January 7, 2008
Big Ass Words
I recently spent an afternoon with a friend in a warm, cozy coffeeshop while snow poured endless white on everything visible through the windows to our right. Sunk deep into the black couch, we chortled at grant applications and academic writing in general. We started listing big, pretentious words we had encountered or used. Or thought we ought to use. Or specifically avoid using.
Then, bringing a smile to my face on so many levels, Nikki pulled out a simple, elegant, precious-looking black notebook, drawing aside the elastic strap holding it shut, clicked a pen in her hand and scribbled a few of the words. Then turned only her head and looked at me with seriousness and mischief. "Oh! Reification!" Concentrated scribbling.
"Problematization—I like to problematize things."
"Yeah, yeah, or mention people: Kant, Deleuze, Foucault, Eco."
We went on like this for a long time. It was a blast, and cathartic in a roundabout way.
In any case, this was one of the most memorable games I have played—a little gem of memory made—and it was fun sharing our various little niches of academic specialty. Here are our results; feel free to throw down these trump words the next time you're under pressure to impress. I'll be tossing some into an upcoming grant application, definitely.
September 20, 2006
We go about our day-to-day mostly dealing in superficial pleasantries or straightforward information exchange so we can all keep the world running, keep doing our thing. I desperately wish to hear more discourse on the things that matter. Wisdom, Patience, Honor, Humility, Respect, Indecisiveness, Luck (or the lack of it), Doubt, and the list goes on.
This has become a new impetus, a new spur for me to compassion: I remind myself, when looking down on someone, when pitying someone, when despising someone... that we, he and I, she and I, we have Great Struggles in common.
Our struggles are different, surely, because we are individuals with different histories, but there is this: we all struggle, and our struggles are colossal for us. They will keep us moving forward for a lifetime, ever giving us reason to rise from sleep. And rise to our dreams. I suspect also that themes will emerge when many people's struggles are taken in sum. I want to find out what these themes are—what are THE Great Struggles of humanity, from a survey, not from what I imagine them to be according to this or that archetype or stereotype.
Please, share your great struggles with me. We all have them... artistic, or moral, or political, social, psychological. What questions confront you again and again in all areas of your life? I honor you, respect you, and thank you for anything you might share, for confronting head-on the big questions in your life.
April 4, 2006
March 24, 2006
So the other day I did what many of us do as we attempt to monitor the multifarious ways in which the crazy conglomeration of all the world's cultures rate us and determine our status in various sub-sub-sub-cultures... I Googled myself. And in this way, I got a great laugh. Meet the Zachary Crockett 16-inch stainless steel Bowie knife:
February 18, 2006
That Golden Spot on the Way Down
Friday night, February 17th—we gave Noah the best birthday bash he's had in a decade... and I'm happy too... it's always a joy to be with the people I love...
But somehow, there's always this spiral downwards after a social evening, as I head toward bed... into loneliness... hyper-awareness of the cold, empty space around me...
Tonight, I think I'll go to bed now, while I'm still reveling in the joys of friendship... the memories of a good night, a memorable night... while I still feel like the people around me care... before my pity party really gets rolling... The longer I stay up, the more depressed I will enter sleep, and the more empty I will awake...
Off I go to slumber land... not because I really want to... but for my own good...
January 31, 2006
Yours is the World
Do you know "If" by Rudyard Kipling? It used to hang in my room growing up, given me by my grandfather, scripted on yellowed paper, glued to a piece of carved wood stained dark, all laminated. Here's a reminder, give the poem a read even if you already know it.
That inspires me. Period. At a fundamental level, I work to achieve that type of Manhood with everything I do, and I admire those qualities when I encounter them in other people.
When I look up "man" in the dictionary there are over a dozen definitions. When I find the one Kipling had in mind, I find words like courage, strength, and competence. We all know there are little sexist teachings built into the English language, and every other language too I would guess, but here's one that had never grabbed my attention before: what word conjures up the same inspiring definition of adulthood, strength, and wisdom as Kipling's "man," but applies specifically to women?
One of the people I admire most these days is Solange Guillaume, a fantastic pianist, and my fiancée. Courageous? You betcha. Competent? Strong? Don't ask stupid questions—you couldn't find a person with more wisdom, strength, and self-reliance for thousands of miles and dozens of years in any direction. If anyone exemplifies the qualities Kipling describes, she does.
