Archive for March, 2008

I’m no slug

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

…about the music

Very slippery.

As I allowed my obsessive-compulsive persona to shine today by wielding a straight-edge razor to remove unsightly smears of dried lacquer from the glass of the front French doors, my mind wandered. This was probably a very good thing, as I’ve been on so many back-to-back deadlines for so many months in a row that any sort of mental nomadicism has got to be healthy.

I was feeling almost guilty for cleaning the glass that had been bugging me for a while, rather than sitting back down at my desk and attending to any of the music biz things in the next line of triage that need my attention. I don’t usually give much thought to what transpires in the course of a week or a month, nor applaud myself for x,y or z (except a new piece of which I’m proud– that, I will glow about); I just do it and move on to the next thing. But as the glass became clearer, I gradually relaxed and started to recount what I’ve managed to get done in spite of feeling that never enough gets done: two solid new compositions, good adaptations of three of my existing works, a successful conference exhibit, several interviews and radio shows (even a virtual reality TV talk show in Second Life!), orders for nearly two hundred scores, an award for my violin and harpsichord duet, Slip, a presentation about my life at Friday Harbor Labs that benefited their K-12 science outreach program, two trips to New York, a signed deal with a production music library, two published articles, and my friends, my husband and my cats still claim they love me. And this is all since January. More to come over the next three months, from the look of my website.

I should add that both pieces were composed with the ongoing sounds of nail guns, air compressors and very, very loud banging around me, as various house remodeling projects from a new kitchen to hardwood floors became reality. Never in my life would I have imagined that I could compose good works under these sonically stressful conditions. But the fear of a looming deadline is a great motivator, and I surprised myself with my newfound ability to tune out 100 decibels of random firings, on command. It would be fair to say that I have finally learned how to focus.

A great by-product of the hardwood floors that I didn’t think about when we decided to install them: I now sound about ten times more impressive at the piano than I could ever have in what was formerly known as real life. From now on, if anyone wants to hear me play they’ll just have to come to my living room. I will become known as the eccentric island weirdo who refuses to be heard outside her home, in lesser acoustics.

Not only do Charles and the cats keep cheering me on, but the birdies do, too. I try to keep them happy. It’s a bribe, really, because what I see outside my windows is immensely more colorful and fun than television, and since we choose not to have television service, heck, I suppose I’m just desperate for in-home entertainment. Two days ago, I opened up one of the birdseed bins (also sometimes a deerseed bin, admittedly), and was fascinated to see this impressive, if slippery, 4 inch long (unextended) Pacific Banana Slug. This informative web page states that these fellas “can easily be identified by their resemblance to a banana,” but the only time I’ve ever seen a banana look like this was when I forgot to eat the last one in my kitchen before going to Europe for a couple of weeks. Perhaps my exact words upon returning home were, “oh look! there’s an adorable Pacific Banana Slug on my counter!” Probably not. Better still, check out what they have to say about these slugs under “Behavior.” Yikes! And you thought your dating life was masochistic.

Speaking of travel and of not being a slug, I am off once again tomorrow to the far reaches (from here) of the U.S.: specifically, Newport News, Virginia, where I’m being flown to attend the rehearsal and premiere of my new concert wind band piece, commissioned by the U.S. Army. For those of you reading this in the States, just glance over to the upper right at that pic of me on the beach, and remember: your tax dollars, hard at work. I’ll post a clip or two of the new piece for which you helped pay, when I’ve got a recording. Meanwhile, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping me purchase more seed for my birds, deer, and slugs.

Happy Spring

Friday, March 21st, 2008

…about the music


All paths lead to more green.
Interpret as you wish.

Island wannabe

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

…about the music

Waiting to find out.

And the little kelp clump is thinking, “someday I’ll grow up to be just like THAT!”

Reality is just perception. Keep the dream alive.

Friday alpaca blogging

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

…about the music

Happily-ever-aftering in camelid.

At some point in this bloglet’s existence, I suppose I’m going to run out of animals to post, but that time has not yet come. Actually, I had really wanted to show you the two adorable young raccoons who have become regular visitors to my studio doorstep each evening this week. But my nighttime photography skills are not good, and to make things even more challenging, I’d have to shoot through the closed glass door since I’m guessing that raccoons running loose in my office could cause just a bit of chaos. Might inspire an interesting piece, though.

The blogosphere has long enjoyed a Friday tradition in which otherwise serious contributors post cute photos of their cats. Despite having never been terribly serious to begin with, I’ve participated in this ritual on many occasions, as my kelp-flogged readers know. Yes, second only to porn and viagra ads, I’m pretty sure that the net is clogged with an over-abundance of kitty pics. But today, instead I offer up for your amusement other incredibly adorable creatures: alpacas.

I would bet that anyone who doesn’t know this island would be surprised to learn that it’s home to several alpaca farms. The animals do very well in the moderate climate, and so do their caretakers, breeding and shearing them to grace the rest of us with clothing even more luxurious than cashmere. If you like the ultra-soft warmth of alpaca fur, you’re in for a treat. At least I’ve heard. I’ve never been able to hold onto these large animals for very long, much less sling one around my shoulders, but I’m told that people just love wearing alpaca.

