Originally uploaded by madabandon.
I don't know if she could possibly be any cuter.
What's with my eyes? I look crazy. And you can see my fat pianist fingers. People think pianists have long fingers. Long fingers are actually a hindrance. You want wide palms and good extension. Pianists' fingers are usually strangely stubby-looking. Next time you meet a pianist, ask to see them.
My hideous headache, which prevented me from going to my friend's concert last night, seems to have abated. I had it when I went to bed, but thankfully I was actually able to sleep a little better this morning, and when I woke up my head felt--and still feels--fine.
I just found out that I can go upstate next week and stay at that amazingly beautiful house where I stayed last summer. This is perfect, as I have to be in Poughkeepsie anyway, and I need some respite from the city and I need to really focus on my next BIG project. I can't write or say a thing about that project currently, as my collaborator and I are both a little superstitious and don't want to jinx ourselves.
Mabel had her hair cut on Friday. While this picture is from a few months ago, this is how she looks. She is really too cute. Much too cute. I can't walk down a street without getting stopped constantly. And she loves it. She can't get enough love. The day I picked her up from her haircut, Friday, it was raining, and not many people were out to admire her. She was definitely pissed, and kept asking to go out constantly for the rest of the day. She didn't need to go out to answer the call of nature; she wanted to be admired by the requisite quota before the day was over.
I wonder if muffins are actually made in this scary building. Dumbo is strange. One block is filled with glittering new condos and fancy little shops to cater to the wealthy Manhattanites who have flocked to the area in the last few years. But turn a corner, and you might stumble across a building like this one.
I had friends, artists, who lived in Dumbo in the old days. It was like a sort of urban no-man's land, but the lofts were big and cheap with great light. As usual, once the artists are there, gentrification is following right behind and the artists are the first to get the boot. Most of my friends who lived there gave up and left the city, retreating upstate to Columbia and Ulster and Sullivan counties.
I finished all the vocal music for OEDIPUS. All that remains is the prologue, which is largely written already. And rehearsing, of course. I sent it all off this morning. I don't really have much of a sense of having finished anything, though. I won't have that until the performance is a done deal.
It was a beautiful spring day today and I walked down to Dumbo which is changing every week. Parts of it are urban-yuppie-playground while other parts are still desolate and bleak.
When I work (compose), I never stop with a finished phrase. I leave something hanging. That way when I start working next I can pick the phrase up mid-thought. And when I make a notation error (wrong note, wrong rhythm) I leave it there, unless it is truly hideous. I want some random element to counter all those deliberations.
After a rather intense appointment with my shrink I went to school to teach one class. I had been there only a few minutes when I was told by a close colleague that _______________ had died. Suddenly. A former student, one of my favorites, whose vivid flare and wild talent were evident at an early age. I was already in bad shape. My headache, which I was holding at bay thanks to imitrex, was pushing behind my eyes, which suddenly filled with tears. I would not cry in my office. I sat at my desk and just kept saying "oh shit oh shit oh shit." I wish that I could say that this was the first time I had had this experience, but there have been more than few among the kids I've taught. I don't really know what to say. I feel bizarrely empty, now; it is as if sadness and anger are too overwhelming so I won't even let them gain a foothold.
Then I met my brother and my father in Soho for dinner at a restaurant owned by clients of my brother, a very fine restaurant. It was a nice meal, returning headache notwithstanding, during which we discussed my brother's personal life and my sister's personal life. Interestingly, not a word was spoken of mine. No one asked so I didn't tell.
Maybe this is my four-hundredth migraine in this decade. Maybe it is not. But no matter. I have a bad one. The left side of my head is pounding. I see flashes in my left eye. When I move my head even the slightest amount I want to scream. And yet I have a busy day ahead of me. Will I make it? Or will I have to surrender to the migraine, crawl into bed, pull the blinds, and lie in darkness til it passes? Tune in later to find out what happens.
