Archive for November, 2008

Thanks are given

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

…about the music


I aim to please. And anytime I aim my camera out the window of a little puddle jumper up here, it pleases me greatly. I hope it does you, too. I’m delivering on the reader requests placed in the last posting’s comment section, with a small offering of some of the joy I feel up in the air. Along with being accompanied by one of my many music clips, you’ll just have to imagine the drone of the engines and propellers.

First: Mt. Baker, my gift for Doug. Normally a bright white, this time the western face of the glacial snow reflects the setting sun. It was only 3:45 p.m. when I snapped this, and yet twilight was fast approaching. We still have one more month of ever-darkening and mysterious afternoon skies.

Well Pat, welcome to my corner of the blogosphere, and on behalf of Kenmore Air I apologize that my flight pattern did not take me over lovely little Frost Island. As a nifty consolation prize however, I hereby give you James Island, the fascinating trio of small humps off the shore of Decatur Island, just to the east of Lopez Island. With it’s rather phallic layout I actually find it more interesting than Frost. Extra bonus points: Mt. Baker in the distance, upper right.

I searched in vain for the top of Glenn’s head, but he must have known I was on the hunt and stayed indoors to avoid the kelparazzi. I did find where the top of my dear Charles’ head resides, though: on a peninsula in the far middle of this window seat-framed shot that skims across Lopez, west to San Juan Island. Home.

I have a humbling, long list of things for which and people for whom I give thanks in my life. Far too lengthy a tome to begin to publish here. But gazing at these photos and realizing that this is the place I’ve chosen to call home, eloquently sums up much of the joy and good fortune I’ve been so lucky to stumble upon. I’m deeply pleased to share what I can of this magic with anyone who stops by these pixels. Thanks, thanks, thanks.

Wednesday morning, 6am

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

…about the music

Off to America.

This will be my exact view in six hours, as I embark once again for meetings in New York on another early morning journey to SeaTac International Airport. As you, my devoted (or soon to be once you’ve perused this nifty site) kelphisto blogerati know from my many airborne photos of this archipelago, I often fly off the island, rather than ferry. In fact, in my less than two years living in this paradise, I’ve logged so much music-related travel that my flapping abilities have earned me a whopping four, count’ em four free flights on the puddle jumper. I am a frequent and happy flier who’s grown accustomed to flinging herself through the air in something about as sturdy as a porta potty (though smells considerably better).

But as winter approaches, modes of transport shift and I choose to book a van that takes me and a handful of other bleary-eyed travelers on the 6am combo boat-and-drive down to the tarmac. The surf ‘n turf special, as I like to call it. The potential for high winds or dense fog make an on-time departure and a stress-free morning a little less of a sure thing, and when you’re trying to get somewhere, you really need to get to that somewhere when you need to and not some other time. Coordination of flights is tricky and modern travel being what it is (and largely what it isn’t), missing a connection can wipe out the whole day or evening. So the sure thing is the ferry, except for the rare day when neither a plane nor a boat of any size can make it out. We had a day like that last year and it was the only time I truly felt the impact of the remoteness I’ve chosen as home. I loved it.

Returning is another matter, and unless the weather is inclement, I fly back to the island, since my appearance at home is not especially time sensitive. And, I’ll get my fix of aerial photography. Perhaps I’ll have some new shots to offer you on Sunday. I take requests!

An honest seven

Monday, November 17th, 2008

…about the music

Something in seven and other numbers as well.

Well, fellow West coast bloggerista Lisa Hirsch has snagged me. A meme of seven! The game: post the rules of this meme, answer them (no one added “honestly,” but I’m going for that), then tag other unsuspecting bloggers.

Why we all participate in these things is known only to Ph.D archaeological sociologists who will no doubt preserve this sorry evidence for alien visitors making a quick restroom stop on Earth while on their way to another, considerably more fascinating orbiting marble. My choices of accompanying photo and music clip, by the way, look and sound deceptive as to what they really are: not a choral work, but a flute quartet. Much of which contains 7/4 meters.

