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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Theory Analysis and Recording Session

           I guess its a good idea if I update this thing again, now that might life is a little less complicated. The semester is coming to a close and I am looking to get out of it relatively unscathed. Still pulling to avoid any C's, though there are some question marks in some courses - particularly Music Theory. Yes....shocking is it? But this course was a different setup, and I struggled on writing the paper and bombed the presentation. I'm hoping and praying that this is just me being irrationally critical of myself, but I feel when you get confused in your own presentation it should be strongly counted against.

Here's a little snipit from my paper.....

The powerful climax raises a very important question. Why does Eb become the tonal centricity and how is it related to the original tonal center of A? Well, it’s very simple. It has already been determined that Bartók was heavily dependent on symmetry in his music. Eb happens to be a tritone apart from A, and is the exact halfway point between the octave. The diagram below illustrates how each tonal reference point of the subject progresses into the climactic half-way point, and then returns to the original tonal center of A.

Example 6. Tonal Axis Diagram of Bartok’s Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta

        In this diagram, it is noticeable that each succeeding interval is an exact mirror image of its counterpart. For example: In the top voice the A moves to the Bb while in the bottom voice it moves to the G#, both of which possess an interval of a half step. Then, the top voice moves to the C#, an augmented 2nd up from the Bb, and the bottom voice also shifts an augmented 2nd down to the F. This of course continues till the end of the movement when the original tonal center of A has returned, thus concluding an amazing display of tonal centricity.

            Not exactly a world-class work, but I'll take it considering how crazy this semester has been. Bartok is not necessarily the easiest composer to analyze either. But if you relate everything to mathematical formulas and symmetry, you are bound to run into some interesting perspectives on his music.

I am happy to say that on April 27, 2012 the clarinetist, Carrie Ravenscraft, and I met up at TNT studios and recorded my solo clarinet sonata 'Perceptions of Strife'. What a spectacular ride it has been with this piece. Carrie gave a stunning performance of the piece on April 16 at the new music festival, and that recording has already been sent to several professors at various music schools including Eastern Illinois State and Kansas State. Now that we are making this recording, we can start thinking about getting the piece published.

I will say as someone who loves writing large scores with lots of instruments, I never could have predicted the potential success I could have writing a piece for ONE instrumental voice.

The studio was nice. Tim Haertel, the main sound engineering professor at IU Southeast, graciously let us use his studio to do the recordings. We had help from Niko Kanstanis, and Josh (I can not remember his last name) on the actual recording. But for the most part it was up to me and Carrie on which takes we wanted to redo, and how we want the recording to sound.

          It wasn't easy, and at times there was a little tension do the lack of clear communication between Carrie and I, but the end product will really be awesome. And this was only a two hour recording session. Carrie and I might have had to take out restraining orders against eachother if we were there for more than 6 hours!

All joking aside, 'Perceptions of Strife' is becoming a great success but it wouldn't have without Carrie's outstanding musical interpretation. She has brought the piece alive, and that means more to me than anyone could know. And the important thing is, we will finish the project! I have already begun the editing process, which is basically me listening to each take over and over and deciding which one I like best. Then that has to be sent off to Tim, and he will piece everything together for the final product. 

All in all, it was a pretty large step for me as a composer. Having my first piece recorded in a studio is definitely a new experience. Tim was very friendly and helpful and he also had a couple of engineering students who assisted with the project as well.

I also have to send a quick shoutout to Tim Miller, who set the whole thing up but more importantly worked with me on 'Perceptions of Strife', and pulled at my 20th century strings to create what I am considering my best work yet!


Wednesday, April 11, 2012


I came to an astonishing realization yesterday. Something that could very possibly strengthen the notion that I was and always have been destined to write music. It happened when my mother and step-dad visited Rich O's in New Albany after a really nice ceremony honoring the new Pinnacle Honor Society members. The PHS is an organization that honors non-traditional students such as myself for academic success and continued contributions for the school. After the past couple of weeks that I have had, it was very nice to have an evening of rest and relaxation. And of course, having a drink at Rich O's following the event was an added bonus.

So I got to talking about an article I had read several days ago about a school out in California that was using music to teach math. Of course, as someone who is an advocate for music in schools, I was overwhelmed with joy that this was going on. When I explained this to my mom, her response was that it made perfect sense because I had always been good at math and she believed that helped me with my music. My succeeding thought was 'oh, lord. Another MOM story about how great her kids were' Then she went on to support her claim by reminding me of my basic programming skills at the age of 5. Being able to retain code values and enter them onto a computer to make elementary age 5. That's when it hit me. For some reason, I had blocked a key memory out of my mind and it hadn't been an image in my eyes until yesterday. One of the many lines of code that I learned how to do was input musical note values (based on their letter name) into basic programming and then running the program so the tune would play back.

The code went something like this if I recall....

