Should I Start a Podcast?


I founded and run a group called the American Modern Ensemble in New York City. Although I have a lot on my plate, I have been considering starting a podcast that focuses on modern music. This could incorporate elements of AME, such as interviews from our concerts, excerpts from composer's works, and so on. Since AME is a modern group, it deserves a modern outpost in cyberspace, which would help us attract a larger audience. This podcast would be a step in the right direction.

Just as I think that as the Kindle and similar devices will ultimately subvert printed books, I predict that podcasts will—and already are—the death of many radio shows. Not all, since I really believe that talented hosts are few and far between (just listen to the myriad of bad podcasts out there to see what I mean, the ones with low rating on iTunes, for example), but certainly most.

Back to AME, we have mini-interviews at our concerts with the composers, and although this has been a great way for audience members to connect with the composers and see that they live and breathe, it is really just a tease and certainly does not allow us to go into great depth.

Furthermore, there are far too few Podcasts and radio programs that focus on living composers, and the few that exist are either located on college campuses or in out-of-the-way towns, or of a somewhat limited scope. This podcast would be more candid and open than most pseudo-scripted radio shows. Also, as long as you work out the kinks ahead of time—and for those who know me, I have become somewhat tech-savvy over the last few years—it would hopefully not be that time-consuming, but would also reach a broader audience. 

There is just too much inefficiency built into the modern music world. All concerts should be good enough to record, and digital files should be automatically available. The problem is that live concerts are often never perfect enough to release to the public, since careful scrutiny will reveal subtle flaws, whether technical or performer-based. Usually, audiences do not readily notice these small mistakes, but great performers are perfectionists, and they like to really get a piece of music right before it is listened to over and over again.

A podcast would allow us to expand upon a resource at our disposal, the wonderful guest composers who show up to our concerts, and would also allow us to hear more from the performers. It would also allow me to talk about issues outside of our concerts but related to the modern music world. I am not that into writing about modern music, particularly because there are many people who already do it so much better than I ever could, such as Alex Ross and Bruce Hodges. But I really like the idea of being able to listen to what composers have to say while listening to clips of their works. After all, it's music, and the best way to describe music while talking about it is by playing it.

Finally, one requirement is that I would never do this podcast alone. I find that the most interesting podcasts always include others, whether as guests or with two or more hosts. I will try to interest my wife Victoria, since she provides such a good foil, but if she's not into it, I'll look around, or just use different guests, or rotating guests.

I am most interested in quality rather than quantity. I would probably attempt one podcast a month, and if I can somehow generate income (although it is nearly as impossible to generate income from a podcast as it is from a blog), I could probably up it to two per month.

I am still not sure whether this webcast would focus exclusively on American composers, although I am pretty sure it would, or if it will be an offshoot of AME. I think I will just have it be my own personal podcast focusing on American Music so I could branch out and do other projects. After all, AME's current season is only three programs, although that will hopefully change).

I am not sure what to call it, but here are some ideas: Modern Music Today, Living Breathing Composers, ComposerCast, Living Composers. These are all pretty dry and a little boring, so if you have a better idea, let me know.

Also, perhaps importantly, if I mess up, I want the onus to fall on me, not AME. If I ask a crazy question or go off on a rant, AME should be a secondary player on the whole process, mostly just providing access to composers, performers and great music.

If I do go through with this, it will probably roll out in fall, 2009.

So what I need to know is if this will interest anyone. I might go ahead and do it anyway, but I would be grateful for feedback.

What do you think? Should I embark down this path?

[polldaddy poll=1414788]

Wind Beneath My Wings

victoria_paterson-large-1 Valentine's Day just passed, and like an idiot, I forgot to get Victoria flowers, or anything else Romantic. Deservedly, I am in the doghouse, at least a little, so this week I am trying to make up for it.

Sometimes it is easy to forget the friends and family in our lives that keep us going, those that make us want to get up every morning and continue working, which is particularly important if you are a self-employed freelance artist, as I am. Victoria witnesses everything I go through and have to deal with.

Few people probably realize how hard Victoria works. She is an amazing wife and a fantastic mother. Anyone with kids knows that being a mom—or at least a good one—is an all-encompassing job. I don't think Dylan will truly realize how wonderful she is until he is much older.

She is the Managing Director for our group, the American Modern Ensemble, which is an incredibly demanding job, especially in this economy. Are there many other jobs that are more stressful? Perhaps being an air traffic controller, which is basically the same thing, when you think about it, but with great pay. (Just kidding, of course, there's really no comparison.)

Victoria also founded and runs Lumiere Records, an indie record company that also encompasses a thriving wedding gig business. Her String Quartet Wedding Music CD does very well on Amazon and iTunes, and she is always coming up with more ideas for new projects.

Every evening, when most people are winding down, she plays in West Side Story on Broadway and gets home at 11:15 PM. She does a ton work on the side, everything from gigs at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center to run-outs to other states, and even other countries.

On top of all this, she helps me with my career and acts as my unofficial manager. She is always talking me up to everyone, and I feel incredibly lucky to be married to someone who actually loves my music.

The whole time, she manages to stay unbelievably healthy, beautiful and high-spirited. We have been together for almost eighteen years and married for almost eleven, and to this day I cannot think of a more amazing women who I would want to spend the rest of my life with.

There are Two Types of Composers

There are two types of composers: those that revise, and those that do not. I am not talking about making corrections—a wrong note here or there—but actually making major changes: ripping apart and re-constructing sections, adding new notes, changing dynamics and articulations, and so on. There are many great composers who edited older works—Sibelius, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Boulez and Ives, to name a few—but others simply do not like to go back or feel they do not need to, or only make changes when there are very minor details that need fixing, like Christopher Rouse and Poul Ruders. This is not a black and white issue of course. One composer's revision is another composer's minor tweak. Some revisions are musical, others are technical. I have been thinking about this a lot lately because I recently revised a work I wrote thirteen years ago, a forty-minute piece for piano trio called Sun Trio that will finally be premiered in Los Angeles by an enterprising new trio. It was almost surreal, revising something I wrote so long ago. It felt close to my heart, but distant at the same time. As the piece and I became intimately reacquainted, it felt good—like reconnecting with an old friend, or a son who has moved away (or in  this case, Sun).

This brings up another interesting issue: that of altering works written long ago. Is it worth it? In this case, I made a few  errors that I now realize can be fixed without harming my original intention; for example, I  wrote a few notes as harmonics that work much better as regular pitches. Back then, I was even more obsessed with dynamic shading than I am now, but in a few spots, I  think I went way over the top. I also increased a few tempos, easily shaving off a good minute or two from the entire work. By changing these details, the piece will still sound the same, but will be much more playable. None of my revisions were huge, but everything just feels better now.

