1) I (finally!) finished my Berkleemusic Master Certificate and have a very nice film scoring demo to show for it:
2) My major project for the summer was post-production sound on the feature documentary The Believers, which is premiering in a week at the Chicago International Film Festival. Such a blast working on and tackling a big, complex project, and loved working with co-director / editor Clayton Brown.
3) I’m now recording and mixing shows for Transistor Chicago and the City Life Supplement podcast. (Some of my Transistor recordings are already up, and the most recent CLS show should be posted soon.) Handling the energy and chaos of live sound in addition to recording is a challenge I’m embracing.
Early last month, I attended an exclusive “pre-screening” of the documentary Chicago Drawbridges. This was an audiovisual extension of an upcoming book on the subject, narrated by and starring its author, bridge historian Patrick McBriarty. I composed the score for the documentary, truly a unique challenge that required me to become familiar with music across several genres of Americana, to soundtrack different eras of Chicago’s history, up to and including various evolutions of the blues, for piano and full band. The event was a great success, and I received many positive reviews on my musical contribution. Below are a few excerpts from the project’s score:
Also in May, I finally realized a long-standing, if modest, ambition: covering the Autechre track “Goz Quarter.” Autechre are one of the seminal purveyors of IDM, a catch-all term with snobby origins for electronic music that is less overtly dancefloor-oriented. They are known among fans for producing some of the most adventurously digital work in the genre, so for many years I had wanted to recontextualize this composition in a live-instruments setting, and kept suggesting it to bands I was in (to muted reception from the other members). Then, one night this spring, I got inspired and threw down some tracks at home to see what would happen. The cover received a marvelous writeup on the Disquiet.com site.
I participated in the inaugural Disquiet Junto night at Enemy Sound last Thursday. A detailed writeup of the evening courtesy of Disquiet’s Marc Weidenbaum can be found here (disquiet.com). My performance begins around the 1h 29m mark. In addition to the remarks I made regarding my set and preserved in the MP3, I should also note that I performed a third, very brief piece in between my two official pieces, which I have ex post facto titled “Rondo for MacBook Digital Out and Dodgy 1/8″ Stereo Cable.”
Here is a Soundcloud link to the original version of my glass harp piece, where I go into further detail about the rig. And here is a YouTube link to my original performance. Comparing the two, I think the live version from last week contains the added energy of being played in front of an audience. While the sounds from the first version were largely confined in origin to the traditional glass-circling method, at Enemy I was emboldened to create sounds by tapping various parts of the glass and the contact mic itself. The latter method produced low thumps that sounded very much like a kick drum, and the piece overall became much more percussive.
It was an inspiring night full of adventurous performances that featured everything from computer processing to radio signals to poetry. I enjoyed meeting Marc and several active members of Chicago’s experimental electronic music community.
Last weekend, I celebrated Easter in a unique way, by collaborating on a live score to Suite Suite Chinatown, an anthology of short films by Chinese Canadian filmmakers that has been touring the Asian American film festival circuit for the past year. For each performance, the project has combined Toronto-based composer Arthur Yeung with a different musician local to the screening, resulting in showings that are sonically unique but retain a consistent tone and vision. I got the opportunity to be the Chicago musician when Suite Suite Chinatown played at the Gene Siskel Film Center as part of the 2012 Chicago Asian American Showcase.
I combined several new compositions written especially for the screening with some pre-existing and unreleased XYZR_KX material. Most of my writing, per discussions with Arthur, was in the ambient/electronic/experimental vein, but it so happened that the process of generating material coincided with my finishing a Berkleemusic.com class, Arranging Woodwinds and Strings. My final project for that class was a short orchestra piece that reminded me of an overture to an old Hollywood melodrama or a Kurosawa epic, and when I laid it in over the opening titles of Suite Suite Chinatown (a black and white drawing that slowly dissolves after being submerged in water), it could not have been more fortuitous – they worked together perfectly.
Ideally, I would have preferred the piece be recorded by some actual players instead of the MIDI-and-samples version I currently have, but time constraints prevented that from happening. The closing credits song was a more pop take on the same musical themes, filtered through some of my usual preoccupations – human-played drums and downtempo keys/synths. I had a great time playing the show and meeting Aram, Arthur, and the Toronto crew, and thanks to Tim at FAAIM for putting us together.