Upcoming Performances: Chamber Music/IhearIC

Dec. × ’10

I’m going to be performing twice next week with my favorite ladypal Angela Lickiss, both times playing Andrew Paul Jackson’s epic Aphorism I: …the abyss also looks into you.

The first performance is tonight at 8 PM at the UCC Recital Hall as part of Angela’s chamber music recital which will also feature music by Hindemith and Pacquito d’Rivera.

The second is Wednesday at PM at the Englert Theater. This is the most recent installment of the IhearIC concert series curated by our awexome friend Jared that features both School of Music students and musicians from the city. See the Facebook page for more information, but as you can see from the poster I am destined to be known professionally as Andy H-D.

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So You Want to Get a PhD in The Humanities

Oct. × ’10

I am going to be a college professor.

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Does It Make A Sound?

Oct. × ’10

Andrew Paul Jackson, the composer whose Aphorism I I premiered with Angela last May, has started a blog to expound on his own works as well as eventually talk about Nietschze and Shostakovich. I assume that the title is a pithy comment about no one reading said blog, so I aim to correct that. As a bonus, judging from the first post he has also recently gone insane.

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Adequately Socialized

Oct. × ’10

Angela and I went to see The Social Network a week ago and we might have been the oldest people in the theater, which is unusual for a movie getting so much Oscar buzz. I doubt it will snag many awards, if not the Academy’s suspicion of David Fincher’s body of work then for the lack of handwringing about Racism or Tragic Deaths or Something. This isn’t to say that the movie doesn’t have problematic elements, it’s unavoidably misogynistic and Lawrence Lessig writes about how it misses the larger dissonance between new and old medias. But I’ve been thinking that a lot of the discomfort that people have about the movie is the ambivalence they feel toward its main character. While Jesse Eisenberg and Aaron Sorkin craft a pretty compelling antihero out of fake Mark Zuckerburg, it’s Facebook itself that everybody wants to dance with.

I  haven’t read The Accidental Billionaires and can’t say I really have any plans to, but my impression when it came out was that it was a relatively pulpy telling of the story. Those readers I have left might find a comparison in Mozart in the Jungle without Blair Tindall’s vomitous narcissism. And, you know, about Facebook rather than the oboe. What I do remember is that it caught everyone relatively off-guard what a pedigreed director and writer who ended up getting tasked with making the movie adaptation. Being a musicologist as well as a “rocker”, I sat up straighter when Trent Reznor (with his Leporello, Atticus Ross) got involved to score the movie. All these high-powered guys for a movie about Facebook? It seems incredulous, it’s been inspiring Leno-level jokes about the nerds having something to do on a Friday night.
I’ll take it for granted that we’re all being cynical and discounting the idea that maybe all these people want to get together because they are good at what they do and want to make a great movie. So it seems like they’re giving the movie artificial gravity. Except think about those stats at the end of the movie (these are not spoilers): 500 million users, a $33 billion valuation. These are numbers that are utterly incomprehensible.  Compare this illustration of online communities from xkcd that’s contemporaneous with the events of the movie, and then this current update. You are probably reading this on Facebook right now, and if you aren’t you probably checked it in the past hour. Facebook has got some gravity, you guys. But that’s not the way we want to see it. We want it to be a diversion, a distraction. Another way to take in cat pictures and how many of your friends are eating a sandwich, “I totally wasted my office hours dicking around on Facebook.” So it’s actually a pretty slick maneuver that Fincher, et al., manage to put the hulking behemoth in the background enough to not scare the bejeesus out of all of us. This leaves fake Zuckerberg as our focal point who is placed between two pending lawsuits. This extremely convenient historical situation sets him up as conflicted antihero, we want him to win the suit against the managerial Harvard douchebags but get taken to the cleaners by his former partner.
Reznor and Ross’s score also takes this morality-neutral philosophy. The first time we encounter the music is underneath Zuckerberg’s circuitous jog home after being dumped by his (alas, fictional) girlfriend. This number, the excellently named “Hand Covers Bruise”, lacks any sort of markers to tell us whether the deserved yet still painful scene we just witnesses is meant to indicate a hero or a heel. The plaintive piano line, one of the few recognizable acoustic instruments on the soundtrack, has the feel of heartache but the scenes before and after this already tell us this. Rather than act as subliminal commentary, the score refuses to provide more emotion than an echo of the simple tension and release that happens in the story. I suppose this owes a lot to the scores of Philip Glass, but since it isn’t process-based it avoids even the larger cyclical connotations that those soundtracks have. It will be interesting to see how that particular Oscar race goes, since it’s an exceptionally incestuous race, even for the Oscars. You could practically call the soundtrack Ghosts V, and so they might try to weasel out that way a la Jonny Greenwood’s score for There Will Be Blood.
I think despite all the fretting and gleeful anticipation of mudslinging, the movie ends up being an interesting story with enough of a sense of artifice that it won’t change anyone’s opinion about actual people. This goes double for Justin Timberlake’s paranoid opportunist reading of Sean Parker, which smacks heavily of the copyright industry’s vengeance. But in the end Facebook is about as evil as hammers, which have been used to bludgeon people as well as build houses. However I wouldn’t blame you if you decided to read the terms of service all the way to the end next time.
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For All Available Brows

