cut + paste

“some advice:

if the thing you’re looking for doesn’t exist outside of your own head right now, then you have some options.  

maybe you can find it in a book. learn how to use the library.

someone you know might be able to help. figure out who.

but if, for right now, all you can do is write it down again and again until it feels within reach, then do that. write all of it. keep it hidden if you need to.

you might eventually write down a map that will lead you to it.

and if you draw a map but you can’t go looking right away, you can fold it up, put a stamp on it, and send it out. maybe someone else can, and they’ll send for you later. maybe that’s enough for now.

when you find it, it might not be what you imagined, and it might break your heart. don’t worry too much about that right now, though.

    that’s a story for another time.”

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secret transmissions

i know how it feels to look around a room and never see anyone who looks like you. i know about the quirky habits, persistent questions, careful answers.

so i learned how to turn invisible.

i read every book at the library, and i wrote my own stories.

i followed the books to record shops, and i decorated my math folder with words to songs that nobody in my class knew.

i daydreamed about singing along to those songs with someone else, hanging out in my bedroom, walking around downtown, going to gritty little coffee shops, having earnest conversations.

then one winter, i found my people.

it was not like the stories i had written, but it was enough.

i think everyone’s got
their own version
of the same story.

from geographies #1, a percussion concert and zine.

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being alone, 1998


sit at the desk. swivel back and forth in the creaky old office chair. scribble on the white wood with a blue pen. lick your thumb and smudge it out. peek through the curtains into the empty street. picture her car in the usual place. put on a cd. change it after one song. skip ahead a few tracks. absorb it all. copy down a line onto the back of your notebook. sneak out to the kitchen for a drink of water. leave the cup on the table. flip through last year’s journal. try to remember what you didn’t write down. think too hard about it. start to write a letter. fold it up and hide it. write some embarrassing poetry instead. put your head down. stare at the paper until you can see the fibers. sit up and pick a different cd, but not one of those old ones. hear your dad cough through the heating vent. turn the volume down just in case. read a chapter or two. remember things from a summer ago. pick out the good parts. look forward to this one and leaving leaving leaving. think about how it would have been before.

try to be glad for all of this, even though.

from geographies #1

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as i’ve been putting up posters for geographies #1, i’ve been thinking that maybe the phrase “concert + zine #1” is a little confusing.

geographies is a zine in which some of the pages are on paper, and some of them unfold in front of you, on stage. some are text that the audience will read at designated times throughout the concert, and some are a piece of live percussion music, either alone or with dance. this concert is “experimental” in every sense of the word. i’ve never tried to integrate a printed zine and a live concert before, and i don’t know exactly how it will work, but i’ll sure have fun trying.

what’s the zine connection? i spent most of my high school and undergrad years as an active part of the zine community, which was a great creative outlet and the means by which i made many dear friends. as a musician and composer, i sometimes envy artists whose work produces a tangible physical product, so i wanted to experience that again for myself, since it’s been about 11 years since my last zine.

if it’s a concert, why all the reading? i find a lot of my old zine habits cropping up in my composing process, and writing is an especially huge part of that, so i wanted to find a way to bring that into the product as well. initially, i considered having the text read aloud, but part of the appeal of zines is the intimacy between creator and reader. holding something in your hands that someone else made with theirs is an intimate act, moreso than reading something on the internet or hearing it read in a roomful of people;  i want to give the audience a chance to engage with the text on their own terms and in their own time.

what kind of music is it? i guess you could call it contemporary chamber music, experimental, or something along those lines. most of it is composed and performed by me, all of it uses percussion instruments (mainly drum set, vibraphone, and found objects). it’s not especially loud or noisy, and i think it’s all pretty accessible, whether or not experimental music is your cup of tea.

can i just get a copy of the zine without coming to the concert? sure, but you’ll be missing about half the content.

what’s it about? you should probably just come and find out for yourself.


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coming soon.

coming soon: music for percussion + zine.

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It’s been awhile since I’ve updated, but now I’m putting this all back together. In the meantime, look for updates, music, and events here:

SoundCloud: the home of my percussion sketchbook

tumblr: sketchbook updates plus other assorted thoughts on making music

facebook: events

bandcamp: music you can buy, if you’re so inclined.

I’ll be back soon.

