Archive for 2008


Friday, October 31st, 2008

…about the music

Hunting for change.

…If you are a salmon.

And, scary if you are a Southern Resident killer whale looking for a salmon these days, because there aren’t enough in our waters right now to feed the pod populations. I am hopeful that, as with the possibility of desperately needed change offered by next week’s U.S. Presidential election, a terrible situation can right itself over time if we each become keenly aware of our ability to impact everyone’s lives.

Happy Hallowe’en! And if someone comes to your door in an Orca costume, give them a fish.

Direction and delineation

Monday, October 27th, 2008

…about the music

Delineated, in all directions.

Ten days is a long time to be away from my desk. Largely because I really enjoy sitting here. My studio could be titled, “Mission: Control Freak.” Absolute Nirvana for a creative, geeky gal like me for whom simultaneous multitasking engaging all corners of the brain is an Olympic event. The space in which I spend the bulk of my hours is a personal tidepool filled with artifacts that will define my little existence long after I no longer exist, if only for the short period of time before none of the stuff in this room exists, either.

Against the wall on the left, a fine upright piano laden with too many score pads, mechanical pencils and, most importantly, erasers. The place of bad starts to many pieces and initial sketches of a few decent ones. To the right of that, facing the center wall, is the belly of the beast: my digital workstation, replete with three large LCD monitors offering 57 glorious inches of visual real estate, fully consumed with arrays of slick-looking software windows vying for my attention, all hovering over an 88-note keyboard controller, which hovers over the Big Powerful Computer and some outboard rack gear. The place of utter sonic manipulation, when the humans and cats in my life refuse to allow me to manipulate them. And to the right of all that lies my sizable desk, snugly tucked under a picture window and by a glass door overlooking the woods and the deer and the birds and the water that glistens through the trees as the sun sparkles. This is the place where I sit as I type these blogellas to you and where I sit as I size and upload the photos I want to share here and where I sit when I scratch my head and wonder just which snippet of my music might accompany my thoughts and images. It’s the place where the bulk of my administrative, left-brain tasks are fulfilled: email correspondence, score copying and printing, order fulfillment, web presence updating, internet shopping and as much idle web surfing and time wasting as possible. In fact, the tighter the deadline, the more finely honed my expert procrastination techniques become. Brilliant.

The fourth wall, to the right of all the aforementioned, simply backs my various guitars and hand drums, which in turn are backed by a large and magnificent oil painting that spans the length of the room, a gift to me from a very close family member who is the talented and deeply loved artist. Its intense, jeweled blues, teals and greens abstractly depict a natural world not unlike the one a few inches away on the other side of the glass door. I am surrounded by visual peace.

Were I living on the island from which I just returned, I would decline to describe the general contents of my studio for fear that I might be rapidly relieved of them by a less than devoted but remarkably attentive blog reader. Not that anything I’ve mentioned is worth terribly much nor would be particularly useful to normal, non-music scribbling humans. But here on this bridgeless island, the prospect of such unplanned charity is somewhat laughable since you really can’t fit much on a 6-seat airplane, and the long wait in the ferry line usually leads to an embarrassingly deflating moment when the sheriff calmly walks up to the suspect’s car, knocks on the window, and invites them to, uh, step outside the vehicle. It’s happened here. And it’s hilarious. Some folks really earn their Darwin Award.

Direction and delineation. Facing north, I begin new pieces. Facing east, I bring them to life via technology. Facing south, I get them out into the world. And facing west, I breathe and meditate for a moment as I take in the stunning colors and shapes of the painting, and by doing so, allow my spirit to turn once again to the right and begin my own creative process all over again. I’m in my swivel chair. Swiveling. And I’m happy to be home.

Fall has befallen us

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

…about the music

Falling in you.

It’s Fall here. Leaves are Fall-ing: the process of being in their annual autumnal tumble. While my house and neighborhood are blanketed by spindly-leaved evergreens that belie the season, the middle of Friday Harbor boasts lots of great deciduous trees that decidedly boast lots of great colors. Even the pumpkins look like they could have Fall-en off a tree.

I am heading off this morning to two other places resting on similar latitudes that also enjoy the fall colors: Minneapolis, and New York City. If you happen to be in the Mini Apple, come over to the University of Minnesota’s Ted Mann Concert Hall on Wednesday the 15th at 7:30pm, and you can hear lots of beautiful shiny instruments played no doubt by beautiful shiny musicians, as the U of M Symphonic Wind Band makes sense out of my piece, Homecoming. There’s a fun story behind this commission, and if you click the link you’ll find a recent article about it, among other things.