Today she apparently met with the impostor Disaster. I know her better than anyone else does, and I know she is in a lot of pain. But at times like these, she goes on. She makes a plan, gives herself time to think and feel those things worthy of thought and feeling at times like these, and then she moves forward without complaining. She silently commands those sinews to hold on.
She gives her all, her life, to many things, including music and her friends and me. And at times like these, she watches some of them fall apart, broken. What does she do but stoop with her tools, worn from so much use, and build everything again.
At times like these, when her ever-abundant joy overflows into a room through those ivory keys and metal strings and heart and breath of powerful life, she risks all her winnings, everything she has built up over decades of dedication; she tosses it all with a gleam in her eye...
And at times like these, she loses everything. One pitch. Gone. What does she do but start from scratch, quietly, with tears perhaps for herself, but none for anyone else. I dare you to hold forth in comparison anyone who could seem any more than a tiny glimmering candle next to her great burning sun.
Which brings me back to that word. I hereby dedicate a new one. Solange is a French name. It translates into English as "Sun Angel." There are six definitions for "angel" in the American Heritage Dictionary. Here's another one:
Angel: a woman who exhibits such admirable characteristics as courage, strength, wisdom, self-reliance, joy, trust, beauty, power, restraint, competence, self-knowledge, honesty, fairness, and respect for those who deserve it. See Solange Guillaume, one of the great 21st-century pianists.
November 14, 2005
Some people make new year's resolutions. I don't. But this year anyway, some things have been stewing... and I have some birthday resolutions... another celebration, another year, another milestone has come and gone... several conversations today... several thoughts this ... (?) ... month? ... or so... like I said... stewing... tributaries converging...
- Do only what you passionately love.
- No bullshit, for anyone.
- Be with your closest, most passionate friends.
I definitely want to finish this year of school... beyond that we'll see. I need to stop wasting time and make things happen. I need to be near Solange. I need to be near HeiLau. Maybe there are others, but it's not obvious to me every day, not obvious to me in my late-night, birthday-tipsy fervor. I'm pretty sure we'll all be heading back to San Francisco just as soon as we can manage it. Anybody feel free to join. It's heaven, or as close as I've seen.
I'm shaking, and it's hard to tell whether it's from the crystalline, Minneapolis cold singing to my room—or just my lack of eloquence for the ecstasy I have to share here... high pressure inside—no outlet.
I have to find them—those who give a shit—those who need it like I do. I don't yet know where to look.
glimpsing the past
though I've tried
my sporadic mast
the sea wall bars
and it's shed
the mask head
the crow's crown
flown down from where it read,
the lies all hidden
born to her
are you even fucking listening?
behind all this I know I know it's horrible and maybe I've lost the touch and nothing comes out right anymore the world the job the bullshit I'm trying to shed gets in the way has knocked it out cold all the impulses that lead me to write what she shared tonight oh so long long long ago that I can only barely recall what it felt like to be me to be us so excited and jesus that's a dumb word so anticipatory so naive so no not naive that's trite we knew ourselves and knew where we were headed but hadn't yet encountered whatever it is that kills all we really hold dear what is that I still can't name it but I know I must must must recover nothing is so important nothing and the critic inside is telling me constantly just to erase this drivel I know it's bad I know what I'd think if I read this but today just today I'll leave it cliches and all because fuck it that's how we all think and poets just work really hard for synonyms and freshness...
"Don't fuck around. This is my religion." I wrote that on a whiteboard last year, drunk and dancing by myself after the rest of the party was gone, alone, to the music, feeling the ecstasy, that was part of it, but not all, I was still lonely collapsing into bed...
I alternate between hating people, thinking I'd genuinely be most happy as a hermit... and loving people, needing people, needing to share, knowing that's the most important thing, that my ceremonial ecstasy means very little in solitude.
oh, what was it... so fleeting...
it's gone... whatever it was...
I'll just go to bed... I could read back over this, for inspiration, for extension, but I know that will only make me want to erase it...
I have no idea what this weblog is for...
just a place for me to emote it seems lately...
exhibitionism? maybe... not necessarily...
oh shut up
November 8, 2005
Angry men don't write the rules...
I woke up on the wrong side of the bed today, and while normally I'm good about rolling with the punches and smiling whatever comes my way, today I don't fucking feel like it. My whole day has been wasted by stupid people and stupid software. People who can't think for themselves. People who have no clarity to their language. Software that breaks in an attempt to make itself more secure. People who can only follow rules and have not a creative neutron in their bodies, who can only act on <face-contorting-derision>policy</face-contorting-derision>. Shit is just moving too slow—I ought to have finished everything I set out to do this morning as of about 4 hours ago. I don't want to call a god damned drone on a tech support line, I want to rip someone's fucking face off.
