Last Ghost in the House

It was too painful to say goodbye,
and with barely a glance at the place,
the empty house, well,
empty except for one thing,
you drove away.

The furniture and dishes,
pictures of the lake, and silver dollars
distributed evenly,
as carefully as years ago
M&M's divided amid eager delight.

All those seasons we spent,
our footfalls, running, laughing,
the endless potential of summer became
autumns of long shadows and raked leaves,
became shorter still,
the city, frozen,
until the icy darkness melted into
the embrace of a bright and muddy spring,
a house thawed, ready to do it all again.

All I had learned beneath that roof,
hours spent at the piano in repetition,
trying to break through
my technical limitations,
trying to achieve knowledge
I too-eagerly sought,
a common thread though
my youthful victories and tragedies,
my philosophical and romantic awakening
to despair and resignation,
my stunted prayers and most secret,
darkest thoughts, all took place
in just a few small square rooms.

All the laughter and tears
smeared into the wallpaper,
itself a fraught choice,
now evaporated by time,
withered from neglect.
anger, faded,
and fantasies, lost
at the bottom of
poorly hidden
plastic liquor bottles.

How welcome is the silence,
the weight of inhabitants lifted,
after decades of intersecting lives,
complex and visceral,
full of mistakes,
and love.

Everything vanished
in a matter of days,
and the house settled,
prepared to become
a memory for everyone.

Even before you left,
you started to forget
how the floorboards creaked
by the phone desk,
the bright blue wall hidden shamefully
beneath beige and pink folk-art bouquets,
the lonely stillness of late afternoon,
filled only by the ticking of the clock,
until it, too, yielded to time
it could no longer keep.

Now, at this last interstitial moment,
I am the last ghost in the house,
moving through each room, like the air,
the silence vibrating with the
thinness of the veil,
the last echoes fading into
freshly painted corners.
Because this ghost is a being,
very much alive. The dead
leave behind only memories and regrets,
and that is what haunts the living.

Maybe I do believe
in reincarnation, of a sort.
We cannot become a new thing
until we cease to be all that we were,
our old life stripped to the studs,
tenets of familiarity, but underneath,
new, full of strangers
cheerfully unaware of the memories
that lingered in the walls.

A child looks upon a house
for the first time,
possibly unable to see
its former life,
then again,
perhaps
a faint,
still-fading
echo
remains.

Last Ghost Premiere Announcement

I realize we are nearly a month an a half into the year, but I am still reeling from a pretty intense six weeks. Just before New Years, Joy Music House took on the project The Last Black Man in San Francisco, and I had the pleasure of orchestrating Emile Mosseri’s beautiful score. He’s a very talented composer and a really wonderful guy. We had recording sessions that entire week, including a brass quartet on New Year’s Day and a remote string session the day after. The film was very well received at its Sundance premiere.

I had the opportunity to participate in the Helix Collective’s new series Pulling Back the Curtain, a concert featuring the music of the assistants, the people behind the scenes who often assist other composers, but don’t often have the same opportunities to share their music. I have spent the last couple of years serving on the score production teams for several composers, which earned me the consideration.

The score and parts were due in mid February, which only gave me about three weeks to either rearrange an older work, or compose a new 10-minute piece for chamber orchestra. Of course I wanted to challenge myself to write something new.

But the blank page is hard enough when I have inspiration to propel me forward. Without it, it is more challenging. I like parameters, a visual or a story of any kind. Limitations can be illuminating, provide guidance. It was helpful knowing that I had a palette of nine players: solo violin, viola, cello, bass, piano, marimba, flute, clarinet and horn.

In mid January, I went to northeastern Nevada for a couple of weeks to see my dad. He lives in the high desert which was covered in snow and was seeing nightly lows of about 10 Fahrenheit degrees. He decided it was time to move to a retirement community, to downsize. He had been living in the house alone since my mom passed away in 2014, and at 93, it had become overwhelming. He used to take care of everything, but no longer had the same energy. So my brother and sister and I spent the weekend moving him and all his necessities, and cleaning out the house, the place we all grew up.

The last day before I came back to sunny—rather, rainy, but still a hell of a lot warmer—Los Angeles, I was in the nearly empty house alone ruminating on its 40-plus-year-history in our family. And even though it hasn’t been my home for more than twenty years, being there still fills my brain with intimate nostalgia. I know this place so well, and to see it empty… it was the end of something deeply personal for me.

