2010 December 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: The Austin House, part 1
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  • Food: Samar
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  • December 31, 2010

    I’m not a good person

    AEJ: “Peter Singer (professor of bioethics at Princeton) donates 25% of his income to charity.”

    Me: “I don’t see how that helps anybody.”

    AEJ: ?!

    Me: “I’m sorry — by ‘anybody,’ I meant ‘me.’ “


    December 29, 2010

    2010 Redux

    2010 was a big ol’ year.  Here are a some things that happened…

    In January, I finished “Xerxes,” my (angry) concert march. (Don’t do a “Xerxes” Google image search.)

    In February, the Texas 5A All-State Symphonic Band performed “Aurora Awakes,” with Gary Hill conducting.  I also travelled to Ball State, where I received a (fake) honorary doctorate.

    March was amazing.  Joe Alessi gave the premiere of “Harvest: Concerto for Trombone” with the West Point Band, and we made a studio recording as well (which is available streaming right now, and will be available for download on iTunes in February).

    AEJ and I also went to the Austin Rodeo, which resulted in one of my crankiest blog entries ever.

    In April, I posted a Defense of Marching Band, a university performed “Asphalt Cocktail” without renting it, and my bathtub friend Jennifer Higdon won a Pulitzer Prize for her wonderful Violin Concerto (which I had the pleasure of hearing in Dallas in May — where we also had a tasty dinner).

    In June, we took a road trip to New York City (1500 miles with a cat)…

    … where AEJ took philosophy courses at NYU…

    … we had a so-so dinner at Morimoto

    a whimsical (yes, I said whimsical) dinner at WD-50

    …and I bought an iPhone 4 on launch day at the busiest Apple Store in the US.

    July was filled with more over-the-top NYC dining, including several dinners at Scarpetta (now our favorite “nice but not ridiculous” restaurant in NYC)…

    … an epic 12-course dinner (with 12 paired wines!) at Eleven Madison Park

    … and an overrated dinner at Blue Hill.

    Oh, and even with all of that eating and drinking, I somehow also managed to write a new piece: “Hymn to a Blue Hour.”

    In August, we wrapped up our summer in NYC with an (also overrated) dinner at Bouley (could we please stop with the sous vide?!)…

    … a (not overrated at all) dinner at Mario Batali’s restaurant, Babbo

    (where an optional spoonful of balsamic vinegar costs more than your average meal — oh, NYC, you make me chuckle)

    … and one final NYC dinner at Scarpetta.

    In September, I bitched about titles, and Joe Alessi came to UT Austin and gave a spectacular performance of “Harvest,” with Jerry Junkin conducting.

    I spent my birthday — October 1, and it’s never too early to shop for it, hint, hint — at the University of Michigan.

    Somehow, that was my only blog entry in October, although I also had a great visit to Florida State (which somehow hasn’t been blogged yet).  At the end of the month, the UT Wind Ensemble made a BluRay surround recording of “Kingfishers Catch Fire.”

    In November, I wrote a new “grade 3” piece called “Foundry,” for “found” percussion and concert band.  (The piece premieres in January, and will be officially released in June.)

    “Hymn to a Blue Hour” premiered at the beautiful Mesa State College in December.

    In “news for the year,” according to the UILForms website, “Undertow” was the most-performed “grade 4” piece for UIL in Texas this year, with 57 schools — including a staggering 15 middle schools! — performing the piece at UIL (which is basically the Texas name for solo and ensemble contest, although it includes a zillion other non-music categories as well).  (If you check the list, and you’re like, “Liar! ‘Undertow’ only had 54 schools, not 57,” — for some reason, three uses of “Undertow” are at the bottom of the list, as if there’s a second version with an identical title.  Is there something somebody isn’t telling me?)  I’m honored that so many schools picked the piece, but I’d have loved to have had clinics with more of those groups.  (Email me, Texas folk!  I live here, and I promise that I’ll pass the mandatory background check!)  And while 57 is a lot, check out the totals for the overall most-performed works.  204!  204 schools in Texas played “Moscow, 1941” by Brian Balmages.  Wow, I need to try to write a Grade 2 piece.  (Okay, probably not going to happen, considering how difficult it was to write that Grade 3 piece.  I don’t know how guys like Brian do it.)

