Monday, August 3, 2009

It's all falling into place

It's been over a year since my last post, but I'm going to try to get back to "The Hammer".

Things that have happened since my last post, 3/13/08:

-Our daughter Abigail was born on 3/25/2009 (she's perfect, thanks for asking)
-Elizabeth finished her intern year at Yale/New Haven Hospital (thank goodness)
-I finished my MMA in choral conducting (sad to leave such inspiration)
-We moved to Durham, NC (where our home and new lives are beautiful)
-Elizabeth started her dermatology residency at Duke Hospital (finally a dermatologist!)
-I got a job at the University of Georgia (professor Naylor!)
-We sold the Acura (because it barely worked anymore)
-We bought at VW Beetle (used, but excellent)
-I came to Santa Fe to sing in the Desert Chorale for the summer (and met some super folks)

I promise future posts will be more reflective than enumerative. To sum up, until next time:

Thursday, March 13, 2008

My brother, the best conversationalist I know

All of you out there must be jealous. I am the only one who has Matt for a brother.

Today I was in a spiritual lull as I sat in the waiting room at my wife's fourth dentist appointment in two days - this time the tooth was out, no doubt. It was my brother Matt's birthday, so, feeling a little guilty that I 1) hadn't been able to make the trip to Austin for the premiere of his new film, "Crawford", and that I 2) hadn't caught up with him since that event, last weekend, I decided to give him a ring.

Matt, of course, was at work on his birthday. Over the past year, he's put in more time in his edit bay than most first-year ER residents. But that didn't keep him from brightening my day.

Our 27-minute conversation covered the following topics:

1) Film Festivals
2) The intricacies of editing and color correction (explained so that I could almost understand)
3) Fantasy baseball
4) Marc's inability to type in his native language
5) The Rockets' 20-game win streak
6) Novels
7) Movies (Michael Clayton, and All About Your Mother)
8) Traveling
9) Recording sessions
10) Impromptu birthday parties
11) Facebook

My brother was 1) at work, 2) in the midst of a period in his life vastly more interesting than mine currently is, and 3) the birthday boy. But the way he talked and listened made me feel like I, in an oral surgeon's waiting room, had something of equal value to contribute. I guess it's because no matter how mundane my life is, he still is genuinely interested in its contents.

Well here's to me, because I'm the only one who has him for a brother. Joke's on you, hosers!


Friday, February 8, 2008

NY Times takes aim at Obama

This just in from the newspaper that endorsed Hillary Clinton for the democratic nomination:

"Few From Obama's Youth Remember His Drug Use"

If few remember it, why does it belong on the cover of the New York Times? If the point of the article was that at Occidental College he was even-keeled and highly-motivated, why lead with "Drug Use?" It was 16 years ago that "I didn't inhale" got Bill Clinton in hot water. Are the Clintons trying to nail Obama with the same sort of irrelevant personal history attacks that targeted them?

It's a shame that the New York Times front page is being used for such thinly-veiled character attacks.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Democratic Primaries - a Drama, or a Tragedy?

Ever since the Bush administration began its nosedive, Democrats have been expecting with increasing certainty to win back the White House in '08. Many analyses show these expectations are well founded.

First, there are the sheer numbers of voters turning out in the early caucuses and primaries. Democratic Iowans turned out in record numbers to caucus for their party's candidates, while Republican caucus goers numbered far fewer.

Second, and the cause of the first, there's the sheer energy surrounding the candidates. There hasn't been this inspiring a Democratic field of candidates in recent memory, and for voters used to the relative soporific splendor of Gore and Kerry, this group hits the jackpot.

Third, there's the fact that the Republican field is less than awe-inspiring. There's no clear front-runner, and (related to "First"), there seems to be little buzz about the field of candidates.

