Sunday, December 1, 2013

Unique Christmas music you should add to your collection this year

"Saxophone on the radio/Recorded 40 years ago/All I ever get for Christmas is blue"

If you're anything like me, you enjoy the Christmas season and the feelings of faith, nostalgia, and celebration that accumulate in December. As far as music goes, I do enjoy the Christmas classics, in measure (I wear out a little on Sinatra, love him though I do). But we've made it a tradition to add some new music to our rotation every year. From the Classical to the Modern, Jazz to Indie Rock, here are some unique favorites of the things we've collected so far - check out the list and let me know what music you can't wait to pull out for the Christmas season! (*SPOILER* the best is last - don't miss it!)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Private Constellations Installation

Poster announcing installation of Private Constellations

This last spring something really exciting went down that I wasn't able to talk much about because I was so busy getting ready to head out to Russia. But this project is in an exciting new branch of musical creation. Private Constellations was written between fall 2012 and spring 2013 and created as a 'sound installation' (something like a museum exhibit, where the sound is constantly playing). A large playlist of composed sound files was loaded onto twenty-one computers in a room, each playing different things at different volumes and different times. 

I have wanted to create something like a living web of music for a long time. The philosophical idea behind the piece is to create a unique musical experience for every person who experiences it. Just as countless individuals have looked at the stars over the millennia and declared various combinations of stars to be ‘their’ constellations, I want to give each listener the chance to experience something vast and yet unique to them. No two listeners will have quite the same experience when encountering the piece, for several reasons. First, the piece has a nearly infinite number of possible combinations. Second, the listener can choose their own route through the installation. Finally, each individual can choose how long to listen.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

4 Non-music TED Talks that resonated with me as a composer

For the last several months I have been really inspired and motivated by TED Talks. The funny thing is that I can't help but think of my creative activity as a composer while I watch talks that often have nothing to do with music. Although there are some great talks about music, I'd like to share 4 that don't have any direct connection to music, and yet have inspired me in some way as a creative being. Whether it is turning constraints into creative opportunities, the awe of infinity, redefining what it means to be the best, or understanding that people with different tastes aren't wrong, these speakers have helped me start to think more openly and creatively. Click through after the break to read my thoughts and watch the clips.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

St. Lawrence String Quartet Reads "The Roots of the Firmament"

When I heard that the St. Lawrence String Quartet was going to be doing a reading of pieces by student composers on campus at ASU, I knew that I didn't want to miss out on the opportunity. I also knew that I didn't really want to take out too much time from finishing up Karelian Soundscapes. So I gave myself a 24 hour period to compose something (really about 4 hours of writing and another 2 of cleaning everything up). The result is this: The Roots of the Firmament. The piece is compact and aphoristic, channeling a bit of Webern via Kurtag and my former professor Michael Hicks.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Blessings of Service & Two New Hymns!

The links to the scores of the two new hymns are at the bottom, please check them out!

I recently attended a meet-and-greet event for graduate students in the Herberger Institute at ASU. I met architects, musicians, dancers, artists, industrial designers, and people whose degree descriptions I didn't understand at all. They were from China and Louisiana, D.C and Sudan, Iran and California. I've got to be honest, it was an exhilarating and welcome change of pace from BYU, where the odds of meeting somebody from a diverse background are much lower.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Karelian Soundscapes Newsletter #1 - What Else: From Russia with Love

Dear Backers and Friends,

Karelian Soundscapes is at last underway! You know that feeling of knowing just where you are on the map or globe? Right now that feeling tells me that I'm a few hundred yards away from Lake Onega in Russia. These last months of preparation have been extremely busy: I finished my master's thesis, graduated with my Master's Degree in Composition, had my first orchestral premier, and I got everything ready for this trip, including the very arduous visa process. It got VERY close in the end, but I did get my visa which will in fact be good for three years. All the effort was worth it. 