Oct. × ’10

From Life Magazine, circa 1949, proving that musical pretension never goes out of style.

(via 10 Engines)

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Memes Are Painless

Sep. × ’10

“[A lot of] stupid things are done in my name!” – John Cage

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Couchin’ No More

Apr. × ’10

Yesterday I posted to my Tvitter a run I did with RunKeeper, which is a ridiculously fantastic iPhone app for collecting all sorts of data while you run. I am admittedly very narcissistic about data concerning myself (last.fm, Foursquare, what have you), but I usually know better than to think this sort of info is of any interest to anyone else.

I try to keep this blog/webspace more what I’m writing than what sandwich I’m eating right now. But this particular run signified the conclusion of the Couch to 5K program, a program I’ve started twice before and finally completed this time. So I’m a little proud of this one. I’m hoping to run the RiverRun in a couple weeks, which will be my first road race since I was twelve.

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A Musical Dramaturg

Mar. × ’10

Last weekend was the university’s annual Jakobsen Conference, wherein all the graduate students get together to play house conference and have a bang-up interdisciplinary time. Maybe it was due to having significantly fewer nerves than last year, but it didn’t seem nearly as well attended. This could have been due to the conference not really starting until after lunch, with the morning taken up by the undergraduate research festivus. (That I helped judge, and they were all just adorable.) But come on guys, free lunch!

My panel was a broadly interdisciplinary gender-issues bunch, wherein I contributed a paper about Freddie Mercury that I think really lightened up all the talk of colonial identity and hegemony and other heavy stuff. More exciting was Angela’s mini lecture/recital about the dance and improvisation elements in two Ross Edwards solo oboe works. Her panel was ostensibily built around structures in artworks with two musicians, a personal essayist, and a dramaturg. I will fully admit to not being entirely sure what a dramaturg was before, but I will also fully admit that it’s kind of awexome.
To do a terrible job of explaining, the job boils down to all the academic work that could possibly go on inside a theater. Anything can could be improved through research essentially comes down to the dramaturg including program notes, script revisions, and coaching for actors and directors. My immediate and obvious thought was: Why don’t musicologists do this? We get to write program notes and give pre-concert talks if we’re lucky, but otherwise we’re basically told to stay as far away from performances as possible. A position a large portion of musicologists are perfectly happy with, by the way.
My fevered brain jumped at the idea that maybe my ever-growing and diminishingly useful knowledge of notation could useful in this sort of way. We’ve all seen overnotated scores out of the hands of student composers, but notation can be such a personal thing. Especially someone coming from a non-composition background, who’s to say they won’t reply with “Who the fuck are you to tell me not to notate things this way?” One could then respond that no matter what a work of genius it is that no one will give it enough of a chance if you insist on putting the piano part on five staves, but by then lines of communication are closed and no one is doing anything.
Angela was quick to point out that all the research and colloborative stuff is already being done by somebody, you know, that guy up front with the stick. Disappointing for me but it’s good that the work is being done. The only problem with this is that it’s a bit of secret that this is part of conducting. If you learn to conduct from a crappy teacher that doesn’t do this work, then how is the student ever to know?
Now, I might be glorifying the role of the dramaturg and there could be hundreds or thousands of actors, playwrights, and directors with seething resentment towards them. I’m just saying that it seem like it could be fun work. To my fellow performers: Let me help you, we’ll have a good time and if not I’ll bring a sixer next time
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Neo-Curation Is The New Post-Creative Act

