thoughts on music, design and literature

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dubai Fountain Music - 'Baba Yetu'

I was in Dubai earlier this week, visiting the Dubai Fountain. My song 'Baba Yetu' is one of the seven pieces of music used for the choreography.

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It was built by WET Design, the same company that built the fountains outside the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. It's the world's largest interactive water feature, and it sits at the foot of the Burj Dubai, the world's tallest skyscraper. Every night from 6:00 PM until 11:00 PM, hundreds of illuminated jets of water dance to a handful of pre-selected songs, with some of the larger jets launching water up to 500 ft high. It's one of the most spectacular things you'll ever see.

Here it is in action, to my music. :)

They have a short list of seven songs, that they rotate through every 20 to 30 minutes. According to the staff, the two most popular songs are Baba Yetu and the Sarah Brightman/Andrea Bocelli song 'Time To Say Goodbye'. Baba Yetu is the second most played song in their rotation--right after 'Sama Dubai', a special Emirati tribute to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum that starts and ends each day's programming.

I'm not usually one to dwell on the life I've lived or the career I've had, but this... this was something special. Standing there by the water's edge, surrounded by hundreds of people, the music blasting on the loudspeakers and feeling the spray wash over me... I couldn't help but be a little proud of myself at that moment.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Thoughts On Paris

I spent last week in Paris.

If you ask me, it's a very introspective city for artists of all types. It's not just the fact that there are seemingly hundreds of museums, galleries and concert halls scattered across the city; it's the fact that people *talk* about art over lunches, dinners and coffees. (Well, at least the people I was hanging out with do.) But apart from that, it's a city that, over the centuries, was not just a mecca for artists and musicians, but also found itself at the center of many of the major turning points of artistic evolution. So suffice to say, there's a certain mystique here that you don't get in your typical American city.

The trend during much of the 20th-century was for artists and musicians to identify themselves very strongly with movements. Everyone was an 'ist' of sorts... a cubist, a surrealist, an abstract expressionist. Composers were serialists, brutalists, impressionists, minimalists. Where are the 'ists' now? Gone. Fallen out of favor with the idea of post-modernism; that we can freely mix and match styles and approaches at our whim... that we no longer have to belong to a school, that there no longer has to be a schism between academic and populist, Uptown and Downtown. But there's part of me that thinks that it certainly would have been nice to identify oneself with a movement. To, say, have a manifesto like the Futurists did, laying claim to an artistic identity. Maybe I'm romanticizing it; after all, my own music (and in fact my own cultural identity) is certainly a mix of various influences.

While we're at it, what happened to the idea of artists and musicians being aware of the social, political and aesthetic world that they live in, and responding to it through their art? Futurism was the celebration of speed; an artistic reaction to the emergence of a world where humans could suddenly travel great distances at great velocities via trains. Post-war expressionism emerged out of the horrors of the first World War, in which a newfound fear of death--by explosions tearing bodies apart, clouds of mustard gas, etc--manifested itself in the works produced. The last time I can think of an era manifesting itself in the works produced would have been the Vietnam War era, through protest songs and the like. That was 40 years ago. What happened to artists responding to the ages in which they live? Has this been killed by consumer culture?

I spent a full day at the Centre Pompidou, checking out their permanent collection, as well as shows of Calder and Kandinsky. The building itself is pretty photogenic. It gave me ample opportunity to play with my new Canon wide-angle lens (10-22mm). (I'm still new to wide-angle photography, so I'm still trying to figure out how to keep things visually interesting... heck, I'm still working on how not to underexpose all the images, as the wide angle allows so much light that it's throwing off my light meter.)

A funny thing seen inside one of the restroom stalls in the museum:

I immediately recognized this as a coy reference to Marcel Duchamp's 'Fountain'--a seminal work of art, and one of his Readymades--a series of common, everyday objects that were placed in a museum to challenge the public's perception of what art is. I.e., if you stick a toilet in a museum and call it art, is it art?

I walked upstairs, and lo and behold, there was the original.

