Friday, June 30, 2006


Ideas come easily ... but then you have to figure out 'how does it work?'

--Trimpin as quoted in The New Yorker May 8, 2006

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Letting Go

I'm delighted to announce that my music will be heard in New York City next weekend! I feel a little bit like a mother, though, in that "my music" is flying from the nest and debuting before any performance from my piano fingertips. Composing is a recent activity for me, and now I'm sending that precious cd off with Paufve Dance for their run at the Joyce SoHo? I'm fraught with anxiety: what is the sound system like, what if someone pushes play and my piece is too quiet, or too loud, and which would be worse? Just go, just go, and give my little babies a listen (I created music--in garage band, no less--for two of The Big Squeeze's vignettes) and then let me know what you think!

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Les Chorégraphes et Moi

Bonjour. C'est moi encore, la petite princesse.

Quand j'étais une jeune fille, j'ai voulais être une ballerine. (Bien sûr, toutes les jeunes filles veullent être ballerines, non?) J'ai habité dans la campagne (au milieu de nulle part) et il n'y avait aucun studios de ballet là-bas. Donc je n'ai jamais étudié le ballet, mais je n'ai jamais abandonné mon rêve de danser non plus. J'ai étudié le piano pendant beaucoup d'années, et un jour j'ai eu une réalisation: le piano me donne une chance de danser!

Voila une histoire de comment je danse au piano...

Il y a quatre ou cinq ans, j'étudiais à l'université et jouais du piano pour la classe du ballet. J'ai voulu travailler avec un chorégraphe, mais c'était le petit problème: pour la classe du ballet, j'ai joué Chopin et Delibes et Tchaikovsky (et quelque fois Scott Joplin ou Duke Ellington) et cette musique est très classique. Ce n'est ni moderne ni contemporainne. Je n'ai pas voulu sembler comme "la musicienne classique" juste parce que j'ai joué la musique classique. Comprends-tu le problème? Personne ne m'a demandé de faire la musique pour leur danses. Peut-être ils ont pensé que je n'ai pas composé la musique originale. Peut-être ils ont pensé que je ne savais pas comment collaborer. Peut-être ils ont dit: elle ne joue que la musique classique; ce n'est pas intéressant! Mais j'ai voulu dire: je n'aime pas que Beethoven et Satie; j'aime "la musique bizarre" aussi!

En même temps (en 2001), j'ai commencé à jouer du piano au Shawl Anderson Dance Center. Beaucoup de danseurs modernes étudient ici aussi. Mais jusqu' à ce printemps, personne ne m'a demandé de la musique pour la chorégraphie contemporainne. Alors, un jour... je commençais à travailler avec Randee Paufve et sa compagnie "Paufve Dance." Enfin! Mais je ne joue pas du piano pour elle. Non. Pour elle, je compose des pièces avec mon ordinateur! C'est la musique "électronique." Ce weekend en fait, j'ai commencé à faire une pièce nouvelle. C'est pour quatre danseurs et c'est très long, presque quinze minutes! Les danseurs présentent la pièce à la fin de Julliet à San Francisco. Le programme s'appelle "Summerfest." Écoutez ma musique dans ce programme! C'est incroyable, non? C'est ce que j'aime faire.

Maintenant, personne ne pense plus à moi comme "la pianiste pour la classe du ballet classique." Ils pensent: elle est le compositeur, elle est la musicienne intégrale, elle est la créatrice complete. Je commençais à comprendre cette idée: rien ne change si je n'étais pas aventureuse. Samedi soir, mon ami a dis: tu es la pianiste qui n'a jamais dit, "no." C'est vrai. Rien ne change dans la vie d'un artiste si vous ne dites, "oui." Je n'ai pas peur de jouer les instruments des enfants comme les petites cloches ou "le kazoo" ou le jouet piano! Pour rendre la vie intéressante, je dois m'ouvriri à touts les possibilités. Personne n'aime un pianiste infléxible. C'est ainsi très important d'être ouvert, et aussi: n'abandonnez pas vos rêves! Le rêve de danser n'a pas que fait de moi une pianiste, il a fait de moi une pianiste-creatrice...également.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Carte Postale: Joe Goode

