Top Ten Favorite iPhone Apps

Actual Screen Shot of The First App Page of my iPhone Everyone finds different iPhone apps useful. Most seem indispensable or at least fun the day you download them, but then you never open them again. Personally, there is only so much joy I can derive out of an app that let's me pretend I am drinking a pint. Cool trick, but it gets old quick.

This is a list of my favorite iPhone apps that I find particularly useful, while leaving out specialized ones like the Tempi metronome that only applies to musicians, or VegOut, which is awesome, but only if you are vegetarian or vegan like I am. Of course, I am leaving out the ones that come with the iPhone, as I think those are generally all great. One disclaimer: since I live in NYC and don't drive much (except when I leave town), I do not use GPS Apps, but my friends who drive a lot say they are extremely useful.

Without further delay...

Top Ten Favorite iPhone Apps

10. Quick Tip (Free): the runner-up Tip Calculator lets you split between people, but Quick Tip is free. If you want to get all detailed, there's Meal Splitter, which helpful since it lets you divide meals between many people, and separate out people who didn't order drinks, but since I am either always eating out with my wife and kid or with just one other person, Quick Tip is just faster and simpler to use. 

9. Google Mobile App (Free): I love that Google searches are formatted for the iPhone, and I love that it anticipates what you are looking for when searching. Very cool.

8. Facebook (Free): this app basically just formats Facebook for your iPhone. Other than email, this is the social networking site that I use most often, although I am occasionally on MySpace, and they have an iPhone app called MySpace Mobile that I use less often.

7. Amazon Mobile (Free): I often purchase through Amazon, and this app makes it easy to purchase using the iPhone. Everything if formatted for the iPhone screen, so purchasing something from the Amazon store becomes a pleasurable experience.

6. Memengo Wallet ($1.99): this encrypted password manager app is great for storing personal information credit card information, usernames, and of course, passwords.

5. Stanza ($1.99): this book reader doesn't allow you to read Kindle books, but it allows you to read everything else.

4. Kindle for iPhone (Free): the Kindle book reader for iPhone just came out, and it works quite well for an initial release. I was never planning on purchasing a Kindle reader, and the small screen size of the iPhone does not bother me. Best of all, my wife loves this app, and if she's happy, I'm happy.

There are a few annoyances:

  • It doesn't allow you to upload books from other sites or free books.
  • You cannot download magazines or newspapers.
  • You cannot look up lines in a dictionary.
  • You cannot add notations.
  • You cannot copy and paste small amounts of information.
  • No horizontal reading option.
  • No font color or background color changes (but you can change font size).
  • It remember bookmarks, but no search function.

Hopefully many of these details will be addressed soon.

3. Toodledo and Appigo's Notebook ($4.99): Apple's notebook app blows. This solution is much better, and also allows you to view your notes from any computer. You use Appigo's Notebook app and sync it on Toodledo's website. Another alternative is syncing using Remember The Milk, but I'm vegan, so I just could not bring myself to use their software (I guess I could Remember The Almond Milk?).

2. Appigo's ToDo ($9.99): I use the ToDo list in iCal all the time, and this app allows me to view my ToDo's on the iPhone. Too bad Apple has not made this process more seamless, but this solution works really well. You also need Appigo's free Appigo Sync application on your computer. BTW: don't be swayed by the couple of negative reviews on iTunes: those are from a few disgruntled users who either wanted to do something really complicated, or didn't read the directions. The price is a little steep, but if you want a To Do list that works, this is the app for you.

1. Mint (Free): this is hands-down my favorite app. As depressing as my financial situation is these days, I really like being able to see my entire financial profile in one place, including credit cards, loans, checking and savings accounts and investments. The best part is that it is free, and works very well on the iPhone. It also lets you see what you spend using pie charts. The only hitch is that sometimes it takes a while to refresh, and it is still not as robust as Quicken for Windows, but I really hate how Intuit (the company that makes Quicken) has treated Apple users like second-class citizens, and I think Mint will only get better. I wish I could import my old Quicken information into Mint, but maybe they will add that in the future. Again, don't be put off by the few negative reviews about security. Your data will be fine. Mint doesn't store anything on their server; they just pull information from financial institutions. Why don't people get that?

There were some runner-ups, apps that—although they are very cool—I just don't use as much, like Jott (a virtual voice recorder that transcribes voice memos into text), Instapaper (lets you send articles you find online directly to your iPhone) and UrbanSpoon (finds restaurants in your immediate Urban area, like NYC—maybe I'm just not going out to eat as much these days). I am sure these are useful for some people, but I just haven't used them as much.