Today is the first day of spring, but you would not know it. The snow is still piled up on the curb. It is cold. My back hurts from digging my car out of the snow on Monday; it was all for naught, as Mayor Bloomberg canceled the parking rules on Tuesday. But they never make the decision until the wee hours, so I dug it out thinking I would have to move it early. In the past they would announce that the rules were suspended for several days at a time so we don't have to play the guessing game.
I am feeling quite irritable lately. I am not sure why. Little things are setting me off. Tomorrow evening my father is coming to the city to have dinner with my brother and I, which will be nice. I have not seen him in a while, and it has been a few years since he came up here. We used to see him twice a year or so; he likes to go to nice restaurants, which are definitely not in abundance in the corner of PA where he lives. I hope he and my brother--both lawyers--do not spend the whole time talking about work stuff, but they most likely will, and I will be left to sit, bored out of my mind, with no one to talk to.
I don't see any problem with his asking for money on his website. He is probably putting himself out there as his financial situation is not so rosy. You can choose to donate, or not to. This money 'asking' thing might alienate friends or peers, given the 'indignity' of it, perhaps he is really in dire financial situation to resort to this? It must have taken him a tremendous amount of courage to do this. As someone you respect and like, I reckon you should not be too hasty in judging his action. I'm sure he has thought long and hard about it.I did not give out all the relevant information in my post, and perhaps I should have. The composer I wrote about is not in dire financial straits, but in fact has received a number of large grants and awards in the last few years, including a hefty one (one that I myself was awarded years ago) which allowed her to live abroad and compose and perform around Europe. I am not against anyone asking for money if there is dire need. It is the act of essentially creating your own "club" in which the members simply support the artist that I find troublesome. And asking other artists to contribute money to allow you to do the same thing they are trying to do is odd. Perhaps the composer should have had a targeted list of potential patrons to whom to appeal, rather than sending a request to fellow artists, all of whom are in the same boat, trying to scratch up money for performances and new commissions.
Here's the situation: a composer colleague with whom I have a long acquaintance--we have both studied with the same teacher, and have appeared on concerts together, and I've performed on a concert series this composer curated--is having some upcoming performances in NYC. The concert series featuring my friend pays a fee to the composer, and handles the publicity. The fee rarely covers the total cost of paying performers. The composer provides whatever other funds are needed.
Maybe several months ago, this composer sent an email to a list of people asking for contributions to help fund this concert. I was taken aback by this approach, and did not respond to the email except to say that I was looking forward to the event.
After getting an email the other day about the upcoming performances, I followed a link to the composer's website. It seems out that my friend has created a "performance and commission club." One can donate (through PayPal even!) a sum to fund future works and performances by this composer. There are suggested levels; at the highest, the donor gets a mention on the concert program, a signed copy of the score, a CD of the composers' older works, and a recording of the live performance. These trickle on down; everyone gets a CD.
I was dumbfounded. All artists, or most anyway, know the tedium of applying for grants and awards, fellowships; the stuff that helps fund work of a non-commercial nature. But to ask, outright, for your friends and fans to give you money so that you can write seems just way too...too something...crass? I am not sure of the right word for what I want. To me it is like approaching my friends and musical admirers and asking for a handout.
At the same time this is a person I genuinely like and with whom I have a good professional and personal relationship. But now I feel funny. I don't want to be judgmental but at the same time I can't deny that I find the whole concept disturbing both ethically and professionally. I can't imagine asking my friends to contribute money to me so that I can keep composing.
It reminds me of a far more savvy version of the old story: you go to a concert or an opening or some performance and go out to dinner with friends and some young artist or musician comes along and when the bill comes said artist or musician has no money. I never had the gall to do that myself.
