Archive for February, 2012

A sonic vista

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

[IMAGE] sunset on the sea

…click to listen:

…about the music

What the eyes hear, and what the ears see.

Above, you can enjoy part of the February view from my desk one twilight this past week. If the photo were, oh, eight or nine times as wide, it would offer a truer sense of the daily, all-encompassing vista that inspires the little black dots on my odd-looking lined pages.

But computer screens cannot mimic real life,
and my amateur camera skills can only reinforce that truth.

Maybe that’s part of why I love to compose: for all my delight in writing words and clicking photos, the most authentic way I can communicate the depths of what I perceive is through the least literal means: music. A sonic truth that, at its best, is as much of an all-encompassing vista as that which meets my eyes.
Only a heck of a lot louder, usually.

It’s heartbreakingly difficult to leave here sometimes.
Most times.
And over the past few years, there have been many times.
I take flight.

[IMAGE] great blue heron

I return.

[IMAGE] great blue heron

I repeat.

I’m offered lots of opportunities to share what I do, in myriad ways. I accomplish a great deal of my work via the internet, whether it’s:

publishing and selling my scores,
participating in national meetings,
giving radio interviews via phone and email,
pdf-ing contracts and articles,
teaching my online private students,
directing musicians via MP3s and videos, for CDs and performances,
attending rehearsals of my music, live, via the magic of Skype,
being in contact with a nearly daunting number of people via email,
…and via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Grammy365, and other networks.

The web is the fantastic tool that allows me to do all of the above and more, while pajama-clad in this gorgeous remote setting. I’m the cute little spider resting on her sticky threads. When I feel them vibrate, I pounce on the promising opportunity without needing to leave home.

[IMAGE] spider
When I stopped composing, this gal took over while I slept.

Nonetheless, despite my hermetic preference to spend my days in ill-matched old clothes, gazing out the window while my mind does its [sometimes very mindless] thing, there will never be a digitized replacement for a personalized interaction.

At least, I really hope not.
We’re all mammals, sniffing the pheromone-laced air to get a sense of each other. Even if you could blast those pheromones through a computer screen, you couldn’t provide the exterior context in which they’re experienced.
At least, I really hope not.

Thus, I often find myself poking around in my closet for some better matching clothes, and hopping on assorted modes of transport, to transport my world to someone else’s.

[IMAGE] sea plane

[IMAGE] ferry ride

[IMAGE] car ride

[IMAGE] Mt. Rainier at dawn

One of the laws of physics I’ve learned: The more I do, the more that’s generated to be done.

And if it can’t be done online, the happy rewards of all this “doing” usually take place in large cities or on university campuses, teeming with actual, non-digitized humans. This requires matching clothes. Or at the very least, socks.

Over the span of forty five years, I lived [what I really hope is a little less than the first half of] my life in two enormous cities, New York and Los Angeles. Their infrastructures and rhythms are defined by the needs of people. People whose clothes are often nicely coordinated.

[IMAGE] sailing

By contrast, San Juan Island is mostly defined by the needs and rhythms of wildlife. Its infrastructure is almost entirely that which nature built long before people with matching socks ever showed up to try to ruin appreciate it all. The five years I’ve lived here so far have been nothing short of exquisite; I do unusually well in these surroundings. As gregarious as I am when I’m around other folks for short periods, I actually prefer the isolation of a floating rock that’s nearly dangling off the grid. Not to mention preferring the comfort of wearing my worn jeans, dusty boots, and quite possibly unmatched socks.

[IMAGE] eagle

For ten months of the year, I fling myself around on planes as seldom as once a month and as often as twice a week. As my music career has grown, so has the number of frequent flyer miles on my monthly airline statement. It’s been at least three years since I’ve spent more than 19 days in a row at home. Yes, I actually counted (thus adding to the already remarkably long list of Odd Things Composers Do When They Do Not Feel Like Composing). The giddy exception to all this flitting and flying is summertime, when the equation is reversed and it’s everyone else who visits me, and I get to stay put. Because driving friends around in circles while we ooh and ahh at geolo-gee-whiz and Bald e-gads and orca-smic sightings in the water is just so much damn fun.

[IMAGE] Orca

As I head out the door to catch yet another ferry or puddle jumper plane, I usually quiz myself, “now, exactly why am I leaving again?”. I then answer my question (this kind of solo conversation may be deemed the first warning sign of mental illness, but so be it), and I quickly remember the wonderful things I’m off to do in another place, with terrific people. It’s always been worthwhile to briefly pull myself from this paradise… as long as I know that it’s this paradise to which I get to return.

[IMAGE] cloud shingles

The Universe might be laughing. But while it politely turns its back to guffaw at me and my funny little bifurcated life, I do my best to create balance, and to love, smile, and ultimately, communicate.