What are your favorites? Vote below. If you don't like my choices, add your own and let's see which ones rule.

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Comments on Amazon's Kindle for iPhone and DRM

Amazon Kindle for iPhone Icon There is an informative article on CNET Comparing the Kindle 2 to the New Kindle for iPhone application, so I will not go into detail about the pros and cons of either, but I want to comment on Digital Rights Management (DRM) and how this may apply to the future of e-books and music.

The same way I think reading on a phone will never replace reading a larger format e-book or regular books, I think listening to recorded music will never completely replace the experience of a live performance. As an aside, I think we have a long way to go to repair the disconnect between ensembles and classical audiences, but I think we are all moving in the right direction, as exemplified in the new Alice Tully Hall and with venues like Le Poisson Rouge. For me, it is all about the experience. I like reading a book comfortably, which means larger, nicely formatted pages. I also like listening to music in social settings with others. However, there no discounting the ease of convenience of only carrying one device that does it all, and I am willing to trade large page size and attending a concert with friends for convenience. I would rather listen to music this way than not at all, and since my evenings are often spent with my son Dylan, convenience trumps experience.

Back to DRM, those of you who have read my past posts know that I am not a fan of proprietary formats. My prediction is that Amazon's Kindle format will eventually be opened up, the same way MP3s are now available DRM free on both Amazon and iTunes.

Many people dislike DRM because it is inconvenient, and it gets in the way of the experience. I do believe that we should have the freedom to use different devices to play music or read e-books that we purchase. I also think we should be able to share music and e-books, but in a limited way.

By limited, I mean that I think you should be able to trade music with friends and family, but I do not think you should be able to distribute content over the Internet in a way that would undermine content sales.  There is a great site called that goes into detail about this. 

Here is a simply way to think about it: you should be able to trade content with those in your immediate social or familial circles—people you know. It is just common sense. Do you like what you are reading or listening to? If you do, you need to make sure the people who created what you enjoy can continue to do so. Sure, authors can get speaking fees, and musicians can get fees for ticket sales from concerts, but you should want to support your favorite authors or artists, and every bit counts, especially for Indie writers and musicians.

Just because you can build a bomb, doesn't mean you should deploy it. Just because you could get away from stealing something from a grocery store or the company you work for, doesn't mean you should. Just because you can get away with speeding at 85 MPH when the speed limit is 65, doesn't mean you should. The ease of trading information does not give us the right to dismiss having to pay for something of value. The burden should be on the consumer, not the provider.

Many proponents of the "information must be free" ideology are not content creators. Creating great content requires time and resources. It is simply not possible to hold down a regular non-creative day job and have enough time to regularly create great content. You will not learn about what is happening in Afghanistan unless the New York Times or some other media company can send someone there to see what is happening. It is that simple. If we lived in a world where everyone was completely honest, people would automatically compensate each other when they acquired great content, a great experience, or bought something of value. Although many people are honest, others are not. For every person that sees the value in paying for a ticket for a classical new music concert, or sees the value in paying for an MP3 of a piece of music by an Indie artist, others that can afford tickets will still try to get comps. This also applies to content.

Ultimately, the problem is that the cart came before the horse. Technology moved too fast, and now there is no going back. There needs to be a more effective Digital Content Bill of Rights tied to Copyright and Trademark laws. Perhaps is setting the tone on this issue. If writers, musicians and other artists cannot justify creating content because they cannot afford to pay their bills, they won't create, and that will be sad. Personally, I would rather not have to rely on part-time writers who are not that good—or interesting—for crucial information, or musical hobbyists who excel at Garage Band. I have no problem paying a reasonable fee for something of high quality.

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]

Social Networking Monkey

geek-monkey I have written about this before, but I spend more time than I would like jumping between different social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, and even LinkedIn, and I still do not even have a real presence on other sites like YouTube, Flickr or Ning. It makes me feel like a monkey jumping from tree to tree in the social networking landscape. It frustrates me that all of these sites have similar and/or overlapping functions, yet are basically their own islands.

With all the hypotheses about what Web 3.0 and the Semantic web could or will be, what I want most of all is for everything to be more integrated and intuitive. I would like to be able to push my Facebook and MySpace conversations to my regular POP email account without much effort. I want my blog entries to seamlessly appear on my website and on my MySpace page (it already appears in Facebook). If I update my bio on my personal site, I want it to update everywhere on the Internet, and I want a universal way of tagging everything, whether on MySpace, the American Composers Forum, my website or this blog.

