An Attempt at an End-of-the-Year Post
I keep thinking I’m going to get around writing a personal year-in-review, but how could I write about anything good that has happened?
— R. Andrew Lee (@AndyLeeDMA) December 28, 2016
I wrote this tweet shortly after learning about the death of Debbie Reynolds, who passed only a day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher. I wrote it because I’ve been trying to write this post for a little while now to no avail. It’s the end of the year, and as everyone writes about their favorite events and albums, it seemed fitting (professionally speaking) to offer a summary of what I’ve done this year. But how could I do that in the wake of tragedy after tragedy? How does one say, “Hey, things were pretty good over here!” without coming off as dismissive or insensitive. Luckily, it didn’t take me long to figure it out.
Yes, I’d like to recap this year, and yes, it’s been good, but when I look back at my year it isn’t the cv line items that stand out to me; it’s the time I spent with others. As a response to what has been an awful year in so many different respects, I want to share some of the moments that brought me life. I feel the need to respond with love and gratitude for what I have been so blessed to receive. Thank you for indulging me a bit.
Things got going off to a quick start with the New Music Gathering in Baltimore. I decided not to attend the first such event and quickly came to regret that decision. It seemed like virtually everyone I knew in my field was there, and I couldn’t believe that I wasn’t. But this time around it offered me a chance to do something I hadn’t done in a while—visit my family on the East Coast.
A good portion of my mother’s family (and she was one of eleven, so that’s a decent quantity of people) resides in the Maryland area, but I hadn’t been out that way in years. I ended up staying with my cousin Tim and his rather pregnant wife while attending conference, and it was so much fun. I hadn’t seen Tim much at all in the last decade, but things clicked back into place with remarkable ease. A highlight was an evening out with some of their friends, excellent conversation, and then drinking decidedly too much excellent bourbon while talking about fatherhood and other important subjects. The next day was a bit rough (if I seemed a bit off while attending your presentation, Larry and Arlene, that was why), but what an incredible night that was.
So, the gathering proper. I gave a talk, blah blah blah. I got to meet and spend time with so many, many wonderful people! I’m going to leave some people out, I just know it, and I’m sorry if I do, but this is just what springs to mind almost year after the fact.
At the opening concert I got to meet Anna Thorvaldsdottir, who only continues to grow in prominence since we first met on Twitter a while ago. I caught up with my good friends Will Robin and Eddie Davis, met the incredibly funny Tina Tallon, and chatted with Maggie Stapleton and learned about all the awesome stuff going on with Second Inversion.
Then at some point I met Seth Cluett, and we talked about doing a project together (which still needs to happen) had lunch with Alexandra Gardner among others. Who else who else who else? Oh, I got to chat with Matt Marks a bit, had a lovely chat with Kelly Kasle (I hope things are going well in LA!), and finally met so many people in person, such as Holly Roadfeldt, Kathleen Supové, and Molly Sheridan. Ellen McSweeney, did we chat at the NMG, or do I just read The Pearl regularly now?
Oh, and John Pippen (musicologist and snappy dresser) gave a great talk and then we chatted a bit here and there. He even moved out to Colorado for a job (though a fair bit north of us), and we still haven’t gotten together for a drink / bbq. That is a crime. And I got to reconnect with Kerry O’Brien, who continues to do amazing things in musicology, and I can’t wait to see her and many others this coming summer at nief norf.
For goodness sake, I’ve left out Eleonor Sandresky, who also spoke on my panel, Isaac Shankler, and good twitter friend Garrett Schumann, who still owes me a score.
Are you still reading? I suppose the tl;dr of the preceding paragraphs is that the NMG is awesome. In addition to such wonderful music making, this is a community of incredible people. I’m sitting here smiling as I think about them now. The next gathering has “Community” as the central theme, and I can’t think of a more important topic as we move into 2017.
Believe it or not, I’m not done with January. At the end of the month, I went to Chicago to perform November. Probably the best part of this trip was initially the most panic-inducing. The payment for this gig was based on ticket sales, and I can fly out there cheaply enough so I figured that if I could crash somewhere I’d fine fine money-wise. (I’m also not stupid and realize that there aren’t a huge number of folks willing to pay to see a 5hr piano concert.)
