Jeff's online journal, ramblings, whatever.

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52 Weeks of Music! For the third time!

I guess I hadn’t mentioned this on my actual personal blog, but over on my music site I’ve started up the 52 Weeks of Music project! Long-time readers of this blog may be aware of my previous two attempts (kind of; during the second one I didn’t actually write anything), but this time I’ve got both the equipment, time, and motivation to make it happen. Head on over and check it out; it begins in earnest the first week of January!

http://parkesmusic.wordpress.com/

and

http://parkesmusic.wordpress.com/about/

Warning: if you go look at my two older projects you’ll find a lot of broken links. The new one does not suffer that problem, however.


Travels Memoirs

HHS Drama Club Awards 2000

(Note: I originally wrote this nearly thirteen years ago, several months after the performance Hunter High School did of Travels. It was originally saved on my old Angelfire site, but I don’t know how long Angelfire will still be a thing, so I’m transferring this over to my current blog before it randomly gets deleted. If you don’t know what Travels is, this may help. This might too, if you have time. This probably won’t, though. Also, you may find this more interesting if you skip straight to the “Overview” section.)

Jeff Parkes’s Travels Memoirs

Written Fall 2000

Before I start, I must point out that there are basically three versions of the orchestrated Travels: the CD, the videotape, and the MIDI files. Technically there are more than one versions of the videotape, but they are very similar, so I will count them as one. The version that the orchestra can be heard the best is my mother’s tape of the Mar. 13 Monday performance because she was filming directly in front of the strings.

1. Prologue/Overture

This was the first attempt at orchestration for the show. It was started mid-December of 1999 at Nate’s house when we were still trying to figure out how to work the whole process. This was even before it was decided that I do the orchestrations. It was mostly finished in December but touch-ups and other work were applied later before I printed it.

2. Day After Day

This was the second song attempted, but it was not completed as quickly as #1. I also wrote this song with a simplistic guitar part, and it and #1 were the only ones in which a guitar part were attempted. Frankly, it worked much better in #1. Although I never printed these parts, I left them in the MIDI files, so if you want to hear them you can.

3. Venice To Stay

This wasn’t the third song attempted. In fact, I put it off for a while because I didn’t want to deal with swing rhythms in Finale. Nate’s idea was to have the parts in Venice and traveling more like an old-fashioned Broadway big band sound, while the China scenes to have more of a rock opera feel. To recreate the old-fashioned sound, this song is heavy on the brass oom-chucks common in the style. To heighten the effect, I didn’t write a string part until the second-to-last measure of the song. This song was a monster, and when I finished it I was happy. In the MIDI file I added applause because I was relieved it was done.

4. You Will Go Far

A song that wasn’t too tough. I did write a rather neat woodwind section in the middle, but unfortunately it is hard to hear on both the tape and the CD. Listen for the countermelodies. This is also the first time the “regal” elder Polo theme appears; so keep your ears open for it.

5. Celebration/Our Journey Goes On

I avoided Celebration for a while for the same reason I avoided Venice To Stay. I think the big band sound worked much better in Celebration however. In Our Journey Goes On, the “regal” Polo theme makes up basically the entire song. When Nate sent this one to me there were some time signature problems, i.e. the downbeat actually fell on beat three sometimes. Some of these I tried to fix, but others I didn’t catch and that made it that much harder for the orchestra to play it. I apologize for that. This is just foreshadowing for the mess that comes later in song 17:Hunting. Otherwise, I think I caught the old-fashioned sound well, especially with the French horn, which is Niccolo and Maffeo’s main instrument. A good choice, considering Dan Omer (Maffeo) is a French horn player.

6. Travels

This is one of my more favorite songs. The reprise of Day After Day is a bit heavy at the beginning, but once the main theme gets going, you can feel the energy. Although many people like different songs better for different reasons, it is this one that really sums up the adventurous spirit I know Nate was striving for. After all, the song and the musical have the same name. The simplicity and intervals (fourths and fifths) of the section where they are saying goodbye doesn’t make the occasion happy or sad but leaves it wide open. In fact, the piece shifts from major to minor and back many times, heightening the adventurous spirit. This theme recurs many times.

7. As You Can See

This song is a good one in all three versions, but for different reasons. The CD version is the weakest of the three, but is still good. The tape has the rockin’ stylings of Rob Slater/Kody Burgess on the drums and you can feel the energy. The MIDI file has a great trumpet line during Maffeo’s speech that unfortunately can barely be heard on the other two. There is also some great clarinet work during the monks’ speeches that also can barely be heard on the CD and tape. At the beginning I added a bit of a “Super Mario Bros.” reference, right before the rock section begins. I made it very subtle in case Nate ever caught it, but you can hear it on the MIDI file. Overall, one of the funner songs.

8. Don’t Turn Your Back On Us Now

It’s basically an extension of #7. The same clarinet line for the monks. An interesting tidbit: On the CD when Maffeo (Dan) is singing, it is also him playing the horn in the background. He’s accompanying himself on the horn! Quite wacky.

9. Pages of White

This is the first of the “slow” songs I completed and one of my favorites. There is some more woodwind and French horn interplay during the second verse that begins, “Tomorrow will come and then go out when it’s done . . .” that is hard to hear on the tape and CD. There is also a bit of good glockenspiel work, but for some reason that part never got printed with the rest of the parts for this song, so you can only hear it on the MIDI file. A poignant addition to the musical and a personal favorite.

10. Town to Town

The second-to-last song I did during the first act. This song I put off for a very long time because I was nervous about turning out a good old-fashioned heavy sound. Turns out this song is the most “theatrical” of the whole show. The heavy brass oom-chucks are highly emphasized in this song, as are some great string lines. We didn’t obtain any concert cymbals for the show or the recording, so those cymbals you hear is the drummer crashing the hi-hat together. It’s not exactly the same, but it works. Of all of the songs, this one probably suffered the most from a lack of concert drums. My favorite part is the high-energy Pages of White reprise.

11. Walk Upon the Sky

Obviously a pivotal song in the plot, this song was done shortly after Pages of White, and the similarities are easy to spot. The musical color in this song is mostly controlled by the strings. Listen for the switches from the tremolo to melodic lines throughout on the CD and tape. This song also includes a homage to another song I wrote, “Lightning.” It’s easier to hear with the MIDI file. Just listen to the trumpet fanfare followed by the flute & clarinet. If you’ve heard “Lightning,” you’ll recognize it easily.

12. In These Mountain Tops

This was the last song I completed in Act One because it had a Town to Town reprise in it. This song is a bit weaker in the area of matching the song to the words. The lyrics have some disappointment in them, with Marco resenting his being alone even with his father and uncle. However, the music doesn’t reflect that very well, if at all, which is my fault. Only when you get to the Town to Town reprise can you hear any of that resentment in the music. Also, the ending was supposed to lead right into #13, which was impossible to do on stage, so it confused the audience.

13. Lonely, Lost, and Losing

This song accomplished its goal, which was to portray despair. However, I love the transition near the end when the escorts find them. Most of the song is minor, but when the escorts find them it jumps to major for an instant because they found relief. It then reprises the uncertain, pensive theme also found at the beginning of #7 and speeds into an embellishment on that theme, building to a climax, until. . .

14. Who Is This Stranger?

. . .they enter China, and with a vengeance. This is where the musical style of the show shifts from an old-fashioned musical to a rock opera. The energy level is high as the show gets rockin’. This is heightened in the MIDI file by the Square sound (the techno video-game sound) and on the tape by the slap bass line. Easily one of the songs that lost a bit on the CD, it still is a great entrance into China.

15. Stately Pleasure

Now we get to the real meat of the story as the group meets the Khan. First is a short reprise of As You Can See, and then it turns into the Khan’s excellent “official” theme. This song is aptly named as the brass and string lines add a definite stately feel. Notice the texture & color get lighter when Marco speaks. Then they go off into glory, as. . .

16. A Dangerous Sign

. . .our good friends the evil astrologers enter. This song was the first one I completed totally and my favorite MIDI. It also lost a large amount of energy in the translation from MIDI to real life. Some of the heavy rock sounds were impossible to duplicate without a guitar, and the singing covered up the saxophone solo. If you listen to this MIDI, you may never want to hear the live version again. Another personal favorite.

17. Hunting

Now we come to the biggest mess of the show. This song never ever worked the way it should have. Conceptually it was just a plot-advancing song and therefore destined not to be a hit. The MIDI version was an OK rendition, but nothing special. However, this was another song on which Nate messed up the time signatures and I didn’t catch ‘em, so this song was utter hell for the pit orchestra. It also heralds the beginning of perhaps the dullest portion of the plot, which lets up around song #22, What’s Going On? Add to this the awkward vamps when the Khan outlines Marco’s job and the clumsy A Dangerous Sign reprise, and you have probably the worst song in the show. But then again, it never exactly had high aspirations. The only plus side is that it introduced the Khan’s “informal” theme, the acoustic guitar line.

18. Go Where You Go

A mediocre song, this one was another plot-moving device. It also started probably the most grating theme in the show, which was to be used way too many times over the next few songs, then thankfully dropped from existence. I think all of you know exactly what theme I’m talking about. If you don’t, it’s the one half of this song is made of. The part where Maffeo and Niccolo say their goodbyes and the reprises of Who Is This Stranger? are probably the highlights of this song.

19. Journey Of A Lifetime

I think this song lost a huge amount of energy in the transition from MIDI to real life. Nobody remembers this song, yet it was one of my earliest and favorite works. It probably would have worked better had there been more strings and a more consistent bass sound. The CD especially slaughters this song. This is where I introduce the clarinet for Marco and the Oboe for Mei Hwa when they are happy and together, an idea which I tried to keep consistent throughout the show. It’s up to you to decide whether I did or not.

20. When It All Comes Down To Love

This is Kjersti (my sister)’s favorite song, but that’s probably because #34: Anywhere wasn’t done before she left on her mission in February. Nate said this was one of the songs that I could leave unorchestrated due to lack of time, but I insisted, saying this song was made for strings. Unfortunately I carried that concept a bit too far, and the strings overpower the entire piece, especially near the end when they are raised into an octave usually reserved for dog whistles. This song probably would have been one of my favorites had it had a bit more variety, both on Nate’s and my parts.

21. In This Mystic Land

I love the deep bass at the beginning of the MIDI file for this piece, which unfortunately gets lost on the tape and CD. The reprise of In These Mountain Tops in this song was actually done before #12, leaving it as the last song to be done in the first act. I’ve had a few compliments about the end of this song. Most people thought it was definitely a romantic swell, or as one put it, “kissing music.” It doesn’t quite work in the MIDI, but the mood comes across very well on the CD.

22. What’s Going On?

Another personal favorite. This one dispenses the washed-out feeling we’ve had since A Dangerous Sign and sinks its teeth right back into the meat of the story. Accompanied by a rock organ instead of a distortion guitar, this one has a much more low-key feel than A Dangerous Sign. The beginning of this song is the happiest time for Marco during the entire show, and it’s a bit jarring to hear the beautiful string lines turn minor and sour right before the rock section. The oboe there also adds a bit of emotion. The MIDI file is a rockin’ one, as is the tape, but the CD loses a lot of the heavy bass that I love on this song.

23. When It All Comes Down To Love (reprise)

In my opinion, this was a bit too soon for a reprise of this song, but that’s OK, because I didn’t write this musical. This song is musically almost the same as #20 and I don’t have much to say about it. However, this song does introduce the Marco/Mei strife theme heard most prominently in #27: Time For Me To Go. Listen to the oboe line right before the electric piano.

24. The Battle

Arguably the most rockin’ song in the show, this is another personal favorite. In my opinion the best version of this song is the tape version. The energy radiating from the stage is audible in the music, especially during the What’s Going On? reprise. This song was great fun to write and I think I only spent one day on it, because I enjoyed it so much. After all, who doesn’t love a good stage battle?

25. To Come Forth

Possibly the most pivotal song in the whole show, although some of the second act songs could claim that honor. The low cello part adds a lot of atmosphere to this song. This ends the first act on an uneasy, but determined note as Marco vows to tell the Khan of his observances of mayhem. As the dead townspeople rise and sing, the song crescendos until it breaks once again into the unifying theme of the show, that of song #6:Travels.

 

25a.Entr’acte

A reprise of #14:Who Is This Stranger? See above.

 

(Note: 26-29 I never orchestrated, because I ran out of time and energy. So there.)

 

(Also Note: Unlike Act One, in which I did the songs in no particular order, I basically did Act Two in reverse: starting from #40 and working backward, with a few exceptions.)

 

26. The Parade

The song that Nate never wrote down. I have nothing to do with this one, except I sang, “Here they come, let’s cheer!” on the CD. There is no MIDI of this song.

27. Time For Me To Go

Basically the Marco/Mei strife theme, ascending until Marco kicks Mei out.

28. You Are the One

Another example of the Khan’s “informal” theme, used to good effect. Also reprises #16:A Dangerous Sign. This one would have been a good one if I had had time to finish it. I did the first few measures, but it’s nothing spectacular. It’s on the MIDI version.

29. No Better Timing

Both this song and the previous one start with a short reprise of #25:To Come Forth, as will #34:Anywhere. This song is basically the pentatonic scale over and over again. Not one of my favorites.

30. Who Do You Think You Are?

Two words describe this song: pep band. I could easily hear this song blasting out across a football field at the end of 1st quarter. Once again I used the rock organ instead of a distortion guitar to create a bit more of a sinister and less openly evil effect. This song has a lot of low instruments, and is the best song for the baritone sax. The MIDI is pretty good for this one, but it really rocks on the tape. This is the song that somehow mutated into “Hey Baby” during a rehearsal.

31. Still On My Own

A big tone and energy change from the previous song. The audience got pumped up, then suddenly was left a bit dry. That feeling hopefully evaporates as this song continues. The reprise of Day After Day is well placed, and the rest of the song builds to a climax in which the Kinsayians and the governors have a heated verbal dispute to a short rendition of #29 and #30. We are let down much easier this time as a flute note lingers into the distance. This song, along with #34 and #35, was not done in time for the actual show in March, so the tape versions of these three are not orchestrated.