It is obvious that centralization will save millions of dollars and hours. Proprietary systems are ultimately a huge waste of time. Perhaps it's the pack rat in me, but I like saving email conversations so I can refer back. Ironically, the longest messages I receive are often on Facebook, and I cannot search effectively if I have to move between multiple databases.

There should be universal, central address database that everyone can use to enter their information, and that all other databases would refer to. There could be various options, such as allowing or disallowing companies from accessing these databases, opt-in highly selective advertising, and so on. I know that many companies are trying to achieve this, but to my knowledge, nothing satisfactory has caught on yet.

Perhaps this is all a moot point in our increasingly digital word: our physical location is mattering less and less as time goes on. The cell phone is the perfect example. I know many people that do not have landlines—and Victoria and I may eventually follow. Perhaps this is for the best. Someday information will be so easily accessible and liquid that we will not even need devices, we will just think the information, and it will appear right in front of us. No iPhones, no headsets, no computers. The future might make what we are up to now seem positively primitive. That's a pretty a scary thought.

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.

Late Night Thoughts

Dropped Computer I have a lot on my mind lately, and the problem is that I have no time to write anything down. Ironically, I wrote a few short entries in the span of a few days, but I want to make a promise to anyone reading this—and mostly to myself—that I will write an average of one entry per week, which seems reasonable, particularly if they are short and readable.

Between finishing Winter Songs, being with Dylan who has a stomach virus, getting over a cold, chores, AME and misc. other distractions, I can't even find time to read, let alone listen to CDs I receive for AME. It is a shame, because I usually enjoy listening to what I receive, but I am considering not accepting unsolicited scores because I am having a difficult time finding time to compose. If I cannot compose, I start to feel ill. I am always happiest when I write every day (which involves some virtual performing as I usually sit in front of a keyboard), eat well, get some exercise, spend time with my family, and have a little down-time at the end of the day. If even one of those components is missing, I feel sick.

Here is something I think about: the distractions we have now are vastly different than what J.S. Bach or Mozart experienced. I'm not sure which is worse, distraction-wise, then or now—or can you even compare?

How ironic: in the Western world, we have cars, automatic dishwashers, generally clean food and water, laundry machines, electric lights, and elevators, and we generally live much longer (Elliot Carter is 100!), yet a composer today is lucky if he or she produces as much music in an entire career as Mozart did in one year.

Did Mozart have degrees? No. Did Beethoven have all the distractions we have now? Certainly not. Both composers worked within fairly limited systems, and limits encourage growth—any smart composer knows that—so they produced a lot of music. Granted, whole chunks of both Mozart's and Bach's music are crap and are only listened to because they are by the Gods, Bach and Mozart—there, I said it—but there are obviously many, many gems in those piles, works that have been and will continue to be cherished by millions.

What's my point? I think you will find more gems per pound from these guys than from almost all modern composers. I think that this is because they had more consistency in their daily lives and less exotic distractions. Yes, Bach had a bazillion kids, and children are definitely a distraction—albeit a lovely one—but it's just not the same. With technology, we have created one of humanities greatest ironies: time wasted and saved, all rolled into one. We have created a monster.

All of this leads me to believe that we all might be better off where we began, with organic family gardens and farms, no TV, no cars, close familial ties in smaller towns and the sound of a sharp pencil or quill pen cascading across a piece of parchment, with no way to cut and paste anything, unless you do it with scissors and glue.

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.

How About a Centralized Database?

Lately I've been thinking that one of the major problems I have is feeling compelled to work with multiple databases. FacebookMySpace and every other mainstream social networking site should work together via a central database, an all-purpose location for all of of our information. These sites should be shells rather than separate entities. Proprietary  networks are interesting, but extremely inefficient. I'm certain we could save billions, and perhaps trillions of dollars—and millions of hours—if everything we used in the digital realm subscribed to a central database. It's not just social networking sites, but credit card information and medical records as well. Everything should originate in a central location. As shocking as this may sound, I think the government should spearhead this, and force credit card companies, the medical establishment and even social networking sites to comply. Just imagine: never having to enter a credit card number again; never having to fill out a medical form at the doctor's office; never worrying about where you can access your email, and where your records are stored. The possibilities are endless.

If all of our important pieces of information are stored in one place, the greatest danger would be two-fold: the government accessing our information without our permission, and the possibility of security breaches. Otherwise, it seems like a win-win situation.

What I Am Grateful For

Glass of Water

Every day, I try to remember to take a moment to reflect on what I am grateful for. I know this may seem almost quaint—reflecting at all in today's Twittering world, right?—but I often feel like we take for granted all that is wonderful, and all that we should cherish and protect.

