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Happy 2013!

Things are good. Much to post here (including a new piece!). Soon. A new year.


Here is the new piece I finished last month: I started it last fall, after Daniel had left for college. It's similar in spirit to the piece I had done for Lian when she left for Brown, lian-summer-echoes.

Our children are now on their own, doing things they want to do with their lives. Jill and I are official "empty nesters". The daniel-trace piece for Daniel is based on some recordings I made of him practicing for his final piano recital here at home. It's chock-full of 'inside jokes' and hidden audio remembrances (Here's one: listen closely as the crickets "shift" towards the end of the piece. The first cricket sounds were recorded as I walked around Roosevelt this past August, recovering from my transplant. The second (two) recordings were made outside Akira Takaoka's cabin in Nagano prefecture. A close listening as the "shift" occurs might reveal a young voice in the background -- Daniel when he was about ten years old.) daniel-trace was one of my Christmas gifts to Daniel.

This morning while scanning the internet for relevant items about computers, music, etc. I ran across this "Call for Works": Festival FUTURA 2013 - Call for works "Portrait". I was mildly interested, as the piece I had just finished for Daniel could be construed as a 'portrait'. Reading through the "Call", however, it seemed really inappropriate for me to consider sending either of the pieces I wrote for Daniel or Lian, or any of the other 'portrait' pieces I've done as defined by the "Call". Read through the academic (and French translation-speak) prose. What is missing for me, even though a lot of the paragraph is bizarrely intriguing ("The portrait is obviously a description of a person, a metaphoric, poetic or literal appropriation of a set of physical and moral aspects, of behaviors; it is a way to approach an intimacy...") is a sense of context. I don't mean the generalized socio-cultural context critically attached to academic art-speak these days. I mean a context in a very specific sense.

For me, doing a musical 'portrait' of someone or sometime or someplace is a very personal transaction. It's not a "way to approach an intimacy", it is an intimacy. And that gets reflected in the use I make of the piece. In my case, I want to share it with the people involved, usually my family. I post it here on my blog; it's a part of that sharing. I don't see it as being used as part of a conference about 'portraits', as an example of how a portrait might be done, as an entity set up for objectified/deconstructed discourse. Why would I do that? What's the point of it, after all?

It occurs to me that more and more this is how I'm aiming my music. Maybe it's my rationalized excuse for not being a Great and Famous (or even mildly-known) composer, but more and more I find myself drawn to music that operates on a very tiny, very personal scale. Every once in a great while I get an e-mail out of the blue from someone saying something like: "hey, I really enjoyed listening to your piece X" or "your music made a difference to me today". These make me feel like I've done something worthwhile. They make me happy.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not intending to denigrate the 'portrait' conference. As I said, I think it has some interesting possibilities. It's just wrong for the way I want to situate my music. And here I am in a business that relies on that kind of situation for the assignation of value. Darn.

More on this later. I've been thinking about it for some time now. I figured I'd start the new year off by getting some of these thoughts written down, so here they are.

Some friends have been inquiring about my health. The fact that I haven't been writing too much about it is a good thing. I've been feeling fine, and my latest appointments with Dr. Pearse have continued to show no evidence of cancer activity. About two weeks ago I started with a low 'maintenance' dose of Revlimid (5 mg). There has been debate in the myeloma research community about the efficacy of maintenance therapy, and Roger had been going back and forth on the idea. Since I've tolerated Revlimid well in the past, he thought it might be a good idea to go with the low-dose approach. It's not bad, but I can feel it working. It acts as a reminder that the myeloma will come back. I just hope it isn't for awhile.


We're in Puerto Rico! We've been here since last Saturday, and the great part is that "we" means Jill, Daniel, me AND Lian. This was a promised family trip to Daniel. When he graduated High School, he said he wanted to go to a Spanish-speaking country for the big family trip (we let Lian make the choice when she graduated). Daniel is relatively fluent in Spanish and wanted to try it out. It wasn't possible to do this in the summer, so here we are.

It was an excellent choice. The time of year is perfect -- not too crowded, but still nice and tropical. Daniel's Spanish has been holding up well, although most people here speak English like natives, which in a sense they are. When we get 'off the beaten path', however, Daniel's abilities have helped immensely. Plus I think it opens up some possibilities that we would have missed otherwise.

We're staying about on hour outside of San Juan along the North Coast, in a small town called Loíza. We've been swimming in the ocean, swimming in the pools, hiking on the beach, hiking in the rainforest, touring through some caves, easting wonderful food, enjoying very friendly people (Daniel's Spanish...), quite a vacation. Pictures coming later. And all of it, together with the kids.

I'm stressing the time-together aspect a little in this posting, because earlier in the week I received some awful news from a very close friend. He had just received word that his mother wasn't expected to live more than 48 hours. The times we spend with our friends and our family, to be clichéd, maudlin and obvious, they are the times of our lives.


