It's been a short while, and for those of you out there who occasionally visit my website (or stumble across it while wandering the shadowy wasteland that is the internet), I apologize for the gaps — this past year has been an interesting mix of ambitious musical projects, career development, settling into new jobs and considering what it's "all about."
Never fear, I remain ever optimistic, and my excitement could not be more charged than by the current radar image, which shows the approach of a very fun, very ambitious new project in the world of film scoring!
A few years ago, I worked with Pittsburgh-based, indie-upstart filmmaker Cary Hill and provided him with a few minutes of live orchestral music for a homemade horror film called Scream Park. The film was an impressive production on a shoestring budget, featuring horror icon actors such as Doug Bradley (whom you may remember as "Pinhead" from the Hellraiser franchise) and Skinny Puppy lead singer Nivek Ogre as a homicidal maniac. Above all else it was a ton of fun, and as the finished film outperformed everyone's expectations in the midnight movie circuit (selling out multiple movie theatre screenings and going on to win prizes at various horror film festivals), the sequel is now in the works.
This time around, Cary is taking what he learned and stepping up the ladder to create a professional film; RED cameras, SAG actors... the works! This quality lift will also include music, as I have been commissioned to provide a full-length score. I will be writing in the vein of classic acts such as Goblin, and channeling inspiration from such iconic scores as John Carpenter's The Thing and Phantasm. If we raise sufficient funding I will also be working with my old colleagues in Hollywood to throw some live orchestral cues into the mix — it's going to be a lot of fun!
Here's a link to the Kickstarter Campaign, now well under way: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/709744148/return-to-scream-park
Support us if you can, help us Return to Scream Park, and keep you ear out for this exciting score!
Hi, friends! Happy to announce that my first-ever physical release is now available as a pre-order on my Bandcamp store. Le Mat: XXII Arcana for solo piano, performed by the incredible Eric Clark, is the most ambitious, through-composed concert piece I have written to-date. Clocking in at over an hour and scored only for solo piano, this work is an exploration of the imagery of Tarot cards, more specifically the mysterious "Major Arcana" or trumps of the 16th century Tarot of Marseille.
My music has evolved enormously since I started writing Le Mat, making it an interesting challenge to continue to dwell within the world of this piece as my creative psyche changed. That said, this work is not an anachronism but offers an unique glimpse into the type of composer I have been, and a point in plotting the trajectory my work and my philosophy have taken. Not only that, but I have been told by my collaborator, pianist Eric Clark, that the work is an exciting challenge to prepare and perform,
The digital album will be available world-wide on May 15, 2015, distributed by The Orchard — in keeping with the spirit of DIY, I will be managing the physical sales myself, though Bandcamp.
Place your order and I will be shipping these out to meet the digital street date. More soon...
Very proud to have had my piece "Ray" from "Cave Music, Vol. 1" featured on Luca Capone's fabulous radio program(me), The Night Shift, on CHRY 105.5 FM Toronto! Click below to stream his entire Nov. 22 show. "Ray" makes an appearance at about 35 minutes in. Most of the material in this piece is a collage of radio transmissions emitted by the atmosphere of Saturn (courtesy of NASA, thanks guys!), including the rapid-fire sound of lightning crackling within its mysterious cloud cover.
I'm pretty happy about this, thanks to my buds at ASCAP. Here's hoping my music starts to reach the ears and brains it was made for, all without really knowing who they belong to...
Wow! Hard to believe my last post here was back in March, though what's harder to believe is how different my life was back then. It seems fitting that my last official post described a very profound musical experience, that of hearing the mellifluous Jack Quartet perform the opaque and mysterious complete string quartets of Helmut Lachenmann; it seems to me that event was a sort of catalyst in the transmutation of my musical life and has led me through so many wondrous portals in the time since then that it's hard to know where to begin. I am now scheduling writing time for six new concert pieces for some very exciting ensembles here in New York City and beyond, all while producing my third album, Cave Music, Vol. 1 (check out the new single below).
