2005 March at John Mackey's Blog



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  • March 23, 2005

    Toys that aren't toys

    Anybody have any experience with the Vienna Symphony Library samples? I’ve used the mallet samples (they’re the primary source of sounds in the recording of “Mass“), but that’s it. I’m considering picking up the Brass & Woodwinds collection. My wind samples are especially lacking, and other than good trombone samples, I really don’t have good brass, either. Since I’ll be writing primarily wind ensemble works for the next two years, the Vienna collection might be a good investment. (Plus, they’re tax deductible!) They seem fun — one of those toys that isn’t quite a toy — but are they worth the expense? Comments, anyone?

    I keep meaning to take some time off, but for the past two days, I’ve been busy. Being away for a week leaves a lot to catch up on. Some of it is minor, like burning CDs of the original orchestra version of “Redline Tango” for the Cabrillo Festival. (Shameless plug, but Marin Alsop is doing the piece there on August 13. I am mad excited.) I also decided to clean up the score for the wind version of “Redline Tango,” since I was out of full-size 11×17 scores, and I had just been blowing up an 8.5×14 master up until now. I finally grouped the choirs together and moved the bassoon and contrabassoon up to the upper choir, so they’re grouped with the flutes and oboes. It’s a small touch, but it looks a lot better to me. Plus, since I have a tabloid printer now, it made sense to finally format a master copy at that size. That took most of yesterday.

    Much of the remainder of yesterday and today was taken by catching up on emails. The good news is that three ensembles in the past two days have programmed Redline Tango for next fall: University of Miami, University of Oklahoma, and Peabody. Add those to Northwestern and Bowling Green, who have just programmed it for this semester, and that little piece will get some fantastic play over the next several months!

    The plan tonight is to make beef stew with AEJ. Well, sort of. I’ll make the marinade and cut all of the vegetables tonight, but it’ll cook all day tomorrow. Gotta love the crock pot. (I think I may actually be a grandmother at heart. And given my love of cream corn, perhaps I’m a white trash grandmother.)

    Mmm…. Cream corn…


    March 20, 2005

    Come On Home

    First, let me send a sincere congratulations to David Upham and the Classical Orchestra of the Seattle Youth Symphonies. They gave a great and spirited performance of “Under the Rug” tonight here in Seattle. That piece doesn’t have a lot of “music” in it, and it really needs a conductor who gets it, and David truly did. It was a pleasure hearing them play, and their performance actually made me feel even better about the piece (which I had only heard live once before). A heart-felt thank you to everybody — from the vibe player who nailed that nasty part (and required him to learn how to play with 4 mallets just so he could play this part!) to the French horns and their spirited rips, from the clarinets who easily navigated those terribly awkward low-register glisses, to the trumpets who made those Harmon mutes sound better than they deserved.

    Bye for now, Seattle. It’s been a fun week, and I met a lot of great people. (And Jennifer — don’t let me forget to send you a CD of Juba!)

    Tomorrow morning, I head home to NYC. I’m mad excited to see AEJ and just take it easy for a few days. There are a few things to do — write the short piece for the Endangered Instruments program here in Seattle, make a few new sets of “Redline Tango” to fill some orders (yes, I mean you, Bowling Green) — but in general, I’m just going to rest a bit. Oh, and play with Loki.

    I head to USC a week from Wednesday, where H. Robert Reynolds is doing “Redline Tango” with the wind ensemble. I couldn’t be more excited about that trip. I’ve never been to LA, Reynolds is a legend, and the wind ensemble at USC is out of control, as I mentioned before. I think the best part of that trip, though, is that AEJ is joining me. (Can you tell from the past few entries that I’m more than a little homesick?)

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    March 19, 2005

    Tasty Cookies

    You’d think, from the relative lack of postings this week, that I’m quite busy in Seattle. Actually, that’s not totally true. Of course there have been activities every day but Thursday — my day off — but my schedule is generally completely open as of about 2pm. (Yesterday, for example, I visited Newport High School music classes for about three hours, followed by a Youth Symphony board meeting, followed by a great lunch with a board member and another guest. As of 2:30, though, I was done.)

    So what on earth have I been doing?!

    No idea. I spend a lot of time with the laptop at that coffee bar, partially because traveling is terribly lonely for me, and just being around people — even if they’re strangers and I’m not talking to them — is better than sitting alone in my hotel. (And perhaps the fact that I’m sitting in my hotel right now is reflected in the decidedly non-uplifting tone of this entry.)

    Last night, I treated myself to some fantastic sushi at a restaurant called Yamashiro Sushi Bistro. (Don’t worry — there will be a photo blog entry when I get back to NYC.) The west coast has great sushi, especially — and this isn’t surprising — the salmon. I somehow ate 10 pieces of sushi and two rolls. It was delicious, and I think I spent 90 minutes sitting at the sushi bar. (It was so good that I went back for lunch today.)