Here's an obvious and maudlin story: Just a little bit ago, I walked into Lian's old bedroom to turn out a light that had been left on. When the room went dark, I looked up and noticed the glow-in-the-dark stars we had placed on her ceiling when she was much younger. They were arranged to duplicate the positions of the constellations for the day and time she was born. Daniel had stars on his ceiling, too, set not in constellations but in patterns that Daniel had chosen.

We're getting the downstairs interior of our house painted. Daniel's stars were removed today, and Lian's will be taken down next week. I'm not suffering from some oh-the-past-is-gone melancholia (well, maybe a little), but instead I've realized that our kids have different ceilings above them now. They're no longer under the stars Jill and I installed. This is as it should be. What will they see?

I had a good check-up with Dr. Pearse yesterday. We had a wonderful time last week in Puerto Rico. I'll get some photos on-line soon. I'm finishing up a substantial programming project, and classes start next week.


Inaugural day for President Obama's second term, and his speech was powerful, stirring. I hope he can follow-through on what he has spoken. I've finished my class syllabi for the coming term. I always tend to project myself a little into the future when doing this, imagining what it will be like in March, in April, in May. A gentle snow just finished falling outside. Beautiful. I think I'm ready for the new semester. Of course I had the same thought last year at this time, projecting into the spring then as well. I had no idea what the spring would bring. From a Presidential agenda to a personal imagination, we rarely do.


One of the odd/fun things I do is to use a 'dashboard' thesaurus app to highlight words that I think have relevance to my current existence. I just typed in "life", and the synonyms that the app highlighted were "EXISTENCE, being, living, animation, sentience, creation, viability."

Oh life! What an amazing thing! This outburst is motivated by an event that have happened today (a HAPPY event!); I will write more about it later. Right now I'm just enjoying...

In the meantime, here's some music I did yesterday with good friend Karl Fury:


Today was one of those time-shifted days. The temperature was up in the 60's, and a damp fog and mist surrounded New York most of the day. Mom and Dad had a series of tornado warnings(!) back in Indiana. Weird. Here's the time-shift: it felt like late March or early April, but when those feelings would manifest I would remind myself wait, I still have fourteen more weeks to teach in the semester! I was off-time-balance all day.

Then there are days where events serve to stop time, or at least make apparent a much larger frame. Last Sunday night, Lian called with Itay. They are now officially engaged to be married! My daughter, my little girl, definitely not little any longer! These are the things that mark our lives, that outline the larger frame of time. It is also the "event" I referred to in the previous post.

Jill and I knew about the impending proposal. Itay actually called to ask for our blessing. He's really proven to be a decent and kind guy, and I believe he and Lian will make a wonderful life together. Jill and I are both thrilled.

The engagement ring has one large diamond with eight smaller diamonds around it, four on each side. Itay told Lian it was for the eight years they've been together (yes, I think he's stood the 'test of time'), and the larger one for the lifetime they plan to spend together. I love that stuff.

Oh my sweet darling girl! Oh time, oh time!


We finally got some snow! Down here in central NJ we had about 6-7", just about right in my book, but elsewhere in the northeast it was pretty bad. Hamden, CT (a few miles from where my nephew Stefan is attending Quinnipiac University) received forty inches! 40"! That's a lot of snow. Here are some photos I snapped this morning around our house: Three things happened this week that I want to write/report. It's interesting that I think of this blog now as more 'reporting' than 'writing'. I originally imagined this is some kind of Last Testament, a compendium of my deepest thoughts about life and eternity for my friends and family. Now it's a useful way to get information out, even if the information is somewhat mundane (like this week). It's hard to remain on the cutting-edge of mortal awareness, although the edge isn't all that far away. In my darker late-night imaginings, I figure it's times like now when things go surprisingly awry. But when are we ever prepared for surprisingly bad news? I certainly wasn't six years ago.

The first thing is that I had another good check-up wit Dr. Pearse. Keren (PA) said my stats looked "absolutely perfect". I also read today that the myeloma drug Pomalidomide (Celgene's next-generation Revlimid) has been approved for use by the FDA. It's nice to have another therapy in the arsenal. Hopefully I'll continue to have "absolutely perfect" check-ups for some time yet.

The second thing that happened was a sharp telescoping of time related to this:

On Tuesday, I went to swipe my Columbia ID card to gain access to the Prentis building, and I was denied. It turns out I was expired! (well, it was my card that had expired...) The next day I went to the ID office and got the above. The time-awareness aspect came from this: 2023! I'm valid through 2023! Something about the 'twenties' seems so far in the future. I had the sense that if I could make it to 2023, I could live forever. 2023! Even saying it sounds like The Future.