         10 PLAY "CEDD-DF#..."

Or here is an example of what the screen for basic programming looks like, though I couldn't find an example of the play command.


Though when I was doing this, there was no window or box. It was all purely on the screen.

I'm not sure the exact age I was when I learned to do this, but it would have had to have been around the age of 10 or 11, when I was taking piano lessons. But when asked how long I've been composing music, I had always dated the beginning to the age of 16, as a sophomore in high school. When in truth, I have been writing music a lot longer than that. And I spent hours upon hours writing different tunes with that coding. Had a blast doing it. Of course, it was only a PC Jr (ca. 1980), so the sounds that came out were monotonically computerized. 

My mom continued to tell me stories of how fascinated I was in elementary school every time a musical instrument was introduced to me. She said I would talk for hours about hearing Mr. Cornish demonstrate the different brass instruments at our school assembly. When I took Piano lessons, I was picking it up faster than most of the kids my teacher had taught - particularly the theory aspect (learning the notes). Even before I started writing music down on paper, I was always creating my own tunes. Using my ears to play things that I loved to hear. I never really appreciated it as much, but there was no question in my mind - I have always been in love with music.

It's been 20 years. Two thirds of my life, and I here I am today. Writing a symphony for a live orchestra. It's amazing to think of how far I have evolved from being able to write a single line of notes to organizing and constructing thousands of them together across a wide palette of musical instruments. But even after 20 years, I still enjoy it the same I did the first day I knew was a C was. That's what separates having an interest in something and being undoubtedly passionate about it.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

An Easter Miracle

"Chris is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!"

No phrase has filled me with more joy this year than that one has. Every time its said, whether ritually or sincerely, I get a warm feeling in my heart. Perhaps that is cliche to say, but it fits perfectly into alignment with the reflection of the past few months, which have not been the easiest on me. It has to do with uncomfortable decisions I've made, decisions I was advised against making. Falling into a world of lies and deceit. Questioning people's motives, wondering if I would ever get through this. And at one point, I looked Satan straight in the eye wondering if his path would bring the joy that it appears to have brought so many. I celebrate love, Christianity, Jesus, God - have for many years. But deep down in my heart, I can not deny that evil does not always lose in the struggle between what is right and wrong. Sometimes things just seem easier if you focus most on what you want, even at the expense of the people you love. And given these temptations, these sadistic philosophies - I found myself turning my back on God to the point of almost complete denial of his existence.

I was angry. Saddened that I had once again been hurt by the people I loved. Devastated that I have continued to try and see the good in people when everyone else is blind to them, and instead found my heart to be repeatedly pierced by my own good intentions. It was a terrible way to feel. I spent many nights laying awake, cold and shivering. Anxious, tearful. A complete emotional trainwreck. I lost sleep. I've been eating unhealthy. And the worst part is, I was so ashamed I didn't feel comfortable talking to anyone about it - not even my own therapist. I was sinking into a dark cavern of hatred, with steep slippery walls.

Then with one last gasp before completely sinking into the dark abyss of temptation and sin, my mind called out to a God I was trying so hard to tell myself did not exist. The words I spoke to him in my mind were as follows:

"God, if you exist, please listen to me. I know you are busy. I am busy too. This isn't me. I know you know its not me. I have a good heart, but it has been tainted by life. It may be a good heart, but its not a strong heart. I need you to make it strong. I don't need you to fix my problems. They are my problems. I just need you to give me strength. To give me a reason to pull myself out of the swallowing depths of hell. Give me a reason to move on. Maybe you don't exist. Maybe the atheists are right. But what I need the most is for you TO exist so you can give me the strength I need to fix myself. Please do this for me."

The voice of doubt that was plaguing my mind stayed with me that night. I asked myself why would a supposed higher being that governed billions of people care about me. Eventually, I fell asleep.

Now, perhaps there are logical explanations for what happened next. Maybe its just coincidental, or I was playing mind games with myself using what I really wanted to drive my inhibitions. All I know is that the next day, I felt like a new person. I suddenly had this unexplained burst of energy flowing through me. Without explaining in detail the changes I faced, it is important to know that throughout the next couple of weeks I managed to get a lot accomplished. I was acing tests left and right and getting papers turned in on time. My co-ca, Shelby, and my boss Jen can vouch for my turnaround as a Community Advisor. The bottom line: I was acting on all of my responsibilities with 0% doubt or denial that I could achieve my goals.

I didn't see tears flowing from a concrete statue. I never had a rosary turn to gold on a trip to Italy, and I've never seen a man who's been blind since birth be able to experience the wonders of sight. However, I DID experience my own miracle. It was a miracle because the previous day I had honestly believed all was lost. I was so self-absorbed in my misery that I failed to recognize that there was someone watching out for me. Or, maybe it was me that WAS the blind man. I didn't think it was possible for me to see, and I held on to the slightest bit of faith I had left desperately asking for the ability of sight. That small grain of faith changed my whole perception, and did it over night. And even to this day, I don't feel like anything can stop me.

