2008 July at John Mackey's Blog



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  • 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
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  • Design: The Austin House, part 1
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  • July 19, 2008

    More work at Demolition House

    Our contractor mailed us a CD of photos a few days ago, and he and his crew are working like crazy. Here are a few pictures of the progress…

    Here, they demo the old tile floor in the family room. This doesn’t look fun.

    Before (as in, before we bought the house)…

    Currently… No more tile, new baseboards, and now there’s a doorway into the bedroom. Oh, and the place is trashed — in a good way.

    Here, they smooth the new ceiling. The original ceiling was “popcorn” or “cottage cheese” or “zitty” or whatever you prefer to call it. I’m totally getting stilts like that.

    Here’s the ceiling with new sheetrock, new insulation, the “rustic wooden beam” now clad in sheetrock, and — my favorite part — holes cut and wire run for surround speakers.

    One of the loads of garbage…

    … and more garbage. Anybody want any carpet? I’ll make you a sweet deal.

    We think the place has been painted by now, and the wood floors go in after that. The movers come to pack us on Wednesday, and the truck will be here on Thursday morning. Hopefully the new floors will be in at the new house by the time we get there on Sunday…


    July 18, 2008


    Last week, AEJ and I went to the LA music club Troubadour to see Jason Webley perform. We’d never seen (or even heard of) Jason, but our cat sitter is dating him, so we figured this was a good opportunity to see a show at this LA landmark before we move.

    The show was a lot of fun. One of Jason’s songs was a brilliant drinking song, and to get the non-drunk prepared for the sing-along, Jason had come up with a way to get everybody somewhat drunk without any alcohol: point your finger in the air, stare at your finger, and spin in circles. Spin around, say, nine times, and your vision will be roughly equivalent to what you see in Grand Theft Auto 4 after visiting a bar with one of the McCreary brothers.

    The vision of an entire club full of people spinning around while visually fixated on their index finger was amazing. Fortunately, I had my camera — ’cause I think this is one of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken.

    That’s taken with the Canon 40D and the Canon 35mm f/1.4L set to f/1.8. (That’s how you get that very shallow depth of field where only the girl in the center is sharply in focus — and also how I was able to get a sharp picture in a very dark club.)

    Back to packing! The movers come next Thursday morning…


    July 10, 2008

    Upcoming orchestra performances

    There are a few exciting orchestral performances coming up this season…

    On October 23, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra will give the UK premiere of “Redline Tango” in Glasgow, conducted by Andrew Litton. The concert will also be broadcast on BBC Radio 3. Litton has previously done the piece with the Dallas Symphony (twice), the Minnesota Orchestra, and the Bergen Philharmonic (of Norway).

    On March 20, here in the US, the Jacksonville Symphony will perform my Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra with Charlotte Mabrey as soloist, conducted by David Lockington. They’re giving two performances of the piece that day. I wonder if I can convince them to fly me in…


    July 8, 2008

    Video of Afrika

    There’s now a video of the recording session for the main theme of the upcoming PS3 game “Afrika,” with music composed, orchestrated, and conducted by my friend Wataru Hokoyama. Now you’ll see what I’ve been raving about… Behold.


    July 4, 2008

    Asphalt Cocktail

    Roughly four years ago, I was walking down a street in Manhattan with Jonathan Newman, and he told me about a title idea he had for a piece: “Asphalt Cocktail.” I stopped in my tracks and begged him to let me have that title. He said no.

    It turned out that the title was the brainchild of Jonathan’s wife, Melissa, and that when she proposed the title to him, he said he could never write a piece with such a title. “Nobody would ever play a piece called Asphalt Cocktail,” was his thinking. He pointed out that students would reduce the title to a vulgarity like “AssCock” or something like that — as if that built-in marketing approach were a bad thing.

    So the years passed, and I kept asking Jonathan for the title. He kept refusing, seeming to know that it was a great title and one that shouldn’t just be passed off, even if he wasn’t confident that a piece with that title would ever be touched by any conductor. I insisted it would. “Come on,” I would plead, “that’s a Mackey title! Pleeeeeease! Let me have it. Pleeeeeeaaase!” No.

    I’ve known since I heard that title what that piece needs to be. I can totally imagine it. AEJ and I had even talked about how “Asphalt Cocktail” would be structured. (She has a great idea for it — more about that in the future.) Finally, a few months ago, I became desperate. I sent Jonathan the following email:

    Can I please use your “Asphalt Cocktail” title? Pretty, pretty please? I’ll buy all of your drinks at Midwest! I’ll house you in Austin if we ever get a house!
    I’m dying to write “Asphalt Cocktail.” I’ve wanted to do it for three years (or is it four?), since you first thought of it! Now it’s making me crazy. I’ll even give you a cut of any commission fee I can get out of it. Back end, even! Anything!!!

    To my relief, Jonathan wrote back, and he said yes. Fortunately, he didn’t take me up on my offer for a percentage of either the front or back-end.

    Thanks to Newman’s generosity, “Asphalt Cocktail” will premiere next March at the CBDNA National Convention, performed by the Michigan State University Wind Symphony, conducted by Kevin Sedatole. The work, solely commissioned by MSU donor Howard J. Gourwitz as a gift to Dr. Sedatole, will be roughly 8 minutes in length, and it will open their concert.