A final issue I have been obsessed with lately is the concept of having a separate editor. By default, composers are their own editors. I think this, more than anything, is the most difficult role to teach composition students: the importance of being self-critical, without pandering to trends and the tastes of others.

In some disciplines such as film, collaboration is normal. Classical composers—unless they work in the film industry or only write operas or musicals—almost never have an outsider edit their music, or even suggest edits. Can you imagine? Long, boring swaths of music in pieces by certain long-winded composers (I won't mention names) would be cut. What a thrill that would be, and imagine the millions of hours saved!

As Ruders once said in an interview, perhaps experience is what makes the difference, but if there's a good reason, revisions are OK. In the end, it depends on the composer, the work and when it was written, but most importantly, composers should always feel free to make changes if they will make a piece better.

The Top Eleven Reasons Why I Love Vinyl

  Dylan Enjoying Listening to Annie


Computers surround me and the digital realm is a huge part of my life, but there is so much to love about records. They are analog, old-fashioned and so yesterday, but I am not the only one. During the last few years there has been a resurgence of interest in records.

In homage to Nigel from This is Spinal Tap, here are the top eleven reasons why I love records:

1. They are Fun to Look At

This summer we visited my in-laws in Vermont, and they have a fairly large record collection. My son Dylan was fascinated with their record player, and especially with the pictures inside the foldout record cover. Every day, he wanted to listen to Annie and read along, singing the whole time. Sorry, but it is just not as fun—particularly for a toddler—to read along with a tiny CD booklet. If you want to get kids interested in music, this is the way to do it.

2. They are Fun to Browse Through

I don't relish browsing through my CD collection. Admittedly, digital browsing is fun, but it's still a huge chore to see liner notes (if they even exist), lyrics and so on. There is something both thrilling and relaxing about holding a colorful album cover in your hands and not having to squint. I imagine that aging baby-boomers will start to wish they kept their record collections when they get older.

3. Better Sound

This is probably the most dubious claim: do records really sound better? No one will argue that digital tracks (track—a quietly antiquated term, like splice, or groove) sound much cleaner: no pops, hisses and usually no skipping, unless you have a toddler who regularly handles your discs with grubby fingers. My theory is that people think records sound better because the noise helps your years focus, and the fuzzy lack of clarity in the analog realm mellows out the high frequencies, making the sound waves seems less harsh. Call me crazy, but my ears tire more listening to CDs, particularly if I am forced to listen using cheap headphones or speakers.

4. You can Raid your Parent's Collection

My dad has an amazing classical record collection. He has recordings that I am certain will never be re-released, particularly ones that were put out by indie record labels. Recently, for our Food & Music American Modern Ensemble concert, I went online and purchased a recording of Three Place Settings by Barbara Kolb on the long out-of-print Desto label, for the whopping grand total of $1.00. This is the only recording that is currently available. I used a service I found online to transfer it to a CD to use as a reference recording for a few of the players. Although we played it quite differently, it was great to hear this recording to give us an idea.

5. More Music for Less Dough

If money is an issue, you can't beat records. You can find some real treasures in stores that still sell records. Even trolling garage sales will turn up some great finds, usually for no more than a dollar.

6. Fewer Anti-Piracy Restrictions

If you have the right equipment, it's very easy to make a mix tape of a record, and a hell of a lot of fun. Time consuming, but so deliciously retro. You can immediately see why piracy is a much bigger deal now: you cannot easily upload a record onto a file sharing service and distribute it to hundreds or thousands of people, and you cannot rip a record in less than five minutes—like you can with a CD—without severely harming the sound quality.

7. They Make You Slow Down

We live in the age of "fast". Listening to records takes more time than scanning tracks on your iPod, and again, you can not easily load them into your computer. I think it is nice to chill once in a while, and records make you do just that.

8. The Memories

The smell of vinyl brings back so many memories. When I was playing records for my son Dylan at my in-laws house, the smell instantly reminded me of my father dancing with me and throwing me up in the air when I was his age, playing me Stravinsky, Bach and Shostakovich, three of his favorite composers. Those are some of my happiest memories as a child.

9. The Machinery

One detail I miss with CD players, iPods and so on is being able to see what's happening. I love seeing the needle approach the record, looking at the grooves and actually seeing where a track ends and the next begins. Dylan also loved this, and I am certain that the mechanics of the record player are part of the reason he loves playing records so much.

10. The Concept Album

 As much as I love the convenience of only downloading the one track that I like from an album, the idea of a unified album is gradually disappearing, particularly with pop music. Even the idea of putting out a release (antiquated) based on the length of a CD, let alone a record (doubly antiquated) will eventually disappear. If it was not for the limitations of records, we would probably not have concept albums.

11. They Are Just Plain Cool

There is something deliciously retro about playing records; movies like High Fidelity remind me how much of my daily life as a teenager was built around this medium: waiting for releases (not downloading tracks before a band releases them—whatever happened to delayed gratification?) and actually going to a record store (will those exist in ten years?)—a real record store, not two isles in Barnes & Noble or Wal-Mart.

I do not suppose that an analog renaissance will last long. The digital age is too convenient, and as much as I love to slow down and smell the vinyl, I love having a hundred albums on-hand when I am traveling even more. Even so, I am so glad my parents and in-laws have their collections, waiting for us to enjoy when we visit.

Dylan, TED and the New Renaissance

Dylan Painting Lately I have been listening to webcasts in the background as I work, particularly if I am correcting scores and parts (which as any composer will attest, is personally fulfilling but mind-numbingly tedious). Damon Lee, a composer friend of mine who lives and teaches in Germany, recently turned me on to TED, an amazing site that contains talks by some of the world's greatest inventors and thinkers, including Dean Kamen, Ray Kurzweil, Al Gore and others. One brilliant, very funny lecture that caught my attention is by Sir Ken Robinson, entitled Do Schools Kill Creativity?

Something Robinson points out and that I have noticed with children—mostly with my  2 1/2 year old son Dylan who is the child I spend most of my time with—is that if they are not hindered by adult preconceptions, they will interactively express themselves in truly unique and organic ways. Dylan synthesizes all sorts of influences and stimuli into his own form of creativity. He sings and dances while he paints, holds two paint brushes like drumsticks, painting and drumming on the paper all at once, and even depicts stories in his paintings that combine all of his diverse stimuli—everything from Itsy Bitsy Spider to the moon and the stars. Interestingly, everything makes perfect sense to him because no one has told him otherwise. Nothing is a mistake. The whole time, he is developing motor skills, exploring and stretching boundaries. His personal expression, without adult-imposed limits or categorization, is a highly entertaining and profoundly beautiful experience to watch.

