2005 May at John Mackey's Blog



Read about the camera


  • How I Spent My Teen Years
  • New stuff for Fall 2014!
  • UTWE Tour : Shenzhen
  • Wine-Dark Sea – the video
  • Wine-Dark Sea – recording and score
  • “Wine-Dark Sea” – the program note
  • We’re buying a house!
  • Symphony for Band – an update, with audio
  • Xerxes — for metal rock band
  • (Redacted)
  • Favorites

  • Cats: LA Cat Show
  • Design: Cambridge Studio
  • Design: Dining Room
  • Design: Family Room
  • Design: Front Door
  • Design: Kitchen, pt.1
  • Design: Kitchen, pt.2
  • Design: Kitchen, pt.3
  • Design: Kitchen, pt.4
  • Design: Kitchen, pt.5
  • Design: Living Room
  • Design: The Austin House, part 1
  • Design: The Austin House, pro shots
  • Food: Alinea
  • Food: Babbo
  • Food: Eleven Madison Park
  • Food: Jean-Georges
  • Food: Joel Robuchon
  • Food: Next: Childhood
  • Food: Samar
  • Food: Scarpetta
  • Food: WD-50
  • FSU Football
  • Japan, part 1:Tokyo
  • Japan, part 2: Sushi
  • Japan, part 3: Kyoto
  • Japan, part 4: Kobe beef
  • Japan, part 5: Tawaraya
  • Loki's First Birthday
  • Music: In Defense of Marching Band
  • Music: My Process
  • Music: Picking a School
  • Music: Pulitzer Tub
  • Music: Self-Publishing
  • Music: Self-Publishing part 2: audio
  • The Austin Rodeo Sucks
  • Archives

  • February 2015
  • July 2014
  • June 2014
  • March 2014
  • February 2014
  • January 2014
  • September 2013
  • August 2013
  • July 2013
  • June 2013
  • May 2013
  • April 2013
  • March 2013
  • February 2013
  • January 2013
  • December 2012
  • November 2012
  • October 2012
  • August 2012
  • May 2012
  • April 2012
  • March 2012
  • December 2011
  • November 2011
  • October 2011
  • September 2011
  • August 2011
  • July 2011
  • May 2011
  • April 2011
  • March 2011
  • February 2011
  • January 2011
  • December 2010
  • November 2010
  • October 2010
  • September 2010
  • August 2010
  • July 2010
  • June 2010
  • May 2010
  • April 2010
  • March 2010
  • February 2010
  • January 2010
  • December 2009
  • November 2009
  • October 2009
  • September 2009
  • August 2009
  • July 2009
  • June 2009
  • May 2009
  • April 2009
  • March 2009
  • February 2009
  • January 2009
  • December 2008
  • November 2008
  • October 2008
  • September 2008
  • August 2008
  • July 2008
  • June 2008
  • May 2008
  • April 2008
  • March 2008
  • February 2008
  • January 2008
  • December 2007
  • November 2007
  • October 2007
  • September 2007
  • August 2007
  • July 2007
  • June 2007
  • May 2007
  • April 2007
  • March 2007
  • February 2007
  • January 2007
  • December 2006
  • November 2006
  • October 2006
  • September 2006
  • August 2006
  • July 2006
  • June 2006
  • May 2006
  • April 2006
  • March 2006
  • February 2006
  • January 2006
  • December 2005
  • November 2005
  • October 2005
  • September 2005
  • August 2005
  • July 2005
  • June 2005
  • May 2005
  • April 2005
  • March 2005
  • February 2005
  • January 2005
  • December 2004
  • November 2004
  • October 2004
  • September 2004

  • May 31, 2005


    I only have a moment, as I’m completely swamped, but I wanted to give you something fun to read.
    Howard Lee Harkness posted a great story as a comment to one of my blog entries yesterday. Click here, and check out the comment that starts with “Last weekend, I got what turned out to be the strangest gig I have ever landed.” It’s a great story.


    May 25, 2005


    This will be the first of many posts over the next few months about my participation at the Cabrillo Festival. As I’ve mentioned, Marin Alsop will be leading the West Coast Premiere of the orchestra version of “Redline Tango” on August 13 in Santa Cruz. Just for kicks, please take a look at this link.

    How often do publicity materials for an orchestra performance make such a big deal about the composers?

    And where else can we see my headshot pasted right next to John Adams?!?!

    1 Comment

    Parts, parts, parts

    I’ve been busy for the past several days, working on a brand new set of parts for the original orchestra version of Redline Tango. (The Minnesota Orchestra needs the revised parts within the next 10 days. As a little shout-out to the conductor, Andrew Litton, I have to thank him for fighting to program Redline Tango — the only piece by a living composer for the entire summer season.)

    As I wrote here a while back, when I made the wind version, I simplified a lot of notation, just to make it easier to read. (Warning: it’s going to get pretty theory-centric for a few paragraphs…) The notes were the same, and the effect was the same, but it just looked less complicated. It was that experience that finally taught me that my first instinct about metric notation may not be the right one. For example, in the original version, there were lots of meters in 12/16, coming after meters like 5/8. To me, the pulse really was changing to four dotted-8ths per bar, but the orchestra players saw 5/8 followed by 12/16 and had to quickly think, “is the pulse changing? Is the 8th-note constant, or is there a metric modulation here? How is this 12/16 bar divided? Is it in 4 beats, or something weirder?” And they asked themselves these questions while they were sight-reading a piece with a tempo of quarter note=132. In short, it made the piece a bitch to read.

