Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Patsy Acrobat!
Originally uploaded by madabandon.

I am feeling sort of disoriented and out of whack the past few days. I am extremely busy with work--composing obligations mostly--and am expending most of my energy trying to keep on top of things. At the same time I am fighting off a creeping, insidious depression. I can feel it nipping at my heels. I keep myself busy as a way of fending it off. Will I crash? I hope not. At the same time, there have been some developments which may present me with some very tough decisions to make. I don't know if I have the clarity of mind to make any big decisions right now. Yikes.


Patsy Acrobat!
Originally uploaded by madabandon.

I am feeling sort of disoriented and out of whack the past few days. I am extremely busy with work--composing obligations mostly--and am expending most of my energy trying to keep on top of things. At the same time I am fighting off a creeping, insidious depression. I can feel it nipping at my heels. I keep myself busy as a way of fending it off. Will I crash? I hope not. At the same time, there have been some developments which may present me with some very tough decisions to make. I don't know if I have the clarity of mind to make any big decisions right now. Yikes.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

dog biscuit

dog biscuit
Originally uploaded by madabandon.

I am simply too tired to post anything of substance. So here is a little snapshot, a slice of my everyday life. On the right is a piece of one of Mabel's treats. On the left is my espresso scoop/tamper. In the middle is my Global paring knife, very very sharp. There is a black teapot in the background, out of focus.

Monday, February 26, 2007

I Simply Don't Understand

mirror sky
Originally uploaded by madabandon.
  1. What exactly don't you understand about global warming?
  2. The US has 4% of the world's population, yet uses 25% of the world's energy.
  3. How can you drive a gas-guzzling, pollutant-spewing SUVs?
  4. How can you support the destruction of the environment?
  5. Do you really need your home heated to 80F in winter? Or cooled to 70F in summer?
  6. Why do office towers leave lights burning 24/7?
  7. While you sit in your car waiting to pick your kids up from school, why do you need to leave the engine running?
  8. Do you really need to buy so much stuff?
  9. Do you really need fresh raspberries in February?
  10. Why are you so selfish that you would put your own needs so far ahead of the needs of the world?
  11. If you have children, what kind of world do you want them to inherit?

There are so many things I don't understand aabout how people think, and these things trouble me greatly. John Edwards was just on NPR, on the Brian Lehrer show, asking these same questions. I hope people listen.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

this music sucks

No matter how generous I try to be, I cannot find anything redeeming in Philip Glass's music. He has ideas, but he lacks imagination. This is not a paradox. Having ideas, in itself, means little, because just about everyone has them. The trick, as a composer, is to have ideas that are compelling and magical.

There is little that frustrates more, for me as a composer, then to see someone of utterly mediocre gifts becoming hugely successful while hundreds of truly wonderful artists are ignored. But this is not something I spend much time thinking about, because thinking about it gets one nowhere.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


Homebody Mabel
Originally uploaded by madabandon.

The rehearsal was a success. They love the music. I am so relieved. I am almost never satisfied with my music. That is not to say that I don't think it is good, but there are always imperfections, things I just can't seem to get. This is a personal thing, not something I can easily explain except perhaps to another composer. But I don't have many close composer friends. We are all too competitive, in a congenial way, to get too close to one another. I have friends who are artists, writers, theater people.

I worked with the singers, helping them with phrasing, breathing, diction, and ironing out some tricky rhythms in the first chorus especially.

The drive up was awesomely beautiful. It had snowed the previous night and along the winding Taconic the tree limbs were outlined with pure white. The sky was clear blue, like it is now today, and I felt very peaceful. I am thinking more and more of living outside of New York City. The quiet of trees and clear air is something that makes me feel fantastic. God knows I could not bear the suburbs. But someplace in the country, close to a village, but with enough of a sense of isolation to give me tranquility and inspiration. I am not sure that NYC is inspiring to me anymore. The wheels in my head are turning...

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Originally uploaded by madabandon.

