2005 December at John Mackey's Blog



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  • December 28, 2005

    Happy Xmas

    First up, check out this site: Free-Albums Galore. I’d never heard of it until they linked here, but now that I’ve found it, it’ll be on my list of regularly-viewed info blogs. Very cool idea for a blog.

    And now, the main event! Yes, it’s time for photos from XMas 2005!

    A few days before Christmas, AEJ and I drove over to Griffith Park for the big Christmas light show. After a roughly 40-minute crawl through traffic in the park, we reached the first of the lights. (DWP stands for Department of Water and Power, the sponsor of the big festival.)

    Watch out, little Toyota! That triceratops is gonna get you! (I’m not quite sure why the Christmas light festival featured dinosaurs.)

    After passing a light representation of the Griffith Park Observatory and the LA airports, we reached Hollywood! Lights, camera, holiday cheer!

    My personal favorite holiday symbol, the snowman.

    Look! A Christmas elf, flying a jet! This should totally be the image on the cover of Turbine.

    Wow, what are the chances? Not only was there the display about Turbine, but there was a display about AEJ’s movie!

    And just like jets, dinosaurs, and cowboys, what says Christmas more than this?

    On Christmas, Loki found his wrapping paper.

    I’m serious. That’s really Loki on all of that paper. AEJ had the paper custom-printed. It was hilarious seeing that many Lokis. The sad thing was tearing the paper.

    Stocking time! Loki made this stocking for AEJ.

    In my stocking, I got this handsome pirate eye patch. Aarrrr, matey. After I drink my coffee, I’ll make you walk the Christmas plank. (That sounds like a euphemism.)

    Here’s what Loki put in AEJ’s stocking. I pitched in a little for the Chococat clock, but Loki managed almost all of this himself, courtesy of the local $.99 store. Loki is very frugal.

    Loki was most excited about this beautifully-crafted little item — again, from the $.99 store, if you can believe that. What is that cat whispering? I don’t know if you can read the bottom, but it says “Sports Jian Jian.” Indeed. How could this have only cost $.99?!?!

    After stocking time, it was breakfast: monkey bread! Yummy. It’s basically biscuit dough, cut up and shaken in a bag of cinnamon and sugar, covered in loads of butter, and baked. Mmmm….

    Gift-opening ’05: The Aftermath.

    As we waited for dinner, I started a fire. My first fire ever (in my first working fireplace)! Loki liked it.

    Instead of one of the usual Christmas dinners, we opted to mix it up a little. We wanted AEJ’s delicious mashed potatoes, but that was our only requirement. AEJ suggested that I make pork & sauerkraut, one of my childhood favorites. Not very photogenic, but delicious.

    Our cozy fire is totally cracklin’ now!

    After dinner, it was time for playtime. AEJ (or, rather, Santa) got me two sets of pirate-themed Legos. (Now you understand the above eyepatch.)

    We had a lot of fun putting them together. Here’s the captain, complete with parrot.

    We’re under attack!

    This guy was clearly not keeping guard, so he has to walk the plank.

    Arrgg! Here’s me ship!

    This is Skull Island (the other Lego set).

    The pirate ship is attacking Skull Island! Oh no!!!

    WTF? Is that a whale? A shark?! No! It’s AEJ’s killer bunny slippers that she got for Christmas!

    And that crazy cat is back, attacking the mast of the ship!

    Captain! Look out behind you! They’re coming at us from all sides!

    Oh, the carnage!

    That’s it, I’m afraid. Fortunately, this weekend, Newman and his better half are coming to stay with us, and I’m sure there will be pictures of our activities (including Eric Whitacre’s highly-anticipated New Year’s party). Stay tuned, and until then, beware the killer bunny slippers.


    December 22, 2005

    Turbine: Up, Up, & Away

    A few dozen people have found it already, but I may as well make an official posting about it. I uploaded “Turbine” — the MP3 of the MIDI realization and the PDF of the full score — to the new Turbine page yesterday. Give it a look (and a listen, but be kind about the MIDI-ness of it), and let me know what you think!


    December 20, 2005

    Redline Tango wins Ostwald

    Redline Tango has won the 2005 Ostwald Prize. Along with the $8000 award, the work will receive a performance by the Dallas Wind Symphony at the upcoming ABA convention on March 3 in Dallas.

