Monday, April 25, 2016

Last Waltzdays

It is finally sinking in that I am moving out of Boston.  I played my final Waltzdays on Sunday (the monthly waltz event that I have been playing since January) and it was then that I began the process of saying good bye.  It is less than a week away that I will be moving back up to Maine and I will be trying to see as many of my Boston friends as I can before I go.  I am sad to be leaving friendships and the beginnings of friendships behind but I am glad that Boston has become a place that I will miss.  It is really the dance community that I fell in love with--not just contra, but blues, waltz and contact improv.

Warming up in the beginner lesson
I meant for this to be a longer post but I am feeling drained of creativity.  I guess I haven't written too much about Waltzdays in general, which is a shame because it has been such a wonderful musical outlet.  I need to start posting the dozen or so waltzes that I have written/adapted from film scores to my blog but for now I am going to say "good night!"

Monday, April 18, 2016

Performing at NEFFA

 It is the day after one of the most fantastic weekends I have had in a long time and I am slowly drifting out of the clouds (while simultaneously trying and failing to catch up on sleep).  The weekend of NEFFA started with an English Country Dance performance which was a good learning experience but rather rough.  It is a lot of work to learn a new genre of dance music that relies on a different skill-set (sight reading...) and having played upwards of a hundred contra dances (is it really that many?) I felt far less solid than I am used to while playing my third ECD.  The good news is I will be taking lessons with some fantastic ECD pianists once I move down to VT!

My second musical experience of the weekend was the Boston Harmony concert that I went to see the next day.  I could have been part of that concert because I signed up for Boston Harmony this year and participated in three rehearsals but I got too busy and a little frustrated with the slow pace of the group (I was spoiled by the talented and tight-knit Village Harmony Alumni group I sang with this winter).  I went to the concert to see my friends and show some support but the moment I got there they dragged me onto the stage and plopped me in the bass section.  While I had not been anticipating the concert and was not familiar with all of the music, it turned out to be wonderful and fed my singing-starved soul.  Plus, I couldn't stop smiling and winking at my VH friends in the audience who knew I was doing my best to fumble along with the music.

After the Boston Harmony concert I listened to a couple of dear musician friends perform sad Irish ballads and then stumbled across some of my old VH teachers (Will and Lynn) singing with their Windborne quartet.  My heart full of beautiful music, I met with the rest of my band to rehearse for our contra dance later that night.

Sometimes I jam with musicians, have a blast, and the music fits together perfectly.  As the jam winds down we talk about how great it was and how we should play some gigs together sometime.  Most of the time the gig part doesn't happen, except lately, it has been.  I have been playing with multiple configurations of wonderful musician friends this semester in Boston but it came to a peak with this performance at NEFFA.  I finally got a chance to play a gig with the incredible drummer Ness Savedoff and the versatile and unfairly talented (for being 17) Jamie Oshima.  With Kathleen Fownes on fiddle and McKinley James on cello, it was a great mix of talented musicians.  AND WE SOUNDED AWESOME!!!!  Sorry, whew! I have wanted to play with these people for quite some time and even with less than an hour of rehearsal time it was hugely musically satisfying...

I have been playing in a duo for about 3 years (which has been incredibly rewarding and challenging) and this was my first experience playing with a 5-piece band.  One of the most exciting parts about playing with so many musicians is that I didn't have to hold down the rhythm all of the time.  I had more freedom to act as color or as an accent to the rhythmic elements.  It was also fun because Jamie (guitar and mando) and I were constantly communicating about chords and arrangement ideas: shouting things like "hold the four chord!" and "just melody!"

Okay, I could keep going on about this gig but I sorely need to catch up on sleep to finish recovering from this weekend.  To finish up, NEFFA was awesome and I learned a ton and had a great time.  After the dance we had someone offer to record our next album in their studio!  It is tricky to schedule and organize so many musicians but I know this won't be are last gig together and I am looking forward to the next one.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Pop Music?