Perhaps, then, it would be best to let the rest speak for itself. If you've kept up with me thus far, you have probably heard this material. Nonetheless, I am very proud to announce that I have found my way into a contract for world-wide digital distribution of these and my upcoming recording projects. Projects I am hoping will not disappoint, and will illustrate the profound creative changes through which I find myself moving, and just maybe resonate with those spirits out there that are tuned to my strings.
For your consideration, stream, purchase, etc., please take your pick as both "Plex-Emitter," my fuzzy ode to electronics, and "Wheel" my tooth grinding, face melting EP featuring the limitless talents of Eric Slick, Ryan Neitznick, Davis Good and Adam Ravitz, are available in the following venues:
Spotify / Amazon / GooglePlay / iTunes / XBox
The Morgan Library and Museum on E36th and Madison Avenue has always been one of my favorite places. Ever since I was a child, the standing backup plan for any visit to grandma's house (on W86th Street) was a trip to the arms and armor exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum or a spin through the Morgan Library to view the magnificent collection of (among other things) medieval illuminated manuscripts.
Yes, I was one of those kids who carried a chisel-tipped calligraphy pen in his pocket and took advantage of every opportunity to practice his penmanship, usually at the expense of paying attention in class. Before my personal and professional interests shifted toward creating music, I spent long hours closed up in my bedroom copying entire pages from ancient psalters and books of hours.
It's not so difficult to draw a line between calligraphy and engraving musical scores. Indeed, before I turned to composing music myself, I had established a one-man shop as a high schooler, arranging and copying musical scores by hand for the music department. I suppose it makes sense that my first job following music school was working as a copyist in an orchestral library.
In playing on this theme, the Morgan Museum creates quite an apposite juxtaposition between the aforementioned forms in its thoughtfully curated concert series. The presence of historic musical manuscripts in the museum's collection, autographed by the likes of Wagner, Mozart, Cage and Lutoslawski (to name a few), provides only a metaphorical basis for the appropriateness of the venue. Nestled into an atmosphere of old-fashioned scholarship and its founder's appreciation for sophisticated art, the performance of music seems like a requirement in support of this grand, philosophical architecture.
The concert on Wednesday, February 19 featuring the JACK Quartet truly took things to the next level. The program consisted of the complete string quartets of German composer Helmut Lachenmann (b. 1935) to coincide with the release of JACK's latest recording, due out April 1st on MODE Records. Much like the esoteric and deeply personal language of Lachenmann's music, the performance itself treaded onto a plateau beyond facile description.
If I have to choose something to say, it is simply that I was stunned. Stunned by the absolute silence that befell the audience, even during impossibly lengthly sections filled only with delicate swooshing sounds produced by the hair of the bow against the wood of the violin, or minute clicks and taps created by the heel of the bow meeting the string over the fingerboard. Stunned by the raw energy of Lachenmann's music and the un-compromised focus and passion of the ensemble's interpretation and performance.
One moment that continues to stand out in my mind was when the cellist inadvertently tapped his bow against the base of his music stand. Even in my total admiration for Lachenmann's avant-garde gestures and abrasive vocabulary, it is perfectly reasonable to assume that the resulting clink might have been lost in the surrounding cacophony of scratching, swooshing, crunching, tapping, bending and sawing and gone unnoticed. Instead, it rang out noisily, briefly interrupting the near-palpable atmosphere of mental energy and exhibiting unquestionably that what we were hearing in that moment was not just some arbitrary collection of displeasing noises, randomly jumbled together in an opaque and incomprehensible cloud, but was uniquely beautiful music.
My point is that even in the total absence of pitch and tonality, Lachenmann's organization of these primal sounds in time is truly the essence of musical expression; like capturing the pure emotion or the raw impulse of thought that precedes the production of pitch and harmony and in a way makes them seem almost unnecessary.