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some thoughts on my sketchbook assignment

Now that my self-imposed month of making a recording every day is over, I wanted to take a little bit of time and take stock of what I did, how it went, and what I got from it.

My original plan was to create a short percussion piece of some kind every day for a month, whether or not I had the time or the motivation on any particular day, with the main goal being to put myself in the habit of daily music-making. I also hoped to carve out some free creative space for experimentation and play, in order to generate and pursue new ideas and loosen myself up; I know that, when I’m Working On A Piece, I tend to go too quickly from the improvised to the written-down, and then I get stuck.

Every day for a month, I made a little percussion recording, using whatever instruments or found objects struck me. Almost everything was recorded using a iPod Touch with a Belkin TuneTalk and FourTrack.

Sometimes there was a theme (things you sit on, sounds my students make),  but mainly I just used what’s available to me at home: a drum set, an old vibraphone, and a bunch of little accessory instruments. Sometimes, I just sat down, pressed record, and played the first thing that came into my head. Other times, I had a particular idea I wanted to explore, or the dribbles of an actual piece I was stuck on.

So here’s what happened.

First, like I had hoped, this self-imposed structure helped me to build up and maintain momentum in my creative life. Certainly, I would rather be playing music than doing almost anything else at any given time, but it can be too easy to de-prioritize music-making when there are lessons to be planned, laundry to be done, friendships to maintain, etc. This sketchbook assignment forced me to make music a part of every day; it helped me to schedule my time around music-making, rather than fitting it in as a treat if I got other things done…but making music shouldn’t be the dessert, it’s the tofu and potatoes. Now that it’s “done,” I am finding it much easier to put music higher up on my priority list (but just don’t look in my kitchen, ok?).

I started out the month a bit more adventurous about what instruments I used. The earlier ones included things like a hoodie zipper or an exercise ball, while the later stuff was mostly a lot of drum set and vibraphone. Sometimes I was just too lazy to come up with something weird to play on, other times I had specific concepts or compositional methods I wanted to work with on the vibes and drums. What did stay the same, though, was that as it went on, I found myself thinking about these little sketches all the time, trying to come up with new ideas, searching for neat sounds to use. Before, when I’d think of ideas like that, I’d write them down in a notebook, and then forget them. With this project, there was always a tangible way to put them to use Right Now, and one that I will continue to use.

On a similar note, I think that doing this every day, inspiration or not, gave me a little insight as to what “my style” might be, what my preferences are, and what “my” music sounds like. I realize that sounds kind of ridiculous, but when I first started composing, I spent a lot of time sitting in cafes, drinking americanos and thinking about What Kind of Music I Want to Write. Fun, but all I have to show for it is a bunch of notebooks with lists of bands and vague, rambling thoughts. While there was certainly value in that introspective time, obviously, it’s much more productive to make the music first and figure it out later, and forcing myself to just jump into creating without all of the forethought made that very clear…especially when I realized that some of those vague, rambling thoughts were subconsciously finding their way into the music I ended up making.

I think the most significant thing I’ve gotten from this, though, is putting the focus of composing on actually playing the music. As I write that, I realize what a silly thing it is to say, but let me explain. When I first started composing, I was living in a tiny apartment where I couldn’t actually play anything, and I guess I had this idea of a composer as somebody who pores over staff paper and then hands it to someone else to perform. I would improvise to come up with ideas for pieces, but then end up stuck in the space between “hey, I have this great idea for a piece, it sounds like this!” and “ok, how am I going to write this so someone else can play it?” with nothing to show for it but some half-baked iPod recordings and scribbled-on staff paper.

Doing this project showed me what should have been obvious all along: the composer and the performer don’t have to be two separate people. Pieces don’t have to have every note written out, or even most notes written out; they can change substantially from one performance to the next. Of course I knew this, but somehow wasn’t applying it to my own work.

So why does it matter? Well, part of the reason I started composing was to give myself something to play that was within my means as an individual without the easy and ample access to loud-music-friendly spaces, skilled colleagues, and a huge inventory of expensive, obscure, or large instruments that association with a university gives a percussionist. I had this subconscious idea that I wouldn’t be ready to perform anything until I had nailed it down on a piece of paper, but that’s just silly. Through doing this project, I got a glimpse of what solo performing could look like for me now, something beyond classic marimba solos and recital halls. With the help of technology, I can be my own percussion ensemble, performing and recording and composing on my own terms.

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