Sunday, May 29, 2005

"If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen."

I wasn't planning on posting today, but something happened this evening that I think demands mention. We had a grease fire in our oven. Lots of fun.

We were making a nice Sunday dinner for which I would be fifth wheel (Scott Grupke and his wife were going to join us), Rachel turned the oven on for the potatoes while I was getting green beans ready. We smelled smoke, but I figured our oven was just being retarded, because weird smells come from it all the time. The smoke detectors went off and I just ignored it for a minute, because they go off every time we cook. But when I turned around and saw the entire apartment filled with smoke, I freaked out a little bit. I opened the oven (bad idea, the oxygen made the fire worse), and saw a nice little fire in the oven. After trying to pull the broiler pan out with oven mits or a pair of tongs (bad idea again), the smoke got too thick to breathe and Rachel and I had to get out. After making a few phone calls (Ilan, the rental company, my mom), we tried putting salt on the fire (Mom's suggestion). Didn't really help. I eventually found a fire extinguisher on the second floor (ironically enough, it was being used to prop open one of the fire safety doors which are supposed to remain shut).

Crash course in fire extinguisher operation. I also found out that the stuff that comes out smells really bad, and becomes a layer of dust everywhere. It's also a bitch to clean up.

So we packed up the food and took it over to Ilan's to have dinner, since the apartment was not going to be habitable for a few hours, until the smoke cleared out. Really yummy dinner, by the way!

So when I came back later, I decided cleaning the oven sounded like more fun than finishing my jazz theory arrangement. Not really. Fire extinguisher dust and burned grease do not come off easily.

At least the oven got cleaned, though.

Late-night Clifton Goodness

I did have a lovely evening, Blue Wisp with the family (jiggs played trombone and it was enchanting), multiple frat parties (my first time, it's like a car accident: repulsive but fascinating. You have to look away but you can't). But I think the best part was the stroll back to my apartment.

I walked home by myself, which was probably a dumb idea, but I do it all the time and never have any problems. Anyway, I'm glad I was by myself, I wouldn't have wanted anyone with me for the world. I walked by the "haunted" auditorium, which is condemned now, all these CCM students have stories about breaking in and exploring. I sat on the ledge of the stairwell outside Warner and watched the half-moon peek in and out from behind the black clouds. Something straight out of a werewolf movie. I sat there and thought about everything in my life. I'm trying to learn to communicate with my instinct, my intuition, the great spirit, whatever you want to call it, but that part of us that doesn't think but makes all the right decisions. I should give myself more time to clear my head, I would function better in daily life.

There are several stairwells and balconies around the old, condemned YMCA next to Siddall. I have always wanted to explore but never took the time (who thinks of things like that when one is rushing to class or to go do something productive?). So I took the opportunity to explore the outside balconies and peek in the windows at three in the morning. Eli and Joe saw me from their window and opened it to say, "Hi, what the hell are you doing up there?" (their Siddall window is close to the YMCA building). We talked about what a shame it is this beautiful old building is just sitting there, the wonderful weather today, and compared notes on the evening. I think they were considerably more fucked up than me. I'm just crazy.

More to come on the "jiggles wiggles" situation.

Friday, May 27, 2005

The Five-Year Plan

So it's probably a silly concept to have a "five-year plan" in mind when only 19 years old, and an aspiring musician at that, because things are always subject to change. My "five-year plan" is really just a loose set of things I want to do in the next five years. The thing on the top of my list was to go study with Jiggs Whigham. This week has only reaffirmed that he is one of the most amazing teachers and players I have ever had the pleasure to work with.

Only I found out yesterday that my goal to study with him in Berlin is probably not feasible. He has recently decided to retire next June.

When I first heard the news, I bawled my eyes out and wanted to quit school, quit music (although I've been having those thoughts a lot all year). A lot of that is just the ever-mounting frustration at my situation, in a school that has a way of sucking the life out of everything we do, under the instruction of Marc Fields, with whom I would rather not study anymore. Jiggs has an amazing spirit and an amazing way of bringing out the best in everyone's playing, and the fact that he will not be able to take me as a student is devastating.

