Month: June 2014

Monday Memoirs: Mr. Mélange

What brought you to your current career path? I am so excited to have Anthony answer this week’s prompt! You’ve heard a lot about him, but now I am excited to share his voice with you all. He’s an amazing writer as well as a musician. Visit his tumblr for some amazing poems, and his website to check out what he does for a living. ~ IMG_7537 The prompt that Steph gave me for this post, “what brought you to your current career path?” is the kind of question that always provokes an internal freak-out for me because I honestly have no idea what the hell I’m doing. It’s a stretch to say that being an academic musician is a career path in any kind of conventional sense because “Artist” doesn’t, with a few small exceptions, exist as a job title. Study economics? Be an economist. Work with cars? Be a mechanic. Compose music? Teach. Drive a cab. Live with your parents. Openly sob into a bowl of ramen noodles. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with any of those things (well maybe one) and I love teaching but teaching is not composing and it’s not what I wanted to do when I decided to pursue a PhD in composition. But, I knew that when I signed up for this, so why did I do it? Because I have no idea what I’m doing, and I’m fine with that. I think.

IMG_4481 I’ve never been particularly career-minded and I don’t think about money that often (which is admittedly a middle-class white guy privilege), so my life choices never centered around those things. I didn’t consider much when I chose to study music aside from the fact that I wanted to make music. So, now cue existential freak-out number two: this big, weighty decision to do music was actually kind of arbitrary. I’m not really a composer at my core, I’m also a poet, a writer, a dancer, a performer, and a martial artist. I remember feeling crushing guilt in my undergrad when my professor would tell us that, “composers cannot help but compose” or that, “composition defines us”. I didn’t relate to that and I could not honestly tell myself that that was who I was. Art defines me. Communication and connection through art defines me. But not composition. I often choose composition as a means of expression, but not always. I find other forms of art to be equally gratifying. I’ve spent my life seeking out various outlets for self-expression. And what I always have to confront in questioning myself and my motives is that, actually, the act of composition itself- this particular mode of creative expression- is a choice for me. I’m not compelled to write music. I wish that I could say that there are melodies and soundscapes swirling around in my head, reverberating in my mind’s ear that I wake up in the night and feverishly put down on paper, but I can’t. It’s a struggle and a personal crisis each and every time I do it; an exhausting cycle between self-doubt and elation and everything in the middle.

IMG_8035 So why did music take precedence in this life choice? What does it do for me that other art forms can’t? I find sound fascinating. I believe there is a level of abstraction that can be reached only through sound art. The veils of abstraction – the varying levels of distance one can create between artist and art consumer- is something that I find to be critical. It invites a wide range of interpretation; it forces a listener or reader to impose their own meaning, which is infinitely more interesting and personal than a direct, unambiguous communication from the artist. In, say, poetry or narrative writing, one can certainly achieve abstraction through the use of metaphor, analogy, or free association. The level of abstraction here is limited though. Words have direct meanings, they have a finite amount of definitions that are literally catalogued and listed. It’s impossible categorize sounds in this hard and fast way. It’s true that we have loose, culturally informed associations with certain sounds and frequency combinations but such sounds can be manipulated and deconstructed easily; they’re fragile and can be stripped of their meaning. In composition, the artist is forced to use units of expression which are inherently obscure. There is an unavoidable distance, a limit to how direct a composer can be with his or her audience. A sound artist can never just say exactly what they need to, and I appreciate that. I appreciate that your experience listening to my music will really have little to do with what I meant to say when I wrote it.

Now Hear Ensemble – Click image for website!