So I started by asking around among my friends, and then some of them begin reaching out to their friends, and with only a couple of weeks until the performance, I was still without a bed. Yes, I could Airbnb it for relatively little, but I thought I’d try one more lead before giving up.
I had met Nomi Epstein briefly when I was last in Chicago for the Wandelweiser Festival she helped put together. I knew her a bit online as well, but generally speaking I still felt a little odd asking her for leads. But I did, and she pointed me in the direction of Mabel Qwan, who generously put me up for my visit. Most memorable was going out for food after my performance. She took me to a ramen place called Furious Spoon, which was incredible. We chatted about music, drank saké, and I embarrassed myself with poor ramen-consuming skill. It was a lovely cap to a great trip, which, I might add, also involved reconnecting with a high school friend who happened to be in Chicago the same weekend. 🙂
Nothing “professional” going on in this month, so I’ll offer some pictures of my life instead.
First of all, those are some cute kids if I do say so myself.
In March, I released my tenth! album, Adrian Knight: Obsessions, which I won’t write about but I can’t seem to avoid sharing the link.
Anyway, I had a great little tour lined up of NY, Philly, and Boston for the release, but more importantly I got to see my East Coast family again!
My first stop was in DC to see my Uncle Pat. He gave me a tour of Georgetown (where he worked), and then we checked out some of the local hangouts. Memorable moments were having drinks at Martin’s Tavern in the booth where JFK proposed to Jackie and having the residences of politicians and Supreme Court Justices pointed out to me on our walk.
I hung out with Tim again, and this time around Kristen was decidedly less pregnant. And what a beautiful first cousin once removed this is. 😀
And then, you guys, my Aunt Beth threw an Andy’s In Town party, and a bunch of cousins showed up (who all have kids now, which seemed super weird even though I have three of my own) along with Aunts, Uncles, etc. It was fantastic. I hadn’t seen most of those folks since my wedding, so there were lots of feels (and still are some as I type).
Then it was Amtrak up to NY, where I was staying with my brother’s partner, Sasha. As it turned out, he was also hosting an old friend of his, who was (and remains) super awesome and who moved to Kansas City and now I want to hang out with her and her husband should the chance arise…
The day of my performance involved going with Michael Vincent Waller to meet / be interviewed by Jed Distler, who was fun to talk to. Then after the concert a bunch of us went out for food/drinks, including Michael, Adrian, Randy Gibson, et. al. That was a lot of fun, but I perhaps enjoyed meeting Will Robin’s girlfriend most. Most of my ‘new music’ contacts are, naturally, based around professional interest, which sometimes means that we all have similar personalities. So it’s a lot of fun to meet the better halves of those folks.
I will also say that it was rather disappointing not to get to spend much time with Sasha and that my brother was out of town. Because, as I continue to learn over and over again, that’s what’s important.
Off to Philly, where I got to finally meet some folks such as Dustin Hurt (who runs Bowerbird) and David Toub (and I still have your flash drive and I still need to go through it all). I hung out after the concert with Paul Epstein, whose music I’ve recorded, but what struck me the most was that one of my Aunts, who had been wanting to visit Philly, planned a little trip around my performance. I don’t get to play for family often, so that was a real treat.
Then I was off to Boston, and I got to meet a few folks at the concert (and a big thanks to Eddie Davis and his wife who drove at least a couple hours to come hear me play!), but the memory I walk away with is spending the evening with Susanna Bolle (who runs Non-Event) and her husband in their home. Good drinks, good food, and wonderful conversation. They were such excellent hosts, and I hope to see them again before too long.
Another notable moment of March was discovering the face swap feature of Snapchat.
I gave a performance at Regis University, where I work, which was mostly notable for some repertoire I had been meaning to try for quite a while. Around the homestead, though, April is the beginning of birthday season.
My son turned two:
My daughter turned seven:
And OMG I MET FELICIA DAY!
And then wrote about it. Twice.
Another great memory from April, and one I haven’t talked about too much, was going to Carl’s graduation party. Carl attended Regis University and got his Pharm.D. this spring. He plays violin for my chapel choir (an explanation here for those wonder why I work with a choir), and a big chunk of his family came up from the Houston area for his graduation. I had such a wonderful time hanging out with his parents and some of his aunts and uncles. It was easily one of the highlights of my year. Here is picture of my wife and I from that evening.
