Monday, December 31, 2007

Saturday, December 29, 2007


mad man

I've been in a good mood lately, which is great, since usually the holidays get me down. Last evening I met Y at the Guggenheim to see the Richard Prince show, which I found entirely underwhelming. Why is this guy given a huge show when there are so many great artists out there? We arrived at separate times, and Y didn't have his phone, so it was interesting trying to find each other in the large crowd. But we did. And later we ate dinner at a new Vietnamese restaurant that has opened in my neighborhood. It was good, which is exciting; my neighborhood has too many mediocre restaurants so I hope this one is a keeper.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

my teacher was a genius...

My brother called me this evening to tell me about this article on the front page of the NY TIMES' Arts section today.

I feel so proud for Ralph, and I feel so lucky for having known him as I did. He was a great artist, a deep intense man with an overflowing heart and an extraordinarily prickly personality. He had no patience with fools or bureaucracy or convention. My life would not be what it is today had I not gome to Chicago to study with him.

Monday, December 24, 2007


Originally uploaded by madabandon.

Growing up--when my parents were still together-- my family was formal, especially in comparison to just about every other family I knew then. We always ate dinner together at the large table in the family room, the brick massive fireplace behind us. We sat down when we called to the table, and we could not leave until we were excused. We had courses. Something first, then the main part of the meal, then dessert. My parents discussed their respective days. My dad would give blow-by-blow recitations of his court battles (at that time he was head of litigation at a very proper-and-prestigious old Philadelphia law firm, making very good money and enjoying professional success). My mom would talk about the horses and how her work with them was going. We were asked about school. We were not to interrupt, and we used proper grammar of my mother would gently correct us. I often misbehaved. I was the rebel middle child, the eccentric, and often I would be sent from the table because I would get fidgety and mischievous.

Now at the holidays, when we give gifts to one another, there is a different kind of formalism but I chafe against it too. I would prefer if we all just gave random gifts at random times but that I know is odd to most people, if an attractive idea. Just not practical for most. But since we do it in such a proper way, with many inquiries about wish lists and such, I go along. I do not ask people what they want, though, preferring to pick something myself. I consult with my brother and sister about gifts for my father and stepmother, although this year I just acted independently.

But to make a long ramble short, my brother gave me a turntable with which I can convert my LPs to mp3 and store them on my network. This is a great idea. I have many records, though sadly in my long years sans turntable I sold some of the best, especially my jazz imports. But I still have a lot of mid-century high modernism, the stuff I breathed in college and graduate school, and so now I am listening, traveling back in time to Hyde Park on the south side of Chicago, where the long gray winter kept me inside, listening for hours in my shabby but comfortable studio room with the huge bay windows...I had a huge apartment for $500 a month, two large bedrooms, huge living room, huger dining room (that was my work-studio) and a kitchen with a pantry. It was all quite run down but I was a student and I thought it was wonderful. In midwinter the snow would drift in through the leaking window sashes in the living room so that I would find snow drifts in the corners, several inches thick.

But LPs on vinyl sound amazingly better than digital media. There is a glassiness and perfection in digital that somehow misses the warmth and physicality of beautiful instrumental sound, especially in acoustic music (classical, jazz, mostly). I will never live without a turntable again, and I will start buying records as I used to, voraciously.

Friday, December 21, 2007

looking up

Originally uploaded by madabandon.

Things in the composing department have been revving up. In the past two weeks I have received some surprises, all good. One piece is going on a European tour. Another is going to be performed at the Monadnock Music Festival in New Hampshire this summer. This is a wonderful festival that draws some of the best performers from NYC and Boston. Two of my pieces were just featured on, a website featuring new music of many genres. This is all good. And now I have a decently long break from teaching during which I hope to make real headway on the tabla/choral piece. I hope the gray, soulful winter sky remains; it seems to bring out the best in my imagination. No wonder I was drawn, perversely, to Chicago.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


I am on edge these days. The stress of having too much to do plus the other concerns that have been stressing me are, in combination, enough to put me on a path to collapse. Luckily the holiday break is fast approaching and soon I will have some time to rest, I hope. And to compound things, I am feeling troubled: some people, important people in my life, have been letting me down. You see, it is natural for me to help those I care for; I have a kind of helpful nature--why else would I be drawn to teaching--that I rarely question. But of course, when one helps others, one also hopes that those others would return the favor if a situation arose. And I have been let down. And this saddens me and also makes me feel foolish. But so often this is true: those who give are often taken for granted. The recipient of the kindness, if the kindness is ongoing, possibly begins to feel that this is just how things are, and that there is no obligation to do the same in turn. So once again, my idealism begins to seem naive, and I am left alone to fend for myself. I wonder why I do this to myself.

Friday, December 14, 2007


Originally uploaded by madabandon.

I am buried under a pile of work. Not only do I have two pieces weighing heavily on my mind, but I am writing student evaluations. I can only write a few at a time, because I try very hard to be thorough and precise in my language, and it takes a lot of concentration. Now of course if I spent half as much time actually doing the things I have to--rather than thinking about how much I have to do--I would be finished by now. But this has always been my habit. Somehow, in the state of carrying this constant burden, my little brain works out the issues so that when I come around to do the work, it comes easily.

There is also a lot going on in my non-work life. My aunt--my mom's much younger sister, to whom I am quite close--is facing some serious medical issues. This is bringing back very clearly the memories of my mother's illness, and so while I am very concerned and am in daily contact with her (she lives in southern Florida, near Miami) the situation is creating a great deal of anxiety for me. It does not help that her own kids are utterly selfish and self-absorbed and seem neither capable nor willing to put their own stuff aside to help their mother (even though neither of them works, since they are quite wealthy and spend all their time spending their money).

So it is no wonder I have not been sleeping well and that my general state is more tense than I would like. But to combat that I am soon off to the gym to work myself into exhaustion, which is one of the only things that helps me get my head together.

Sunday, December 09, 2007