09 December 2011

Strong, but Wrong

There's a new Rick Perry commercial going around, and it looks like this:

Governor Perry's coat looked awfully familiar, so I asked a friend with some photoshop skills to do a little mash-up.  Here's the result:

28 November 2011

A Guide to Gift-Giving for Long-Distance Givers

I live far away from much of my family, as does my wife and many of our friends (here in LA, most of us are transplants from elsewhere in the country).   Every January, as the holidays wind down, I hear lots of stories about gift-giving gone awry due to the great distance between gifter and giftee.  Of course, the gifts are given with generosity of spirit and magnanimity of soul, but despite the best intentions, the process of giving and receiving can often cause stress and duress.  I hope that I can mitigate some of that stress by compiling a small list of gift-giving guidelines for long-distance giving.  Follow these guidelines, and the gift-giving-and-receiving process will be more focused on the spirit of the season and less on the stress of commerce and retail.

  • If the recipient will be flying, avoid giving large gifts.  No microwaves, no cases of wine, no bulky sports equipment.  If you want to give something that’s sizable, consider giving them a photograph to open in person and ship the gift to wherever they live. 
  • Unless you see your giftees often, don’t assume that you know their tastes.  Do some research.  Look at Facebook photos, talk to their spouses, significant others, friends.  Ask the recipients for a wish list (amazon.com has a great wishlist feature).  I have a friend who gets clothing from his in-laws every year.  He has never worn any of the clothes; they’re not his style.  He always ends up returning them or donating them to charity.  Which brings me to:
  • Unless you are absolutely sure of the recipient’s taste and size, make sure you give gifts that the recipient can return in THEIR hometown, not yours.  National chains (Macy’s, Target, etc.) allow you to buy at one store and return at another.  IF you prefer to support the local economy, perhaps there are local boutiques in your recipient’s hometown that you can shop via the internet?
  • Even if the recipient is visiting you, restrain from buying from local boutique in your hometown. If the gift doesn’t work out, your recipient will need to spend time during their visit returning the gifts instead of spending time with you.
  • Are you shipping a gift?  Confirm the shipping address with the recipient.  Many people have different addresses for receiving letters and packages, and if you send packages to a mailbox, they can often end up disappearing.
  • Are you buying for children (grandkids, neices, nephews, etc.)?  Avoid the desire to buy every cute outfit and stuffed animal you see, and instead, focus on gifts that are meaningful.  Ask the child’s parents for great gift ideas.  Says pal Lael Logan:  Many of us are trying to give our kids the joy and excitement of presents while also balancing it with teaching the "true" meaning of this time. Perhaps you could take the kids on a special holiday outing instead - to see Santa, or ride a train - creating traditions and memories is how we'd like to teach our kids about this season.”
  • Can’t think of a good gift for someone?  Consider making a donation.  It’s a terrific way to give something with meaning for more than just your recipient, and it’s very convenient for weary travelers.  Says friend Katherine Resch: “We're doing that for the adults on my side of the family this year, and we're having a lot of fun choosing a charity that will be personal to each family unit.”
  • Don’t give crap.  Are you sending your loved one a candy-cane filled with M&Ms?  A bobblehead Santa?  If so, consider just abandoning the gift altogether.  Maybe just send a card, or a gift certificate, which brings me to my last guideline:
  • Gift cards, gift certificates, and cash are always welcome, though they’re admittedly impersonal.  You can make them less impersonal by buying a gift card for a specific store that’s local to the recipient.  Was there a boutique that you discovered the last time you visited your sister?  Buy her a gift card for that place, and when she calls to thank you for the gift, you can have a nice time remembering your trip.  See!  Much nicer than a boring sweater from Macy’s.

These guidelines are assembled from my experiences as a long-distance giver and receiver, and those of my friends.  If you’ve got any additional guidelines, feel free to post them to the bottom of this note, and next year, when I repost, I’ll try to include some of them!

26 November 2011

Hacking the Mix.

