Archive for May, 2009


Monday, May 25th, 2009

[IMAGE] Pacific coast ship wreck

[IMAGE] Pacific coast ship wreck

…click to listen:

…about the music

Ooooh. Aahhh.

Back from NYC this weekend. Leave again for NYC on Wednesday. Despite ping-ponging myself across an invisible net due to an unusual amount of cross country traveling recently, the minute I get back here to San Juan Island I make damn sure to let the ball rest and put my gears into neutral. That doesn’t mean not working; I’ve got several commissions nagging for my attention and a ton of followup correspondence that guarantees I’ll never see the picture waiting on the bottom of a clean, empty email inbox. What neutral means to me is what you see above: the ability to just stop and gaze in awe at something so exquisitely peaceful that it puts everything else in immediate perspective. Like lots of my colleagues, despite the proclaimed holiday, I’m working in my studio. But I’m also working at being a whole person who won’t ignore what’s just outside that studio door. Aaaahhhh…..

I need a visa for this vista

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

[IMAGE] view from Mt. Constitution

[IMAGE] view from Mt. Constitution

…click to listen:

…about the music

Quite a view.

One of the many joys of self employment is the ability to play hooky. On Friday we walked onto the ferry and chugged over to neighboring Orcas island, where friends picked us up at the landing. They took us to a beautiful spot we’d never seen, except from our own island: the peak of Mt. Constitution. 2400 feet up is actually quite a lot if everything else around you is far closer to sea level. Despite a little haze, it was spectacular to get a cartographer’s view of this entire area, from Canada to the mainland. I particularly love poring over the framed legends at lookout points such as this one, trying to exactly match up someone’s [not always exact] drawings of what’s in front of me. The expanse was awesome; I think my eyes needed a passport.

Which life?

Friday, May 15th, 2009

[IMAGE] Alex on Second Life

[IMAGE] Alex on Second Life

Click either graphic above to watch the show.

I’m so consumed with my First Life that I barely have time for a Second Life. But for the third time, I’ve had the pleasure of being a real guest in a compelling virtual world. I’m convinced that this alternative, parallel venue is going to become as significant as anything else to which our attention and time are tethered on the internet. And just as with Twitter, while I don’t yet participate much, I fully believe in its power.

If you click on a graphic above, you’ll be led to a page that will demand your patience as it loads up the stream of Music Academy Onlive’s latest show for Second Life Cable Network, hosted by Benton Wunderlich (Dave Schwartz, in Life, Version 1.0). You can let it do its thing in the background while you surf the net, do your laundry, or get some of your own actual work done. At some point, the Quicktime video will be ready to go and after a general introduction, you can hear two of my electroacoustic works in their entirety: Below, for contrabass flute, electronics, and Pacific Humpback Whale (who has the best pitch of us all) performed by Peter Sheridan, and Desert Tide, for soprano saxophone and electronics, performed by Doug Masek.

About halfway in, after the music, there’s a 25-minute interview with me during which I do my best to be mildly interesting and entertaining. Remember what you paid to watch it, folks. Heck, the top I’m wearing (or what’s left of it) and those nice gams of mine in the long shots are worth checking out, if only to see what I might never have the nerve to wear on a show in Life Number One.


Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

[IMAGE] nice view

[IMAGE] another nice view

[IMAGE] and another view

…click to listen:

…about the music

Below, from above.

I’ve got an active life that’s spread around the country and filled with what’s probably an unusually wide range of experiences, in composing, publishing, public speaking, marine sciences, nature, and education. It’s great! But I have to admit that it’s been so busy these days, that when someone asks me where I just came from or what I just did, I initially draw a blank, stare at them with that “deer in headlights” look, and struggle to remember the last, no doubt delightful, thing I just came from.

Along these lines, I also confess that there are times on the road when I open my eyes and for a few moments, actually cannot remember where I am. This is an unsettling yet simultaneously hilarious feeling. It often strikes me when I awaken by the edge of a runway at SeaTac. No, not splayed out on the tarmac like a forgotten piece of Samsonite. In a bed. Airport hotels are a version of purgatory for business travelers. If I’m in one of them, I’m not at home, but I’m not at my destination, either.

Last week, this odd, dislocated sensation hit me as I walked into a cocktail reception. I recognized many of the familiar faces holding their drinks, because I had seen most of these colleagues in identical poses in Los Angeles at a reception two weeks earlier, and at another reception in Manhattan only two days earlier. Suddenly, I could not for the life of me remember what city I was in. No clues were to be found in the people or their beverages, and the Very Upscale Hotel we were in looked remarkably like all the other Very Upscale Hotels I’d just been in. After about 40 bewildered seconds (a long time to not have a clue as to where you are on the planet Earth) I finally remembered: Washington, D.C.