The rules (with my parenthetical commentary):
1. Link to your tagger and list these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog – some random, some weird (wait! aren’t those the same thing? And besides, everything about me is weird).
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blog (this is excellent for driving traffic to their sites, so do your pals a favor by participating).
4. Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
5. If you don’t have 7 blog friends, or if someone else already took dibs, then tag some unsuspecting strangers (no guarantee that this won’t get you in trouble with stalker laws, but hey, have fun).

The facts:

1. I used to breed pythons as a hobby in the 1980’s, and was a member in good standing of the Southern California Herpetology Society.

2. I am an absolutely dreadful parallel parker.

3. I used to be a decent juggler and could pass balls with a partner. No snickering.

4. I studied flute for a year when I was a composition major at Manhattan School of Music, but gave it up because I often frightened my teacher when I’d begin to pass out due to the combination of very poor breath control and very low blood pressure.

5. I love to vacuum, especially when I’m in the midst of composing a new piece. It allows my mind to wander, plus I can see my progress and feel infinitely more effective than when I’m struggling with writer’s block.

6. I was an incredibly shy, geeky and un-hip child. I loved Lost in Space while all the cool kids dug Star Trek, and I watched The Partridge Family when everyone else in elementary school was into the Brady Bunch. I am still extremely geeky, and have only acquired a patina-like illusion of hipness. I am no longer shy.

7. I love Scrabble and Boggle and can clean anyone’s clock at Monopoly. My father was a highly regarded commercial real estate attorney and I come by this expertise genetically.

Here are the bloggers I am tagging to seriously annoy them:
Patty Mitchell; John Clare; Paul Bailey; ACB; Dick Strawser; David Ocker; and Roger Bourland.

Water for fire

Saturday, November 15th, 2008

…about the music


I’m posting watery photos from my life in Malibu and Santa Barbara, to psychically douse the flames that are currently ravaging southern California. The first photo is from my old place at the beach in the Paradise Cove mobile home park, as condolence to the hundreds of people who lost their mobile homes in Sylmar this morning.
Douse the flames.
The second photo was taken from the stern of my sailboat in Santa Barbara a couple of years ago, looking directly into the hills of Montecito, where two of my friends are still waiting to hear whether the home they extensively remodeled with their own hands, sweat and love is still standing among the couple of hundred that are not.
Douse the flames.

And the third photo is an offering of hope. A rainbow over the sea: something in the distance that can’t quite be grasped, yet signifies beauty and calm. Like joy in the midst of grief, we can’t touch it, but we try to remember that it’s there, waiting for us.
Douse the flames. Drench the psyche with hope.

So much to see

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

Seattle, with Puget Sound islands in the background…

Clouds and reflective, open sea…

Neighboring San Juans beyond San Juan…

The village of Friday Harbor, complete with ferry!

…about the music

Many moods.

I just returned from a very contrasting part of the country to mine: Fort Wayne, Indiana, where a concert including several of my electroacoustic pieces was held at the amazing Sweetwater Sound theater. It was inspiring to hear music that I’ve slaved over in my studio played back on a state-of-the-art sound system. And… sound really wonderful (phew!). It was validating, in fact. Because composers who work with electronics are also recording engineers who, once the music is written, must address many technicalities to make that music sound as it should. I have my colleague Michael Rhoades to thank for it all: this was an invaluable and delightful experience.

Getting to the Midwest from my house takes three planes and twelve hours door to door. It takes fourteen hours each way for all my New York City trips, another of which looms in a week– not before lecturing to the composition students at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle: a five hour trek door to door. But for all the moving around the country that I’m doing so frequently these days, not once have I wished that my home were in a more conveniently located spot on the globe. Not once. It’s such a complete pleasure to return to the rural peace of this island, whether by plane as photo-documented yesterday in four representative steps above, or by ferry. In fact, the only part of the journey from the SeaTac airport to my front steps that I do not especially care for, is a stretch of I-5 somewhere between the end of the Seattle skyline and the start of the agricultural views 40 minutes north. Even then, above a less than inspiring city outskirt, the sky is often riveting in its expanse, as clouds and weather trot across the atmosphere.