A while back, I wrote a piece for Stage Directions Magazine about a (relatively) simple way to use an iphone to control levels of sound in QLab. The piece was published in the most recent edition, and you can read it here!

24 November 2011

Thanksgiving in Pictures

A good day today. Lots of food, family, and friends. I'm headed to bed soon, so I'm not going to write much. Mostly, just photos.
The pan, waiting for the turkey. In the pan: apples, onion, celery, carrot, fennel, olive oil, salt, pepper. On the bird: a bacon & herb-infused butter.

Le bird, she is in le oven.

Mom dresses some flowers, D does some tidying, and I check our status on an elaborately color-coded spreadsheet of cooking madness.

Flowers on the table, places are set.

Le bird, she is out of le oven.

I'm not sure why, but my camera had trouble focusing on N today. Happy first Thanksgiving, bud!

C, R, N, Dad, Mom, D, and S all wait for me to stop taking photos so they can start eating. Dinner included applesauce, yams with streusel, herb-bacon turkey, herb-onion dressing, pumpkin-ricotta ravioli, green beans with pecans & dijon vinaigrette, cranberry sauce, sauerkraut. Oh, and manhattans and wine. Everything turned out well except for the gravy, which was very time-consuming and got rushed at the very end of the prep. Instead, we called it turkey 'au jus.'
The pear-blueberry cobbler with corn biscuit topping. This turned out remarkably. We also had a yummy farmer's-market-bought pumpkin pie.

Happy Thanksgiving!

21 November 2011

Willy Loman rides again

The fall term got off to a huge start, and I've been remiss in posting for a while. Here's a quickie before heading off to bed.

A few weeks ago, a friend turned me on to this column about how baby boomers have failed us (I'm a child of boomers) as a generation. Not my parents, of course (I noticed how the author also excused his parents), but their generation in general took an amazing world gifted them by the greatest generation and turned it into a myopic, selfish, litigious world full of terrible leadership and terrible advice. I had a great conversation about the column with my father-in-law a week and a half ago, and the other day, he referred me to this column, which forms a sort of rebuttal by taking my generation to task for their superficiality.

I've been thinking about both columns, and about Willy Loman. The 'hero' of Death of a Salesman grew up in a time when a man could provide for his family, when a handshake meant you had a deal, and when a good personality was all you needed for professional success. He advises his sons that the most important thing to be in life is to be well-liked. By the end of the play, Willy Loman, having seen his whole world shatter, is driven to suicide.

We're supposed to view Loman as sad and out of touch. The world has changed and left him behind. It's no longer useful to be well-liked: you now need to be smart too! Poor Willy - he's doomed to obsolescence.

Except that what Willy believed is what we're taught. We're taught that a smile and an emoticon is enough to get you out of trouble. We're taught that it's okay if you're not smart as long as you can tell a joke. We're taught that those who are intelligent but not well-liked end life at the bottom of the pile. We're taught that masking your true feelings behind a veneer of pleasantness is the way to the top.

The truth lies in between, as most truths do. It's not enough to be well-liked, but it is important. It's not enough to be intelligent, but it is important. It's not enough to be honest, but it is enough.

Well-liked, Intelligent, and Honest. Willy Loman had two (mostly), and he killed himself. Bernard was all three. Biff, two, and he hurt for it. Happy, two, and he was blissfully ignorant.

You need all three for success.

03 October 2011

Soundwalk 2011

Saturday night was Soundwalk in Long Beach, CA. Soundwalk is an annual sound art festival. This year, there were about 40 artists who took over about 6 square blocks of downtown LB with their noise installations. I had two projects in this year.

The Whole World Blind was a partnership with Roxanne Varzi, an anthropologist here at UCI. We worked together to create a binaural recording that de-contextualizes the visual elements of war photographs. It was a really interesting piece, and I heard a lot of great response about it.

City Park (2011) is a project by my collective, Push The Button. Brad Berridge, Davin Huston, and I created an interactive environment using ipads and iphones. We installed in a storefront on 3rd St.