    From the not-yet-updated Ostwald page: “The American Bandmasters Association Proudly announces the 50th ABA/Ostwald Original Band Composition Award. The ABA/Ostwald was the first competition of band music composition in America, and is one of the most prestigious awards in that field. Since 1956 it has stimulated the creation of many important new compositions, thereby enriching the entire spectrum of concert band activity. Because of its continuity, this award has produced more concert band music than any other competition of its kind. Literally thousands of musicians have performed the works of the contest winners for additional thousands in their appreciative audiences.

    It’s a huge honor to be included with other past winners such as Donald Grantham, Ron Nelson, Dan Welcher, and Tim Mahr — to name just a few. My sincere thanks to the committee. I really don’t know what else to say. I’m incredibly grateful — and feel extremely fortunate (and lucky).


    December 19, 2005

    Midwest – and Christmas!

    Well, this was definitely the most surreal Midwest convention yet. Some things I shouldn’t get into — both to protect myself and the innocent — but a good time was had by many. A few very exciting things happened, and there will be more about those in the months to come. In the meantime, here are — that’s right — pictures!

    I flew in on Tuesday — a day earlier than usual — because the Chicago Youth Symphony, under the direction of Allen Tinkham, was giving a performance of Jonathan Newman’s orchestra piece, “Metropolitan.” After a rather turbulence-filled flight to Chicago, I arrived at the hotel to find Newman setting up the BCM booth.

    After a quick dinner, I accompanied Newman to the dress rehearsal of his piece. Newman seemed excited, score-in-hand. Newm, what’s with the meter-changes in every friggin’ bar?! 😉

    The orchestra sounded great. Pretty hard to believe this is a youth orchestra. I’ve worked with lots of youth orchestras, and I don’t think I’ve heard a better one than CYSO. Tinkham’s awesome. Here’s Newman, giving a few quick notes to the group. I doubt he was correcting anything; I can’t imagine the piece getting a better performance!

    It’s just too bad they were playing in a ballroom at a hotel. The acoustics were somewhat lacking this time around, but they performed the piece at Orchestra Hall in Chicago a few weeks ago, and that recording, available on Newman’s site, sounded fantastic. But really — is a ballroom the place for an orchestra performance? Let’s play Count The Chairs.

    I think the ballroom seats 3000 or so. It’s absolutely massive. Newman had a huge crowd for his performance, and his piece was deservedly well-received. Go, Newm!

    The next day, I had my first rehearsal with the Atlanta Youth Wind Symphony, who was performing “Sasparilla” at the convention. Here are some of my friends who graciously stuck around for the rehearsal — counterclockwise from lower-left: Sarah (Montoya’s gal), Rick Clary (FSU), John Lynch (U. Kansas), unknown background lady, Newman, Amy Knopps, Steve Bryant, and Daniel Montoya.

    The AYSO was also rehearsing Steve’s gorgeous piece, “Dusk,” that evening. Here’s Steve listening to the group as Scott Stewart runs the piece for him.

    After rehearsal, Newman and I joined Rick Clary for dinner, which is becoming an annual Midwest tradition. After some tasty drinks at the bar (the lemon drop may not be the most masculine martini, but it’s fun & tasty and will knock you on your ass), we were seated and ordered appetizers. First up, one of my favorites: shrimp cocktail!

    Newman opted for spinach & artichoke dip. Also very tasty.

    For dinner, I had the three filet mignon medallions, each with a different crust. Holy crap, this was yummy. Crust choices: Parmesan, bordelaise, and cracked pepper.

    Newman had the biggest plate of ribs I’ve ever seen.

    Rick went simple with a ribeye steak. Damn, what’s up with that steak? Seems happy to see me.

    Rick doesn’t do carbs, so while I had the most delicious plate of potatoes au gratin, he had steamed broccoli. I’m sure it was tasty for broccoli, but for me, it was lacking the all-important cheese factor.

    Did somebody say dessert? Hooray! Dessert’s here! Oh, wait — that’s the dessert tray. Guess I should pick one.

    I picked what I normally call a “Cookie Monster.” It’s a hot cookie in a tray, topped with a sundae. Mmmm….

    Dinner was fun, as it always is with these guys, but wow — we were stuffed.

