2005 November 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

  • November 30, 2005

    Best. Nutcracker. EVER.

    John Corigliano emailed this MP3 to me last year. As John said in the email text:”This is truly wonderful. Turn your volume up.”I’ve no idea where he got it, but wow. If you aren’t feelin’ that holiday spirit yet, my friends, get ready…Click here to listen to my favorite holiday performance ever.


    November 29, 2005

    Holiday Cheer, Part 1

    I’ll admit that it’s been a little difficult wrapping my brain around the fact that in Southern California, it’s 70 degrees on Thanksgiving. That just doesn’t feel very Holiday Season to me. It’s supposed to be friggin’ freezing. It was about 12 degrees in Ohio on Thanksgiving, and even though it was mild back in New York, it wasn’t 72. So although we made the full effort on Thanksgiving — turkey, potatoes, gravy, stuffing, etc. — even my favorite, canned cream style corn (I am still white trash at heart) — it was fun and cheery (even though I messed up the gravy), but it didn’t quite feel right. I just didn’t feel in that pre-Christmas spirit. What could I do? I mean, it’s not like it’s ever going to snow in LA… Or so I thought.

    Something had to be done. I’ve been spending crazy-long hours working on “Turbine” (see the work sample linked from the entry below), and AEJ has been sick with a cold for days and feeling some major cabin fever, so it was time to get the hell out of the house for a few hours.

    But first, a Holiday Cheer appetizer. Perhaps a “cheeritizer.” Or a “hollitizer.” Maybe an “appicheeritizer.” Whatever. We baked gingerbread!

    Very tasty, courtesy of the Cook’s Illustrated baking cookbook. Looking for a great gift for somebody for the holidays? If that person likes baking, it’s hard to beat these recipes, and the fun way the book is written. Yes, the “illustrated” part is just that; don’t expect many beautiful photos (although there are a few pages). What you’ll get are drawings in the Wall Street Journal style. But you’ll also get tips on the best kitchen supplies (and specifically recommended brands), detailed descriptions of why each recipe is the way it is (with stories of other techniques the testers tried but abandoned, and why), and easy-to-follow, delicious recipes. Their grilling cookbook is also a must. Don’t say I didn’t make any shopping recommendations!

    As I was saying, we had our appihollicheeritizer, and headed out. I needed to pick up a book for a potential commission (very exciting, which I hope to share here soon!), so we opted to visit The Grove, LA’s nice new mall. On the way there, we passed my personal place of worship:

    I can almost taste that pan pizza right now. Hey, what’s on special today at Pizza Hut?

    That’s it. There’s nothing else on the sign. Yes, they went through the trouble of hanging the letters on the Pizza Hut sign, just so we’d know — in case there was any doubt — that today at Pizza Hut, they’re offering “P IZZA.” Although I do love the Pizza Hut, we had to get moving, so dinner would come later.

    We arrived at The Grove, and look what we saw! SANTA! I guess he just loaded his bag with treats from Crate & Barrel.

    Here’s the tree at The Grove. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it’s a real tree — hard to believe, because it’s 100 feet tall. That’s even taller than the Rockefeller Center tree. So, nyah.

    Look! A sax player! At first, I thought he was playing the sax solo from Sasparilla, but then I realized it was “Santa Looked A Lot Like Daddy.”

    We were feeling quite Christmassy already, and then it happened: the unthinkable. Right here in LA, where it was 55 degrees last night, it started to snow.

    The snow was a little weird — it seemed to be frozen soap water — but hey, I’m not complaining. Any shopping mall that can bring in a 100-foot tree, a sax-playing bear, and make it snow in LA — that’s a mall for me.

    And yes, we did eventually get dinner. Where? Why, at one of my other favorite places: Johnny Rockets. Mmm. Maybe not Christmassy, but delicious.

    We finished the evening at Crate & Barrel buying festive dishtowels and other holiday knick-knacks, then came home and watched Rudolph.

    Now that is a festive evening. Ho, ho, ho.


    November 27, 2005

    Turbine : Another sample

    I would like to be updating more frequently, but orchestrating “Turbine” is kicking my ass. I think I spent three days on only five pages. They’re a crucial section — it’s the first huge climax of the piece — so I wanted to get it right. After far-too-many hours on it, I think it’s as good as I’m capable of making it. Here’s the PDF of a few pages if you’re curious. (The PDF is printable, in case it’s not decipherable on your screen.)