Over the course of the night, we had lots of visitors come into our room. The population cycled between 5 and 35 people, each of whom got a chance to use the iDevices to control the sonic environment.

We got a lot of great feedback during the event, including more than one person who called us 'geniuses' (which, of course, we won't let to go our head). Plus, this installation was the first time we had children take part in the exhibition, and we found that kids as young as 2 REALLY got into the way that they could control the sounds with their fingers. Here's a couple older kids (younger adults) pushing the buttons.

What's next? Well, we're not telling. But Push the Button's got plans.

19 September 2011

Ovation nomination

The LA Ovation Awards nominations came out today. They're like the Obies in NYC, or the Jeffs in Chicago. Local theatre awards to recognize outstanding good work on the (more or less) not-for-profit stage. And...

I got nominated for an award for my design for Extraordinary Chambers at The Geffen last spring! Hooray!

14 September 2011

Prop Phone!

It's tough to fake a mobile phone on stage.

In the old days of wired phones, there were some great options. Tele-Q boxes worked well, as did specials/recordings and hiding bells in secret places. Mobile phones, on the other hand, are much trickier. The tele-q option doesn't work, because there is no base station. Hiding specials doesn't work very well either, because people carry their phones with them, making the sourcing very tough. Plus, if you want get picky, the sound of a phone ringing varies dramatically as you pull the phone out of your pocket, purse, etc. That's a complex change that is tough to replicate.

I'm happy to announce that a friend (and former student) of mine has written an iPhone/iPad/iPod app called PropPhone that lets you use one iDevice to control the play/pause of audio on another iDevice. You can use the 'controller' device to send those triggers to the 'prop' device, and as you do it, the 'prop' device will change screen images to replicate an incoming phone.

Not only can you use it for phone rings, but if you attach it to a battery-powered loudspeaker, you have a very cheap wireless special (not including the cost of the iDevice, of course).

Here are some other things to note:
  • The audio does NOT stream from one device to another. The audio files themselves live on the 'prop' device. This cuts way down on lag.
  • Currently, you can only choose the sound file from the 'prop' phone, not from the 'controller' phone.
  • This is the very first version of the app, so expect big changes to happen as the developer gets feedback.
This is a great thing for our industry - something that we've been trying to solve for a long long time. I'm looking forward to using it soon in production! $2.99 well-spent!

13 September 2011

Backyard Redesign: Time-lapse movie

We have a backyard.

We have never really had a backyard before, so this is sort of a big deal for us, and we want to use it. S and I have been talking about what to do with it, and while we've got some ideas, there are some challenges to the space. They include:

* We rent, not own. All of our changes mustn't be structural, and anything that is expensive needs to be removable (so we can pull it out when we move).

* There's an ugly cinderblock wall on the perimeter.

* Half of the backyard is full of dead/dying plants. We weren't sure if the plants were dead/dying because they've been mistreated or if they're not getting enough sunlight. We've noticed that the right half of the yard tends to house the dead plants, and also the grass cover is spotty, and also it seems to be shadier. To fully examine this, I set up a time-lapse of the backyard, from 6am-8pm. Here's the video:

As you can see, the left half of the yard gets a lot more sunlight than the right half. So, if we were going to grow a garden, that's where it would go! On the right half, maybe a seating area? We're looking to make something that's less water-intensive, or that focuses water-use on dual-purpose plants (pretty AND tasty, for example).

I'll blog more about this as we continue the process...

06 September 2011

Some Press

There's been some good press with my name in it of late. Here's a taste:

About The Understudy (currently playing at Theaterworks in Hartford), The New York Times says "Vincent Olivieri’s sound design [is] doubly impressive."

About The Oldest Story in the World (which ran last year and was produced by Theatre Novi Most in Minneapolis), Minnesota Playlist notes "the pulsing, pounding, erotic slither of Vinnie Oliveri’s sound design."

I'll take it.