But this pure, profound love of art wasn’t the only driving force on this path to a… career? I also just had a bunch of friends in music. And I like my friends. And wouldn’t it be cool to hang out with my friends some more? I was in marching band and drum corps as a teenager and I always found that I effortlessly identified with the kind of community that music created. They understood me. My stupid ass sense of humor, my sometimes overly emotional reactions to things, my social views, my background, I could go on. Music has been at the core of many of my most important relationships. It provided a connection that I hadn’t found through anything else. And that’s a priority for me- connection. It trumps everything else in my life. I, often to a fault, put people ahead of everything else in my life so this was and remains a way to keep those people close. For ten years now I’ve been teaching and writing music for high school marching bands and the thing I love the most is seeing the kids form a family like I did. The fact that I get to be involved in that is more fulfilling than any other part of the job and it’s the reason I’ll keep doing it as long as they let me.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0n5Tu12U2As%5D

So I suppose what brought me here is a caution-to-the-wind sort of attitude, a real lack of pragmatism, and my love of people. And I still don’t know what I’m doing but I do know that I’ll keep doing it, because it’s provided me a life of happiness and love and I couldn’t be more grateful for that.

~

Umm, ya. I win the boyfriend lottery. I mean, the guy says “middle-class white guy privilege” without being prompted (I swear!).

Hope you enjoyed that as much as I did! Don’t forget, if you want to follow along and respond to prompts on your own, post the link to your response on your blog, Facebook, Tumblr, or whatever in the comments! We would love to read your writing, too!

Have a great week!

{How to}: Throw a Baby Shower & Not Break Your Budget!

Last week I went up to Santa Cruz to throw my lovely sister-in-law, Katherine, a baby shower. Because I was planning it from San Diego, I didn’t buy (or even plan) much until I went up there. I had a general idea for how I wanted the party to look/feel, but it’s hard to do much when you’re flying there! As soon as my mom picked me up from the airport we headed straight to Michaels (craft store, not a random dude’s house), where we bought most of the party stuff. I wanted to buy things that would have the biggest impact for little money, so we stuck with similar colors (blues and pastels) so everything would look cohesive.

Décor These goblets were some that my mom and Katherine actually bought for my bridal shower at the dollar store. We’ve used them now for several parties (including my wedding!) So it was definitely worth the purchase. It makes the event seem a little fancier. I also bought packages of paper straws for only $2 each and set them out before everyone arrived. Wedding Vows Header_0014 Next was decorating the space. I wanted it to be colorful and have a bit of whimsy, so I decided to go with making TONS of poofs. It took me awhile, but it was worth the effort! I bought the tissue paper at the dollar store as well (It was 3x as expensive at Michaels!). I made the clouds simply by taping up a bunch of white tissue paper poofs, then adding strings of light blue yarn with different colored paper raindrops stapled to it. Then I added poofs all of over the room…no place was safe from me “poofing” it. DSC02720 DSC02719 DSC02705

Games

One game we played was blindfolded diapering. We collected “babies” that would fit the diapers, and then we blindfolded the volunteers. Whoever could diaper three stuffed animals first won. We kept doing rounds until everyone who wanted to play got a turn. I don’t have pictures of it, but we also played a baby shower version of Pictionary. I wrote out 50 words that related to pregnancy, birth and babies and we split everyone into two teams. We did five rounds for each team and whichever team guessed the most words won. Wedding Vows Header_0015 DSC02712 For one of the activities we had everyone write something on the back of a diaper and then hang it up on a little clothesline without letting Katherine see. She chose the one she thought was funniest and then that person won a prize :) Wedding Vows Header_0017 For prizes, my mom and I found an awesome sale bin at Michaels where everything was only 50 cents! It was super cute stuff, though. We got nail files, journals, notepads, pens and stationary sets. Because they were so cheap, we could afford to pass out a bunch of prizes.  DSC02751 Food