Mar. × ’10

I’m totally going to finish that manifesto on digital notation in the near future srsly, but since I totally missed the topical train 1 I might as well try and chase another one down.

Last Tuesday my ethnomusicology class had a battery of articles on globalization and post-modernity and post-colonialism and post-everything to read. However, at the beginning of class it was discovered that Frederic Jameson himself was giving a talk at the Old Capitol RIGHT NOW NOW NOW GO GO GO. So we went to that instead. I’m not the most skilled man when it comes to cultural critique and contemporary theory and what not, so I wasn’t able to engage quite as much as some of my classmates. But at the end of the paper he closes with this total throwaway line:
“I was going to go on about how in post-modernity curators are the true artists, but it appears that I’ve run out of time.”
There was a bit of tension about that one, no one in the room would have begrudged him thirty more seconds. He had spoken a little bit out “singularity” too, so a lot of a Q&A was sidetracked into Kurzweil and immortality and all that but someone get tease out a little bit about the curation bit. Unfortunately he didn’t really elucidate much beyond his original statement, a little about post-modern artwork only having meaning in relief of one another.
I had gotten the chance I would have asked him about Tumblr and other technologies have democratized the curatorial process so is a post-modern act becoming modernized? DID I JUST BLOW YOUR MIND? I didn’t and I’m not nearly well-read enough to actually go on about that, but I have thought a bit about how this relates both to curation of music and the “paying with attention” meme that’s gone around lately.
Blogs, as it were, are a prime example of this. Kottke was the first famous one, but a there are a number of them now that center on a whole bunch of different fields, even if graphic design/typographies and other nerderies are overrepresented. 2 However the best bloggers are sort of a cross between curators and journalists. I don’t read John Gruber or Shawn Blanc just for the links but also for some sort of insightful commentary. So why are these guys more trusted than I am, for instance? It seems to break down to three things. Or the inverse if you’ve wondered how to lose trust or your friends and relatives.
  • A unique voice
  • Presenting constitently quality material
  • At a consistent rate
These are the same qualities that make a good “curator” at any level. Hence, these bloggers are usually more famous (read: trusted with their readers’ attention) than the authors they link to. Hell, Gruber has his own word for when the tremendous amounts of traffic he provides overloads unsuspecting servers. I’m not sure if the same sort of thing can happen with sounding music.
There’s all sort of fantastic ways of distributing sounding music now: Bandcamp, YouTube/Vimeo, more disk space and bandwidth than anyone can deal with. This is the sort of Long Tail situation that seems like it would demand some curation. However, I just can’t see a situation where the curator supercedes the artist for music. I won’t go as far as to say that musicmaking is a more personal act that writing, but it is certainly perceived this way. There already exist so many interconnections and suggestive paths in music that a Tumblr of awexome tunes would be greatly appreciated but unlikely that it’d ever be the golden touch that Ed Sullivan was.
Of course, it could augment reader’s trust nonetheless. I’ve discovered more music from superfriends and dueling partners Bryan Teoh and Erik Schoster than I can ever thank them for, and it certainly effects my opinion of them as musicians despite the fact that it’s not their own sounding work. I’ve toyed with the idea of incorporating a linked list into this humble site, so put that on the list of changes that lie dormant for months before being enacted suddenly and without warning.
  1. Originally supposed to be tied into the iPad announcement, I could have related it to the iPad pre-order I suppose. There’s always April 3rd!
  2. I’d say that Alex Ross and Matt Guerreri are the closest things for classical/concert music, when not underwater writing books of course.
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Recalcifications and Revisions As Concerns the iPad (Parte The First: Wherein Issues Unrelated to Printed Sheet Music Are Discussed)

Jan. × ’10

What is it?