October 19, 2005
I've been sitting outside on campus writing music, just sketching ideas. It's crisp and clear out; blue blue sky and some trees flaming red-orange while others are a mild yellow in the half-light. Very light breeze and most people smiling as they walked.
Then two bikes crashed head-on right in front of me on the bike path. Fast. Wheels in the air. Skulls on the ground. Or skull (singular) anyway. I called 911 immediately, but there were so many people who had done the same thing I told the operator I'd let someone else handle it. A woman, student I think, hurried over saying, "I am a first responder. I can help. Trust me. I know what to do." One guy was fine. The other had his skull cracked open and bleeding.
After things seemed under control and there was nothing I could do, I walked away to help it look like less of a scene, hoping others would do the same. The injured guy especially doesn't need a crowd gawking at his delirium.
The contrast struck me. The sudden change.
October 13, 2005
I am a horrible blogger. The pace here is ridiculously slow... I'll try to be better about that... (Yeah, how many blog posts with the same phrase were posted in the past 30 seconds? I'd estimate 3.5 guhjillion.) Anyway... some stuff I've been into / reading a lot / thinking about / obsessing over lately:
Looking for a way to make hours upon hours disappear? Careful what you ask for... Does the phrase planar embedding mean anything to you? It will soon...
Don't have a TV? Neither do I. Who needs one; mostly a waste of time anyway, but there are somethings worth watching -- I get them in nice 30 second clips from OneGoodMove. Comments on Norm's blog tend to be a tad lefter than sensible, but he and his readers still hit on poignant truths pretty commonly.
The Spark Festival will be taking over my life shortly. Work for it is ramping up quickly, but Spark does something wonderful and rare—invites artists and listeners from more popular contexts into the academic realm. This both encourages the popular folks to think in a more systematic and broad-horizoned way about their art, and shows the academic folks how their advances are being used in ways they never imagined. It also, I hope, reminds some of the stodgier academic folks that they need to get a life. Ahem, I mean, that their way is not the only way, and that yes, intelligent, creative, thoughtful artists do indeed exist in plenty outside academia.
This conference has what I personally consider a ridiculous submission policy. I am thinking of submitting two musical works. Obviously two works, less than 10 minutes each, fit on a single CD with room to spare for bio, program notes, picture, etc. Thay require that I send them NINE CDs. Nine. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine. Now, of course I understand why they're doing it. They can open up the package and distribute each CD to an adjudicator. Having each piece on a separate CD allows them to preserve the anonymity of the submissions and thus the integrity of the adjudication process. However, half the pieces submitted to this conference are recycled submissions—that is, everybody in the tiny computer music community has heard them before and knows exactly who wrote them. I'm not sayin'; I'm just sayin'.™
If anyone is a computer science geek out there, I recently read a cool paper from 1994 about an experimental operating system scheduling system based on lotteries.
Also, for my fellow math geeks, the biggest prime number known to mankind was discovered this year. It has 7,816,230 digits. It's a special kind of number called a Mersenne Prime.
And on a similar note, Robin Whittle is doing impressively thorough historiography on the Park-Miller-Carta fast pseudorandom number generator which generates very good "random" numbers in about 10 assembly language instructions! And here's info on the more modern, better quality Mersenne Twister algorithm, which is slower and takes more memory, and so is not as good for DSP.
And finally, after all that, I'm going to my first ever school reunion of any sort this weekend: my five-year college reunion.
That pretty much sums up what has been on my mind lately.
boop => back_to_work
September 21, 2005
Drink Goat's Blood
That's about what I feel like doing now. I hate people. I'm frustrated with life, the universe, and everything.
The biggest thing is that my ArtsMosis project has essentially fallen through because:
- Information flowed too slowly (i.e., it took me too long to figure out how to do it...) far too much of my time this past month was spent waiting for web pages to load. People were no help either; even in the electrical engineering department, no one could help me. They could give advice and vague tips, but ultimately nothing came of it.
- Goods moved too slowly (i.e., far too much of my time was wasted waiting for parts to be delivered...) I was like a blocked computer thread that can't do my work until someone else finishes theirs.
- I ran out of money. Some very simple things cost way too much money. Costs also rose exponentially as time ran out. The later it became, the faster I needed equipment, the more I was willing to pay to get it here quickly.