The last event to report from last week was the receipt of an e-mail out-of-the-blue from an exceptionally nice person. Sometimes I get these, and I'm always happily astonished. This was an individual who had seen some of what we do at the CMC and had also stumbled across my blog. Apparently it resonated with him and he wrote me a really wonderful letter. These unexpected, human gestures that we all encounter make the telescope of time seem like a very good thing. My heartfelt thanks. I was deeply touched.

Thinking again about the writing/reporting aspect of this blog these days, I'm still only lightly-editing what I set out here. That much should be obvious, and I'm sure it makes for just fascinating reading. Oh well, there it is.


My good friend Terry has been going through a pretty rough time recently. When I was recovering from my stem-cell transplant, he wrote a series of wonderful compositions he called Healing pieces. Lately I was feeling disconnected as I do when I haven't been writing music for awhile, so I set aside time and did this for him: I hope it can help a little.

Setting aside time... as the paucity of postings here recently shows, things are pretty intense at Columbia right now. Not intense in a bad way, but just a lot of material to work through. We finished our initial graduate-composition admissions last weekend (> 100), and I'm now going through applicants for our Sound Arts faculty position, and soon I'll need to start going through the graduate applications for that same program. As I wrote to one of my colleagues, I feel nothing more than an application-reviewing machine these days. That, plus teaching, and all the other semester-is-going activities.

Something to look forward to, though: Lian is coming for a visit this weekend! Yay! Last week I also noticed that the days are getting longer. I welcome that realization more and more every year.


February is finished, and I'm kind-of glad. It's been a long and gray month, and I think that "seasonal affective disorder" is finally getting to me. A lot of work, my stomach has been on-and-off weird (and I always hypochondriac-ize about gall bladder nonsense), and everything seems really 'up in the air' right now. The political situation in the world is really bad, too. If I think too much about it, I get angry. Not good.

In about a month, many things will be settled. It is nice to know this. PLUS: Today is my mom's birthday! Happy Birthday mom!!!!!!!


I just returned from a walk over to the Post Office to get our mail. A gentle snow is falling. In the woods I could hear the subtle hiss generated by the snowflakes hitting the dry leaves on the ground. Such a sound! The whole world becomes three-dimensional. I really enjoy the snow, even when it's this late in the season. The promises I recall from my childhood (possibly no school tomorrow! sledding season ahead! HOLIDAYS!) aren't really operative with a snowfall on the cusp of springtime, but the residual magic is still there. I guess because snow is such a relatively rare but transformative thing that it can vivdily evoke such good memories for me. I have had a lucky life; the memories are indeed happy.

The promise of the season-to-come right now is Spring, though. It has been a long and gray February, and the grayness bled into March. However, things are progressing. We've now sent out the acceptance letters to our inaugural class of students for our new Sound Arts MFA program. We have four finalists for the Sound Arts faculty position now scheduled for campus visits in the next three weeks. We're half-way through the term, the "production workshop" is planned (more on this later), and -- despite the snow -- there are signs of Spring. Photos from another snowfall we had a few weeks ago:

and these from last week: Like I said, it's snowing now, but the snowdrops and crocuses are already up. Columbia is intense (my excuse for not posting more here -- I even promised a good friend and neighbor I would write something last Monday but then didn't get a chance!), but in a good way. I had another fine appointment with Dr. Pearse and Keren last week. My stomach upset is under control, and it is most definitely the result of the maintenance Revlimid. I can live with that. Lian, Daniel and Jill are all doing well. I am ready for Spring.


Yesterday, St. Patrick's Day. I was telling Jill how my sense of that holiday has changed as I've gotten older. When I was young, it seemed like a 'nothing' holiday. We didn't get out of school, no prizes or gifts happened, we didn't even study any presidential history or anything. The most was to be sure to dress up with something green on so you wouldn't get punched at recess. Ok, maybe we got to cut out some green-construction-paper shamrocks. Big deal.

But now it's a day I really look forward to. I listen to Irish folk music all day long, I sip Guinness Extra Stout, Jill makes some appropriately Irish food for dinner. Last night we had corned beef, potato pancakes and baby cabbage (well, Brussels sprouts, close enough). The thing that I now realize really makes it a proper holiday, though, is the way it stands as the gateway to springtime. We had residual snow on the ground, it was wet and cold, but -- as I noted in the post above -- the crocuses and snowdrops are blooming. Even the daffodils and summertime tiger-lilies are now showing signs of life. The seasons will change. I like that.

Today is March 18, the day after St. Patrick's Day. It is cold, it is gray, some desultory sleet fell earlier this afternoon. This is a very unhappy day. Looking out our back window, a single green pine bough was hanging down, swaying slowly in the wind. It moved back and forth against a backdrop of bare brown tree-trunks and a gray-blue sky. For a very slight moment, I had the feeling I could glimpse eternity in this scene. It was, it is, it ever shall be.