32. Got to Go

It opens with the “regal” theme we haven’t heard since their first appearance, and you know which two characters are next to appear even before the servant finishes the line, “Two gentlemen are waiting to see you.” As Maffeo and Niccolo discuss things with the Khan, the main Got to Go theme is played. This is a theme I could have run with much more than I did, and the result is fairly repetitious. However, besides the songs I did after the show ran, this and its reprise were the last songs I did when I was on the brink of doom and exhaustion. On the good side, when Maffeo and Niccolo leave, there is a great two-measure theme that repeats that I think is one of my more successful translations from MIDI to real life. In fact, I think it sound much better in real life than on the MIDI. Check it out on the CD.

33. The Ballad of Kublai Khan

This song is one of my biggest regrets. There was plenty of powerful material for me to work with here, but by the time I got around to this song I was sick of the whole thing and therefore only added drums and bass. In retrospect, this is a song I would have done a lot more with if I had had the time and energy, As for how it stands now; it’s still not a bad little tune. The lyrics are better than most of the songs, and it introduces one of the two main morals of the show: You can make a wrong, you can make a right, it’s not always black and white.

34. Anywhere

I learned my lesson from #20 and decided to leave this one up to the piano. I only orchestrated the short reprise of #25: To Come Forth at the beginning, and I think I did a good job of it too. I still enjoy this song, as it’s the only romance part of the show that hits a bit close to home, at least until their “duet” at the end. (I put duet in quotes because they’re singing the same melody line.)

35. Venice Some Day

I didn’t touch this one much either. This is partly because of time and energy, partly because it was a bit of continuation of the previous song, and partly because I didn’t want to deal with the bad pun Nate inserted into the middle (heard only on the tape version, thank goodness). This one, besides reprising #3:Venice To Stay, also shows a bit of the Marco/Mei strife theme. Only near the end when the lovers leave their own little world and enter back into reality does the orchestra rejoin the show with another pensive clarinet and string line. This quickly turns into yet another #30 reprise as the governor seizes Mei Hwa and kicks Marco out of his house.

36. Got to Go (reprise)

It starts with a suspenseful glockenspiel line at the beginning, then goes back into the repetitious Got to Go theme. This is mercifully shorter than the previous incarnation, as the show leads into another rendition of the Khan’s “informal” theme, which is transformed into a haunting French horn line. It soon reprises #33:The Ballad of Kublai Khan, and this time I did something to the song, which increases the power of the Khan’s argument.

37. The Time Is Right

I love this short tune because it combines the two evil themes in a great way. Listen for when the governor mentions Mei Hwa and you’ll hear a three-note oboe motif (also heard in #35:Venice Some Day). The #30 theme crescendos at the end, leading straight into the end of #16 in a very powerful way. You know these guys mean business with this short but powerful song.

38. The Escape

First, a bit of explanation about these last three songs. Originally in the score, #38 ended right before Marco sang, “From China we crossed the great Indian Sea. . .” and #39 ended right before the final “Travels” motif. #39 was called “Walk Upon the Sky (reprise)” and #40 was called “Travels and Finale,” However, on the CD, it was necessary to change the places where one song ended and the next began. Therefore, #38 ended right before the “regal” Maffeo and Niccolo theme, and #39 ended right before the “Walk Upon The Sky” reprise. #39 was renamed “Epilogue,” and #40 was renamed “Walk Upon The Sky/Travels.” For the sake of ease for me, I will refer to them by the names on the score, not the names from the CD, because that’s how I wrote them.

With that said, The Escape was one of my favorites to work on because of the dramatic musical possibilities. After the short string intro where Marco talks to Niccolo, the entire piece builds to the climax at which point Mei Hwa gets stabbed. Most of this building-up section was part of a project Nate wrote for his AP Music Theory project in 10th grade. He had actually orchestrated it himself. However, the instruments and registers he used to orchestrate it made it impossible to use, and it also didn’t build to this particular climax. Anyway, when I wrote it I thought that the short section after Mei’s last words with the church bells should have been accompanied by a low thunder growl and a light fall of rain. It seems that it always rains after battles, when the survivors mourn the dead, and I thought it would fit there. Think “Les Miserables.” Also note how I try to keep a bit of a rock feel throughout this piece until the last part, when the “regal” theme of Niccolo and Maffeo plays. This is when Marco finally begins his journey home, back to the realm of Italy, Venice, and the old-fashioned orchestration once again. This once again leads into the playing of the main theme of the show, #6:Travels.

39. Walk Upon the Sky (reprise)

This song beats even The Battle for most people’s favorite song. Why? Although the plot climax was in the last song, the character development climax occurs when the young and old Marcos are singing their duet. Note the usage of high woodwinds such as the flute and clarinet underscoring the young Marco and the lower woodwinds such as the bassoon and bass clarinet underscoring the old. I’ve never really understood why the old Marco suddenly regains his zest for life, but then again, I’m a musician, not a scriptwriter. I also think the use of the #13:Lonely, Lost, and Losing reprise was interesting. While the usage in both #13 and this song is to outline Marco’s despair, in #13 it was to show his physical situation, while here it was to show his much deeper, more hurtful emotional situation. Finally, the song climaxes into:

40. Travels and Finale

The main theme of the show yet again, in the most spirited rendition yet. Once again, it sums up the adventurous spirit of the show quite well. More importantly, it drives home the second moral of the tale: you don’t have to discover a new country or walk four thousand miles to live an adventure. Life is an adventure itself, and it’s how you live that determines how much you love life. It all ends with a great gong crash that, while missing from the MIDI version, leaves the audience with a great deal of satisfaction for a job well done.

Overview

First, a note to the many critics of this show. Yes, it was quite amateur. Considering it was written by an 18-year-old and orchestrated by a 17-year-old, that’s not surprising. However, Nate, I, the cast, the crew, the orchestra, and various family members and friends have been working on this very intensely, and thus have a unique perspective. I believe it was one of the original creators of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs that said that while critics and the public welcomed the show with open arms and loved it, all the people who worked on it could think of when they saw it was where there needed to be more color, where the plot ran a bit slow, which character should’ve had a smaller nose, etc. Yes, there are many criticisms one could place on Travels, most of which I’ve probably thought of myself. All in all, however, it was an astoundng piece of work, and when it was performed in March of 2000, it was something magical. True, there were many flaws, and almost every one of them either Nate or I noticed. That doesn’t make this a bad show; on the contrary, this show was quite extraordinary. So what if the clarinet couldn’t be heard in measure 32 of song 4? So what if Old Marco Polo was a little nasal, or the set creaked, or the percussionist made up half of his part, or that the trumpets were waaay too soft, or that the astrologers couldn’t quite walk in rhythm? That stuff happens in every high school show, not just this one. As a production treated like any other, it was mediocre. However, judging us by the same criteria as judging a regular, well-established high school musical such as Crazy For You is unfair, because they are two different animals. This show wasn’t only original, but very experimental. The show wasn’t even close to completion when the casting was made. Suggestions were made to Nate and I. Some we took, some we didn’t. As I was orchestrating the show during the rehearsals, the orchestra had to learn a new song almost every morning, instead of having the luxury of taking the whole show home and practicing it. Most of the songs the soloists had to learn off a tape made by Nate, not sheet music. “The Parade” wasn’t even written until about a week before the show. Add to this normal complications, such as people ditching rehearsals, blocking, prima donnas, quarrels between cast & directors, costumes, set design, and the fact that nobody really knew how we were really going to pull this thing off, and you have Travels. So please give us a break.

Travels was an ordeal for me. It was an ordeal for everybody in the show. When I first really started helping Nate in December of 1999 during my senior year of high school it was because I knew a lot more about Finale than he did. It had been decided for a while that I was to direct the pit orchestra, but the decision of who was doing the orchestrations wasn’t made until near the end of December. We had finally finished the first piano reduction for 1. Prologue/Overture at Nate’s house when I started playing with the orchestra parts to it. I asked Nate if I could also orchestrate the rest of the show, and he said something like, “Sure, whatever.” Little did I know what I was getting myself into.

As the weeks went on into January I began the orchestrations. Nate was working on getting the piano reductions into Finale, which was a large chore in itself. While not as spur-of-the-moment creative, it still was a slow and methodical process, especially if you weren’t an expert at Finale, as Nate wasn’t. We considered having Dan Omer help out with cleaning up the piano reductions before sending them to me so Nate would have less to do, but we decided that’d be too complicated of a process. With just the two of us working on the show, Nate on the reductions and me on the orchestrations, it was a slow and painful process.

Near the end of the second term, I knew that we couldn’t finish the whole thing in time for it to sound good in March, so I got permission to stay home on odd days to work on the show. My classes on odd days were AP Music Theory, Independent Study, AP Physics, and Concert Choir. I could easily miss Music Theory, Concert Choir, and Independent Study, but my AP Physics knowledge suffered greatly. I passed that term, but due to my utter lack of knowledge I failed the fourth term and didn’t take the AP test for the class. Just one sacrifice that went into the making of this show.

The first song I finished (besides 1. Prologue/Overture, which I revamped later) was 16. A Dangerous Sign. I liked it so much that I had everyone in the house listen to it several times. The next few songs I completed were some of my favorite orchestrations, such as 9. Pages of White, 19. Journey of a Lifetime, and 22. What’s Going On?. This was before the daily grind really set in.

At the very end of January pit rehearsals started. Dan had put together the pit for me because he knew the orchestra members much better than I did, so I thought I’d have many faces unfamiliar to me when I showed up that first afternoon. It turns out I hardly had any faces at all. Arrangements were quickly made to put rehearsals before school so less people would have conflicts, but it was always a struggle to get the entire orchestra at a rehearsal together. In fact, I don’t think we had the whole orchestra together ever until the Wednesday night performance.

February: the month of doom. It was early in this month that the novelty of orchestrating wore off and the mountain of work I had got myself into became clear. I had printed myself a list of the song names provided by Nate that I hung on the wall by the computer. Whenever a song was started I put a check by it; when a song was completed, I crossed it off. The harder songs slowly began getting crossed off, while the songs that were incredibly hard such as 3. Venice and 10. Town to Town remained unchecked for a very long time. Every time I started or completed a song I would tally up the percentage of the show I had finished and the percentage of songs I had started, just to log my progress. I cannot adequately describe here how taxing and exhausting it is to stare at a steadily growing file list of songs(Nate was still sending me the reductions as he finished them), each from two to five minutes long, and, one by one, add twenty-four orchestra parts that not only made sense logically, but sounded musical as well. Not only this, but get up very early in the morning, drive a half an hour to get to the high school at 6:00 AM for pit rehearsals at which the whole pit was never there, direct the pit with no prior experience of even being in a pit orchestra, much less conducting one, then still do my homework for my AP English and other classes. Add to this the fact that I had no training in this area and hardly any experience orchestrating(the only song I had orchestrated before this was a song I wrote entitled “Lightning,” which was performed at graduation later that June) and the things I kept hearing about fights between Nate, Carina, Eric, Katie, and the rest of the cast, and you will be getting close to what I had facing me this 29-day month.

February was also the month of my great percussionist search. Our original drummer was Kody Burgess; auxiliary percussionist was Matt Blunt. After the first rehearsal I scared Matt off and he never came back, so I needed to find another auxiliary percussionist. Kody came to a few rehearsals but was promptly kicked out by Mr. Lewis, the temporary band teacher, who had a personal vendetta against Kody and wasn’t too fond of me either. So I got two other percussionists: Rob Slater and Aaron Allgrunn, both of which had graduated the previous year. Then Kody told me he really wanted to do it, and we tried to work around Mr. Lewis, so I told Rob that we didn’t really need him after all. Then Kody told me that he couldn’t come to the last two performances, so once again I came to Rob for help. Luckily he was a good sport about it and agreed to play for the last two shows.

At the beginning of February my sister Kjersti left for her mission to Dallas, Texas. This deflated most of the directors, as they had all been close friends with her. Looking back I see this as both detrimental and beneficial. While she probably could have helped solve some of the show’s problems, it would have subtracted from the experience that Nate, I, and the cast, crew, and orchestra gained. It’s like a young child helping the butterfly out of the cocoon; the child means no harm, but the butterfly doesn’t have enough strength to live and dies not long after emerging. This is, of course, my opinion.

As the weeks dragged on so did the songs. I grew more tired and unsure of my abilities as an orchestrator. As a result, I started making mistakes. The missed meter change in 5. Celebration/Our Journey Goes On, the thin musical texture of most of the second act, and the entire song 17. Hunting are examples. I kept setting deadlines for when I would finally finish the show and missed every single one of them. On the short news piece that KSL Channel 5 did on the show in March I mentioned that I had put my heart and soul into this show. I truly meant that, because for these months and a large part of the time afterward it felt like I had indeed lost my soul to this show. The only real records I kept during this time period were my daily AP English “Writing for Fluency” exercises, which mostly show signs of a very tired, weak guy.

Finally, March began. As the performances neared I realized that at the rate I was going I would never finish the show in time, so I left a few songs unorchestrated and crossed my fingers in hopes that the audience wouldn’t notice and/or care. More of the pit was showing up to rehearsals, but one tragic fact was revealed: Chris Roy, the excellent pianist, could not make it to Thursday’s performance. Nate would have to fill in for him. After all, Nate wrote the songs, so he should know the piano parts hands-down, right?

I brought the Finale CD to school and finished some of the songs during Drama 7-8 8th period in the Drama room. Nate wrote 26.The Parade with Eric in the choir room, so I had nothing to do with it. He didn’t have music for it(and still doesn’t) so in the performances it is a recording of himself playing the song on a disk for the Roland KR-375 keyboard he brought in for the show. At this time I was incredibly close to the breaking point. Exhausted, overwhelmed, and emotionless, I just wanted it to be over. Once during those final few days before the show Mrs. Fields had asked me if, given the chance, I would do the whole thing over again, and I almost said no. The only reason I didn’t is because that wasn’t what she wanted to hear, but that was how I felt. Every time I directed the orchestra all I could hear were the mistakes, the missing parts, the wrong dynamics, the list goes on and on. If “hell” was a state of soul that you could be in during your life, I was there. But the show must go on, and the directors have to be brave, so I put on my best face and bore through. I cracked a few times, such as whenever the outrageously bad pun in 35. Venice Some Day came up, but overall I hope I did OK.

