As I type this, I am sitting in my hotel room in DC awaiting the first dress rehearsal for “Et exspecto” which is tomorrow! Eastern time zone is the worst and I find myself being unable to sleep until ungodly times of the morning.
I technically was not supposed to get here until today, but I decided to get here a couple days early to be in the city and, most importantly, to see John Adams conduct the NSO Saturday night.
You read that correctly. I got to see my favorite composer conduct a concert, which included City Noir. And also, the Ravel both hands concerto with Jeremy Denk, my favorite living pianist. The concert was just insanely good. Adams the conductor is very good at the same things he is good at as a composer, which is to say that he’s very good at the energy of pieces and shaping overall structure and such. Also, he is so much fun to watch. Watching his face was so wonderful, because you can see just how much fun he is having and how much he genuinely loves the music. Jeremy Denk took the Ravel concerto and slammed it up against the wall and forced it into submission. It was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen/heard. He is such a dynamic player and his interpretations are always so smart. Also, the third movement was so fast, and he and Adams were practically in a race towards the end.
Also, how good is that whip at the beginning of the first movement and the third movement?! Really good, that’s how good. I’m just going to add a whip to the beginning of all of my pieces from now on.
And the best part of the night/my life. I got to meet Adams and Denk both after the concert. I met Jeremy first, and he was so kind and appreciative. He remembered me from Twitter! He and Adams were both off to a dinner, so we didn’t get to talk for long, but the small amount of time was enough for me. And Jeremy Denk said to me, and I quote, “I love your bowtie.” Highlight of my life. There was a small crowd, so I waited for a bit for Adams to make his way through, and then he just sort of walked up to me to say hi and my internal monologue was “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.” We talked a little bit, and he was so incredibly kind. He asked me if I was a musician and I told him I was a pianist and composer and then told him how much I loved City Noir and that hearing it live made all the difference in the world. As he left, he turned to me and said “Nice bowtie!” Yes. John Adams complimented my bowtie. I almost didn’t wear a bowtie to the concert. Oh, how different my life would have been. I’m still freaking out about it a little bit because of how much Adams’s music has changed my life and the whole thing was just perfect and if you ask me about it it will be at least a 30 minute long string of me freaking out.
About City Noir: hearing it live really did make a big difference in how I thought about the piece. It’s an odd piece just to listen to a recording of, because it has an odd kind of Adamsian structure, and tons of inner workings you can’t really make sense of through your computer speakers. I mentioned to someone that it’s funny how the older he gets, the more he is able to cram on top of each other in a piece, but it’s also really interesting and is starting to influence my writing more. I’ve decided that City Noir sounds like if Doctor Atomic was set in some shady bootleg joint. Also, Timothy McAllister played the saxophone part (I’m pretty sure he’s the only person in the world to have played it so far) and he was an absolute monster and I’m so excited for the saxophone concerto Adams is writing for him and the recording they’re doing of it and City Noir later this year.
I’m very nervous and very excited to hear the piece for the first time tomorrow, which is funny because that’s really what the piece is about. Hearing a new piece for the first time is disorienting, because it’s usually music you wrote months ago, and you have to remind yourself of the actually music you wrote and also be objective about how everything works. I already have ideas about a couple things I might want to change about the piece, but I’m going to hold all that until after the premiere, so I can hear the piece as is and make a judgement on how it works now. And it’ll be fun to get to hear hydrogen jukebox again because it’s been a hot minute since I’ve heard it live and it’s always fun to revisit a piece you wrote WHEN YOU WERE 18 AND DUMB.
A few things:
I’m taking a 2 week vacation to NYC starting Thursday, and I’ll be in town for a whole lot of really fun things like the Tony’s, the Bang on a Can marathon, and Make Music NYC!
Speaking of Make Music NYC, I’m participating in this massive event they have where they are setting the world record for the largest keyboard ensemble. It’s something like 175 Yamaha keyboards and a grand piano. We’ll be premiering a 30 minute piece written by Jed Distler which will be really interesting. The majority of the parts are like “pick 15 notes and play them in order over the course of a minute” and things like that, where a lot of people who may not be totally good pianists or pianists at all can participate, which is fun. There’s also a group of more advanced parts for players who are so inclined. I semi-reluctantly called myself an advanced pianist, but I have no idea what kind of part I will actually be assigned yet. Anyways, it should be fun regardless and it’s so cool that this is something people can be a part of. Also, my composer friends Buck McDaniel and Kyle Tieman Strauss are doing a couple of concerts which you should also go to. Also, there’s an all accordion version of “In C” happening which sounds like the best, most awesome, crazy thing ever.
Also, I’m going to be in NYC for Mississippi Picnic in the Park AND the BBQ Block Party, which means I am going to get to see a lot of my SFA and foodie friends which I am ridiculously excited about.
I’m currently reading Infinite Jest as part of an online book club we put together for the summer. You read about 10 pages a day and at the end of 3 months you’ve finished it. If you’ve never read it, you should, because it’s as good as everyone has told you, maybe even more. It’s an absolute crazy kind of rollercoaster ride, and it makes more and more sense the more you read. It’s also really great to read with other people, so you can talk and try to figure out the book as you go. It’s also nice to talk to people who have already read it, so they can tell you when you need to push through what might seem like a difficult chapter or so.
As part of a sort of ritual I have whenever I fly, I’m also re-reading Kevin Brockmeier’s The Illumination, which is one of the most beautiful books I’ve read and you should all go get it now. I heard a radio broadcast of a reading he was doing at the local bookstore, and I immediately went a got a copy and got it signed. His prose reads like poetry and the story is so beautiful and you will love it, I promise.
Ok. Off to the cupboard with ya now, Chip. It’s past your bedtime. I promise to blog more after the premiere with hopefully a recording.