Now it's dark and oppressive and storming outside. How apprpriate. Gravity Kills playing. Loud. And it's not enough.
I'm also really sick of superficiality. That sounds awfully cliché, so I'll try to phrase it more elegantly. It saps my energy to be anything but perfectly genuine, and it drains me to deal with people who are not being genuine. There's just a raw, red, itchy fuzz around them, and it's tough to look at them without wincing. And I know that's just "how they are." All the time. It's not a front for my benefit. I know this. It still makes me ill.
I just want to have a friend in Minneapolis whom I can treat honestly like a human being, who loves, cares, and fears, and doesn't need to wear that on his/her shoulder, but who is not ashamed of it either. Who knows it's honest and normal. Who fuckin gives a hug now and then; who can acknowledge that. I need a friend who is good, who is searching, who is both honorable and critical.
I also ruined a pair of pants today by biking in them. Gears tore them up. Probably only happened because I was pissed off to begin with.
Tomorrow's the solstice. Hopefully everything will get back in balance.
August 26, 2005
All right... I'm way overdue for some posts here -- been fat, happy, in love (what's that smell?), and busy all summer long... but here are a few links I collected over the summer and meant to post with enlightening commentary... ah well...
A submission by Einstein for NPR's This I Believe. The more universal matters he talks about are touching and beautiful; my view of the human universe is akin to his. But he ends on a strange repugnant note embroiled in the politics of his time. That is what scientists do, though, isn't it? Make bold statments that are often not quite right, but which lead the world forward into a lovely fresh jungle of new possibilities when the results prove true.
A recent study on the hormone oxytocin. sniff, sniff... You know, I really trust that you check this blog every day.
And finally, a single gene apparently switches the sexual orientation and complex social behavior of fruit flies. The awesomely powerful consequences of changes in simple rules of biological machines... wow. No one is suggesting that the same changes could be triggered in humans by the manipulation of a single gene, but this suggests that it might be fewer and simpler genetic changes than we might expect. Flip 2 or 3 genes and your carousing blowhard neighbor becomes a fabulous queen... ah, won't the future be interesting...
May 15, 2005
Wow. I have an easy smile on my face. School's out.
That was among the most intense nine-month periods of my life. New friends, and new roommates in a new house. A new school with new professors, mentors, and colleagues. New classes that pushed me to my limit both semesters -- including getting back into math (flexing that part of my brain that hadn't been stretched in a while). Multiple all-nighters in a row multiple times. The Salon3136 events, leading up to last nights 24-Hour Concert, which was awesome.
The whole year Solange and I spent loving from a distance, which was very emotionally difficult at times. She'll be moving here in early June for the Summer. :) In work, grant-writing, software-writing, and especially music-writing took up a hell of a lot of time and energy, and all have been satisfying. I've also listened to more new music in more new genres and learned more about the new music I've heard than in any period probably since I began my music classes at Vanderbilt back in 1996. I've met more composers and made more important life-long contacts than I ever have before.
And suddenly I'm free. No schedule. Free to use my time as I choose at every moment to get done the still long list of important projects. Haha, it makes me giddy just to be so relaxed! Wow. These are great times.
April 11, 2005
Life's easier lately.
That's all. Just simple. Loneliness not so present. Friends' faces more of a joy. Very weird to be subject to this. Ah well, so it goes.
Was awarded the GRPP grant for the summer. Friggin sweet. Hahaha :)
I don't know... just felt I should write something.
March 27, 2005
Just got home from the midnight movie at the Uptown Theatre: Taxi Driver. Walked home very slowly, definitely effected by the movie. In a strange, dual state. On the one hand very emotionally in tune with, and obviously having been controlled by or influenced by the movie. On the other hand, I was very objective about it. Could have stopped acting "odd" and just walked home normally. Decided at every step not to do so, seemed somehow right to be as I was... cathartic perhaps... started singing / moaning / chanting on the way home... by the time I got to my door, after hedging as to whether to take a long detour into the night, under the stars, collecting moonbeams... by the time I got to my door, I was singing Stasis, or something like it.
It's a poem I wrote at Vanderbilt in 1998... I sang it, accompanying myself on piano at the McGill Coffeehouse (Holy Cow, a picture of me performing on flute!!!)... it was at a very hard time in my life... The performance was quiet, haunting, and powerful, but was taken the wrong way by many people... thinking the song was about them, rather than simply an expression of myself...