So the past twenty-four hours, I'm trying to come to accept the fact that he's getting older and probably needs to retire (he runs a very grueling schedule), and that sometimes these things just happen. I should probably just enjoy the time I've worked with him this week, and not try to cling so hard to the future.

But now that things have gone all topsy-turvy, I need to rethink my life and the things I want to do in the next few years. My plan was to go to Berlin for study-abroad in the summer of 2006, and then in my senior year apply for as many grants, scholarships and loans as I could to go back on a student visa after I graduate. I didn't seriously consider any other options, and maybe it's my mistake for not keeping things more open. Maybe I should even consider some non-musical possibilities! I could:

Play trombone on a cruise ship
Work as a bartender
Work as a stripper
Go golddigging and marry a rich guy
Open a yarn store

So many options!

(yes I know I shouldn't be so cynical)

Or I could just try going east or west and see if people will actually pay me to play trombone.

(yes I know I should have a better attitude about it)

I'm not even sure at this point that I want to pursue studying German anymore. Yeah, I could try to go for a few months on a study abroad thing, try the beer, take some pictures, but I'm not sure it's as big of a priority to me anymore. And the language is alright, but I think I'd rather learn French and go back to Paris if given the choice.

Other than that, life has been crazy as always. I feel incredibly scatterbrained and hate it. Next year in September, I'm really going to make the effort to get my life in order: organize all my stuff, plan out a daily schedule and stick to it, etc etc. I feel like I would be more productive and less frazzled if my life and my stuff in my apartment weren't all such a mess. I love showing up to lab band rehearsal only to realize I forgot my trombone. And being late for every class, every day.

I also need to find the motivation to be a better protagonist in my life and my musical pursuits. i.e. going to jam sessions, more organized and focused practice time, getting a band together, being more willing to play with people, actively seeking out a weekly gig for myself.

Attitude and lifestyle adjustments are really essential if I want to get anywhere with this.

Oh yeah, and I guess I need to start looking at other grad schools, too.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Driving Mr. Whigham

Well, originally Phil was going to pick up Jiggs from the airport today, and I was a bit relieved because I would have the evening to work on my jazz theory project. But I got a call at 7:30 from Phil saying "Jiggs plane is delayed and I need to get to a gig. Can you pick him up?" And I was a little bit excited because the more I get to kiss his ass, the better. So I waited for a looooong time for his flight, but when he got here I just felt bad for him because he had been flying or in an airport for 16 hours, which sucks. And was very jetlagged, which also sucks.

So even in a bad mood, Mr. Whigham still maintains a degree of pleasantness. He is probably one of the most charming and personable jazz musicians I have ever met, which I think is partly why he is one of the highest paid trombonists in the world (there are plenty of badasses, but a good personality will get you very far). I see some kroger runs, restaurant runs, organizational skills put to work, and lending out of my trombone in my future this week (his just gets mailed in advance by KING, and might not be here right away). But the bottom line is that I just hope I play well. It doesn't matter how many Kroger runs I make this week, he won't take me as a student if I suck!

In other news, Sam and I tried (the operative word in this sentence being "tried") to teach a song to the kids at Kid's Cafe. We had their attention and cooperation for about ten minutes and then one girl piped up and said "This is stupid!" It all went downhill from there. Oh well, I think Sam is really enthusiastic about the whole thing, which is awesome. She was awesome too. Much better with kids than I am.

Time to go to sleep, I'm dead tired since last night involved lots of alcohol and salsa dancing.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Jazz Arranging for Dummies

So, while I did a lot of fun things this weekend, I spent most of that r & r time biting my nails over this arrangement I have to do. Today I finally holed myself up in my apartment and got a significant amount done. I plan to have the whole thing on paper today, and then this week all I have to worry about is throwing my computer out the window because Finale (the music notation software I use) is a huge pain in the ass. I just need to hire a copyist.

So I'm letting my brain take a break before writing the intro, because my head starts to hurt after thirty minutes or so of writing music. And I also have a short attention span (I like to say my brain has a small gas tank).

So the tune I'm arranging is a not-so-well-known Bill Evans tune called "Mother of Earl". I think it's from the 1960-61 recordings of him, Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian, these are some of my all time favorite jazz recordings. I cannot explain my love for Bill Evans in words.