30 August 2011

Push The Button @ SoundWalk

Push The Button, one of my projects (this one with Davin Huston and Brad Berridge) has a piece of sound art in this year's SoundWalk, a sound-art-festival in Long Beach, CA (until recently, my domicile). Huston, Berridge, and I are going to install a piece called City Park, which had its premiere in Prague in June.

There's a bunch of great artists participating this year, and FLOOD, the organizers, made this promo video. Check it out!

15 August 2011

Want to sublet our condo in Long Beach?

We're subletting our place in Long Beach, CA so that we can move north so S can be closer to work. Here's the CraigsList link. If you know of anyone who might be interested in the unit, please send them the link. Thanks!

08 August 2011


I'm 35 now. My friends are, more or less, my age, which means that we're all well-ensconced in the baby-making part of our lives. There's a whole lot of baby-making going on (in the metaphysical as well as the -ahem- physical sense), and all in all, it's delightful. Still, today, there was an exceptional amount of infantastic news.

First, my friends D & N had a happy healthy boy, baby M. A long labor with a small bout of weak heartbeat, but now it sounds like all three are happy, healthy, and exhausted. D called me today to chat, and he sounded super-exhausted. D - B and I were about to make you a picture of B birthing me, so that you'd know what to expect. It's a good thing that M came when he did.

Second, my friend HS from South Korea (one of the members of the theatre troupe with which I created Clown MacBeth) just announced that his wife is pregnant again. At least, I think that's what he announced: he just posted a photo of two pregnancy tests, both testing positive. All the text was in Korean.

Third, S and I have some friends K & E in Minneapolis. They announced a few days ago (I just caught it tonight) that K is pregnant with baby #2. Terrific!

It's wonderful news all around, and S and I are sending our best to all of the new parents, old parents, and soon-to-be parents!

06 August 2011

Happy Birthday to me!

Today, I'm 35.

That means:
* In another lifetime's worth of life, I'll be 70.
* I've been driving for over half my life.
* I've live away from my parents for longer than I lived with them.
* I'm closer to 40 than 30.
* I'm closer to 50 than 20.
* I'm veering dangerously close to middle-age.

I've been doing a bit of reflection on events in the last year, and there have been some significant ones. I designed/scored my first Broadway show (the disappointingly-short-lived HIGH). I got tenure at the University. I took an exceptional trip-of-a-lifetime with my lovely wife. I'm continuing my design career, am improving as a teacher, and am starting to move in a new direction as a sound artist. Things are looking good, moving ahead, and I can't wait to see what exciting things I get to report when I turn 36!

27 July 2011

Put This On

In the last year or so, since I finished my own personal downsizing, I've had to buy an entirely new wardrobe. With the exception of shoes and socks, almost every piece of clothing has turned over (the only exceptions being some clothes which had been too small [and which are now too big], a couple of heirloom garments [I have a navy blazer from my grandfather - now too big], and a custom-made suit which is way too big, but which my grandmother advised me not to get rid of in case I got re-fat). As part of the rebuilding of my wardrobe and the curiosity that comes with a new toy (that is, a new body), I started taking a much more significant interest in the way I dressed. Color, fabric, cut, style, etc. All of these things are now much more important to me than they were when I was fat. However, when I tried to find some resources to explore how to best suit myself (literally), I came up short. There are plenty of vague how-to-dress sites for women, and a handful for men (usually connected to a brand, which makes them suspect), and even a few independent sites for older men, but not much for guys my age who want to spiff up a bit.

Then, I discovered PutThisOn. They're a web presence all about, as they put it, 'dressing like a grownup.' Part youtube video series, part blog, part shopping portal, and part twitter feed, hosts Jesse Thorn and Adam Lisagor take you through the finer points of how to move your fashion and style out of collegiate slob and into early-middle-age. Parts of PutThisOn are a little out of my price range ($420 for a pair of shoes is high) and parts are a little too un-me for me (I don't think I could pull off a blue blazer with white buttons and white pants, nor would I really want to), but much of it is terrific.