[IMAGE] San Juans and Mt. Baker

The Eagles’ Greatest Hits

Monday, February 20th, 2012

[IMAGE] eagle

…click to listen:

…about the music

Flight of plain, and fancy.

Lemme tell you: no matter how many times a day I see a bald eagle, it stops me in my tracks. And my islander friends who’ve lived here far longer than I? They’ll admit the same thing. You’d think we’d all be jaded, since eagles are a very common sight in the San Juans. Oh, ho hum, just another Bald Eagle…

If my desk could be physically attached to the double-paned, saltwater- and gull-poop splattered glass of my picture windows, it would be. Failing such nifty design, it rests exactly ten inches in front of that wall of windows. Which means that when these ginormous birds and their imposing, six foot wingspan fly right past me as I’m working, they’re gliding only a few feet from my nose. It also means that I keep my cameras– the wide lens and the 300 zoom– close at hand.

[IMAGE] eagle

Every photo in this post was taken while I was seated at my desk.
I am one lucky composer chickie.
Most were shot last week, and a couple were first seen here.

These breathtaking fly-bys occur many times a day. Sometimes I see the birds on the hunt, swooping past me and out over the water, perchance to snag a [squiggling, writhing] mmmm… yum!… snack. Other times, I see the anthropomorphically touching sight of what appears to be the adult parents training their sizable offspring how to get the longest ride on a thermal, or navigate in a hefty set of gusts, or obnoxiously chase poor little gulls like a big bully (as a small, geeky kid who was harassed in grade school, I’m always rooting for the gulls). Bald eagles don’t start sporting their regal, All-American white headed, white tailed regalia until they’re about four years old. It’s been wonderful watching the youngsters grow up in front of me.

[IMAGE] younger eagle
A teenager, lookin’ for trouble.

[IMAGE] younger eagle flying
Spreading those wings. “Hey! Come home by your curfew, or else you’re grounded!”

[IMAGE] younger eagle landing

[IMAGE] almost adult eagle
And in another year or so, he’ll look like this.

[IMAGE] adult eagle
And eventually, this!

As it turns out, I’m directly in the path of their shoreline shuttle service, as they soar from one rocky point to the next outcropping to the next cliff. And, back. Sometimes, two or three of them in a row. And occasionally, with lunch in tow: a fish, crab or gull who wasn’t expecting the day to play out quite this way when it got up in the morning.

[IMAGE] eagle talons
Effective, and stylish in bright yellow– like a set of Sears Craftsman tools.

For all the eagle photos I’ve managed to accumulate, there are just as many that exist only in the solitude of my memory. Some of the most stunning moments are the ones that happen so quickly, there’s just no time or ability to grab a camera. I just stare gape, and take it all in on my personal Kodachrome.

[IMAGE] eagle

Two such moments come immediately to mind. This past summer, an adult eagle flew straight to the rock three short yards by my desk, with an equally adult salmon clutched in its talons. For the unin-fish-iated, salmon are remarkably large and heavy. I’m sure a raptor relief rest station here and there is helpful. I was pleased awed to be the roadside truck stop du jour. So thrilled, in fact, that as I watched in stunned Oh-My-Gawd muteness as the eagle landed smack in front of me, salmon and all, I had no presence of mind to grab my camera (though I was envious and tempted to try to steal the fish from the damn bird for my own dinner). In fact, had I moved, the eagle would have flown off even sooner than it did. Much like the Great Blue Herons, as large as they are and unflappable as you’d think they’d be, they’re keenly sensitive to movement around them, and have little patience for photo opps. But oh, what a sight.

And then there was the time when, early one morning as I sleepily padded over to my desk to check email, I happened to look up just as an adult bald eagle was flying right toward me. As you can see above, I’ve captured that a few times. But this time was different: dangling from his bright yellow talons was a three foot long, very pink… octopus tentacle. Just one of the eight; who knows where the rest of the unlucky creature lay. I may have written about this earlier on these blog pages. I swear, it looked like a mid-air refueling maneuver gone terribly, terribly wrong. And it was coming full speed directly toward me, veering off only a few yards before hitting the house and creating the Mother of All Splats (the reverse image of the suction cups glombing on to the glass with the eagle dangling from them is something that sped through my brain for a nanosecond). Needless to say, I had neither the time nor the presence of mind to make a move toward my camera, only inches away.

Some things are simply meant to be experienced without a lens in front of one’s face. Most things, in fact.

But I do love capturing the essence of these moments, in images embalmed in pixels so they can be preserved for others to enjoy. Ergo, this blog, of course.

Fly like an eagle.
And compose like a human being completely inspired by one soaring past her drop-jawed face.

[IMAGE] eagle