Since I recovered from my cold I have been working quite hard to finish the third choral song from OEDIPUS. Tomorrow I will go to Vassar to rehearse the chorus for the first time; they have been working without me, making good progress (I am told), and they are ready for some more refined direction. I work quite diligently lately. I attribute this most of all to the two filing cabinets I have recently acquired. The filing cabinets have enabled me to clear the clutter from my work area. Visual clutter is tremendously distracting to me. Now my desk is clear and I can focus on writing, and it is just me and work at hand. There is no pile of bills awaiting my attention, or the sundry debris of my rather hectic life. I have also taken on a few new piano students. It's not that I particularly want more students, and I don't even care so much about the extra money it will bring. It is more that these are students I want to teach, and they are very eager for lessons, so I don't have the heart to turn them down. Now if they don't practice...well, that is another thing entirely. I have no qualms about firing students. I don't have the patience, if they don't do their work.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

We Miss You

Originally uploaded by madabandon.

Twenty years ago today, that day the sun was bright and the sky was clear blue just like it is now, my mom died. She died very early in the morning, peacefully, at home, the way she wanted. The number of years does not seem to matter, though. I miss her the same powerful way.

So from me and Mabel and Patsy, hi mom. You would love Mabel and Patsy, and I hope that somehow you can see us and know that I don't have any words to say except that I love you always.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

sticking together

moss and red paint
Originally uploaded by madabandon.

Gay relationships are hard. Most relationships are hard, but gay relationships lack the type of glue that holds many straight relationships together: children, marriage, family obligation. There is little in a gay relationship that prevents one or another party from leaving if the going gets rough. Society still doesn't recognize gay relationships in the way it does hetero ones, and so the end of a gay relationship is, symbolically at least, not the same kind of social problem that a failed marriage is. This knowledge, this essential instability, is a subtext for my own relationships, exacerbated by my own experience as a part of a family shattered by divorce. So I hold on hard to my relationships, trying to make them work. I hope that I am doing the right thing, in doing this. Since my own family was broken apart, I live in fear of my own stability breaking down, the bottom falling out, so that I am left in the same bewildered, confused state that I was as a kid when my dad left. I try to be rational as best I can, but I would be a fool to try and deny the power of my fear.

Monday, February 19, 2007

warning sign

Originally uploaded by madabandon.

Maybe I should have taken him as a warning sign when I walked past him heading downtown on Broadway yesterday. Because shortly thereafter, things turned bad. A few words spoken with the best intentions somehow turned to poison darts, and now I am sitting at my desk, bewildered by what transpired, exhausted by thinking, and I would like to just disappear. For me, at the moment, things in general totally suck. I am not going to succumb to the urge to hibernate; I can't hibernate, there is too much going on. Sorry to be cryptic.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

almost burning

Lamp Man
Originally uploaded by madabandon.

Last evening, relaxing at home before I went with Y to see "Children of Men" (a harrowing, brilliantly-directed film by Alfonso Cuaron*) I noticed a faint burning, rubbery sort of smell. I looked everywhere in the apartment but could not find its source. The smell grew stronger. Suddenly, the lights overhead in the corner of the living room, above the sofa, flickered, and I went to check. The transformer that plugs into the socket must have short-circuited, because it was starting to melt. I quickly unplugged it, snipped the wires, and now I will have to make a visit to the lampman. Good thing I was there. I never leave those lights on when I am home, but I might have been sleeping and a fire would have started. It took a while to disperse the fumes, even with fans running and windows open.

*His son was my student, and so I had occasion to meet him and then see him repeatedly over a four-year period. He was--and I am sure still is--down to earth, energetic, and struck me as extremely cool. Of course, I did not know who he was the first time we met. "Y Tu Mama Tambien" had not yet been made. But I was impressed with his knowledge of music--modernist music, Ligeti and Berio and so on--and for his utter lack of pretense. It is great to see a man like him become so successful. Maybe I can score one of his films someday.

Friday, February 16, 2007


It is odd that at this age I would still be bothered by the fact that my father never called to say happy birthday.


Patsy Acrobat!
Originally uploaded by madabandon.

Patsy loves to play in the bathtub.


Call me obnoxious, but it's reading stuff like this that makes me shudder whenever anyone asks me "what is your piece about?" or "what was your inspiration?" (I won't name the writer--a composer--nor the source because I am merely using this as an example of why musicians should probably just not talk about their music). The music should speak for itself.

The title Living, Breathing Earth came to me in contemplating the image of the rainforests as lungs of the earth. I felt our planet, alive with all variety of creatures and plants living in symbiosis with each other, breathing in and out, and the planet as a whole, pulsing with breath. I also contemplated the earth rotating through space, a spinning orb of blue and green, at just the right distance from the sun to support life, and our protective blanket of air, the atmosphere of the earth, providing the medium for our breath.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Originally uploaded by madabandon.