I started writing a poem to capture the gamut of emotions, and as my rambling started to come together, I began to write the music. In four short sections, I sought to understand everything I felt in that last night: a seemingly bottomless well of grief, loneliness and cynicism, but also moments of wonder and joy, gratitude and happiness, even euphoria. I relived many wonderful memories flipping through pictures, and seeing time pass quickly. On that last night when all the lights were out, I moved through the echoey space, and mused to myself that I was the only thing haunting this place now.

And that is what Last Ghost in the House is about: a saying goodbye, of a sort.

The piece will premiere March 16, 2019 at 7PM at the Barnsdall Park Theatre. More info about the concert is available here, and tickets are available here.

I will be posting more about this, including the poem, very soon.

Bloom

After months of working on both the score and post sound mix (dialogue and sound effects), I recently sent the final version of the sound mix for the director to download.

Bloom is nearly done!

I really wanted to score this film, and not just because some of my closest friends are in the cast and crew. It is such a beautiful story. It just so happened they also needed a sound mixer and I volunteered for that role as well. Happily iZotope RX came into my life part of the way into the process, which greatly helped cleaning up the audio. Luckily they were willing to work with my schedule: I started work on this fantastic short film back in the spring and worked on it as time allowed in and around other jobs. And after many nights and weekends, my part concluded.

Bloom takes place in the side room of a church on a bride's wedding day. The characters, the bride, her mother and sister, and her two friends, Janet and Rich, some of whom interact with each other in earnest for the first time, explore the absurdities of our existence as they get ready to walk their friend down the aisle. It is a funny, dark, and sincere glimpse into their lives and experiences, which are familiar to our own.

It afforded me an opportunity to create a score that had all the elements I enjoy. A swell of strings here, some odd instrumentation there (dulcimer and Cathedral of Junk), and a chance to play with the on-screen timing (just occasionally acknowledging the timing of a line or movement), and to cap it off with a Bollywood-style tune. All the score is posted on Soundcloud and embedded below. Please enjoy!

Emo Dad Season 2, and other updates!

Everyday is a new discovery. It's not always what I envision. But the important thing for me is daily progress. There must be steps forward toward the goal, regardless of how many or how large. That is how a day ends fulfilled.

The biggest story is the release of Emo Dad Season 2! Beginning in July, Fine Brothers Entertainment, Inc. released the episodes periodically on YouTube, while Fullscreen Entertainment, released all episodes at once on their platform fullscreen.

I put an inquiry into the corporate overlords about creating a behind the scenes video, but permission hasn't materialized. The budget allowed the score to expand beyond a live oboe, violin and cello, to include alto flute, English horn, viola, electric guitar and ukulele. The rest of the orchestra was sampled.

The challenge was that each cue, regardless of how short, was a pretty good sized orchestra, and at an average of 10 per episode, had two or three versions, mostly due to picture changes. It was like painting very small detailed little paintings, painstakingly and lovingly rendered, every brush stroke, deliberate and curated. The project folder contained nearly 90 Gigabytes of files.

I am very pleased with the result and have wanted to release a soundtrack. Hopefully before the end of the year...

I recently updated my credits page. It was more complicated than expected, since Squarespace has designs on what it presumes people want to put online, but composition isn't a common enough industry to have credit-friendly templates. If I added all the time I spent staring at the Spinning Beachball of Death, I could easily log a week. And I do second guess if I should post everything I have ever written? I tend to favor completeness, but I do like options.

But before updates or rhetorical ruminating on any aspects of putting work out into the world technical or philosophical, must come the work itself. Music must be written first before it is promoted, or at least be in the latter stages of completion. I have two pieces for concert band that I'm working on, and an arrangement of a third. Also a piece for orchestra, and a chamber piece. And theoretically and most exciting: I have a looming commission, though the date is currently written in smoke.

My work on a short film, entitled Bloom, is nearly complete. I pulled double-duty on this one as sound editor and re-recording mixer and composer. Thank goodness for my connections in the sound industry, and for Izotope RX. For the score, I chose piano, light strings, and a wind quintet, harps, synths, dulcimer and the Soundiron libraries Circle Bells and Cathedral of Junk. It is a palette suited for the dark humor and sincere emotion of the work. I really pushed myself here to create something different from what I normally do. There are elements of me, but I tried to stretch a little farther--I always do, but this felt different in a way I struggle to articulate.

