Ridiculous Goals

A year ago if you had told me that right this minute I would have a film that I made by myself, that I sent out in the world, that it had been screened on both coasts of the US, in giant multiplexes, had just been in a fine art division of a fest in Germany, and was about to be screened in Dallas and the next day, freaking Hollywood... that it had even won two filmmaking awards, and was up for further adventures, I would have laughed at you. And then taken a breath and laughed some more and said something like, “Oh, you stinker!"

Ridiculous goals if I’d had them, but I didn’t.

But then it kind of happened like this: I didn’t start with a film in mind at all. I started with a goal of writing a sonatina and it just kept growing. I ran with it! I finished it! ...giddy not to have to answer to or wait for anyone else’s schedule, input or approval... but moreover, its theme of ADD practically gave me an imperative to hyper focus on it all by myself.

If I wasn't already an outsider locally, I’m sure setting myself up to be one. How dare I go rogue and presume to call myself a director, a cinematographer, an editor, and everything else that has joined “Composer" on my imdb page? Not to freaking mention, performing violin after just picking it up two years ago? "Just who do you think you are, and what do you think you're doing?!?" demand all of the completely imaginary voices of my colleagues, alternately snickering and yelling, which may or may not reflect any of their feelings in real life. Well, I'm a composer, who is also visual. I think I'm doing a tiny project all the way through to learn a bit of perspective about the whole process... right up to and extending into film festivals and hopefully a good entry path into a distribution model.

I entered a ton of festivals in lottery mode, knowing that odds are notoriously slim. Mainly it was to push myself far beyond that always-referred-to “comfort zone” to thicken my skin and inure myself against failure. And now each time I see another “Not Accepted" in my inbox, I completely agree with it. Yeah! You're right! I totally get it. Ha, I can't believe I even submitted it! And it really does suck to have to be judge and give people bad news, I feel for you. And it was close to final deadline and you probably had nowhere left you could put it, or it didn't fit what you're doing. Also maybe it just sucks! And then I move on.

But also, when the occasional “Accepted" comes in, I completely agree with that, too. Yeah! You're right! Isn't it awesome? Especially since I did it myself... but you probably don't even know that unless you read all my project blurbs, right? So it's kind of double plus awesome, isn't it! We are global artistic community and we are the luckiest people in the world.

Then I move on… no. Disagreement has to have its turn with both of them as well. To the acceptances, I say all kinds of terrible things in my head, the nicest of which is Oh, honey, is this not sub-par? To the rejections, I say, Well, you probably didn’t see the latest version or didn’t read the cover letter or didn't watch it or whatever, so what.

And THEN I move on. All of this self talk zooms by faster and faster, by the way.

Is my audacious plan of inuring myself to failure working? Yes, I’m certain of it! Is it making me question reality? Yeah, a little bit.

Meanwhile, I’m digging into a new concept: division of labor!

"Spectratta" accepted into film festivals!

Hey, I have some great news I want to brag on! Made this little music video, all on my own, just to see if I could (and because I'm impatient, and the budget was right.) Start to finish composition, performing, recording, filming, editing and mastering. It was for the composer's salon at first, without sound as Karin McCullough and I performed live in front of it. Well, since I had the video done anyway, I figured I'd play the lottery and enter a bunch of film festivals. The first notification dates are here and it's been accepted! With many more possible festivals coming up. Now I need to hustle and get it formatted for an actual multiplex movie theater in Mobile, AL on September 23rd for the Azalea Film Festival.

I can't make the actual video public until the festival run is over, which could be awhile. I mean a very long-seeming while. But here is a teeny tiny trailer.

I can't wait to show you all the whole thing! (Maybe there will be a screening near you!?)

Program Notes for "Parallel Plaid" next week

I promise you that my music and my film are better than me talking about my music and my film! That said… here is some insight.

For the most part, piano is like parent, violin is like child.


violin establishes footing solo on the tonic

pizzicato is the inner world “stimming," arco is outside interaction 

dissonant, percussive movement

violin repeatedly reaching out and immediately returning to tonic

piano has perfect fifths but shifting key center up and down 1/2 steps

    = trying to help violin get bearings… takes brief melodic stroll

first interval is augmented 4th then overreaches to M6th, then m6

    and finally finds the fifth representing normality

arco section = willing to engage,

brief extroversion then runs out of words so

retreats back into pizz inner world

very brief movement



= transformation, resistance, movement, growth

single minded in pursuit of goal

going about the day

wind picks up, holding onto flower

dramatic upset at trivial change in routine

parent checks in on child occasionally


Off Script

= gaining independence

high energy tango feel

but too quirky to dance to

near end: brief return to original pizzicato motif as comfort (stim)

    before coda dives into high, inverted, loud version of 

    main statement and riffing, fragmenting, punctuating

    right up until the emphatic end

Just keep doin' what you're doin'

Check out where I'm playing this sonatina next! LIVE SCORE TO FILM WHAT???