I wish this was an April Fool's posting, but it isn't. Jill called this evening. She was on her way to the animal clinic. We had to have our older cat, Nissa, put to sleep tonight. This was the context informing the "unhappy day" comment in my previous blog post. At the beginning of our Spring Break week, I had taken Nissa to the vet because she was very listless and seemed to be feeling bad. It turned out that she had a massive stomach tumor, probably related to a feline lymphoma. The vet gave us some steroids to ease her inflammation, and for the past several weeks she staged a bit of a recovery. Although she still was moving slowly around the house, she seemed to be more of her 'old self' for a time.

When Jill arrived home from work this evening, Nissa was lying on the floor, meowing. She couldn't get up. Jill took her to the vet, and the time had come. Nissa had a good, long run of it. The kids dated her birth on April 1, so we think she had just turned sixteen or seventeen years old. Not bad. She was also a terrific mouser, definitely holding up her end of the 'domesticated animal' contract. A really sweet kitty, too.

Jill said she did ok until she lifted the empty cat carrier to leave the animal clinic. Thinking of that makes me sad, too. Mortality. Time. I'm so wrapped up in work at Columbia right now, and then this happens. Time.


This week I'm coming to the end of a fairly intense time of work. It's been good work, though. We're meeting to decide on our Sound Arts faculty position soon. All four candidates have made the 'campus visit', and they were all excellent. It will be a difficult choice. This coming Sunday is when we are hosting a 'music production' workshop. I made a graphic announcing it: Good people, although I'm discouraged at the gender imbalance. It's a problem in the field, and I bet we'll discuss it at the workshop. I'll say more about the workshop later. And the faculty choice, too. Maybe.

The weather has finally turned nice with a vengeance. Tomorrow we are supposed to be up near 80 degrees F! I'm picking Gregory Taylor up at the airport; he/Terry/I are planning to do some recording again since Gregory will be out here for the production workshop. That's always good for my soul.

I haven't said much here about Nissa. To be sure, I haven't said much here at all lately. Coming home last week was sad. Xenon seemed to be trying to meow (he's not a big vocalizer) to make up for the loss of Nissa's on-going cat conversation. Here's a photo I took of Nissa a few weeks ago, right after we learned she was dying:

That's it for now. Lian and Daniel are both doing well. Jill has been producing some stunning pottery (click here or here to see some pictures on Facebook). Visits with Dr. Pearse have been good.


Time flies. I am now 56 years old. Daniel enters his last teen-age year tomorrow. I'm at the end of a Big Time at Columbia, and all seems to have worked well. The "composition/production" workshop this past Sunday (my actual birthday -- friends sang the song to me!) was terrific, and the Sound Arts search is finally winding down. Terry, Gregory and I did some good recording. Lots to post here, pictures, info, music, soon.


I suspect my blog has become 'facebook-ized'. I think about writing things here, and then I run out of time/energy, and then I hastily jot down what essentially amounts to "status updates" in FB parlance. What am I doing now? What was I doing just then? Again, I go back to my originary impulse for writing this: I wanted to leave some trace, some impression of what I thought, what I felt, that gosh-darned DEEPER MEANING OF LIFE for Jill and the kids. I thought I was gonna die!

Well, I am. Today, however, death doesn't loom as large as it once did. Or perhaps it does but I've just learned to properly ignore it and continue living. And maybe that's what the "status update" nature of my recent reportage here is now highlighting, that the simple act of living is how we define ourselves, our lives. We do it because that's what we do. What we make of it, that's something else. The something else that (hopefully) we do get to make up, a part of existence that we can exercise some control over.

The springtime has been especially vivid for me this go-round, and I realized today that I completely missed most of it last year. The flowers, the trees, the days of uncanny warmth. The nights of recollected coolness. The slant of the light. The smells. It's all so beautiful!

As I have hinted in my bloggish "status updates", the semester is ending well. For some reason today I thought of the ending of another term that was going well, end-of-term December 2010. Times like this are when I should be careful, be mindful. I never know when things will go strange again. Maybe the lesson is not to live in fear of those potentialities, but instead to embrace the "status updates" as the marks of our lived-through time, and to do our level best to enjoy the path we've traced up to now.

I'm sensitive to time passing today, because 19 years ago Daniel was born. HAPPY BIRTHDAY DANIEL! Daniel's last year as a teenager is coming up! We never knew life would be like this. It's amazing; it's wonderful.


Today wasn't the best of days. My mom and dad's cat, Techie, had to be put to sleep this morning. Just like Nissa, it was an older cat (about the same age, actually), and he had been experiencing increasing amounts of arthritis pain. Last night he couldn't stand up, so it was apparent that the time had come.

Daniel found out that a summer grant he had helped to write was not funded, so he won't be employed at my friend Dave's lab. Dave is probably not too pleased himself; I'm sure that research funding is, sadly and annoyingly (STUPID sequester!) in dire straits right now. This is not good.

