WISE – Musings

A discussion about contemporary classical music and its inaccessibility to laypeople came up yesterday between me and a friend of mine during robotics club, of all places. He said that he was not a fan of how contemporary classical music was taking a more and more atonal approach, because it makes it that much more inaccessible to laypeople who have difficulty comprehending or appreciating those types of music.

Ives, as I indicated in my previous post, was a huge fan of atonality, polytonality, clusters, and everything else that characterizes “inaccessible” music. That got me thinking: where do I lie on this spectrum as a composer?

I know that there’s no rush for me to find my own musical voice, but I still think this question is very relevant to my compositions. How much of these “inaccessible” techniques am I willing to put into my own music? Is it more important to me that people can easily enjoy what I write, or am I more concerned about the complex inner meanings of my music?

These are all great unanswered questions. And I imagine they’ll remain unanswered for quite a long time.

Frank Ticheli and Me

Yup, that’s me next to Frank Ticheli. For those of you who don’t know, he’s a renowned American composer and a favorite of mine. I was lucky enough to attend his concerts with Ithaca College’s Wind Ensemble, Symphonic and Concert Bands. Great composer, conductor, and a great guy, too.

Inspiration for Us All

Unfortunately for those of you who don’t have Facebook won’t be able to view this, but here is a post that I made on Eric Whitacre’s wall a while back.

Exciting stuff! Although strangely enough, having my own piece called “gorgeous” by my hero wasn’t the most moving experience I took away. Rather, it was all the comments from other musicians who I’ve never met, yet loved my piece. Their kind words are what push me to keep composing.

The Fun That Is Pep Band

I walked into the band room last night for the last Pep Band game of the season, and was greeted with this from my band director:

“Hi Joon! Do you want to conduct a bit today?”
I must have looked quite ridiculous at that moment, a half-eaten bacon cheeseburger in one hand and decorative caution tape in the other, complete with a slowly but surely appearing grin on my face. Conducting? How could I say no?
Turns out that our trumpet section was quite thin last night, and it was enough of a problem that our band director decided to play trumpet instead. Whatever the circumstances, I was just grateful for the opportunity. And what an opportunity it was! I stumbled over some things like cutoffs, but I think it was a good learning experience. I noticed quite a few differences as I conducted: for one, I could hear the whole band from where I was standing. That’s usually not the case when I’m standing in the saxophone section during a normal Pep Band game. Also, the tempo that I set seemed to feel slower to many others. Maybe that could be attributed to a bit of nervousness (I was so scared I would mess up during the Star Spangled Banner), but nonetheless an important thing to keep in mind. Oh, and I learned that your arms start hurting after conducting fast tempo songs for two hours (conducting “a bit” turned into the whole time). I can’t imagine how our band director does this every game.
Unfortunately, it was the last home football game of the season, making it our last Pep Band game as well. When our band director asked all the Seniors to pose for pictures at the end of the night, I suddenly realized how much I’d miss Pep Band. And I’m not just saying that as a “last game” thing; I genuinely am going to miss four years of rocking-out, crazy-hard, voice-losing, caution-taped fun.
Well, we still have the parade at the end of the year. Go Pep Band!

Band Potluck

Tie die, capture the flag, chain tag, and a very delicious potluck dinner. These things aren’t something you’d think a normal high school band would do together, but I guess our band’s just special that way.

For the first time, the officers and a planning committe of two put together a potluck, aimed at getting the freshmen more comfortable with the returning members before school started. Thanks to the brilliant planning by the two girls on the committe, the event ran smoothly and was packed with fun. I was very happy to hear positive reactions from our band director, students, and parents alike.

I, for one, have my own tie-die shirt hanging in my bathroom right now, waiting to dry so that I can proudly wear it on my first day of school.

Well, perhaps tie-die isn’t such a great choice of wear for the very first day, but I’m sure I’ll wear it sometime during the first week. Month. I’ll wear it eventually, I suppose.

P.S. We also got a new tune for Pep Band this year: Moves Like Jagger by Maroon 5.

FRC Virtual Orchestra

About two weeks ago, I had an idea for a daring project of mine. Ever since I saw Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir, I had wanted to do a virtual ensemble of my own, and I thought of the perfect audience for a virtual orchestra: the fellow members of the FIRST Robotics Competition. At first you may think it strange for robot-building high schoolers to perform together in a virtual ensemble, but over the past three years I’ve been involved with the robotics program, the one thing that has absolutely delighted me is the variety in interests among the various team members. Every time I go to a robotics competition, I meet a surprising number of musicians.

With that in mind, I thought it would be very cool if I could create a virtual orchestra comprised of members of the FRC. A few friends on my own robotics team thought it was a great idea and decided to lend me their skills. While they helped me to create a video, I worked on setting up a website and getting the music together. Two weeks later, we are now ready to go.

I’m very excited to launch the project for submissions very soon. Check out the website if you’re interested!

Beats Solo HD

Considering the $200 price tag on these, I never would have gone out and bought these on my own. Sure, I need a good pair of headphones, but functionality is always above style on my list. That said, when these were gifted to me, I realized why the price tag was $200.

Not only are they great at delivering high quality audio, they block out other noise more effectively than any other on-ear headphones I have ever used. And if I’m using it with my iPod, I can crank up the level to full for most songs and my friends can enjoy the music along with me. Don’t worry, I don’t put them on my ears when I do that, I hang it around my neck. Which, by the way, is surprisingly comfortable. I lose a bit of bass, but a worthy tradeoff for being able to rock out with my friends.

I have been taking good care of it ever since I got it and I plan to continue doing so. It still amuses me that I walk around with a pair of $200 headphones on my head. Never would I have ever considered doing that.

Internship at REP Studio

You hear the phrase “real world experience” tossed around a lot as a student, especially when you’re a rising senior in high school. If you’re talking about the digital music industry, this isn’t easy to come by. Fortunately, I was able to land an internship at the local REP Studio. And I’ve been neck-deep in real world experience for the past week and a half thanks to this wonderful opportunity.

When I first went into the studio, I marveled at all the expensive gear that I would be able to work with. From vintage microphones to a massive control surface, I felt like a little kid in a whole new playground. By the second day in, I had already learned how to use the editing tools on Pro Tools (industry standard software) and finished editing an entire episode of a radio broadcast that is recorded at REP Studio weekly. Thanks to my previous experience with my home software and gear, I caught on quickly to the tasks assigned.

My time at the studio can be described as hours of learning and gaining experience punctuated by the occasional logistical tasks and chores that need doing around the studio. The experience is quite enjoyable not only because I’m learning skills that are of great interest to me, but also because of the diversity in the sessions and the clients. During my time in the studio so far, I’ve helped record radio shows interviewing authors and musicians, and heard voiceovers for large businesses and car companies. I thought we’d just be recording bands and singers, and I’m delighted at the variety.

If you’re interested, the radio show that I edited is an episode of Out of Bounds. You can find the airing information on the website if you’re local, and if not, tune in here on Thursday at 7pm Eastern to listen on the web.

Time for me to go to sleep now, another episode of Out of Bounds awaits my editing tomorrow!