Ramblings, etc.

My attempt to return to semi-regularly blogging is below, but if you are interested in some of my previous writing…

Here is a pdf of my dissertation, “The Interaction of Linear and Vertical Time in Minimalist and Postminimalist Piano Music,” a bit of which was turned into an article for the CeReNeM Journal, “Temporality as an Analytical Approach to Minimalist Music: Tom Johnson’s An Hour for Piano.”

I’ve also done some writing for I Care If You Listen and NewMusicBox.

My Gig Rig

A couple of days ago, I posted the following picture across my social media accounts, which garnered a bit more of a reaction than I was expecting

Loving my new tablet.

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There were lots of questions about specifics and functionality of my new set up, so I thought I’d list the details and offer a bit of a review now that I’ve had the chance to try it in a performance setting.

So first, the details:

  • Tablet: Samsung Galaxy View, $340 refurbished
  • Foot pedal: AirTurn BT-105 bluetooth pedal & Boss FS-5U footswitch
  • Software: MusicSheetsPro Mobile Reader, $13

AirTurn currently offers a variety of footswitch options. I got my first rig 6.5yrs ago (the AT-104), upgraded to the BT-105 (they are now on 106, I think), and kept my original pedal.

The good:

The screen is huge and I love love love it. There is simply no comparison to the 9.7″ screen on my old iPad 2 that I was using before. The Galaxy View is an 18.4″ screen (diagonally), which comes to about 16.3″ x 9.2″ of real estate. With margins cropped away in pdfs (easily done in the software), I can look at two, nearly full size letter pages. That not only makes it easier to read in general, but cuts the page turning in half, which was one gripe I had with using an iPad before.

And as a wonderful bonus, landscape scores (and I have a few that were formatted for 11×17, are absolutely gorgeous. My scan of The Time Curve Preludes is particularly nice.

One complaint I read about the screen before purchasing was that the resolution wasn’t astounding (1920 x 1080), especially compared to an iPad Pro (2732 x 2048), which is much smaller. That said, I had no trouble whatsoever reading score details. If this is primarily going to be a score reader for you, I don’t think you’d have any trouble with resolution.

The battery life is also astounding. Samsung had plenty of room in this huge thing, and they must have used a chunk of it on the battery. They advertise 8hrs of battery life, but that’s assuming you’re doing something a bit more intensive than looking at pdfs. I used it for over 6hrs one day between practicing and copying markings from my papers scores, and I only used about 40% of the battery (~15hrs of battery with that level of use). Granted, most of you don’t play 5hr pieces like I tend to, so that might not be as big a consideration, but extra security in the battery department is always a good thing.

I also had no trouble bringing my old footswitch to the table. I synced it up, and it’s worked flawlessly ever since. Moreover, the software allows you to set the delay between a first and second tap to avoid double page turns (something I struggled with before), giving some added security.

Learning a new app after using ForeScore for quite a while took some adjusting, but overall I’m pleased. Without touching the manual, I was able to do everything I wanted with relative ease. A nice bonus was the ability to colorize my score a bit, so that the stark white of a pdf could be softened with a sepia tone. Aside from being a bit more aesthetically pleasing, it did seem to easy eye strain compared to the harsh, blue light that screens emit so strongly.

I have nothing to say concerning its functionality as a tablet, save that I browsed the internet and watched some netflix. My assumption would be that you aren’t going to find the functionality or power with smaller, more expensive tablets, but all I wanted was a good score reader, and I found it.

The built-in stand also works nicely to just set on the piano. I had a couple of questions about stability, and I can now report that it didn’t even wobble even while I played loud passages. (And I do mean fff passages, not just “loud for a Wandelweiser performer” sort of a thing.) That said, I haven’t tried it with a stand. It probably is ok once you find the right angle, but I could see the rounded back being a bit of an issue.

The bad:

This thing is huge, and kind of heavy. It clocks in at 6lbs, which doesn’t seem like much, but take your suitcase and think of adding a 5lb dumbbell to it. It becomes noticeable quickly. Plus, it can be hard to lug around.

Hmm. I’ll have to grab a different suitcase, I think.

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One of the issues is that the back of the device has this lump, which looks fine until you’re trying to pack it away somewhere.