I felt emboldened by a project that I worked on over the course of the summer. It is a project that has yet to be completed, but it is a dark procedural-style drama. Big orchestral palette with lots of synths. I loved it! It was a lot of work, and continues to be so, but for now is on hold. While I felt as though I was made to do this film, it was hard. The hardest thing I have ever done. A constant kaleidoscope of shifting timbres, and with only sample libraries to work with, turned out to be more of a challenge than I anticipated. The subject matter was challenging, too. It was hard to not be an audience to my own experience with the film. That's all I will discuss for now. I look forward to sharing it with you.

Next up is the hardest thing yet (always push the bar a little higher): an idea I have mulled around for years that will become that aforementioned chamber piece. I know work will begin in just a few days, but I wonder if it is ready. Has it percolated enough? Enough to be cohesive or viable? We shall see. Ambitiously (overly so) I may try to squeeze in a Halloween something or other if the spooky stars align.

Unraveling Night Rehearsal

We had a great time rehearsing for the premiere of Unraveling Night! Of course, now I want a Tam-Tam of my very own.

Spiral Dream - Premiere Announcement

I am excited to announce the premiere of Spiral Dream!

Under the direction of Nathan Stark, the @MontanaStateUniversity Wind Symphony will introduce audiences to the strange world of Spiral Dream on Sunday April 3rd!

Information can be found at Montana State University's website here!

This is the second piece of mine to premiere at MSU, the most recent being "Over the Edge" which premiered in April of 2014. I am grateful beyond words that this piece has begun its journey on the stage in Bozeman.

Listen to a mockup:

Unraveling Night - Premiere Announcement

The last couple of months has found me working intensely on a piece for 4 oboes, 3 English horns and percussion, or as I affectionately referred to it, music for 7 oboes and gongs.

The piece first came about when my college cohort, Amanda Pochatko (pictured left), asked me if I would be interested in being part of an alumni recital performance at Boise State University. My involvement would be playing English horn, reprising a duet "Shepherds of Provence," and composing a new piece for an ensemble of our colleagues.

I set to work, with the premiere date set for April 5, 2016 at Boise State University's Recital Hall space in the Morrison Center for Performing Arts.

One of the first things I did was make a lot of reeds!

It was a lot of fun to explore the landscape of Unraveling Night, the title of which eluded me for days. Normally I start with a conceptual title that is very close to what is settled upon when it is finally ready to print. This time, I had a text document full of various words that described the piece, but it took days to label the right feeling.

I like what unraveling connotes: a physical or emotional act of breaking down, or eroding, but also solving a problem, and gaining an understanding. It is two things at once. And night is, well, night. The night we all know, fear, and embrace. Two things at once.

I really liked the idea of 7 players that also played percussion and that each had a part, which stemmed from my original idea to create a piece that had theatrical aspects to it, hence the original title "Ceremony," but it evolved into more than that. And while each instrument is in a way telling the story of what is happening, particularly in the first two movements, the lines of that idea blur in the third movement to tell a larger story.

Now I realize that it is strange that the piece unravels from a quasi atonal realm back to a strongly tonal ending, but I think that is the beauty of life. Sometimes the pendulum swings back the other way.

As the score came together, a poem developed, and I gave it the same title:

UNRAVELING NIGHT

Bones wash up on a desert shore
fragments of suits, shells and glass,
and teeth squishing between our toes.
Peeling the mirage of your shirt
we waded into the ripples
of leaves and bark that dripped
from your elbows
up to lush watery atmospheres.
Bathed in the earth's salt,
awash in worms and tigers,
fingernails and carburators
churning in the dusty tide,
we were particles swept across a sea bed,
now a grave.
Half formed memories brining in my mouth,
bitter and powdery,
cinnamon and ajax.
Did we melt and scatter, becoming
tree roots that drank every boulder
to dust, or a flower
that defiantly grew
perched high on an ocean swell,
rising for eons until trembling plates
sent rocks splashing,
petals lost in an eddy of gravel and steel beams
swirling around the town?
We spit sand at each other, laughing.
The place we collected whales and horses
watching them dart through our fingers,
disappeared, as though it never were,
and we wondered what was real,
and what we invented.
We emerge onto the moon-dark beach
the night unraveling beneath us
basked amid oil stains in your driveway
and dried by beams of sunless oceans.

