Thursday, January 30, 2014

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Messiaen in Seattle

Heard some very fine music this weekend: Turangalila and the Quartet for the End of Time, both by the French master Olivier Messiaen. I don't do reviews on this blog, and I won't start now. But I will say that the Seattle Symphony really outdid itself on the huge orchestral work Turangalila. I have heard this piece so many times, but never live. It has so many wonderful colors and textures, and they crash into each other with such force, yet with such grace. I found it thrilling.

The Quartet was performed the net night by SSO players, and they did a very good job. It's is a very emotional piece for me, and it never fails to draw me in. Congrats to the musicians and t the SSO for their programming and commitment to recently-new-music.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Music-making in Amsterdam

On the last day of our Europe trip, I had the opportunity to do some playing with my friend Anne La Berge. Anne is an amazing flute player, and a wonderful electronic musician (well, actually she is a human musician who has a wonderful way of using electronics). When we booked our vacation for Luxembourg, I contacted Anne to see if we could do some playing together, and she was generous enough to line up a recording and a gig. 

The recording went very well, I think we got some amazing sounds. We should have some rough mixes soon to give an idea. The recording happened at an amazing facility that is designed for rehearsing and recording. Some 100 rooms of varying sizes, all decked out with equipment, a cafe, bathrooms. There isn't anything like that in Seattle, for sure.

We had help from Luke, a friend of Anne's who manned the computer for the recording. Anne has a great ear for textures, and it was a real joy to do this kind of electronic improv with her.

My set-up...

Anne's set-up...

Luke manning the recording.

After the recording and a little dinner, we met at a music venue called Zaal 100 for a 9:00 show. I have to admit that I was dragging by 9. Our flight was early the next morning, and the trip, while very smooth and easy, was not without jet-lag and some king of stomach bug. So I was dragging when we got there. But once the show started, I was transported to another level, we had such a good time. It was a quintet: Anne on flute, her daughter Diamanda Dramm on violin, Eric Boeren on trumpet, Wilbert de Joode on bass. They were all the most intense listeners and sensitive players. It was truly a great evening. The space was cool, sort of like Gallery 1412 but with more spaces and a cafe/bar. A decent and very appreciative crowd. It was a great way to end our trip. 

Waiting for the tram to the gig.

Improv set at Zaal 100

Post-gig pics... me and Anne

A late tram ride back to the hotel...

It was a great trip, and a great musical time as well. A couple of rough vids from the gig:

A short, action packed excerpt

A sudden duet with Wilbert to end a set


Had a great winter break/vacation in Amsterdam, Luxembourg, Trier, Bruges, Antwerp, and back to Amsterdam. Visited our friends Chris and Jill and our goddaughters Abby and Maggie in Luxembourg. They hosted us and travelled with us for a few days. The girls are so much fun, and growing up so fast...

Some highlights below:

Alissa and the girls

Great organ pipes just suspended in the cathedral in Trier

My new favorite beer: Brugse Zot

An amazing new contemporary art museum in Luxembourg
designed by I.M. Pei

I ask myself this same question every morning...

The tower at Bruges at night.

The city square in Bruges

Chris B now eats his panini with knife and fork. 
He has been abroad for too long!

The best piece in the Antwerp modern art museum

The Antwerp train station...

A cool unfolding bathroom in Amsterdam.

Anarchist mural in Amsterdam

Alissa after a day of shopping and walking in AMS.
(Contrary to what the wall says, she is not a mess at all)

Friday, December 28, 2012

Hello 2013

2013 promises to be a very exciting and busy year. This year marks my 20th year in Seattle, and I am looking forward to some very exciting "anniversary" events:

I am traveling to Amsterdam for a show at Zaal 100 with Anne La Berge. We are going to spend some time recording, and then do an improvised electronics show with a couple of local musicians. Should be a very fun time.

APRIL 12th
Much more to come about this, but I am honored and excited to be doing a show as part of the Cornish Music Series. This will be a show with all premieres of new electronic music, including new work with dancer/choreographer/filmmaker Corrie Befort, a performance by Triptet, excerpts from my in-progress electronic opera "(w)hole", and a work written specifically for Poncho Hall and the many ghosts that reside there. Save the date, would love to see you there.