Since I am being forced at gunpoint to write for trumpet, alto, tenor, trombone, bari and rhythm section, I'll try to make it sound as Gil Evans-esque as I can (tee hee, Bill Evans, Gil Evans, I'm a dork). But I'll probably mess it up since Gil Evans was the man and I'm a ditzy college student. Think "Birth of the Cool". That's what I want it to sound like.

So the first step to writing this was to write a lead sheet, which was a pain in the ass itself. I couldn't find one anywhere, so I had to transcribe the tune straight off the recording. This tune does not follow conventional "ii-V-I" jazz harmony, and had crazy Bill Evans/Scott Lafaro action which involves unconventional voicings and bass lines. So transcribing this took a really really long time. The things I love about the tune are making me bang my head into the wall over this project.

Now, in my writing process, I think I'm going a little bit crazy and unintentionally breaking all the rules Phil set down for us about good voicings for ensembles, etc etc. "Well, you know, this isn't wrong, but you are going against the grain." I don't really want to fit in his little box, but I also don't want to fail jazz theory. The case has generally been that as long as he likes how everything sounds in the end, I get an A. And I've written stuff before without the formal training I have now, and it sounded good, too. So I think I'm going to risk it and rely on what I think sounds good.

Deconstructing the things I hear in my head has also been really difficult. It's like, "Ok, I can't figure out what it is I'm hearing, but this note, this note and this note could work, so I'll just go with it." It becomes such a painful process, I feel like I'm compromising my original ideas just by putting them down on paper. Sometimes I almost feel like all the training gets in the way of being able to get my real ideas out. But that seems to be the universal dilemma of performing and fine arts everywhere: intuition versus intellect. Old news.

I also like to have snacks handy when I'm writing. Sometimes I think I would like to pursue a serious career in writing music after I finish my undergrad, but I would probably become morbidly obese, because I would never get out of my pajamas, and write all day while snacking on crackers, cheese, rasins, peanuts, and lots of coffee.

Another thing: I don't like doing my first draft on Finale. For some reason it makes me think differently, and I don't feel like things come out the same. I do everything on two staves on paper first, and then punch my complete sketch into Finale, so it looks all nice and pretty and I don't have to transpose and copy parts.

In other news: I just found out that I like Justin Timberlake, hehe! Rachel was playing a cd with a really good beat, and I was digging it, and I was like, "I like this! who is it?" "Oh it's Justin Timberlake! Yeah I like this cd too!" I think I've hit a new low in musical taste.

Man, what if Bill Evans and Justin Timberlake got together to do an album! That would have been tight ^.^

Friday, May 20, 2005

A hairy situation

Well, I cut my hair short. Really short...... I mean, really really short. I think most people who see me in the next week will have a nice surprise.

It actually looks okay. I've had my hair pixied in the past, and I've always had a bit of a love for short hair. And while I loved the ironed-out "J-bob" I've sported the past year, it was time to say goodbye. The past few times I've had my hair cut at home, I've always said to Ray "Cut it all off, I'm serious!" and he would always talk me out of it because he loves the texture of my hair, and thinks I should have lots of it. Well, this time I went to a woman at B.Zahrs here in Clifton who had never seen my past haircut (the past week or so I've just let my hair do it's thing and be wavy and gross, I've had no time to iron it), so she didn't have any objection to chopping all my hair off.

For those of you from my high school who are readers, it's similar to the time I had that pixie cut where everyone said I looked like a lawn gnome...... and I still do. But it's ok.

In other news...... well, nothing of too much excitement has happened in the past day. Other than chopping all my hair off. I just haven't eaten much this week, which was intentional because I practically eat my weight in food on a daily basis, and I feel really hungry. Not just "oh it's time for dinner" hungry, I feel like, empty/low blood sugar/no energy hungry. I could seriously eat an entire pizza right now....... mmmmm pizza.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Thoughtcrimes II

Oooooooooh shiny new blog! ~drools on keyboard~

I couldn't think of a more creative name, though. Any suggestions?

I haven't decided yet, but I think I sort of like this better than xanga. I like my pretty, generic pre-made template I chose!

Wow, I can even do spellcheck on here (yay!), and change colors, and use italics!

I'm excited.