Due credit, of course, must go to the unmatchable ability of the JACK Quartet and their intimate relationship with this music. As the ensemble remarked before the performance began, Lachenmann's work was the first they performed as an ensemble, and in his active support they have come to view him as the father of the group. The skill and precision with which this ensemble is able to articulate their true understanding of this music is what makes all the difference. They get it, and the results are truly awe-inspiring.
Sometimes it's hard to navigate through the seemingly endless jungle of unusual and experimental sounds that are out there. What separates a kid who is just pressing buttons or banging on cans from an artist who is constructing a thoughtful composition? Where do the two intersect? Do they? What makes it music? Is it?
Here are some examples of my recent discoveries that I think hit the mark, though I can't articulate why beyond my personal vibrations jiving with these sounds:
A little less than a month ago I made my first trip to The Stone, John Zorn's dungeon like venue in the East Village, to hear the Sirius Quartet perform with Stone regular Uri Caine. At first glance, The Sirius Quartet is a traditional string quartet comprised of two violins, viola and cello. That said, when the colophony meets the string unique and fairly unexpected sonic events begin to occur with a particular emphasis on free improvisation and the rather esoteric practice that tends to escape consideration with most classically trained musicians: the art of the solo break.
Sirius pulls it all off with ease and style, making for an impressive cross-over from which many more ensembles dedicated to contemporary music could take a serious lesson (ahem, no pun intended). Uri Cain's compositions also made for some good listening, though I must say the summit of the evening was a ten-minute improvisation that emerged out of a subtle half-step dyad on the piano and expanded into a deeply satisfying spectrum of sounds and gestures.
So inspired by my first experience at The Stone, I ventured back a week later (on another particularly unaccommodating Polar Vortex of an evening) to hear the guitar stylings of Marc Ribot. Ribot was joined by poet-cum-saxophone Roy Nathanson for an evening of further improvisations, which emerged from the loosely framed structures of Nathanson's wonderful poetry. I couldn't help but chuckle every so often, partially as a result of the pure and joyful excitement the emerging sounds instilled in me, and partially out of the realization that what I was experiencing was the prima materia that is the stereotype of free jazz and experimental music. A squawk on the saxophone, tinny fumblings across the guitar strings, the sounds of a squeaking chair becoming a component of the music, nebulous chunking and apparently sloppy, halting solos void of tonal gravity.
These are not intended to be critical remarks. In fact, the fearlessness and genuine creative energy that formed the magnet between these two imaginative performers was so palpable as to be felt within the room, like a third, invisible band member.
The following evening, along my descent from this peak, I stopped by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. On any given evening, one can enjoy live chamber music at the Met's Balcony Bar from behind a moderately pricy cocktail. I have found that it makes for a nice warm-up or cool down from viewing the collection. This particular trip, however, ended up falling into a category more compatible with the aforementioned outings.
In connection with the ongoing exhibit, Silla: Korea's Golden Kingdom, Concerts and Lectures presented an interesting collaboration between composer, Guggenheim Fellow and komungo player Jin Hi Kim and American drummer and percussionist Gerry Hemingway entitled "Digital Buddha." The performance was a massive improvisatory jam lasting over an hour and set against a backdrop of psychedelic video projections.
I did feel that something about the amount of polish in the presentation and distance of the performers perched high up on the stage of the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium weakened the potential energy suggested by the concept. In contrast with the gritty realism of my previous adventures within the intimate, creaking belly of The Stone, it was difficult to be a part of the organic dialogue between these two, despite their incredible accomplishment as performers.
The presentation did offer some thought-provoking material to absorb, which was enhanced by the thread drawn through the ancient and modern, providing a unique and living context for each. It was really not so unlike a string quartet sawing through rock-inspired solos, or the avant-garde gyrations of the sax/guitar duo, exploring the clichés of free jazz to a unique and personal end, whether more or less successful an effort.
Ultimately, I guess, it's not so much in what you say as how you say it.
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