Unfortunately, June marks the date of my next surgery, a partial-wrist-fusion of my left hand. This one, I am not so much looking forward to.

Non-sequitur (a local presenting organization) is sponsoring a show that will feature three new premieres of acoustic compositions of mine, including my 1st string quartet, entitled Invisible Cities, and a new work for 5 pianos (an acoustic surround sound piece) as yet untitled. Very excited about this show, I hope you can save the date for this one too.

This is my last post for the year, here is a little preview track of Triptet's new album, Figure in the Carpet.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Goodbye to 2012

As 2012 draws to a close, I wanted to take a second to take stock of a very productive and exciting year. (Some of these are discussed in more detail in previous posts.)

JANUARY saw the release of a new CD featuring my chamber opera:
Hunger - The Journey of Tamsen Donner.

FEBRUARY ushered in two new compositions (hopeful for 2013 premieres of both):

Three Stages for Marimba 

New Clapping Music

In APRIL, I got the great opportunity to perform with Amsterdam's Anne LaBerge here in Seattle. Anne is a wonderful composer and quarter-tone flute player. We had a great improv session, and are going to be playing a show and doing some recording in Amsterdam in just a couple weeks.

MAY was a big month. Michael Monhart and I traveled to Boise to be part of the Boise Improvised and Creative Music Festival. We were short one Greg Campbell for it to be Triptet gig, but we muddled through as Diptet!

Then I attended the commencement ceremonies for Cornish College of the Arts. My first year at Cornish was really amazing, and the second year has been even more so. I am really enjoying my time there, and the students are inspiring and so dedicated. I attended commencement to accept an award for teaching excellence, which was a surprise that I was extremely honored by.

Then we took Triptet to NYC and recorded our second album with Steven Walcott / Engine Records. It was a terrific session in upstate NY, pics below in a previous post.

JUNE ushered in the summer, and one of the biggest accomplishments was that we finally finished building out cabin out in the Methow Valley. Again, pics and lots of info on our blog:

JULY and AUGUST were spent dealing with my wrist surgery, which you can read about below in much more detail.

SEPTEMBER brings the start of the school year, and I was very excited to be back at Cornish for another year. I got to teach Fundamentals of Electronic Music, Classical Theory III, and a Special Topics 20th-century Theory course. In the spring my schedule is Classical Theory IV, Interactive Arts (a collaborative-teaching experience with Wade Madsen and Heather Dew Oaksen), Listening to Music  (for the dance department) and private composition lessons. It will be a busy spring!

OCTOBER was a busy month of teaching and rehab for my hand. 

NOVEMBER saw the release of Triptet's new CD - Figure in the Carpet.

DECEMBER was the first time I performed since the surgery, as Triptet had a CD-release party for the aforementioned CD in Seattle. With the end of the semester at Cornish, I was very proud of so many of the students in their recitals and juries. We are graduating some really fine musicians this year, good luck to each of them.

On a personal note, Alissa and I also had a great holiday season, seeing my family in Boise at Thanksgiving, a long-standing tradition of viewing It's a Wonderful Life at the Grand Illusion with good friends, and preparations for this upcoming trip to Europe to visit our god-daughters Abby and Maggie (and their parents) and doing some shows in Amsterdam. 

There were so many other wonderful events during 2012, too many to list. I heard so much great music made by such great musicians this year. There is so much talent in this town! I had so many great experiences with friends, family, students, colleagues, comrades in music, the honkballers, contractors, surgeons, physical therapists, etc...

Finally, it is not lost on me (or Alissa) that today marks 3 years since our most traumatic holiday, and memories of that terrible day bring a profound reminder of the fragility and preciousness of our lives. We feel so lucky to be surrounded with such a great community of friends and family, and count our blessings (instead of sheep (or cows)) every day. 

Happy New Year to everyone!!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Hello friends,

Long time... I have been kind of ignoring this blog for awhile, thought it might be time to make a few posts to catch up.

This first post of 2013 (actually, not quite yet, but close enough) is a short explanation of what has been happening with my hands.