    So I changed all of the 12/16 bars to either 6/8 or 3/4, depending primarily on the meter proceeding or subsequent to that bar. For example, if the previous bar is in 5/8 — divided into 2+3 — I put the 12/16 bar in 6/8, because the musicians are counting a beat of three 8th notes right before that measure. If the measure before is in 5/4, I put the 12/16 bar in 3/4.

    Another change was my notation of staccato notes. I’d often put a 16th-note followed immediately by a 16th-rest. In the revision, I changed those to 8th-notes with staccato marks. It’s hard to argue that there’s any audible difference at this tempo, but it makes the music look a lot simpler, and that makes the piece a lot easier to play, and that means it can be done in less rehearsal time.

    So I’m taking all of those notation changes that I made on the band version, and I’m putting them back into the orchestra version. (There are other changes, like a few scoring changes to fix some orchestration that never quite worked, but the bulk of the differences are notational.) That’s why Litton agreed to program it this summer — because he could put it together quickly and easily.

    Unfortunately, as of now, I won’t be at the Minnesota Orchestra’s performance in July. The orchestra, like most, is broke, and they can’t afford to bring me out. This speaks volumes about why orchestras are sickly. I’m the only not-dead composer on any of their summer concerts, and I have ties to the community (having had a Music Alive residency with the youth orchestra there in 2002-2003), and they won’t fly me there to speak to the audience and do whatever else they might want me to do. Granted, I want to go for selfish reasons, too — it’s fun working with Andrew, and I think the performance will be pretty spectacular, and I rarely hear the orchestra version. It’s a shame.

    Ravel was charming and a good dresser, but he’s dead, and can’t attend anyway. I’m alive (plus I have a nice suit!), and this will be the premiere of the revised version of the piece, and the orchestra can’t find a way to fly out the only not-dead composer on the summer program.

    This, after my amazing experiences with wind ensembles this season, is terribly disappointing by comparison.


    May 18, 2005

    So far, so good!

    I’m back home in NY, and the weather is beautiful. It’s nice to be home, and I’m just about settled-in and caught up on most of my “to-dos.”

    I spent most of yesterday hooking up my new computer. As you may have read here, I had some problems with my old system. Apple ended up replacing everything, and I picked it all up yesterday morning. It took a little time to undo some of what they did at the store, but I think it’s all working now.

    In case you’re interested — I’ve had requests for this recently — I’ve posted a list of the equipment that I’m using. If you want to see it, click here. The fun part about making that list was the web search for a link to my digital piano. I didn’t find a picture of my actual model (the link is to the next model up), but I did determine that my keyboard was built in 1987. I knew it was old, but I had no idea that I’ve had it for almost 20 years! Korg makes a fine product.

    As I write this, I’m listening to the CD that Paul Moravec gave me a few weeks ago. This is great stuff. I’m especially digging the “Scherzo.”

    I think I’ll head out for a run. That is, if Loki, who seems to have missed having a daytime playmate while I was away, will let me out the door…

    1 Comment

    May 15, 2005

    Goodbye, Seattle

    My residency with the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra has come to a close. This afternoon was the season’s final concert at Benaroya Hall (and the Music Director, Huw Edwards’s, final concert as their conductor). As much as I grew increasingly homesick with all of the travel this season (Seattle, Tallahassee, Phoenix/Tempe, Dallas, San Antonio, Seattle again, Los Angeles, Lawrence (Kansas), Beaumont, and back to Seattle — each with a trip back to New York in between), I’m going to miss Seattle. I think I had a hard time here in the beginning because I didn’t know my way around at all, but once I figured out places to go running, where to get great coffee, where to get free WiFi, and where to get the best sushi, I started feeling a little more comfortable.

    What really made the difference, though, was the orchestra. I’ve had two performances in as many months where the final dress rehearsal of my piece nearly brought me to tears. (It doesn’t ever happen in concerts, because I’m far too nervous during actual performances.) The first time was at Lamar University, where a very light piece — Sasparilla — was played with such dedication that I was sincerely moved. The same thing happened today. “Antiphonal Dances” isn’t an easy piece, but the group played damn near flawlessly. That wasn’t what made it so special, though, because I’ve been fortunate to get a lot of amazing performances this year. What was so amazing was that this group seemed to really love playing this piece.

    Whenever Huw would say during rehearsals, “next up, The Mackey,” I’d hear an audible expression of true excitement from the group. Then, when they played, you could hear (and see) that positive energy. Watching them work, I could totally tell what parts of the piece really “worked,” just based on the facial expressions and body language of the players. And after they nailed something, the section would look at each other with a “yeah, we kicked ass on that” glance. This group just completely “got” this piece.

    And the dress rehearsal was crazy. Maybe it was the amazing hall, and finally hearing all of the antiphonal players balanced just the way I wanted, or maybe it was knowing that the residency was coming to a close, but something in the way they played the piece felt like they wanted to give me the best sendoff they could. It was like 90 musicians were all saying “we love you!” at quadruple-forte. Anyway, I started to cry. Fortunately, I was able to regain my composure by the time the last measure arrived. Otherwise, they’d never again see me as the jaded New Yorker I pride myself in being.

    Several people after the concert told me that the performance had brought them to tears, too, but I truly don’t think it was the piece — it was the performance. I’m not being modest; the reason this piece worked tonight was because of each of those musicians. It was the kind of performance that makes me feel incredibly fortunate to be a composer.

    I couldn’t have asked for a better close to the concert season, or a better send-off from this residency in Seattle.