Three big takeaway lessons from the web series: expensive shoes can be cost-effective if you care for them well (see Episode 2: SHOES), buy shirts to fit your neck, sleeves, and shoulder (you can get the mid-section tailored to fit) (see Episode 6: BODY), and I've been shaving wrong all these years! (see Episode 4: GROOMING).

Seriously, if you are a guy, or know guy, or are near a guy age 22-39 who needs to shape up his style, they should watch this series.

Also, can I borrow a couple of hundred bucks for a pair of shoes?

26 July 2011

Getty Center

Play day today! After a quick stop at Stan's doughnuts (S was less than impressed, though I remain transfixed by the delicious refined sugars), we headed up to The Getty Center to see some art and some flowers. The art didn't photograph so well, but the flowers were lovely...

Red and moody.

Blurry lens makes abstractions.

Cactus or flower? Only her hairdresser knows for sure.

Love this shot.

23 July 2011

War of the Clowns

I've got a couple of projects coming up in the next few years, but one of the ones that I've been really looking forward to is tentatively called The War of The Clowns. Eli Simon is directing, and it's a piece that we're building for the National Theatre of Romania. They'll keep it in their repertoire to pull out whenever they want it.

Eli teaches clowning at UC-Irvine, and many of his clowning students end up in a troupe that he calls Clownzilla. Clownzilla has four or five shows in their repertoire, most of which I've designed. Some, I've written music for. Some, I've toured to foreign countries to put up. One, Clown MacBeth, is only a Clownzilla show in as much as Eli and I worked on it; the performers were members of a Korean theater troupe. As Eli and I have worked on these shows, we've both learned a lot about this new style of clowning that he teaches and how it can be used to tell story. We're both looking forward to going to Romania next summer to put this piece together.

Recently, we've been doing a lot of research into structure and themes for the show. We've got a rough plot outline of the show, and we're tapping a lot of resources for inspiration. Here are some of the avenues of research that I've been exploring:

* Beach Boys music
* The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss:

* Lord of the Flies
* Hogan's Heroes:

And some other avenues of research that I still need to explore:
* The Green Table
* Johnny Got His Gun
* Catch-22
* Woyzeck
* Rory Stewart - The Prince of the Marshes
* Ken Burns' The War miniseries

We're looking specifically for macabre humor to help keep the clowns dark and funny while exploring the themes of war, so as I sift through the research, I'm looking for examples of humor or dark levity or silliness in war. I'm particularly looking forward to re-reading Catch-22 again!

20 July 2011

settling back in

S and I got back from our hiking trip to Montana on Sunday night, and I've been working hard ever since. I'm almost done with setting up my new office and am working hard on the sound design for The Understudy. S has been sending out resumes and looking for work in her biz. We saw Harry Potter last night, which was nice.

That's all! Just a small update!

16 July 2011

another black bear!

Lunch at Iceberg Lake



Last day in the park, and after a late-ish start, we headed into the Many Glaciers area of GNP to get in one last big hike. After consulting with the ranger, we decided to hike up to Iceberg Lake, a 10-mile round trip with 1200' of elevation. The hike was beautiful, with lots of vistas and a changing ecosystem as we slowly climbed into the lake basin. Wildflowers turned into thick trees, which turned into evergreens. At one point, we had to scramble off of the trail as a mama moose and her calf came down towards us. There was a bear sighting (a mama and three cubs) towards the top of the trail, but we didn't see them.

At the top of the trail, the path opened up into an alpine meadow, and the lake sat, mostly frozen, in the cradle of the mountain. We stopped for lunch, then headed back down. The week of hiking has worn many of us out, and combined with the fact that there were some previous injuries, most of us were cranky and/or hurting and/or fatigued on the hike down. Once at the bottom, we jumped back into the car and sped off back to the car for a quick clean-up.

We got showered in record time (6 showers, 2 bathrooms, 35 minutes between turning the car off and turning it back on), and zipped down to the St. Mary's section of GNP for a boat cruise.