    Not only was it a bitch to score, I’m pretty sure it’s terribly difficult to play. Check out measure 89, where the first trumpet is playing a high C# (written), the French horn has a high B (concert E), and the trombones have high A’s and B’s. The clarinet parts in the previous bars are silly-high, too.

    And I had to add an eighth percussion part.

    Oy. And this is only the first 3 minutes of the piece. If this were for orchestra rather than wind ensemble — with the amount of rehearsal time an orchestra piece typically gets — the piece wouldn’t have a prayer.

    This Thanksgiving, I gave thanks for band.


    November 21, 2005


    Before we get to the silly content of the entry, I have to briefly send a shout-out to Richard Clary and the Florida State University wind ensemble for their performance of “Sasparilla” on Friday night. Holy crap, it kicked ass, as expected. Rick emailed the MP3 to me today, and it was just awesome. In a bit of bad luck, the accordion player’s accordion strap broke early in the performance, and he had to finish the piece with only one-way bellows, having to support the instrument with his other arm. If I hadn’t known that when I heard the recording, though, I wouldn’t have imagined that something had gone so wrong. I’m going to post the MP3 soon, as I’m pretty psyched to show this one off. If you’ve only heard the original recording of “Sasparilla” — played with crazy-exciting energy but without an accordion — you’re in for a surprise (or something)!

    My new desk arrived today, just about 9 weeks after I ordered it. Wow, it was worth the wait. For years, I’ve used a large dining table as my workspace. I bought the table because it was huge, as I needed something that could hold my old 88-key digital piano. Here’s a picture of the old setup:

    It looked fine, and it held the piano, but the desk is a type of Mexican knotty pine, so there are deep grooves throughout the surface. It gave it a cool rustic look, but it made it impossible to write on a piece of paper that was sitting on the desk, because my pen would end up poking through the paper into the grooves. The bigger problem, though, was that the desk wasn’t really a desk — it was a dining table — so it had no drawers. Nowhere to file anything, and maybe worse, nowhere to put things that I was working on or didn’t want to forget about — bills to pay, invoices to mail, CD’s to listen to. This meant that the desk was usually a mess of papers (that I couldn’t write on).

    But today, that finally changed. I’d wanted a retro 50’s office desk ever since I saw this website, so placing the order for one was one of the first things AEJ and I did when we arrived in LA in September. (This all became an option when I decided that I didn’t require the 88-key digital piano anymore, and switched to a more space-efficient 49-key MIDI controller that I can put away when it’s not in use.)

    Here’s what my studio looked like before the new desk arrived — before, in fact, we installed the rug or placed the other furniture. It’s a bit… wooden.

    After laying the carpet and adding the other furniture, it was a lot nicer — but a little dark.

    And here’s the studio with the new desk.

    Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about! Soooo nice. And with drawer space!

    And here’s one last photo, taken head-on.

    The desk has been in production since the late 1940’s, but I think the custom enamels are a fairly recent addition. The light vanilla color — picked out by AEJ, of course — makes this massive amount of steel seem much less-weighty. (Well, unless you try to move it. Good lord, placing it was a bitch.)

    And did I mention that it has drawers?

    1 Comment

    November 17, 2005

    Turbine Peek

    I’m chugging away at the orchestration of “Turbine.” If you’re curious how it starts, here are the first two pages in PDF format. (In Safari, it looks a little weird when it first loads the page, but the fonts are all fine on the redraw.)

    Since there’s no percussion key yet, here’s what’s happening at the very beginning:
    Percussion 1: Choked China cymbal, followed by splash and suspended crash cymbal
    Percussion 2: Two brake drums of different sizes
    Percussion 3: Two more brake drums, of still different sizes
    Percussion 4: Tam-tam, then marimba
    Percussion 5: A second tam-tam, as well as a suspended crash cymbal
    Percussion 6: Bass drum
    Percussion 7: Bass drum 2

    So, that’s two tam-tams, 2 bass drums, and 4 brake drums in the first bar, all played as loud as possible.

    I love loud. And fast.

    Don’t worry; it all quiets down by the middle of page 3. But only for a moment… 🙂

    To be continued!