Archive for March, 2010

I was looking at the hummer and then I saw this guy

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

[IMAGE] heron

[IMAGE] heron

…click to listen:

…about the music

From above, looking below.

Ok, an electronic wink goes to the first person who “gets” the title of this post.

And it’s quite accurate. I was seeking ways to procrastinate from composing, and it was so warm and sunny that I had to step outside this afternoon. Having recently outgrown the space of my studio at my wooded home a very short walk from the sand, when looking for larger business quarters for Shapiro Note Alignment Industries, Ltd., a few months ago (aka, SNAIL, since that’s about the pace I feel like I’m writing sometimes), I opted for a waterfront location for my commute to work. And indeed I procured one, in the form of a fabulous rental that’s only yards from the edge of a dramatic inlet that morphs daily from lapping saltwater, to a sprawling mud flat, and back. More pix of this soon; I’ve been taking plenty. So “stepping outside” in this case means walking two feet from my workstation onto the seaside deck. Ahhhhhh.

But back to the birds. I grabbed my Larger, Better Camera and positioned it to focus on the hummingbird feeder I just put out yesterday after spotting spring’s first fluttering diabetic-in-training. I waited patiently for an especially cute newcomer to return (just look at those tiny feet in the photo below!), and glanced up just as a Great Blue Heron was coming in for a landing, alighting directly in front of me. What a lovely surprise visit.

Working next to the water means having a lot of company throughout the day. Apart from the occasional deer, fox, or neighbor’s goofy Labrador, it’s an endless parade of avian beauty: seafarers like herons, ducks, geese and gulls, seed-farers like chickadees, nuthatches, finches and flickers, and most strikingly, the see-everything bald eagles who circle gracefully above my head every day (possibly sizing me up to see if I’m a candidate for lunch). It’s so distracting, it’s amazing I can get any work done at all. Ahhhhhh.

[IMAGE] Hummingbird

[IMAGE] Hummingbird

Water landing

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

[IMAGE] ferry ride view

[IMAGE] ferry ride view

…click to listen:

…about the music

Through the archipelago.

It’s been great being back at home for a while on this rock, composing in my self-contained, hermetic phase, and yet remaining remarkably plugged in to the world when necessary, via Skype video. I’ve done a board committee meeting that was held in NY as well as given three interviews this week, all from my desk. No one would have known whether or not I had pants on. And I’m not tellin’.

The snapshots above really epitomize what’s insanely great about my commute when one makes it via water as opposed to air. And especially, on the occasional day when one’s vehicle is the very first car that boards and gets the über-view to end all über-views as we glide through the archipelago. Much of the time I’m on the Tonka toy planes that zip me from Seattle to San Juan Island in about 35 minutes, unless we first get an extra crash landing test stop at Eastsound on Orcas to drop someone off. When it’s windy in the San Juans, it’s really blowing coming up the sound between the imposing lumps that flank it, and this ersatz wind tunnel can make for quite an unexpected… uh… thrill?… for no extra charge!… as the plane and its passengers are jostled about in directions that you’d prefer to think that a small piece of metal in mid-flight would not head. I’m writing this as the spring season becomes especially mild, to thwart anyone from ever wanting to fly here. I want this place all to myself and I’m willing to use scare tactics to achieve personal nirvana.

I particularly love this place during the eight months when almost no one is here. An island of 55 square miles that hosts less than 7,000 human beings during those “off-season” months means that very few cars prowl the roads. And those of us driving have the affable tendency to glance into passing windshields, due to the likelihood that we’ll recognize the person driving by. A “two-fingers raised off the steering wheel” acknowledgment is the norm. Can you imagine that in Los Angeles? Only with one finger, usually located in the middle of the hand, and not because they want you to call them later.

Winters at the beach are magic. Drama. Clarity. Inspiration. It was just like this during my 14 years in Malibu: most of the year, it’s as gorgeous as all the other times of year, and yet you have miles of beach all to yourself because people are too busy, or think it’s too cold, or whatever. So those of us living in these amazing places are the great beneficiaries of having gazillions of square miles of some of planet Earth’s most beautiful scenery, all to ourselves. I remember walking for long stretches on the beach at Paradise Cove on a January day with temps in the 70’s, not seeing a soul. I seriously wondered whether some disaster had struck southern California, and no one had informed me. And I just kept walking.

