Talk Pay: 2019 Update

A number of years ago there was a movement on twitter to create transparency in the work force around salaries to help combat the gender pay gap, especially in the tech industry. I noticed such transparency was lacking among musicians as well, especially when it comes to commissioning rates for composers. Fees for performing gigs can vary wildly, and many wonder if they are being offered a 'fair' amount of their time and talent. While I believe every artist can decide what is fair for themselves and balance out monetary compensation with other types of perceived value, I think it's still helpful to create transparency in the field, both for artists and those who wish to hire them. So, here's a breakdown of how I make my living. As a point of reference I have put, side by side, a comparison of my average rate of compensation from 2010-2015, when I was freelancing in NY, and 2018-19 freelancing in LA after...
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Hell Prepared

Hell Prepared

Around the beginning of 2018 I was approached about a project by the artistic director of a theater company that creates experimental new works based on Jewish mysticism, history, and mythology.  This post isn’t about the theater company or the project I worked on (you can read about the show which has sold out for all six performances here), it’s about being confronted and dealing with my own unconscious bias. I’m all about musical storytelling, and this theater company’s spiritual and mystical themes aligned with my own research and creative interests enough for me to want to get involved. But, during our initial discussions, I was also aware there was something inside myself I would have to put aside to work with a Jewish organization. I suddenly saw firsthand how real my unconscious bias is, and between Arabs and Jews it is sometimes more conscious than I’d like to admit. The amount of political and cultural baggage can be overwhelming, and...
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On Not Being

On Not Being

I’ve heard the Masons have a tradition of surrounding themselves with symbols of death as objects of contemplation, creating what’s called a “chamber of reflection”. Placing skulls, scythes, crossed bones, hourglass, etc. in a study or meditation room as a way of remembering ones own mortality. I’ve also recently heard that certain Buddhist sects similarly encourage remembering the briefness of life and considering the state of one’s karma. I suppose Christianity is no different with its emphasis on an eternal paradise / punishment vs. the briefness of living, so I shouldn’t be surprised at my own fixation with death. I often find myself spending nights lying in bed trying to imagine not being me; either being someone else or not existing at all until it would make my skin crawl and the terror of inevitable oblivion would overwhelm me. This wrestling with the inevitability of death started at a young age, I would guess as young as 7 or 8 years old....
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The Moon Has Made Us Brothers

The Moon Has Made Us Brothers

PROGRAM NOTES In his forward to A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess writes about the difference between story and allegory: stories are about change and growth, an allegory is a statement on the inherent nature of humanity. Especially in our adolescence, we tend towards allegory. We are prone to seeing ourselves as tragic heroes because it’s exciting and sensationalistic and full of meaning. Similarly, the characters of the Commedia Dell'arte are treated as archetypical forces engaging in dramatic allegory, not human personalities with depth and nuance. Pierrot is typically depicted as self-indulgent, touched by madness, and expressively naive, someone who sees grandiose drama in everything. But in this story, it is only his starting point. In our interpretation, Harlequin and Pierrot, two characters in the Commedia dell’arte often depicted as companions, are actually the same person; the story chronicles how Pierrot eventually came to be Harlequin, who acts as narrator of his own journey. Rather than make a statement about any particular aspect of human nature,...
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Obsessions: a vocal recital

Obsessions: a vocal recital

As the end of my DMA program looms in the horizon, I've started reflecting on my past musical training. I'm sure this isn't the end of my education, but it will likely be the last time I'm officially enrolled as a university student (though a superlative masters in choral conducting keeps tempting me...). I've been thinking a bit about my undergraduate experience especially, nearly half a life ago, and have been returning to some music and ideas I've always loved and never fully explored or got enough of. This recital is partly about getting some quality documentation of 'traditional' singing for upcoming job applications and my general portfolio, but it's also returning to those ideas,  and celebrating my formal education as a singer especially. I'll be performing a decent variety of pieces including a few baroque tunes as a counter-tenor (a voice type I've always been fascinated by) a Vaughan Williams song cycle (my favorite art-song composer as a young musician), and a...
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Ashland High School Graduation Speech

Ashland High School Graduation Speech

Earlier in 2017 I received one of the most unexpected phone calls of my life - a young man named Evan introduced himself as the current student body president of Ashland High School (my alma mater) and asked if I'd be willing to be the keynote speaker at their graduation. I'd never felt so honored and immediately starting working on a speech that took me months to write. Two weeks before I was to give the speech, there was a murder in Portland, OR.. A man yelling racial slurs at two young girls on a train attacked three people who bravely stepped up to defend them.  Two of those people were killed for standing up to hate. I was teaching music workshops in Spain at the time, but news of the attack and the heroism of these strangers effected everyone there as well. A few days later I received a message that one of the victims was a graduate of Ashland High and...
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Pierrot: An in progress presentation

Pierrot: An in progress presentation

UPDATE: Fully staged performance coming on February 24 and 25th! This is a project I've been thinking about and working on for a few years now. I've been looking to write a modular piece for voice and electronics that I could use as a solo set in a bunch of different situations and thought the poetry of Pierrot Lunaire had a lot of potential. I had the good fortune of coming across this new translation of Pierrot Lunaire by scholar Gregory Richter, who has given me permission to use his translation for my piece. When I started going through the poems, the first thing I noticed was that there are way more than the 21 poems set my Schoenberg; there are, in fact, 50 in the original set, and a few extras by Giraud written later in his career. As I read and re-read the poetry, learning more about their structure, motivic elements, and the background of the Commedia dell'arte, I also started seeing a through-line between the poems that...
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The Vast Sea

The Vast Sea

Now that I'm working with a regular vocal sextet, I'm starting to explore writing for this configuration of voices, and so far I'm loving it. I've organized the group a little oddly; instead of an even male/female split, I'm using two women (one soprano and one mezzo) and a counter-tenor to create flexibility in our writing. This configuration is allowing us to do typical trio/trio type voicing, but also duet with four-part accompaniment, and sometimes trio on bottom, duet on top, and a solo line cutting through the middle. We also have the flexibility to jump straight into 6 part jazz style voicings, which is a ton of fun. My first piece for the group, The Vast Sea (black waves, green foam) is partly an exploration of these different arrangement possibilities, coupled with my continuing interest in microtonal tuning and extended vocal techniques. Specifically, I was listening to a lot of Stockhausen's seminal vocal work Stimmung, which uses the first 7 notes of the...
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HEX: Music for Vocal Sextet

HEX: Music for Vocal Sextet

For years I've had ambitions of working with a regular vocal sextet to do the music from some of my favorite composers like Meredith Monk and Toby Twining. There's something about this particular configuration that feels like magic, or maybe it's this particular group of singers. They're all members of C3LA as well, and most of them also work with ensembles like the LA Master Chorale, LA Opera, etc. Our first real concert is going to be next week for my 2nd DMA recital at CalArts. (Feb. 15th, 8pm in the Wild Beast) But we'll be doing a few more events in the next month or so including a lecture/recital at the Eureka! conference at CSU Fullerton and C3LA's March shows. The show on Feb. 15th will be live streamed (and then live on the internet forever after) so if you want to check it out, you can do so HERE   The Program will include Excerpts from Pierrot, Fahad Siadat Dolmen Music, Meredith Monk Hymn, Toby Twining Hee-oo-hm-ha, Toby...
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