2008 August 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
  • “Wine-Dark Sea” – the program note
  • We’re buying a house!
  • Symphony for Band – an update, with audio
  • Xerxes — for metal rock band
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  • Design: Cambridge Studio
  • Design: Dining Room
  • Design: Family Room
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  • Design: Kitchen, pt.5
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  • Design: The Austin House, part 1
  • Design: The Austin House, pro shots
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  • Food: Joel Robuchon
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  • Food: Samar
  • Food: Scarpetta
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  • Music: My Process
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  • August 17, 2008

    Can’t spell Studio without Stud

    I think we finally have my studio in order here at the new house in Austin. I wanted a room that felt warm — and not too “workplace-like.” I didn’t know what that necessarily meant, but AEJ did. The result is a large steel McDowell & Craig office desk — enameled in a cream color — and a gynormous metal computer monitor, but combined with floor-to-ceiling velvet drapes and a totally bad-ass vintage chandelier from the early 1970s.

    For comparison, here is what the room looked like when we bought the house:

    And here it is now:

    This is what it looks like at night:

    Here is one of the accessories the previous owners had in this room. AEJ’s brother referred to as something like “angel with a patriotic erection.”

    My replacement accessory: The Tube Lamp. (Next to it is the Waterphone.)

    And the most dramatic change… The former light fixture:

    And the new light fixture – Liberace-style.

    The studio looks sweet — and thanks to all of these yards upon yards of velvet, plus the black cowhide rug on the floor, the sound in here is great (although lacking massive low-end, as the subwoofer is currently in the family room).

    Now I really don’t have any excuse… I kind of need to start writing Asphalt Cocktail.


    August 14, 2008

    Take that, BoingBoing

    There’s an entry on BoingBoing this week, called “Found photo of woman posing next to her portrait.” Here’s the photo:

    Well, I can top that, BoingBoing. I give you “Found photo of Loki posing next to portrait of Loki.”

    Cat trumps oldie-time lady any day.


    August 13, 2008

    Donald Erb, 1927-2008

    My undergraduate composition teacher, Donald Erb, passed away yesterday at the age of 81. He was a wonderful teacher, and wow — what a character. His office was decorated with Elvis memorabilia, not because he was an actual fan of Elvis, but because he thought Elvis was only popular because he epitomized mediocrity and the American love of mediocrity — and that warranted a mocking shrine in his studio.

    Donald Erb wrote some of the ugliest, angriest music I’ve ever heard, but he was careful to never influence the style of his students. His music was terribly dissonant, but the music I wrote when I studied with him sounded like a Samuel Barber ripoff, and he helped me make it sound like a good ripoff. A teacher who teaches craft rather than creating clones is a rare teacher indeed, and Dr. Erb was the rarest of them all.

    A few Erb stories…

    In an interview many years ago, an executive from WCLV, the Cleveland classical music station, was asked why WCLV didn’t play more music by living composers. “Because composers today are speaking Swahili, and my listeners don’t understand Swahili,” was his response. Erb’s response? He had bumper stickers printed that read, “WCLV Sucks” — in Swahili.

    Erb was always brutally, and occasionally painfully, honest, and he didn’t care whom he offended. He was once speaking to a colleague about a recent round of NEA grants, and the colleague told Erb that a certain famous female composer had been awarded $20,000 to compose a piece for an orchestra. “Her music is terrible,” was Erb’s response. “But the NEA just gave her $20 grand for a piece,” the colleague retorted. “Yeah, well that orchestra is going to get $20,000 worth of shit.”

    For some inexplicable reason, every year while I was at the Cleveland Institute of Music, the school hosted a Darius Milhaud festival. (Milhaud was a French composer popular in the early-mid 1900’s.) I asked Dr. Erb at one lesson, “Dr. Erb, are you going to any of the Milhaud concerts?” I will never forget his response. “Of course not. John, Milhaud was a terrible, terrible composer. Even you are a better composer than Milhaud.”

    We’ll miss you, Dr. Erb.


    August 8, 2008

    Enough already

    Is anybody else as sick of Seth Rogen as I am? Good lord, is there any late-night talk show he hasn’t been on this week? And how many movies can Judd Apatow make in a year?

    Don’t get me wrong. I liked The 40 Year Old Virgin, but it seems like at this point, the studios would green light a holocaust musical starring Wayne Brady and Jessica Simpson if they could also attach Rogen and Apatow. Actually, I may pitch that.

    Maybe I’ve just aged out of their demographic. I’m going to put my dentures in a glass, put on my Depends, and sit on my porch and rant about how things used to be in My Day when there were real movie stars — like C. Thomas Howell. (You know your acting career is hurting when your Wiki article doesn’t even contain your head shot.)


    August 5, 2008

    If This Moving Van’s a Rockin’…

    I haven’t updated the blog in ages because I’ve spent the past several weeks packing things up in LA and moving to Austin. The packing itself went fine, although some members of the family enjoyed it more than others…

    In fact, some members of the family didn’t do any packing work at all.

    Loki, I wouldn’t get used to that Barneys bag. We just bought a house, kitty. Our days of shopping at Barneys are done for a while.

    After a rather irritating start to the moving day (which I don’t need to get into), our stuff finally made it onto a truck. (Our total moving weight, for the curious: 9060 pounds. WTF?! We have 4.5 tons of stuff? Seriously?

    The drive was fine, but a little long. We left LA around 9pm on Thursday, July 24, and we only made it a few hours on that first day. We took Interstate 40 most of the way. It’s a lot prettier than Interstate 10, as demonstrated by this photo in New Mexico, showing a thunderstorm in the near distance.

    We arrived at our new house around 4pm on Sunday the 27th. The next afternoon, this little guy spent most of the afternoon hanging out just outside the family room door.

    The deer are great — and there are a zillion of them. We’re fans of the deer. The spiders — not as much. (Is this one poisonous?  ‘Cause he’s just outside the front door…)

    On that Monday, we learned that our stuff was all still in LA, and probably wouldn’t leave LA before Wednesday. At that point, our furnishings in Austin consisted of an Aero bed — and that’s it. So we went to Target and bought two $20 child-size beanbag chairs and a small television. It all felt very collegiate — but with nicer flooring than I ever had in the dorm.

    Here’s another shot of how we lived for a week until the movers arrived. Actually, for comparison, first, here’s what this room looked like when we bought the house…

    … and here it is currently, or at least the way it was before any furniture arrived.

    And here it was on the day the movers arrived. My TV! It made it safely! I gotta say — spending a week with a 19″ screen made me appreciate my big screen anew.

    Here’s the “before” shot of the dining room…

    … and here it is right before the movers arrived. New paint, new floors, louvered doors to the kitchen removed, new baseboards. What you can’t tell here is that all of the walls and ceilings were originally textured (like with a sharp sandy material) , and now they’re perfectly smooth. Our contractor rules.

    Now we’re waiting on installation of lighting (there’s a bad-ass black crystal chandelier coming for the family room), and delivery of the new sofa (made of recycled plastic bottles!), and other general decorating. More soon…