The boat cruise was terrific. We did a circuit around the lake, snapping photos the whole time. The captain told a lot of stories about mysterious mansions on the hill, donors who never visited the park, and cheetos-stained rock. After the cruise, we went back to The Two Sisters Cafe, then home for a night of packing and relaxing. Home tomorrow!

Meal, interrupted.

15 July 2011

an eagle soars over the valley

yet another amazing waterfall

Dianne scowls as the chipmunk plays hard-to-get

Two Medicine Lake

Vincent Olivieri
Designer/Composer/Associate Professor
University of California - Irvine

East Side!

Last night was our last evening in West Glacier, so this morning, we packed up and headed to the easy side of the park. In the Two Medicine section of the park, the climate was much cooler and more arid. We visited a ranger station to ask about good hikes in the area. S and D had a few picked out for us, but the ranger had other thoughts. One of the trails they chose was closed due to excessive bear sightings, and another was supplanted by a new ranger suggestion. He suggested the Astor Falls hike, which featured both a waterfall and a mountaintop vista. We ate atop the mountain, where D befriended a chipmunk.

After the hike, we headed to Babb, where we'll be sleeping for the next few nights. The house in Babb is a doublewide trailer, but it's lovely and suits us just fine. C, B, and I sat out on the deck in the afternoon and shot photos of a bird that was hunting nearby. We're not sure if it was a bald eagle or an osprey. Ornithologists we are not.

Dinner was at a place called the Two Sisters' Cafe, a little road stop decorated with license plates and a roof with a big sign that says 'ALIENS WELCOME.' Not sure if they mean Martians or Mexicans. The dinner was awesome. The owner (?) came over and told us that if we liked fish and didn't order the trout, 'BAD YOU!' naturally, we ordered three trouts. And other food. And pie. And milkshakes. And beer. And cocktails.

When we got back from dinner, eagle-eye S saw a bear in the meadow behind our house! We safely got inside, but have been trying to get some shots of it before it gets too dark. Speaking of which, time to go!

One last day of hiking tomorrow!

14 July 2011

sunrise photo shoot, chopper tour, and Lincoln Lake!

A huge day in Glacier National Park! I'm pooped, and it's not even dinner time!

B, C, and I got up this morning to head into the park to shoot the sunrise. We found a nice perch on the shore of the lake, and we got some terrific shots. There were dense clouds over the mountain, but we got great shots as the sun rose behind the clouds. Wow! Afterwards: breakfast at a diner, where B had Huckleberry pancakes (yum!).

Later in the morning, the six of us took a helicopter ride through the park! All six of us fit in the chopper quite snugly, but we all had great views. The pilot took us over much of the terrain that we had been covering on the ground (Lake MacDonald, Hidden Lake, Logan Pass, Avalanche Lake, Going-To-The-Sun Road, etc.), and then he took us past a couple of sites and glaciers that we hadn't seen yet. The pilot said that while there were over a hundred glaciers in GNP in the 1850s, there are about 25 now. By 2030, the anticipated number of glaciers is 0. ZERO.

At any rate, the chopper ride (my first) was amazing (thanks again, C&D!), and we were exhilarated when we landed. So exhilarated, in fact, that A and I decided to increase our hike distance today. We decided last night that we wanted to do a tough hike today, and after the chopper ride, we switched from the Huckleberry Mountain Hike to the Lincoln Lake Hike. The LLH is a 16-mile roundtrip hike that starts with a steep climb and ends at a glacial lake. The lake itself is quite small, but the waterfall feeding the lake is huge (HUGE!), and the hike is so far that there were very few people (four) on the trail (contrasted with the dozens and hundreds that were on the trails over the last few days). The trail started sunny, got cloudy, and then got sunny by the time we got back to the car. Also, we were mauled by mosquitos. Still, we had a great time, and we did the 16-mile hike in just under 7 hours.

Our feets are sore and have blisters.