I recently ventured into new musical territory, playing top 40s pop music for a dance marathon at Emanuel college.  It was my first time playing with a full band (drums, bass, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, violin, keys, and male and female vocalist) and it was interesting how much my role as a musician shrunk compared to when I play in a duo or trio.  It was also interesting to note that what the genre lacks in terms of chord or melodic variation, it makes up for with how the music is arranged.

Here is a pretty sweet video that our bandleader created of one of the sets!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Sample Library Fun Post 3 of 1

I have decided to give updates on my sample library project.  Partially because I really don't know what is going to come of it so even if it turns out to be a dead-end project with nothing impressive to show for it, at least I will have a record of the process and the discoveries and mistakes made along the way.

I had a second recording session with Tom Krumm today on violin.  I realized after our first session that I needed him to hold out the notes a lot longer.  While the recording went well, processing the samples was a nightmare this evening.  I decided to pitch correct everything before cutting up the samples and it was only after putting a ton of time into separating out each note that I noticed a frustrating glitch in Cubase's pitch correct system.  It did a fine job of correcting the notes themselves but did not shift the ringing of the note after the bow leaves the strings, resulting in an awkward (if subtle) pitch-bend at the end of each note.  Super frustrating because it is so time consuming to adjust the pitch manually which is my alternative option.

I will abandon this project for now and resume when I am less exhausted and discouraged.


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Planting the Seeds

So many wonderful things are happening in my musical life right now.  After two solid years of being absorbed by online classes I have taken this semester off and it has been amazing the opportunities that have opened up once I began putting my time, energy and enthusiasm into seeking them out.  I used to procrastinate about sending emails and pursuing musical opportunities but I have been spending a chunk of my mornings arranging lessons and jam sessions for the next week and it has all been paying off.

What's Goin' on: 

First off, I have been playing music and gigs with numerous lovely musicians in Boston.  I am playing the JP contra dance this Saturday and am super excited to be playing NEFFA in a week!

I joined a pop band for one gig.  It was a dance marathon and we had a slot at 2:30 in the morning... It was really fun to play in a band setting with lead sheets and a drummer.  And the best part was playing the cool synth patches on my keyboard!

I have taken on the ambitions project of creating a sample library of Celtic instruments... Will explain more about that later.  Short version: many hours recording every single note of an instrument at different velocities and with different articulations.  Then comes the hours of processing all of those recordings and mapping them to a keyboard.  If I want to achieve the next level of realism I will have to delve into advanced scripting...but I haven't decided if that is the best use of my time or not.

There is so much more but I have to go and I know that if I don't publish this post now then I won't get to it later.


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Trials of Designing a New Website

I started dreaming up designs for my own website in high school, creating sketches and making notes of interactive features.  I wanted my website to be a piece of art with a depth to explore.  Since then I have not only dialed back my ambition but I have also realized the errors of that fantasy.  I need to think in simpler terms not only for my sake as an inexperienced web-designer but also for the sake of the audience who will be looking for quick information and a simple.  Still, I want my website to give more than raw information.  I want it to inspire and spark the viewer's curiosity.  I want it not only to represent what I have done but the visions I strive towards as an artist.  Can I accomplish this?  I honestly have no idea.  Maybe I am still reaching too high but I'm not yet ready to back down from the challenge.

Originally I focused too much on design.  Lately I have been focusing too much on content.  I need to focus on saying more with less, and creating content that fits hand-in-hand with the design.  I am not so much worried about that part.  What is stumping me is the kind of vibe to give my website.  What do I choose for a color scheme?  What am I trying to communicate through the background images?  Do I want to use photographs or design backgrounds in Gimp?  Different pages could have unique feel: like the film scoring page versus the solo piano page (epic vs. nature/relaxing/calm).  Then again, I don't want to tug the viewer in too many directions.  They need to get a sense of who I am and I feel like a more unified webdesign would help with that.

