2011 October 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
  • Design: Front Door
  • Design: Kitchen, pt.1
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  • Design: Kitchen, pt.3
  • Design: Kitchen, pt.4
  • 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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  • October 27, 2011

    Studio Cribz

    My studio in Cambridge is finally done!

    Well, mostly done.  There are a few spots on the wall that need some art, but things are finally far enough along that I can share pictures.  And there are a lot of pictures.

    First, so that we have an idea of how my studios have progressed…

    This was my studio in NYC.  This is the back corner of The Room.  In some parts of the country, you might call this the Great Room.  The Living Room.  The Dining Room.  The Home Theater.  The Office.  The Den.  The Pantry.  The Closet.  In NYC, that’s all the same room.  My favorite parts of this photo are the Apple iSight, which I never used because the only thing I hate more than talking on the phone is talking on the phone while somebody is looking at me; not one, but two click-wheel iPods (I think that’s a 1G and a 2G?); and behind those, a lovely Palm Treo – because there was not yet the iPhone.

    I wrote at that setup for probably three years, ending in 2005, when AEJ and I moved to Los Angeles (home of some excellent sushi). Here’s a picture of my setup in LA. We were renting and not allowed to paint the walls. This picture is tragically in need of white balance adjustment, but even if I color corrected the picture, the walls would still be ugly. I still have that desk – an off-white enameled McDowell & Craig steel desk. It lives in my office. (More on that in a moment.)

    After LA, we moved to Austin. Here’s my studio/office there. I dug the vintage 1970s lucite chandelier and red velvet curtains.  (As Jonathan Newman once said, “it looks like a friggin’ bordello.”

    When we listed the house, it was photographed by a professional interior design photographer, Paul Finkel. (Here’s the blog post with all of his pictures of our Austin house.) You can see the difference in what he was able to do, compared to what I photographed. You’ll notice that we moved my desk when we listed the house, in an effort to make the room look bigger. We also removed my dope-so-dope chandelier.

    Then we moved to Cambridge, Mass — the 8th most liberal city in the US in 2005.  Before we arrived in the summer of 2011, it was probably #4.  Now that we’re here, it must be in the top 2.  It would be a firm #1 if not for Loki.  (Huge Herman Cain supporter, it turns out.)

    I mentioned above that my old office desk is now in my “office.” That’s because for the first time in all of my years of writing music, I have a room that’s dedicated to doing administrative work like shipping sets of parts, and a completely different room – on a completely different floor of the house! – dedicated to writing music. Now, when I’m writing, I’m literally a floor away from all of my rental sets, so if somebody requests a set, I no longer drop whatever I’m writing and fill the order. (I used to do this because it was easier to fill an order than to write music. Now, it’s easier to write music than go all the way down a flight of stairs and down a hall.  Okay, it’s not “easier” to write music, but at least I don’t have to get out of my chair and go downstairs, which is so hard.) If I get an order, I send the order to the printer downstairs, and every couple of days, I set aside a few hours to “go to the office” and fill those orders all at once. There’s no reason to show pictures of my office, because it looks like an office. A nice office, but an office. Okay, here’s a shot of the closet. Glamorous, isn’t it?

    So that leaves the studio. Or “the piano room.” We haven’t decided what to call it. When we arrived in Cambridge, the “studio” (yeah, let’s go with “studio”) was more “the junk room where we’ll leave all of the used packing materials as we unpack” – or the JRWWLAOTUPMAWU room, for short.

    Before too long, we had it cleaned up. The mirror was hung (and that’s not the only thing in this room that’s hung – ZING-O!), but the room is pretty empty. Nice wall color, though. We’re renting here, like we did in LA, but unlike in LA, we were able to specify all of the wall colors before we moved in. (I say “we,” but that was entirely AEJ, who spent an afternoon drawing up a floor plan and attaching paint swatches for the contractor.)

    Then — carpet! These are Flor carpet tiles – probably the only affordable way to get a (fairly custom) rug for a 300-square-foot room in a rented house. In the distance, you can see the credenza, a vintage leather lounge chair, and the now-famous booby lamp. (Don’t worry; more boobies are coming up.)

    The room was still pretty empty – but you could tell that I was excited for the delivery of the piano. I also hadn’t figured out where the subwoofer was going to live.

    Then the piano came. (I blogged about the Disklavier here.) Everybody was much happier.

    Until the piano played itself. That was kind of stressful for somebody.

    So now the room had a shiny new Yamaha grand piano and some shiny speakers on one end, and a leather lounge chair, credenza, and booby lamp on the other end.  (Does this picture look dirty? I hope so.  I love the sexy/skeevy lounge chair, which feels like it fell out of a bachelor’s house in 1977.  Also: super comfy!)

    Here’s a less-suggestive angle.

    The room was looking pretty sweet. I mean, we had the booby lamp.

    The piano.

    The subwoofer, tucked (or squeezed) under the piano.

    A new chair (in metallic leather).

    But something was missing.


    Custom-made curtains, from Schumacher Chiang Mai Dragon fabric. Six floor-to-ceiling panels.

    Everything looks cooler with cool curtains.

    Loki likes them.