Having spent the afternoon at play with a little friend, I was perhaps in exactly the right mood to enjoy Joe Goode Performance Group Sunday evening at YBCA. The two pieces on the program were so heartfelt, almost embarassingly nostalgic, with very little of the suggestive, abstract, 'what the hell' qualities that usually turn me on. Goode tells stories--concrete stories--and he embraces some common clichés, yet he presents the familiar in playful, unpredictable ways. "Stay Together," a new work with music by Michael Tilson Thomas, at times reminded me of a dinner party conversation: friends fret and fantasize, and nag and support each other, over that ever-favorite of "R" words--RELATIONSHIPS. The topic could easily become silly and irreverent gossip, but Goode keeps it profound (lightly so) by teasing just enough universal truth from the matters at hand.

"Deeply There," meanwhile, moves along in vignette form, examining various characters' responses to the moribund presence of AIDS in their community. Like "Stay Together," "Deeply There" integrates several art forms, including dance, musical theatre, and video, but never with that sort of self-conscious seriousness that too often plagues the multi-media performance. The whole, performed cheekily by Goode's committed ensemble, assumes more of a vaudevillian quality, eliciting laughter because the play with the material is so sincere. Goode understands that humor and play and naïvete, when lavished on topics of "great" contemporary relevance, can tug more insistently on one's heartstrings than a stoic monologue or a theatrically emoted demonstration of grief. It was precisely that levity (and brevity, too; for the most part, Goode keeps the pace brisk and never allows a cliché moment--Jackie O, Jackie O--to wear too thin) that allowed me to giggle and so honestly say, "I saw Joe Goode Performance Group last night...and I loved it! He's not provocative, but that boy knows how to play!"

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Mini Manifesto II

The day you write your mini manifesto, uncanny things happen. You arrive at the voice instructor's house for an afternoon accompanying lessons and begin sifting through the copies of new songs. And there it is. All gossamer and butterflies' wings and a flurry of petticoats. He beat you to it. The piano part is delicate and breathing (short breaths, long breaths) and--bonus!--in one of the best-fitting keys under the hand (F sharp major). It is like being pinched. You take your manifestos so seriously, yet Strauss found you out over a hundred years ago.

Ständchen, op.17, no.2.

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Mini Manifesto

Dear A--

I am on a precipice, so very close to doing (and perhaps more importantly, finding others who want to do) the kind of music that is, I believe, BEAUTIFUL and PICTURESQUE and NOW. Sing, play the piano, sit at the laptop, don the headphones: make it as damn old-fashioned as electro-technical. (Techno-electric?) Yes, it will be music that you can SEE and perceive, that you ought to frame, hang, and admire.

I crave BEAUTY. I crave sounds that make me cry, especially the ones so delicate and beautiful--bells, birds, and thumb piano spokes; wind, snow, and twinkling stars; bottles in the recycling, spoons in the bathtub, popcorn in the hot air popper; the rhythm of commuter trains, mantle clocks, and herded mountain sheep--so delicate and beautiful that you can't help but want to understand the aural intricacies more fully. I hear, too, the sound of butterflies' wings flapping, the sound of slippered feet shyly choreographing their dance on a smooth hardwood floor, the sound of petticoats running--being chased--down the hallway, and the breath--out of breath--from efforts thus expended. Yes, the music of breath, "hah, ah, sigh..." all ghosts and shadows.

It's a museum of music, no? I do not wish to "listen to modern art" so much as I wish to regard (literally, as in French, regarder) modern music. Yes. Regardez à la musique moderne.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006


A woman from Connecticut once called me up, a woman interested enough in Ives to be working at trying to save his old house, to have it moved to a park and thereby kept open, to contain the collections of papers and other reluctant objects, open to the interested public. We talked about performance--particularly of the songs, she saying that they must never be done as "art" songs but as "folk" music. I heartily agreed. I heartily agree. Neither either are art-songs to be "arty"--but it seems that our definition of culture is too limited. We understand "art" music as narrowly as what is pleased to be called "folk"--misunderstanding them both.

It's another point in Ives' transcendence that this false and snobby antithesis is wiped out. What she meant (and how right) was that we simply make the music how great it is and none of us put on any airs about it.

--Philip Corner, "Thoreau, Ives, and the 'Folk'" in Soundings: Ives, Ruggles, Varèse edited and published by Peter Garland, Spring 1974.

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