No longer adrift

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

…about the music


A signature of this island is the impressive amount of driftwood that wanders to its shores. Not just small branches, flung by a few gusts afar to become suddenly afloat, but entire trees blown over and out to sea from violent storms, and very large logs that tumble from barges while en route to a less sandy substrate. Our beaches are a repository for the thousands of stories these wooden immigrants might tell.

My own story becomes a happier one with each ring I add around my trunk (figuratively, not literally, otherwise my figure would be literally disfigured after 46 such rings and I’d need larger jeans). I spent much of my twenties and thirties adrift on seas of uncertainty. I worked ardently, but sometimes at cross purposes with my true self. Yet something clicked in my later thirties. An inner compass pulled by an invisible magnetic force took hold, and steered me to joy. Love, music, friendship, personhood, all became easier. I have no idea why, but I am grateful.

I’ve arrived to these shores, right alongside of the driftwood. All of us, no longer at sea, no longer adrift. Home.

Postcard from home

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

…about the music

There is no citrus at Lime Kiln.

Lime Kiln State Park is one of this island’s living postcards. One of the most photographed spots, it seems impossible to resist snapping one’s own pix of the lighthouse across from B.C.’s Southern Gulf Islands, even though the tourist shops offer plenty of far better ones on the cheap. My inner shutterbug bites often.

My outer loquacious self yaps often, too, and this interview just came out yesterday. Anything but a postcard, it is long enough to put you back to sleep during your morning coffee, I promise. The webzine’s side bar even contains an earlier interview with me from a year and a half ago, plus a review of this blog’s eponymous disc. Plenty of music-related fodder, for those in need of additional reading material the nature of which is not usually found in these kelp-infested pixels.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, whaddya think the going rate is for a thousand words?

A flying fish out of water

Saturday, March 1st, 2008

…about the music

Neither fish nor… foul.

Out of town business trips can be a little tiring, and I seem to be flown somewhere to do something every month these days. Since each voyage involves music and friends on the touchdown end of the plane trip, and since I limit my travel the rest of the month, I have a great time. But I always look for things that make the tedium of the to- and fro- segments amusing and productive.

For the latter, my laptop and Treo are invaluable. Email and web access anywhere, any time, are fun fun fun! There’s always something to read or answer… always always always! And, I like having the chance to keep working (or work at all, if I’ve been putting it off) on essays coming due, or the arc and scope of a new piece that’s in the gestation stage. I sometimes write my compositions by literally writing about them. What I want the music to do. Where a certain section will lead. How a particular passage could be developed.

Adjectives and adverbs and occasional wildly scribbled drawings, too, are all used to move a piece forward to the next step, and when I get back to my studio, I’ve got a nifty map of what I’m doing. That is, until I do it and the music itself chooses to do something entirely different. This actually happens a lot. I often compare composing a piece with walking a border collie on a leash: you think you’re going one way, but the dog thinks otherwise. A kind owner will sometimes allow the dog to choose its own direction and not rein it in too tightly. I try to be kind to my music. Most of the time I think it has me on a leash.

One of the constants on my desk is a stack of CDs received from colleagues, all waiting to be heard with my full attention (I marvel at people who can have music on in the background and still function at other things). It’s often hard to carve out time during a week to sit a listen to a disc, no matter how wonderful, when there’s so much to be done. And many times at home when I’m in the deepest throes of composing, I just can’t listen to other pieces at all because the constant music in my head leaves little room for anything else. I wish the solution for catching up on my list was to take discs or MP3s with me for long trips. But alas, listening to music on a plane is pointless; the jet engine drone devours all the low and mid-range frequencies that the music does. Given the choice, I’ll go with the engine drone, since the lack of one would put an effective stop to any need to listen to those CDs at all.

Last week, instead of taking the 9-seat puddle jumper to Seattle and droning Boeing 737 points beyond, I spent an hour and a half on the ferry from Friday Harbor to Anacortes, a small town on yet another island named Fidalgo that’s connected to the mainland by a bridge. I had left on the 6am boat and my ride east was accompanied by a sunrise that gradually revealed all the islands we passed. From Anacortes, it’s about 2 hours east and south to Seattle. The first third of the drive rolls past farmland framed by snow capped mountain ranges to the south and the east. Glorious.

My trip down was filled with wildlife, right up to take-off. In an open field on the right, thousands upon thousands of snow geese had gathered. The bright white was nearly blinding against the green pasture. A few minutes later on my left, I passed another field with even larger, even whiter migrating birds: trumpeter swans. Hundreds of them. To cap it off, as we neared a Douglas fir by the roadside, my van driver pointed to a full sized adult bald eagle perched only about twenty feet up. What a sight. All of this. A nice morning commute, indeed.

Yet, inspiring as all these birds were, nothing could compare to what I saw from Alaska airlines, above, as my Delta flight taxied to the runway. The Oscars should hand out Best Art Direction awards for aeronautics. I’ve always seen the potential for planes as mural canvasses. Now my dream has come true, at least on a few metal tubes. After wild salmon, can grizzly bears and moose be far behind? The thought of all these animals flinging themselves through the air with the rest of us from one coast to the other makes me smile. In my search for productivity, I am almost always amused.