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Alex Shapiro, composer email
Amusing Musical Musings

Cousin It?...
...as a gardener...?
Nope!

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You've Got Mail

Living at the beach has lots of wonderful advantages, one of them being that when it's time to set up a meeting for work related reasons, my colleagues are more than willing to come over to my place. It's not uncommon for neighbors to notice people entering and leaving my home at various times of day and often well into the night.

One evening in particular, I hosted a rehearsal of an ensemble that happened to be all men. The next day, a neighbor who I knew by sight but had never met, called to tell me that a delivery package meant for me had been left mistakenly with him. "Thanks," I replied, matter-of-fact. "I'm working right now so I'm not dressed, but if you could leave it on top of my mailbox I'll get it later today." The other end of the phone fell unusually silent for a moment. With a discernible combination of alarm and intrigue in his voice, he then inquired, "Exactly what kind of work do you do?"

©2008 Alex Shapiro

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Drinking Again

I do the majority of my composing very late at night and into the morning hours. The stillness of the evening provides space for the musical chaos which lurks in my brain; the lack of human vibration seeping through my walls in the form of emails and phone calls creates an openness to other forms of resonance.

After finishing my work around 7:00 am one morning, I was dog tired but still wound up enough internally to need to relax before going to sleep. I shut down my computer and padded into the kitchen, my eyes squinting from the rising sun blazing orange into the house. Standing by the picture window above the sink, clad in the silly looking flannel pajamas I find so comfortable to compose in, I proceeded to pour what little remained in a bottle of Chardonnay from a couple of nights before. Ah, a lovely way to end the work day.

With a wine glass in my left hand and a wine bottle in my right, I gazed out the sunlit kitchen window to see a neighbor walking by with her dog. She glanced up in my direction, and then quickly looked away. I noticed the wall clock, which read 7:15 am. Suddenly it dawned on me exactly what this must have looked like. I can just imagine the gossip among my neighbors now: "that Shapiro woman is nice enough, but it's so sad — she hits the bottle just as soon as she wakes up!"

©2008 Alex Shapiro

 
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In the Dentist Chair

My dentist is a pleasant man who tries his best to make the experience of having one's head violently drilled as enjoyable as possible. In an attempt to distract me from my obvious trepidation during one of my visits a few years ago, he casually asked me what I was working on.
"I've just finished a piano sonata," I answered.
"Oh," he said, "Which one?"
Puzzled for a moment, I replied, "My first, as a matter of fact."
"It's great that you've taken the time to do this as an adult," he said. "My daughter started playing when she was six. So, whose sonata?"
This was getting complicated.

"Mine," I replied, thinking that I should come in for checkups more often if only to jog his memory as to my occupation. "It's for another pianist, but I’m playing it right now."
"But I mean, who?" he persisted.
"Well, I'm not sure yet," I said, "I'm about to start showing it to a few pianists to see what they think."
Shocked that a full committee of players would be necessary to determine authorship, he exclaimed, "You’re playing the thing and you don't even know whose it is?"
"It's mine!" I declared, as both Novocain and frustration began to wend their way through my gums.

"Well," he warned, "I suppose you can get away with that ruse for a while, but sooner or later someone is bound to discover who the composer really is!" My eyes began to glaze and I accepted that my explanations were simply of no use. "I certainly hope so," I sighed, as a humorous numbness crawled over my teeth and across my mind.

©2008 Alex Shapiro

 

 

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The Gestation Period

Among his many laudable sensitivities, my husband Charles is wonderfully tuned into the subtle variations in my mood over time as I'm working on a new piece. As my deadline looms closer, he is privy to (subjected to, really) increasingly turbulent moods, of varying degrees of intensity, at seemingly random moments. Sometimes I catch him glancing at me as I stare at my computer, mindlessly surfing the internet, obviously distracting myself from the work at hand. Where another less enlightened being might assume I was just slacking off and procrastinating, Charles always has the wisdom to declare proudly to our two cats that I'm "cogitating." And right he is, as any fellow cogitator knows.

He and I often refer to this time as the gestation period: the days and sometimes weeks which span the abyss between the coming up with the new piece in one's mind, and the writing down of all those new little notes on one's score pad. Yes, new pieces do involve a form of birth. Not too long ago, the fetal notes in question belonged to a newly hatching flute quartet.


I had the luck to marry a fabulous cook, and one night Charles lovingly placed in front of me a splendid meal that would supply my feeble brain with enough energy to gestate on the embryonic quartet-to-be for the remainder of the evening, regardless of any output of actual notes. As I noticed him watching me hungrily wolf down the fish and vegetables on my plate with a vigor usually reserved for cave men after the kill, I sheepishly grinned in embarrassment. Ever understanding, Charles simply proclaimed, "Hey, don't worry, sweetheart– you're eating for five!

©2008 Alex Shapiro

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Working on a Deadline

A colleague called me recently and told me about his dead lion. I sympathized; as a fellow freelancer I know how difficult that can be. I had a dead lion once, and boy, did it stink! After a few days, it became an urgent dead lion. I've had pressing dead lions from time to time, but flattening them out like that only makes them smell more. In general, though, when you've got a dead lion, you have to get rid of it as quickly as possible, so that you can get paid for it. Of course, if you stall and wait too many days to get rid of it, but finally unload the thing, then you miss your dead lion, and that's really sad.

©2008 Alex Shapiro

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Just Slightly Confused

A number of years ago, when my emerging career had yet to emerge enough to make my androgynous name as famous in the concert music world as, say, Stevie Nicks is in the rock world (of course these days, I have to fight the paparazzi off with a stick in the supermarket. Ah, such a hassle), I opened my mail one afternoon to read the following letter from a small ensemble in a distant state to whom I had sent a score for bassoon and piano:

"Dear Alex,

Thank you very much for your submission to our Call for Scores. We received many scores and apologize that we can only consider music written for bassoon and piano at this time. Furthermore, there may have been some confusion regarding the project, which was especially created for the support of compositions by women."

Whoops. From now on, I'll be sure to read the postings more carefully!

©2008 Alex Shapiro

 

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Since 2006, Alex has published a personal, pixelsonic blog called Notes from the Kelp, that has developed a following of thousands of readers each month. She pairs snapshots from her daily life by the sea with audio clips of fitting pieces of her music, and welcomes comments. It's Alex's contribution to virtual tourism! Join her in Kelpville, and see where her music really comes from. Enter another world, here blog


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