March 8th, 2000. The night of the first performance. Some news stations had advertised the show thanks to Amy Winder’s PR skills, so we got a modest audience of 200, which is more than Pygmalion got my junior year. I got some cards and stuff from different people thanking me for doing the show, but at that point I was too weary to care, as I think Nate was too. I could’ve shown more gratitude than I did, so those of you reading this who supported me, I’m thanking you now. The show itself this night wasn’t bad. There were several trouble spots, but overall it was the most mediocre of the performances, relatively speaking. Somebody had baked a cake with a frosting version of the Travels poster on it, but I didn’t get any.

March 9th, 2000. This night I almost lost it. Chris was missing this night, so Nate had to fill in. While Nate had written the show, he knew his version-which was never really the same twice. He kept leaving measures out because he didn’t remember exactly how long the fills were, and he played songs with so much rubato that the beat was lost. Since I had centered most of the songs around the piano(because that was the source material), this spelled trouble for the orchestra and consequently for the cast. Nate noted later that it was one of the hardest things he had ever done. At intermission it was all I had just to sit in the pit and concentrate on pulling together again. Luckily the second act went a bit better because most of it was piano, but it was still definitely the worst performance of the show. It’s interesting to note how, if even one person screws up, the entire show suffers as a result. Take this to heart, chorus members: even if you’re always the guy in the back that has no lines you are still very important and the show would not be the same without you, so give it all you got. That’s my inspirational message for today.

March 10th, 2000. Undeniably the best performance. There was a minimum of mistakes in the orchestra, the energy was high, and my mom was sitting in a great video camera spot in the audience. Best of all, Chris Roy was back for the piano part. It almost made up for the previous night.

March 13th, 2000. A tradition in the Hunter High School Drama Department was for the leads in the cast to give the directors gifts on closing night. I received numerous cards and a bouquet of flowers. I also received a large Chinese calendar and a framed Chinese kanji for “love,” with the message “An open heart sings a wondrous melody, bringing great blessing to whomever may hear it.” Then the leads gave some words of gratitude to all the directors and Mrs. Fields gave a speech about the spirit of the show that offended Dan Burk, the red governor and also the star of the official high school musical that year Crazy For You. After all these profound speeches I took the pit orchestra in the band room and said something to the effect of, “Well, I’m not much of a motivational speaker. I think you got enough of that in the other room. Just do good.”

The article for the show was published in the Deseret News that Saturday on the front page of the Metro section. Several news stations had also done short spots about the show at the end of their broadcasts. Even knowing that didn’t prepare me for how huge the audience was that night. When I stepped through the curtain a brief second before the spotlight was turned on, all I could see were rows upon rows of black heads, fuller than I had ever seen the Hunter High auditorium before. Then the spotlight fell on me and I was nearly blown away by the force of the applause because the house was so full. I couldn’t think about this much, however, because I had to concentrate on making my way past the front row, which was a mass of legs and handshakes-to-be. Finally, I jumped into the pit and tuned the orchestra, and Nate came out to an even larger response from the audience. He gave his pre-show spiel, thanking people left and right, and then the show started.

The show went fine, albeit with more mistakes than Friday night. Most of the time I was paying attention to the pros and cons of the performance, much as I had done since pit rehearsals started and the daily grind set in. However, during the final song 40. Travels and Finale, I remember suddenly thinking, “This is the end. It’s over. My life, my work, the project for which I gave my soul is about to conclude.” And for the briefest second, as I was conducting Eric singing the words, “Living to take a new experience, Living, adventures, being free. What is out there? Now I’ll see! Living and loving life, wondrously,” I felt a twinge of regret.

The moment quickly passed, though, as Rob got the beat wrong for a snare drum fill and my mind went back into its analytical mode. The show ended, bows were taken, the audience clapped and cheered, the curtain call music(just song #40 again without singing) ended, and the curtain closed.

I remember thinking later that night(or maybe it was earlier) that if the whole project were turned into a movie or a mini-series or something, the instant those curtains closed the camera would freeze and the “Executive Producer” credit would appear, the applause sound would slowly fade into a pop version of one of the songs(probably “Walk Upon the Sky” or “Anywhere”), and the story would be over. Real Life isn’t like that. Real Life goes on, and as much as you want to pause Real Life at a particular spot, you have no choice but to move on with Real Life.

And so it was. Travels was the talk for a while afterward at the school, but soon people started focusing their energies on other projects. This was, unfortunately enough, when Sherri Winder, Nate’s mom and a big helper on the PR work, called a meeting and announced that we were going to produce a CD. So once again I sat down at the computer, fired up Finale, and orchestrated song #31. I also did a bit of songs #34 and #35, but I was still entirely worn out and didn’t finish ‘em.

I also pulled the old pit orchestra out of retirement and had a few rehearsals. Unfortunately for the CD, some members of the pit had to miss the Saturday recording date, such as the excellent clarinetist Travis Cooper and the crazy tuba player John Huizingh, so we had to find some last-minute replacements to sight-read the parts. The French horn player we had used for the show, Tyler Holt, was from Bountiful and didn’t really want to drive down to Hunter for the recording, but luckily Dan Omer filled his place well. The result of these replacements? Well, listen to the CD and then the tape(if you have one).

The CD was mainly inferior to the live performances for several reasons. First, the above replacements had little to no experience with the music. Second, we recorded in April, and it had been almost a month since any of the members had played the music. Third, our recording engineer Marilee Webb told John Hawley the bass player to play very softly and as a result almost all of the bass on the recording was lost. Fourth, when it was mixed with the voices the singing ended up completely overpowering the orchestra and you could barely hear the music. There are many more reasons, but I won’t go into them.

Nobody ever really heard the show I wrote. The live versions were done well considering the circumstances, but the stuff I wrote was the MIDI version, and that is the version most dear to me. Whenever I play it for other people they think it sounds like video game music, at least until I play them 16. A Dangerous Sign, at which point they like the MIDI files, but they still don’t appreciate what they mean to me. Each one of those songs has a piece of myself embedded within them. For all of those songs I contributed not only notes, articulations, and markings, but a bit of my own being as well. While I criticize Travels as much as the next guy I can only dislike Travels as a whole if I dislike myself.

As for the experience? I’m amazed I made it through alive. Weakened and a bit empty, yes, but alive. As with all of life, I learned several lessons throughout Travels that I will take with me for the rest of my life. Reach for the unreachable. Stand up for yourself. Don’t just discuss your dreams, make them happen. At the same time, know your limits. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. These philosophies are extremely hard to keep in balance, but if you do you will become the most fulfilled person on the face of the planet.

In conclusion, I would like to say that Travels was amazing. An ordeal, but amazing. I’m still recovering from the emotional side-effects, but to accomplish something so grand and impossible is still a dream come true. I was “living to find the place I’d never been. Living to explore all the things yet to see. Living to take a new experience. Living adventures, being free. What is out there?” Now I’ve seen. And I’ll continue to see.


Cherry Rain

Music has the power to inspire, to depress, to lift up, to tear down. But most importantly, it has the power to express oneself and evoke emotions in a way that no other medium can. So I post this remix (above) I recently did of music from Clyde’s Revenge not to show off my skillz or promote a fifteen-year-old game, but to express the overall emotion of the rest of this post in a way that my mere words cannot. Think of it as a film score for this post. Ignore the visuals (which mostly function as a placeholder), and listen as you read.

As evidenced by my most recent post, this past General Conference saw a lot of talks where the brethren urged young men to stop screwing around and get married. I really tried to take this to heart, and immediately made plans with the only girl that a) I had recent contact with, and b) wasn’t either in a relationship or related to me. Unfortunately, that girl happened to be the same one mentioned in the middle of my infamous “confession” post, and this second attempt (just to be friendly again; I didn’t try anything physical other than a hug, I only bought her dinner and the movie, and I mostly listened to her complain about her past boyfriends) ended just about as well as the first. In fact, the outcome was exactly the same the second time around. In other words, I had to do all the work, and even little acts of charity (like me running to the gas station to get her an apple juice when she was sick, so she could perform better in the show we’re doing, since she had previously specifically stated that apple juice helps her feel better when she’s sick) turned into her figuratively spitting in my face (when she left the juice sitting in the dressing room, completely untouched, even after she left). We were going to watch her favorite movie at her house last night, but at the last minute she suddenly had FHE to go to. Deductively, if FHE was actually an important part of her life and not just a convenient excuse, she would have brought it up when I asked if Monday was OK the first time. Or the second time. Not in a text a few hours before.

In retrospect, I should have seen it coming. Nothing had happened in her life to change her fundamental nature. I just wish she had the guts to, you know, clearly communicate her disinterest instead of weaseling around it. But I’ve had that complaint for a very long time now, and I can’t change the misguided notion that most girls have that guys don’t want to hear direct language about how they (the girls) feel. Being one of the guys that falls into the “creepy” camp more often than not, I can tell you right now that the best way to reduce the number of creepy guys in the world is for girls to be direct. True, some of the creepy guys have horrible intentions, but a fair number of them are normal guys who, through no real fault of their own, lack some social skills. Some of them are just extremely optimistic and take what girls say at face value just so they can think they have a shot (i.e. “Sorry, I have FHE” three hours before a planned activity which isn’t even really a date would sound like, “Oh, she’s got FHE; well, I’ll ask again later” instead of “She’s clearly not interested, since that excuse is pretty lame”). If girls would speak clearly, then this misguided optimism would slowly dissipate in the face of truth, causing some of these guys to try to improve themselves instead of pursuing a phantom girl that really loves him but has convenient, pressing business to always attend to. Or even worse, being confronted with so many “maybes” instead of some clear “nos” makes a guy doubt his own judgement, which can either lead to that misguided optimism, or extreme cynicism. “Maybe” will always sound like “no” no matter what it really means. Anything other than an unqualified “Yes!!!!11!” and a big hug, a handhold, and a call the next day from the girl, will mean “no.” So the creepy guy will try to inspire that response, trying with increasing desperation (since he has no idea what he’s doing, and if he hasn’t learned by dating age then society sure isn’t going to teach him), but still just getting “maybes” out of everyone because no girl has the truly giving heart to teach the stupid guy what he needs to know, since she’s afraid he’ll go after her. And being seen in a relationship with a creepy guy ≠a situation any girl wants to be in.

I’m sorry, but the whole “creepy” thing is a pet peeve of mine. I said it in that post I linked to earlier that the difference between “creepy” and “romantic” is often in the eye of the beholder. And more often than not, it’s disconnected from reality. I know a lot of creepy guys are legitimately skeezy: date rapists or whatever. But many are not even close. Many can’t even fathom the idea. (To be a date rapist means that you at least go on dates.) Many creepy guys have a heart of gold, but nobody gives them a chance because of some superficial failing, or because they give off the wrong “vibe,” or because they don’t know that kissing before the third date is OK if dinner was sufficiently extravagant, while saying “I love you” in a month ending in “R” can only be done on alternating Thursdays unless the moon is waning. Or even more obscurely, whenever the girl won’t find it off-putting. While some dashing, charismatic gentlemen are the ones that beat their girlfriends behind closed doors, simply because they have the power to do so. In fact, I would dare say that most wife-beaters are absolute gentlemen in public. I don’t have the research on-hand to back me up, but I would be extremely surprised if that weren’t the case. After all, to become a habitual girlfriend/wife-beater, one must first be able to attract a woman to the point that he can beat her behind closed doors and she won’t immediately break it off or seek help from authorities. And if creepy guys are known for anything, it’s certainly not for being able to hang on to any girl for an extended period of time.

Whenever I hear girls complain about how they have sooo many single girl friends who would love to be asked out but sit at home all the time, I always have to suppress a cynical laugh. As if being a guy meant that you held ultimate power over who loved you. People in general love to play the victim when it’s an impersonal affair (i.e. “Nobody likes me!”) but when any first-person evidence comes up to the contrary (i.e. “You like me? Ew!”) it’s easy to dismiss and go straight back to the “Nobody likes me!” mantra. And this happens quite a lot: a guy sees a girl that perhaps is one of those “girls that are always alone” off to the side at a singles’ activity or something. He tries to strike up a conversation, but gets a cold shoulder. Or even worse, they (seem to) hit it off, only for her to weasel out of a first (or second, or third) date, for no reason discernible to him, other than “Well, I guess I’m a creepy guy. Wish I knew why.” And then the girl complains, “Nobody likes me! I haven’t been on a date in forever! Well, there was that time when Brian asked me out, but ew!” No concrete reason, just “Ew!” And all the girl friends nod, because they also think “Ew!” when it comes to Brian. Note: Brian isn’t anyone specific. In fact, I don’t think I currently know any guys named Brian. Well, besides my boss, but he certainly doesn’t fit into this story.

I’m not saying that a lot of girls aren’t being asked on dates. I know it’s a serious problem. But it’s not a gender-specific thing! There are just as many guys who are getting rejected every day (or aren’t asking for fear of rejection, usually of the confusing weasely variety) as there are girls wondering why nobody asks them out. And there is no greater contempt, no vehemence so directed at a general population, than that of girls towards guys with a fear of getting their hearts ripped out. Hot damn, that’s cold! In short, there’s a lot of anger, frustration, and miscommunication on both sides. It’s not the fault of any one gender. Clarity is the key, people.

Now that I’ve ranted on that soapbox, allow me to go back to my initial premise, and the reason I posted that Clyde’s Revenge remix as a score for this post. This post doesn’t matter. Anyone who reads this post will either sympathize with my viewpoint because they already agree with it, or find a way to justify to themselves why I’m wrong, or why it doesn’t apply to them, and therefore they don’t need to change anything. It would make my day; heck, it would make my year, if this post actually inspired somebody to go out and change their life. But I also know it’s not going to happen. And even if it did, it certainly wouldn’t change anything on a grand scale. Which means I’m doomed to wander through life, going on dates but not dating, all because I have some “creepy” quality that nobody is willing or able to point out to me in a way that I understand, posting repetitive blog post after repetitive blog post about how many times I’ve beat my head against the wall. But since that’s how it’s been for so long, it’s harder to get worked up about it. It’s hard to imagine that life could be any different.