The trip to Petrozavodsk

I left Salt Lake City on Tuesday, and flew all day and all night to arrive in St. Petersburg Wednesday afternoon. On the long overseas flight, a very kind Russian sailor named Nikita carried on a very interesting conversation with me in Russian, which helped jumpstart my Russian speaking. I immediately threw myself at the mercy of my ability to get around in Russia, taking a bus from the airport to the nearest metro station, and from there transferring lines until I reached the Ladozhskii Train Station, where I caught my first break and waited until 11pm, when the train left for Petrozavodsk. I slept very soundly and arrived in Petrozavodsk at 6:40 am on Thursday, eventually getting settled in my apartment.

Thursday, May 2nd

As soon as I could I had a walk around with my recorder, trying to get the hang of things. I discovered that it picks up EVERYTHING, which means I've got to stay stationary to get really good samples. Also, just in the few days since I've arrived, Lake Onega is 'opening up' as they say, from the winter ice, and so there has been an uncharacteristic amount of wind. I've got a good windscreen for my recorder but it is no match for some of this wind. Fortunately it is calming down the last few days! In the evening on Thursday I stopped by the local branch of my church here in Petrozavodsk and happened to arrive at the same time as several American serving here. After the last day of having been all on my own in Russia it was a welcome meeting. After that I visited the Alexander Nevski Cathedral, where they were having their one of their Easter week services. (The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates holidays by the old calendar, so Christmas is in January and Easter in May). Afterwards I was invited to attend the Easter Vigil on Saturday night, more on that later! I closed the evening by walking along the bank of the Onega, where I met some college age Russian students with whom I had a great time and who were very interested in my project. They even sang me some of the Karelian songs they learned in school, particularly one about Petroskoi, the Karelian name for Petrozavodsk.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Five things you probably didn't know about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

The concert recording of Shadow Etchings is now available to listen here or on Soundcloud!

Original Post:
Tuesday, April 2nd 2013 will hear the premier of my orchestral piece Shadow Etchings by the BYU Symphony Orchestra. The work is inspired by photographs of 'atomic shadows' taken after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and  Nagasaki. These photographs portray residual shadows from the silhouettes of various objects vaporized by the flash of the explosion. Here is an example that I an pretty sure is legitimate:

Monday, February 4, 2013

Kickstarter Success and Other Updates

Seeing my Kickstarter project Karelian Soundscapes get more than fully funded this last Friday was a beautiful experience. I felt so loved to see over 100 people give generously of their time and money to get the word out and support my efforts.

Now things move into the next phase: getting visas (since we raised the goal of $7000, we will be able to separately pay for my wife to come for at least part of the trip!), making travel arrangements (international flight, train ride from St. Petersburg to Petrozavodsk), finding accommodations in Petrozavodsk, and refreshing my contact with people in Russia to let them know this is really happening. Oh, and purchasing and breaking in the recording and sound engineering equipment I'll need.

All that aside, I still have to graduate this spring! In fact, by March 22nd I will have completed everything except one final course I'm enrolled in this semester. Right now I'm working on my Master's thesis piece. It was originally going to be a concerto for harp and orchestra, but the more I thought about it the more that feels like a doctoral level or beyond sized project. In any case, I'm very excited about the current project - a lengthy piece for 12 musicians. I feel like I'm really starting to accumulate all the various things I've wanted to into a single piece. It will definitely be the first large piece that I will be able to point to and say, "This is representative of my music and style." Sometime in March/April there will be a concert which will include both this piece and my recent Pierrot ensemble piece End's Beyond, and perhaps a few other works which have yet to premier.

Besides that, the Map of Trees album should be finished soon, and I'm still planning on doing my installation piece Private Constellations in the ALMA Lab at BYU sometime this semester.

Busy days! In fact, I just flew back from an out-of-state interview at a graduate school that went quite well, I think! A few other news bits: my hymn It is Finished will soon be my first ever published piece of music (more details when I get them!) Also, I will be performing the electro-acoustic parts of Map of Trees at the Utah Crosstalk concert this Saturday - a joint venture of BYU and UofU. Finally, my composer website is now live!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Karelian Soundscapes has Launched at!

Please come check out my new Kickstarter project Karelian Soundscapes! Start by watching my video and then choose which reward level you would like to sign up for! As little as $1 gets you involved, but lots of unique rewards are available from $2 to $900. Help me create a new album of compositions inspired by the sounds of Russia.