Wednesday, May 18, 2011

New Beginnings

My very talented neighbor, Ken Hamilton, owns a recording studio called Razor's Edge Sound. For my 40th birthday, (in 2005), he gave me an hour of studio time to create a short piece. I thought I'd experiment with something on the commercial side. The result is this quickie piece that sounds a bit like the theme to some TV show in the 1980s. I called it "New Beginnings" because it marked a new phase of my music career, a return to some composing and to teaching composition as well. (Check it out here: It's taken me quite a while to explore my various options for sharing my music and as far as that goes I'm a beginner too. I just signed up on yesterday and I'm only just now really starting to "get" how to use Finale, the professional level very complicated music notation software I bought two years ago. (It took me over a half hour to figure out how to create triplets the first time I did it. I didn't really figure out my mp3 player either until just recently.)  If keeping two careers going at once is hard, it is even trickier to find time for all these new-fangled inventions. But of course they are oh so cool and indispensible once you get the hang of it.

I can't help being old fashioned. I earned my Masters in Composition in 1993--just when the web was launched. What a strange new world this is! We've got so many tools at our fingertips--libraries of sounds and research tools that were unheard of when I was in my 20s. I still remember poring over "Books in Print" volumes in the library, writing down articles that might have something to do with what I was researching, walking to a card catalogue and physically thumbing through to get to the periodical I needed, or filling out--in pencil--forms for interlibrary loan, then waiting weeks for the photocopies to arrive in the mail.   I have to admit though, that easy as things are now, I sometimes miss the old ways. When I would thumb through the card catalogue I always found something cool that I didn't know I was looking for. I know that happens with web research all the time, but the internet just doesn't have the same pleasantly musty smell, nor the thrillingly sensual feel of running your fingertips over those old, well-thumbed cards. I like the smell of books too, and while I love the Kindle my students pitched in to buy me, it just doesn't have that satisyingly musty aroma. Maybe they will come out with digital smellinet versions for old foggies like me....

Meanwhile, Kevin and I were talking this morning about the absurdity of all of this, of people who work one mile apart but miss out on a lunch date because one sent the other the invitation via a Facebook message and the other just didn't get around to checking the site in time. Something similar happened to me recently. Although I am on Facebook and I enjoy it and think it's a great tool, I don't really care what people are doing every second of the day, and I don't think I'm alone in my disinterest. So I tend to visit only once a week or so--usually when something from Facebook plops in my email inbox. What a strange world we live in where we miss connecting because we failed to open up a particular webpage! Remember the telephone? You could call someone up and talk in real time and make an arrangement faster than it takes to open your browser, click on the link, scroll through your friends list.... Then there was this really cool invention called voicemail where you could leave your message in case they weren't home when you called. For that matter, remember when you actually knew who your friends were?!

We also got to talking about the new Roland Digital Piano I've got my eye on which uses actual, real hammers instead of weights so that it really, truly feels like you're playing the real thing. According to Kevin drummers also now have real drum heads on their digital drums instead of the old drum pads from the 80s because they feel different. Drummers count on the rebound of the stick off the drum head for multiple hits and they hate the old drum pads because they don't rebound and it takes an extra effort to play multiple notes in quick succession. I guess there are just some things you can't improve on.

That really old dude Shakespeare (remember him?) hit it on the head in The Tempest when his character Miranda sees a man for the first time and exclaims "Oh Brave New World that hath such creatures in it." Only in our strange, brave new world there's a new creature every day, with a 100+ page virtual manual to navigate! Lord Bless us if we occasionally forget that new doesn't always mean better! It just means beginning again, for the 100+ time.