2006 September at John Mackey's Blog



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  • September 27, 2006

    ASU, The Return: Part 1, Rehearsal

    I’m back home in LA, only for about 36 hours, after a whirlwind 30 hours at Arizona State. I leave for UT-Austin first thing tomorrow morning. First, though here are some shots from Tempe…

    After a quick 55 minute flight to Phoenix on Monday, Gary Hill picked me up at the airport and took me to lunch on campus. We had Middle Eastern cuisine, starting with lentil soup.

    I spoke to the ASU comp majors that afternoon. They had good questions — as they did when I visited two years ago — and it was an enjoyable session. Afterwards, a few people approached me to ask for some one-on-one lesson time, which was very flattering. (I met with two the next day, and hope to meet with some more when I’m back in mid-October.) After the seminar, I met up with two friends from my last time at ASU, Karl & Kendra. We headed out for drinks at Ruby Tuesday. Damn place totally tricked us. The sign in the window was like, “Happy Hour!,” so we went in, expecting, I dunno — Happy Hour! — and found that at Ruby Tuesday, Happy Hour starts at 9pm. WTF is that?! Still, we were too lazy to head back across the street to Chili’s, and we ordered a round of drinks.

    We were all pretty hungry, and dinner wasn’t for a few hours, so we ordered an appetizer sampler — specifically the “4-Way Sampler.” A tasty treat, with buffalo wings, Tuesday tenders (really, just chicken fingers), Southwestern spring rolls (quite yummy), and fried cheese sticks.

    We eventually met up with the rest of our dinner group — Mike Markowski and his girlfriend, Linh. We all headed across the street to P. F. Chang’s. (Yes, that’s the three corners of this intersection — P. F. Chang’s, Ruby Tuesday, and Chili’s. This, my friend, is a college town.) The festivities continued with more cocktails. Kendra had a mai tai.

    We all tried to order something different so we could share. Linh picked the calamari, which is particularly tasty at P. F. Chang’s. Good call, Linh.

    Eventually our table was full of delicious food — most of it orange in color. Karl peeks over the rice.

    Kendra loves rice. Here, she takes a bite the size of her forearm. (okay, that might be staged)

    Uh oh! Water spill! Yes, things got a little rowdy. No problem — most of it ended up on my plate, which, at the time, only had rice on it.

    So, because the TSA decided not to allow you to carry toiletries onto a plane until Tuesday, but I had flown on Monday — and refused to check my bag for a one-night stay — I had no toothpaste. Karl and Kendra agreed to drive me to Walgreen’s for a travel tube, sparing everybody in Tempe the chance of any skank breath the next morning. (Skank breath? Is that the right term? Perhaps not.) Karl’s car was making a funky sound on the way to Walgreen’s, and I heard it, but I didn’t say anything because it was the sound that my car makes whenever I drive on the crappy roads in LA. I always think, Do I have a flat tire?, but I never do — it’s just the terrible road conditions. After we left Walgreen’s, though, it became quite clear to everybody that we had, yes, a flat tire.

    Ah, bummer. Well, that’s okay. Karl will change the tire! The trunk is awfully dark. If only there were a good light source. The cell phone light wasn’t cutting it, so I was like, Hey, I’ll use the flash from my camera! It was extremely helpful. For, like, 1/64th of a second.

    So Karl gets out the spare tire, and… it’s also shredded. Was this some kind of lame frat prank? Did somebody puncture Karl’s tire, and break into the trunk and shred the spare, too? Okay, probably not. (The car was purchased used a few years ago — but what kind of dealer sells a used car with a bad spare?! Karl, I’ll write an Angry Letter for you, if you need me to.) With no spare, the car was going nowhere. We were only about a 5-minute walk from my hotel — and the IHoP next to it — so we headed there to wait for Karl’s wife to come pick them up. I have to say — IHoP is awfully tasty around 11pm after a bit of drinking.

    The next day, I met with Ryan and Tom — comp students at ASU. Both are really talented. Ryan is a sophomore, and he’s not even a comp major, because ASU requires comp majors to gain admittance into the music school on a principal instrument. As in, they have to be good enough as an instrumentalist to get into both an instrumental studio AND the comp studio. This is asinine. I can’t play a damn thing. Christopher Rouse, who visited ASU a few weeks ago, also can’t play anything. Corigliano is a pretty mediocre pianist, and doesn’t play anything else. You mean to tell me that Rouse and Corigliano — two Pulitzer winners — couldn’t get into ASU as comp majors?

    Re. Tar. Ded.