But if you're a Democrat looking toward November, the New Hampshire primary results are a bit troubling. Now, if you're a Hillary fan, then you may think otherwise - certainly her dramatic and emotional comeback was a moment of reassurance, if not vindication, for those who have worked since the end of the first Clinton era to ensure its return. Primary "futures", which are sold like stocks, show Clinton with a 60.1% chance of winning the nomination, compared to Obama's 37.6%. Clinton has returned to her previous position as front-runner.

Republican primary "futures" show a four-man race: McCain 34%, Guliani 30%, Huckabee 19%, and Romney 10%. The trouble for Democrats comes in the potential matchups in the general election, and it seems that the perfect storm is being more and more strongly forecast in the shadow of New Hampshire.

When pitted against every possible Republican nominee, Obama wins by a comfortable margin. The exception is John McCain, with whom he seems to be in a statistical dead heat. Clinton, however, despite (and perhaps on account of) being the most likely Democratic nominee, enjoys a less rosy picture. She is in an extremely close race with both Guliani and Romney. And McCain? She's down about 5%.

Of all the possible combinations of nominees, the one that seems the most likely to result in a Republican victory in November is Clinton/McCain. And now take a look at who won the New Hampshire primary.

The Democratic playbook:

1) Take aim at foot.
2) Fire.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

'Tis the season for rehearsing (fa la la la la, la la la la)

Friends (many of whom are musical),

By now most of you are surely in "Pre-Advent" mode at your churches and in your choirs. This is not unlike the five minutes before airtime that Dan and Casey on Sports Night experience. There's an air of expectation, of excitement in the time leading up to the long anticipated event, be it airtime for a fictional sports program or the birth of The Lord our Savior Jesus Christ. Exciting. Very exciting.

For those of you who are involved in the secular Advent season, you will know it by its tell-tale signs: Shopping on the day after Thanksgiving; Santas in malls; Bill O'Reilly complaining about the war on the war on the war on Christmas.

Those of you who are musical and are involved in the music-making that pervades the season (Bach's Christmas Oratorio, the Christmas section of Handel's Messiah, countless Lessons and Carols services), you will know the season by its plethora of rehearsals and performances.

I hope they don't go like this:


Friday, November 16, 2007


When the original 121 pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in 1620, they had already had a long journey from England on which one crew member had been killed and the mast of the Mayflower shattered by storm winds (it was repaired using parts of what was to be a house in the New World). Between their landing in December and the following March, only 74 survived attacks by indigenous peoples, disease, and famine. Another winter like their first would have spelled a quick end to the American experiment in Massachusetts.

It was thanks to a native named Tisquantum (or, "Squanto") that the newly-arrived colonists had anything at all to eat the following winter. He taught them to fertilize their crops, he showed them how to plant corn, and told them where to fish for eels and fish.

Now, I realize that the analogy doesn't map exactly onto my life some 387 years later and 200 miles down I-95, but there are some people without whom my life these last few months would have been much less rewarding, successful, and - in some cases - possible at all. They are the natives who knew how best to live at the ISM. And to them I owe a debt of gratitude, a word of thanks.

1) I am thankful for the enormity of Robert's often anonymous generosity and love for his colleagues. Don't think we don't know where the chocolates come from, mister.

2) I am thankful for Sooyeon's incredible work ethic. No one else practices her conducting, with a score and a stand, as she waits to go onstage for an altogether different performance. That's dedication to your craft.

3) I am thankful for Kevin's unique (Canadian?) perspective on life and music - I find that often he makes me consider things (Kraft Dinner? Pelleas et Melisande?) from a different angle and in more depth than I otherwise would have.

4) I am thankful for Dominick's inextinguishable love for learning, care for the wellbeing of his friends, and interest in whatever music happens to be in front of him at the moment. I often find that when I replace the helping verb "get to" with "have to" (as in 'I have to go rehearse Bach now'), I can think of Dominick and how he views the creative process and the compass of my artistic ship is righted.