The stand is attached, but can easily be removed, and I managed to make it all work, but I think I’ll end up buying the special case Samsung sells for the thing. I’m not anxious to lug around a giant case that I can’t put anything else in, but it is probably better than hauling it around in something else as I recently tried to do.

Another potential problem with the device is that it doesn’t reorient to portrait mode. That is to say that it is essentially stuck on “orientation lock” without a way to turn it off. Scores can be rotated in the app, so it probably isn’t a huge deal if you need to read in portrait, but it is not something that is automatic.

Oh, and there isn’t a way to turn off the screen lock that I’ve found so far; you can only set it as high as 30min before the device locks up. Again, probably not a problem for most, but until I figure out a workaround I can’t use it to perform November.

If you’re looking into foot switches, I’d stay away from the Boss switch that I have. My biggest complaint is that it can be a bit noisy if I’m trying to use it quickly. Again, for most of y’all that isn’t going to be a huge deal, but if an errant noise will distract from your quiet performance, I’d look elsewhere.

I also have one grief with the software (at the moment), in that there is not an intuitive way to move around the score while annotating. You have to click a specific tool to move around the score, which adds a layer of input to what should be something extraordinarily easy to do. Also, they refer to all the pieces as songs. Not cool guys. Not cool.

So the bottom line is that if you are looking for a big score reader at a pretty cheap price (for tablets), this is the way to go. There are lots of considerations if you are not a pianist as I am (I keep thinking about how awkward it might be on a stand with the rounded back), but after a week of use in practice and performance situations, I have to say that I am over the moon with my new setup. Should things change, I’ll let you know, and if I didn’t answer a question, tweet, facebook, or email me.

And if this little post proves helpful, I may do a similar post on what I’ve been experimenting with for Facebook Live concerts. 😀

An Attempt at an End-of-the-Year Post

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.

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New Website

Well, after a lot of experimentation and failure, I finally have a new website design (and cms) that I’m happy with. Please let me know if you see anything amiss (andyleedma@gmail.com).

In other news, Irritable Hedgehog is running its annual holiday sale, so you can pick up my CDs for the price of a download. That is, $4 for an EP, $7 for a full album, and $12 for a 2CD album!

Let Them Come

I’ve a number of friends and family members in England, so I’ve been following the Brexit referendum with more than casual curiosity. In the wake of the vote, I’ve seen many, many posts on social networks that mirror the Guardian article, “Racist incidents feared to be linked to Brexit vote.” Of course, here in the States, there have been more than a few similar incidents in the wake of Trump’s candidacy, and it’s been heart-breaking to see such stories.

Now I do not intend to imply that those who consider themselves conservative or anti-EU are all bigots and racists. Rather, it seems that the rise of nationalist sentiments have emboldened those who are. And so, as a response to this current wave of racially-motivated “incidents” (what a poor word that is in this context), I wrote the following this morning. And as some of you will notice right away, I did steal a few lines from St. Ignatius toward the end. 🙂

Let Them Come

Let them come
The voices of hate
The voices of fear
The voices of false purity
The voices that declare war against Those People
Those people who are the wrong color
Those people who worship the wrong God
Those people who speak the wrong language
Those people who don’t share Our values
Who corrupt Our children
Who take Our jobs
Who strain Our system in Their weakness

Let them come

Let them step out from the shadows and spew their venom
Let them shout, “Go Home!”
Let them march and wave their banners
Let them crawl out from the darkness to reclaim Their land

Let them come

Let their voices be amplified
Let them be broadcast through every medium
Let their message be heard by all who have ears
Let them believe that this is their chance
That this is their time
That they no longer have to hide

Let them come

Let them come to scare us
Let them come that we might know their strength
Let them seem numerous
Let them come to shock us
To make us worry
To make us hurt
To make us weep

Let them come

Let them come to rouse us from our complacency
To remind us that there are still foes to fight
To make us feel uneasy in our lives

Let them come

Let them make it impossible to turn a blind eye
To ignore those who are abused and oppressed
To retreat to our homes
Our entertainment
Our self-selected digital bubbles of confirmation bias
Our every attempt to drown out those in need of help

Let them come

Let them come and force our hand
Let them push us to confront their hatred
To spread a message of love and sacrifice
Of dignity and hope
To stand up for those who cannot
To devote our time
Our sweat
Our money
Our blood
For those who have been told their lives have less value
That they are less human than we are

Let them come

Let them come that we might find our voices
Let them come that we might stand
Let them come that we might be bold
Let them come that we might demand justice
Let them come that we might give and not count the cost
Fight and not heed the wounds
Toil and not seek for rest
Labor and not ask for reward

Let them come

Let them come that our lives may be changed
That our hands may seek new work
And our love may know no bounds

Let them come

Recording An Hour for Piano

This post is the fourth in (what I hope will become) a long series of posts telling the stories behind my albums. An archive of all posts in the series can be found here: The Stories of Irritable Hedgehog.

