It’s definitely booking season. I’ve been saying “Yes!” to many lovely things lately, and I wish I could share them all with you right now, so excited am I. But I don’t think it’s yet “Season Announcement Season” and I imagine it’s gauche to spill the beans about these things.
(That reminds me; did you know that cranberry beans are the same as borlotti beans are the same as Roman beans? This was a revelation to me as I’ve recently become enamored of the cranberry bean, but lamented its rarity, and only just now have found out that they are all around!)
This month is a bit out of the ordinary, composing-wise, in that I’ve agreed to write about an hour of new music for a fashion show (completely separate from last summer’s Chanel incident). It’s for a prodigious young designer in New York named Frank Tell, and when I found out what he wanted from me, my first reaction was a double take; it’s kind of crazy, as a musician in the “classical world”, to be asked to write so much so fast. (Usually it’s more along the lines of “Get psyched to write nine minutes of music by 2013!”) In this case, it’s a real “Gebrauchsmusik” job: write music to strut to, as beautifully as possible— like a ballet, except with very little direct relation between the music and the stage action. (I’ve never seen a full production of Daphnis et Chloé, but there are sections where the musical gestures are literally balletic; you can hear every pirouette and jeté. In a fashion show, it’s pretty much just strutting, but you still need to do more than just a brisk andante.)
From a productivity standpoint, this project has necessitated a different sort of writing style. I’ve unconcerned myself with such beloved composerly tricks as “developing variation” and “form” or even “themes”, though I guess if I were forced to choose I would call it an “ambient ritornello”. Sections follow each other stream-of-conciousness style, occasionally looking back to gestures from previous sections, but mostly just running their course. The orchestration is also minimal by necessity— there’s no piano at the venue, so I’m playing entirely with electronics, and my friend Tema Watstein is joining me on violin (you know her from Clamber Music). One piece I’m referring to as a precedent is LCD Soundsystem’s 45:33, which was commissioned by Nike as a soundtrack for people’s workouts. Even though I’m not a runner I’ve always enjoyed listening to it as a great piece of functional, minimal composition. I’m glad people didn’t give James Murphy a hard time about “selling out”; I think the reason must be that 45:33 is just so good (this is confirmed by the fact that big chunks of it were reincarnated as songs on Sound of Silver). If I’m lucky, I may be able to pull a similar stunt and plunder my project for material in the future.
One thing that’s making my life better right now: my new Magic Trackpad. This is one of those products you never knew existed until you have an hour to spare on the Upper West Side and are forced to take shelter in the Apple Store. It’s a standalone version of a laptop trackpad, but much larger, and wireless. Its surface is glass, like an iPhone, and you can do the same sort of gestures on it. The thing is also so well-made it’s ridiculous. Look at how well it fits next to the keyboard:
I think there’s no question that it beats a mouse. Even the fancy multi-touch Apple mouse has a tendency to get clogged with dust on the bottom, and it’s too heavy because it’s full of batteries, and I also have a tendency to knock it off my desk. The touch surface on the trackpad is much more useful, too, because it’s about twice as big, making the legendary “four-finger swipe” a possibility. OK, I’ll stop shilling for Apple now and get back to work. Actually, that’s a joke. I’ll never stop shilling for Apple.