    This afternoon was spent at the mall. I don’t know what I expected, but aside from a store with Seattle-themed gifts (like salmon and coffee beans), it was a fairly standard mall. The Gap, Express, Sears, Radio Shack, etc. I did see something that I don’t remember from my youth — a “Get Your Picture Taken with the Easter Bunny” island. I’m used to the Santa thing at Christmas, and have sat on Santa’s lap in the past (there’s no joke there, I assure you), but I don’t recall the opportunity to sit on the Easter Bunny’s lap and tell him what kind of jelly beans I wanted. (What does one ask for? A case of Cadbury Cream Eggs? Or maybe these for AEJ?) This particular Easter Bunny was kind of terrifying, and the bawling child — reaching futilely for his mommy in a desperate attempt to free himself from the clutches of the bunny — seemed to indicate that he shared my fear.

    There are countless great restaurants here in Seattle, but aside from the sushi place, I’ve avoided them, as it’s not much fun to go to a nice dinner alone. I did go to the local IHOP a few nights ago, hoping the bustling energy and the bright lights of a big chain restaurant would give me comfort, but it was an unusually dimly-lit and depressed IHOP, where I was greeted with the most pitying “oh, just one in your party tonight?” I’ve ever heard. She may as well have added, “you poor, lonely traveler. What did you do in life to deserve so much time alone? Poor, poor little man.”

    I did, by chance, find two girls and their mother selling Girl Scout Cookies this afternoon. This was a happy thing, and I immediately called AEJ to ask her what kind of cookies she wanted. She requested a box of Tagalongs and a box of Thin Mints (who doesn’t love Thin Mints?), and I also bought a box of Do-si-dos. Three boxes of Girl Scout Cookies: $12. Where does that money go? What are the Girl Scouts doing with this seemingly massive amount of income? And is the income declared? I mean, I was explicitly told that receipts were not available. No paper trail? Isn’t this fishy? To hell with the Congressional hearings about steroid use. Let’s investigate those Girl Scouts.

    (in an effort to discourage hate mail about my Girl Scout comments, here’s a link to their site, where you can read about what they actually do. And here’s their financial report. And here’s a FAQ of how the cookie sales work, how much money goes where, how much is tax deductible, blah, blah, blah.)


    March 17, 2005

    The Best Composer Alive

    Jonathan Newman e-mailed me a few weeks ago after checking his website search referers. (That is, what people typed into Google — or whatever search engine — to end up at his site.) Somebody had typed in “Jonathan Newman, pulitzer prize.”
    Although it’s probably just a matter of time, Jonathan has not yet won a Pulitzer. (He’ll certainly win one before I will, as I’ve made obvious.) The cool thing was that somebody seemed to think that, perhaps, Jonathan had won a Pulitzer, and they Googled the combination.
    This made me wonder — what were people Googling to end up at my site? So I checked the logs.

    My favorite search this month is “crescendo of raw energy.” Yes, if you Google that phrase, the top hit is my site, specifically, the page for my piece “Juba.” How cool is that?!
    A whole lot of people found my site after doing a search for Corigliano’s “Circus Maximus.” (In fact, four of the top 10 searches this month were Corligliano-related.) Then you get some random ones. Some of my favorite random searches include:

    Steve Guttenberg 2005
    oyster texture
    qvc feet
    loki blog (somebody really wants to read a blog about my cat?!)
    kitty mackey (again, is this about my cat?)
    ca. = 116
    xanax flying
    bbbbbbbb (why would you Google this?)
    biggest carrot cake tempe
    traffic cowboy
    and “best white bean puree”

    I’m pretty sure there’s nothing on my site about the best white bean puree, but Google’s engine somehow linked that search to me. (I think it’s related to the blog entry I wrote about Jean Georges.) The cool thing is that Google will pick up anything.

    That one got me thinking. Why not call a blog entry, “The Best Composer Alive,” and then, after Google picks it up, have everybody I know Google that phrase — The Best Composer Alive — and find the link to my site, and click it. Gradually, it would move up the Google rankings, eventually moving my website into the number one search position for the phrase, “The Best Composer Alive.” This is totally the stamp of legitimacy that my career needs!

    As of right now, according to Google, that honor belongs to Hans Zimmer. Come on people — get Googling!

    And the next step will be to win a Pulitzer for our friend Jonathan Newman.

    It’s fun to have a mission.


    March 16, 2005

    Twinkies: Delicious

    That’s all. Just wanted to point out that the Twinkie is really a tasty treat. I stopped by the 7-11 after tonight’s rehearsal and picked up a few. Creamy, fun, delicious.

    And dinner tonight : also just fantastic. I managed to find a Pizza Hut Delivery shop on my way to rehearsal. I went in and ordered a personal pan pepperoni pizza “for carryout.”

    Sure, I ate it in my car, because I’m a picture of class. But can you blame me? (As you can see, I couldn’t even resist eating a piece before taking the picture.)
    Doesn’t it look delicious? And shiny? (And what’s better than shiny food? Seriously. Name me one thing that’s better than shiny food. Well, okay, two things.)

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