As some of you know, I had wrist-fusion surgery in July on my right wrist. This is to alleviate about a decade of pain from osteo-arthritis. It isn't clear exactly how it happened, but some accident or forgotten fall in my youth finally caught up to me. A splayed tendon in my right wrist was causing arthritis, for which I was taking medication for the last 7 years.

Here is my wrist about 7 years ago:

At this time, the arthritis in my RH was not too bad, but in my left it was getting unmanageable. Here is the LH wrist about 7 years ago:


This shot shows the arthritis, under my thumb, where the bones are rubbing together.

So I decided to take the next step in the treatment, a partial-wrist-fusion. We decided, after consulting with the surgeon, to do the right wrist first. July 11, they removed my scaphoid bone and fused together the remaining metacarpals. Here is the right wrist 6 weeks after surgery, after pins were removed...


Here you can see the removal of the bone under the thumb, and the fused bone on the right of the picture (looks like a ginger root!).

The upshot is that in the (almost) 6 months since the surgery, I am about 70% back. I have permanently lost some mobility in the wrist, but am getting back to full strength. I am playing again, mostly pain-free in the right-hand.

The bad news is that the LH is scheduled for surgery in June. It has been a long slog, and will now be another year before I am close to full strength. And getting back to playing will much harder with the left-hand recovery. But I am optimistic, and hopeful that I can build a new technique that will accommodate these issues, and come out on the other side playing without pain. It is amazing what an invasive thing this kind of surgery is, and I can only try to look past it to better days.

So, there we have it, about 1/4 of the way through the full surgery/recovery...





Sunday, June 10, 2012


So after many, many years of listening to recordings, watching videos, studying scores, etc... I finally heard Nixon In China last night at the San Francisco Opera. I think that there are a handful of modern operas, say in the last 50 or so years that any opera composer has to reconcile with in one way or another. This is certainly on my list of must-reconciles.

The orchestra was fantastic, the singers mostly very good, and the hall and sets pretty amazing. The piece as a whole fell a little flat though, perhaps too many expectations on my part, but two standout moments for me. When Adams (at least 80's Adams) is at his best, for me, is when within the context of the repetitive lines and rhythms and structures, the vocal part takes flight in a dramatic but restrained beauty that is just breathtaking. Pat Nixon's aria to end the second act is just mesmerizing, and the final aria is a beautiful winding down and deconstruction of the previous three hours of music. So glad to hear/see this work live finally. Also funny to see Adams take his curtain call and get a rock-star reception from the home-town crowd. Composer as rock star... There is hope yet!

Coffee for act three!
One of the great parts about this experience was getting to be here with our good friend Jesse C, who moved here, or to San Jose anyway, against my vehement protestations, last year. He came to the opera with Alissa and I, and later today we are headed to see the San Jose Giants play the Stockton Ports (single A) in what can only be described as glorious weather. I am sitting in his and Hana's backyard now, writing this update, 75 degrees, slight breeze, sipping lemonade freshly squeezed from lemons growing ten feet away. No wonder people move here.

Perfect day for a baseball game... The San Jose Giants. Very fun time. I love minor league games and the funny promo things. This game there was a designated "beer batter" - one player front the opposing team so designated; if he strikes out then the beer is 1/2 price for the next 15 minutes. Felt bad for the kid, until he struck out and I raced to the window for a cheap(ish) beer...

And of course one of our main reasons for traveling to CA is to meet our new friend, king Henry...
More soon!


Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Place

Back from NYC and the new Triptet record is being attended to by Steven. Very happy with the early results, should be a beautiful, strange album. Will let you know when it is out, probably in the Fall...

Back in WA, things have been a bit strange and sad. The Cafe Racer shootings, which happened just a few days ago, has been heavy on all of our minds. It is surreal and unreal at the same time. I was just leaving town the day it occurred, and it was hard to be away from home when something like this happens so close to home (both literally, blocks from our house; and figuratively, losing colleagues and comrades). The Racer is a great hangout, and supports this weird music scene and it is a complete shock that this would happen.

Here are some links if you haven't heard about it.

*** ugh ***

I spent the last week or so in our just-finished cabin in the Methow Valley. We have been working on it for the past 3 years, it has been a huge project and we are finished enough to begin occupying.