5) I am also thankful for she who made the journey with me - my wife Elizabeth. I certainly wouldn't have survived in the New World of New Haven without her help building our home and making it a warm, safe place to be at peace.

And now, the list, in no particular order, of other things I remember in this season of Thanksgiving:

Kathy, Dave, and Candice
the Christ Church choir
Jeff, whose brilliance I seek to absorb as often as I can!
Gourmet Heaven
Yale '09 choral conductors, Lauren, Jonathan, and Brian
Yale Repertory Chorus
Diet Coke
my father Skip, my mother Molly, and my brother Matt
Pam, Terry, and Mark
Dunkin Donuts' blueberry muffins
Yale University Health Services
Friends who, inspite of all the moves, haven't and never will lose touch (Eugene, Elias, Adam, Dave, Dave, Marc, Heinrich, Fred [again])
Brooke and Bo
Naxos Music Library
Elizabeth's hosts in NC and VA

Surely there are more that belong here above. While I may have forgotten them at the moment, they will come to me in the spaces in between moments, at the times when sustenance of soul is of vital importance, and always provided,

Thanks to you.


Monday, November 5, 2007

Schnittke, Schola, and the Sox

If my hiatus from blogging is any indication of how busy "real life" has been, then the last month has been intense!

I continue to be inspired and challenged by my surroundings - inspired by the music of Russian-born composer Alfred Schnittke, whose "Requiem" (1977) is, like much of the music of Arvo Pärt: compositionally sophisticated and yet aurally striking in its simplicity. I’m studying that piece for my lesson this week. I hope I’m able to conjure up the appropriate details to impress my teacher...

As a side-note, you should all listen to two pieces that have had a great impact on me this week. First is James MacMillan’s Seven Last Words. Check out Polyphony’s recording of it, if you can. Their director, Stephen Layton, is coming to Yale this winter for a series of masterclasses. The second piece is Arvo Pärt’s Te Deum for men’s choir, women’s choir, mixed choir, chamber orchestra, wind harp, and prepared piano. I sang this piece last year with the Brown Chorus, and listening to the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir’s performance makes me think that D major is the key of my soul at peace. There's really nothing like listening to his music very late at night. It's transcendent.

In other, somewhat dated news, Schola’s first concert went interestingly. The program was a challenge for the group:

Gibbons – Cries of London
Berio – Cries of London
Zelenka – Magnificat
Gubaidulina – Sonnengesang

Simon is all about Schola being interesting to watch. We gave it our all in the Gibbons and Zelenka; We tried not to look terrified in the Berio, and we almost remembered to turn our cellphones off in the Gubaidulina. More like Gubai-don’t-lina. If all of the singers had shown up on time for the performance, it would have been even better! :o\ We’re now working on Ardo, Ardo, a semi-staged production of Monteverdi madrigals and recitative from his various settings of Lamento d’Arianna. Think all-black outfits, minimalist modern dance, flashlights, and lots of rolled “r”s. It should be fun, if we can memorize two madrigals.

The Sox. What’s a man to say? If Thursday is the new Friday, then the Sox are definitely the new Yankees - that is, if the Patriots haven't beaten them to it. I hope you, like any parity-loving sports fan, were rooting for the Colts against the Pats this weekend. If you weren’t, here’s some information that might tip the scales:

Bill Belichik’s son plays lacrosse for the Brooks School, which is in the same athletic conference as the Middlesex School, where I taught last year. You might think that Bill wouldn’t deign to show up at his son’s games, having bigger games to think about. You’d be wrong. Not only does he show up, but he’s wearing the same raggedy sweatshirt and instead of pacing and looking smug/glum, he’s yelling at the officials. Check the dictionary; next to “lame-o” you’ll find a picture of Belichick, and the text: “One of greatest professional football coaches of all time who goes to his son’s sports competitions and yells at the officials”.

So who you gonna root for now? One of those forces of evil from Beantown? Didn’t think so. Go Colts!