Archive for October, 2009

Water blogged

Friday, October 30th, 2009

[IMAGE] water

[IMAGE] water

[IMAGE] water

…click to listen:

…about the music


More photos of my favorite thing.
All taken in the same place, at the same time.
Absolutely zero retouching or effects.
When real life looks like a Photoshop filter, things are good.

I like how the green of the sea echoes the green of the trees in my previous post.
Living green. Up, and down.

Plenty is swirling around the Shapiro waters these days, and it’s a fun place to swim (no kick boards, though– I gotta use my arms and work!). A few readers have commented and, nearly complained, that I rarely write very much here about what fills my days apart from finding new and improved ways to photograph kelp and spiders. It’s true: for three and two-thirds years of continuous blogosity, I’ve chosen the purposeful tack of showing visitors what I do (via the music clips that underscore all these little snapshots), rather than telling them. I’ve always figured that if anyone is that interested in the newsy stuff, they’ll pop over to Alex World for their fix. But once in a while I suppose a summary is appropriate, so here’s another snapshot– not of the nature that’s surrounding me on this island, but the nature of what’s surrounding my life this month.

Yesterday I taped another virtual reality show for Music Academy Onlive, whose terrific Dave Schwartz (aka Benton Wunderlich) has hosted me on three of his other Second Life shows in the past. This latest one was courtesy of a grant from Meet the Composer, and I think I may be their first virtual project (Meet the e-Composer? There are plenty of days when I feel rather disembodied, doing business in four continents in an afternoon without ever hearing anyone’s voice, much less feeling their handshake, so the role of virtual composer seems fitting. So long as I am not paid in virtual moolah). Thanks to this nifty project, there are brand spanking new videos of six more of my pieces, plus the hour-long interview we shot in which I talked about my music and even more about my views of what it is– and is not– to create a viable career aligning little black dots. All of this will be posted on my website and my [oh-geez-finally-to-be-created] YouTube channel soon. You can point and laugh at my avatar’s Restless Leg Syndrome. I just couldn’t control that wild gal.

Two of those voice-less continents have been using up some of their hard drive space for my notes: in Germany, the fearless pianist Susanne Kessel has just recorded my new solo piece Slowly, searching, and I’m told the CD it will spin on, Kreisleriana 2010, will come out on Obst Records in January. And in the other hemispheric direction, Australian resident and flutist extraordinaire Peter Sheridan’s new CD, Below: Music for Low Flutes was released last month on Move Records, titled after the piece Peter commissioned from me for the project (a clip of which you can hear, above). Peter’s been touring with Below extensively, and it’s also starting to get a lot of radio play which makes Peter, me, and a bunch of Pacific Humpback whales (you’ll have to read about it ), smile.

In between a trip to the east coast next week and some time in Minneapolis speaking at the Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute, I’m looking forward to being in Chicago in a couple of weeks for the premiere of my latest large chamber work: Archipelago, for string quartet, double bass, and woodwind quintet. The marvelous and intrepid Fifth House Ensemble is either humoring me with kind delusions, or, the piece is actually going rather well in rehearsals. I’m hoping it’s the latter, if only because, as my good friends will tell you, I enjoy being in a constant state of delusion.

But before that event, I have another premiere of sorts: this Sunday, November 1st, for the first time since I was a teenager, I’m acting in a public reading of a wonderful play by actor/playwright Michael Herber, who lives here on San Juan Island. He’s written a deeply touching story about Vietnam veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and plagued by survivor’s guilt, and I play the role of the narrator, covering everything from hilarity to utter anguish. Charles, who did a great job starring in a monologue earlier this year at the Playwright’s Festival, plays one of the lead vets. I have yet to make it to my final line without tearing up.

Water, water, everywhere.

And yes, there is a weekly stream of board meetings, panel meetings, committee meetings (someone slap me please before I say yes to one more thing), filling orders for my publishing company’s distributors (thank you!), and, golly, people, things and activities that are very enjoyable and have nothing directly to do with my music work whatsoever. Although, any composer will tell you that it’s all inseparable, and everything we do and all that we are is what gets poured out into our new pieces. Music is my life’s reflecting pond, and all I can do is just hope that the water beneath the surface is deep enough so that when I fall in, I don’t bonk my head too hard.

Ghost in the woods

Monday, October 19th, 2009

[IMAGE] foggy woods

The view from my studio door…

[IMAGE] fog

…click to listen:

…about the music

Strangely beautiful.

After spending the better part of the week in Philadelphia to give a workshop, I was happy as always to return to the woods. The weather was still warm enough, but a front was moving in the afternoon I puddle-jumped back to the island, and I was reminded why just about this time of year is when I start to favor the ferries when possible. The clouds were far beneath us and the sky was beautiful, yet filled with forceful, intermittent, invisible chop that attacked from seemingly nowhere.

I awakened the next morning to the familiar sound of the ferry’s insistent horn as it chugged blindly through the San Juan Channel. The fog that rolled in with the rain was thick and completely obscured the rising sun. When I lived on my sailboat in the Santa Barbara harbor, our slip was right next to the end of the breakwater and might as well have been inside of the fog horn. Fog horns, while somewhat romantic from afar, are more than somewhat annoying when they continuously bleat their warning only a few yards from one’s ears. I much prefer the romance of the vessels that glide on the water and sing, slightly off key, to each other.

Apples, ho!

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

[IMAGE] anchored at Shaw

…click to listen:

…about the music

Fruits of a water crossing.

A few days ago, we got a last minute call from a pal to join him with a few other island friends on his 46′ sailing ketch…

[IMAGE] headed to Shaw

… to go apple picking.

Now, most folks don’t take a sailboat to an orchard, but this ain’t most places. By noon we were underway the very short distance to Shaw Island, a place of serenity, fruit, and remarkably clear water.

[IMAGE] water at Shaw

After anchoring in a little bay, we loaded the rowboat with empty bins and, thinking ahead, a large hand truck (not standard equipment on either a sailboat nor a dinghy), and oared to shore over lovely clear jellies floating atop the eel grass.

[IMAGE] jellies at Shaw

The Shaw Invasion had begun (the jellyfish were shaking in fear, I’m certain). Climbing up from the beach, we walked down a rural path about a hundred yards until we found ourselves in the middle of an apple orchard, and wasted no time determining which of the bright red orbs were worth plundering.

[IMAGE] apples at Shaw

The answer turned out to be, “quite a lot of them.”

Hauling our winnings back to shore, we realized that we could add more than enough fiber to the diet of a small nation with the number of apples we had in tow.

[IMAGE] road on Shaw

It took a few strong shoves to get the overladen rowing dingy out to sea again, there were so many pounds of fruit.

[IMAGE] back from Shaw

At this point in the story I should be showing you a beautiful photo from my kitchen of the incredible delicacies I created from this windfall. Instead, I admit that since returning to shore that afternoon, life was too busy for me to learn how to cook or bake (someday, someday!), and instead I’ve enjoyed the apples one raw bite at a time. This was my very first time apple picking, in fact: growing up in Manhattan, I used to think that they came prepackaged under a cellophane window on styrofoam in polite groups of six. I had never before seen apples in their natural habitat. The whole Newton/gravity thing finally came alive for this aged school girl when she saw what happens when you shake a ripe tree. Apple-ied physics!