Back to TED, the summary on the Do Schools Kill Creativity? page states that Robinson makes a "profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity." Robinson calls the meeting of passion and skill "The Element" and perfectly summarizes all that is wrong with most modern educational systems. Even some of the most radical schools still treat the arts, sports and "the other intelligences" (anything other than the humanities and languages) as second class citizens. Arts courses are allotted fewer credits, and most schools still structure their degrees and curriculums using outmoded models meant to prepare people for a society centered around industrialization.

I think we are entering—or already experiencing—a New Renaissance. Our life spans are now long enough that we need not have one career, one passion or even one intelligence. We can have multiple facets, either at the same time or one after the other. They can be related or not, and we do not have to choose one over the other. You can be a musician and a corporate CEO, a dentist and a pianist, a photographer and a professional chef. Technology is helping us express ourselves and save time enough to distill the essence of what we desire. Our only limits—other than a lawful society and survival—should be what we place on ourselves.

As I have always said, genius is mostly about connecting disparate elements where there were no connections before, and having the skill and passion to carry out your ideas. I only hope that as parents, we can allow Dylan to be as unique, creative and skilled as possible.

Recent Happenings

I have been busy these last few months: premieres of Winter Songs, Piranha and Eating Variations, a lot going on with my group, the American Modern Ensemble, and much more. But I am back, and I promise to be much better about contributing to the new music blogosphere. Recently I had the pleasure of attending the recent award presentations for both BMI and ASCAP. It was both exciting and humbling to meet so many young, talented composers, and in particular, to hear excerpts of pieces at the ASCAP ceremony. It is always wonderful to mingle with the amazing luminaries in attendance, but it was the young composers that got me excited. Perhaps it is their optimism and fresh outlook, but I find it comforting to know that they are creating so many great works.

In other news, my plans this summer are to work on—and hopefully finish—an orchestral work I started two summers ago while in residence at the Copland House. This is tentatively called Journey of a Dragonfly, but will probably be shortened to Dragonfly in order to avoid comparison with Flight of the Bumblebee. Or, maybe I will just keep the name and weather the storm. If anyone out there has suggestions, let me know. Maybe I will set up a survey.

I also plan on composing a scene for a new opera I will be working on called Invisible Child. What else? I will be working on a new commission for the Volti choir in San Francisco, to be premiered next spring. If you do now know about Volti, you should: they are one of only a handful of choirs in the United States that focus on new music, and the are quite amazing. Bob Geary is an enlightened, dedicated director, and he and composer/advisor Mark Winges have worked together for many years, creating a true oasis for modern choral works and composers. I should note that Winges is also a gifted composer and he writes some of the most adventurous choral music I can think of. If you are an arts organization or patron who loves new music, and particularly if you are in the San Francisco Bay area, you should be donating to this organization.

Christopher Rodriguez

This story is truly sad: a 10-year old boy in Oakland, CA named Christopher Rodriguez was accidentally shot and paralyzed while taking his first piano lesson at a music store. A stray bullet from a gunman robbing a nearby gas station went through the wall of the music store, puncturing his kidney and spleen and severing his spinal cord. He faces years of rehabilitation, and his parents still haven't told him that he will likely never walk again. Here is a blog, with links to news articles:

This poor kid did nothing wrong, and his family can't afford to work and be with him at the hospital at the same time. I guess it resonates with me because I am a musician, and because it is yet another very human reminder of how messed up this world is. It makes me so grateful to have the luxury of living in a safe environment, with a loving family, a healthy 2-year old and enough food to eat.

I can't imagine what this family is going through right now. We will certainly make a donation to this family, and I certainly encourage everyone to donate if it is within your means.

Mourning Jorge Liderman

Last night I found out that composer Jorge Liderman died of an apparent suicide on February 3. He was only 50 years old.

I never met him or knew his music well, but what I did know I liked quite a bit. I am deeply saddened that a composer who had so much going for him would end his life so early. This tragedy should be a reminder to all of us all to pay attention to cues from our loved ones and friends, to take time to reach out to those we care about, and to cherish those around us who dedicate their lives to helping us feel something new and unique through their art.

Within the composer community, it could have been any one of us. I know many composers who are depressed (in fact, probably almost all of them), let alone performers, and people from all walks of life. Some should not be depressed and are blinded by success, but others have every right, particularly those who write wonderful music and have two or three degrees, yet have few or no commissions, no solid teaching job and are constantly broke. Liderman was quite successful and should not have been depressed, but apparently, he was. Whatever the reason, it is a dark day in  the world of classical music.

Inevitably, Liderman's death will probably generate more performances of his work, but it is so tragic that this is how it had to happen.

Famous Composers I (Almost) Studied With

There are many important and famous composers, long since gone, whom I would love to have met. Sometimes I think many of the tidbits mentioned to me when I was a student could have come from some of these composers, passed down through many generations of student/teacher lessons. Out of simple curiosity, I decided to do a little research and see if I could claim any connection whatsoever to any of them. Fortunately, I studied with a tremendously diverse, impressive body of teachers, all of whom I highly admire. This list includes Samuel Adler, Warren Benson, David Liptak, William Ortiz-Alvarado, Roberto Sierra, Steven Stucky, Frederick Fox, Eugene O'Brien, Joseph Schwantner, Christopher Rouse, Aaron Jay Kernis, John Harbison and Sydney Hodkinson. I had master classes with a number of others, but I actually took lessons with these composers.

William Ortiz-Alvarado was my first teacher when I was ca. fifteen, and I really only took one or two private lessons with John Harbison, which were more like hangout sessions. But I did sit in on a whole summer of master classes with Harbison and Bernard Rands at Aspen, so to me, those count as lessons. I also sat in on master classes with Jacob Druckman but never took private lessons with him, although I would have loved to. I took one lesson with Syd Hodkinson, but played in the new music ensemble at Eastman for many years, so I would say that I worked with him, even though technically, I really did not take private lessons with him.

Here is a list of how many years (in parentheses) I studied with each teacher:

Key: Eastman School of Music (ESM); Indiana University (IU); Cornell University (CU); Atlantic Center for the Arts (ACA); Aspen Center for the Arts (Aspen); Private (P)

Samuel Adler (1, ESM) Warren Benson (1, ESM) David Liptak (1, ESM) William Ortiz-Alvarado (1, P) Roberto Sierra (3, CU) Steven Stucky (3, CU) Frederick Fox (1, IU) Eugene O'Brien (1, IU) Joseph Schwantner (1, ESM) Christopher Rouse (2, ESM) Aaron Jay Kernis (summer, ACA) John Harbison (2 lessons and master class, Aspen) Sydney Hodkinson (1 lesson and new music ensemble, Aspen)

How could I have studied with Sierra and Stucky for six years when I was only matriculated at Cornell for four? I was in town for an extra year and took lessons, and they often overlapped when they were in or out of town, so we often just consulted with whoever was around at the time since there are only two composers on the faculty. I am guessing that took about three years worth of lessons with each of them.