B took the day off from hiking to repair his knee and work. C took the day off from hiking to relax, and S & D took the day off to shop in a nearby town. We've all reassembled, S&D have prepared a yummy dinner (with C at the grill), and we're gonna eat soon.

Tomorrow, we leave our great house in West Glacier and head to Babb, on the other side of the park, for a few more days of hiking and fun!

the campsites were totally flooded out at Lincoln Lake!

The start of the hike to Lincoln Lake

a glacial lake

helicopter over Lake MacDonald

paintbrush flower

Vincent Olivieri
Designer/Composer/Associate Professor
University of California - Irvine

morning trees

Vincent Olivieri
Designer/Composer/Associate Professor
University of California - Irvine

sunrise over Lake MacDonald

Vincent Olivieri
Designer/Composer/Associate Professor
University of California - Irvine

13 July 2011

Ben fiddles with his camera at St. Mary's Falls

S thinks the easiest way down is to the right...

'Do we really want to hike this snowy hill?'

Want to see a sheep? You're in luck!

Snow and waterfalls

After a great dinner and s'mores last night, we got up this morning to drive the Going-To-The-Sun Road en route to our hike. The GTSR is the main drag through the park, but it was closed due to snow until today. Today is the first day this season that the GTSR is open, and the lines of cars were plentiful (the road construction due to the spring thaw didn't help matters much either). There were plenty of beautiful waterfalls and lots of snowpack to keep us cool on the mountain pass.

The Hidden Lake trail was a bust. It was beautiful, but very snowy, and we only did about 1/4 of the trail out before we decided to bail and eat lunch. The walking was tough indeed. Lunch was on a rocky oasis in the middle of a snowfield, and there was plenty of wildlife to see and shoot (with a camera, natch).

After lunch, we headed to St. Mary's falls, a shortish hike that led us to a number of beautiful waterfalls. The hike was pretty easy, and there were some beautiful photography spots along the way.

Going back to the house took a long time. Even though GTSR is open, there's still a lot of construction. Took us an hour just to get through the construction. I slept. C drove. Thanks, C!

Dinner was at the Lake McDonald Lodge, one of the oldest structures in the park. The lodge itself was built in 1913/4, and it's beautiful! Rustic, dark, with high ceilings and lots of dead animals on the wall.

12 July 2011

Did I mention there were bears!

Lake MacDonald

waterfalls into Avalanche Lake

Avalanche Gorge

Glacier National Park (and bears!)

Montana is lovely. I'm here on a family trip with S and her kin: parents C & D and brother B and his wife A (oh golly, that's ABCD! eek!). Today we did two hikes - Avalanche Lake and John Lake. They were both beautiful, but Avalanche Lake was awesome. We hiked a gorge, saw some waterfalls, ate lunch at the lake, and got a wide range of climates. I had my zoom lens on the camera, so you'll see the photos have a different feel than the ones from Yurp.

The internet is VERY slow here, so I'll be emailing the photos to the blog, one at a time. You'll have to scroll through like good little children to see them all.

Also, we saw bears!

09 July 2011

Research (why I love my job)

There are a lot of reason that I love design. I love working with disparate groups of people. I love creating lasting relationships with people over many years, and I love not working with the same people every day. I love writing music, digging into a script, and figuring out how to do technically what's inside my head. There are lots of reasons to love sound design.

Today, I'm going to talk a bit about research. Specifically, music research.

When I start designing a show, one of the first things I do is start listening to music. If I'm composing music, my research can inspire me. If I'm not composing, then the music will invariably end up as part of the design. In either case, research is a great opportunity for me to start digging into (and expanding) my music library, and I love reminding myself what amazing music humans have created.

Sometimes, my conversations with directors lead me in very specific directions, and my music research will reflect that. When I designed 'Treasure Island,' the director wanted the play to feel like and old swashbuckling movie, so the music reflected that - I used music by Korngold, Steiner, and that ilk to set the 'classic Hollywood' mood.