Christ experienced a similar miracle. He went through the most painful suffering anyone could experience. And though he stared death in the eye, he used his last grasping breathes to call out to God. God heard him, and responded by resurrecting him from the dead, as I believe God heard me and resurrected me from being completely lost into my own hatred for the people that caused me to hurt. Jesus Christ is Risen, and because of that so have I.

The message of Christianity is often lost by the misquoting and misrepresentation of scripture. The Bible has a lot of great things in it, but it is filled with stories. They might be true. They might be false. But holding them on a higher account than what is truly in your heart seems futile. All Jesus ever wanted us to do was love. And we do that by having faith.

For the small amount of people that read this message, thank you. I'm not the best writer, and I spend a lot of time writing blogs of opinions that I have, but this is a true story that I wanted to share with my friends and family. This was an Easter miracle that I experienced, and this is my way of thanking God for the miracle. By sharing it to the rest of the world, so they too can find faith in their hearts and be 'resurrected' from their own deaths.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Wacky Month of April

Well, I am approaching the busiest month of the year for me. April is that month where I have a million things that I have set in motion in previous months and now I am waiting for confirmations on. Scholarships, Honor Society Admissions, Competitions. There's a whole slew of them. But the most important one at this point is the  PARMA student composers competition. The winner gets a professional performance and recording. I have entered my composition 'Ataxia!' which is written for Alto Sax, Tuba, Timpani and Percussion. Yes - a very odd combination of instruments. Welcome to the 21st century.

See, that's not so bad is it?

I got the results back from a psychological assessment I had done recently. It was the same thing I had done in 2003, that informed me I was ADHD and suffered from severe anxiety and depression. This time, however, it was astonishing to find out that I had not shown any major symptoms of ADHD and therefor I did not receive a diagnosis for the disorder. This is a good indication that contrary to what some people might have tried to get me to believe, I have won the fight against ADHD without the need for medication. There is no doubt in my mind that I have the disorder, however over the years I have learned to control it to where it is not very apparent. I was informed that my listening skills were perfectly normal. Hmmm...interesting, considering I have been told before that I was a bad listener. The good news is, I've had more people tell me I'm a good listener - and this test confirms it.

My memory was on the weak side as expected, but not nearly as bad as I had anticipated. Believe it or not, it still fell in the average category. And these tests were all based on people my age. Overall, I tested in the high percentile of most of the categories, including intelligence. This of course was good for my self-confidence.

As far as other disorders go, the only thing they could find was some depression and anxiety though a lot of that was the result of what had been going on in my life at the time. There was no Bipolar Disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder. Basically, I was told that I'm as normal as the next person and had nothing to worry about. I can still take medication for my ADHD if I felt like I needed it, but while I am still riding a 3.6, Acing most of my tests, and getting all of my work done on time - I really don't think I need medication.

The moral of the story, I'm not going to be so quick to accept the judgments certain people make about me, because there is no one I know better than myself.

Previously, I posted a blog entry that was all about the Dream Game 2.0. Well, the game has come and gone and sadly for me the Cardinals were defeated by the NBA-esque Kentucky Wildcats. I've said this before, if Calipari doesn't win the national championship with this team he probably never will. The championship game is tonight, and they will be playing Kansas.

Aside from the game, which was just as exciting as anticipated, I was heavily disturbed by the actions of the Kentucky student body (likewise, I would have been just as disappointed if it was the Louisville fan base). Here we have this wonderful game that means so much for a state that has constantly gotten a bad reputation, and a bunch of idiots have to de-evolve to the stages of neanderthals and run around like barbarians, burning everything in sight and flipping cars. That's definitely what I want this state to be remembered for. I know these people are excited, but a little class can go a long way and this was just a poor representation of the Kentucky fan base as well as the state of Kentucky. Completely unacceptable.

I hate for this to take away from the achievement of the basketball team, so I will definitely say Congratulations to Kentucky! Anthony Davis is an amazing player, and he's going to do very well in the NBA! I won't be watching the game tonight, but it will be pretty amazing if Kentucky does win #8 tonight.

I saw this picture (below), and from a personal standpoint it really made me laugh!

On april 13, 2012 five bands will be surfacing at the Clock Tower on IU Southeast for the 2012 IU Southeast Rock Fight. All of the Community Advisers have been working very hard so I encourage anyone who may be reading this to please attend. The bands that will be featured are as follows:

Gym Diablo
Johari Window
Washington and Out
Second Perception

This event is completely free and open to the public, so I hope to see everyone there! And please check out the video that was created and edited by Cory Dixon!

Well, that is it for today. Thanks for reading!