There are other composers I've worked with who I never really studied with, such as David Dzubay (I played in his new music ensemble for two years at IU) and Bernard Rands at Aspen, whose advanced master class I took. I never discussed my music personally with Dzubay, and Rand's advice was directed toward the group, but was still useful.

I originally entered Eastman as a percussionist. After a semester, I thought I didn't have enough to do, so I went to Adler and asked if I could take composition lessons.

"Whaaat? Why would you want to do that? C'mon. You're a fine percussionist! Just stick to percussion,” he said. "Because I want to compose," I said. In a gruff voice, he said "If you want to take lessons, I'll let you study with this really good doctoral student, on the condition that if you do OK with him, we'll accept you into the department."

I spent the next semester studying with a doctoral student whose name I can't remember. I don't think I learned much from him, but nevertheless, Adler accepted me into the composition department starting my sophomore year. I was proud, as I worked very hard that semester to impress the composition faculty. The piece I remember them hearing in the infamous Room 120 was Humanus Ex Machina for alto sax and three percussionists. They seemed to like it, but if I am remembering correctly, only Adler walked up to me afterwards and congratulated me, but as I learned later, composers often just walk away without thinking that your entire emotional state is riding on their stroking your ego. As you become older and more confident, you hopefully get over this, but this was a huge day for me, so I was very sensitive.

I ended up double majoring in percussion and composition at Eastman and spent five years trudging through a double major, but since I missed one counterpoint seminar, the fine type of my degree (but not the degree itself) says I graduated as a percussionist. To this day, I am disappointed that I missed that one class.

My first "serious" composition teacher was Joseph Schwantner. I will never forget how nervous I was right before each lesson. Joe was a pretty intense first "serious" composition teacher. One of his first assignments was for me to practice shading half and whole notes correctly! My scores at that time had few notes, but boy—did they look good! I remember spending one lesson making a small ruling device out of toy train set parts, a piece of a small plastic ruler and special glue. I think I still have it somewhere in my drawers. I'll never forget trekking to New York City to visit a past girlfriend and searching around Manhattan for these parts to make more rulers, special Black Velvet pencils and "onion skin" paper. Ahhh: the days before Finale and Sibelius.

Admittedly, I was too inexperienced to really absorb the finer points of what Schwantner could have taught me. If I had my wits about me, I could have discussed his harmonic system, how he thinks about timbre, etc., but I wasn't there yet.

After Schwantner, I studied with Warren Benson, David Liptak, Samuel Adler and Christopher Rouse. I would say that Schwantner, Rouse and Adler had the greatest influence on me, but all of them are imbued in my music somehow. People often tell me they hear Schwantner in my work where I don't hear it at all. I often think certain sections of my works have a smattering of Rouse, but then others will say they can't hear it.

Adler influenced me in a way that is more transparent: I wouldn't say I was influenced by his music, but more his teachings and theoretical musings. One saying that has stayed with me to this day is his saying "you must love every note you write." This, I learned later, actually came from Aaron Copland, one of his teachers at Tanglewood. I also remember his reprimanding me for using what he thought were "Jass" chords in my music.

A typical conversation would go like this:

"What is that? A JASS Chord? Take it out." "But it's not a jazz chord. In context...." "C'mon, that's a Jass chord. If you want to write jass, go down the hall and study with those jass guys. We teach serious music in the composition department."

And so the semester went.

What I remember most about studying with David Liptak was his insistence on my approaching composition from different perspectives. If I felt like writing directly to score for an orchestral work, he would encourage me to orchestrate (i.e., like Ravel) instead. I also remember him playing a record of John Cage's 4'33" (the "Silence" piece). That was pretty memorable, as we sat there silently, but in an Escher-esque way, there was, as usual no true silence, as we were listening to record static and the sounds of our own subtle movements in our chairs.

Warren Benson was intimidating. One of his legs was a little longer than the other, and although he wore a platform shoe, he walked with a cane and had a slight limp. He was usually a little late for lessons, and when he came walking down the hall, you couldn't help but be a little frightened. He had some amazing stories about his travels, particularly to South America, which we all loved to listen to—the first few times. After the fifth time or so, it got a little tiring, but each time he would tell the story a little differently, so it wasn't so bad. I remember him having a bag of tricks he would tell us to use, in particular, he would tell us to add variety to melodic lines by shifting octaves for individual notes. If nothing else, I could be assured that he would suggest this for every piece. Otherwise, his suggestions were usually pretty interesting.

I enjoyed Chris Rouse so much that I spent my last year (my fifth year) at Eastman studying with him. I think even Chris will say that I wasn't a star student by any means at that point and hadn't really "found myself" yet, although in my defense, I did present the first ever Composer Forum concert with all of my own music because no other students had anything ready, so I must have been doing something right, regardless of how good or bad. To this day I consider him a great friend and mentor.

Regarding that composers forum, I remember having everything ready, except one movement of a small piece for vibraphone in a series I was planning on writing called Prisms for vibraphone. I was planning on playing two, but had only written one. It was too late to pull it from the program, and rather than embarrass myself by announcing to the audience that it was cancelled, I put the music on the stand, played the first one, and proceeded to play the second as if I was reading off the music, when really I only read the first line or two and then improvised the rest. I think I even turned the page at one point to make it look like I was actually reading music. To my amazement, that was the piece Adler liked the best! That was intensely irritating. The one piece he liked the best was the one I hadn't even written.

I was in school with a number of other talented students, although I wasn't really close to many of them. I knew Carter Pann and played a piece with him by a composer friend named Howard Yermish, and I was in one class with Kevin Putz, but we didn't travel in the same circles or really know each other. I hung out with Christopher Theofinidis a couple of times, and Michael Torke was a few years before my time.

At Indiana University, I knew a few talented composers, a couple of whom I still know today. I played early works by Daniel Kellogg (who eventually left to go to Curtis) and Stephan Freund and knew Yotam Haber, who also ended up going to Cornell.

As for my teachers at IU, I really enjoyed studying with both Eugene O'Brien and Fred Fox. They were both two of the best teachers I ever studied with, for different reasons. Gene was meticulous, but also deeply perceptive. Fred was the one who taught me about sensitivity to formal structure. He also cured me of my liberal use of mezzo-pianos, the pseudo dynamic that almost all young composers use too much.