It’s a walk in the rain. You can see the warm glow coming from windows all around you, of happy couples and families. Each house with a lock on its door. You don’t even feel the rain anymore. You’ve been wet so long that you can’t even remember how it feels to be dry, though on occasion you imagine it would be nice. But most of the time you don’t even notice it, nor the chill that has crept into your bones and refuses to leave. You keep walking, because stopping would be even worse. And even the wretched masses won’t huddle together for warmth, for the hypocritical fear of being seen with some bum on the street.

It’s miserable, but it’s life. It’s cherry rain.


New Music Site!

My new site for music has now been inaugurated! This way I can post music on a professional site instead of as an offshoot of my personal blog. It’s still a work in progress, so any comments on how I can improve it would be welcome. For now I imported a lot of the music-related posts from here over to the blog located over there, and will post any music I write over there from now on.

http://parkesmusic.wordpress.com/

Check it out!


Hellish Red Sand

Since I’m still trying to get my equipment replaced before I can redo my more serious projects, such as the ABC Monsters album or commercial music, I did another remix from Clyde’s Revenge and wanted to share it with people. It’s based on this MIDI file:

MV01

I went more rock than synth this time. Take note: the strings would sound better if I had the sound library I’d been using this past year, but for what it is I think it’s fun. The title is based on the background of the level in the game. It repeats once and then fades out.

Hellish Red Sand

I’ve got no philosophical discussion or newsworthy happenings this post. Enjoy this remix anyway!

If you’re really bored, you can see what level this remix is from:

Or perhaps the level that the previous remix is from:

Though I’d just download the game if I were you. (Run it in DOSBox!)


Hey, it all sounds like video game music!

One of the most common comments I’ve had on music I’ve written in the past has been “Wow, that sounds like it’s right out of a video game!” or “It makes me think of Sonic the Hedgehog for some reason” or some variant thereof. This criticism has been one that I’ve actively tried to avoid (as most people tend to not take video game music seriously or hold it in high esteem), yet since I work in an electronic medium and have little access to real live instruments, it’s something that I’m basically going to have to live with until I can afford high-end sound libraries (I was using some of Nate Drew’s recently, but they all got stolen, so it’s going to be awhile).

In the meantime, I’ve resolved that, if I’m limited by funds and libraries and therefore can only write video game music, I might as well try to make it the best video game music it can be (for purposes of this post, when I refer to video game music I don’t mean the full orchestral scores you get out of Halo or whatever, but the more electronic sounds associated with games like, well, Sonic the Hedgehog). And even in that medium there is much that can be done to elevate music above the mediocre or utilitarian. Consider the following: back in the mid-90’s, there was a DOS game released called Clyde’s Revenge. It was a typical sidescroller of the time and the game itself, while fairly fun, was nothing particularly exciting or groundbreaking. The music was a general MIDI soundtrack done by a guy named Garret Thomson, and a typical track would sound like this:

MV14

It’s kind of funky, but nothing really to write home about. Now compare it to a remix I did in 30 minutes, using the same MIDI file:

Enter the Magnets

Still video game music, still using virtually the same notes even, but the latter is something I’d put on a playlist and listen to on its own, while the former is fairly blah. And it’s that skill I can work on and even market: writing music that can both enhance a game and stand on its own.

In conclusion, I don’t really have a though-provoking or controversial point regarding the state of video game music or my skills as a composer. I just did this remix and liked it, so I wanted to share it. That is all. Enjoy the Magnets!


Oh, what have I unleashed? (Also, ABC Monsters)

(The above is a picture of the Cruncha from the ABC Monsters album, by Johnathan Whiting. For the music MP3’s, see the bottom of this post.)

Nearly a week ago, I made an infamous blog post. For me, it was just another one of those angsty posts I make on occasion, the kind where I get all my issues out so I can go on living, the kind that this blog used to be entirely comprised of, but in recent years tapered off after Facebook and such allowed people to find the blog more easily. This one was not really different. I’ve been going through some hard times recently, and needed a place to unload. At first I considered making it a private post, or keeping it public but deleting the Facebook notification that pops up due to my RSS feed (which I have done for this follow-up post). However, when enough time passed that the note popped up in Facebook, somebody had already “liked” it and another had made a comment, so I thought, “what the hey, let’s see where the chips fall.”

And fall they have. My most popular posts according to my site stats may still be the one with the picture of Frederic Chopin and Michael Jordan, and the one where Mickey Mouse tries to commit suicide, but this post has generated more feedback among people I actually know than any other post I’ve ever made, even more than the Glenn Beck post where I offended people. It’s probably due to the publicity that the robbery brought, as well as the reposting of it that Nate did on the robbery Facebook page, but for some reason everybody is giving their two cents, both in comments here and on Facebook, and in real life. I’ve never had so many people say to me, in person, “I read your blog post, and (etc.)” before. Frankly, it’s a bit surreal. I haven’t figured out quite how to respond to it all. So I’m going to do my best here, addressing a few points that seem to be common among comments and offering a little more insight into what I’m feeling and stuff.

First of all, as I said in the comments previously, it’s funny that so many people have complimented me on my courage to follow my dreams when I’ve felt like it’s just an inability to settle down. It’s rare that people follow their dreams to the bitter end, and apparently that’s impressive. But what people may fail to realize is that most people don’t follow their dreams to the end for a reason. That reason being, even though it’s inspiring and makes for a feel-good story, it’s really difficult and probably fairly stupid, and the failure rate is way higher than the success rate. Also, a whole lot of luck is required, luck which I seem to be running low on.

Secondly, just to address common responses to the robbery itself: we have no leads. Yes, it does sound like an inside job, or at least the work of somebody who had been into the office before. However, we have no method of figuring out who it could have been, since Nate and I can’t think of anyone we’ve offended recently that would do something so heinous. At this point we’ve pretty much resigned ourselves to the fact that we may never figure it out and, barring a miracle, we’ll just have to rebuild. Donating would help a lot on that front. This stuff is expensive, man!

Thirdly, one of the more curious reactions I’ve personally had is the fact that suddenly there’s a lot more support than I thought I had at first, both in words and in donations (Thanks to those who have donated, by the way! We’re on our way to rebuilding, but Nate would appreciate some more). I really do appreciate the vocal support. It’s just that, at the end of the day, I’ve still got to deal with everything. I can’t monetize good intentions. Actually, my gut reaction makes me think of times like when a certain relation of mine said he was very proud of me, then turned around and refused to pay $10 for a CD of my music I was trying to sell. Experiences like that have turned me into a believer of the “talk is cheap” principle. And before I offend anyone, this is really my fault, not anybody else’s per se. It’s my inability to turn people’s good impressions of my work into something I can make a living off of that’s causing me a lot of my stress. Maybe I need an agent? Or at least a good marketing person? I apparently can’t do it myself. Of course, I also can’t afford to pay a marketing person right now, so damned if I do, damned if I don’t.

The sudden publicity and responses have been a little disconcerting. I’m really not used to getting any sort of emotional support from any quarter. I didn’t really grow up in a loving, huggy family, and my natural introversion has precluded large groups of friends. In fact, I get along best with people that also have kind of a cynical edge to them (like Johnathan, who wrote a long, awesome comment about our friendship on the last post and still called me a jerk). Because, like Johnathan said, a lot of the jerks of the world are really people who want to be kind and caring but don’t know quite how to pull off the good first impression. The world frowns upon such people, which dampens their enthusiasm to try to improve themselves. So I make it a point to befriend those types of people, because everybody needs somebody to believe in them. Because I know what it’s like to be there. I’m there almost all the time myself. And believing in someone isn’t just saying, “Hey, you’re great!” because talk is cheap. On the other hand, the people who have responded, both in word and in donations, are certainly doing what they feel they can, and it wouldn’t be fair for me to marginalize their contribution because I have a personal bias against perfunctory, superficial kindness. I truly am grateful for the thought. My point is, I’ve gotten a bunch of support, but I’m ambivalent about a lot of it. And, hard to hear or say as it might be, that’s the honest truth.

Also, basically everything I said in the previous post had been percolating for a while. The robbery just brought it to a head. As a result, I think people have assumed that all the opinions I expressed came about as a reaction to the robbery, which may be another reason I’m not quite sure how to deal with it all. This is stuff I’ve been dealing with for a loooong time (and even posted about on occasion) but now suddenly people are concerned? Intellectually I understand the external circumstances that garnered that post a lot more attention, but I’m just not used to people caring, so I probably come across as kind of a jerk about it simply because I don’t know how else to react. If I just say, “Thanks to everyone! I love you all!” I don’t feel true to myself. In a way, it’s the same problem that I posted about years ago, where I compared myself to Arnold J. Rimmer from Red Dwarf in a few ways, one of them being that my psyche just doesn’t know how to deal with people being kind to me.

In many ways I just wish I could go back a month or two, where my concerns were my own and nobody else really knew or cared. It may have been hard, and a canker on my soul, but at least I knew how to deal with it. However, at least now I feel like I may have turned a corner. I can’t wallow in misery knowing that people out there do care, no matter how easy that may be. People need a reason to get up in the morning, and for a long time I haven’t had a compelling one, but now there may be a sliver of light. Come the day when I finally do get organized to start selling professional-quality work, I may have a base.

To conclude, I apologize to anyone who might feel marginalized by my lukewarm response. This has been a rather rambly post, and perhaps not the kindest way to respond to people, but at least it’s been honest. And the world needs more honesty. That way love becomes love unfeigned.

And truthfully, thanks for the support!

—–

On a different topic, since all the work from the ABC Monsters album Johnathan and I were working on got stolen, we are going to have to do the whole album from scratch. Therefore, so you can at least get a taste of what could have been (and at least partly of what is to come), I’m posting all the demo tracks we had made up to this point. Most of these tracks just have my non-polished vocal tracks with MIDI accompaniment, but I still like ’em! Please leave feedback!

Link to the Youtube playlist


Jeff’s confession

Facebook link to group

So recently my workplace was broken into and Nate Drew’s and my stuff got stolen. The video and link above go into details, so I won’t bother to here. What I feel I need to do, even if it’s just for the sake of my own soul, is to confess how I feel about both it and the larger picture in which it is a relevant part. (Warning: stream-of-consciousness rambling may occur. Consult physician before reading.)

I hate asking for charity. I absolutely hate it. Almost as much as I hate one-on-one interaction with strangers outside of a professional or task-oriented setting. It just causes so much stress on my psyche that it viscerally sets up my “fight or flight” response. Which is why, when Nate set up a Paypal thing, I was very nearly against it. I have a strong need to be independent; to pull myself up by my own boot-straps. This is mainly because I am so bad at it. To wit: regarding the things I had stolen, only the external hard drive was purchased by me. The computer was purchased by my parents as a graduation/five-month-early Christmas gift. The synthesizer was my dad’s, which I claimed after he died. The MOTU box was Nate’s. All the software was Nate’s. Heck, even the headphones I was using belonged to Sheldyn. Almost none of it was truly mine.

In addition, I’ve been irresponsible. Not just because I’ve been living with my parents (again) since I graduated. I was in college for ten years (off-and-on) for a few reasons. College provided me with a steady job (working at BYU vending). College let me live on my own, thanks to cheap student housing prices (yes, they were overpriced relative to the amount of space and privacy that you were allowed, but absolutely speaking I paid less than $300 per month, which was reduced to barely $100 during spring/summer). Also, I was basically promised that I would find my spouse during my educational years. So in order for that to come true I tried to stay in the system for as long as possible. Were the classes I failed due to me wanting to stay in college longer? No. Or at least not consciously. But whatever the reason, I was basically in a university environment, trying to do well socially, until I was old enough to be that creepy guy in the student ward, at which point I knew it was time to leave. (Side note: didn’t find a spouse.)

But now I’ve graduated. I’ve moved on. Is my life better now that I’ve left Provo, that place where I apparently was being pressured into marriage so much that I didn’t get married? (That’s right, I used my own declaration-of-self essay in an ironic way. That’s how cynical I’ve become.) I’m writing music for a living! Hasn’t that always been my dream?

Here’s what’s gone wrong on that front (and I’m not talking about the robbery). I’m not writing music for a living. At all. I’m writing music, and maybe I’ve earned, what, $500 since August? That’s not a living, not in a first-world country, anyway. That’s not even gas money (a drive from Riverton to Salt Lake and back five days a week). And the whole way along I’ve been told, “Don’t worry. Our projects will take off next month. Soon you’ll get a real paycheck.” And then I tell my parents, “Don’t worry. Soon I’ll be able to afford to move out of your basement,” or my rat-hole where I live like a troll, according to my stepfather, “and then I’ll be a real adult, instead of whatever ‘quarter-life’, Peter Pan syndrome, half-adult in arrested development I seem to be now,” (not a literal quote I’ve told my parents). And my parents (and probably other people too) wonder, “Why don’t you get a real job? Surely you can at least live with some roommates as a single guy working at the local Target or whatever. Or maybe even an office job, what with the bachelor’s degree under your belt.”

But I can’t. I can’t do it. Because doing it will mean that I give up everything I’ve worked for so far. All of the years in school, pursuing a degree in the lowest-paying field in which they offer degrees at BYU. Knowing that a person needs a great deal of interpersonal skills and charisma to even have a chance to succeed in the business, and also knowing that I’m the opposite of a self-promoter. Yes, I’ve posted a lot of music on this blog, but that’s mostly because I want people to share the experience I have listening to this stuff, not because I want to be all, “Look at me! I write awesome stuff!” And even those types of posts have tapered off (the previous post to this one notwithstanding), mostly because I realized that my approach to music is radically different from a lot of people’s (which also leads to stuff like this post when I get frustrated that nobody hears it the way I do, and I’m not talking about the perfect pitch angle, either), and I doubt I’ll find anybody who feels the same way as I do about the type of music I listen to.

