Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Lccokrkow Garneo

Hello Readers.

I recently had the good pleasure of working with filmmaker Andrew Fillipone Jr. again.  This time he created a random frame-by-frame reshuffling of Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange.   When Andrew approached me about doing music for it, I thought that a group improvisation would be nice.  I assembled a group of Jonathan Moritz on saxophones, Carlo Costa on drums/percussion and myself on piano and we had a great time at Peter Karl Studios in Brooklyn on December 5.

Andrew's film is quite "loud", meaning it's very busy, flashy, and intense.  And it's nearly 2.5 hours long.  Since it's such an intense experience in itself, I thought that a sparse, slow-developing score would balance it nicely.  Jonathan and Carlo are known to play like that, so I was happy they were able to do it.  I told them that I was imagining a slow and sparse score, but we were in agreement that we'd go wherever the music and film took us.  Going for that long, we're bound to get somewhere unexpected anyway.  In the moment I found myself thinking pretty compositionally - working extending some of the ideas that I started with and returning to them periodically throughout the recording.  Prior inspiration for me came from composer Morton Feldman and the band The Necks.  And of course the film, Jonathan, Carlo, the piano, the day and everything else were big influences during the recording.

For me the film acted as another musician in the band.  None of us were watching the screen the whole time - it is quite a lot to look at!  But when I was watching it, it stimulated musical ideas.   I did have some wonderful long periods of watching the screen and I noticed a lot of interesting things. I noticed the walls in many of the shots - a window on the back wall that would jump forward and back and side walls that would jump in and out and flash between books and wall.  Some frames seemed to stay in mind longer, even though they were all the same length - the neck brace frames and the red title frames, of which there seemed to be a lot.  At times the pace seemed to speed up or slow down, which was also an illusion.   What do you notice?  I encourage you to be with it for awhile and let things reveal themselves to you.

Andrew released the film with our score and also a video of us making the recording, so I'll include both of them here.    Enjoy!

And check out Andrew at

A Lccokrkow Garneo from Andrew Filippone Jr. on Vimeo.

Recording "A Lccokrkow Garneo" from Andrew Filippone Jr. on Vimeo.

Friday, January 22, 2016


Hello friends,

Long time...

If you've payed close attention, you've noticed that the 12 Films with Music project is incomplete.  Yes, it's true.  It's the first of my internet projects that was not completed.  There are a couple reasons for this.  One, we had to move.  Our landlord in Brooklyn sold the house we were renting in.  Let me tell you, we really had it made in that house.  A huge amount of space, parking, garden, two floors with two pianos.  Our landlord let us host a house concert series.  It was really the best.  But all good things come to and end.  When faced with the reality of the Brooklyn real estate / renters market, shit hit the fan, so to speak.  There was nothing we could find that could compare, or even come close to meeting our needs, for our price range.  After some apartment hunting let downs, we decided to consider moving out of town.  Moving out of NYC is something that we had talked about for awhile. But our Brooklyn rental was so good, that we never would have left, even though in hindsight it really was time.  Long story short, we ended up buying a house in Beacon, NY! Beacon is a beautiful little town full of artists and young families on the Hudson River, about an hour drive north of NYC.  We are loving it!  We are home owners.  It's quiet.  We are closer to nature.  There are lichens on the trees here (Look it up).  We're definitely happy with our choice and are adjusting well.

Anyway, it was a major transition for us.  We spent a June and July staying with friends, moving around, our stuff in storage.  It was not easy.  April and May were months of scrambling to find our next home.  And moving to Beacon meant moving our teaching business.  So, it being an intense time, my creative endeavors had to take a back seat for awhile.  It taught me something about the value of society.  It was difficult for me to think about art when I didn't know where my home would be in a couple months.  By living in groups we don't all need to spend every waking moment finding food or shelter or protecting ourselves from bears.  Therefor some of us have the freedom to think about making art.   There are plenty of famous artists who seem to thrive under stressful conditions.  You know the self-destructive types.  But during our transition, I had difficulty focusing on any musical projects for more than a couple minutes at a time.   I had the idea of finishing the 12 films project after getting settled in to our new home.  But I haven't been inspired to get the camera out.  I was getting tired of the videos I was doing.  Rather than force something, I've been waiting for something to emerge.  Nothing has jumped out, so right now the project stands incomplete, with ten out of twelve videos.  We'll see if something comes up.

In the meantime, I wanted to share with you a related project.  Filmmaker Andrew Filippone Jr. saw my work on the old internet and got in touch.  We met a couple times and he proposed working together on a couple experimental films he was working on.  Last Saturday we took his film Twisted into Paul Antonell's Clubhouse studio and I improvised a piano score to it.   It was quite an experience.  An hour and 45-minutes of improvisation, non-stop.   Twisted is a frame by frame reordering of the movie Twister.  He ordered it (by hand!) first frame, last frame, second frame, second to last frame, third frame, third to last frame, and so on.  Essentially you're watching the first half of the movie and the last half of the movie (in reverse) at the same time.  Because some scenes had brighter light than others, usually one scene is dominant.  But the film is filled with really beautiful juxtapositions.  The truck door opens, and suddenly a different character gets out.  You see Helen Hunt interacting with herself.  It's really wild.  There is a flickering effect because of the lighting differences which was a bit bothersome for me at first.  But as I sat with it the flickering became less noticeable and the amazing coincidental juxtapositions became prominent.