And I've got a head cold. I saw Roger yesterday, and he wasn't too concerned ("there's a lot of viral infections making the rounds right now"). The good news I can report is that I only have to go back every two months or so. This means they're pretty happy with my level of remission. You take the good with the bad, and I'll definitely take that "good"!


Classes ended today, and -- except for feeling really lousy for most of last week -- all is ending well. Funny that springtime should seem an 'ending'. Such is the academic life. Of course it's also a beginning, and the things that have wound down through this past term are definitely beginnings.

First of all, the job search for our new Sound Arts MFA program has been completed. We had an unbelievably talented roster of finalists for the position. We have offered the position to Douglas Repetto, who is probably best-poised to get the program running right now. My hope is to really grow the program, however, and get the others who were seriously considered involved. It's taken me almost five years to get this to happen, and I do believe it will be a very exciting adventure as it takes off. I haven't said much in this blog about it for many reasons (the on-going job search for one). I think I'll talk more in a future post.

But I have more things to report now! This is a report-post! Stuff has happened! I mentioned briefly above that we held our "composition/production" workshop on my birthday a few weeks ago. It also went extremely well. We're now ramping up to get a good documentary website happening, and my hope is that this will also "take off".

Speaking of 'taking off', we put on our "Sound and Light Parade" this past Saturday here in Roosevelt. It was a part of the Roosevelt Arts Project 25th Anniversary celebration. Douglas came down (with family) along with Doug Geers (and family, this was a family weekend!) and helped build a bunch of LED structures that we marched around the town after the sun went down. The real 'taking off' aspect was a set of Chinese lanterns that Jill launched. They took off! Fire! in the sky! Very dramatic, very exciting. One did get caught in a tree but fortunately burned out before creating a truly memorable event for our neighbors. Jeff Ellentuck had alerted the fire department, so we did have a few safety measures in place. The whole thing was great fun though. Lots of clanky noisemakers, maracas, tambourines, drums, LEDs flashing, and flaming things in the sky. What's not to like?

Also as part of the RAP celebration, my next-door neighbor Alan Mallach put on a piano recital featuring works by Roosevelt composers. Four of us were represented. Not bad for a town of 350 houses. He did two of my older piano pieces. I'll get recordings up here soon.

And speaking of recordings, here are a few that also happened in April:

Final few items to write down: Daniel was able to find some alternate funding for the summer, so he's thrilled that he will be able to work in Dave's lab again. Lian is in Italy, and SHE BOUGHT A HOUSE! In Seattle, not Italy... she and Itay put in an offer on a beautiful home in the Green Lake/Ballard area of Seattle, and it was accepted! They're in Italy for some relaxation. What a life!

So much going on, and I fell down in writing about it all. I'll need to elaborate a bit more on some of what I've just posted here. I really was feeling bad last week. I thought I was coming down with a bad cold, and in fact I was concerned about pneumonia enough (lots of chest-wheezing and coughing) that I went to our doctor on Friday. Yikes, it turns out that I have allergies. I haven't had anything like this since I was in grade school. I've heard that this year was particularly bad, but how could I have allergies? Easy -- I have a rebooted immune system. As I said in my last post, the good with the bad.


More clearing-out going on. Spring cleaning? More like the end of the term has now opened up a little time to begin catching-up on various things. Over the past several months I've been working on more "TSPACE" pieces for Terry (mentioned above). Here they are: Thanks to Alan Mallach's piano concert as part of the Roosevelt Arts Project 25th Anniversary celebration, I was able to make recordings of two of my old piano pieces: Memories from more than ten years ago. We're still making new memories, too. Here are some photos from the RAP event earlier this month: At this point I tend to end the quick-writing here with some platitudinous remark like "What a time!" or "Oh my, Life!" or "These memories!", but this time I don't think I will.


The sky was overcast when I woke up this morning. The weather prediction was for a nice, sunshiney day, but I didn't mind the clouds. The grey dawn muted the infinite variety of "green" outside our bedroom window, making the world into a study of soft viridescence. Daniel had just come home the prior afternoon, and Lian and Itay are due in for a visit in a few days. I've finished most of my responsibilities for the Spring term, and earlier in the week I was able to grab a little prime hacking-time and solved some coding problems. I updated a number of things that needed updating, and I'm slowly catching up on overdue e-mails (yikes!). I noticed that the morning May birds were in full-throat. And I felt.. good! Above and beyond my normal I-am-not-a-morning-person feeling, I didn't have any physical badness invading my awareness.

As I lay there, looking out the window, drifting in and out of consciousness, I thought: this is the reality of the contemporary academic buzz-word "embodiment". It was being in the world. It was being of the world. It was embracing the world. I felt alive, and a good alive.