In any case, due to whatever traumatic childhood reason I feel like pulling up (there are many), I don’t interact well with strangers. In the cases where I must (such as, oh I dunno, my entire frickin’ mission), it scares the hell out of me. More than anything else I can think of right now. Why? Because I have only a limited understanding of proper social conduct. When I talk, I talk. I’m often rude without knowing it. I’m often condescending without meaning to be. I’m fairly cynical. Often I don’t even make sense to myself. This blog post probably won’t make much sense, when all is said and done. I’m usually so nervous about putting across a bad first impression that I end up either saying the first thing that comes into my head (which more often than not is not something normal) or just existing in an awkward silence. And I think all the time I spend alone only serves to exacerbate that problem; since, when I’m alone, I can say whatever I want about whatever and nobody’s around to be offended or confused. And I do spend quite a bit of time alone: when I’m at home I’m in my “rat-hole” to avoid the condescension of my stepfather, and when I’m at work I usually have headphones on. Even when I’m out doing Poison Ivy Mysteries stuff I’m usually trying to keep busy solving problems. And it’s easier to be social there, because I have Annelise (and often her family) as a crutch.

On occasion I do try to break out of the box, reach out to people, overcome my fears and weaknesses in order to strengthen other people (and maybe get a date?). But then I’m confronted with a fact that I’ve had demonstrated to me over and over again, both from personal experience and from observation: people are selfish creatures, in so many ways. And if you don’t know the right way to deal with people, they’re more often than not unwilling to cut you any slack. My most recent attempt was with a girl who I shall not name on this blog. I tried extremely hard to be her friend. She’s had a stressful life, and I thought she could use someone who understood a lot of her situation, and how she may feel socially. Yet I had to do all the work in maintaining the friendship. I called her, but never got a call. Everything we ever did together I had to arrange. It was this damn song all over again, only I wasn’t even trying to date her (though at first I wouldn’t have been opposed to the idea). Eventually I realized that, while she was always complaining about how much her life sucked and how much she wanted friends, it wasn’t my friendship that she wanted. I don’t know whether it was something personal or whether she would rather wallow in a despair-filled yet familiar situation rather than risk something potentially life-changing. In either case, the outcome was the same, and when I stopped putting forth an effort she didn’t even bat an eye.

Anyway, that was a digression. Back on topic, I’m not a self-promoter, and I don’t do well one-on-one with people I don’t know, or just know casually. And both of these skills are necessary to land a job in the composition profession and get projects from clients. Which is why my job with Nate is one I am loath to give up. Most of what I do comes from either Nate himself and the clients he channels, or from Annelise and the murder mystery company. I don’t have to get out there and hobnob with the clients, separating myself from the crowd. It’s not me that’s important, it’s my music, and I prefer to let it speak for itself, instead of relying on my questionable social graces to land projects. So if I give up working with Nate, I give up working in the field. Even the ABC Monster album I was doing for reasons other than making money with it, as neither I nor anyone associated with the project so far has any sort of experience or know-how when it comes to marketing an album. (For the record, I’ve been doing the ABC Monster album for two main reasons: 1. to gain experience writing several different types of songs and have something to put in my portfolio, and 2. to show faith in Johnathan’s artistic abilities in a more substantial way than compliments can, much like Annelise and Nate have done regarding my musical abilities. Anyone can say, “hey, your work’s pretty good” with varying degrees of sincerity, but if somebody actively solicits your talents then you know they’re not just humoring you. He draws some good stuff, and it’s about time the world recognizes it.)

Thus the dilemma that has been presented. I can either 1)stay with Nate and earn maybe $1000 a year if past paychecks are any indication, especially with the robbery setting us back quite a bit, 2)start pursuing my own projects in the musical field, which for me and my charisma and self-esteem, seems about as possible as Josh Reese getting married: sure, it’s possible, but in all practicality it has a very low chance of occurring. Or 3)give up on music altogether and work at some office job or something.

Practicality dictates that I should take option #3. Common sense dictates that I should take option #3. My parents would love to see me take option #3. If I was serious about providing for a family, or even going on dates more expensive than “watching a movie on my mom’s TV,” I would take option #3. But, against all reason, against all common sense, against all rational judgment, I’m taking option #1. I have been since August. And I can’t logically explain why, other than that it’s something I have to do. (And yes, I know I already provided that link earlier, but I’m putting it in this post twice, for it’s really the best explanation I have.)

And now this finally brings us back to the robbery. Nate set up a Paypal donate link to help us recover the stolen equipment, but I’ve had a real problem sharing it with people. Aside from just the general human instinct to act self-sufficient, I can’t ask people to support me in this illogical and irresponsible career decision I’ve made, even if at the same time I’m not going to change it anytime soon. It’s the sort of doublethink world in which I apparently live. Why should I ask other people to donate their hard-earned money, which they should otherwise be spending on their own families or at least on people who have real hardships, toward the purchase of a computer and related gear so that I can go into work and write music instead of getting a job where I can afford to buy, well, anything at all? Does the world need me to write silly songs about monsters or background music for a show about extreme vacations more than it needs me to settle down and actually start raising kids? By asking for donations, I’m implicitly saying that yes, it does. And I can’t, in good conscience, allow people to donate money so that I can avoid responsibility and playact at having a real job.

So if you have read all this and still want to donate money, then please do. Nate really needs to rebuild his equipment and business. But don’t do it for me.


Music from each month!

This year has been a super busy year for me, both in general and especially in the music-writing field. In January I signed on as an intern at a company called the Visual Marketing Group, which produces various film, TV, and video projects. This internship turned into an actual job once I graduated from BYU in August. Also, I have continued writing music for Poison Ivy Mysteries this year. We’ve written a total of three more shows this year; combined with the four from last year, that makes seven shows, each with from four to seven songs in them. Even taking into account that Nate Drew (who is also my boss/co-worker/guy who got me the job at the VM Group) wrote about half of that music, that still means I’ve written nineteen songs for them so far (nine in 2010). In addition, Johnathan Whiting and I have been working on an ABC Monster album, with a track for every single letter of the alphabet. Although the final version is not yet ready, all the songs have been written (at least first drafts), so that adds another twenty-six songs I’ve done this year. I also did a Travels Megamix for Mrs. Fields’s retirement thing back in April, in which I took twenty songs from Travels and techno-ized them into a ten-minute long dance remix. Plus, working at the VM Group has given me the opportunity to do tons of little and big TV and film projects, including commercials for companies like Fris coffee and Check City, some MLM videos, industrial trade-show kiosk videos, as well as some music for a documentary about the life of David O. McKay that airs on BYU TV every so often. Probably the biggest project on that front has been working on a show called Xtreme Tourist that actually isn’t out yet, but should be next year. Nate and I have been working recently on the first season: twelve half-hour episodes, which adds up to dozens of cues that we’ve been writing in the past two months or so.

Add to all this the random songs that I write anyway for practice, experimentation, or simple stress relief, and I’ve probably written more pieces of music this year than I can count. So, to show you, my faithful blogketeers, some of what I’ve been up to, I’ve decided to upload some stuff I’ve written in the past year; at least one thing from each month.

January

January didn’t start too busy, as I didn’t get the internship until near the end of the month. However, I did begin writing music for the PIM sci-fi show, even before the show itself was written (I was reeeeally excited for this show).

February

In February we spent most of our time working on the David O. McKay documentary. For some reason I don’t actually have the music tracks I wrote for that separately (I was using a different computer then), so in order to hear it you’ll have to go watch the actual documentary (found on BYU TV’s website here). Nate did most of this, but a few specific points where my music shows up are 00:29:40, 00:55:01 (actually an arrangement), and the part with the Nazis that I can’t find right now. That’s right, Nazis. Also, the first draft of the android song came about during February.

  • Harp: But so I don’t leave you high and dry with no MP3, here’s some random harp thing I did when I was bored during February. It doesn’t go anywhere and is obviously unfinished, but here it is anyway.

March

March saw me working mostly on the Travels megamix, which I’ll post under April’s section. Also, work for the rest of the PIM sci-fi show was finished during March. And I think the Fris coffee ad that I did the music for happened during March, though I don’t actually remember. That ad, though, led to one of the funniest, most random, and probably most sacrilegious moments I’ve had this year, when Nate opened a project he was working on (a documentary on LDS painter Del Parsons) but somehow got the voiceover for the coffee ad attached to the beginning of it. When it was played, a slideshow of beautiful paintings of the Savior was shown, along with Cuban music and a deep, seductive Latin voice asking something to the effect of, “Why do you drink coffee? Is it the rich, warm taste? The dark, flavorful aroma?” We couldn’t stop laughing for about ten minutes, and I still can’t look at a Del Parsons painting without wondering about the dark, flavorful aroma of coffee.

  • Lockdown: I’ve posted the android song already, so allow me to post what was definitely my favorite song for the show, even more so than said android song. Lyrics are by both me and Johnathan Whiting. Listen for references to both Super Metroid and Doctor Who.
  • Different: This song has no real name, but I wrote it a day or two after the Fifths song I’ve already posted, and I actually enjoy it more.

April

Finishing the Travels megamix wasn’t the only project on the table in April. Work for Club Mystique, the next PIM show, was begun. Also, some random VMGroup projects were worked on during this time, including music for a Check City ad (which they didn’t end up using). In addition, I helped Randy McNair with his senior project Monster in the Woods, though I mostly supervised fellow composer Kristina Austin as she actually wrote the score, so I can’t post any of that as my stuff.

  • Travels Megamix: When we did this in April at Mrs. Fields’s retirement show, we actually got all of the main cast back to sing it, save Josh Ludvigson and Stephen Dunn (though he came to rehearsals, he wasn’t able to come to the actual performance). I never got them all in for recording, though, so the only version I have has me singing all the songs. Also there was a slideshow/video that went along with it, which I uploaded to YouTube.

May

May was when most of the work for Club Mystique was done. However, it was during this month that I started taking classes again to finish up my bachelor’s, so my internship work lessened quite a bit (also, the whole company moved from Provo to Salt Lake during the next month, so there wasn’t a whole ton of music needed at this point anyway).

Also, this happened. MOVING ON.

  • The Heist: From Club Mystique. Part of the premise of the show is that a group of mobsters is meeting to decide who the successor will be, as the boss is retiring and moving to Mexico, and to prove their worth, three mobsters (really just random audience members) are going to pull three offstage heists. In the end all of them backfire, but whatever; it’s good fun. This song is proof that it’s difficult to write MIDI jazz songs without them sounding horrible (though the sax part sounds OK, thanks to Mickey Murphy coming in to record on an actual instrument). There exists somewhere a version with Criss Rosenlof singing, who played the part in the actual show, but I have no idea where it is (somewhere on Nate’s computer), so instead you get to listen to my temp track. Lucky you.
  • Preston’s game music: My former roommate Preston Cowley, was working on a video game with some fellow students at BYU for their final project for some class, and he got me to do the music for it. I don’t actually remember what the game is called, but it involved exploring caves and using light to create holes or something (it made more sense in context). Anyway, the music is basically just mysterious ambience, kind of a cross between the Protoss themes from Starcraft and some incidental music from the Lucasarts game The Dig.

June

June, along with January, was probably my driest month when it came to music. I was going to school and working full-time, and since the VM Group had moved their offices to Salt Lake and I was still living in Provo, I rarely came in to work on anything.

  • Rachel – No joke, this is the only thing I could find that I did in June. It was to be for a video on mormon.org, but I have no idea if it actually got posted (I can’t find it). It’s just as well, since this version isn’t complete, most glaringly in the mix.

July

In July I began what is probably the most ambitious project I’ve done in a while. Earlier in the year Johnathan had shown me some drawings of some fun monsters he had done for letters of the alphabet, along with some fun little rhymes to go along with them, like a children’s book. Then, in June, to give me something to do until I graduated and could work for him fulltime, Nate asked me to start working on an album of some sort, and left what kind of album it was up to me. For some reason I thought of Johnathan’s little monster drawings and thought it would be fun to do an album about them: a song for each letter monster. So we began collaborating on it, Johnathan on the art and lyrics, and me on the music, and soon I began pumping out the songs, a project which is still ongoing. This was basically all I worked on musically, as I was still taking classes.

  • D – Can You Dig the Digg? – This was the first song I worked on. All I did was write the opening bit (mellow guitar), but then Johnathan sent me a message saying he pictured it more as a hip-hop thing. So I did both. It’s funky!
  • Z – The Zither goes Hither and Thither – Even with all the other ABC monster songs that came afterward, this is still my favorite one. It may change somewhat, however, because it’s got the controversial phone call bit. That was added more as a reference to a remix of the Gato theme from Chrono Trigger that is way too silly for words. The epilogue at the end isn’t quite up to par with the beginning, but is still pretty good.

August

In August the most monumental event in years occurred: I graduated from college! Hooray! With my new degree and newfound time, I was ready to dive headlong into the career I had been preparing for for so long, and fortunately, I had a place in which to do it. Working fulltime at the VM Group gave me a lot more opportunities to not only write music, but do it on a professional level, and my output increased dramatically at this point. This was to be fully realized starting in September, however, as most of this month was spent with finals, graduation, moving, etc. What work was done during this month was mostly done on refining existing music rather than creating new stuff.

  • G – Oh, Gee! Look at the Gigant! – Apparently I can’t find anything that I started in August, as this ABC Monster song was written on July 30 and the next one wasn’t started until September 3. Oh, well; it’s close enough. Between the steamy Zither and now the Barry White-esque Gigant it’s clear that I need to start dating more.

September

Like I said before, fulltime work at the VM Group provided quite a bit of opportunities. And, like every month for the rest of this year, work on the ABC album continued.

  • Precorp – This was my first big project for the VM Group, and my first paying job since graduating. It’s basically an industrial video for a kiosk for some trade show for the manufacturing company Precorp, which for some reason YouTube doesn’t want me to upload (not due to copyright issues or anything; it just keeps timing out) so you’ll just have to imagine ten minutes of people putting screwdrivers into things. Keep listening, as there are actually seven different cues, so if you don’t like one, wait a minute and another will soon fade in. My favorite is probably the third one, because it kind of sounds like U2. Part of the penultimate one ended up making it into an ABC monster song that I haven’t posted anywhere yet (you’ll have to get the album when it comes out!) Keep your ears open during the fourth one for a Poison Ivy Mysteries reference to “Testin’ the Mic!”
  • M – Mea is a Monster! – I got into some trouble over this one. Johnathan had written this for his niece, who’s barely over toddler age, but apparently she got scared by it. I still really like it, but we haven’t hashed out if it just needs a little less scariness or a complete redo (or whether we should just leave it, as I think that most kids over, say, three years old would probably be fine with it). The final version will have an actual little girl sing the non-monster lines, but for now, it’s just me.