At Cornell, almost everyone seemed exceptionally talented, and I still count among my friends many of the composers I was in school with at the time, including James Matheson and Yotam Haber. There were two composers in my class, Joseph Phibbs, a very gifted British composer, and Damon Lee, who I've remained great friends with all along. Damon and I have a lot in common, including our love of cooking and great wine. We also have similar sensibilities, although our music is quite different.

Steven Stucky and Roberto Sierra were my teachers at Cornell. Both are exceptionally fine composers. Steve is one of the brightest composers I have ever met, and he would often say something profound (or at least enlightening) that didn't quite register until days later, something like "well, you could do that...", which meant that it would be pretty awful if I did it. He was a master of making you tap into your insecurities and become your own harshest critic, and although he always smiled, his focused seriousness didn't make me feel any more comfortable. He would also take a long time to look at a piece, and then, as if by magic, find that one spot that you were not so sure about, without you having told him about it. Steve is also an incredibly gifted interviewer, as anyone who attended his recent New York Philharmonic interviews with famous composers knows.

On the other hand, Roberto was gregarious, a master multi-tasker, and more like a jovial, wise father figure with a serious side. Unlike Steve, who's more like a fine Scotch, Roberto is like an exquisitely-made Pina Colada (although personally, he loves fine wines). Before I end accepted into the program at Cornell, I remember him interviewing me in his office. While talking, he reached behind his head for a soft drink chilling on his windowsill, opened it behind his head and shut the window, the whole time talking to me about the composition program at Cornell, without losing focus or eye contact. He is a master orchestrator, and although he sometimes seemed to only passively look at one of my pieces, he was really paying attention. He knew exactly how an effect would sound, and always gave great suggestions for how to make something come across in the most effective way possible.

Now for the best part: figuring out whether I have any sort of attachment to these famous dead composers I mentioned earlier. To do this, at some point in the future I will make a sort of student teacher family tree for various composers I studied with. Stay tuned for a future blog entry where I'll present the tree.

The Long Tail of New Music

Lately I have been thinking about The Long Tail, a term coined by Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired magazine. The term refers to a distribution theory and is taken from a book Anderson wrote called The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More (2006). Here is what it looks like:

The Long tail

In the diagram above, the long tail is represented by the yellow tail, and bestsellers are represented by the green part on the left.

Basically, what Anderson argues is that low demand products that have low sales volume can collectively make up a market share that rivals or exceeds the relatively few current bestsellers and blockbusters, if the store or distribution channel is large enough. I am not so sure that the long tail correlates to high quality, just distribution or perhaps micro-distribution and perhaps individuality.

What interests me is the implication this has for composers and new classical music. It should be obvious to everyone by now in the classical music world—performers, composers, conductors and record companies—that the future of recordings lies in digital distribution, and for better or worse, physical recordings will become extinct, at least in their current form. Don't get me wrong: I love the physical sensation of holding a CD or record (especially records: those were cool—all those big photos!), but the efficiency of digital media is just too enticing, technology is constantly getting better, and album art, program notes and the like are becoming easier to access via digital players.

But how does this effect composers?

I think technology and instantaneous track switching will create a new form of classical music, one that's more malleable, more like a Mashup. It is already happening, but is still not that prevalent. If customers can combine individual tracks in the order they want, what's to stop them from combining parts of pieces, modulating them instantaneously (both with pitch and tempo), and creating whole new pieces? Cadenzas from one concerto or recording by a certain artist could be added to another. This process requires at least some level of musical intelligence and patience, but it is becoming easier to do over time.

The big mistake is thinking that our Garage Band culture and level of education can always substitute for the artistry of those who toil their whole lives, creating work that is truly earth shaking, moving and timeless. What we end up with in a creatively free YouTube society, one in which the tools are easy to use but the education and craft are still difficult (after all, plugging our brains into a sort of Matrix, Total Recall upload scenario is still not really here yet, at least in an off-the-shelf sort of way) is either appropriating someone else's ideas and calling them our own (which many of us do anyway, but often in a subtler fashion) or creating work that is vapid, lacking depth and silly. Don't get me wrong, I love silliness more than most composers, but are we really going to cherish Evolution of Dance in 50 years?

Laurence Lessig, that bastion of free creativity, has some interesting ideas on this front, but as far as I know, he does not really create, he just pontificates, and he gets some of it wrong. Creative Commons is an interesting and extremely useful idea, but sometimes, it takes the mind of one individual to create something truly fresh and extraordinary. Lord of the Rings, Berio's Sinfonia, The Ring Cycle, and other classics could not have been created in a YouTube culture. Maybe that will change, but for now, it hasn't.

We have the potential to create works with infinite variables, and have them all available, all the time. This type of world will reply on filters we can trust: excellent librarians, store clerks (online or off) with PhD's, and so on. We simply won't have time to filter it all ourselves. Perhaps the Amazon approach to reviewing will help filter for us, but who knows what the level of education is of the people doing the reviewing? Wikipedia, as much as I love it, has a similar problem, but at least there is always a way to correct someone if they are wrong, and you hope that over time, correct information wins out over incorrect by virtue of its correctness.

With modern classical music, it seems that The Long Tail will end up being a sort of Deadhead type of availability of potentially infinite variables of different works, whether via recordings or something truly creative. The question is, how many Long Tail creations will actually equal the quality of the best of the best sellers? Does quality correlate to availability? We shall see...

Thoughts on the Demise of Tower Records

Tower Records Closing "You hear that Mr. Anderson?... That is the sound of inevitability... It is the sound of your death... Goodbye, Mr. Anderson... "

The Matrix (1999)

Like the subway car about to roll over Neo in The Matrix, Tower Records was run over by the Internet. Unlike Neo, Tower did not adapt or get out of the way—it just got crushed, owing creditors about 200 million dollars.

The demise of Tower Records stores is on almost every musician's lips. My take on it is that it is a good thing. The Internet is the new unifying force, and luckily, independents are thriving in the digital world. Even Tower Records will probably still survive online.

Tower Records was never that friendly to independents. Sure, you would find a few local bands in the bins, maybe a few independent classical CDs, but they did not know how to market anything other than the largest names on the biggest labels, and that is primarily because they had the money to provide them with display cards, posters and other advertising paraphernalia. Half the time I walked into Tower, the staff had no clue about classical music, jazz or anything other than mainstream pop.

What is truly scary about Tower closing is that Wal-Mart might be taking its place, online or not. Wal-Mart is not the friendliest, except to its investors and the millions of people who want something cheap, or to its sadly brainwashed, horribly paid workforce. (Ironically, you may purchase something cheap at the time, but the cost to everything—local and small businesses especially—is staggering.) Without the occasional mom n' pop store or the Internet, independent musicians and labels would die.