I'm a fan of Richard Rorty's philosophy. Much of it makes sense to me, and I also find it congenial with what I imagine my musical mission to be (maybe more on this later). However, what I read as his notion of the linguistic contingency of our beliefs and cultural values didn't always square with my 'embodied' experiences; experiences where I felt connected to something that was 'out there'. I have read most of his collected writings, but I somehow never got around to going through one of his most famous books, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity. I'm about halfway through now.

Rorty writes that yes there is a universe 'out there', but that universe it is utterly alien to us. We try to make sense of it through our language-facility, but the notion that we can identify universal truths or eternal cultural values through the very languages that we invent is ludicrous. I used to wonder how the world appeared to The Looch, our good old dog. I analogize our attempts to explain and understand the inhuman/implacable universe to Loocher's understanding of the world we inhabit. Our brains have certain capabilities, but they also have certain restrictions. Maybe what we cannot fathom is best labelled "god". That doesn't make it a timeless truth. When we attempt to do that, we bring it into our self-constructed language, and it is diminished. That's probably why my 'embodied' experiences seem so ineffable. I can't describe them.

Looch would often howl at big sounds, things that she could not comprehend. Like Looch I also howl in my own embodied way at the cosmos, but lately it's been a good howl. Or at least it was this morning.


Jeez I am so ridiculous sometimes! I wrote this on June 6 (two days ago), but forgot to post it. Here it is now. The good news is that part of why I forgot is I'm doing a lot of fun music and code hacking. Plus just liking being around the house.

Once again I am sitting on our upper back porch and very much enjoying life today. I went for my morning swim outdoors for the first time this season. The water was cool but very refreshing. A tropical storm is heading up the coast, but the weather the past several days has been spectacular. Oh the mindless rambling here! Oh the platitudes, the commenting on the weather! Where are the life-lessons I intended to write when I thought I would be dead soon? Where are the pithy and cogent observations on the human condition, art, composition, existence? The fact that I don't seem to have grand things to say right now leads me to an inarticulateness, a lack of consistent blog-postings. Am I done?

I think back to how I was feeling last year at this time -- occasionally I get these strange flashbacks, triggered by a smell, a sound, the way the light reflects on something -- and perhaps the simple fact of writing the banalities of existence is the lesson here. I look down over our back yard. The peonies are blooming, yellow primroses are out, and the infinite variety of the color green is beyond my real comprehension. This is it. Here I am. What could be better, right now? Perhaps it is the simple act of recording these things that forms the grandness of life I somehow hope to communicate. Yikes! Taking it all so seriously!

I'm also not posting much here for an inadequate reason, something that also affects my teaching at Columbia: I always feel like I'm repeating myself. To be sure, this is probably true; the various "stories" I tell to friends, colleagues and students are near-legendary in their repetition ("stop me if you've heard this one before!"). But more to the point, I often feel that I should always write or teach something new. The problem is that, in classes at least, new students haven't encountered my diatribes against the assumptions surrounding things like "concerts", "art", "composition/composers" (oh yeah...) and how we define 'success' in these various endeavors. Given some of the recent articles I've read, these issues still have currency in today's happy world.

Finishing the Rorty book mentioned above, I realize that he repeated his core message throughout several decades of writing. Of course, he was able to spin intellectual variegations that were marvelous to apprehend, but I doubt he worried too much that he was repeating himself. In fact, I think he was very much aware of his restatements; it was part of how he made his arguments known. So I guess I'll still keep writing and talking, repeating my repetitions, and something will result even if it is a demonstration of a trite and clichéd existence. At least it's mine, and that may be the point.


Jill had to go to a retirement party tonight, three this week alone in the NJ DEP, so I had my 'standard' Jill-gone dinner (hot dogs, soup and/or Indian food, strawberry jam on bread + butter, chips of some kind). Today was such an amazingly gorgeous day that I decided to eat out on our back porch. Twilight was deepening, I was enjoying my food(!), there was a gentle-bordering-on-fresh breeze blowing through the trees, the early summer bugs and frogs were starting to trill.

Then it happened: I felt like I could see through to the quantum world. The two clotheslines we use when possible cut through the scene of trees and sky, and something about their linearity caused a diffraction, or maybe more a diffusion of light between them. I felt like I could see into the putative seven dimensions beyond the three or four we experientially inhabit. It almost seemed as if I could reach out and touch this parallel world. If I did, what would I find? Immortality? A way out of time?

In the meantime, I'm structuring time in various ways. I'm getting a lot of good programming done, and I'm working on several new pieces. This is fun!


As I noted awhile back, lately I've been having thoughts of where I was and how I was feeling about a year ago at this time. They're not really 'flashbacks'; more like a memory triggered by the feel of the air or the look of the sunlight. Tonight we were at a neighborhood graduation party for Zev Reuter, receiving his BA degree this month. I ran into another good friend and neighbor, Melissa Branco, and it occurred to me that I had never properly thanked her. She would stop in and check on me, make lunches, be sure that I was doing ok (she has extensive EMT training) during my transplant recovery. So... THANKS Melissa! I remember what it was like.