For the food we wanted to keep it as simple as possible while still having delicious home cooked food that people would love. My mom and I had fun taking out all of her prettiest serving dishes, which along with the goblets made everything feel special. DSC02724 We served Caprese salad skewers, spinach dip with crackers and veggies, our family’s “famous” cranberry meatballs, watermelon, and strawberries with homemade whipped cream. My grandma made two amazing bundt cakes (we requested our favorite ones) and they were a huge hit with everyone! The menu was so easy, but it was perfect for what we were going for. DSC02725 DSC02743 DSC02744 DSC02745 Guest Book and Favors DSC02704 For the guest book I bought a children’s book that I thought was fitting, and had everyone sign it on whichever page they wanted. I love that it’s something Carson can actually flip through and see sweet things written to him from all the people he loves. DSC02783 DSC02768 For favors we wanted to do something cute that people wouldn’t just throw away, but again, it had to be affordable. We found super cute notecards in packs of ten for $2, so I mixed them up, gave everyone two notecards, and tied a bow around them. It turned out to be about 40 cents a favor! We could handle that. Plus it’s something people can actually use :) Wedding Vows Header_0016 Last but not least, I wanted to do something for Katherine so she felt special. I decided to make her a flower crown! It was easier than I thought, and I’ll do a tutorial soon. I bought two bouquets of flowers (only about $20 total) and made it from mixing those. I still had enough flowers to make the bouquet you saw above. She absolutely loved it, and she looked so pretty we decided to do a mini photo shoot. DSC02795 DSC02796 DSC02804 Wedding Vows Header_0018 I’m sneaking my hair in here because it’s my new easy hairdo obsession. I was so busy setting up for the party I hardly had time to do my hair, but I thought this still looked polished and fancy. It only takes me about 5 minutes! DSC02733 DSC02805 We had such a fun time and from what I could tell Katherine really enjoyed herself! My mom and I had a blast getting ready for all of it, too. Do you have any party tips that help keep things affordable? I love entertaining, so I’m always happy to find ways to keep the costs down so I can do it more often! Hope you have an amazing day!

xo, Emily

Monday Memoirs

What role does art play in your life? What types of art were you exposed to as a child? How do you fit creativity into your life today?

My dad is an artist, so growing up he was constantly encouraging us to be creative. Anything we made with creativity he reacted to like it was a ground-breaking work of modern art. I have lots of sweet memories of coming home and seeing a drawing I did framed on my wall. And he was genuinely interested in what we had to say as artists, even at the age of 5. He respected our creativity and tried to instill in us the importance of having it in your life.

Our house was covered in his paintings, and I have some of his that I can’t wait to put up in our new place. He does watercolors, acrylics, woodcuts, you name it. Now that he has an iPad, he sends me things like this that he does with an art app:

image_1 image My sister also became an amazing artist. She studied studio art at Cal Poly and had her own portrait business after graduation. Now she has an amazing Etsy shop with all kinds of beautiful original art and prints (Father’s Day gifts anyone?).

My sister can talk animatedly about anything while sketching an amazing portrait of you on a napkin that you will keep forever. Here is an example – she drew Anthony while we all had dinner at a restaurant with paper table cloths and crayons:

image (6) We have it on the bookshelf in our place right now, but I think I’ll frame it and put it up when we move.

Here is one that I did of Anthony for his birthday last year (he kept begging me to draw him, too):

image (7) Our very own Emily is also an artist, by the way. She studied art at San Diego State and can do amazing paintings. She has a ton of charcoals and sketches of nude models from school stored at her parents house, and I want to steal one to hang in my place, too. I will never have to spend a dime on art for my home, haha! I’m pretty lucky to have so many talented people in my life.

I went to art classes growing up in hippie studios in downtown Santa Cruz. It was great, living in a town so enthusiastic and unpretentious about art. It gave me a great outlook on art and helps me now when I talk to Anthony’s musician friends or go to new music shows with him. On a Saturday or Sunday morning my dad and I used to go to his favorite coffee house in downtown Santa Cruz together. He would get espresso and I would get a hot chocolate. We would both take out our sketchbooks – large canvas-bound books with what seemed like an endless amount of blank pages (no lines allowed – the idea was to be able to draw and write with no restrictions). He would take out his mini watercolor set and start drawing the remarkably interesting people that would sit down with their coffees. By the end of the morning he would have a collage of people: a man with a tower of dreadlocks on the top of his head, a woman covered in tattoos – you name it – all with beautiful, subtle watercolor highlights.

