Eight Years of Furniture Music

Eight years ago today my senior composition recital was held at Smith Recital Hall at San Diego State University. The concert included nine different works I had composed over four years at SDSU, and these works quite appropriately represented my creative output from 2003–2007. Strangely though, I quickly lost interest in the works after I graduated, and today I rarely share anything I’ve ever composed prior to 2008. There are however, a couple works I gladly continue to share and those are the two bits of muzak—or furniture music as Erik Satie would call it—I composed as intermission music for the recital, “Causal Friday,” and “Easy Street.” These two tracks together have the most hits of all time on my soundcloud page (making them the most popular music I’ve ever written!), and one has even been included as on-hold music in an Israeli comedy short.

I eventually published the tracks as the two-track album Waitin’ Around on soundcloud, and the songs remain near and dear to me. There’s something fascinating about music that is not meant to be heard. Muzak is truly one of my guilty pleasures, and a my not-so-greatest secret is that I would love to have a regular job composing on-hold music for all those people, waiting around, on hold.

“Vanishing Scarcity” at NABIG 2015

On Sunday March 1, I had the opportunity to present at the North American Basic Income Guarantee Congress (NABIG) on the issue of arts, technology, and basic income. Basic income is a form of social security in which every person, regardless of their wealth, health, or any other distinction, is given a certain amount of money regularly (once a month is the usual interval mentioned). Suffice to say this is a radical idea and currently no government or jurisdiction in the world awards a basic income to their citizens (Alaska has something similar with the Alaska Permanent Fund, and Brazil has the plans to enact a basic income). A basic income needs to meet the basic survival needs of an individual—enough to pay their food, shelter, and clothing costs—and nothing else. It is only there to ensure the survival of the individual. Continue reading

Snow on the Green

Earlier this week winter storm Juno rolled through the Northeast, and while New England bore the brunt of the storm, New York City did not receive the “historic” snowfall predicted by some. This short work was inspired by a walk I took in my neighborhood at about 03:45 in the morning—during the height of the storm. As I walked around my little corner of Long Island City the snow quickly covered up any trace of the few people out and about, and I eventually found myself at the Dutch Kills Green, a small park near my home. It was completely blanketed with mounds of snow.

Snow on the Green is a 31-limit work rendered by NotePerformer samples and Sibelius notation software. Like all my works in just intonation, it sets G392Hz as 1/1 (which was the convention of Harry Partch).

Null Week

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day has always seemed strange. Life slows down, people skip work, school is out of session; it’s almost if the days don’t really exist, and the only reason we keep track of the days is so we know when to return to our daily routines. I remember hearing once that the ancient Sumerians celebrated the new year for several days, and that these days were considered neither part of the old year ending or the new year beginning. (Alas, I could find no evidence to support that claim, but I like the way it sounds.) In honor of this time I composed Null Week, a short work in just intonation for sampled electric piano. Null Week is in two-parts and was inspired by Erik Satie’s Gnossiennes.

Transeamus: The Hilliard Ensemble’s Final Album

Tonight, in London, the Hilliard Ensemble will give their final scheduled performance before they retire. Since their founding in the 1970s, the Hilliard Ensemble have been vanguards of the early music movement and remained a powerful force throughout their 40-year history. At the end of October, the Hilliard Ensemble released their final album, Transeamus. The album (which was recorded in 2012) is a collection of English carols and motets from the 15th century and a stunningly appropriate cap to an amazing set of recordings. David James, countertenor of the group, summed up the essence of this recording’s context within the Hilliard Ensemble’s catalog:

The Hilliard Ensemble’s first ever recording contained music from the court of King Henry VIII and so it seemed appropriate for our final recording to return to our roots…

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Birdman: A Score for Drum Kit

birdman-movie-poster-1Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), a film directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu and starring Michael Keaton, is a surreal tale of a washed-up Hollywood action star who tries his hand at serious theater acting in New York City. The movie opened in mid-November and has been well received. I knew about the movie for a while but it wasn’t until I read Stephin Merritt’s review of the score that I was compelled to go see the movie—mostly to experience its soundtrack.

Birdman‘s soundtrack consists mostly of drum kit music composed by jazz drummer Antonio Sanchez, along with some “additional music” composed by both Joan Valent and Victor Hernandez Stumpfhauser, and some cuts of music by Mahler, Ravel, John Adams, and a couple other classical composers. This score of primarily drum kit work is a fascinating experiment because the music requires the film much more than the film requires the music. Additionally the work of multiple composers along with selections by a music supervisor are an interesting departure from what is the traditional model of film scoring. Continue reading