Even with my schedule right now, at least I’m home for between four and nine days at a time; luxury! How my fellow gigging, touring road warrior musician pals do it, hundreds of performances a year, I’ll never know. Hat’s off to them.

I realize that I usually write largely about two things on this blog: my life in nature, and my life in the air. Rarely do I devote much space to specific commentary on what it is I actually do when I am not doing all the things you read about here: music. I compose music. Lots of it. I’ve been considering shifting the tone of this blog just a tad, to include a little more musically and professionally relevant subject matter so that you can see that there is more to my life than banana slugs, algae, cute furry animals and airline tickets. The months of April and May alone offer a pretty good snapshot of my diverse existence, so for those at home keeping score (and I think this includes me), here we go:

Giving workshops on career building for composers, hosted by the American Composers Forum and held at McNally Smith College in St. Paul, MN;

Meeting with concert music and pop music production people in Nashville, TN;

Speaking about music artists’ best uses of the internet at the ASCAP Expo conference in Los Angeles, CA;

Hiking and driving through Joshua Tree National Park near Twentynine Palms, CA;

Attending a dinner party on a magnificent, 47-acre waterfront estate on San Juan Island, WA;

Attending a board meeting of the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Laboratories in Friday Harbor, WA;

Attending a board meeting and awards reception of the American Music Center in New York, NY;

Lobbying senators and congressmen with the ASCAP board and legal staff about the rights of music creators to receive payment for the digital downloads of audiovisual works that include our music, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.;

Attending the annual Spring Street International School auction dinner in Friday Harbor, WA;

Appearing as a guest on the Second Life Cable Network TV show in the virtual world (cheap airfare!);

Sailing on the Friday Harbor Labs research vessel Centennial (in April AND May!), taking video and photos of the dredges the scientists conduct from the ocean floor around the San Juan Islands, WA;

Hiking with friends on Orcas Island, WA;

Attending the Academy of Arts and Letters luncheon and Ceremonial in New York, NY;

Attending the ASCAP concert music awards in New York, NY;

and so on….

None of the above includes all the business I do at my desk (or that of a hotel room), or all the music I play, write and record in my studio. Or, all the kitty litter I scoop and cat hair I vacuum up when I’m procrastinating from those previous two things. Nor does it list the many wonderful meals I share with friends and of course, with Charles, who, despite being contractually obligated to be so, is exceptionally supportive of all that I do, even though I’m not always doing it nearby.

Just reading this list makes me dizzy. And, happy. Living a bifurcated life that is interchangeably rural and urban, as well as both significantly hermetic and intensely social, is an oxymoron and a joy. That probably makes me a joyous moron. For now, when someone asks me where I just came from or what I just did, rather than draw a blank and stare at them with that “deer in headlights” look, I’ll just point them to today’s blog post!

It’s about time

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

[IMAGE] Cabazon dino

[IMAGE] cholla

[IMAGE] San Andreas Fault

…click to listen:

…about the music

Notes from the past.

On the heels of several very fun and hectic days speaking, mentoring and participating at ASCAP’s Expo in Hollywood, I stole– no, made– two days for myself. Knowing that I was about to spend as many nights in May on the road as on my music deadlines at home, I revisited a place that has consistently made me peaceful and awe-inspired for 25 years: Joshua Tree National Park.

[IMAGE] rocks

[IMAGE] blooming yucca

All those years bring with them a landscape of history, both geological, and personal. Staring out to enormous expanses beyond the deceptively furry looking tips of cholla cactus and ocotillo, my mind galloped across private, sometimes rocky terrain. Memories arose of camping, rock scrambling, friends, wildlife encounters, long drives and the endless drama of angry weather systems. I was in the present and in the past, simultaneously. It was wonderful.

[IMAGE] ocotillo

[IMAGE] balanced

[IMAGE] still life

I had slept directly under rocks that balanced precariously and impossibly as they awaited the next temblor, a few miles away from the quite visible San Andreas Fault. I had slept in the open, covered by nothing more than a sleeping bag that could have been nocturnal haven to scorpions or rattlers, but thankfully provided only a fuzzy bunny rabbit sniffing my feet at dawn. I had slept in tents erected in winds so strong as to nearly make me give up trying to pitch them. I had slept looking up at stars so bright as to make me question everything I ever imagined about the universe. And I had awoken, so many, many times over 25 years, to insights about my place in nature, and my place outside of it.

[IMAGE] Cabazon T Rex

Driving back to Los Angeles to fly home, I absolutely had to stop at one of southern California’s cheesiest and silliest roadside attractions: the dinos at Cabazon. If a culture does not have pyramids one can enter, well, a Brontosaurus or T. Rex is surely the next best thing.

Past and present. I will always make time.