You can see the years progress on our cabin blog:

I brought up a desk and supplies for a week of composing, but honestly spent more time napping and resting than actually composing. I have gotten knee deep in a newly commissioned piece (Brian Chin commissioned it) for trumpet, vibes, guitar and baritone. It is a set of three songs with some of the most beautiful poetry written in the last 100 years, by Fernando Pessoa. I am going to set them in the original Portuguese, which means a bit of research and work on my part to figure out this beautiful language. Thanks to Jovino Santos Neto for helping me with the pronunciations... Pessoa was a strange man, a mystic, who wrote volumes and volumes of poetry, in his own name and under several others. These three songs are all about sleeping and dreaming. It is going well, but much work to do.

Hope you are all enjoying the summer (perhaps it actually feels like summer somewhere other than here in rainy, cold Seattle...)


Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Arrived NYC ion Thursday, thanks to the wonderful folks at Amtrak. I love the train. Had to get up at 4:30 to make it in time for the conference, but it was worth it. Plenty of conference highlights, two to share: opening remarks b George Lewis. Not sure they come much smarter or visionary than George. His talk was called "Why do we want our computers to improvise?"... It encapsulated most of the presentations, and brought up some profound ideas and complications to electronic musical interactivity. One of his main points: interactivity only becomes improvisation with freedom. Freedom is a big issue with George, including social and political freedom. And in the realm of improvised musical freedom, he had a lot to say. I think that my own way forward through the electronic music realm is with an emphasis on freedom, and on the identity-creating power of our machines and their ability to interact and improvise with us.

Second main highlight for me was running into my mentor, Henry Threadgill. We had a nice talk, it is always so great to see him. Reminded me of my great fortune to have had such incredible teachers and mentors. Threadgill, Dempster, Ung... Many more of course.

The other presentations were quite interesting, with some of the French composers/engineers making some new and potentially big new things (musical objects, learning systems like OMAX, etc). Overall the level of musical thinking was not the main focus, and that showed... But some real cool stuff happening.

I spent the afternoon in Washington Square Park, one of my favorite NY haunts. It was a picture perfect day:

Then on Friday we loaded up the car and Triptet headed upstate to make a new CD with Engine Records. We headed to Michael Monhart's place near Red Hook NY, a very special cottage tucked up on a rear river. We had plenty of gear:

Had a great time in the studio, and Greg and Michael and I are all really looking forward to the record. Here are some studio shots, courtesy of Alissa and Jane.

Steven, our engineer and mastermind of engine records.

This is Cole. He is patiently waiting for stuff to get rolling.

Notice Cole making sure all my gear is working.

Here Cole is explaining the finer points of boom mics to Michael.

These are my sweet nephews Silas and Kazin, taking turns

making weird sounds with the theremin.

Back to NYC after a wonderful day with the Blacklows, who graciously hosted us and kept us entertained the whole time - it is a great life when you love your in-laws. Speaking of in-laws, Jane and Henrik were also there, on different days. So jealous of my brother-in-law Dave who gets to spend so much time with them both!

Alissa flew home early in Monday, and I spent the day at MOMA. It is one of m favorite places in NY, even though it was completely jammed with people...

Said hello to Tonya, saw these two interesting pieces:

A room with all four corners covered in

candies and candy wrappers. You could eat the candy

and add your wrapper to the pile...

And these cool cutouts in the wall, with shoes in the

spaces, covered with a thin membrane like sheepskin, sewn into the wall.

Hard to see in this pic, but very cool.

Saw two great shows at Roulette, the Elclipse Quartet played Feldman's Piano and String Quartet, and on Tuesday played Crawford-Seeger, Roscoe Mitchell, Ben Johnston, and a cool new work by an LA composer Sean Heim. Turns out Sean and I went to ASU together, both studied with Chinary Ung, and spent time at a festival together in Oregon in the 90's. Fun to see him, and to hear his great piece... And the Feldman was fantastic, I have wanted to hear that piece live for many years.

Now headed home, finally. I have been out of town 17/18 days, and I need to be home soon. Have to fly over Montana first though...