Today would have been my father’s 80th birthday. He passed away at the unripe age of 69 from the effects of dementia and a host of other things that tagged along for the ride. A native New Yorker and avowed “city person,” he was known to stand amidst beautiful country landscapes declaring “if you’ve seen one tree, you’ve seen ’em all.” He was funny and I adored him. And although he could never picture himself living as I have for many years– with toes dirtied by seaweed rather than by soot– each time he visited me he seemed to understand. Were he here now, I do believe he would deeply grasp why I live the way I do. If only he were just fourteen hours away. I love you, Daddy.


Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

…about the music

Yes, we did.

After eight painful and shameful years living in a nation held hostage by greed and lies, a lot of us experienced one gigantic, collective exhale last night. We watched as the U.S. pendulum began a swing back toward sanity, in an historic election many of us had been afraid to believe wouldn’t be stolen in its final hours.

I was in tears at several moments during the evening. First, when CNN declared that Barack Obama was President Elect. Capital letters emblazoned across the TV screen were the indication to my psyche that yes, this was real. I wept. And I wept again when I saw the stunningly huge, entranced crowd standing in Chicago, as I listened intently to this inspiring man’s moving speech.

Mr. Obama will probably not be able to solve all the problems this nation faces, but I am extremely grateful that he’s willing to sacrifice so much to try. I have no doubt that there will be a significant improvement not only in the direction of the U.S. government, but in the morale of its citizens who have been promised a President who will actually listen to them. And I can only guess that we’ve suddenly gained a few brownie points overseas, as the world watches us attempt to redeem ourselves.

The cargo containers pictured above struck me as an abstract flag, woven of commerce and transportation and draped across the Seattle shoreline. I took it coming back from a trip last month, and it seems appropriate today.

As I type this to you at 3:30 Wednesday morning, what began as the soothing sound of moderate rain has quickly ramped up to quite a riot of sonic pounding on my metal roof. Curious, I opened the door in my studio and was astonished to witness a remarkable hail storm of ice pellets the size of frozen peas. Millions of them, pouring down, bouncing, landing, joyously, insistently, looking as though someone made a middle of the night gravel delivery atop the grass. It’s not particularly cold; just 42 degrees. Barefoot, I stepped outside and delighted in standing there with the hail pouring down on me. Pummeling me, in fact. A cheap thrill. I even wondered if my car might get dented. I cupped my hands and collected these rounded icy gems, rolling them over my fingers. Wonderful. Now back at my desk, miniature snowballs slowly melt on my hair.

Even the atmosphere is celebrating the outcome of the election. Hail to the new chief! Hail to the change in America!

Like a mushroom

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

…about the music

From my deep, dark woods.

Suddenly, with the click of a nationally choreographed clock reset, it’s darker earlier. Which I, Vampire Composer of the Kelp, love. I’m like a mushroom: keep me in the dark and throw wet leaves on top of me in the drizzly rain, and I’m happy.

Most nights, I work until about 5 a.m. Sometimes as late as 7 a.m. Occasionally I pack things in at a “normal” time, maybe 1 a.m. or so, but it’s rare these days with so much on my plate. That’s the thing: to be lucky to love working so much that I don’t want to stop. How many people are fortunate enough to say that? Not enough.

Here in the land of higher latitudes, there’s a phenomenon to which I’ve had to adjust each summer: the lack of my beloved darkness. By the time Solstice rolls around, we don’t reach the Nirvana of a full, sometimes moonless blackout until nearly 11 p.m. And much to my protestations, as I compose in the sacred solitude of hours without ringing phones, incoming emails or doorstep deliveries, the first glint of sunlight begins around 3:30 a.m. and steals my nighttime. With the sun, so begins the happy, chattering ruckus of the birds, and the shift in the earth rhythms around me as everything awakens. Stop, thief! Don’t take my precious darkness away! I’ve still got tons of work to do! I silently curse the intruding light. For me, sunrise is a signal to my body that it’s finally time to go to bed. And when I’m in the thick of my writing at 4 in the morning, I am not ready to obey.

I realize that I am a mutant of our species. I have no difficulty falling asleep while watching a beautiful sunrise. Light can pour on top of me across my bed, nestled under a window that faces east, and it doesn’t bother me at all. I am impervious to light. But I am happily pervious to dark. I love setting my clocks back. I must have been a mushroom in a former life.