Your personal ruling planets are Uranus and Venus.

This is a very glamorous number as it is ruled by Venus. You are fortunate in terms of your creative ability and you should never turn your back on those impulses which indicate a possible career in Fine Arts or Music. You will always obtain favours and respect from your superior and in work you will be given some sort of assistance to achieve your goals.

You have a great power in speech - use it wisely. Whenever you speak it's as if some soothing element to people around you attracts them and endears them to you. You have an incredibly dramatic nature which is possibly the power behind those words The number 15 has been considered a magical number, mysterious, conferring on you higher occult powers. You will start to note that at times these powers can be used to achieve what you want. Be sure not to use them for your own selfish ends.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

happy valentine's day

Originally uploaded by madabandon.

no go

bridge in Duxbury
Originally uploaded by madabandon.

Well, here I am, at home. The storm and my cold conspired against me, and I canceled my rehearsal; or rather, they will rehearse, but I will not be there to help them. I am feeling somewhat better today, my maniacal sneezing having receded into memory. If the storm continues through the night it will be a replica of the day I was born on my actual birthday. Interesting.

Birthdays are, for me, a time of reflection, and while I could write a book about my reflections, I will offer only a summary of a few major ones:

  1. I am happy with my present life, as I could not have predicted that it would go this way when I was younger, and am thankful that I am able to make my way in the world as an artist. I have had enough successes to enable me to continue and not throw in the towel as some my age end up doing. I spend my days writing music and teaching some incredible students, and I have a place to live that is my own--to answer my own insecurities about such things, which are considerable insecurities--and I have family that I love and Y and my Mabel and Patsy.
  2. I am disappointed in the ways of the world in music, in contemporary non-pop music, in the way that it seems so many composers' works have no SOUL. Facile, glib, expert, yes; soulful, no.
  3. I regret that I don't put more energy into fighting for the things that are most important to me: nature, tolerance, peace. But I believe that the work I do, making music and art and teaching, in some small way contributes positively to the world.
  4. I am not Pollyanna, despite #3. I have more than my share of nasty qualities. I am aloof, I am sensitive to slights, and I loathe laziness of the mind. I can be a little too sharp and testy, especially to those I am closest to; I am overly polite and reserved with those I don't know so well, but know well enough to drop some of the pretense.
  5. I am not afraid of death or my own mortality.
  6. I am coming to accept my bipolarity and the mania and depression that flit around like weather systems and control my moods. They are not going to disappear, but I am not going to let them throw me the way they so often have in the past.

Ok, enough for now. Back to work...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

no where to hide...

Originally uploaded by madabandon.

Well, I don't know if it is a self-fulfilling prophecy or just fate, but every year for years now I have gotten sick this same week of February, which is, coincidentally, the week of my birthday and also the week that my mother died twenty years ago. I have this cold which is driving me nuts. I sneeze and cough and can't sleep because I can't breathe, so there is nowhere for me to hide from it. Normally when I don't feel well I just go to bed and sleep it off, but I have failed to succeed in my many attempts to do this. I am canceling my engagements. I am scheduled to go rehearse up at Vassar tomorrow but a wild storm is predicted for tonight and tomorrow, and if I don't feel better I don't think I will be able to do it. Ugh.

Monday, February 12, 2007


Originally uploaded by madabandon.

I got slammed with this wicked head cold Saturday morning; well, really it was Friday night. I guess that the cold was just waiting until I stopped moving to latch on to me and bring me down. Saturday I made chicken soup--the jewish mother trick--in an attempt to kill the cold, but it persists. I had such a frantically busy month that I think I just wore myself out. So my head has that dull feeling that comes with a winter cold. I tend to always get sick during this winter break, which also coincides with my birthday, which is this coming Thursday.

Yesterday in the late morning I drove with Y to New Jersey (to the "Design Within Reach Annex") where I got this sleek Italian low filing/office cabinet. Now my desk is devoid of clutter. The cabinet sits very nicely under the desk, on wheels, and so now I have a place for my MacBook in here too. I can have both computers buzzing away while I work, which is important for my audio projects. I like to call Design Within Reach "Design Within Reach of Whom?" because their stuff is so expensive, but if you can find your way to Secaucus--not the easiest task, given the confusion of New Jersey roads--you can get some deals.

Oh, here's another tune from last Monday's performance. It is "Solar" by Miles Davis.