    Now the workspace kicks ass.  (The windows have some energy-efficient coating on them, so the leaves outside look fake in this picture.  I shot this at dusk, with the interior lights barely on, but with a tripod and a very long exposure.  This isn’t HDR.)

    The desk is a fully custom mirror-and-lucite neo-classical console.  (It just arrived this afternoon!)

    The mirror is trippy.

    The design owes at least a little to Elvis. Here’s a replica of the monkey statue that Elvis had in the TV room of Graceland (blogged here).  Hey, monkey!  Share your ball, monkey!  (“No,” said monkey.)

    The room, as seen from the lounge chair.

    The room is just loaded with shiny.

    I mean, even the chair’s leather is shiny.

    The room is mega-bling. AEJ has totally outdone herself with this design. I’m definitely not the best composer around, but thanks to AEJ, I’m pretty sure that I have the sweetest studio. Sadly, there is no Pulitzer for “swankiest studio.”

    And what’s just outside the studio? That’s going to have to wait for another blog post…


    October 7, 2011

    One Sweet (Birthday) Morning

    My birthday was on October 1.  I share that birthday with Jimmy Carter.  AEJ shares her birthday (January 5) with Walter Mondale, so together, we’re a semi-successful Democratic presidential ticket.

    By coincidence (or, maybe it wasn’t coincidence at all, but a gift), John Corigliano had a world premiere performance with the New York Philharmonic on September 30 – my Birthday Eve.  AEJ and I made plans to drive down to NYC for the performance, plus a pre-performance dinner with Jerry Junkin (Director of Bands at UT-Austin).  Jerry’s wife, Stephanie The Magnificent, was planning to join us, but had to cancel, so in her place, three people were invited (it takes three people to equal one Stephanie) : Gary Green (Director of Bands at the University of Miami, where I’ll be in mid-November, for a performance of Harvest with Joe Alessi), Kevin Sedatole (Director of Bands at Michigan State – and the person responsible for Asphalt Cocktail), and Joe Alessi (not sure who he is – I couldn’t figure out if he was the guy from the Alessi utensil company, or some trombonist).

    All of us, minus Joe Alessi, met up for pre-dinner drinks. (I went with the Grey Goose Citron and tonic.)

    After cocktails, we walked down to La Grenouille – a classic French restaurant that’s been around since the early 1960’s.

    You know if the waiter is wearing a bow tie, it’s a nice place.

    Either that, or it’s a Chippendale club.

    In this case, though, it was not a Chippendale club.  (We’d be saving that for after dinner.)

    First up: an assortment of fresh breads. Buttery breadsticks, and some spectacular gougéres. (Sidebar: all photos are from the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L lens on a 5D Mark II body. The restaurant was very dark, so some of these shots are a little grainy, having been shot at ISO 3200.)

    Next up: another small complimentary offering from the chef – a bit of carrot ginger soup.

    My first course was this wild mushroom risotto. I love a good risotto, and this was a good risotto. Check out the slivers of parmesan.

    Kevin Sedatole had this salad, but I forgot to ask what it was. Is this the foie gras salad with duck prosciutto? We’ll pretend it is, because that’s probably what he should have ordered.

    Jerry Junkin opted for…

    AEJ’s first course was the farm-raised poached egg with leeks. As she does in life, she wins the “Prettiest Award.”

    For the main course, I think all of us — except AEJ — ordered the same thing: La Grenouille’s famous grilled dover sole with mustard sauce. The waiter filets the fish at the table.

    And well-fileted it was.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture with the mustard sauce, which was possibly the highlight of the night. I got distracted by the smell, and started eating before I could get a picture. Oops.

    AEJ ordered something that wasn’t even on the menu: cheese souffle. (Being the lifetime recipient of the Prettiest Award does have advantages.) Holy hell, cheese souffle is a wonderful thing.

    Her souffle came with a side of some weird spiky green.

    More free treats from the chef! This was one tasty madeleine.

    For the main dessert, AEJ went with yet another souffle, successfully completing the Egg Dinner Trifecta.

    Here’s the gang – minus the always camera-shy AEJ. Left to right, this is Kevin Sedatole, some short dude, Gary Green, Joe Alessi, and Jerry Junkin.

    Jerry Junkin is probably the best host in the world, even when he’s hosting from a city that isn’t his home. He set up the dinner, invited a great group, and most impressive of all: he had a car waiting for us to take us to the hall. *

    * may or may not be an accurate picture

    Off we went to the concert.

    The premiere was wonderful. Corigliano’s work, “One Sweet Morning,” was written for the 10-year anniversary of 9/11. (There’s a great story about the piece in the New York Times.) The piece delivered both the visceral impact and ravishing beauty that I love so much about his music.

    After the concert – more food and drink. The last thing I needed was more food, so I stuck with drink.  (One almost always needs more drink.)

    I told John that I loved his piece, but I was a little hurt. “I was really hoping you’d stick a little of the ‘Happy Birthday’ song into the last movement of your 9/11 piece,” I told him. “I mean, it is my birthday.” He insisted that it was in there. I’m guess I’ll take him at his word.
    Here I am with John Corigliano.

    This was one of the best birthdays I’ve had in a long time.