Living in NYC, I am incredibly grateful to have clean water. As most of us know, this is and will become a bigger and bigger issue as each year passes. Sure, almost all water sources are not as clean as they could be, but what we have is worth protecting.I am grateful for clothes and a safe, warm place to sleep. This is a luxury most Americans take for granted, but there a lot of homeless people without a consistent place to sleep or even warm clothes. Although there are shelters and places where people can go for free clothing, many homeless people are not mentally stable or able to put two and two together, so they need help even finding out where to go. At the very least, when someone who is homeless on the street asks me for money for food, I at least offer something to eat. It's pretty hard to be insensitive to this most basic need.

I am grateful for being able to work and my teaching job. It is such a luxury to have time to compose, time to learn and wonderful students to teach.

I am also grateful for my beautiful family, and Dylan, our newest member. I am especially grateful that he is healthy and happy.I am grateful for so many other aspects of my life, such as living in a safe environment, and to list them all would take an encyclopedic essay, but I think it's so important to take a moment every day, particularly now that Thanksgiving is approaching, to remember that many of us have so much to be grateful for, and to remember to help everyone we can within our means.

Oops... I Won't Do That Again

Shower Shock Soap Last night I was cleaning our kitchen, and since I had not given it a once-over in a while, I decided to clean our coffee machine. It wasn't that grimy, but fresh is best, at least in my book, so I like to go the extra mile.

There I am lying in bed at 3AM, thinking, why can't I sleep? I did not have a late-night snack or drink, I did not watch TV, and I only read a little bit, and what I read was tame. My composing has been going great lately, so I am not at all anxious about that. I should have been able to fall asleep easily, right?

At 3:30 AM, the thought crossed my mind: I wonder if caffeine can be absorbed through the skin? Then I found this Shower Shock soap, and that pretty much confirmed my suspicion. My fingers probably absorbed some of the caffeine residue on the machine while I was cleaning it.

Next time, I'll clean it in the morning.

Ultimate iPhone Wish List

Apple’s iPhone I blogged a while back about what I wished the iPhone would have, before it's debut. Of course, almost no one—including me—anticipated how cool it would actually be: it's even better than some of the, intriguing, whimsical ideas our Apple-loving community came up with.

As the dust finally settles, I am noticing that there are many features the iPhone doesn't have, some frivolous, but some potentially very useful. A few are so important to me that I will hold off purchasing an iPhone until they are implemented.

To Do List I haven't seen much written about this, but I use iCal's To Do List feature all the time. Am I the only one? Why is this not included? Some other features I could care less about (like the Stocks button), but this one is crucial to my personal workflow. I don’t want to have to access the web for my Do List (what if I'm on an airplane and think of something I need to do?), I want to use the one I’ve been using that’s attached to iCal.

iTunes Music Downloads I should be able to download music from iTunes right onto the iPhone, and it should automatically upload to my computer when I sync.

Sharing Music Some people have written that they want music sharing, a potentially great feature. I would love to be able to beam my music, right onto someone else's iPhone. Obviously, copyright infringement is an issue (i.e. how many devices can be authorized for a piece of music), which is probably why this feature doesn't exist yet. Modern technology could solve this if we charged monthly micro-payments to someone's account as each tune is shared more than the basic amount. We could also prevent second generation sharing: if you share it with one person, that individual can't then share it with someone else. Or, something could be shared for a limited amount of time, say, a week or a month, and then be disabled until you purchase it outright.

Personalized Ring tones I would love to customize my ring tones. The available ones are fine, but every other cell phone allows this, why not the iPhone? Hell—I should be able to create my own ring tones, easily, right on the iPhone. Maybe someone out there can design an iApp to do this.

Portable iApps They are being developed as I write this, but there are a few specific pieces of music-related software I would love to see, such as a metronome with a tap feature (like the Dr. Beat) and odd-meter capability. A tuner would also be nice. For all the non-music geeks out there, the most useful applications would probably be either productivity tools, such as something that produces MS Word files and/or PDFs and then beams or stores them, or file sharing software.

More Storage The iPhone should not only be able to store regular files (like a portable hard drive) but I want it to also be able to play as many songs as the best iPod. Granted, it's got a lot of storage already, but in this case, more is better.

Replaceable, Swappable Battery Why did they build in battery that can't be accessed by the user? We should be able to easily replace the battery once it's drained.

Credit Card Imagine swiping your phone to pay for a purchase, instead of carrying around a whole wallet full of credit cards. Don't laugh: this is already possible in Japan via RFID tags. Some normal plastic credit cards in the US even incorporate RFID tags so cards can be waved rather than swiped. However, I think biometrics will eventually replace cards altogether, but this is a great idea nevertheless.

