Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Winding down? Yeah right...

First, let me talk about how much I HATE my headphones. Let this be a warning to all of you: the Koss headphones with the great earpieces that always stay in when you're playing with a click track? Yeah, they still make those, but they put this damn killswitch inline now (ostensibly because a huge, and stupid, percentage of the populace fail to grasp the unspoken social cue given by wearing something in your ear to BLOCK OUTSIDE SOUND, and will approach you on the bus, subway, etc, wishing to initiate inevitably banal small talk...gosh, I'm beginning to sound like David Foster Wallace!), and they don't solder the connection well, so instead of the nice, full stereo sound that the old Koss phones put out, you have to yank on the damn thing like it's a piece of floss to get a good connection.

As you can probably tell, my headphones are in right now, and I'm sitting at my local coffee purveyors', basking in the free Wi-Fi and enjoying my iced latte while I try to recap the events of the last week. WHOO hectic. Robin Engleman from the esteemed NEXUS percussion ensemble was in residence all week here at the good ol' U of K (Kentucky, not Kansas, although the basketball tradition of the former seems to have invaded the latter), and had lots of good things to say about listening to silence, the wisdom of Takemitsu, and the correct interpretation of doo-wop.

On Friday, we played the inaugural SOUND/VISION chamber concert, and it was magic. This concert was really the summation of everything I wanted to study in college, and I couldn't have been more pleased. The mallets I finally decided to use for Red Arc/Blue Veil worked great (who knew that following the composer's instructions to the letter would actually work out for once?), and Drumming was fantastic. Jason Corder and Jordan Munson did an absolutely breathtaking job of the visuals, and I wish I had a picture of the A/V table (a fold-out table, strategically hidden behind the piano, that sagged dramatically under the weight of two computers, two projectors, two PA amplifier racks, and assorted odds and sods that define performing modern music- all in all, it looked something like a pawn shop shelf). The highlight of the night, for me, was watching the video for the equally breathtaking sounds of Crumb's Vox Balaenae shift and throb organically in perfect sync with the music. Jason and I found that we could get a perfect mix for the Jitter patch to run by taking the monitor mix from the PA and running it in to his computer- notable only in that it was the first music technology challenge that I effectively surmounted the first time I attempted it!

Corollary to this event, the Drumming quartet (now officially christened the Sound/Vision Quartet) has been invited to perform at WRFL's FreeKY festival on April 26, at the Downtown Lexington Transit Center. We will be playing not one, but TWO movements of Drumming, and it's free, and the Apples in Stereo are playing too, so BYOB, B, LC, F, AS (Bring Your Own Booze, Blanket, Lawn Chairs, Frisbee, And Snacks) and enjoy a day of great free music!

Sunday was my last percussion ensemble concert at UK- what a weird feeling, to be done with four years of percussion concerts. I stood in the "graduating" picture with Jim and Robin and suddenly felt very old. It seems like yesterday that I was loading in for our first percussion concert. Eh- I could run down these "graduating senior" cliches all day, but I'll spare you, dear reader, the embarrassment and boredom.

In other "Full Circle" news, I got my grubby meathooks on a copy of the long-out-of-print Frank Zappa Guitar Book: it's a veritable treasure trove of some of Zappa's weirdest, full of notational oddities and fiercely complex rhythms that I always just assumed were the slurred interpretation of a blues-based guitar tradition. I suppose, after spending the last ten years committing much of the repertoire in this book to memory (mostly stuff from the "Shut Up and Play Yer Guitar" sessions, with some other late 70's-early 80's guitar work thrown in), I thought that I knew what was going on in some of these songs, but following the score to some of my old favorites has proven that I know my Zappa WAY less accurately than I thought. Ultimately, though, this is some of the music that drove me to study music at a collegiate level in the first place, and it's a tremendous feeling of accomplishment to FINALLY find these transcriptions and get a glimpse into Zappa's warped compositional processes. The fact that the man could improvise in so many weird scales, navigating an impenetrably dense polyrhythmic language with effortless efficacy, is a testament to Zappa's strength not only as a composer, but also as a tragically underrated guitarist.

So, with all this activity, you'd think that the rest of the semester would be cake, right? HAH. Juries loom large on the horizon (Reflections on The Nature of Water and the Takemitsu Beatles Transcriptions, hooray!), and I still have to conduct interviews with the seven or so remaining musicians who have so kindly responded to my interview requests. Oh, and then I have to transcribe their answers and write a 25-40 page response. Oh boy.

And I have to find a job- if only blogging paid...

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