May is a particularly busy month on the calendar, as there is my birthday, Mother’s day, my wife’s birthday, and our anniversary! On the lighter side, I spent all of nine days trying to grow out some facial hair before giving up. I usually try this once a summer just to see what is possible, forgetting that the answer is “Nothing. Also, don’t do that.” Oh well. For your amusement:
June & July
Professionally, this was a time of practicing. Personally, this was a chance to spend more time with family. My folks typically come up from Houston to escape the heat and spend some time in the mountains each summer. We got to enjoy some lovely hikes, and everyone loved wildlife spotting on the gondola.
We also spent time out in Grand Junction with my in-laws and generally enjoyed a variety of shenanigans.
Every summer for the last few years, I’ve gone to Kansas City to work on recording projects. Such trips also involve staying with the McIntires. David and Michelle have been friends of mine for 12 years now, and they continue to be two of my closest friends. In addition to the good eats and good drinks… Sorry. That’s rude. In addition to some of the best meals and drinks a person could ask for, there was wonderful conversation and a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity, if memory serves.
The first three days of recording were devoted to a piece I commissioned from Randy Gibson, The Four Pillars Appearing from The Equal D under Resonating Apparitions of the Eternal Process in The Midwinter Starfield. Those three days were immensely rewarding. It was not a simple process to record this 3.5hr piece, but with the help of David and two recording engineers, we figured it out. I can’t wait for the finished product to come into being next year.
The following two days of recording were devoted to a disc of music by Michael Vincent Waller, which brought with it the opportunity to meet and play with the (likewise three-named) cellist Seth Park Woods.
And of course I got to introduce these fine gentlemen to the joys of Kansas City BBQ, though after indulging in such such culinary delights for nearly a week, I mostly just rolled myself back home to Denver.
My daughter turned five
October brought me what was one of the most incredible trips of my life. I performed and lectured in Riga, Kraków, and Birmingham and came away with stories that I’ll be telling for the rest of my life.
So let’s start with Riga, Latvia. I was invited to perform November for the opening of the Skaņu Mežs festival. I arrived in Riga on a Wednesday, after 19hrs of travel through Reykjavík and Stockholm, and I performed Thursday evening. Riga was gorgeous, and the performance went smashingly, but as you can imagine, I was a bit tired Thursday night. I could imagine just walking back to my hotel room and crashing for the night, but I’m glad I didn’t.
One of the festival organizers asked if I wanted to go out for a bite to eat, and figuring that some sustenance would be good, I agreed. We got some burgers and beer, I found my second (fifth?) wind, and then we went out to another place for drinks.
Imagine if you will, a hole-in-the-wall bar in the basement of a building , with live, experimental electronic music playing. There I was, taking everything in, thinking to myself, “This is my life right now. This is actually happening.” Little did I know how much more interesting the evening would get.
Not knowing anyone, I was mostly just enjoying my vodka and checking out the music. Then I was approached by some folks who had attended my concert who asked if I wanted to head to another bar with them. Without hesitation, I said yes. After all, what could go wrong while bar hopping with strangers in Easter Europe?
Did I mention that this is a picture of three of the four individuals with whom I went out?
It was an absolute blast. Once we found a place to hang out, the gentlemen in the center of the above picture ended up teaching the bartender (who was new) how to properly make the cocktail we had all ordered. After a while of libations and excellent conversation, we decided to head somewhere else. The bartender also came along, volunteering his flat as our next locale.
We jaunted over to a liquor store for some wine, and it was just about to close. Not a big deal, I thought, but (and this is what I picked up bit by bit afterwards) the owners were extremely hesitant to sell to us. Perhaps there is a law in Riga prohibiting the sale of alcohol entirely after a certain hour. Regardless, these people were nervous (“Oh, they’re just Russian,” was the explanation I was offered). Well, one way or another, wine in hand, we made our way to the bartender’s flat.
All the while I’ve been keeping an eye on google maps, noting that we were never more than 1.5 miles from my hotel. And being on foot, I figured if I had to bail, I would survive.