Sometimes (ok, usually), the director is not so specific. Or, like in my current situation, I'm starting my research before actually talking with the director at all. In these cases, my research becomes the starting point for the conversation. I'll pull a lot of music from a wide variety of styles, cull it down to a few representative pieces, and pass that to a director. Invariably, much of what I pull will be wrong for the show, but some of it will be on the right track. Through conversations with the director, I'll discover which parts of my research are on the right track, and then I can continue in that direction.

These wide-net research tasks are always exciting for me. They're a little frustrating in terms of designing the show (the mathematician in me objects to all of the wasted effort), but the curiosity in me is delighted for more opportunities to listen to the music I've collected. Right now, I'm working on a new play, which features a fictionalized 'lost text' of Kafka. This fictionalized text is being produced on Broadway, and we are watching a rehearsal, complete with sound cues. So, what does a modern production of a Kafka play on Broadway sound like? Who knows? There are so many possibilities, and until I get a chance to talk with the director, I don't know what he's thinking about. In the meantime, I'm pulling a huge swath of music for him to consider and be inspired by. When I packed up my CD binder of research, it had a wide variety of musicians contained therein:

Korngold (old Hollywood swashbuckling)
Brenda Angiel (modern dance)
Bach (organ and chamber ensemble
Bavarian beer-drinking songs
French movie scores
T Bone Burnett (newgrass genius)
Michael Brook (Canadian studio wizard)
David Byrne (weirdo)
Cafe Tacuba (Mexican rock)
Ennio Morricone
Richard Einhorn
Hurdy Gurdy dance music
Max Steiner
Nordic folk compilations
Schubert lieder

For the past few days, I've been sitting at my computer, listening through a lot of this music. It's beautiful, and as I listen to it, I'm rejecting anything that could not possibly be part of this play. What's left could be part of three or four different productions, dependent on how the director wants to move. But, that's a conversation for he and I later...

07 July 2011

slight redesign

While researching music for The Understudy, I dug into redesigning this page, my personal blog. Partly, I'm doing it because I was getting a little tired of the old color scheme and felt like a change. Partly, I'm doing it because my professional webspace is getting a facelift, which will include a blog feature. Since I'll be able to separate professional blog entries from personal blog entries, I can let this site get a little less professional and a little more friendly. Here you go!

Also, here's another HDR shot from Yurp:

05 July 2011

Happy Independence Day!

Independence Day has always been my favorite holiday. I like the history, the significance, the idealism, the food, and the proximity to my birthday (Mom has a theory that for most of us, our favorite holiday is the one closest to our birthday). in recent years, I've started making a tradition of reading the Declaration of Independence. Usually, I read it to myself (S thinks it's silly), but on occasion, I read it out loud.

This year, S and I are in Independence, Iowa, at a family reunion. We spent yesterday visiting with lots of distant family and eating lots of yummy food. Today, after breakfast and goodbyes, we'll be headed home to California. With any luck, we'll be sleeping in our own bed tonight!


After breakfast and a long drive from Iowa back to St. Louis with B and A (and a lunch at Steak'n'Shake), we headed to the airport to catch our 6.17 flight through Houston. Which was overbooked. Fortunately, the gate agent saw that we might be able to catch an earlier flight through Phoenix that would get us home an hour early. We zipped through security (S drank her entire water bottle because she forgot to empty it) and ran to the gate for the flight to Houston. As we headed to the gate, we were paged. The page was to put us on the flight to Phoenix. We managed to get onto the Phoenix flight as they were closing the doors. We think our bags made it. We sat down in our seats, and S texted her brother while I texted our ride back in LA. Then, the doors shut and we zipped away. As I write this, we are en route from St. Louis to Phoenix.


Got to Phoenix. Flight delayed an hour. Finally home, with luggage, just shy of midnight. The long ordeal is over. Thanks to everyone who hauled us around. Thanks to everyone who let us vent over twitter, Facebook, irl. Thanks to the occasional kind and sympathetic airline agent. No thanks to the airlines themselves, particularly USAir, a truly terrible organization of sadistic beings.