My lovely wife Victoria recently started a record company, Lumiere Records. Luckily, Tower closed right before she began distribution, so she did not send any units to Tower, never to be seen again. If it was not for the internet, she would not have a business. It is just too much work to go to every single independent record store (the ones that still exist) and market her CDs, one store at a time.

On a related note, yesterday we saw High Fidelity on Broadway, the second to last show (it just closed last night). We really enjoyed it, by the way, and I think it is better than Rent, as rock musicals go. If you have never seen the movie or read the book, the story takes place in and around a record store. In the old days, the release on an album was a big deal: people lined up outside record stores, performers and bands showed up, and the albums themselves were more spectacular. There were big, bold covers, often lyrics and lots of liner notes, and you really felt like you were holding something substantial. But best of all, there was a sense of community. I am not saying that there is not some sort of community online, or that there will never will be (with video chatting, this will probably change), but right now, it is just not the same.

Why is this significant? I think that physical stores that sell CDs will be celebrated the same way in the not too distant future. Everything is going digital. There are over thirty sites that sell, stream or rent digital downloads and this is only going to become even bigger. Soon (if not already), you will bring your iPod or other device to a concert and upload the concert instantaneously, having your credit card charged instantaneously. You will not even have to pull out your wallet, and you will be able to do it via a wireless connection. Live concerts will not only be processed in real time, but you will leave the concert will a cleaned up version as you leave the arena or concert hall. You might even leave with program notes, lyrics and other goodies already uploaded to your device. To my mind, that is difficult to beat.

The one aspect of physical stores I will really miss is getting advice from knowledgeable staff. Of course, with stores paying minimum wage, this went the way of the Dodo anyway, but I really think the wave of the future will include hiring people with expertise, online or not. Perhaps this is already happening in a micro-meshed way with millions of real people giving their two cents, their 15 minutes of cyber fame to an Amazon review, but someone needs to separate the wheat from the chaff, and currently, it is not Amazon or even sites like Wikipedia. They are trying hard, and even I go on there occasionally to find some little tidbit of information (and yes, it is often pretty darned good), but that is not always the case. Intelligent people are key, whether with an online encyclopedia or a record store, physical or not. People believe too much of what they read without intelligently sorting things out.

It sure will be interesting to see what happens in the next few years.

Tips on Submitting Compositions to AME

Like many other groups that play pieces by living composers, the American Modern Ensemble receives a lot of materials from composers who want us to play their music. Here are some suggestions for how to get our attention, and probably the attention of other groups as well. We usually review materials once a year, during the first week of January.

If you submit something in late January, we probably won't review it until the following January. If you want a guarantee of a quick turn-around, your best bet is to submit something to us by December 15 each year.

Submitting Materials

We gladly accept carefully chosen unsolicited materials, and we look forward to them. You don't have to ask first before submitting something.

Although it might initially get our attention if you email or call first, it's not necessary. We definitely look at and listen to everything we receive, even though it may take a while. We receive a lot of material, and so far we are able to find time to review submissions, but if we get to a point where it becomes too much, we will change our policy and not accept unsolicited materials.

What do I mean by the phrase carefully chosen? If you send us a piece that is outside the group's instrumentation, or you only send us large works even though we are currently focusing on smaller works, then we will probably not be able to program your music, no matter how brilliantly written. It is mostly about quality programming, but time and money are also issues. If you send us a piece that takes up half a program (or even a whole program), the chance of us playing it is slim to none. However, if it is an amazing work, and you really believe it will work on one of our programs, perhaps it will have a shot.

When submitting materials, follow the directions. If we say we do not accept works outside our instrumentation, we mean it. Also, read between the lines: if we are mostly doing concerts of smaller works, there's a reason for this. It is amazing how many huge works we receive.

A Few Words on Legibility and Presentation

This should be obvious, but make sure your sheet music is readable, bound nicely, clear and mistake-free. A mistake-ridden, sloppy score sends us a message that you do not value our time or the performer's time. Every minute we need to stop and correct mistakes is more money down the drain. Of course, some mistakes are difficult to spot, and that is to be expected with new music, but there are reasonable limits.

Send the best recordings you have, but if they are not representative, do not send them. We are all musicians and can read scores, and even though it is more time-consuming, sometimes that's best. Any musician worth their salt should be able to interpret a work without a recording.

How do we program our concerts?

All of our concerts have themes. Our policy is to not divulge our future programs to anyone outside the core membership. Why? Because on more than one occasion, other groups have taken one of our ideas and run with it, scheduling the same type of concert before ours in NYC, and this almost derailed our season. Of course, there is always the chance that two groups will have the same idea anyway—especially when it comes to composer's birthdays—but we are willing to take that risk.

Spreading the Word: Why this is Important

This should be obvious: getting the word out is everyone's job. We cannot do it alone. One of the most effective ways of filling the house is for the composers and performers involved with the group to spread the word about the concerts. Typically, composers who run their own groups or performers who are in other groups are somewhat sympathetic to this and know to email, write and call anyone they know who might be interested in attending the concert, but we have found that most composers and even some of the performers (especially "guests" who only occasionally play with our group) are apathetic or even lazy when it comes to spreading the word. Why does this matter? Because each ticket sale and season subscription means more income for the group, and this is turn will help fund AME for future concerts and seasons. If we oversell the house, this can only be a good thing and will not only mean that we will get good press, but that we will also have to move to a bigger venue and/or increase the amount of concerts we do for each program.

If a composer does not care about our well-being, it is hard for us to care about him or her. If we offer some postcards and the composer does not want them, or they do not email everyone they know who might be interested, that tells us that they could care less if we have an audience. You can be sure that we will not program his or her music again. Almost all American composers have email accounts and most have mailing lists or have an agent who sends press releases. Not spreading the word hurts everyone involved, including you if your work is programmed or you are playing with us. It is a simple equation: a big audience means more ticket sales. More tickets sold means we can continue the group. Continuing the group means we might play your music. If the New York Philharmonic has a problem selling out, it should be obvious that chamber groups like ours need all the help they can get.

If you live in NYC or have a chance to visit, we'd love to see you at our concerts. It is amazing to us that some NYC composers have never been to one of our concerts, yet they want us to program their music. If you cannot support your peers and find time or the small amount of money to purchase a ticket, that sends a negative message, and also sends us the message that you really do not care about the group.

By the way: if you think we are lining our pockets, you are mistaken. Currently, neither Victoria nor I pay ourselves a salary. In fact, we invest some of our own money in the group—a labor of love. This ensures that we can pay the performers as much as possible, which currently is not enough by a long shot, but we are all working together to do the best we can do.

There is nothing more exciting than receiving interesting music from composers, especially music we are not familiar with. If you have something interesting, by all means—send it along. You never know...

