2005 February at John Mackey's Blog



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  • February 25, 2005


    I played the new piece, “Sasparilla,” for Rick Clary last night, and his first reaction concerned programming. The piece has such a light tone that Rick felt — correctly, I think — that the piece doesn’t work as a concert opener. (When Lamar first approached me about the commission, they requested a concert opener, if possible.) It seems that “Sasparilla” is probably a closer, because, as Rick put it, “anything after this would sound awfully stern — like Hindemith.”

    AEJ joked that it would probably be inappropriate to put Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder right before (or after) “Sasparilla.” For those who don’t know German, kindertotenlieder is “songs on the death of children.” Not a particularly lite piece. Thus came about my terribly inappropriate brain storm this morning — a band piece called “Kindertotenpolkas: Polkas on the Deaths of Children.”

    I’m still optimistic that “Sasparilla” is a crowd-pleaser — but I hadn’t given any thought to how it might be programmed. Fortunately, that’s out of my hands.

    The CBDNA convention is off to a good start. Texas A&M University-Commerce and Rutgers Wind Ensemble gave great performances yesterday to kick things off. My favorite pieces on the program were Jeff Gershman’s arrangement of Frank Zappa’s “G-Spot Tornado,” and Jonathan Newman’s new piece, “The Rivers of Bowery.” Both pieces had colors that I’m not used to hearing in wind ensemble pieces, and they both made me want to throw out the “Sasparilla” orchestration and start over. I think Newman’s piece is wonderful — so good that it needs to be about three times longer. If anybody wants to organize a consortium to commission a longer version of the piece, let me know.

    This afternoon are concerts by the Goldman Band and the Small College Intercollegiate Band. Tonight is the New England Conservatory Wind Ensemble and Michigan. I’m particularly excited about the Michigan program — Bright Sheng, a new Michael Daugherty piece, and a premiere by Susan Botti, whose music I don’t know yet.

    Tomorrow, Ithaca performs “Redline Tango” at Hunter College. I just learned that the concert is in the Hunter Assembly Hall — not the smaller Kaye Playhouse. This means it’s going to look pretty empty if a whole lot of people don’t come. So — please come! (The concert is at 1:30. The Univerisity of Louisville Wind Ensemble plays until 2:30, when Ithaca will close the show.)


    February 20, 2005

    Odds 'n' Ends

    I didn’t write much of a day-to-day summary of what happened at TMEA. If you’re curious how Friday night went — complete with pictures — check out Daniel Montoya Jr.’s blog.

    I ordered the Treo 650 a few weeks ago, and it should arrive tomorrow. Yay, gadgets! (Anybody wanna buy a semi-broken Treo 600? I’ll make you a deal…)

    I’m heading up to Ithaca College on Tuesday morning for their performance that night of Redline Tango. I heard a recording of the group about a week ago, and they’re great. They’re also performing the piece in New York City on Saturday afternoon, as part of the CBDNA convention. If you’re coming to NY for the convention, drop me a note so we can get together for a tasty beverage.

    I just read an interview with The Master, John Corigliano, on this month’s NewMusicBox. Check it out.

    The NewSchlachtMans came over for dinner & movie night last night. Dinner was tasty, but the movie — boy howdy. If you have not seen “Can’t Stop The Music,” you must. We were all in hysterics, and I found myself laughing so hard I cried several times. It may be one of the all-time worst movies ever made. And I own it. (When the cast includes Steve Guttenburg, Olympic medalist Bruce Jenner, and The Village People, what’s not to love?!) My thanks to Newman, MJS, and AEJ for sitting through it with me. Those are true friends.


    February 17, 2005

    A Year of Kitty

    Okay, this entry may make some of you gag. It has nothing to do with music. It’s entirely about Loki, our cat, who turned 1 year old today.
    Get ready for the sweetest blog entry you will ever see here. I give you “The Year of Loki.”

    Who can forget the day that AEJ and I met Loki?

    And Loki’s first (and still only) car ride?

    Sometimes Loki likes to just check out what I’m working on…

    Other times, he wants to actively “help.” He’s quite helpy.

    But after a few minutes of intense composition, Loki needs a nap.

    Loki used to be awfully tiny. Can you find him in this picture? (The stunning blonde is none other than AEJ.)

    In fact, he used to fit on top of his scratching post.

    Now, though, he barely fits in this bucket.

    Sure, he may look sweet one minute…

    … but watch out….

    … especially if you’re a mouse. Who can forget Loki’s first mouse friend? (It’s a true New York apartment, in case there was any doubt.)

    And Loki’s first day outside? (I have no idea who that little girl is, but she took quite a liking to Loki.)

    Then there was Loki’s first Christmas — and his introduction to Robosapien. The two never really did hit it off.

    Sometimes Loki likes to go up high.

    Other times, he likes to sit in boxes. Yahtzee, anyone? Loki prefers the Harley Davidson edition.

    After a hard day of sleeping and attacking our feet, sometimes Loki likes lounging on AEJ’s lap. Apparently he’s never seen how cats are supposed to sit.

    We love little Loki. He weighed 1 pound when we got him, and now he weighs 10. As AEJ likes to say, “we grew him!” Happy birthday, Mr. Kitty!

    (I promise that normal blog entries will resume tomorrow, for those of you with no soul.)


    February 15, 2005

    How much is too much?

    I got a brochure in the mail today from Qualia, Sony’s new ultra-high end audio line. The brochure is for a pair of headphones called the Qualia 010.
    Now, I love gadgets, and I really love audio gadgets. And the brochure is beautifully done.

    All that they’ve left out is the price. How much could they be? I mean, they’re headphones. Granted, they invited me — in the personalized cover letter — to come audition them in their Madison Avenue showroom, but still, they’re just headphones.
    Curious how much a pair of Sony headphones could cost? Click here. And if you write a review on that website, they’ll knock $5 off. Nice.


    New and Improved

    I showed the new piece to Scott Weiss when I was in San Antonio last week. His reaction was positive (whew!), but he wasn’t crazy about the title. Scott’s thinking was that “Lone Star” wasn’t, well, great, and the “Polka” part of the title wasn’t accurate. “It’s not a polka,” he told me. Scott suggested, correctly, I think, that the piece is more about cowboy than polka. Plus, “polka” doesn’t sound especially hip.
    I spoke to AEJ about it that night, and she started brainstorming. (I don’t know what I’d do without her…) She quickly came up with this new title: “Sasparilla.” I like it, and so far, the reaction has been positive all around. (For those who don’t know, sasparilla is a liquor that used to be served in saloons.) The title fits, as the piece sounds like it tells the tale of an old west saloon. Plus, “sasparilla” is a pretty cool word.