And if you happen to be in the Big Apple, well, probably my best performance there will be that of dodging cab drivers, crosstown buses and Jersey drivers, and living to tell the tale. I’m going to make like an evergreen and not Fall, and with luck, not be felled, either.

I’ll be back late next week with more photos that will probably not be orange, more music that will probably sound very different from this accompanying clip, and more commentary that will probably include words not contained in this post nor possibly, any of my others. Stay tuned!
And stay upright and on top of things.

More Orcas-stration

Monday, October 6th, 2008

…about the music

A cormorant guards the ferry.

Nope, not whales this time. Chamber music. Imagine that! Above is one of the many views from the ferry landing on Orcas Island, to the northeast of San Juan Island by about 35 peaceful minutes over the water. I had ventured over to moderate a pre-concert conversation with the delightful Seattle Chamber Players on Sunday. You can get the gist of what we talked about from a little article I wrote in the local paper last week. The audience was great, and wonderfully open to having lots of notes flung at them that were composed by composers in possession of a pulse. We smell better than the dead ones, at least, and return emails a lot more promptly. I’m hopeful that more contemporary music will find its way to these islands over time. Art is about the living, not just about the history that preceded us!

It’s also about sanity, and maintaining it. As I glided effortlessly across the archipelago I was reminded once again of the stark contrast between my former concert commutes and my current one, as I described earlier this summer in this blog post. The sentiment does not change, and I don’t think I’ll ever take the beauty of this life for granted, any more than I could possibly ignore the beauty of a chamber quartet in the throes of musical passion. Whether a watery passage on the ferry, or a lyrical passage in a piece of music, it’s wonderful to have one’s senses awash with the flow of joy.

Seal of approval

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

…about the music

Music for two big things.

I thought I had a lot going on, and knew how to dress well to fit my surroundings, but I’m nothing compared to this creature. When it comes to balancing acts, I think this harbor seal wins, flippers down.

Gently rising

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

…about the music

An old cheesy cue, but I still like the music.

The view across this archipelago just after dawn, courtesy of my seat on Kenmore Airlines last week. You get a lot for your flying dollars here: not just a lap belt, but a second, full harness belt to sling across your chest should you have any doubts as to how the flight will turn out. I think I may have used it the very first time I flew this route, not wanting to tempt fate. Now, almost 30 flights later, my formerly white knuckles have long since returned to their natural calm pink. Rather than mull over what a sudden water landing might feel like (uh, very cold, in a 52 degree ocean), I mull over the impossible power of glaciers grinding across this area 15,000 years ago, and how the serendipity of gravity created such grace.

Still half asleep when I pointed my camera into the little plexiglass window, I was enamored of the softness of the smoky pastel tableau. As always, I had to remind myself why I was leaving for a few days. And as always, I immediately thought ahead to the beauty of this palette, seen later in the afternoon with the plane’s nose pointed north, not south. Going away is filled with the promise of invigoration from the outside world. Coming home is filled with that from within.

Most happy fella

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

…about the music

A happy dance written for the offspring of a friend.

Hello again my happy kelphistos, I hope everyone had a great week. I had the option of posting a photo today from that other small island I visit a lot, and showing you really really tall, impressive buildings, lots and lots of bright yellow taxi cabs, and a reasonable amount of neon signage. An accompanying audio file could have included insistent, if ineffective honks, the roar of bus engines as they pull away from the curb, and an array of colorful curse words in languages I never before knew existed and may never have the extreme pleasure of hearing again.

Instead, I’m opting to feature Houdini, who is the top sire of a good sized alpaca herd owned by Krystal Acres up here. When I took yet another of my island visitors to this always-picturesque farm the week before last, set amidst rolling pastures and glistening ponds, I was introduced to this fella and informed that nearly all of the cute babies we saw bouncing around were here thanks to his uh, ardent, efforts.

Now, that’s a job description anyone would love. No wonder he’s smiling!

One if by land, two if by sea

Sunday, September 14th, 2008

…about the music

Be calmed.

Well, I ain’t no Paul Revere, but I do seem to get around the country a fair bit. This morning it’s back to New York City for meetings and, with luck, some Tandoori cooking. I love Indian food, and of the remarkable number of culinary choices here on this island, that’s one country that has yet to be represented. If anyone reading this blog is a restaurateur from that part of the world and happens to be looking to relocate, consider this a big hint.

