Just got back from Los Angeles and Baltimore, where I experienced life as a touring musician for the past week. The Big Gig with the LA Philharmonic went splendidly; I wish I could post a recording of Nightjar up here because John and the Green Umbrella crew made it sound so good, but alas, the unions (or at least their lawyers) would demand my head. Not only were the musicians consummate professionals, as I had expected, but they really cared about making Payton’s and my music sound like real music. When I asked percussionist James Babor if he could try a different ratchet sound for the opening, there was immediately a multiplicity of different ratchets seemingly conjured from midair, everything from Toy to Industrial.
John, Payton and I did a little Q&A with Helane Anderson, an artistic administrator at the LA Phil, which you can listen to here: LA Phil Q&A with Helane Anderson There was also a bunch of press about the event: a preview article in the LA Times, and a review from Mark Swed (“strangely Darwinian” as my friend Andrew points out).
LA is truly the city of great hole-in-the-wall Asian food. Each day we feasted on Bánh Mì, fatty pork ramen, Shanghai-style soup dumplings… all things sadly unavailable in New Haven, and even a bit obscure in New York. Inspired, I am right now letting a fresh batch of Nước Mắm infuse on the kitchen counter (which is in turn infusing the whole apartment).
The morning of the show I made our friend Annie’s family drive us out to Santa Monica, to make a pilgrimage to the Eames House. It’s more modest in scale and construction than photos in glossy art books convey, and is exactly how Charles and Ray left it, complete with the charmingly grody old appliances and corroding steel paneling. I was surprised at how close to the Pacific Coast Highway the whole thing is (a thoroughfare which, at that point, kind of represents the worst of Southern California). Nonetheless, the Eames estate is one of the pleasantest places I have ever been. Even though it is unequivocally one big piece of “high art” (there’s a jarringly monumental “national historic landmark” plaque in the studio) there is not a trace of snobbery or pretension— it feels more like the nest of two divinely-inspired magpies.
To cap the week, I was supposed to share a concert with fellow composer-pianist Tudor Dominik at Strathmore down in Bethesda, MD. Only, about two weeks before the show, Dom injured his hand (skateboarding? that was the rumor) and couldn’t play, doctor’s orders. So I filled out my program with a little Rzewski and Ives, in addition to the Marshall, Andres, and Steve Gorbos (who was in attendance with his entourage!). The venue was a nice contrast from the huge, sleek Disney Hall— a large 19th-century living room of a converted mansion, which couldn’t have held more than 100 seats. I actually prefer playing in such intimate spaces; strangely, I’m able to concentrate better, even though the front row is nearly sitting in my lap. The lovely producer of the series, Georgina, greeted me how, henceforth, everyone should greet me post-concert— with a bottle of water in one hand, and a glass of booze in the other.