Thanks to Second Inversion for premiering my video of Mark Applebaum's Aphasia.  Video, as always, by the amazing Four/Ten Media. We recorded this way back in February 2017, and I'm delighted with the final video.

Full Coverage

Including a short interview

I loved answering Maggie Molloy's request for 2 short paragraphs with a gigantic brain barf about how training as a percussionist actually does a fairly good job preparing one for learning a piece for solo singer with tape.

If you're STILL interested…

here's a little program note I wrote about the piece:

Mark Applebaum (b. 1967) is a musical inventor and consummate original thinker whose music combines the unrelenting rigor of post-war European Modernism with a strong sense of the ridiculous and whimsical. He zooms obsessively and exactingly close to the mundane, finding theatrical and dramatic elements in his own focus. Aphasia, a language impairment condition, typically results from brain trauma, resulting in the inability to comprehend and produce language.

Applebaum calls his Aphasia (2010) a depiction of “expressive paralysis” inherent in confronting the act of composition anew. At the same time, the piece also enacts aphasia. A single performer gestures with what Applebaum calls “a kind of alien, pre-verbal, and rhythmic sign language.” Their motions are synced precisely with pre-recorded vocal fragments, alternately frenetic and calm, sharp and dulcet—gestural neologisms that appear deeply ingrained but meaningless. All the while, the performer is frozen; “automatic, robotic, performed, steady, practical, habitual and silent.” We watch and listen but cannot comprehend. Finally, we escape. Gestures and words align semiotically, counting in ascending numerals in multiple languages, creating a direction that seemed so unthinkable earlier.

Lastly, a reminder of what kept me motivated through the recording and editing process:



Avaloch 2018

Getting excited to head back up to Avaloch Farm for another season of inspiring chamber music and innovative collaborations. 

Here's the full list of ensembles and composers joining us this season

In addition to learning from all the fantastic groups through osmosis, Avaloch is a key time for developing my own projects.  This year I'm excited for:

Stay up to date by following Avaloch Farm on Instagram and FB

Janky Marimba

Super excited for a new piece from frequent collaborator Robert Honstein.  We’ve assembled a consortium of 34 percussionists from around the world, and Robert should finish a brand new prepared marimba solo by June 1.   

Robert and I have been collaborating since 2011, when New Morse Code's first-ever concert featured Patter:

Since then, NMC has commissioned two pieces from Robert, recorded three of his works (one of which we did in three different instrumentations), and spent many hours together at Avaloch Farm.  Robert played at our album release show, and in April, KU's Percussion Group presented what Robert claimed was the first concert dedicated solely to his music!

Our next collaboration is a long time coming.  In preparation for what would eventually become Down Down Baby, Robert and I met up in Boston, took over Maria Finkelmeier's marimba, and recorded a variety of crazy sounds on the instrument.  We hit every part of it, put stuff on top of it, and generally went to town. Robert ended up going in a different way with Down Down Baby—instead of two people on one marimba, we got a piece for two people on one cello—but he kept the samples.

 NB: KU Band stand is  required  for successful performance 

NB: KU Band stand is required for successful performance 

The idea was to expand the sonic possibilities of the marimba without having to add a bunch of additional instruments.  We decided to “prepare” the instrument by laying various items on the accidental keyboard.  Originally, we thought about removing all the black notes from the keyboard, but found that a little bit too restrictive.  In its current configuration, the Janky Marimba (as we’re calling it) allows for access to all the accidentals and naturals on the keyboard.  Some are buzzy, some are clear, and some are muted and dull.  In addition, we’ve assembled. Quite the arsenal of other sounds, including:

  • Metal bowl inside tambourine
  • 2 roto-tom frames
  • small food service container
  • 2 jamblocks (higher one not pictured) 
  • 3 bottles
  • teeny tiny woodblock
  • guiro
  • small metal shaker

And my personal favorite, the kick pedal-actived IKEA Filur tub, first seen in Robert’s Down Down Baby:

I’m excited for the next chapter in collaboration between Robert and myself.  Stay tuned for information about the premiere and eventual recording!


Summer is…Over?

Back from an amazing and largely un-blogged summer.  

Fabulous time at Avaloch with Hannah, Tonia, and some of our best friends.  I learned:

Thanks to Mike Kirkendoll for having me as a guest faculty member at the Cortona Sessions this year.  We had a blast, with plenty of music, wine, cinghiale, and joy (maybe not in that exact order) to go around.

Looking forward to another exciting year at KU.  I’m excited to welcome some great friends (Triplepoint Trio, Robert Honstein, Matthew Barnson, and the Yale Percussion Collective), play TWO (not just one) performance of JLA’s Inuksuit, pre-release our little album, and represent Jayhawks at the annual PAS gathering in Indiana.  KUPG has another epic year planned, so stay glued to this space.  



Hannah and I were honored to be a part of Martin Bresnick's 70th birthday celebration at National Sawdust last month.  He was and is one of the most influential mentors in my life, and it was a joy to hear more of his eloquent remarks.  Songs of the Mouse People is based on Kafka's last short story, about a community of mice and their diva Josephine.  Mouse People has been a NMC staple since our first "want to play something together?" emails, and I'm proud to keep playing softer, softer, softer.

Ode to Vine

RIP Vine. I hardly knew ye. Spurned by Doug Perry's incessant and heavy handed repetitive videos and Tim Feeney's brilliant and miniature masterpieces, I resolved to craft my own, carefully curated edition. Snapshots of the whimsy of modern life, they would be. To quote Tennyson:

Gone—flitted away, Taken the stars from the night and the sun From the day! Gone, and a cloud in my heart.

Oh wait, I have the instagram app…