Another valuable thing my dad instilled in me is the practice of journaling. You guys have heard a lot about this when I post about my old junior high journals. Well once I became an adolescent I started using those sketchbooks less for drawings of funny looking monsters and pictures of my room with a swimming pool in it and more for my never-ending waterfall of emotions.

afterlight
Draaaaaammaaaaa!

I would write a lot – just a narrative that was completely unedited, like I was talking to a friend. My sister kept journals too, but hers were more like prose or something – you couldn’t exactly tell what was going on or who she was talking about sometimes. There were just thoughts and letters that were never meant for anyone to read.

I would also sketch a lot, too. The words would go around pictures of boys I liked, real or imaginary. I used to sketch in class, too, on the margins of my notebooks. I loved to draw people, so having 30 models that were more or less staying still for an hour was perfect. However, once and a while I got caught and the implications were mortifying. Just because I was drawing someone in class didn’t mean I like-LIKED them!!! (If they were in my journal at home, however, I DEFINITELY like-liked them).

DON'T like-like
DON’T like-like
DO like-like
DO like-like

My sketchbooks became these awesome scrapbooks of my teenage world. I didn’t have a lock on them, and I never hid them, even though they contained the most mortifying things about me. My parents and friends were always very respectful of my privacy. I made it clear to any new friends that if they read my journal I would cry. A lot. But I would show them pictures or songs I wrote sometimes, careful to not carelessly flip a page and expose a drawing of a boy I wasn’t ready to advertise as my official crush yet.

I also played guitar in elementary school and junior high. In high school, I stopped playing as much and just journaled constantly. I would fill up one of those fat sketchbooks each school year. In college I kept journaling, but only when I really needed to process something – a break up, a confusing attraction to someone, a fight with a friend. I filled up one sketchbook over an entire four years of undergrad, and I stopped sketching as much. In grad school I played guitar a little more, and journaled the same amount as in college. After graduation I realized I wasn’t journaling hardly at all any more, and it made me sad. I want to know all of my inner thoughts and have memories of this time in my life. But what I realized is that journaling and sketching have a direct correlation with how much angst I am feeling at the moment.

When I am happy and settled, I don’t need to write or sketch or use as much creativity. I only want to journal and be creative to emotionally process something and collect my thoughts or to expel built up energy that accumulates when I am single or lonely.

That is why I am excited to have this blog. I can have a creative outlet that allows me to save memories and written thoughts forever, like a journal. I would so much rather blog than journal – journaling is just for me, so I lose interest if I don’t desperately need to process something. But blogging allows me to show people things and have a conversation – I get feedback and get to talk to Emily about making it better and get inspired together.

I think I mentioned before that when I wrote about my frustration with my perception of my body at the time, it instantly made me feel better about the whole thing. Writing it down helped, like it always does, but I think it helped more by being on the blog than it would if it were in my journal. Writing things down that you know other people will read makes you have to really believe what you’re saying. And that took such a weight off of my shoulders when I actually believed what I was saying – it allowed me to move on from it.

It’s hard to explain, but I am so glad I found another creative outlet after journaling was not as rewarding as it was before. I might pick up the guitar again, but I don’t see myself being interested in sketching again – I’m not sure why, but it kind of sucks. People get really impressed when you can draw something. Haha.

Now I think doing DIY projects and decorating our place will fill that need. And learning to take pretty photos for the blog and showing them to you all.

~

Remember, if you would like to follow along and write your own Monday Memoirs using our prompts, please include the link to your entry on your blog, Facebook, Tumblr, whatever, in the comments! We would love to hear what you have to say!

NEXT WEEK’S PROMPT

What brought you to your current career path?

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