Why Website Navigation Matters

I am in the process of re-designing my website as it is sorely in need of a total re-haul. I designed it a long time ago before I knew anything about website design or navigation. In order to get some ideas, I spent the better part of an evening looking at a LOT of composer websites, and I have concluded that most composers do not have a clue as to how others will look at their sites. It seems like they often do not test their site with friends, family or anyone else. Composers usually create in a solitary environment and these days, often do everything themselves: composing, copying, promoting, recording, performing, publishing and even designing their own websites. They are used to living in a bubble. However, not having anyone check you site before you "go live" is a mistake. You may think it is amazing, but everyone else might not understand it and think it is a navigational nightmare. Websites absolutely need to be user friendly.

Here are ten key points I think composers—and for that matter, almost anyone else—should remember when designing their sites.

1. Navigation, Navigation, Navigation!

This is the single most important design element. If people cannot find what they are looking for, they will leave quickly. All the bells and whistles, pretty graphics and Flash effects will have little effect—and may even be hugely irritating—if your site is a virtual maze.

Here's a test: get everyone you can to look at your site while you watch them. If you can, shoot a video of the screen and ask them to talk out loud to themselves about the site while they are perusing it. Give them seven seconds to find certain pieces of information. Keep in mind that seven seconds—and that's being generous—is about how long someone's patience will last before they become aggravated. Ask them to find a program note, sound file, your biography, etc., anything that you would want to be found quickly. If it takes them more then ten seconds to find it, your site is too inefficient.

It is wise to have your website seriously criticized. It is meant to sell you and your music, and if people can't maneuver through it, what does that say about you and your work? To me, it sends a subtle message that your work is not worth finding, or that you don't value my time. As a composer, conductor, performer, artistic director, professor, and as someone with a family, my time is valuable. If I can't find what I am looking for right away, I will move on and look for composers who value my time more than you.

2. Navigation—on Every Page

One particular aspect of navigation is so important it deserves its own number. Except for the home page (and personally, I even think the home page should be like the other pages in this respect), each page should have the same navigational structure, and the navigation links or buttons should be on every page. Why? Because otherwise, we'll have...

3. The Back Button Blues

I hate the back button. Using it takes me out of your site and causes me to look up and down, mousing and scrolling like crazy. Websites should have their own internal structure, and it should be elegantly designed. Relying on browser buttons to get the job done is just plain lazy.

4. The Basics

At the very least, your website should have the following:

• List of works • Bio • Photo • Contact Info.

If you are really with it, you will have:

• Sound files • Program Notes (if you write them) • Two bios, both a long and a short version • Detailed info on sheet music purchase/rental (publisher info, payment options, etc.)

And if you really have your act together, you will also have:

• Upcoming Concerts and a Recent Events page or info. box • Links to CDs or purchase info. for digital recordings of your music • A link to high-resolution photo(s) for print • A links page

Why upcoming concerts and recent events? This should be obvious: let people know what you are up to. As for links, some people don't like them, but I do. Isn't this one of the main advantages of using the Internet? I like to know what sites you find interesting, who your friends are, what groups have played your music, etc.

Everything else is just frosting.

What don't you want?

• A welcome page: this was cool for about ten minutes back in the '90s. Not anymore. • An awards page: they are amateurish-looking. People who are either not good web designers or want to feel powerful give out most awards. Do you really want them passing judgment on your website?

5. Sound Clips

It is irritating to not have sound clips on a music website. There's really no excuse. Unless you are world-famous, like Philip Glass and have a bazillion recordings on Amazon, and everyone knows your music, not having sound clips sends a negative message. Even if you are ultra-famous, I still think it's wise to have them. Not having them is like a painter having no images of their work or a writer having no samples of their writing. You don't need many, just a few to give people an idea of what your music sounds like.

6. Frames are Dead

The are so many reasons not to use frames. I won't go into all of them here, but the most important reason to avoid them is that people should be able to enter your site at any point, not just on the home page. Frames make it difficult for spiders to index your individual pages. You want this. Here's an example: if you write a string trio about bananas, and someone looking for string trios for their banana festival and does a Google search for banana trios, they'll have a really difficult time finding your work if it's part of a website made with Frames. If the trio information is on its own individual page, then it will be more likely to come up in a search. There are many details that come into play when making a site that is search engine-friendly, and there are plenty of articles and books out there that explain how to do this, so I won't bore you with the details here.

7. Scrolling is for Monkeys

Humor aside, if you have to scroll more than a page worth of information down or scroll sideways at all, then your site is probably not designed efficiently.

8. Flash is Usually Trash

I want to be able to bypass it or turn it off if possible. Personally, I hate it, but I know some people—particularly those who have a lot of time on their hands or who are new to the Internet—find it interesting. OK, I'll admit it: if it's done well, it can be pretty snazzy, but usually it's just a bandwidth-sucking, coma inducing waste of time. Unless you are good at implementing it or have tons of dough to hire a great web designer who is a Flash expert, I would avoid it.

9. Fast Load Time

Have you ever visited a web page and waited more than a few seconds for it to finish loading? This shouldn't happen. Everyone knows now that there is a difference between photos and images optimized for print and those optimized for computer screens. Simply put, make sure everything looks as good as it can but use the smallest file sizes possible. (Obviously, this does not include images or photos of you that you have links to that are meant for print.)

10. Page IDs on Every Page

This should be obvious, but every page should have a title bar or something that indicates that it's a page from your site. You would be surprised at how many sites out there have random-looking pages that seem to have no connection to their parent site.

In a huge way, most composers are the masters of their own demise. I think many of them believe that few people visit their site or care, so they put very little time into thinking about design issues or even content. I think this is the wrong attitude. If your website is elegant, carefully laid-out and has obvious attention to detail, it will go a long way toward enticing others to be interested in your music.

(Final note: hopefully after reading this and looking at my soon-to-be redesigned site, you will think I practice what I preach.)

The Top Ten Technological Things That Tick Me Off

(Note: I tried constructing a title with only words that start with 't', but seven out of nine isn't bad.) None of my complaints are new, but I thought it would be a good idea to summarize them. I often think that when we get used to working with bad technology we fail to imagine ways to improve it. Part of the reason for this is that the technology sector started out—and continues to be, in some ways—a little like the Wild, Wild West: a free-for-all land with few or no laws other than an unspoken, lightly enforced code of ethics that is constantly ignored or side-stepped.

Here then are the top ten technological things that tick me off, in no particular order.