    But back to Ryan & Tom. Ryan has a very appealing looking band piece that he’s writing. Totally not “bandy,” and with cool tonality throughout. The guy has a great ear. Tom — I met with him when I was there two years ago — is a junior now, and damn, he’s doing just fine. He showed me two pieces, both completely different. One was for jazz band, and I liked it, but I have absolutely no knowledge of how that kind of music works, so I couldn’t say much more than, “damn. This is good, and I can’t do this.” He also had a choral piece that was stunning. One part got me a bit misty-eyed it was so good.

    Next up was the rehearsal with the wind ensemble on “Turbine.” Man, this group is just so fantastic. They’re still more than two weeks away from the concert, so they’re only going to get better, but already, a lot of it was smokin’. I re-orchestrated a lot of the brass material this summer, after showing the piece to a freakishly good orchestrator (and good friend and great composer), Wataru Hokoyama. Wataru had a lot of advice, and I incorporated all of it. The guy is brilliant. It was incredible to finally hear the revisions, and hear them played by the group at ASU. The concert is going to be incredible.

    I’m off to pack for Austin — and Texas Tech, where I head straight after Austin. (UT Austin is doing “Redline Tango” on Sunday, and Texas Tech is doing “Turbine” a week from Thursday. Chen Yi, the nicest composer alive, will also be in residence at Texas Tech when I’m there!) I fly back home on the 6th, and leave again on the 7th for a personal trip to Florida. I return from that on the 10th, have a belated birthday dinner with AEJ on the 11th (at Dan Tana’s — maybe we’ll see Clooney!), and then leave again first thing on the 12th to return to ASU.

    More from the road…


    September 22, 2006


    When I started taking pictures of food on my trips, it was partially to use them as nice desktop wallpaper, and partially because it just seemed funny to post pictures of food on essentially a music blog. The obsessive food photography thing has turned out to be one of the smartest things I ever started. Now when I travel to colleges, my visit is preceded by the knowledge that I take pictures of food, and I like yummy food, so if you want a good write-up in my blog, you should take me out to a really delicious (and hopefully photogenic) dinner. (Yes, it always works, as I am easily bought with food.)

    The first photos were at Arizona State, where, coincidentally, I’m returning on Monday. The food pic follow-up, now the most-read blog entry on this site, documented my dinner with AEJ at Jean-Georges, arguably the best restaurant in New York City.

    There have been the detours to non-food photo entries, like the entry celebrating Loki’s first birthday, or the entry about my first time at TMEA. The best entries, I think, are those that combine both food pictures and awesome locales, like the entry about Memphis — featuring both BBQ and Graceland — or my visit to TBA, with pictures of both cocktails and drum corps, or the entry about my performance at Cabrillo with Marin Alsop (one of the few entries to include a pic of the stunning AEJ).

    But enough of the self-referential linking. The motivation for this entry comes from today’s email from the University of Texas detailing the dining schedule, reaffirming the my “John Likes Yummy and Pretty Food” reputation continues to reap great rewards. While I’m there, dinners are planned every night, with French food (Chez Nous), all-around tasty food (Hudson on the Bend), and food that Rick Clary raved about months ago (Shoreline Grill). Next Monday is Mexican lunch. No matter how the performance goes, you can bet there will be a good food picture blog entry upon my return. (Somehow, though, with Junkin & UT, I’m not exactly “worried” about the performance.)

    Oh — and one last side-note. I went a little nuts, and ordered more Japanese watches a few days ago. I wanted to stop — I really did — but then I saw the High Frequency watch! To quote the Japanese-translated-to-English copy, “We all stood looking at this watches, and said to each other things like, ‘This is the most futuristic watch I have ever seen.’ ” How could I resist?!


    September 21, 2006

    Sax Concerto

    There have been rumblings about it for a while now, but as of this morning, it’s official that my big piece for 2007 will be a concerto for saxophone and wind ensemble — in all likelihood, for soprano sax specifically. The consortium is all organized by Jerry Junkin and the University of Texas, along with Donald Fabian, the principal sax player in the Dallas Wind Symphony. Don played the soprano sax solo in “Redline Tango” when the DWS did the piece in March, and he asked me about a concerto right after the dress rehearsal. Having never heard anybody play a soprano sax like Don had, I was incredibly psyched.

    I’m particularly excited about this project, and not just because it’ll be a second chance to write a concerto. What really gets me going is the challenge of it — the fact that I have never heard a sax concerto that I wanted to listen to. Some have decent music, but they’re not flashy. Some are flashy, but still boring — or even brash and empty. The goal with this project is to write a sax concerto that I actually want to spend 20 minutes listening to.

