In October 2017, I had the privilege of giving a TED Talk and leading Symphony Number One in a performance at TEDxMidAtlantic 2017 in Washington, DC. My talk was titled Classical Music is Boring. (Turns out, there's more to "boring" than meets the eye!)
This most recent holiday season was a particularly joyful period of celebration. Here is a look at five musical moments from this past November and December:
I think one of the reasons I find this so appealing is that I didn’t initially discover Bruckner through his symphonies. My initial vector was through singing his motets in college. So, I think I never formed my mental Bruckner totem around his orchestrations but rather around his harmonic language, expressed in a capella choral music, as a tool to focus on reverence for The Divine, for The Higher Ideals, and for Our Better Nature. In a word, God.
Dear Representative Cummings,
I am writing to urge you to support FY17 and FY18 funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The NEA is a critical component in the network of public, private, corporate, and philanthropic support. Total direct grants by the agency are anticipated to reach more than 33 million people attending live arts events through NEA-supported programs. Grants to orchestras build innovative and civically vibrant communities such as ours by supporting arts education for children and adults, providing citizen access to performances, preserving great classical works, and nurturing the creative endeavors of contemporary classical musicians, composers, and conductors.
But there was one person who indefatigably stuck by me at this juncture, at the hour of greatest need. This was the same guy who was the very first to write me to express interest in getting the project going in the first place, all the way back in August 2014. In March 2015 at that coffee meeting, I had to ask him, in the midst of what had become a chaotic environment, where he stood. He told me, "I'm still in. At this point, I feel a moral commitment to help get this thing off the ground." And get it off the ground, we did....
Originally published in Baltimore:
It’s hard to believe that just a year ago, all of Baltimore waited with anticipation for the exciting inauguration of the festival called Light City. We wondered: What would this “light art” look like? Would the weather cooperate? Would the tourists show up? No one knew for sure, but everyone could feel the energy crackling.
I recently began contributing to Baltimore Magazine. Here's my first piece:
Wendel Patrick, “Let’s Ride”
The holidays get me thinking about sleigh rides, which, while they weren’t the inspiration for this track, still make me think of “Let’s Ride.” The vintage keyboard sounds alongside spicy drumbeats and clean electric guitars make this a perfect fit for our off-the-beaten-path sleigh ride. When you’re finished, check out some of Patrick’s other projects and collaborations, like the Baltimore Boom Bap Society and Bond St. District.
In the summer of 2016, I sat down with Jon Lim to discuss the most controversial word in the English language: failure.
In May of 2015 I lead Symphony Number One in our debut concert in Baltimore. Here's an audio essay I posted ahead of our launch:
We think we can better serve the composers we feature by focusing on just one emerging composer at a time rather than lumping all of them together onto one concert. Even trained musicians can get overwhelmed by a multitude of new compositional voices presented on one concert; how can we expect our audience to do any better? When this happens, your memories start to get flattened and you tend to only remember features like special effects, strange instruments, or other novelties, rather than to deeper musical layers.
After the death of my high school mentor, I wrote a thank you note to a number of influential mentors:
I could keep this up for hours, but I think you get the message. You are some of the most wonderful musicians and humans I have had the pleasure to know and I am just a representative for all of us whom you have touched as teacher, student, mentor, colleague, and friend. You are remarkable musicians and people, all of you, and I owe every bit of whatever small bit of success I've had to you. And if my message doesn't communicate a little bit about the power of band, this video about Gary says it all.
Here are a few early notes from my thinking on the topic of performance design:
Performance Design: An interdiscipline which examines and prescribes the tools and methods for designing a performance. Includes those tools under the traditional rubric of “interpretation” (examining manuscripts, historical studies, structural analysis) but also includes music perception fields (music cognition, information theory and neuroscience), programming, venue selection, and marketing.
I’m 17 years old and been playing violin for 8 years and piano for 2. I am interested in conducting but I have no idea where to start. I am done with high school so a school orchestra is out of the question for experience. I was hoping you might be able to point me in the right direction or give me advice.
Béla Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celeste highlights Bartók's mastery of orchestration, and innovation with rhythm. However, the opening movement perhaps least exemplifies these features (relative to the other movements). The first movement of the work instead showcases his mastery of counterpoint with a particularly praiseworthy example.
I wrote a sort of open letter to many of my former directors and teachers coming from the band world, which I've reprinted in modified form below:
I occasionally write for Sequenza21. Here's a concert review from a very special concert I attended in 2013:
Greenberg managed to turn the cramped, uncooperatively spare stage to her advantage, projecting into the space a smokey, claustrophobic Buenos Aires alleyway positively dripping with sinful lust and criminality, where “Hustlers, pimps, and devils appear at every turn,” as Greenberg wrote in the program.
...Bartok, for instance, gives us not only metronome markings, but precise timings for sections as a second check against grossly deforming his works. He believes his music to be more delicate with regards to timing, so one wrong move and snap. Mahler, on the other hand, gives loads of instruction with regard to tempo, some metronome markings, but a degree of sturdy flexibility to his music. It seems that his approach to harmony and orchestration further supports this.
Leonard Bernstein's Norton Lecture Series of 1973 has played a critical role in helping to define a particular landscape of thought which might be best described by Bernstein’s own (admittedly nonacademic) term, "musico-linguistics". While not a formal discipline, the term characterizes and encompasses the body of thought upon which he speculates in six multi-hour lectures at Harvard.
A year before my first Boulez performance, I wrote an essay about what it's like to listen to Boulez in 2009.
...upon repeated hearing, this music does indeed open itself up to the listener. It slowly, reticently yawns forth its secrets to the hearer in unexpected ways. His output is by no means monolithic either, with very thorny yet electric piano sonatas and sometimes breathless long-distance sprints like Sur Incises (cue the linked clip to 4:15 to hear this ‘long-distance sprint’), contrasted by eerily celestial portions of Pli selon Pli and the richly colorful ‘folds’ of the aforementioned Le Marteau.
In my 20's, I was a huge fan of one of America's longest-running television programs. In 2008, I wrote down a few thoughts about it.
I am always astonished at the shear variety. There are, after all, only so many crimes we are interested in watching a show about. I find myself enjoying, as my fellow blogger pointed out, the ‘how’ of it all.’Isn’t that what classical forms are all about?