music

A Thought On Audience

In my first #nerdlution goal, I set out to write publicly via this blog, every day for 50 days. I found that knowing it was “out there” for others to read and respond to really inspired me to get it done and pushed me in ways I couldn’t have predicted.

I’m in the middle of week three of my second #nerdlution goal—playing my trumpet every day—and I’m finding that I’m more lax with getting it done. I think I’ve only missed three days out of 17, but still, I’m less inspired and I think it has to do with a lack of audience. There’s also the fact that (for me) it’s a harder and more personal goal than writing.
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music

Practicing Play, Playing to Practice

playing_to_practiceToday I was presented with an interesting challenge which led to a possible epiphany. One of my mostly “online friends,” Kevin Hodgson, wrote a song last night, and today, asked if I was interested in coming up with some horn lines for it. It was a completely no pressure situation, but immediately the perfectionist in me started to come up with all kinds of excuses not to do it: I’m rusty; it’s not my style; it’s been a long time since I wrote anything; what about what I planned to practice?; etc. etc. etc. But since I’m working on getting my musical side going and working on not caring so much what others think, I said Sure, why not?

I had heard the song once or twice and started coming up with ideas in my head while I went about my day. Kevin sent the audio file and I figured I would use my “built in” #nerdlution practice time to work on it. When I got my horn out though, I was presented with an old road block. I was reluctant to work on the horn lines for Kevin’s song—something that seemed fun and interesting—because I felt like I should work on my fundamentals and technique. Right away I saw that doing the fun part, writing some horn lines and playing them, contributed to my goal of getting my trumpet chops in shape, while giving me an opportunity to work on other aspects of music.

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It Begins: The Great Chop Revival of 2014

beginningsI just finished my first of 50 consecutive practice sessions to get my chops back on the trumpet. I’ve never really lost sight of the fact that playing trumpet (or any brass instrument) is such physical experience, but starting out today really brought that into focus.

Playing trumpet is a lot like lifting weights. You can’t just load up a barbell with a bunch of weights and expect to lift it, or lift it and end up hurting yourself. Similarly on trumpet, when you’re out of shape or haven’t played for a while, you won’t be able to play as long or as high in the register. One’s tone often takes a hit too; out of shape chops tend to have a more airy sound. On top of this, the fingers and the tongue (yes the tongue!) will be lagging as well. The fingers are how you change the pitches to a degree—much of it is done with the lips—and the tongue is you articulate a note, making it crisp or soft or accented in some fashion. Without regular workouts, all these elements will be weak or non-existent.

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Design: Letting Go to Move Forward

exitIn the design aspect of my full-time job and my freelance design gigs, one thing that can be painful is making a final decision. For myself, and I think for everyone involved, the inability to decide on a design, or at least a solid direction, stems from wanting to get it just right. And man, if it’s a logo? Forget about it. Plan on at least twice the amount of time and 10 times the number of options you thought you were going to present, and everyone still won’t be 100% happy.

I tend to be fairly decisive on my own because I know it often isn’t ever perfect. I’ll like most of one idea, or some of another, and yes, I’ll mix and match things to get the right blend—but I know that even if I like it, not everyone will. Plus, I usually don’t have the luxury of time to do whatever it takes to achieve near-perfection. I’m not willing to sacrifice progress for that, and I’ve learned to live with that. But when it’s someone else’s project, finding that “good enough” can be tough.

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Addicted to the Night?

addicted_to_nightI’ve always said I’m a night owl and that I like staying up late. When I was a teenager it was exciting to exercise new freedoms, staying out late with friends when adults seemed to be heading in, and when I got older it worked well when visiting clubs—especially for concerts and live music—but also when I was playing in bands myself. Staying up late, being out late, even working at night has become a part of my identity.

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music

#nerdlution Round II: Reviving the Chops

trumpet_and_oilI’ve been thinking about what I want to do for my next 50 day challenge (a.k.a. #nerdlution round II) and I’ve decided to tackle a beast: reviving my trumpet chops. I’ve played trumpet since I was 9 and majored in music at UCSC. I was a decent player, got gigs, etc., but once I had my first kid almost 9 years ago, it’s been a slow decline.

For the first few years of Keana’s life, I kept my chops up and taught at two different music schools while working a “day job” full time. I had occasional gigs playing with a few bands around San Francisco and Oakland, with a wedding or funeral thrown in here and there, but about 5 years ago I really put it aside, only playing a few times a week, then a few times a month. At this point my chops are in working condition, but they are a mere shadow of their former glory.

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Focusing Love

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

For me, Martin Luther King Jr. and love always go hand-in-hand. As I’ve been going about the day, remembering his life and his impact on our world, I keep coming back to the subject of love. So much of what I’ve heard in my life focuses on loving your neighbor or your enemy, but I think the root of all that is really love of self. Many of us that grew up with the bible can easily recall “you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” but I almost wonder if it should have been “love yourself so you can love your neighbor.”

I can only think that if we loved ourselves more, it would be impossible to treat others so poorly. What do you think? Should we really be focusing more on loving ourselves and let the rest follow?

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Sometimes It’s Just Football

Photo by Doctor Popular

Photo by Doctor Popular

I don’t particularly like football. I like strength, agility, speed, and throwing things, but I’ve never really been drawn to watching football. I’m a baseball guy. I sort of just have time for one sport, so there you go. If I had time for two, then it would be baseball and basketball with football maybe coming in third.

It’s not a simple dislike, either. I think it’s violent. Football harkens back to the idea of an ignorant, blood-thirsty Roman Empire that entertains itself with the destruction of others. I also believe there’s poetry in motion on the field and a lot of skill, but basically you want to demolish the guy with the ball. Add to that advertising, greed, and America’s obsession with it, and you lose me. Sometimes I think I’m not really drawn to it just because everyone else is.

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Recently I found out about Parkour. I think this sums up the “modern” form best:

Parkour is a non-competitive sport, which can be practiced alone or with others. It can be practiced in any location, but is usually practiced in urban spaces.[7][8] Parkour involves seeing one’s environment in a new way, and imagining the potentialities for movement around it.[9][10]

The video above is long (10’00”) but worth a full viewing. Once I got over the physical prowess and poetic, almost dance-like nature of it, I began to feel a sense of being uplifted. At first I thought it was just inspiring to see what people can do (courageously) with their bodies—which it is—but then I realized there was something powerful about seeing people navigate urban spaces in such an elegant and strong way. It’s a visual representation of the beauty of nature overcoming something so unnatural, and in many cases, ugly.

Some of the footage is shot at competitions and in natural settings, but much of it captures the “seeing one’s environment in a new way” and beautifully illustrates a freedom that I think people will always have over the cages they create.