Crossing 14th Street I saw this car parked on the street. I didn't get to see what kind of car it is, but it is beautiful. It is the same color as my humble Mazda, but much more memorable. When I was little, around age eight or so, I was fascinated by cars--the design, not the mechanics--and was constantly sketching ideas for new ones. I could name the model of any car I saw, down to the year. When I was nine my father bought a black Audi sedan, available in the US for the first time; no one we knew drove foreign cars (except Volkswagens), and it seemed exotic to me.
My plan was to go to PA today to see my aunt, who flew up from Miami this morning. But my car was half-buried in the wake of the snow plows and I felt totally tired even after seven hours of sleep. So instead I walked around the far west village into the "meat packing district" and then to Chelsea Market. The sky went from blue to cold icy gray in the space of just a few hours. I was freezing.
The morning is my favorite time of day. And luckily I usually, most days, have the mornings largely free to think, compose, read, do nothing. I would never be able to function if I had a 9-5 job. So far I have never had one, and if all goes as planned I never will.
General Pace, a Marine, has proclaimed that homosexual acts are immoral. Interesting conclusion coming from someone who's job it is to kill people.
I was waiting for an elevator at school. I was trying to carry a clipboard, several books, a cup of coffee, and a paper plate with some food. As I carefully balanced this precarious pile of stuff a colleague from another department came over. She asked me how things were going. "I am trying to balance all this stuff, and I am afraid something is going to give," I told her. She paused for a long moment and said "I don't know. You seem like a pretty balanced person. You'll be fine."
I feel the weight of many obligations on my tired shoulders. As I have probably written previously, I am over-committed, work-wise. Basically as it appears the dust will not clear until mid-May. I love my work, almost all of it, but I do not do well when I have many pressing obligations. I have a way of losing focus and seeing only the totality--which, looked at objectively, seems impossible to manage--rather than taking each task one at a time. So I feel a time crunch, and yet I am tired and am not able to get much work done the last two days. I keep trying to go to bed early to catch up on sleep, but somehow I end up staying awake past midnight.
This ad for the gym is on the side of the Crunch gym on DeKalb Avenue in Fort Greene. I walk past it frequently. Yet I only just noticed that it advertises "things to punch" as an attraction. Am I the only one who finds this odd and a bit unnerving? Do we want to encourage people to punch things?
My friend and colleague gave a recital yesterday. It was a wonderful program with a few rarely-heard pieces plus the Chopin Sonata. It was a great way to spend a beautiful sunny afternoon. Her accompanist was the venerable pianist Seymour Lipkin. Lipkin, who studied with Rudolph Serkin and Horszowski at Curtis, is 80 now, and is not nearly as famous as he should be. He played with such immaculate control and musical wisdom that I was entranced. His technique was so effortless and gentle, and yet he could summon awesome power without any visible tension. What a world of sound he created? I love to see old pianists play. They have removed all excess from their technique. I like it so much better than watching some young hotshot flailing around and "emoting."
Nothing is clear to me. Some people believe in absolutes. Some people see things in clear definition, oppositions neatly arranged, issues falling onto one pile or another. Lately I have wished for such simplicity, although I know that for me it is not possible. So I struggle in the shadows, darting anxiously, and it tires me out.
I had a good rehearsal yesterday. I took the train up to Poughkeepsie because it was snowing and slippery when I left, and in addition the city government seems to have decided to tear up the many of the streets of Brooklyn Heights, resulting in a precarious situation for anyone hoping to park on the street. The train was nice. It rides directly along the Hudson River the entire trip, and if you sit on the west side you have a wonderful view. The only problem was that I had a huge coffee and there were no cup holders and I was worried it would spill.
After a fine rehearsal and a meeting with some of the musicians, I got back on the train. I was relaxed and hoping to enjoy some quiet time. But a moment before we left the station a young girl and a guy--who turned out to be her brother--got on. The girl was quite pretty, maybe fifteen or so, but her trash mouth rendered her grotesque. They created constant noise, either yammering on their phones--both in a kind of profanity-laced ghetto-speak--or singing along with what I presume was an iPod. Their singing was that kind of tuneless loud singing you hear from reject contestants on American Idol. It was horrible. The boy, in particular, was awful, with a whining nasal falsetto that set my teeth on edge. What was really interesting was that everyone on the car seemed annoyed by their carrying on, but no one asked them to quiet down, including the train conductor. I would have loved to see them thrown off the train, preferably at one of the smaller stops where there is not even a train station. They were that obnoxious.