Since I have not quite gotten a handle on reposting from my Facebook, I'm old-schooling this copy/paste because I'm just still smiling from this moment.

Highlights from yesterday: first broken bow hair during a performance, and a highschooler told his mom I have inspired him to write music because he "hadn't realized it could be so edgy." That is just the best.

Look Who's a Guest Artist at Centralia College!

Thrilled to have been invited to come and speak about some of my favorite topics!

Acchio Musica Thematicus! 

The fourth installment in the Harry Potter film franchise was a bridge between established composer legend John Williams and others who took up the wand. Explore the ways in which Patrick Doyle retained beloved musical themes and introduced new ones in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, with specific examples for analysis of how they relate to what is happening on-screen. Alohomora the hidden magic of musical language in film!

Charts Alive

Recording budgets can be tight, but it can take just one live instrument to bring a computer-based project to the next level. Susan recently began learning how to play violin as an adult, all the better to write for it, and it quickly became an obsession in and of itself. Hear excerpts of a recent work along with demos of how intimate knowledge of an instrument can inform a composer’s writing. Whether recorded by a full live orchestra, an expert soloist, a virtual instrument or something in between, composition benefits from the composer opening new doors of learning.

Sonatina: what's in a name

What comes to mind when you see the term Sonatina?

-Little Sonata

-All the lovely piano pieces I played when younger. (YES! Thanks, Nancy, for that. Especially Beethoven, Kuhlau, Clementi... so many I played or heard)

-Dunno. Something classical?

-A term invented retroactively after the form had already died out

-Most sources describe sonatina as a shorter form of the sonata that can be more loosely based on the form and is generally less technically demanding. However, further digging reveals that after having been largely abandoned in the romantic era, the sonatina re-emerged in the 20th century as no longer a didactic teaching example but a work meant for performance and even freer of formal constraints.

I'm here to tell you I have a new perspective after having written one for the Sonatina Festival.

Sonatina: A fun little idea that continually grows, stretches, and elaborates into a fully realized story with new chapters that present themselves as soon as there is framework to hang from, all the while maintaining the original sense of spontaneity and possibility.

Pianist Karin McCullough has been working with me to polish up my new Sonatina for Violin and Piano, "Parallel Plaid" to be performed at Wedgwood Presbyterian in NE Seattle during the session beginning at 3pm. After tonight's Call for Scores concert, I hope to see you Saturday when we bring this term to life!

"Parallel Plaid" gets an origin story

The sonatina I've been working on has been given a title. I hate to explain a joke, but in this case, even though it's not exactly a laughing matter, I do want to present some of the clever or punny bits that went into creating this title.

1. "Parallel Plaid" is a riff on parallel play. I first encountered this term when my kids were babies and I was reading everything to do with parenting. Parallel play is something that toddlers do as a way of interacting without really interacting. They play next to each other, each involved in their own thing. A similar concept is "laughing at..." vs. "laughing with..." someone, although parallel play is by no means a malicious thing and indeed facilitates social interaction where otherwise there might be none.

2. "Plaid" doesn't sound like "play" even though the printed words look very much like they almost rhyme. It's very tricks-y, it is. Have you ever discovered a word you'd been pronouncing wrong because you had only read it versus hearing it spoken aloud? Maybe the way you discovered your misconception was when you said that word aloud to someone! This is a nod to the awkwardness of "parallel PLAD" failing an attempt at rhyming with the thing it references. (Plaid itself can also be a little awkward to coordinate with. Is this point all "plaid" out yet? ...get it? getitgetit?)

3. On a meta level, play/played is what the musicians are doing, or have done, with the music on the page. They are engaging in parallel play by each having their own motifs and rhythms that exist side by side. It also has a somewhat angular, geometric feel like the parallel and perpendicular lines of plaid.

If you're thinking that all of that explaining up there seems a bit, well... 

The theme of autism asserted itself pretty early on in this work. There are three movements, and the first one that got a name was "Stim." This was followed by "Transist" and "Off-Script."

If you know me fairly well, you're curious about why the subjects of ADHD, ADD and autism come up frequently, on Facebook and elsewhere. Many of these issues are highly interconnected. It has to do with being an ally, with being on one end of the spectrum and acknowledging my friends who live with the other end of it, and with living with certain aspects myself.

compulsively writing

You may notice that entries here are few and far between. It is so much more facile to toss off a post or three on Facebook and Twitter in between keeping up with various technical communities than it is to pop over here with specific intent to journal. No news is not no news, it is time filled elsewhere.

The thing that I am overdoing currently is writing a sonatina for violin and piano... or is it piano and violin. There is definitely a dialog between them, and it keeps growing. A theme is emerging of ADHD and the autism spectrum as it relates to communication and work habits. I might know a thing or two about this.