I'm sure that through life I overlook many things like this that I should do or should be doing. If I can catch at least a few, then that's at least a few better.


We just returned from an excellent visit to see Mom and Dad back in Indiana -- a real midwestern Fourth of July! We flew into Indianapolis on the 4th itself, where we met Lian arriving from Seattle. Amazingly, all of the airline arrangements coordinated, even with multiple thunderstorms in the area. On the way down to Columbus we saw fireworks across the cornfields. We are Americans, by golly.

Lian was there, Daniel flew out with us, it was a good gathering. To be honest, we didn't really do all that much, and that was just fine.

So much seems to have happened since the last time I wrote anything here. I finished a new piece, Daniel is going great guns at Dave's lab, Jill is dealing with NJ DEP fun and producing stunningly beautiful works of ceramic art, my sister's beloved dog Casey passed away, friends and neighbors gather here in Roosevelt for various things, I've had visits with far-flung old friends, and I haven't written about any of these.

I think about writing a lot, and in fact that's one of my biggest obstacles to getting things done. When I think of something, I can almost pretend that I've done that something. A disease of academics, for sure. I have been getting a lot accomplished, though: programming, music, paper-reading. But I've also been withdrawn. I believe I recognize this -- my sabbatical year is starting. I need to write about it. Happy Independence Day, by the way!


Friday night at dinner with Jill, she was describing how she feels a strong sense of unreality these days. This is manifest especially at work, where her remaining two months before she retires are slowly passing. Once she accommodated herself to her leaving the State, things began to seem very strange. She describes it something like being-there-but-not. It's the opposite of the 'mindfulness' she strives for. She said that instead of being in the moment, fully engaged by what is presently happening, she is living in some indeterminate future, an existence she can't know. We both believe that our planned trip to Japan for several months is one of the best things that could happen. It will make apparent the break, and that will undoubtedly help the shift to a different life.

Me? I'm spending time living in the past. I've been digitizing a bunch of old records, giving my new Macbook Air a workout. Much of the music I'm hearing as I hack away at RTcmix code come from vinyl LPs that I haven't listened to since high school. Memory lane? More like Memory Boulevard. It's wide and vast. Music just zings me back to my imagined self thirty or forty years ago. Right now I'm hearing Kate Bush' Never for Ever as I type. I can almost smell the subtle mustiness of our basement at 919 North Salisbury in West Lafayette. How do I feel as I inhabit my then-Brad construction? Unsettled. My life was in free-fall at that point; the joy of being twenty-three and having no serious future mapped (I had just dropped out of the Speech and Hearing Science grad program at Purdue). I listened then, and I wondered why I couldn't make music as a living.

I'm also imagining a future past. What will it be like a year from now, the July before I resume my full-time work at Columbia after a year of sabbatical? My imagination helps drive me to get things done. I don't want to recall a 'wasted year', although sometimes what seems a waste is actually a time of metamorphosis (as I listen to Kate Bush sing Army Dreamers). But I have been getting a fair amount of coding done, coding that I need to finish to do my planned sabbatical project. Ha -- it's about music and memory.

I'm also having fun making music, as always. Here is the new piece I finished at the end of June:

Yeah! Pretending to be young again! Rock-star dad, as I tell Lian and Daniel. I haven't produced a web page for this, like for my other pieces, because I'm hoping this is the first of several 'funk'-like pieces. Fun! And speaking of fun (and pretending to be young), late this afternoon I'm going to drive a Lamborghini! It was a birthday gift from Jill, and I'm now exercising the option. And, and, speaking of birthdays, I've missed a few in this blog:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY NEPHEW BO! (July 13, yesterday)




I tell my friends that anyone who grows up in Indiana learns at least two things: basketball and cars. I do "know" basketball, although I'm not at all good at it. Cars, however, I can drive.

As I mentioned in my previous post, last weekend I took advantage of a birthday gift my wonderful wife gave to me. I got behind the wheel of a Lamborghini and drove it around! Yes I can drive cars! Expensive and fast ones, too!

A very silly thing, to be sure, but I had a blast. I think even Jill and Daniel enjoyed it. Exotica cars really are exotic. This is also something that I've imagined my whole life. When I was a kid, I had a collection of Matchbox cars, and one of my favorites was a yellow Lamborghini Miura. It looked really cool, and the name -- Lamborghini -- sounded so exotic (that word again) to a young boy in southern Indiana. When I was older, my friend Pat (also into foreign sports cars) and I used to drive around hoping we might see a Lamborghini or a Ferrari tooling along the back roads of Bartholomew County. Every once in a great while we might catch a Porsche in town, but high-end Italian automobiles weren't much in evidence in Hoosierland.