As a committed urbanite, I try to be cooperative with those around me, not creating more than an appropriate share of noise, nor taking up more than my share of space. It is interesting that there are so many who simply don't seem to consider their own behavior. Or I am being generous. Maybe they do consider it, and thus maybe their behavior is a general "fuck you" to the world around them.
But I read my book--A LONG TIME GONE--the story of Ishmael Beah, who was forced, at age 13, into the civilian army during the long, horrific civil war in Sierra Leone. It is a wrenching book. He is an extraordinary writer telling a chilling and unimaginably sad story. It is not for the faint of heart. I let my iPod drown out the sound of the rude kids.
I am starting to feel better. In fact, I am starting to climb into the rarefied realm of hypomania. How do I know? My insanely energetic teaching this morning, complete with sound-effects, flying balloons, and other amusements. This would not happen when I am depressed. It would not happen when I am "normal." But it is to be expected, after a depressed cycle. I tend to flip-flop a lot in winter, more so than at other times of year.
Tomorrow I will go up to VC again to rehearse the chorus. I have just completed the beautiful "Death Chorus" and have only the short closing chorus and the instrumental prologue left. The prologue is sketched out so it won't take long at all.
For someone who lived four years in Chicago and four years in upstate New York, not to mention eighteen years in rural Pennsylvania, I have surprisingly low tolerance for the cold. This was not always the case. I remember having to be convinced to buy a hat in the Chicago winter, because of my vanity and the fact that I did not suffer in the cold there, which was far worse than here in NYC. But lately when it is cold I am just freezing and shivering, no matter how aptly dressed I am. Ever since I got very ill, almost eleven years ago, I have not tolerated the cold well. There are a few good schools with open positions (that I would be quite well-suited for) in the Los Angeles area. It doesn't seem so far-fetched. Except I would not like driving so much. I prefer walking, the subway or the bus when possible.
Every day I take my pills. In the morning I take my budeprion and sometimes, based on what I sense is the level of crazed energy inside me, I take half of a clonopin. Then at bedtime, another budeprion and my trazodone, without which I would never fall asleep. I have been taking one or another or all plus others in various combinations for about fourteen years. I don't really like to take pills and I find it difficult to keep track. But maybe they are just keeping the depressed energy petrified in some deep hidden crevasse of my brain, so that it will suffocate from a lack of bloodflow and ultimately die.
I have stopped the regimes at various times, with the cooperation of my doctors. But it never does what I expect. I feel strange for a while, then ok, and then my moods--ever erratic anyway--start to careen and veer precipitously from up to down.
Depression must be the price that we creative ones pay for our "gifts." So many artists/composers/writers that I have known have had this problem. The whirlwind of creativity that I enjoy periodically gives way, as it has now, to bleak darkness. I expend a great deal of energy keeping it together to teach and go through the day, but, as I have written before, it is exhausting, and it becomes harder and harder to do. I went to the gym, because exercise often helps. As I was walking home, up Atlantic Avenue toward the water, I thought that I might just keep walking, past the BQE, past the piers, into the harbor, and just keep going, straight toward the sun. The water must be freezing, and I would start to sink, but by that time the cold would have numbed me and I would simply fall asleep so that when I hit bottom I would not even be aware of it.
It is as if I have passed through some portal into a gloomy place that I recognize but abhor. I want to sleep, I want to disappear, my head hurts, I feel overwhelmed by simple things. The sky outside, sunny blue when I walked Mabel early in the morning (my sleep constantly disrupted by some kind of turmoil), has turned. Wake me up when it is over.