You can listen to excerpts of the piece here. This is me overdubbed for the purposes of a mockup:

Over The Edge

Over The Edge is an exciting and loud piece for concert band. A Phrygian mode with a major 3rd gives the piece a Spanish or Latin quality, and the hemiola rhythm suggests a dance, building intensity to the very end. It features a trumpet soloist that first plays lyrically, escalating in power to a blistering pitch over the accompanying ensemble pounding out the rhythm. When the idea for this piece was first conceived, it was planned for a marching band, but as it developed, it required more flexibility and color.

I started composing this piece many years ago, and in my spare time, kept adding to it and tweaking it, occasionally going long stretches without even opening the file. Its development was very gradual, and one day it was done and ready to start finding an audience.

I was very happy that it premiered with Montana State University's Wind Symphony under the direction of Nathan Stark. Listen to the premiere performance here:

The Score and Parts are available from the store.

If you are interested in my original mockup, you can listen to that below. I used Vienna Symphonic Library, Cinebrass and Cinewinds, and Project SAM True Strike Percussion sample libraries to realize all the sounds. It was edited and mixed in Digital Performer, which is my DAW of choice.

Spiral Dream

The latest addition to the store is a piece for concert band / wind ensemble called Spiral Dream. It consists of three sections: a melodic introduction, a chromatic/tone structured middle section, and a tonal conclusion. I started out writing the middle section, but decided I needed to get into it somehow and wrote a little introduction that expanded into a big introduction, and the middle section needed something more than the collapse to end it, so I composed the third section (I needed just one more cymbal crash). I just kept writing and eventually a nearly twelve minute piece had been revealed.

The structure of the middle section is based on the Fibonacci sequence 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21. It continues on indefinitely, but 21 was the largest interval I could exploit before going digital. I also started in the middle of the keyboard, at the Bb just below middle C (I did go with Bb since this is for concert band), and expanded outward both up and down, which helped creating more interesting harmonies.

The piece doesn't tell a strict story, but it does evoke images. And the structure lends itself to a discovery (thing A), which leads to something else (thing B), and concludes (thing C) in a way that I hesitate to say is victorious, but definitely suggests a complicated achievement. And allowing the listener to have a unique experience.

I called it a dream because the entire piece seemed ethereal. The melody seemed wispy. While samples don't portray the true intent of the opening, low flutes supported by saxes playing so soft the sound is barely audible is how the piece begins. Sounds that dissipate like smoke, gone in a breath.

A quick word about the mockup, I used a combination of Vienna Symphonic patches, solo and ensemble woodwinds, Dimension Brass, Cinesamples brass and woodwinds libraries, Project Sam True Strike, and Sonivox Orchestral Percussion. Cinesamples was a lot of work to integrate since I am very familiar with VSL, and it is programmed in a very different way and the instruments respond very differently. Ultimately I'm happy with the result here and I think it provides a very good idea of what I have in mind.

I look forward to this finding an audience one day. I think it would be as much fun to perform as to experience. Listen to the mockup below:

Welcome!

Welcome to the newly updated site! This first blog entry is a bit of a formality to introduce you to what this is all about. I mentioned in my last blog entry on Blogger that a lot of my inspiration for this move is e-commerce focused. But it was also an opportunity to clean up some of the information and streamline my ability to update quickly.

I wanted the credits page to list all my work in order, rather than have the film and concert music separate. Being a multi-faceted composer, I felt since my creative focus is balanced much more between stage and screen that my list of credits should portray that. It was also an opportunity to  complete information regarding the premieres of some pieces.

I also did away with the Contact page, consolidating it with the About page. Seemed appropriate.

The biggest change is in regards to the store, and more so about the store experience. Order fulfillment on my end was a challenge and this allowed the process to be automatic. If it provides you with better service, then I want to create that for you.

Ultimately this process adds up to my being able to compose more, and fiddle with my site less. This move hasn't been without its challenges, but every change in life also provides opportunities, even if they aren't immediately evident. Ultimately I hope this provides a better experience for anyone perusing the music on the site, and exploring the sheet music and mp3's in the store.