I came inside tonight, and very quietly (it's almost 3am) performed it (I don't remember all the words, but the intention was the same) on the piano, singing... It occurred that I could do such a thing at a Salon3136 event... I don't know if that would be right... No one exposes themselves so emotionally here... it would shock people... and be... well... painful for me... in a strange sort of way... it would greatly change people's opinions of me... I guess I have to decide if I want that.
March 22, 2005
Jealousy / Anger That Inspires
Something I want to do in the not too distant future—a project to pick up... I like dancing to drum-n-bass music. I want to make a performative computer music work, where I can dance to control the audio. Just pisses me off right now to hear my friends working on something really cool... makes me feel like a fucking classical nerd.
March 17, 2005
So, I write from Baltimore, in Solange's room while she takes a cat nap. She's very adorable over there. I could just stare for hours. Watching her breathe, move her lips the tiniest bit... wiggle a toe... turn over.
It is utterly amazing how, no matter how long it's been, no matter what has happened in between, no matter what is going on in our crazy individual lives, the second I am in Solange's presence... everything becomes easy, peaceful, and normal. Instantly. Even if we were dropped on Mars, I think it would feel the same—we would explore together like we explore any situation together, we'd go about life just like we always have.
Amazing. Apart, longing and loneliness overtakes me, I bury myself in work, bury myself in anything to stave off the motivation-killing feelings... the horrible sense of completely being alone. Together, bam! My head becomes clear, my work loses the sense of frantic urgency. I can do what I need to do for a bit, relax for a bit, kiss her neck for a bit, laugh and do some more work. I get almost as much done and feel much, much happier about my life.
March 11, 2005
Keeping in Touch
Just received an email from what one could call a "long lost friend." She's not really, we were certainly not lost to each other, and it probably hadn't been that long in reality -- a few years maybe... made me remember some very good long lost times... gives me some beautiful food for thought to dream on tonight...
Really busy lately, as evidenced by my lack of posts... Edmund Campion is the bomb -- he's in the final running to replace Judith Lang Zaimont as she retires from the U of Minnesota... just finished a web application that my colleagues really really appreciate... applying for a grant that I've got an ok chance of receiving that would allow me to do some incredible research this summer... research I've been dying to take on for months... possibly years in earlier incarnations -- without the grant it's not very possible though... very time-consuming -- i.e., holding a nine-to-five or being in school full-time makes it almost impossible.
It's supposed to snow all this week in Minneapolis, only a little at a time... the days are definitely getting longer though... Spring is on her way round the mountain...
Did pretty well on a Differential Equations test today -- with five more minutes I could've gotten 100%, but just remembered how to do one of the problems in the last five minutes and frantically scribbled until time was up.
Spring Break next week -- road trip with j. and Noah to Baltimore... I'll stay with Solange... she'll be busy, but it will be wonderful anyway... I certainly have plenty to do... finishing that grant app not the least... a few contest deadlines coming up soon too...
February 13, 2005
As Solange soars home about five miles up between Atlanta and Baltimore, snow, thick and weighty, like an orchestra conductor's wrists, forms a constant sinking stream past the amber lamp across the street from my darkened, second-story window, having waited (fermata-like, those moments in passionate love where you pause, mid-breath, and wait for a small gasp and smile) for her flight to depart the precipitation's purview safely. She may be writing in her journal, reading, or planning her day ahead; my alarm is set for mathematics, quiet supervision, tutelage-sharing, and the other happy vagaries of my day. Having her here was perfect bliss. Music reverberated among us, acquaintances were made, and we reconnected. I'll miss her again soon, I know, but in the present, I can only smile. And sigh.
February 7, 2005
Being OK with Death
Just thinking briefly about my skull's run-in with a patch of ice last week... Things happen, we're always taking little risks... It's true—I have to acknowledge it—I could've died that night. In some alternate universe, I've been dead for a week now.
And you know what? That's OK. If I would've died that night, I would have died very, very happy, doing something I love, surrounded by great friends.
It would have been very hard on everyone still around, of course. And hardest on Solange, who might have beat herself up for not being here, even though we know exactly why we're apart now.
I'm glad I'm in this universe, still chipping away at all my life's goals. Gives one cause for pause, though, eh?
February 6, 2005
Sometimes I think I want to hide in a hole here, and not spend time with any of my friends. Being around them, sometimes, makes me lonely. Most specifically, being around them in romantic couples, or being around them as they talk about their relationship issues... these things make me miss Solange.