    There are big things coming in 2011.  In February, the two 5A Texas All-State bands are performing my music (both “Hymn to a Blue Hour” and “Asphalt Cocktail,” which will make for a weirdly bipolar couple of days of rehearsals).  Joe Alessi is making a second studio recording of “Harvest” in February (this time at the University of Florida).  March will see a performance of “Harvest” by the University of Washington Wind Ensemble, with Koichiro Yamamoto — Principal Trombonist for the Seattle Symphony — playing the solo part, at the CBDNA national convention.  (Koichiro is also performing the piece next summer in Japan and Taiwan.)  April includes a residency at Michigan State, where Joe Lulloff will perform my Soprano Sax Concerto.

    After that is anybody’s guess, as we wait to hear of AEJ’s grad school application results.  2011 is going to be a doozy.

    Have a safe and happy New Year!


    December 22, 2010

    Holiday fun

    The trip out to Chicago for the Midwest Clinic last week was good, although it was definitely an “off” year.  So many friends skipped this year, whether for budgetary or logistical reasons, but I did make some good new friends.  (It was especially a pleasure to finally meet composer Jennifer Jolley in person.  It turns out her name suits her.)  The performances of “Xerxes” by the Dekaney High School Band, “Strange Humors” by the Liberty High School Sax Quartet, and “Hymn to a Blue Hour” by Texas A&M (plus the rehearsal lab on the piece with Kevin Sedatole and the Jefferson High School Wind Symphony), were all wonderful.

    Normally around this time of year, I’d post a bunch of photos from Midwest, and pictures of Christmas Cheer from around the house.  Not this year, I’m afraid.  Chicago, from a photographic standpoint, was a bust in 2010.  I didn’t have a single “wow” meal (unlike last year, when I had the best meal I’ve ever had), and I took a few pictures, but it wasn’t until it was too late that I realized that my lens was set to manual focus, so everything is horribly blurry.

    Here at the house, we’ve fallen behind on the Christmas decorating.  I was swamped before Midwest, rushing to fill orders before people left for holiday break, and now AEJ is putting in 12 hours a day working on grad school applications, so although the trees (yes, we have multiple Christmas trees) are up, they aren’t decorated.

    That didn’t stop us from buying a few ornaments, though.  One, in particular is… well, you’ll see.  From the front or side, it’s a perfectly nice glass deer.

    But from, ahem, behind… I mean, WTF?!

    On that note!
    It’s that time of year once again. For the sixth year in a row, I present to you:

    The most fantastically awful performance ever of the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.  (Please don’t direct-link.)

    Courtesy of the always dignified Pulitzer Prize and Oscar-winning composer John Corigliano, who first emailed this to me back in 2004 (and emailed it once again just a few days ago).


    December 13, 2010

    Bathing in cash

    For those who wonder, “Why does John Mackey make such a big deal about licensing?  Why did he almost sue a major record label this summer for not licensing a piece before releasing it on CD?”

    Clearly it’s all about the money.


    December 12, 2010

    Chicago schedule

    On Tuesday afternoon, I head to the Midwest Band & Orchestra Clinic in Chicago, the annual schmooze-fest for music educators around the country (and several people from other countries as well).  For those interested, here’s where I’ll be in case you want to say howdy (or are just interested in snickering at my pointy shoes).

    Tuesday: arrive early evening, get some dinner, and have a drink at the Hilton Bar.

    Wednesday:  Coffee, followed by exhibit floor roaming
    3:45pm: rehearsal with the Dekaney High School Wind Ensemble on “Xerxes,” McCormick room W476
    Drinks at the Hilton Bar  (are you seeing a pattern yet?)

    Thursday: Coffee, more exhibit roaming
    5:30pm: The annual Michigan State reception, which is always a fun time
    Quick dinner
    8:30pm: Dekaney High School Wind Ensemble concert, featuring “Xerxes
    Drinks… probably at the Hilton bar

    Friday, 11:40am: rehearsal clinic with Kevin Sedatole (Michigan State’s Director of Bands) and the Jefferson High School Band, who will have an open rehearsal on “Hymn to a Blue Hour,” room W183
    Also at 11:40am: the Liberty High School Sax Quartet gives a concert featuring “Strange Humors” in room W190.  “Strange Humors” is towards the end of the concert, so I’ll start at Jefferson High School’s open rehearsal at 11:40, then run to room W190 to catch the sax quartet.
    Lunch, probably somewhere offensively overpriced at the convention center.  (I’ll be the first to happily pay $25 for a spoonful of aged balsamic, but I seriously resent a $9.50 slice of nasty food court pizza.)
    5:30pm: Texas A&M Wind Orchestra concert, featuring “Hymn to a Blue Hour
    Dinner, and then…
    Oh, you can guess.  It involves the Hilton Bar.

    Saturday: crack’o’dawn, flight home to Austin

    Will I see you at Chicago?