I’m still not entirely sure who this is for and whether it’s suppose to be a primary or secondary device. My particular demographic (technologically inclined with a little bit of disposal income, but still very aware of bills that need paying) seems to have been pretty apathetic during the keynote until the price shoe dropped.
The marketing blitz is certainly trying to position it as a secondary device between a laptop and a smartphone. The keynote had it shown being plugged into a Mac a couple times to sync it, basically like an iPhone. But why couldn’t it essentially work as a primary device? To focus on the obstacles, there are only a couple things that the iPad (probably) really sucks at.
• Generating/manipulating large amounts of text
• Keyboard-driven gaming
• Questionable music device
The keyboard dock essentially solves the first two, and the keynote featured a first person shooter using the touch interface. (I get to the music later.) The point is that the iPhone interface was a large step in making digital material feel much more corporeal and malleable. 1 To the perhaps latent fear of nerds everywhere, it’s a much more intuitive interface for the peoples.

A Listening Experience

Steve says that it’s “an awesome way to enjoy your music collection”. Listen, I understand how the magic show works, but since the iPod application 2 was on the screen for seven seconds and didn’t use the buzz words “dream”, “magic”, or “it just works” Apple sort of tipped their hand.
I literally can’t see how music on the iPad can be an “awesome” experience. Unless there is something severely magical behind that half-inch tall grill the only magical thing it will sound like is unicorn turds. This is compounded by the awkward experience of trying to use the iPad as a portable music device.
This is one of the gaps where the iPad has circles run around it by the iPhone and it still doesn’t solve the relatively unpleasant experience of listening to music on a laptop. This has got to really chap Apple’s ass, since they have a lot to owe the iPod. So here’s the plan: get back behind AirTunes. The iPhone Remote app is gnarly and the extra real estate on the iPad would just make it better. Better yet! When the iPad 2.0 or whatever comes out, grab harmon/kardon or Sennheuser or Dr. Dre and roll out some speakers that work on Bluetooth without any sort of intermediary. I’m sure audiophiles will shudder, but all their music is on 200 gram vinyl so it doesn’t matter anyway.

Gadget Proliferation Treaties

How much is 16 GB to you? To me, it’s a tiny amount since my music collection only is over five times that size. To somewhat who doesn’t hoard, it might be more reasonable. Obviously the hard drive is miniscule compared to a MacBook Pro, but we are talking about solid state drives. If the iPad is Apple’s attempt to steal the “netbook” market, I’m a little surprised the word “cloud” never came up.
I’m also not surprised, the term is mostly associated with Google as well as being a priority of Microsoft’s under Ray Ozzie. Given Apple’s services in this realm, (the less said about .mac the better) I wouldn’t invoke the names of my archnemeses either. But given that Apple still sells iPod that have almost ten times the capacity they have to be cognisant of alternate storage solutions.
To go back to the Evil Empire, one of their ad campaigns for Windows 7 focused on making all the devices in your house work together, which sounds a hell of a lot like “it just works”. (Isn’t it bizarre that Windows still has 700% market share but no presence in the zeitgeist at all? Hilarious.) If everyone is going to have an iPhone, and an iPad, and a MacBook what sort of formats are going to work across all three of those?

And One More Thing

I’d get those iPad jokes out of the way now because they’re going to age about as well as your Wii jokes did.
  1. If this continues, I wonder how this will affect the valuation of bits vs. atoms.
  2. I love that the app is still called iPod. Archeologists from the future will think that what we called music.
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