1. Using Customers as Beta Testers

It is obvious when companies treat customers like Guinea Pigs. If a piece of software has more than a handful of bugs, then the programmers are not being careful enough. Some people want to be Beta Testers, but I don't. What if software had to pass through some sort review process? Not that this always helps—look at all the bad drugs that make it to market—but it would be a start. We waste millions of dollars and hours working with poorly designed software, and I think guidelines need to be more stringent. Just imagine if Microsoft had to submit to this. It would probably never release a new operating system!

2. Unintuitive Design

As one of my favorite talk show hosts Bill Maher says, New Rule: if my wife and dad can't figure something out without looking at a manual, then it is not designed correctly. Tech support should be obsolete and so should manuals. A good sign that a company's product is designed poorly is when its tech support forum is robust. This rule doesn't apply to software that caters to highly-specialized niche markets, like Pro Tools or Sibelius.

3. Bad Integration Between Software Applications and Devices

I have too many email accounts spread across the Internet tundra. I want my Classical Lounge email to enter my inbox, yet still be listed on that site. Also, every time I send an email from that site, I want it to automatically appear in my sent mail box in my Apple Mail program. Is that too much to ask? Software, even applications designed by different companies, should be somewhat modular. We're getting there, but it could be much better.

4. Spammers

They should be punished severely. I have an idea (insert tongue in cheek here): why don't we jail all spammers for ten years minimum with only an unprotected email account to communicate with the outside world—no spam filters? Then, we can barrage their account with their own spam and that of every other annoying spammer. Seriously, we really need to deal with this problem head-on. I should not even need a filter. If I opt-out of an email list, that should be the end of it. Anyone that abuses this rule should be jailed for life.

5. Flawed Background Syncing

Despite what companies tell you, this still isn't really happening. Synchronization is still severely flawed, not idiot-proof, not transparent enough and not close enough to be useful for the general population. Only geeks like me have enough tolerance to put up with the headaches and frustration of setting up even remotely complex syncing.

Here are a few details I should not have to think about or ever waste time reading about in a tech forum because something is not working correctly:

• If the fields in my online Apple Address Book or my laptop are not the same as what are one my computer, iSync (or whatever) should fix this automatically, or at least ask me if I want it fixed.

BlueTooth should work between ALL devices, with minimal set-up. I gave up a while ago trying to set this up with my Treo and my computer. Even if I could set it up, it will be too slow. What is the point? Bluetooth should work well, and fast.

New Rule: I should only have to input settings in plain English. Life is precious: I want the computer to figure out computer code. I should not have to think about it if I do not want to, yet I should still be able to use innovative technologies.

6. Platform Incompatibilities

Can we get over this and move on? Apple is getting closer with OS X, but I think we have a long way to go. What computer and platform you use should be a matter of taste, not of whether it runs a piece of software or not. I know: we have lived so long with this problem that we can't imagine a world without it, and yes, it is getting better, but still—it can be much better.

7. Mini Software Updates

Companies that release software versions that you have to pay for that are not major upgrades should be fined. I feel ripped off when I pay for a "major" upgrade that is really a series of bug fixes and a few unimportant add-ons. Finale by Make Music, Inc. is the perfect example: many of their upgrades have had a few new bells and whistles, but my hunch is that they schedule out their versions over many years so that they can keep offering an upgrade every year. What I would much rather do is pay twice as much for the upgrade, every other year, with free bug fixes and minor upgrades in between.

8. Link Farming

Link Farming should be banned. It wastes time, bandwidth and energy and is ultra-annoying. If a site is popular, it should be naturally popular. Otherwise, we are being lied to. People that set these up are a sad bunch, but we are even sadder for falling for it and letting it happen.

9. Incompetent Tech Support

Assuming you really need tech support (see no. 2 above), I think I have certain rights as someone who has paid for a piece of software:

New Rules • I should be able to converse with a human being within a reasonable amount of time. • I should be able to understand the person on the other end, i.e. they should speak English well. • Tech Support should have a constantly updated database in front of them that catalogs problems so that if my problem happened before (or didn't) they can log it. • Programmers should be available so that if I really need to ask an important question, one of the people who wrote the software can answer it.

10. Lack of Communication Between Similar Software Companies and/or Developers Regarding New Ideas

I am all for an open market and competition between companies. After all, this is what entices companies to upgrade and improve software. But this should not apply to a developer working with a company like Apple or Microsoft. It is all too common for these companies to be secretive, at our expense. Since new versions of software for new operating systems take a long time to develop, we often end up with a new, upgraded OS or even a new computer and older software that cannot take full advantage of it. If companies worked together more closely and release dates were more synchronized, a lot of time and money could be saved. Each extra minute I spend on the computer is one more minute I could be doing something else.

Having said that, time to get back to composing...

My First Entry

Wow—I never thought I would create a blog. For those of you who actually read this (all two of you), don't worry: future postings will most likely not be this long, but hopefully you'll cut me some slack as this is my very first entry. I finally relented and decided to create a blog because I've had a lot of ideas going through my head lately that are somewhat brief, but hopefully interesting, and/or are not appropriate for formal essays on my website. Also, I occasionally feel like writing a diary-like entry, but the thought of pulling a Rorem and writing daily entries, whether it's interesting or not, is just not me. I think it needs to be somewhat spontaneous.

This also took me a while to figure out because I was confused about which software to use. I did a lot of research and finally ended up using WordPress, but I still need to figure out how to integrate this with my site, which I desperately need to update, but I'll get to get to that this fall. I chose this black "skin" for now (it looks so "cool" and composer-like, don't you think?) but I'll change it later on to look integrated with my site.

Currently, my blog is divided into a few different categories:

• Music • Environment • Family • Misc. Ideas

I might add more later, or even remove a couple (or create separate blogs?) but for now, this seems pretty reasonable.

So, why did I choose these topics? Music is obvious: I'm a musician, so of course, I want to write about it, especially since I love what I do. What might not make sense to some is why I have an environment category. For those who don't know me well, I have always been passionate about environmental issues and am vegan, so I want to start jotting down some ideas that have been floating around in my head and see what comments I get back. As for my family, my beautiful wife Victoria just gave birth to Dylan, our wonderful, amazing baby boy, and I have so many comments about him, his toys (what's with that Baby Einstein crap? More on that later...), his children's books, etc. that I just can't hold back anymore—I just have to say something! Check back in a few days for writings on this topic. As for misc. ideas, I have way too many for one lifetime, and hopefully someone out there will see something interesting and take it to the next level.

On a related note, a film I often mention when talking about not having enough time is Multiplicity with Michael Keaton and Andie MacDowell. Not the greatest film of all time, but don't you sometimes wish you were multiple people? One to do the work, another to go to that recital you're dreading, etc.? I know: just like in the film, it would ultimately be more trouble than it's worth, but it's a fascinating thought.

I guess I'm done for now—back to composing. If you've made it this far, thanks! Please feel free to make comments...