She is coming for Valentine's weekend which will be wonderful, but I know some part of me expects too much. I want to show her everything, take her everywhere, share my life with her completely, as I imagine she wishes she could do too, where she is. Being apart is difficult; we know this. Knowing it is difficult, knowing it will continue to be difficult, these things do not lessen the difficulty. Thirty-six hours together will be great, but it's obviously not the same as knowing she'll be in my arms every night.
I'm missing you Angel.
February 5, 2005
My house rocks; let me tell you why. We are all musicians, and we are all smart guys. We all have ideas about music and what it should be, what it could be. Our ideas aren't the same, but they're similar. We are all passionate about what we do. We feed off each other. (They keep me on my toes.)
There's a fun piece by Steve Reich called Clapping Music. I've heard he wrote it on a napkin at a bar—don't know if it's true, but it's that kind of piece. I started randomly clapping it. Mike joined in. Conversation continued (minus clapping). A few minutes later, Mike was like, "C'mon man—let's do clapping music!" He ran downstairs, and I followed. We proceeded, clapping, drumming, beating on our legs, the piano. Then we started making up our own rhythm, not using Reich's. That eventually morphed into us just jamming away. This kind of thing happens all the time.
So we were all home; j. and Noah got some food and we all had a drink. Then we started messing around on a rhythmic narration piece by j. It was fun. Then j. gave us suggestions, then we really rehearsed a bit, but it was still really fun. We were going to rehearse this other speaking thing that's also a house inside joke. It's inspired by The End of the World, and we're going to program it on the next Salon3136. Yes, our house does, in fact, have a website. Yet another reason why I love living here. Yet another reason these are the coolest guys ever.
Björk is the greatest. Just ask Mike Ethen. Her music pursues the expression of truths most of us know but can't or don't articulate. She makes me want to move my body, and every new album moves my mind to something it hadn't explored before. She collaborates well with artists in every field and genre while maintaining a strong sense of her own identity by shaping what those collaborations achieve, either in performance giving them direction, or in the studio molding their contributions into her creations. Everything I've heard of hers has an incredibly strong sense of musicality. She has said that she could have easily become a composer in the classical world, but gave her music school the bird. She is true to her own instincts, and because she and I share some of the same instincts, I am enthralled by what she makes. Awesome.
January 29, 2005
Minnesota culture is really interesting. It's adorable now, but on some level I'm glad I didn't grow up here. One thing that struck me about it last night is the fact that people subtly and in friendly ways reinforce their value of conformity.
I love ice skating, and I've never lived in a place where it is so accessible. Now that I own a pair of skates and live a block from an outdoor rink (that serves as a baseball field when temperatures rise), I go all the time, anytime the urge strikes. Last night, I particularly felt like skating from about 1:30 to 3:30am.
First, I just have to say it was a blast. I had the rink all to myself, plus they must have zambonied it at the end of the day because it was smooth as glass. It wasn't too cold out either—I even took off my jacket, hat, and gloves at one point because I was sweating.
The really interesting thing, though, was that person after person after person stopped whatever they were doing to ask me what on earth I was doing skating at x o'clock in the morning.
Usually my response was that it was the perfect time to skate—I had the rink all to myself! My inquisitors ranged from a couple girls who lived nearby who were drinking and just playing on the ice in their shoes, to a black lady driving by who actually stopped her car, opened her door, and screamed at me from the street. There were also people walking their dogs, and various official-looking cars that slowed, stopped, stayed until they were satisfied I was not a danger to myself of anyone else, then drove on. Cab drivers too: one stopped just to watch, another actually asked what I was doing, and if I'd teach him to skate.
Everyone was friendly, though. I suppose there's a sociological niche for outsiders in Minnesota, too, and perhaps if I'd grown up here, that's what I'd be. People made it very clear that I was doing something out of the ordinary, but once I exhibited confidence in my choice of activity, they laughed and joked and shook their heads, wondering what the world was coming to.
January 26, 2005
There is something so peaceful, satisfying, humbling, and beautiful about math.
In music, there are no hard and fast answers. Striving to create great art is a long, slow, arduous, often torturous process of wild swings. Moments of supreme confidence that one is "in the zone," writing truly great music, music that perfectly achieves the intended effect, to inspire, to elate, to communicate the essence of one's soul—those moments are interspersed with wild torrents of hate, disappointment, and self-deprecation, when no matter what one tries to do, the creation is flawed, fundamentally, awfully, a horrifying mess of mediocrity, or worse.
