2009 March 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)
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  • Design: Cambridge Studio
  • Design: Dining Room
  • Design: Family Room
  • Design: Front Door
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  • 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
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  • Food: Babbo
  • Food: Eleven Madison Park
  • Food: Jean-Georges
  • Food: Joel Robuchon
  • Food: Next: Childhood
  • Food: Samar
  • Food: Scarpetta
  • Food: WD-50
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  • Japan, part 2: Sushi
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  • Japan, part 5: Tawaraya
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  • March 20, 2009

    Camera for sale

    I’m selling a bit of my camera gear.  Let me know if you’re interested in any of this…

    Canon 40D : the camera I’ve been using for the past 18 months or so. If you want to see sample shots, just scroll down for countless pages. It’s a 10.1 megapixel digital SLR. It will shoot 6.5 frames per second continuously (great for sports), recording the files as JPEG or RAW. This is Canon’s mid-level crop camera. I paid $1200 for it, and it’s selling new on Amazon now for $860. I’m asking $500.

    Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS lens : a fantastic “walk around” lens, it’s from the Canon “L” series — their top pro line. I’m selling this because I recently purchased a 24-70mm f/2.8 L, and the lenses are too similar to need both. I’ve used this lens a lot, but you can see one blog entry shot exclusively with this lens here. This lens is $1050 new. I’m asking $800.

    Canon EFS 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM lens: the lens I’ve used for all of the interior design shots on the blog, like this entry about our family room remodel, and this entry about the living room remodel. This is an ultra wide-angle lens, so it will capture a huge amount in the frame. Note that this is an “EFS” model lens, so it will only work on a body that supports that type. (If you have a Canon camera lower in the line than the 5D MK II, this lens should work fine. It just doesn’t work with full-frame pro gear.  I’m selling this lens because I’m buying a 5D MK II, and this lens won’t fit on that body.) This lens is $725 new. I’m asking $550.


    March 14, 2009

    Aurora Awakes

    The score for the new piece is done.  The piece is called “Aurora Awakes,” after the goddess of dawn.  (If you Google “Aurora Awakes” right now, you get other stuff — like this bizarre YouTube video that, I’m sorry to say, has nothing to do with my piece.)

    If you’re curious to see the score, the PDF is here.

    Next up: parts. And after that, I can finally catch up on the blog entries about the recent Kingfishers Catch Fire performances, as well as some great school visits in the Fort Worth area. For now, though: dinner.


    March 8, 2009

    Kingfishers in Dallas

    On Tuesday night at 7:30pm, the University of Texas Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Jerry Junkin, will perform “Kingfishers Catch Fire” at the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas.  (The Meyerson is the home of the Dallas Symphony, as well as the Dallas Wind Symphony.  It’s a very nice hall, and the acoustics aren’t too shabby, either.)    The program also includes (among other works) John Adams’ “Grand Pianola Music” and Steve Bryant’s incredible new piece for electronics and band, “Ecstatic Waters.” Steve’s piece is definitely one to hear live, and Kingfishers certainly benefits from hearing the surround trumpets in person, so if you’re anywhere near the Dallas area on Tuesday night, I hope you’ll come to the concert. Steve and I will be there. Adams: not so much. (Your loss, John Adams.  Loser.) I believe there’s a promotion code to get free tickets, and I just need to find that code. Check back on Monday afternoon if you’re interested.

    UT played the hell out of Kingfishers at the ABA convention last week, and with the acoustics of the Meyerson, I think Tuesday will be even better. As the cool kids are all saying nowadays, “Be there, or be square.”


    March 6, 2009

    Program note

    I just sent off the program note for “Asphalt Cocktail,” which premieres here in Austin three weeks from tomorrow.  The note is below.

    Several years ago, when I was living in Manhattan, I was walking down Columbus Avenue with my good friend (and fellow composer) Jonathan Newman. Somehow, the topic of titles for pieces came up, and Newman said a title that stopped me in my tracks there on the sidewalk: “Asphalt Cocktail.”

    I begged him to let me use the title. “That title screams Napoleonic Testosterone Music. I was born to write that!” I pleaded. “No,” was his initial response. I asked regularly over the next few years, and the answer was always the same: “No. It’s mine.” In May 2008, I asked him once again, begging more pathetically than I had before, and his answer this time surprised me: “Fine,” he said, “but I’ll be needing your first-born child.” This was easily agreeable to me, as I don’t like kids.

    Around this same time, my wife and I were talking to Kevin Sedatole about his upcoming performance at the CBDNA National Convention. It was my wife who suggested to Kevin, after coaxing him with cocktails ourselves, that I write a piece to open his CBDNA concert, and that piece should be “Asphalt Cocktail.” Kevin told his friend Howard J. Gourwitz about the idea for the piece, and Howard generously agreed to personally fund the commission as a gift to Kevin Sedatole and the Michigan State University Wind Symphony. The piece is dedicated to Jonathan Newman, because without his title I’d have written a completely different piece, like “Bandtastic! : A Concert Prelude.”

    “Asphalt Cocktail” is a five-minute opener, designed to shout, from the opening measure, “We’re here.” With biting trombones, blaring trumpets, and percussion dominated by cross-rhythms and back beats, it aims to capture the grit and aggression that I associate with the time I lived in New York. Picture the scariest NYC taxi ride you can imagine, with the cab skidding around turns as trucks bear down from all sides. Serve on the rocks.


    March 3, 2009


    I’m orchestrating the new piece, and I’m having a hell of a time with some of it. I always write to short score first, that is, with piano sounds playing the majority of the material. I know what a lot of solo lines will be, but a lot of stuff starts out with just a piano for playback. This is sometimes problematic, particularly when I write something that sounds good in a piano, but is actually physically impossible to play on a piano.

    The current piece has a long-repeated accompaniment that simply alternates between two pitches. Are there any percussionists out there who could take a quick look at this page and tell me if the marimba part is possible at quarter note=124? It isn’t possible on piano — not at this speed, by any normal pianist. I had it split between marimba and vibes — that is, the vibes playing the top note, and the marimba playing the bottom note, so it was split between two players — but I like the sound of this better. I guess if it’s not possible for one marimba player playing with four mallets, it might be fine with two players at the same marimba — but that’s probably way too tight at the instrument, and I would worry that their mallets would get tangled up. That’s my worry about this figure in general — that it’s at a place on the instrument where the bars aren’t large enough to make this possible. Thoughts? Here’s the sample page, fully orchestrated Check out the figure that starts at measure 154, noting the key signature, and keep in mind that it’s going to repeat that figure for quite a while…