber building in Denver. I don’t think this will convince them to stop using oil, but I still love socially conscious tagging. I titled this with the idea of using art to impact social or political change. Not something I’m doing right now, but it’s what it made me think of.

Again, this began with Andy's photo. Something about the nature of its tilt and sort of "off" angle made me feel something visceral, almost violent should be written. So I did sort of a musical rendition of a protest rally. Large drums marshal a crowd of protesters and rioters. Over time, the drums fade, then stop, and the sounds of the crowd gradually fade and distort, drifting away. The crowd gets quieter and quieter until finally disappearing, but in such a way to suggest (hopefully) that at least the message won't die. It will live past the individual rallies.

02 January 2011



It really is 2010 and I am ambitious. I want to be nothing short of productive, prolific even. Coffee should help. Here’s a Domo coffee cup. I’d be lying if I didn’t get a bit of Domo inspiration from Dustin Diaz, whose macro shots I really enjoy.

This began with Andy's wonderful monster coffee cup shot, and I think helps kick us off very well after yesterday's much more 'thoughtful' and/or 'cerebral' entry. Basically (as with the photo), I'm having a bit of fun. I suppose you could say this piece is a little musical snapshot of a caffeine trip (at least, someone else's ... sadly caffeine long-ago ceased to have that effect on me). This was rendered entirely in my studio using nothing but my own voice (for which I offer apologies).

01 January 2011


Listen: Birth of Allogamy.MP3


Here begins what will probably be one of my single most prominent activities for all 2010; an extensive series of photos and music we're calling "Allogamy." There isn't really one particular goal or reason for this project. It is, essentially, a very large experiment. As a composer it is my daily task to try to uncover new ideas, new sounds, new means. The sheer volume of writing required for this project (365 total pieces, with an arbitrarily-predetermined average length of 60 seconds) will mean that I either learn A LOT and grow A LOT, or will otherwise crumble and be ruined as an artist. I can't help but feel a tiny bit like Major Kong riding the bomb out of the sky ....

Basically, each day for the entire 2010 calendar year we will post one photograph by Andrew Berglund, and one piece of music by me. In some cases, he went and took a photo and I studied it, and wrote a piece of music somehow inspired by it. In other cases, I went and wrote a piece of music, and he then reacted with a photo. Still others involve us mutually discussing an idea, and separately going off to capture in it and combining the results.

This first piece is sort of a mirror. It began with Andy's photo of his camera. Appropriate enough ... start with the origin of the next year's work! I decided to write a piece which was essentially about music itself. What resulted is basically a very short trip through the first 12 pitches of the overtone series, the foundation of sound itself.


Happy New Year and welcome to our 365 Project! I’ve followed/adored/envied several photographers’ 365s in 2009 and decided I wanted to take on my own. I explained the idea to Austin and he saw an opportunity to collaborate creatively, something we have not really done probably since middle school. We were both immediately extremely enthusiastic about the prospect and got to work.

I have a few goals for the year. Like just about anyone who embarks on this journey the big one is artistic growth. Photography is a passion of mine that I all too often leave on the backburner. This is an attempt to remedy that. This being a collaboration, I am also extremely glad to get the opportunity to share an artistic vision. Photography to this point has been very much so a solo sport for me. Getting the chance to make it a more social team exercise is going to be an incredible opportunity.

A brief explanation of the project. I’m taking photos, Austin is writing music. Sometimes in that order, sometimes the other way around, sometimes at the same time. Together they are magic. Because we’re working together this is an atypical photographic 365 in that I’ve started ahead of time (still taking on average a photo a day) but in order to have both together we had to stockpile just a tad. Don’t hate on the method. Also when I get my act together we should be transferring from blogger to Word Press for JavaScript compatibility reasons. Things will get prettier then. Stay tuned. Also look up allogamy, it's one of them sciency words. If you know the word, you'll understand why we chose it.

And finally, the photo. It’s a camera. "Soft focus", glamour shot goodness. Seemed appropriate.