But here I am, almost 40 years later, driving a Lamborghini Spyder:

more photos here: Wheee!!!! It really was fun. The feeling of power and control was quite amazing, even if a large part of that feeling was just a mental construction. And I could have driven that very car home for only $300k (it was used...).

Less than a week behind in my postings here. That's a bit of progress. Summer is winding along. It has been extremely hot and humid for the past several weeks, the last few days even getting towards 100°. Jill had minor vascular surgery on her leg yesterday and is doing fine. I had another good appointment ("everything is as normal as it could be") with Dr. Pearse and Karen on Wednesday. I feel kind of lousy today because I had my six-month Zometa infusion also on Wednesday. I'll sit at home and imagine I'm driving a Lambo.


Jill took these pictures around the back yard a few days ago. For many reasons, I just like them. So here they are:

I've been reading a book, How Much is Enough?: Money and the Good Life.



Several days ago the weather dramatically changed. Going from highs of 100° to a high only in the upper 60's yesterday in the space of twenty-four hours caused some serious time/place dislocation. All of a sudden, it's Fall. The katydids started katydid-ing, and again I was struck by how much the sonic environment evokes a regress of memories. The past autumns, all overlaid atop each other, all permeating my awareness with the feeling of that time, and that time, building together to make a sense of my life.

I'm hoping to exploit this aural memory-trigger in the project I've planned for my sabbatical. The other day I was walking around town to go get the mail, and I passed by a wooded area down the street from our home. The sun was shining, and coming from a deep, reverberant place in the trees was the call of a wood thrush. I tried to get a recording from our Roosevelt woods, but it was gone later. Here is the sound of it taken from the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

(I added a small amount of reverb to simulate the tree-reflection sound that adds to the character I feel. Interestingly, this recording was made in Brown County, Indiana, about 15 miles from my home.)

Typically the wood thrush is truly a 'woodland' bird; you generally hear it in the deep woods. I used to hear it back home in Indiana, walking through the (sadly now developed) woods nearby, or visiting friends with houses located far off the road. The sound of it immediately brought forth my personal memories of being alive then, being a young kid in Indiana with both an unlimited sense of possibility but with a limited scope of possibility. I really had no idea how life would be, but at the same time my naiveté was offset by a feeling that most anything was possible.

Now here I am, reliving that feeling as triggered by a sound. It is like magic to me that sound and music can do that. My life as audio. That's what I'm aiming for in my sabbatical book-project. I'm fairly certain it will be mainly of interest only to me. But that doesn't bother me, too much. I am lucky that I can do this.


What a week so far! This past Sunday, Weill-Cornell sponsored a 'stem cell transplant survivors' luncheon cruise around Manhattan. They had rented a large (three decks!) boat from World Yacht and treated all of us and their staff to an excellent buffet while sailing by the Statue of Liberty, lower Manhattan, Ellis Island, etc. Daniel went with me as a guest and had a really good time -- or so he says to his ole Dad. He was amazed by the positive attitude of many of the survivors. Like me, they realize that the alternative with a dire diagnosis is a void of depression and despair. I was also heartened to chat with survivors who were 10+ years out from their transplant procedures. Finding people who are living proof that these things can work sure helps with that positive attitude business.

Daniel also got a chance to talk briefly with Dr. Mark and some of the staff about research and medicine, and I enjoyed the opportunity to chat with the terrific caregivers at the Myeloma Center and the main hospital. Several of them are retiring (Patty Garcia the main administrator, yikes!) or moving to new jobs (Alana Surun; she's done most of my scheduling for the past several years), so it was good to be able to talk with them one last time. And the food was delicious.

Then Monday evening my friend Dan Trueman invited me over for a few beers and conversation. That activity in and of itself is nice, but this time was especially fun: Dan was working with Irish Sean nós [traditional] folk-singer Iarla Ó Lionáird. I've been a big fan of Iarla's dating back to his early work with the band The Afro Celt Sound System as well as his solo albums. Son Daniel was also impressed by the invitation; he's also an Iarla fan, mainly because of the Gaelic and Old Irish dialects Iarla often uses on his recordings.

We had a delightful time, or at least I did. Iarla had many good tales to tell (he is Irish, after all!). Just for fun, I did a little piece today using samples from Dan and Iarla's recordings as a 'thank-you' musical gift. The web page about it is here.

Today we're getting an emergency back-up generator installed for our Roosevelt home. Two weeks in the cold and dark last November was a powerful motivator. Jill and I figured that if we actually believe what we say we believe about global climate change, the storms and extreme weather aren't going to get much better. This will provide us with a bit of comfort the next time the lights (and stove, and heat, and refrigerator...) go down.

8/11/2013 -- next page