    The next day, I was approached by several players from the Atlanta Youth Wind Symphony. They wanted a photo of me, and I insisted that I get a photo of them, too.

    So there I was, chatting with Ryan Nelson (of the Northwestern wind ensemble) when we saw a crazy elf-like guy walk by. Nelson insisted that I needed a picture with him, so we followed him back to his booth. When we got there, we saw that the Elf Man wasn’t alone, but had a parter in Elfdom, and it suddenly felt a little weird to go ask if I could pose in a picture with them. Nelson’s solution was to just have me take a picture of Dr. Elf, but try to do it subtly so the Elf wouldn’t chase me away. Ryan slowly walked past the Elf Display so that I could take a picture of the elf incognito. Here’s our first try.

    Fun, sure, but I managed to sneak one more picture of the two magical elves, and this shot allows you to really see their slippers. WTF. And look! They also have Noveltysickles! I love those.

    That night I had dinner with Nelson in the hotel. My main course: pan-fried risotto cakes. Very tasty.

    At the final dress rehearsal for the AYWS’s concert, I got a picture of Kunal, the group’s awesome pianist. You should have heard this guy. At one point during rehearsal, I asked the entire group to “just play like that guy.”

    The AYWS played some great pieces that evening, including Richard Prior’s Icarus (a great piece) and Steve’s Dusk. Dusk is just a lovely piece. If you don’t know it, visit Steve’s site and check it out. The program ended with “Sasparilla,” and the crowd gave a very nice ovation.

    Great job, gang!

    At dinner the next day, Montoya seemed to eat something that didn’t agree with him.

    (Actually, he’s just trying to look surprised.) So, that was basically it for Midwest. Awesome time — probably too much fun for a band conference. It was great to finally meet a lot of people with whom I’d only had email correspondence in the past, and I feel like I made some new friends. But really, does Chicago need to be so damn cold?! Can’t we have the Midwest convention in, say, Southern California next year?

    Next up… Christmas!

    Upon the return to LA from Chicago, it was time to get all Christmassy. Loki wanted to help us unpack the o

    Once the tree was up and the skirt was down, Loki came over to, um, greet the snowman skirt.

    Kitties like lights. I tasted one, too, and really, they’re not so good. I mean, not compared to Parmesan-crusted filet mignon medallions.

    Here I am, putting on the lights. In the background through the window, you can see our outdoor tree — which AEJ calls the Snoopy Tree (because of the huge multi-colored lights) — out on the deck.

    Loki says “Merry Christmas” (which he pronounces as “Meaaaahhhhh.”)

    And here are the trees — indoor and out — all decorated and festive.

    Here’s AEJ and Loki, relaxing on the sofa in the newly-cozified and Christmasted living room.

    So, Happy December. Midwest was great, but it’s even better to be home.


    December 18, 2005

    New Sasparilla recording

    Run, don’t walk, to the Sasparilla page and check out the just-posted recording of the Florida State Wind Ensemble — conducted by the always-masterful Richard Clary — performing Sasparilla in November. If you’ve heard the piece before, I encourage you to check it out again, as this recording is pretty off-the hook. The inclusion of the accordion — at last! — makes a huge difference, and the tenor sax player in the “brothel solo” is just plain smokin’.

    When I wrote the tenor sax solo, I notated the solo in full — and literally — and it makes it very tricky to read. (I was trying to transcribe what I wish I could have played myself, but not being a sax player, of course I couldn’t.) Somehow, this guy managed to play the part as though he was improvising it and I had simply transcribed what he played — and that’s exactly how I wanted it to sound. It sounds free and improvisatory, even though all of those little inflections were actually written down in advance. It was a big thrill to hear it this way. I think he’s also growling or something to get that raw and vulgar tone out of it. Wow, I love it. If anybody knows who played this solo, please tell me. Damn. Wow.

    (By the way — if you happened to hear the Atlanta Youth Wind Symphony’s performance at Midwest last week, the sax solo was missing, as it had to be cut due to program length. If you only heard the piece last week, I especially encourage you to check out the sax solo in the new recording.)

    I’ll post the Midwest debrief tomorrow (complete with photos), but the new “Sasparilla” MP3 should give you something to entertain yourself until then!