October

Continuing work for the VM Group, October was the first month we worked on music for Xtreme Tourist (XT for short), a new show about a guy who goes on vacation to random places and films how awesome it is. Also, during October we wrote the stuff for the newest Poison Ivy Mysteries show Shadow of the King. I also wrote a bit for another Check City commercial, which they actually used this time!

  • The Wizard Song – Written for Shadow of the King. The actual name for this song should be “Wobblety Bobblety” or “Hibbety Jibbety” or some other such nonsense, but meh. This song was obviously based on The Sword in the Stone, though it gets very different about halfway through, and the ending was both inspired by Gustav Holst’s “Mars: The Bringer of War” and the music at the end of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Best of Both Worlds, pt. 1”. And hey, this one actually has Criss singing it, as opposed to “The Heist”!
  • Pirates! – For an XT episode about Cancun. This type of track is actually atypical of the type of music that we usually put in the show (we usually try to do more metal/alternative stuff), but it’s probably the most interesting to listen to.
  • Commercial Bumper – This was a bit I wrote for the very first XT episode I worked on (Hawaii), and just for some continuity I try to work it into every show I do, usually as a shorter version for a commercial bumper.
  • P – The Paw Paw’s Poem – This ABC monster song’s got a bit of a Johnny Cash vibe. That’s all I got on this one.

November

November saw us working hard on XT, since the first season was due to be finished by December 1 (it later got moved back a little bit). I was writing perhaps two or three cues a day at the beginning of this month, stepping up to four by the middle. Due to some family emergencies the end of the month wasn’t as productive, but it soon picked up again.

  • Kite Surfing – From the Belize episode. This is much more typical of the stuff we wrote for the show. We were writing a lot of these types of track each day, so musically it isn’t all that groundbreaking, but it’s not supposed to be artsy or deep. Instead it’s just supposed to build up excitement and make you want to go kite surfing in Belize.
  • Oh, Wendy – From another Cancun episode (yes, there are two for some reason). This accompanies footage of the host’s wife and how he’s grateful that she could accompany him on that particular trip.
  • U – The Undergator Lives Underwater – Obviously a bit of a Jaws reference. Once again, too scary? I mean, these are monsters, after all. We’re not doing an album about ABC fairies or ABC ponies. If kids can take Coraline, this stuff ought to be a piece of cake.

December

This month obviously isn’t over, since we’re only eight days into it, but already I have written quite a bit of stuff (most of it for XT).

  • Hang-gliding – From the Rio de Janeiro episode. It’s kind of like kite surfing. Both the activity and the music, I mean.
  • Song 4 – After a while Nate and I realized we couldn’t score every single episode, so we started reusing tracks. To that end, I wrote a few that didn’t actually fit with any footage but that we could just plunk in anywhere. This is one of those tracks. Oddly enough, I don’t think we’ve actually used it in an episode yet, but we’re not done with the series! Actually, I don’t know if it will ever be used in XT (it’s a little too muddy) but I like it anyway so I’m posting it.

Well, there you have it. A smattering of what I’ve been doing all year, especially the latter half.


Happy Anniversary, Blog! A day late!

Well, I missed making a post yesterday, on the actual five-year anniversary of this blog’s grand opening. But I’ve got a good reason: I was writing/arranging some sort of circus parade music for Johnathan! It’s part of an “Alphabet Monsters” kids’ album we’re working on.

So, to properly take everyone’s comments and turn them into a post, I’ll combine them all! Using linkbaitgenerator.com, I’ll answer some questions, then tell a (hopefully) funny story!

Also, you know, monkeys.

1. 8 Jeff’s blog-themed Halloween costumes

  1. A giant chicken at a wedding
  2. A wizard, Luigi, a Starfleet officer, or possibly Hitler
  3. A choir member singing “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”
  4. An Australian wedding singer
  5. A mashup of Michael Jordan and Frederic Chopin
  6. Mickey Mouse trying to kill himself
  7. A young Spanish raven-haired beauty
  8. Josh Reese

2. The 10 commandments of Jeff’s blog

  1. Thou shalt write more about thy own music than anyone ever wanted to know.
  2. Thou shalt blog about how thy siblings are responsible for many of thy shortcomings, even if it’s not quite true.
  3. Thou shalt derive thy blog’s popularity from only three posts.
  4. Thou shalt start a “52 Weeks” project and promptly abandon it at some future point.
  5. Thou shalt obey the previous commandment on at least two occasions.
  6. Thou shalt not give links to certain posts to potential girlfriends.
  7. Thou shalt write random posts about Kim Isom instead of, thou knowest, contacting her, until she gets married. (Or got married, actually.)
  8. Thou shalt offend people by posting old journal entries fifteen or so years later.
  9. Thou shalt occasionally take different personality tests, with differing results.
  10. Thou shalt post about angsty relationship issues, like every non-political, non-photo journal blog out there.

3. If Jeff’s blog had a love child with a unicorn, it would look like this:

Oh heavens. I think I’m done with the Linkbait generator.

4. The Story of Jeff’s Blog

(Note: This story was created by taking the URL of the blog, adding “?random” to the end, and using the posts that came up to inspire each sentence. Enjoy!)

Once upon a time, there was an vizier that looked suspiciously like my brother. The vizier was trying to escape the services of Kublai Khan. An outsider had moved into his room, so he had been forced to live in the dusty Rec Room. The newcomer had won the hearts of everyone in the land due to his smooth ‘n smarmy nature. So the vizier turned to the only person he could trust: Richard Nixon. Nixon then turned to the only person he could trust: Monterey Jack! Sadly, Monty had gone tubing at a cabin in Big Cottonwood Canyon, so Nixon and the vizier were on their own. In addition, this charming stranger had brought a couple of homies, who eventually got jobs as his Guardians (in the top right corner).

Nixon’s first plan was to get a scandalous picture of the newcomer driving a Nazi car with a Ferengi. Sadly, this was foiled when the car was accidentally sent into a mirror universe and replaced with a time-travel pod. It was time to pull out the big guns, and Nixon and the vizier sent out a request for help to the one man that could do the job: Josh Reese. However, Josh was too busy playing in the snow and listening to sound effects records to be of any use. Things were beginning to look bleak: the newcomer had all the appeal of both Ron Weasely and that werewolf Jacob kid from Twilight that I refuse to learn his full name. He was damaging their style, Kyle! With his Latin flavah! And the vizier and Nixon were just plain creepy! In a nutshell, they were running out of time and options. Then the vizier finally got an idea of his own: Give the newcomer toe-fungus! Then his appeal would drop to the level of a suicidal snowman! So Nixon and the vizier got Ken Jennings to drive the Weinermobile up to the palace to distract the newcomer while they infected him. It worked! Within days he had all the appeal of a hardcore Trekkie! So the vizier finally got his room back, and eventually settled down with Nancy Pelosi, while Nixon turned into a ladybug. The newcomer reunited with his estranged father, who had been trapped in subspace, and everyone got some Teriyaki Stix and lived happily ever after.

The end.


The silliest thing I’ve done in a while

So I finally got Wordbuilder installed, which is a program that comes with the EWQL Symphonic Choirs library, where you type in words and play notes, and you get a choir singing it. It took a long time to get working correctly (and there are still are a few bugs), but this ended up being the result. It’s got some weird quirks, in more ways than one, but it’s fun.

Enjoy!


Android Song: In-depth

The Android Song

Those who’ve been around me during the past month or so know that I’ve put a ton of time and effort into making the new Poison Ivy Mysteries show, Death: The Final Frontier, or May the Corpse Be With You, the best possible show it can be. This has included writing three pieces for it, all of which I am extremely proud. I don’t wish to self-aggrandize here, but I do want to show how much effort I’ve put into these songs, and how much one may be able to pull out on more than a cursory hearing. Specifically, let’s take a look at one of the songs I’ve done. “The Android Song” is sung by, well, the android. The whole concept of the piece is to prove how superior androids are to humans, and it does so on a fair number of levels.

The piece works thusly: After a short introduction, the android asks different groups in the audience to perform simple dance moves: conducting, doing the wave, doing a quick country-type dance step, etc., during certain points in the music. When the audience inevitably screws up, the android deadpans how tremendously inferior they are. Robots wouldn’t screw this up, after all! What the audience may not know (or may know at least on some level) is that the deck is stacked against them from the start! There are, of course, the obvious reasons why the audience screws up: they’ve never heard the song before, most of them probably aren’t performers, and the condescending android certainly isn’t boosting their self-esteem. But there are some deeper reasons why some of them just can’t quite pick it up.

First of all, the phrase length is in flux. The first time the four audience sections are heard, sections one and three are only four measures long, while sections two and four are eight. The second time, sections one and three are still four, and section two is still eight, but suddenly, section four is nine measures long. The way the song goes, the change is hard to notice unless one is actively counting, but it is enough to screw up anyone trying to dance to it even if they got the dance down pat the first time. The third and fourth time the sections are heard, they all are four measures long, without warning. Also, the time between the sections is nearly a constant eight measures, but in some cases is twelve, four, or even none. And the last time, all the sections are overlaid on top of each other, making the entire audience have to do their parts at the same time! No wonder the android is so smug; he’s screwed the humans over before they had a decent chance!

The trance-like nature of the piece doesn’t help the audience’s coordination either. Even though there’s a constant beat, the low, warm bass, and pulsating fx make it more difficult to concentrate. Audience members can easily lose track of where the song is going, so when their section suddenly comes up, they’re unprepared, letting Android make another snide comment. Fortunately, the piece is so fairly unfair, the movements so silly, and the android so deadpan, that the audience ends up laughing at itself in a self-deprecating manner (not to mention laughing at their friends who are also screwing up) and it turns into a really fun moment in the show.

On a somewhat-related topic, the piece also contains a fair amount of homages and familiar techniques, some of which may be readily apparent, others less so, and I’d like to point out a bunch of them for my loyal blog audience. First, there are a lot of shout-outs to a piece that directly influenced many techno and trance composers: “In C” by Terry Riley. This was an important piece in the American minimalist movement, which stressed repetition, slow harmonic movement, constant drones or pulses, and consonance. Not only do I borrow these ideas from minimalism to create the morphing sound that permeates this piece, but I borrowed some elements directly from In C, to wit: the “pulse” that appears around 0:38, and the rhythmic sixteenth note patterns in the vibes that start around the one-minute mark (motives 11, 39, 17, 43, and 53, as shown on this score of “In C,” to be specific). The piece even ends in the exact same way as “In C,” with motive 53 repeating until it fades into nonexistence.

Second, each audience part gets its inspiration from radically varying sources. The first one, and probably the most obvious reference, is a nearly direct copy of the famous motive from Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8 in C Minor. This is a stealth pun, as the android is trying to make the audience look pathetic, and what better way to do that than play a bit of what is commonly known as Beethoven’s Sonata Pathétique? The second audience part actually comes from the first draft of the android song, which in turn was inspired by a piece I found on OCRemix called “But the Future Refused to Change” which is itself a remix of a bunch of tunes from the RPG Chrono Trigger! Quite a convoluted path for a simple eight-bar phrase! The third part just sounds like lasers, ’cause techno songs have lasers and/or sirens in them. And the fourth one seems a bit out of place, as it’s suddenly a country/western fiddle bit in this techno song. However, it came about after I heard the new soundtrack for Starcraft II, which is a blend of sci-fi and Southern (at least the Terran themes are). One day I hope to write stuff that’s as awesome as that. I’m getting there!

In any case, this piece was a lot of work to write, but also a lot of fun, too, so everyone should come see the show to see it in context!


Fifths

I was bored this morning waiting for Nate to come in to where I’m doing my internship, so I made this music up. It turned out all right, so I thought I’d share it. It’s more of an atmospheric thing than a song or anything, but it’s something you can get lost in (or put under some sort of tense, industrial scene in a film).

Enjoy! Try to find a beat! I bet you can’t find a consistent one, even though the tempo never changes!

EDIT: Apparently my host doesn’t want to cooperate at the moment, so the link may not work. Keep trying, and I’ll fix the problem as soon as I can.


Not just a cop-out! Robots!

I know that I kind of dropped off the face of the blogosphere recently, what with my weekly “52 Weeks” project not updating for more than a month now. The reason is that I’ve suddenly become a lot busier, getting an internship working with Nate Drew on various music projects. It’s been a lot of fun, and it’s nice doing what I love on a basically professional level, but it’s been time-consuming as well, so I haven’t had as much time to put into this blog as before.

BUT!

I’m not without music I can present here, so I’ve decided to post something from the upcoming Poison Ivy Mystery show: Death…The Final Frontier! In this sci-fi show, the android sings a song about how he  is superior to humans, blah blah blah. I wrote a draft of it using one of Nate’s synth libraries called Atmosphere. Unfortunately, when we upgraded to a newer version of Logic, the Atmosphere library didn’t work anymore, so the completed version of the android song sounds nothing like the first draft. So, I figured I’d post that first draft here for all to enjoy and to whet the appetite for this awesome upcoming show, even though the final draft is radically different.

Here she be!

Obviously it’s not finished since it just kind of ends. For some reason it kind of reminds me of that Funk in D project I did back in the day (albeit with much better sounds). What do you think?


52 Weeks – Week 15 – “Action” Theme

I know I skipped a week, so sometime in the future I’ll do two in one week to make up for it.

Explanation of the 52 Weeks Project

Today’s piece of music:

“Action” Theme

I’ve actually already done a post on this piece, but it wasn’t all that in-depth. The first project in my 2008 film scoring class was to write a theme, then develop it into three versions that would be appropriate for scenes in a movie: the “main” theme over the titles, the “action” theme during an action sequence, and either a “love” theme or a “death” theme. This, of course, is the “action” theme. It sounds a bit like a car chase from some sort of ’70’s cop movie (complete with a jump over a raising bridge in the middle in slow motion) which is pretty cool.