I have experimented with long-form improvisation.  Perhaps you remember the Weekly Extended Improvisation Project in which I recorded a 60-minute or longer improvisation once a week for year.  The predominant experience in that project was that of daydreaming.  I found that by myself I was unable to stay focused on what I was doing and lapsed into long daydreams.  As I discussed in the final reflections of that project, perhaps this wasn't a problem and perhaps the music that came out during the daydreams was true and better without the direct influence of my conscious mind.  I was expecting long daydreams to come during the recording of Twisted.  But they didn't - I think because of the stimulation of the film.  The film kept me in the moment.  It was a pretty blissful state of mind to be in actually- a state that I often look for in improvised music situations.   When I was done I was exhausted, but exhausted in the best way.

Please be sure to check out Andrew's website.  He's a creative force!

Here's the film.  I encourage you to sit with it for awhile.  After a few minutes you might be tempted to turn it off.  But don't.  It's worth the long haul.  See you on the other side!

Monday, April 6, 2015

10.) Subway

Nothing too fancy about this one.  Just a song and some footage taken on the Q train.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

9.) Minnie at Fort Tilden

A couple weekends ago, Akiko and I took Minnie to Fort Tilden.  It was so fun to watch her run around and explore the beach.  We had the place to ourselves.  Luckily I had the mind to bring the video camera.

The music is a song that I slowly started developing before we had actually taken that trip.  I finished it after checking out some of the footage.  But I really wasn't concerned with the subject of the film.  It's more of a juxtaposition of two different things.  In the end, it's interesting how the tone of the music changes the tone of the film.  That's what it does for me anyway.  Someday, when Minnie is no longer with us, I will watch this and cry my eyeballs out.

Monday, January 12, 2015

8.) Self Portrait

Here is a big ol' "selfie" for you.  I won't say much about this one, except that my wife says it's freaky.  I think it's pretty self-explanatory.  There were 39 photos used and they are sequenced and repeated four or five different ways throughout the video.

Friday, November 28, 2014

7.) Leaves

If you've been following this project you probably saw this coming.  It's true that I thought of a fall colors video way back in the beginning of the project.  But I wasn't actually motivated to do it until the leaves in the neighborhood couldn't be ignored.

This month's film was a lesson in waiting.   I really wasn't sure of what I was going to film this month, and I was getting a little concerned about it.  I could have forced myself to film something and make something out of it.   But I waited, and around the 10th of the month the fall colors were definitely calling to me.  But I didn't rush out to film until I had at least a vague idea of what the final product would be, which was a sort of impressionistic film of colorful leaves.

After filming I began playing around with editing.  There are only a couple of techniques I used, slow cross dissolves, and opacity, which allowed me to layer shots on top of one another.  I like the moments in the film where the shots really blend together and I lose a main focus point.

The music is a short little piece with jazz chords.  These are chords that I made of point of avoiding for awhile in my life.  But they are special sounds to me, and I've been feeling that it's time to put them to use again.  There are a a bunch of parallel minor seventh chords, and the piece came out sounding quite a bit like some compositions of the great pianist Bill Evans.  To me Bill is kind of the impressionist of the famous jazz pianists, so I think a good amount of Bill influence fits the film just fine.

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

6.) Rockaway

Rockaway is a bit of a departure for me.  This video features more elaborate video and sound editing.  Up to this point, the videos have been realist, depicting things more or less as they are naturally.  This departure happened pretty organically.  I just started messing around in Final Cut and it was fun.  This messing around sparked the idea for the music that I made to accompany the film.  Subconsciously I might have been growing tired of the kinds of videos I was doing, and the editing experimentation was a way of moving on, but I didn't really set out to try something different this month, it just happened.  

This video is a clear nod to one of my friends and influences, Ben Gerstein.  Ben has been doing things like this for years and I highly recommend his YouTube channel.  

The footage here is from Rockaway Beach in Queens, NY.  This is my usual surfing spot.  On this particular morning, I paddled out and the first wave I missed (I can't honestly say I caught it) took me "over the falls" as slammed me hard into the bottom, ass first.  Luckily I wasn't seriously injured, just a little bruised, but it was enough to make me overly cautious for the rest of the session.  You don't catch a lot of waves if you're overly cautious, at least on a day like that, so I threw the towel in after an hour and decided to get the camera out.

After editing and piano recording, I messed around with the piano recording, layering it in spots.  This is also something I hadn't done up to this point, and I enjoyed it.  I should say that there are some issues with the video and sound quality this time.  The manipulation of the sound created some crackling side effects.  These sounds I actually don't mind; in fact they kind of remind me of a record player.  However, the video quality is not as high as I would like it.  For a reason unknown to me, this video didn't upload very well.  I tried it a few different ways and decided to just live with it as it is.  

I hope you enjoy Rockaway.