Math is the opposite. It is cool, calm, and objective. Even in the face of insoluble problems, approximation leads one incrementally closer to perfection. The steady march, stroll, even sometimes run toward the solutions not yet achieved goes ever on. It advances. One sees it advance. I, who am yet a beginning student of the vast discipline, can say to myself, "It's a small step, but I know more today than yesterday." Those great women and men on the leading edges of mathematics, I surmise, can say similar things, though no doubt the search causes them more than a little stress.
I have many refuges. Math, programming, physics, hiking, climbing. Music is one of my life's main paths, but when it gets too harsh, and the machete cuts not through the thicket, when I feel wholly lost in the forest and uninspired... almost invariably, without any intention on my part, I gravitate toward these peaceful pursuits. I follow them with the same passion, but it's easier.
Toward the end of the composition process of this brass choir piece, I started spending less of my enthusiasm on composition, and more on signal processing algorithms. I want to understand wavelet transformations. That's my pet project now. And it's beautiful. Every day I grasp a little more, and it excites me... but nothing about the journey toward understanding makes me hate myself for even a moment. Haha. :) That's simply refreshing.
January 24, 2005
Ok. This one definitely ranks among the worst days ever. I came home and listened to Nine Inch Nails The Fragile and cleaned my room in a ferocious sprint, and now I'm feeling a bit more mellow, so this entry won't have the vehemence it would have an hour or two ago.
Step 1, oversleep.
Step 2, realize it.
Step 3, lay in bed half crying, half yelling at myself to get the hell out of bed.
Repeat step 3 for a while.
Step 4, become ok with skipping math class.
Step 5, get out of bed.
Step 6, shower, aka experience the pleasure-pain of scalding oneself.
Step 7, pack bag for school.
Step 8, eat a piece of toast sprinting out the door.
Step 9, get on bus, realize I forgot something of little to moderate importance.
Step 10, hate self for this far out of proportion to its importance.
Step 11, get to school, work hard for a few hours, mostly satisfyingly.
Step 12, print all parts and score for brass choir.
Step 13, tape pages of parts together.
Step 13, mild celebration, in the name of all that is holy, it's finished.
Step 14, think, "All that's left now is to copy and bind the score; that's easy"
2:00pm realize you flaked on someone you were to meet at 11:40
- spend half an hour leaving her messages, listening to her messages to you, leaving her more messages, rearranging the rest of the day to meet with her
2:20 hand parts to Dr. Baldwin and head toward kinko's
2:30 halfway there, realize I didn't print a title page
2:40 become unbelievably frustrated by the lack of a simple drawing program
2:45 decide to draw a diagram on the inside cover by hand, print rest of cover
3:00 become infuriatingly insane attempting to find kinko's
3:10 find kinko's after directions from 3 people
- spend 20 minutes waiting for help
- spend 20 minutes explaining what I need
- be told it's easier if I email them a file
4:00 call person I flaked on to say I'm almost ready to meet her
4:15 back at school, have minor issues coming up with the file
4:30 finish emailing them the file
4:40 call kinko's to inquire as to when job will be finished, be told 6
- hang up
- realize that's too late for Dr. Baldwin's ensemble
- realize I disappointed him again, by being late
- nearly vomit
- call Dr. Baldwin to tell him the news, hear his disappointment, hear him reconsidering the concert date, hear him finally decide it's ok
- try again to get in touch with person I flaked on
- leave a million messages again
- start to head to another meeting
- get a call from kinko's saying they're having problems with the file
- return to lab to email them some fonts
- run around desperately trying to find the person I flaked on
- run into my afternoon meeting person several times, luckily she's chill, eventually says we'll skip it today
6pm wait for person I flaked on
... keep waiting
... leave her a msg
... leave her another msg saying I'm coming looking for her
6:30pm she calls saying she's on her way
- meet with her
Realize, by the end of the meeting, the following:
She wants me to go ahead and write her some music for her project, but, though I have been very clear as to exactly what materials, what kind of thematic suggestions, what kind of shape information I need to know what the heck her piece is going to be, she has given me none of this. Know that she'll be completely surprised by whatever I come up with, and that it will probably not be her idea of what fits the piece. Become very zen about this. Resolve not to work very hard on it.