My wife once asked me, as I was gearing up for a recent recording session, if I was anxious about the process. After all, if you mess up, you get a chance to go back and try it again. I though for a moment and responded that a mistake in a live performance, while annoying, is fleeting and can be forgiven. In a recording session, you have to be able to execute every note perfectly within a few takes; if you can’t do that, your imperfections become enshrined.

Intellectually, I knew this as I warmed up for my first recording session, but nothing could prepare me for that new type of performance anxiety.

AHfP Recording Session
Me at my first recording session, seemingly focused but mostly scared.

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On Being a Deer Chaser

I was asked to expand on my post about my recent encounter with Felicia Day for NewMusicBox. The title of the piece is “Good Career Hunting: On Being a Deer Chaser.” Here’s a brief excerpt:

I experienced [a tipping point near miss] with my album Dennis Johnson: November. It was reviewed in publications around the world, including sources such as The Wire and Gramophone, we quickly sold out of the first two pressings, and it helped me get my first gigs in London and New York. The icing on the cake was making a large number of “best of” lists that year, including the #1 classical album of 2013 in Time Out New York. That in turn landed me a big award from my alma mater and an interview with Colorado Public Radio, among other things.

Yet nothing I’ve done since has been even close to that successful, and I’ve spent many hours since wondering what I might have done differently to make that less of a deer chaser moment and more of a tipping point.

If you’re wondering what I mean by “deer chaser,” well, you’ll just have to give it a read. 🙂

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Becoming a Human Metronome

This post is the third in (what I hope will become) a long series of posts telling the stories behind my albums. An archive of all posts in the series can be found here: The Stories of Irritable Hedgehog.

Quarter note equals 59.225 beats per minute. That remains the oddest metronome marking I’ve encountered in my admittedly short career. The reason Tom Johnson used that tempo for An Hour for Piano is easy enough to deduce—he wrote a piece that was 3,553.5 beats long and wanted it to have a final duration of exactly one hour (3553.5 beats / 60 min = 59.225 bpm)—but to understand why the tempo remains unwavering and why an hour is important, we have to turn to the man himself.

Andy Lee and Tom Johnson
Me and Tom Johnson, Kansas City, Second International Conference on Minimalist Music, 2009

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Setting a Path for Irritable Hedgehog

This post is the second in (what I hope will become) a long series of posts telling the stories behind my albums. The complete series archive can be found here: The Stories of Irritable Hedgehog.

There must have been a point where David McIntire asked me if I wanted to start a record label with him, but for the life of me I can’t remember that taking place. I can recall several conversations we had concerning the logistics of our endeavor, but the initial question eludes me. I’m still debating what to make of that. 🙂

There are many aspects of starting a label that I could write about, but we continue to reevaluate many of those choices. Instead, at the risk of writing a less narrative-driven post, I’d like to focus on just a few decisions we made that have become essential to Irritable Hedgehog’s identity. My next post will get back to more stories with my quest to become a human metronome.

Irritable Hedgehog Logo
David’s daughter, Eileen, drew our awesome logo

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Discovering An Hour for Piano

This post is the first in (what I hope will become) a long series of posts telling the stories behind my albums. The complete series archive can be found here: The Stories of Irritable Hedgehog.

On March 4 of this year, Irritable Hedgehog Music released my tenth album, Adrian Knight: Obsessions. It’s been less than six years since my first album came out, but hopefully you’ll indulge me a bit of retrospection after crossing this milestone. Over the course of the next several months, I hope to tell the stories behind each of these albums—from the joy of discovering and selecting repertoire to the errors and messiness of production. My hope is that this will help you hear these albums as more than cold, fixed products, because to me they represent so much more.

So without further ado, let’s begin with my first album, Tom Johnson: An Hour for Piano.

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