RSS News Reader This is a great idea I saw on another wish list. This would alleviate having to surf the web for news text. It would be great to be able to access news and blogs via a continuously updated, easy to read list. It would also be great if read/unread and flagged/unflagged status could be synced with work and home computers. Offline support would also be nice, so material could be read when on an airplane and/or where mobile access in limited or impossible.

iChat SMS but not iChat? What's up with that? Maybe Cingular forced them not to implement this, but it really needs to happen. It's only a matter of time before we can bypass phone companies and their ultra-expensive SMS options. Instant Messaging specifically designed for the iPhone would be very cool. Perhaps it could incorporate voice and video as well, over WiFi. Maybe Skype will tackle this.

Lower Price This is a given: the price needs to eventually drop. This is a lot of money to pay for a phone, even this one, and it's a huge barrier for millions of potential converts.

Different Service Providers Some people are already figuring out how to "unlock" iPhones, but it will still be relieving when other service providers are able to sell them. I know, Steve Jobs and Apple had to do it this way, and the other phone companies couldn't see the light or were too stubborn, or whatever, but we can all hope.

Better Camera Sure, cell phone cameras have traditionally never that great, but why can't Apple buck the trend and build in an amazing camera? Not a full-fledged professional camera, just something that produces prints that are reasonably good, not just pics that are really only good enough to beam to someone else.

Rotating Lens (or Lens on Both Sides) Someone else blogged about this, and it's an intriguing idea: "the camera lens is currently located on the backside of the phone which makes it easy to take pictures and preview them on the screen. However, it would be really useful if the lens were rotatable to allow you to point it at yourself. It would then turn the iPhone into a killer video iChat device."

Voice Recognition I saw this on another post: "this would allow you to interact with the iPhone while driving. 'Computer: show the location of my next appointment.'" This could also act as a translator, alleviating having to include a bulky dictionary on your iPhone.

Voice Recording Sometimes when I'm driving, I have an idea, but can't pull out my phone. How about an iApp that translates your recorded voice into text and either saves it as a note or a To Do or sends it to you as an email message?

Hand-writing recognition This would be a nice option and make text entry easier for some people.

Hold Music It would be cool if you could pick a song from your phone (in my case, my music, since I am a composer) to act as the music someone hears when they're on hold during call waiting.

GPS Technology This is an ever-expanding market that is becoming more popular every day. GPS technology is so much more practical than carrying around geeky-looking maps.

Seamless International Calling I don't want to have to think about whether my phone will work when I travel from country to country, what each country costs for phone calls, etc. I should be able to easily choose options on the phone company's website, how much I’ll pay, which countries I'm traveling to, how many minutes I need, billing options, etc., then be able to travel wherever I want, without worrying about anything, kind of like driving through an E-Z Pass toll booth on a U.S. highway.

Wireless TV/FM/AM Signals This seems like a no-brainer. It would be amazing to be able to mingle TV, radio and web-based channels "webcasts") and sites together in one, customized list. However, I do believe that FM/AM will eventually die out, as it's so much more efficient to listen to what you want, when you want.

Portable Projector Perhaps this could be something you could add as a clip-on device. Not everyone would need or want this, but I've seen it mentioned elsewhere, and it does seem pretty interesting.

Flash Support As much as I hate Flash, many websites use it. It's obvious that we should be able to see Flash on an iPhone.

Some of these ideas are useful to some and not others, but that's OK: we all have different wants and needs. Hopefully they will be implemented sooner rather than later. Until then, I'll hold off on purchasing an iPhone until Apple incorporates the iCal-based To Do list.

Any other ideas? Let me know...

Amazing Food Facts

I really love odd facts, or as I like to call them, factoids: strange, and usually useless trivia about people, places and things in our daily lives. Here, I have compiled a few amazing food facts that you might not know: • Certain foods such as Blow Fish and Bamboo Shoots will kill you if not prepared correctly.

• Most of us eat seaweed on a daily basis without even knowing it.

• A Mouse would live longer on a corn flakes box than on the cereal itself.

• Cereal boxes uses Elmer's glue for the milk on the front of the boxes.

• 90% of all ketchup is made by the same company.

• Honey is really bee vomit.

• Someone else has already drunk a portion of the water you drink, maybe several times over.

Frozen food is sometimes better for you than fresh food.


A banana is an herb.

Bamboo and sugar cane are from the grass family.

Tomatoes are fruits.

Peanuts are legumes.

There. You probably knew these facts already, but if you didn't, don't say I didn't tell you.

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.