6:55 go to get on the bus
7:00 realize I haven't picked up the scores or given them to Dr. Baldwin, even late
7:15 arrive at kinko's to find they didn't include the cover sheets
(watch my bus go by, get really, really pissed)
7:25 inspect scores with cover sheets, find them to be really ugly prints
- upon inquiry they tell me it all had to do with the file problems they were talking about
- pay only half price for this round
- leave paper originals with them to pick up tomorrow
- walk away
- grab a bus back to school to drop off the shitty score
- realize there's no point, Dr. Baldwin's gone home, so should I
- get off bus, wait
- get on another bus
After that it's home and NIN & cleaning as I said before.
Doesn't sound all that bad.
It was, from inside my body-mind anyway.
January 23, 2005
I'm in the midst of work on the brass choir... I think it's good... I think it might be really great... I'm ecstatic, but humble, I could be totally wrong, but... I think I'm doing it—whatever it is that we artists always strive for... here's hoping...
Beginning in the coals
Blog. Blah. Yup. Gonna try this thing. Let it start simply as a journal-type blog... see where it evolves.
So, today was down and up. I miss Solange, my fiancée, horribly. We're far apart for now. Yesterday was Abbie's birthday, and her party was lots of fun—got smashed... had slept a grand total of about 8 hours in the three days prior to that because I'm trying to finish a brass choir composition to give to David Baldwin, the director of that ensemble, so they can begin rehearsing... I'm proud of my work in some ways—for one thing it's 10 minutes long, for 15 players, and I've written it in 4 months! That far outstrips any pace at which I've composed in the past... 6 minutes for 4 players in 6 months is about normal... anyway, because it's so rushed I have less confidence in it, I've barely gotten to know the piece myself and I'm already handing it off to somebody to rehearse and perform... it might be awesome, it might be mediocre, I just don't know right now... and it's not quite finished yet... I'll be hashing out the drum set part, the other percussion part, and the bass part tomorrow, and printing scores... Finally finished, hopefully, by the time I sleep tomorrow night.
In any case, got smashed at Abbie's birthday party and woke up today, after my first full night's (morning and early afternoon actually... whatever) sleep in about a week... woke up depressed... really depressed... missing Solange, plus the brass choir isn't finished... I had hoped it would be by the time I actually got a full night's sleep. Mike made crèpes for breakfast. Left her house (I had slept on the couch), and came home. Slept here for a few hours, then went with Jen to the Minnesota Orchestra. Exquisite!
The concert began with Wagner's Siegfried Idyll, which was lovely... a love song cum Christmas and Birthday present for Wagner's young wife—truly lovely. That was followed by Lowell Liebermann's violin concerto, played by Chantal Juillet. Great piece, played very well. There was wonderful chemistry between her and the conductor. She is a smart cookie who gets serious respect from me. I don't know how many people noticed, but when she returned to the stage for a second ovation, she chose to first bow to the orchestra. She knows that those are the people who have worked hardest for that night, those are the people who actually care, those are the people without whom she could not have done it, and those are the people who have the knowledge to judge how well she did and to appreciate her talent and hard work. Then she bowed to us her audience, since we did appreciate her as well.
Then, the highlight of the concert was Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony. As far as I'm concerned it's the greatest piece of music ever written. My word, I was in heaven. So much better live than on any recording I've heard. Mischa Santora conducted amazingly, and all the players were smoking; I was blown away. Huge props to everyone... horns and trumpets didn't crack a single note, and their parts are often way high... piano and harp had beautiful blend and balance with the rest of the orchestra, all the woodwinds were phenomenal in every one of the gorgeous, meaty solos Serge gave them. Mischa handled the second movement's second half, that 3-minute-long accelerando just phenomenally... holding back, holding back, ever so gradually stepping things up... always smoothe, no jolts, except where they were totally appropriate... frankly: fucking amazing. I sobbed for every reason conceivable over and over and over, every movement. I know I'll take more lessons and improve my conducting so that I am confident enought to conduct my own music, but this concert really made me want to become a Prokofiev conducting specialist... to study all the symphonies and concerti in depth. The 5th and 7th symphonies are both just so unbelievable... sigh... add that to the long-term joy list, eh?
As Jen said, and I concur, that was one of the very few concerts I've ever attended, where I genuinely loved every piece.
Got home and then went bowling with Mike for a bit. Nice cap to the day. I sucked, but it was a good time. Mike's a good guy like that.
Anyway, that's my first serious blog entry ever. Guess we'll all just wait and see what comes next.