[IMAGE] ferry landing

Visably dramatic. Sometimes.

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

[IMAGE] View to Vancouver Island

…click to listen:

…about the music

A vista, plus one you can hear.

Driving on the south end of this island mid-morning today, I was stunned (as always) by the immense view from the coastline on which my tires, myself and my latte were planted, looking out to Canada’s Vancouver Island directly across the Haro Strait. I liked the unwitting visual symmetry of the space above the horizon until the clouds became dark, and the space between the sea and the bluff on which I stood. The foggy March haze draped itself around the mountains so beautifully. I’d like to go through life draped like that myself. Forget about fabric clothing altogether, and just adorn myself with cloudwear.

I know. You can’t really see all that in this little photo. Trust me: those mountains are really big when you’re standing there. About three times as high, at least. Really.

Turning my head 90 degrees to the left, I could see another, more distant mountain range: the Cascades, making a dramatic backdrop behind several of the San Juans. But of course, in my little snapshot, that backdrop doesn’t look nearly as dramatic as it is in person. You’ll just have to trust me again. Drama baby, drama.

[IMAGE] View to the Cascades

But I can at least give you an inkling of all that craggy, snow-capped drama, taken on another, sunnier day from almost the same spot, but with a 300 zoom lens attached. I liked the dance between the edges of the driftwood and those of the peaks. Voila, drama!

[IMAGE] the Cascades

So I’m off on the morning ferry to Seattle, where I’ll be at this wonderful concert on Friday night hearing the fabulous Karen Bentley Pollick do some amazing things with my violin and electronics piece, Vista, as well as with quite a number of other beautiful new works composed by visibly living and breathing composers. Like the mountains, they too tend to look much smaller in photos than they are in person. About three times as high, at least. Really.

The morning iFog

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

[IMAGE] foggy at False Bay

…click to listen:

…about the music

A bit foggy across from the Olympic mountains, indeed.

We all know the dance: See email inbox fill up. Answer many emails. Momentarily enjoy much emptier inbox. Go to bed. Awake to completely re-filled inbox of responses to your responses. Repeat. Yessiree, for those of us who do much of our biz digitally, this is the two-step that keeps us and our typing fingers in tip-top shape. Email is great, but, it’s a bottomless pit of back and forth from which few escape. Yet I have recently discovered a guilty pleasure (or, a key to my sanity) that helps me cope: my iPhone, bedside.

No, I am not using the “vibrate” setting for personal use. Nope. But in the morning, when my eyes peel themselves one-third open and my foggy mind begins to churn with the never-ending to-do list of life, I blindly paw for my phone, tap a few times, retrieve my mail while safely ensconced under my warm comforter, and can instantly see the lay of the land for the coming hours. Who has emailed? What do they need? What fire needs to be put out? What is just fine and can wait? Well, it usually turns out, much of it. And being able to glance at what awaits my work day long before I intend to start it, allows me to happily place the iPhone back on the nightstand, turn over, and catch some more zzzz’s. This is one of the best uses for a digital tool I can dream of. The gift of more sleep!


Sunday, March 7th, 2010

[IMAGE] flowers

…click to listen:

…about the music


Photo: courtesy of Charles, who emailed this lovely vision from our driveway on the island as I gazed at yellow snow, rather than yellow flowers, in NYC. Much as I love my home town, I think I prefer the color on the flowers. I have no idea what those purple-blue blooms are, but they’re fabulous.

I post this from a most civilized space (Vino Volo) in a most civilized airport (SeaTac) as I wait for the van to take me to Boeing Field, where I’ll hop on a flying Volkswagen that will plop me down in a less civilized, if yet more beautiful, part of the western U.S. a hundred miles north of here. And apart from a brief trip in mid March to go to the rehearsal and performance of Vista in Seattle by my talented friend, violinist Karen Bentley, for the first time in the better part of a year, my calendar is clear of travel for a few weeks, unless some utterly compelling opportunity is suddenly dropped on my doorstep that would cause me to leave it. So this normally peripatetic (rhymes with pathetic) composer gets to stay home and actually compose without interruption for a while. Hooray! Because there are a lot of notes waiting to escape.