Friday, February 09, 2007


Mabel on the sofa
Originally uploaded by madabandon.

Even if she were not my dog I would have to say that Mabel's cuteness is off the charts. And to top it off she is incredibly sweet and friendly. I have never seen her act mean toward any person or any other animal. But I could tell she was sweet the moment I saw her, seven years ago when she was a ten-week-old puppy. It was her eyes. She makes me very happy. Even when I feel miserable it is impossible not to feel better by having myself a little time with Mabel.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


There was a picture on the front page of yesterday's NEW YORK TIMES that left me feeling sick. An Iraqi woman was being questioned in her home by a gang of US soldiers. She had collapsed and was being comforted by her adult son. The floor of her home was covered neatly by beautiful rugs. The American soldiers stood around her, their heavy boots all over her rugs; one of them sat, sprawlingly, quite at home, in a chair to her right. One has to wonder why they were questioning an old woman in the first place, and why they had so little respect that they were stomping all over her rugs? And yet people wonder why our presence there is so despised. One small hope, though, is that by printing such a picture, those who wonder thus will shrink to a minute proportion of our population and our politicians, the cowards who cower in the House and Senate, will get some balls and stop this ridiculous and terrible war.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Originally uploaded by madabandon.

Click here to hear the full version of FIELD MUSIC: ASH.

I woke up with a ferocious headache after a fitful sleep. Patsy, smart one, has finally learned that she can wake me with a quiet little meow in my ear, rather than knocking stuff over like she normally does. She did knock a few things over anyway, though, beyond earshot, including my brand-new filofax that I bought yesterday. Luckily Mabel had not found it or she would have chewed it. She loves leather and she recently chewed on one of Y's cool new shoes that he bought in Japan. Luckily he caught her at it when she had just started, before she could do much damage.

I bought a new filofax because they have a new model, a slim one but with full-sized pages. The small ones are too small to be useful and my trusty old-school models (I have two, don't ask) are too big and heavy to carry with me all the time. Plus I just got paid unexpectedly for an arranging job that I forgotten all about, so it was like "free money." And I, frugally, put most of it in my savings.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

slow climbing

Originally uploaded by madabandon.

My mind is playing tricks on me. After my performance last evening I was really down. I felt that I played badly. We did not have adequate time for a proper sound check, and the guitar and the drums in particular were so loud that I could hardly hear myself or the bass. While I was playing I was actually thinking that it was disastrous. Then after I got home and got up my nerve I listened to a recording of the set, and it actually was about one million times better than what I had expected. So I then felt relieved, because leaving the concert I was so down that I had a hard time being gracious receiving the usual compliments and congratulations. Once I edit the tracks I may put one or two on my website.

Monday, February 05, 2007


Fort Greene Park (2)
Originally uploaded by madabandon.

The dry freezing air and the brilliant light today reminds me, intensely, of certain days in Chicago. In a Chicago winter today would be utterly normal but the brilliant sun would cheer me up. Days were short there and winter was cruelly long.

I have this concert this evening and I am thinking it will all go fine. My head seems strangely in another place.

Sunday, February 04, 2007


Originally uploaded by madabandon.

Since Friday I have felt depression creeping up to me. It is in my apartment, following me around. I busy myself in various ways to avoid any conversation with it, in the hopes that by ignoring it it will simply leave for fear of overstaying its welcome.


window dressing
Originally uploaded by madabandon.

e. e. cummings wrote: "To be nobody but yourself in a
world which is doing its best night / and day to make you like everybody
else means to fight the hardest / battle any human being can fight and
never stop fighting."

Friday, February 02, 2007


my new piece (an excerpt), recorded yesterday


Originally uploaded by madabandon.

Yesterday, despite my ear infection, I had an extremely busy day. Meetings, rehearse with students, rehearse with colleagues, teach, more rehearsal--this time with my quartet for Monday's concert--errands and then finally, home to bed. My new piece sounds good. Some complications with ensemble issues. But the jazz rehearsal left me feeling glum. We had to use a small room upstairs, one with a really beat Yamaha upright, and I pounded my fingers until they literally were bleeding. And my playing did not feel loose; I felt stilted. And spacey, due to my exhaustion. The only saving grace is that generally when I have a bad rehearsal the performance goes well (and vice-versa). And I will have to practice a lot this weekend so that I actually have some real ideas when I perform.