How do I display my photography?  It is going to be painfully time consuming to explore the functionality of my theme and discover the best way to organize my photographs.  I have a darn good vision in my head...I want to have thumbnails for each album that expands cleanly into a grid of the album content when clicked.  Alas, figuring out how to make that happen is going to be rough.  It is also going to take quite a bit of time to sort through all of my photos and divide them up into categories.  I could sort them by: Nature, Portraits, Travel, etc.  I got way to hung up on fancy sliders for a couple weeks...I think they are too obnoxious and I am abandoning that route.  I might add a couple...just for fun.

In other, unrelated news...
My cousins at Yoloha, a company that produces sustainable cork yoga mats,  are sending me a sample so I can do sales for them in Boston.  I have done yoga every day (except Saturday) for an entire week, taking full advantage of a $25, two week unlimited pass.  Now I need a class to counteract my sore muscles from all of the yoga I have been doing.

I am interviewing at a bakery tomorrow for a job!  It would be part time (2 or 3 shifts a week) but it seems like a nice place to work and I already know most of the employees.  The people who work there are all friends and I have been playing pick-up soccer with them for a couple weeks. (Yeah, I have been playing soccer...for the first time since I was five.)

Quick Summary of the Rest:
- I just started composition lessons with a professor at NEC.
- I am writing tons of waltzes for the Waltzdays event with Kathleen.
- I will be starting lessons with another composer and pianist, Megan Henderson, who is a Village Harmony teacher
- I have my first violin student... Wait, I play the violin?  Yup, two years of lessons...about 5 years ago.  Totally qualified.
- I will soon be buying plane tickets to Corsica!!!

Yay to life!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

A New Chapter in Boston

It is 1:30 in the morning and I desperately desire to dive into slumber...but I have had such an exciting past couple days that I need to put it into writing.  Oh, and I had a giant cup of coffee...well, that was about 8 hours ago.  I don't know how long caffeine effects last but that might be part of why I have so much excited energy.

I played three hours of waltzes today!  Well, more like two-and-a-half, because for the last half-hour they put on recorded music so Kathleen and I could join the dancers on the floor.  It was so much fun exploring different waltz feels and moods.  We did not have time to rehears beforehand so I was sight-reading all of the chords but next time we can be more prepared and I'll be able to dig deeper into the music.

Ah, so, connections!  I have met so many cool people the past few days/weeks.  Tonight I met a filmmaker and got contact information for potential film scoring gigs.  Our sound guy this evening works at Berklee gathering musicians for film score recording sessions--I talked to him about finding musicians to record for my World Music class.  I also met Miranda who organized the waltz event and has an awesome organization called Miranda's Hearth.  She organizes community-based art and dance events and her long-term project is to create a hotel filled with awesome people, music, art, food, fun, etc.  Kathleen and I talked with her and the other organizer, Matt, about being the "house band" for their Waltzdays event every month!  There is also potential for future collaboration.  The community Miranda is creating is so much like what I have been thinking about lately.  I want to use music and art as a way to bring community together.  I can't wait to learn more about the projects that Miranda's Hearth is organizing.

Last night I danced at the JP contra and someone I was chatting with at the end, Rip Jackson, turned out to be a Village Harmony leader.  He is also a composer, organist, and leads a church choir.  I am very excited to connect with him and send him my music.

The past couple days I was contacting musicians to record my Celtic set and I messaged about six guitar players with no success.  Max Newman who plays with Nor'Easter was one of the people I contacted and I was honestly a little daunted by reaching out to such an accomplished musician.  But he called me back after I left a message, and not only that, but he sent me a text after our conversation, saying that he wanted to know more about my work and my projects, that he would love to work with me in the future and that we should play an MIT dance together sometime.  It was a huge confidence booster.  The past few weeks have been a huge confidence booster because I am finding so many friends and opportunities in Boston this year.

Let's see, in other news, I will be playing soccer tomorrow night...I haven't really played since I was five so it will be interesting.  Also, I might start working at a bakery but that is a tentative plan so far. I loath to give up my freedom but part of me really wants the experience of a regular job.  Oh, and money would be nice too...

Well, that is all I have for tonight.