Turns out the bartender was super cool, and I remember spending a decent portion of time talking about John Cage (I remember questions being asked of me, but I will allow for the possibility that after a few drinks I am prone to ramble about Cage). So all in all, it was a fantastic night.
Eventually a cab was called, and I was dropped off at my hotel sometime around 5am. Yes, I had a presentation I was to give that next afternoon, and yes, I still needed to do some work on it, but… upon reflection I would have to say… totally worth it.
And that was just one story. I had dinner with a graduate student who was doing research on temporality in music (as I have done), I was blown away by the music I got to hear, and was otherwise just taken with this beautiful city.
The next stop was Kraków for the Unsound Festival, which again involved a pretty quick turnaround for the performance. I also performed November, and I also had a presentation the day after, but there was a great deal of fun had in the in betweens.
First, my volunteer guide was amazing. Sidebar: these festivals both had volunteers assigned to artists to guide us and make sure we were where we needed to be at any given time. The rest of the time was ours, but essentially we didn’t have to worry about a thing. It was beautiful.
When asked if there was anything in particular I had hoped to see in Kraków, I asked if there were any good modern art museums. This ended up being one of the best questions I could have possibly asked because as luck would have it, an exhibition of art by Beksinski had just opened in a museum not far outside the city center. I was in.
This was the sort of thing that I never would have found on my own, so all credit to my guide. If you browse through some of his paintings, you’ll find the descriptor of post-apocalyptic surrealism to be apt. Yes, the subject matter is disturbing, but seeing the paintings in person was breathtaking. His imagination, his use of color, and the fantastic detail of his art was unlike anything I had ever seen. I walked out of the gallery on an absolute high, while I think most, including my guide, left feeling a bit disturbed and depressed. There is probably something wrong with me.
Again, I met and spent time with some incredible people in Poland, experienced music (and venues) that were well beyond my usual fare, and was so pleased to be included with such talented artists from such an astounding array of styles.
Then off to Birmingham, where I finally met up with Seán Clancy and gave a lecture for the composition students at the Conservatoire. Afterwards, a group of us went out for some drinks, and I got to spend time with Ed Bennett and a small cadre of students. What a joy it was to spend time with such curious students and amiable faculty. The dinner that followed continued the excellent conversations (how many times have I written about excellent conversations so far?), which were far ranging.
The following day I gave a lunchtime performance at the University of Wolverhampton, and while I was unable to meet up with John Pymm, a friend from several minimalism conferences, I did reconnect with Richard Glover, who had previously hosted me at the University of Huddersfield. Catching up with Richard was wonderful, and it looks like a new bit of collaborative research may come from it as well. Oh, and the performance was lovely, too.
The trip concluded with a visit to the small village of Lechtmore Heath in Heartfordshire County to visit with my Aunt and Uncle. I have been there many times, and it is always a blessing to go. The visit was only a brief overnight, so there was no trip to the local pub or walk around the grounds of the nearby Bhaktivedanta Manor this time around (or even a chance to watch a few episodes of Countdown for that matter), but there was (you know the drill) good food, good drink, and excellent conversation.
November – December
From a professional standpoint, things slowed considerably for these last two months, which is fine because work and holidays have kept me plenty busy. Oh, and deciding to pop into an open house on a whim leading to having a contract accepted on a new house and our house under contract within only a few weeks. You know, little things.
It’s really been a whirlwind of a year, and while so many mourn deceased icons, lament elections, and feel powerless by the news, there’s been a lot going on closer to home as well. At Regis, we’ve had perhaps the worst semester in the history of the university in terms of student and recent alumni deaths. I’ve dealt with some professional setbacks, including cancelling a concert on extremely short notice and being essentially told I am not welcome at a particular venue. And having three kids is never easy. 😉
But there is, and continues to be, so much that I have to be grateful for. Whatever I have accomplished professionally this year pales in comparison to some of the wonderful people I have gotten to spend time with and the memories that I will take away from 2016.
So while I have no logical reason to assume that 2017 will be less worse in terms of the state of the world, I know that there are unexpected joys waiting around the bend. I hope I’m looking for them.
Until next year, I remain, yours.