This piece was also important in that it was the first time I’ve really been able to pull off an electric guitar without it sounding obviously fake, using just some sounds found in Logic Pro 8. Some members of the class even wondered if I recorded an actual guitar in this thing (which I didn’t). Since then I’ve written a lot more songs in that style (mostly for murder mystery shows), using the principles I first discovered while working on this little ditty, and it truly is one of the first professional-sounding pieces I’ve ever done that I wouldn’t be at least somewhat embarrassed to show to potential clients. Not bad for a 75-second music cue!

Coming up next week: the Battle Music from RR: The Game (a different RR game than before)!


52 Weeks – Week 14 – What’s Going On?

Explanation of the 52 Weeks Project

Today’s piece of music, presented in three forms:

“What’s Going On?” from Travels

CD Version

Live Version

MIDI Version

(For those not familiar with Travels, this may help.)

To quote from my Travels memoirs:

Another personal favorite. This one dispenses the washed-out feeling we’ve had since A Dangerous Sign and sinks its teeth right back into the meat of the story. Accompanied by a rock organ instead of a distortion guitar, this one has a much more low-key feel than ‘A Dangerous Sign.’ The beginning of this song is the happiest time for Marco during the entire show, and it’s a bit jarring to hear the beautiful string lines turn minor and sour right before the rock section. The oboe there also adds a bit of emotion. The MIDI file is a rockin’ one, as is the tape, but the CD loses a lot of the heavy bass that I love on this song.”

A funny thing happened when I orchestrated this show. The first five or six songs I really put a lot of effort into and tried to make sound awesome. Then the reality of having thirty-five or so songs left and only two months to do them in became quite apparent and a lot of the rest of the orchestrations didn’t have nearly the time and care put into them. This particular song, “What’s Going On?”, is one of those early pieces. There’s some counterpoint, some nice harmonies, a sax solo that didn’t actually work in real life — good times. The song is the first time we’re finally introduced to the core conflict of the show: Marco Polo’s idealism vs. the realities of the Mongol Empire. Since this is three songs before Act I ends, I’d say that’s a bit of a pacing problem, but once it’s introduced it makes for a compelling drama for the rest of the show, Marco’s whining notwithstanding. This is also the first piece I did where I gave the two main characters a distinctive instrument to represent them musically: an oboe for Mei Hwa, a clarinet for Marco. I used this same motif in a few other pieces, although sadly, by the end of the process I didn’t have the time to make it work throughout the entire show.

This piece is one of the four that actually sounds like a rock opera (not counting reprises, the other three are “Who Is This Stranger?”, “A Dangerous Sign”, and “Who Do You Think You Are?”), albeit a little more low-key than any of the others. Interestingly enough, this song showcases perfectly why I both really enjoy and bash the CD recording: the string part at the beginning is gorgeous, while the rock part doesn’t work at all. I guess that’s what happens when you record in a choir room instead of an actual studio, or at least when you don’t correctly mike the rhythm section, especially the drums. Ah, well, still a fun song.

Coming up next week: the “Action” theme from my film scoring class!


52 Weeks – Week 13 – The Sewer

Explanation of the 52 Weeks Project

Today’s piece of music:

The Sewer

The origin of this piece actually requires a bit of backstory. In 1999 I became a part of the online Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers community, with its main seat at the Acorn Cafe. It was a fun place to discuss random things about the TV show and collaborate with fellow Ranger enthusiasts (and it was completely PG-rated). After posting a MIDI file I did of the opening theme song to the show, a few people asked me to do some music for their various RR-related projects. One such project was an RPG starring the Rangers made by a fellow Cafe member named Hermes. It was called “Rescue Rangers The Game: The Future Will Never Be the Same,” and sadly, I don’t remember anything about the plot, or who some of those extra characters are on this poster for it:

The game itself never saw the light of day, but I did write a few short pieces for various locales in the game. Our subject today was one such piece, written for the sewer level. It doesn’t really have much music: it’s more of an ambience track than anything else, but it’s still kind of fun and creepy.

Coming up next week: “What’s Going On?” from Travels!


Best of the Decade!

There seem to be a slew of “end-of-decade” remembrance blog posts cropping up, so I thought I’d do my own. But instead of just doing a general overview of each year, I thought I’d categorize each year. First, a general overview of what I did. Second, the best picture from that year. Third, the best song I wrote that year. Fourth, the best blog post from that year (for years that have blog posts for them). And finally, what I learned from that year. Onwards!

2000

To celebrate New Year’s of the new millenium, Kjersti and I were at the Bawden’s house with Lyndee and Carina Jensen. At midnight, to do something memorable, I threw myself headlong into a snowbank in the front yard! Sadly, the snow was quite old and more ice than snow, so I just kind of bounced off and rolled on the ground.

The decade started off with Travels! For me that means skipping every other day of school to orchestrate music! ~Forty songs in two and a half months! It burned me out! But still, even to this day, it is the largest single work I have done, even when you consider that I didn’t actually write the show, just orchestrate it. Soon after that, I graduated! Yay! 2000 is also when I worked for three days at the Utah Fun Dome, quit because it sucked, then spent the rest of the summer and Fridays in the fall working at some filing system installation place with Chuck Fields as the computer guy. I’d do such grand things as jiggle the mouse when the boss’s screen saver would come on and he’d freak out, thinking he lost his work. Both hilarious and sad! Mostly I just got paid to surf the internet. Then finally, in the fall, I started my first semester at BYU. This was back when the people I went to school with were still my age or older, not like now when everyone on campus (undergrads, anyway) is younger.

Best Picture

From Concert Choir Tour 2000 in Disneyland. I look like I’m ten, for some reason.

Best Piece of Music

Hard to decide, since I’ve got all of Travels to pick from. But I think I will go with the orchestrated version of “Lightning” on this one.

Best Blog Post

Where do I go from here? Still kind of my major concern.

Lessons Learned

Even though I have limits, when pushed, I can accomplish quite a bit more than I previously thought possible. I also need a fairly large recharge time, though. Also, don’t live forty minutes away from your college classes.

2001

The first six months of this year found me living in Deseret Towers at BYU. This was the first time since I was an outcast student in middle school that I had a chance to forge my own identity instead of taking the one that my older siblings gave me, and boy, did I choose a geeky one. Eight-player Starcraft matches nearly every night, an ongoing campaign of Dungeons and Dragons which was incredibly fun (I was the only Good-aligned character to survive the entire campaign, and I was a gnomish bard. That’s not supposed to happen, but it did!), Super Smash Bros. tournaments — man, it was a lot of fun. There were, of course, some angsty moments when I was quite lonely, but since that’s been a factor in pretty every year of my life I’ll just mention it right now to get it out of the way and move on. Sadly, during Spring term I ended up contracting shingles and missing the last third of the term, which sucked. The rest of the year was spent at home, prepping for a mission, doing shows in Midvale with Annelise, and generally being really bored. I got so stir-crazy that, during the last three weeks of the year, I burst forth with crazy creativity and produced the Josh Reese Christmas Carol.

Best Picture

It’s-a Halloween!

Best Piece of Music

II – Endurance. Explanation here.

Best Blog Post

Probably my thoughts on 9/11

Lessons Learned

Shingles sucks. Also, when I make my own friends and live my own life instead of the one I think my family would most want for me, I end up generally happier, if only for the fact that it’s my own choice. You know, it’s better to choose to live in your own trailer than be forced to live in someone else’s mansion. And finally, don’t be an art music composer, unless you have a lot of old money, are somewhat insane, or plan to teach. Or a combination of those.

2002

On  January 1st, 2002, I was set apart as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, going to the Barcelona Spain mission. This made it quite easy to track my two years as a missionary, since it really was just two calendar years, straight down the line. After spending about five weeks in the Provo MTC, learning Spanish, listening to the Lord’s anointed, and drinking a lot of orange juice, they shipped us off to the MTC in Madrid. There I learned that I sure didn’t know Spanish, and that Spain, like much of Europe, is full of weird juxtapositions between centuries-old architecture and teenage street punks with tight sweaters and nice shoes.

Into the mission field I went next. Trained in Granollers, a small town north of Barcelona known primarily for its obscurity, and windiness. To Lorca I was then shipped, where I spent six months eating fruit, talking to Ecuadorians, and suffering from dysentery. Lorca was also known for being one of the two most southernmost points in the mission. Considering the amount of time I spent both here and in Cartagena (the other most southern point in the mission), I’m convinced that for some reason both President Bowen and Watson wanted to keep me as far away from the mission home as possible. Finally, on my birthday, I moved to Elche, a land of palm trees and shoes.

Best Picture

In Lorca we lived above a dollar store (or a Euro store, I guess, although then it was a 100 peseta store) called “Zarahemla.” This was obviously owned by a member (the elders’ quorum president, in fact).

Best Piece of Music

I didn’t write any music during this time. although I did make a wacky tape with Elder Linford when I was sick for a month. Probably the best of that was “After Dark,” which was the name of one of the demo songs on the keyboard they used for church in the Orihuela branch.

Best Blog Post

I was on a mission; I didn’t have a blog.

Lessons Learned

Where to start? Besides the wonderful spiritual lessons I learned, which were many and awesome, I learned that, although countries are different, cultures are different, and people have different customs, under it all people are people no matter where you go, and we have way more in common than we have differences.

2003

Still on my mission. The year started still in Elche, still a land of palm trees and not much success, although my companion and I were featured in a short film entitled “Lies.” Don’t worry: the lies weren’t about the gospel or anything, it was us saying “We don’t want to take much of your time!” Then it was off to Palma, which, speaking from an objective viewpoint about the area, was the best area of my mission. It was on the island of Mallorca (or Majorca for you English speakers), off the coast in the Mediterranean sea, and it was absolutely beautiful. This also meant we just ran into a lot of tourists (especially the area my companion and I covered, which was the old part of town with all the cathedrals and forts and touristy stuff) and the work progressed slowly. Still, what a wonderful place. If I had enough money, I would totally go there for my honeymoon. This is also the period of time in which my father passed away, but being so far away from it all and still having to continue the work, coupled with a lot of ambivalence over my dad’s and my relationship, made that event far less traumatic than maybe it would’ve been.

I then got moved to Cartagena in May, where I would spend almost the rest of my mission. Even though it came fairly late in my mission, Cartagena was probably the defining moment of my mission, and speaking from a subjective viewpoint, my absolute favorite area. This was mainly because I grew quite close to the people we worked with, specifically the Sanchez and Nadal families. If I were to go back to Spain just to visit people, I would spend most of my time here.

The year ended in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, a suburb of Barcelona and the first time since Granollers that I was anywhere near Barcelona itself. I celebrated New Year’s by eating 12 grapes at midnight, which is the tradition over there.

Best Picture

This doesn’t do justice to the beauty of Palma, but it’s one of the best pics I have (I didn’t take a lot of pictures on my mission, as it was in the age before ubiquitous digital cameras). One day I’ll convince Nate Winder to go there, and then you can see a lot of wonderful pictures.

Best Piece of Music

Once again, being on my mission, I didn’t write any music. So instead I’ll give you a piece of music that some other missionaries made up about the mission that year, full of inside references.

Best Blog Post

No blog this year either!

Lessons Learned

Oh, heavens! This was when my testimony of the gospel solidified. Whenever I have doubts, I think about Cartagena and the miracles I saw there (which were nothing flashy, just mostly changes of heart), and I know that the gospel is true. Also, Alfonso Sanchez once told me, as we were in a hospital emergency room waiting for doctors to treat one of our investigators, that I had a certain capacity to love people that he had rarely seen in missionaries, which is one of the kindest things I have ever had said to me, and one of the reasons I love Cartagena and its people so much. After pondering out what exactly it means to me, I think it means that, instead of loving a lot of people broadly, I love a few people very, very deeply.

2004

This year started off with a triumphant return home from Spain, and an immediate dive into BYU-Idaho. I chose to go here mainly because Ben and Kjersti were already there, which really turned out to be both a really good decision and a really bad one, as will be explored in the “Lesson Learned” section. I started being the piano man for the improv troupe “Comic Frenzy,” which was a lot of fun, and then worked on the running crew as a “tree-pusher” for Into the Woods, a position which was portrayed in a documentary.

During the summer I moved back to Riverton. Most of the summer was spent spinning my wheels, but I did spend a lot of time with Nick Greer, of all people, working on the Pimp Lando DVD as well as a DVD of stuff I’d done in high school. He was very generous and supportive, letting me use his equipment and so on with no expectation of recompense. Good guy, that Nick.

In the fall it was back to BYU-I, where a lot of time was spent getting ready for Fiddler on the Roof, which was performed in 2005. I played the Russian constable who drives everyone out of town. Also, I did sound for nearly every other show done that semester (well, OK, just one show: Over the River), but it was fun!

Best Picture

Striking the set of Into the Woods. I am a sweaty, sweaty man.

Best Piece of Music

I didn’t really write much music while at BYU-I, since I was living the theatre life that Ben and Kjersti were living. So I’ll pick this song from Pimp Lando 7: Don’t Cry For Me, Pennsylvania, sung by a vampire.

Best Blog Post

I’ve only got one entry from 2004, so I guess I’ll pick it.

Lessons Learned

While being a younger brother to Kjersti automatically earns a person a bit of prestige no matter what (since if there’s one thing Kjersti knows, it’s how to promote people), life in Rexburg felt like a regression from the lessons I learned in 2001. BYU-Idaho was certainly someone else’s mansion: I was somewhat well-known, at least among the drama crowd, and I got a lot of good experiences out of it, especially on the tech theater end. But it all felt like a sham, especially since none of the people that Ben and Kjersti were friends with felt like my good friends too (with the possible exception of JD Taylor, but that’s mostly because JD is pure awesomeness in a can). As a result, I wasn’t very happy, much to the befuddlement of Ben and Kjersti (well, OK, mostly Kjersti). I guess the main thing I learned this year was just a reinforcement of what I learned in 2001: I need to live my own life!