    Jerry sent out an email last night, and as of this morning, the consortium is more than 3/4 full. Jerry works insanely fast.
    The piece will premiere in 2007/2008. The Dallas Wind Symphony will give the premiere with Don Fabian.

    On Monday, I start the big Travelganza 2006. First stop: Arizona State. I fly there on Monday morning, have some lunch, then speak at the composer forum. The rest of the day, for now, seems to be free. Tuesday, I have rehearsal for “Turbine” with the wind ensemble. They’re still a few weeks from their concert, so it’ll be a little rough, but it’s going to be a blast, I’m sure. I fly home Tuesday night, and then leave again on Thursday morning — this time, for Austin, Texas. Thursday evening is open, and Friday is rehearsal of “Redline Tango” with Jerry Junkin and the University of Texas Wind Ensemble. Friday night : dinner with Jerry and company. Saturday is a football game — UT vs. Sam Houston State. I’ve been told that Jerry will take me up to the press box, show me around, and presumably supply more tasty food. Sunday the 1st is the concert (and my birthday). Monday, I’m stopping by Hill Country Middle School to meet Cheryl Floyd’s band, for whom I’ll be writing a piece in 2008. After that, it’s back to UT for a composer forum.

    Tuesday morning, I fly to Texas Tech to work with Sarah McKoin on “Turbine.” The super-composer Chen Yi will also be in residence there that week. I’m so not worthy… I fly home to LA on Friday, October 6.

    So, it was a good morning. It’s great to know that the sax concerto is officially happening, I’m looking forward to the upcoming trips, and I had a tasty cup of coffee. In fact, I’d been feeling pretty good about things. And you know what’s funny? The way fate is like, “dude, you’re really not that special. Here — I’ll show you.” Yeah, that’s right. The University of Texas program listing for the upcoming concert lists the composer for “Redline Tango” as… blank. I will now return to my humble chair.

    Time to get to work. I have a piece due December 1, and I need to get moving on that. To entertain yourself while I’m away, I recommend one of my recent blog discoveries, Fosco Lives. Nothing beats Fosco’s take on the Playboy’s “Girls of the Big 12” issue. (As a side note, I believe that U. Texas is a member of the Big 12, although I’d be surprised if the Girls of the UT Wind Ensemble play a major role in this issue. I don’t look at dirty pictures, so I wouldn’t know. I suspect that link contains the whole “spread,” if you will. And that last link is totally NSFW, in case there was any doubt.)


    September 19, 2006

    A gig is a gig

    Look, sometimes we do what we need to do for a buck. I’m no different. (I’ve answered to the name “whore” on more than one occasion.)
    I’ve often asked myself, if I weren’t making a living writing music, what would I do? Would I teach? Get a job with an arts organization?

    Or would I dress up as a super hero and pose for pictures with children?

    Say “no” to drugs, kids!

    No, that’s not actually me on the left, but the resemblance is kind of freaking me out. And making me reconsider my current profession.

    Why does my doppelganger have to be the lame Green Lantern, and not Batman? Or Wonder Woman? Come on — The Green Lantern?! What could he really do, anyway? I think he had a magical ring. Oh, yeah, that’s bad-ass. What’s more powerful than this?

    One cool thing about the Green Lantern, according to Wiki — “He was the first DC superhero to use his powers selfishly (in his romance with Carol Ferris).” Now that’s what I’m talking about. If I had super powers — even if they only came from my magical class ring — I would totally use them selfishly. Oh, and the sweet revenge I’d inflict… Maybe class rings are cool.

    No, wait. They’re not. (To clarify — they’re perfectly fine when you’re 17. When you’re 47, and you’re wearing it on a chain around your neck, not so much.)

    But John Mackey look-alikes who dress like the Green Lantern — that is cool.

    1 Comment

    Cap'n Spanky says, "arrrr!"

    Ahoy, today is Talk Like a Pirate Day. Ye’ll ne’er get me buried booty!
    I know ’tis harrrrd to believe ’tis come again so soon. Or some such thing.

    To celebrate, let’s look back at… Christmas. Here’s a repost of the relevant portion of my Christmas Day entry. Enjoy, mateys.

    AEJ (or, rather, “me beauty”) got me two sets of pirate-themed Legos.

    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!

    It’s a little weird seeing those pictures of me on Christmas Day, not just because I’m wearing an eye patch and a novelty Christmas sweatshirt and haven’t showered, but because my hair looked different back then. I’m liking the slightly longer hair thing, now that it’s basically grown in and I’m past the “conservative dork who works in an office” look. And really, the eye patch look isn’t so bad. Maybe that should be my thing…

    1 Comment