So now the question becomes, if you stick a reference to a work of art on a toilet, is the toilet now a clever bit of post-modern referential art? And does it challenge our perceptions of what a toilet is?

No. Not really.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009 Writeup

Jayson Napolitano of pop-culture blog Original Sound Version has a writeup of the Golden State Pops Orchestra concert up. Check it out!

(He also uses some of the pics that I snapped during the concert rehearsals.)

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Golden State Pops Orchestra: Concert

Backstage video from the concert last night!

Thanks to Steven Allen Fox, Linda Grimes and Victor Pesavento of the Golden State Pops Orchestra for the wonderful opportunity!


Thursday, May 14, 2009

On Ensemble: Ume In The Middle

My friends the On Ensemble have released another album, called Ume In The Middle. It's pretty fantastic work. The On Ensemble is a neo-taiko (or taiko fusion, if you will) ensemble; they blend traditional Japanese taiko drumming with electronic beats, turntables, beat-boxing, Tuvan throat singing, and other fantastic sonic tricks.

Ordinarily taiko drumming suffers when translated to audio format. It's a very visual art form; almost a blend of martial arts and percussion. The On Ensemble overcomes this problem by compensating with some really cutting-edge record production. The guy behind the production in this case is my friend Shoji Kameda, or Kametron as he's known in liner notes.

You'll also get a chance to hear the On Ensemble on my album. They lay down taiko tracks on a number of songs, and are featured prominently in my Japanese song, Mado Kara Mieru.

Really quality stuff. Give it a listen!


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Golden State Pops Orchestra (Second Rehearsal)

Another rehearsal with the Golden State Pops Orchestra last night. This time I got up on the platform and conducted myself!

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Conducting is a great love of mine. I was never able to study it as much as I wanted to during college and conservatory, but any chance I got I snuck into conducting classes.

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My greatest skills were always as a composer, but I have to say that conducting very closely rivals the joy I get from writing music. To be perfectly self-critical, though, early on I realized I had bigger gaps in raw ability as a conductor than as a composer, and so that's partly what guided me down my composition path. For one thing, I'm not particularly good at picking tempos out of mid-air. I get excited on the podium, and typically that means the music gets played a tad faster than it should be. It's something I could work on, though, should someday I start to take conducting more seriously. Where I did always excel in class, however, was my ability to convey the musicality of a piece. So I suppose if there's any sort of consolation to be had, the spirit is there... the technique is just a little raw at the moment.


Friday, May 8, 2009

Baba Yetu Covers!

Ah, yes. One of the great joys of writing a song that people like: hearing covers and remixes of your work!

I already blogged about Matt Lagoy's excellent banjo cover of Baba Yetu. Here's another remix done by Geoffrey Taucer and Brad Burr of the OCRemix community. I dig the 7/8 time!

The YouTube poster ModistOne sent me his piano cover of the song. He does a great job squeezing the many contrapuntal elements in to his arrangement. He also has 873 comments on his video so far, which is mind boggling to me.

And finally... TRANCE REMIX!

Gotta say, I love that people are doing this. Kinda wish people would give me a little more credit in their videos (at least mention who WROTE the song, please!). Also wish people could tell me when they do this stuff! It's very flattering, and I'd love to meet the people who put the time and energy into it.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Golden State Pops Orchestra (First Rehearsal)

I'll be conducting the Golden State Pops Orchestra in a performance of Baba Yetu on May 16th, 2009 at the Warner Grand Theatre. It's been awhile since I've been up on the podium, so I'm definitely looking forward to the experience.

The orchestra sounded great at the first rehearsal (held at El Segundo High School, in case you're wondering why there are lockers in the background). Next week we'll be adding the choir, so that will be the true test.

Maestro Steven Allen Fox is leading this first rehearsal. Just looking at the picture makes me think I really need to get a haircut.



Saturday, May 2, 2009

OverClocked Remix Interview

A number of months ago I did an interview for the game music remix community OverClocked Remix that's finally been published. Check it out!



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