I wish I were taking the gorgeous gaff-rigged schooner above, Adventuress, the long way around: down the scenic Pacific coast, through the locks of the Panama canal, into the Caribbean dodging hurricanes (or not, these days) and up the Atlantic waterways. But instead of course, I’ll be in one of those cute mini-planes featured in earlier posts here, and then transfer to a less-than-cute maxi-plane to JFK.

How did I get this photo of Adventuress? Two days ago I was at sea on a whale watching boat, and we crossed paths on the way back to shore at day’s end. It was a wonderful day in the presence of the Orcas (including a new calf, seen below!), some Steller sea lions, and my entertaining friend Russell who is a marine docent in the summer months. I’ve been hard at work on a number of new recordings, and taking breaks to venture outdoors and commune with all the wildlife around me has become essential to my sanity.

That’s of course making the broad assumption that I had any sanity to begin with.

See you all over the weekend when I’m back from my small, native island of Manhattan, to the island about twice as large which I now call home. As you can tell, for very good reason.

Friday fox blogging

Friday, September 12th, 2008

…about the music


The longstanding tradition of bloggers posting cute kitty pix on Friday is one which I have shamelessly enjoyed every few weeks or so. But today, I can’t resist featuring another similar-sized creature who shares some of the same personality traits as my clever feline duo here at home. Yes, this fellow comes when I call him. For that matter, I suspect he comes when anyone calls him. These island foxes have little fear of people, and especially on the heels of a tourist-filled summer, they know that our palms often contain some sort of unidentifiable food product that tastes pretty good, and doesn’t require the effort to chase and kill. I don’t feed these fellas, but he didn’t know that, and when I got out of the car by my favorite beach yesterday afternoon, he trotted right over to me. I’m sure he was disappointed that all I held was a Nikon. I’m the one who got the treat.

The foxes here come in three basic colors: golden, red, and silvery black (both these pix are the same animal; the sunlight and shadow were variable). They’re all the same species, just different hairdos. I seriously doubt that over eons of time the black ones were evolved in order to camouflage perfectly with asphalt, and yet that’s the result here. Excellent if you don’t want the bald eagles to see you. Not so excellent if you’d prefer that any cars DO. Amazingly, I have yet to see any flattened, furry-tailed splotches, but I imagine it happens from time to time; foxes are all over this isle. I do my best when driving to make sure they’re not all over the road, too.


Saturday, September 6th, 2008

…about the music

Music for flute and baaaaasoon.

So, sheep are not quite as dumb as their reputation might suggest. They DO know to stay under a tree in the shade on a hot sunny day. And, to go there for some protection when it rains.
After all, they might shrink.

Purple and green

Monday, September 1st, 2008

…about the music


Certain color combinations carry with them specific associations emblazoned from an event or a moment from the past. For me, the most powerful and happy duet are purple and green. That’s got to be one of the many reasons I always feel so peaceful when I’m strolling in the local lavender fields. Another is that the scent of lavender is purported to be naturally calming. I think if I became any more calm in my daily life however, my friends might be alarmed enough to check for a pulse.

It started sometime around 1980. I lived in Manhattan, and back in the days when you could get across the country and back for $99, I visited a friend in San Francisco. She was a few years older than I, and lived in what was, on reflection, an unremarkable apartment in the Sunset area. At the time however, coated from the grittiness of New York City, I was convinced that I had landed in some sort of urban nirvana, enveloped by a strange new hipness shrouded in fog and incense and carrot cake and a rolling ocean slamming against one side of the town and a million other things that were utterly different from the mundane familiarity of the east coast.

Most striking to me was that my friend would set her table with forks, knives and spoons sporting alternately purple and green plastic handles. Why I thought this daring at the time I’ll never know, but there you have it. It was different and it was beautiful and it was beautiful because it seemed exotic and it seemed exotic because so much of the west coast seemed that way to this NYC kid. My friend, and her foggy apartment with the colored flatware, represented freedom to me, and offered a tantalizing view to what my budding life might become. Adding to the color theme mystique, she even had a set of Taylor and Ng coffee mugs that matched, painted with a pastoral scene of rolling purple and green hilltops.

Soon after I returned to Manhattan after that trip, I found the same mug and bought it.
This morning, 28 years later, I drank my coffee from it, as I have so many times before.
And later this afternoon I took a visiting friend to the lavender farm in the middle of San Juan Island. My life, from east to west, from purple to green, and with an ever growing sense of freedom, had come full circle.


Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

…about the music


Well, enough with my long and boring rants and diatribes. Time for something adorable! And what could be more adorable than a baby alpaca?

Answer: a soaking wet baby alpaca, sitting calmly in the summer rain. Awwww…..