2005

Still at BYU-Idaho, I performed in Fiddler on the Roof and also did sound for Our Town. It was also at this point where I got within a hairsbreadth of having my first girlfriend, but that’s a complicated subject that I’m still not willing to discuss on an open blog. It was also at this point where I knew that I needed to get out of the shadow of my brother and sister and become my own person, so at the end of winter semester I left Rexburg for good. I decided to go back to BYU and apply for the Media Music program, but in the interim period I got a job with my brother-in-law Mickey Murphy working for Title One, a title insurance company. I was once again living at home with my parents in Riverton, but since I was working full-time instead of just waiting for my mission it was much more bearable than it was in 2001. In the fall of 2005 I took a few token classes at BYU, but mainly I was just working and saving up money to be able to survive in Provo until I was eligible for pell grants.

This was also when I attended the singles’ ward in Riverton, which at the time encompassed most of Riverton and Bluffdale and all of Herriman, so it was basically the entire southwest corner of the Salt Lake Valley. This also marks the first time I actually pursued one of my famed one-sided crushes when I dated Holly Fuellenbach, but it didn’t end well, as she wasn’t really interested. Oh, well. I have not purchased flowers for anyone since then.

Best Picture

Part of a photo scavenger hunt I did with Casey and Holly and some other people from the singles’ ward. What kind of name is Vanderkooi?

Best Piece of Music

This is when I wrote what is arguably my most famous song: Mr. Jones, Where Are You?

Best Blog Post

This is the year I actually started this blog (as opposed to just entries in my journal), so there’s more to pick from. Probably most important for me was the story of Kim Isom.

Lessons Learned

When I played the Russian constable in Fiddler, I tried to play him as a sympathetic character, hoping to get some depth out of an otherwise one-note personality. I hope I succeeded, but this is also when I learned that I’m actually not that good of an actor. Oh, sure, I can be pretty funny sometimes, but that doesn’t really mean I can act. That’s why I haven’t really been in any shows since 2005. I instead turned my focus to music instead of drama, and I’ve found I like it more, although I still enjoy doing the odd improv show here and there.

Also this year I learned of the glory of financial independence, something I haven’t much tasted since. Cooooolleeeeeege!!! *shakes fist*

2006

The first eight months of 2006 found me doing a job that I adored: pulling old house deeds from various county courthouses in Northern Utah. I liked this for a few reasons: 1)a lot of my coworkers back at the office were pregnant and kind of um, witchy, 2) I love driving in the mountains, especially if I’m getting paid for it, and 3) I didn’t have to deal with customers. Sadly, the position doesn’t exist anymore, due to counties getting their records online, or I would go back in a heartbeat. Oh, well. I also got involved again with Hunt Murder Mysteries, doing sound for them. Although working with the Hunts themselves is an, um, interesting experience, I had a good time doing some of the shows, especially More Mystery on the Moors. I convinced Casey to try out for that show, and not only did he make it, but went on to do a lot more work for the Hunts and even met his future wife! How about that!

In early 2006 I was accepted into the Media Music program at BYU and made preparations to move back to Provo in the fall. I had also secured my friend Steve Porter a job at Title One, so we made plans to live together. He had already graduated, but needed to get married before he could continue doing what he was trained for and wanted to do: teach seminary. So in the fall we moved to Bountiful Court, an apartment complex in which we stayed together for nearly three years, where Steve even met his future wife! How about that!

It was also at the BC that I realized that I was now older than the average college student (turning 24 that November), a feeling that’s just gotten worse. Oh, well. The car I’d been driving since I knew how to drive finally died, so I got my grandma’s old car, which I’m still driving today.

Best Picture

I apparently didn’t really take many pictures in 2006. So here’s me dressed as some sort of professor in my bathroom hallway.

Best Piece of Music

Although I did write Phrustration this year, I didn’t actually turn it into its awesome version until ’08, so for this year I’m going to have to go with Magic Trick for a Vase.

Best Blog Post

I think the Marc Chagall post sums up a lot about me, although the Distant Stars post is a close second.

Lessons Learned

Staying at home working is fun, for a time, but there comes a moment when a person has got to get out of his comfortable rut and work on his dreams. That’s what going back to college was for me. I think I finally learned how to better get along with Kjersti this year. She moved home to do her student teaching, and so this was the first time she entered into a social environment where I’d already established myself (the singles’ ward) and not the other way around, so I didn’t have that feeling of “they just think I’m cool because Kjersti talks me up, but wouldn’t give me the time of day otherwise” that I did at BYU-I. Also, college sucks the money right out of your wallet.

2007

2007 set the pattern for the next two years. In January I got my job at BYU Vending, where I’ve spent nearly every weekday afternoon since. I was still plugging along in school, but getting fairly burnt out, and not doing as well as I should have been. The bright spot in this was my involvement in the BYU Men’s Chorus, which was a lot of fun and also meaningful and if I had the time and health I’d do it again. This was also the first summer (besides my mission) that I didn’t spend at home in Riverton, electing instead to continue my job in Provo. I also took a trip to Vegas with Billy and Casey, which was a ton of fun, and a trip to Walt Disney World with Kjersti and Ben, which oddly enough, wasn’t nearly as fun, but more on that later.

Living at the BC was fun, and Steve made a lot of friends.

2007 is also when I started to feel confident about my professional music-making abilities, and my music output greatly increased, getting close to high school years (well, not counting Travels) in terms of pieces produced. Also, this is the year that our improv troupe, Absoludicrous, really started taking off, even facing off against some sort of Happy Pirates in December.

Also, Billy got married.

Best Picture

This was taken during the Vegas trip. I don’t think I need to say why it’s the best picture of the year.

Best Piece of Music

The piece I’m most proud of is “Can You Find It?”, but since that’s just a clone of a They Might Be Giants song, I guess I’ll go with “Never Had a Girl.” Oddly enough, the song mentions that I was 25, and it was the week before I turned 26 that I finally got a girlfriend. Eerie!

Best Blog Post

A lot of good ones to choose from, but I’m going to have to go with The Meaning of Tarantella, which was my own personal interpretation of a song we sang in Men’s Chorus that year. A close second would be The Visitor, where I finally figure out how I felt about my father and some other issues that I’d been having. (Odd that all these “close seconds” seem to revolve around DS9.)

Lessons Learned

Going on trips with Kjersti and Ben aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, especially with the previous issues I’ve outlined regarding those two. I think it would be funner if I went with a different group. Well, OK, it still would be fun to hang out with Ben, too, but not to be tied to hanging out with him. By the way, I think the moment that crystallized the way that I feel about hanging out with Kjersti’s friends occurred on this trip. It was Saturday night, and I had been horrendously sunburned at the beach earlier that day. I was in a lot of pain. Kjersti and Ben had to run inside to some store for about half an hour, leaving me in the car with Amy Harper, Kjersti’s best friend. Who completely ignored me. The whole time. Except once when she asked if I was OK because I was making painful noises, and I said, “No,” and she didn’t say another word.

Please let me make my own friends. Your friends are your friends. I don’t make you hang out with those D&D geeks I was friends with in 2001, so don’t bring me across the country so I can spend time with people who pretend I don’t exist. Thank you.

Moving on, I also learned that the Lord calls who He sees fit to be the elders’ quorum president, even if said person is a quirky redhead who certainly didn’t fit the stereotype.

2008

More of the same. School, vending, yadda yadda. But hey, Ben got married in May, which was pretty neat! I also put on my Junior Recital in April, which is the performance I am most proud of. It was a ton of fun to do, everybody there enjoyed themselves, and Casey damaged some school property by smashing glass against a desk! What’s not to like?

I also became fairly good friends with Amanda Knight that summer, then promptly destroyed that friendship by trying to take it a step beyond. D’oh! However, later that year, I finally did have success when I started dating Suzie! That lasted a month! But it was certainly a whirlwind of a month!

Also, Casey got married.

Best Picture

A whole slew of redheads. We’re not going extinct!

Best Piece of Music

A ton of really good ones to pick from here, due to my junior recital happening this year. Since I already mentioned Phrustration, I guess I’ll go with a tie between Junior Recital and Backseat Driver.

Best Blog Post

This is when my blog transitioned from “personal posts about my life” to “random stuff that I want to post” due to it gaining more readership. Still, there are a few gems in there, so I think I’ll go with “Embrace the Impossible,” although probably more people would be interested in my tryout for American Idol.

Lessons Learned

Given the opportunity, I can put on a damn fine show. It’s getting the opportunities that is not my strong suit, or even my weak suit. It’s just not really a suit I hold. Also, I can have successful relationships! Successful in the fact that they happen at all, not that they continue for any long period of time. Also, the physical parts of relationships suck without a good social/emotional/personal foundation. Hey, my church leaders were right this whole time! Who knew?

2009

Still more of the same, although the ending was now in sight. Still going to school, still working at vending, still not able to get out of the cycle! I did date Sarah in February, but it was a wash, since she found out that she didn’t really like me as more than a friend. For some reason we tried it again in May, but surprise, surprise, it still didn’t work! There was no chemistry whatsoever! Which means I still haven’t been able to hold on to a girl for more than a month!

2009 was also the year that Poison Ivy Mysteries, Annelise’s murder mystery company, started up, and I spent a lot of my free time writing songs and doing sound for her. This is, of course, still going on. In fact, today I wrote part of a disco for the new show opening in January!

Having lived in the BC for three years now, I decided it was time for a change, since all the people moving in were fresh out of high school. So I took my good friend Johnathan’s advice and moved into Alta Apartments, where I’m still living today. Turns out there are a lot of 18-year-olds here too, but there is also a higher percentage of older people. I kind of gave up on the social scene in the fall, but this winter I’m determined to make up for that!

Also, Steve got married.

Best Picture

Yes, I did grow a mustache. No, you didn’t see this.

Best Piece of Music

Besides the year of Travels, I have produced more music this year than any other in my life. Therefore, there are a lot of good ones to choose from. I’ll have to go with my top three, for very different reasons: Miss Me, Testin’ the Mic, and Misfile, which is what I finally decided to name that Factor X song, although I still haven’t come up with lyrics.

Best Blog Post

Slim pickings, actually, since I didn’t write a whole ton of stuff, posting instead some random stuff that I thought was cool (including the 52 Weeks posts). So I guess I’ll go with “Why do people listen to the music they listen to?”

Lessons Learned

There needs to be some physical chemistry as well as a good emotional/social/personal foundation in order for a relationship to work. Hey, all those pop songs were right this whole time! Who knew?

It’s also become increasingly clear that it’s time for a change. I have lived in the collegiate environment, more or less, for this entire decade! That’s a long time to be stuck in one phase in life, especially without a family of my own. I don’t know what’s waiting around the corner. My goals in life have changed more times than I can count (other than “get married and have a family,” of course) and it’s crunch time. So I guess the lesson I learned is that I need to learn some sort of lesson about this, and quickly.

———

Well, that’s it for this decade. Ups and downs, lefts and rights. I think the main theme of the decade is figuring out my identity, and while that’s not entirely solved, I think some good progress has been made. What wonders does the next decade hold? Hopefully all the things I hoped for this decade but didn’t quite achieve (marriage, graduation, etc.). I guess we’ll find out.

Onward!


52 Weeks – Week 12 – Bens! (And a new child, and 8-Bit Mars!)

Explanation of the 52 Weeks Project

(For this week, instead of picking an image from flickr, I uploaded this one of Ben’s yet-unnamed firstborn child, who was born yesterday. I figured, since the piece is called “Bens!” it would be appropriate.)

Today’s piece of music:

Bens!

This isn’t really a song. It’s barely anything coherent. I guess it would be best to describe it as more of an experiment than anything else. Sometime in 1997, when SaXon Geat was still in its formative stages, Ben wrote a bassline and some ear-splitting guitar chords that lasted all of fifteen seconds, then later I added a melody. Then I added a bass solo. Then I added another sort of B section. Then I repeated the first part, slower and shifted down a whole step. It was basically just a meandering thing that never really ended, so it has no form whatsoever, but it still has some interesting parts.

You may note that the MP3 featured here sounds like Nintendo music. That’s because recently I’ve been having some fun with making chiptunes out of old MIDI files, such as “Lightning,” or, even better, Gustav Holst’s “Mars, the Bringer of War.” I did it with “Bens!” because the sound quality of the original MIDI was so horrifyingly bad that to listen to it one’s ears might bleed. (If you want to subject yourself to it, you can certainly do so. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. Because I did.)

Coming up next week: “The Sewer!”


52 Weeks – Week 11 – Endurance

Explanation of the 52 Weeks Project

Today’s piece of music: Mvmt. 2 of “Mixed Quintet? You Bet!” entitled

Endurance

This was the second part of the strangely-titled “Mixed Quintet? You Bet!” project from my freshman BYU year. The object of this particular part was to create something humorous, so I came up with this weird poem:

There once was a man from Nantucket
Who could hold his breath for over thirteen minutes
Here now is his story.

This man had a brother, who, try as he might
Could not hold his breath as long
So instead he decided to give up that racket
And now he’s written this song:

The older one went to the younger one day
And saw that something was wrong
He asked “Little brother, what’s the matter with you?”
And in return he heard this song:

The older one laughed and smiled and laughed as he said,
“Young one, there’s no need to fear!
For you are a cello player, you see,
And can play a note for a year!”

The younger one thought he’d try it out,
And so one note did he play
He played it year in and he played it year out
And he’s playing it still to this day!

The conceits were: the older one (the baritone player) actually couldn’t hold his breath very long, which is why he suddenly stops playing and starts wheezing near the beginning. Everyone else stops and waits for him to catch his breath, then they begin again! Hilarious! Then, when the younger one’s plight is heard in “this song,” the main theme of the work is played at varying dissonances: first a tritone, then a minor second. So sad! Finally, on the line “one note did he play” the cellist plays a note and holds it for the rest of the piece! The note is even still being held when movement 3 starts (which I may get to someday as part of this whole thing)! Ha ha!

Anyway, this was a fun piece to do. We weren’t allowed to talk to the performers about the piece, so I have no idea what was going through their heads, but it must have been a bit disconcerting, as the violin enters early after the second stanza, which is why you hear some guy loudly singing the actual entrance. That was our illustrious teacher, Mr. Murray Boren, who conducted all these pieces. I got some fun compliments on the tune from the other students in the class. Apparently they thought I’d be a good kids’ songwriter. You know, for kids! That’s as well as maybe, and who knows? Maybe I’ll end up going that way some day.

Coming up next week: “Bens!” Obviously a collaboration!