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Bernstein—Maria (From West Side Story)

[And now for your regularly scheduled interruption from the 14 Songs in 14 Days blog series, er…something]

I’m not super happy with how it turned out, so I’m not adding it to my normal Recordings Page and inevitably it can get buried into all the other blog posts here…but, inspired by so many others on all my social medias who have been cranking out music and artistry in the absence of normality during the COVID-19 pandemic isolation period, I’ve recorded a (new-to-me) song: “Maria” from West Side Story.

Like I say, I’m not super pleased with it, but I’m at least done editing/messing with it so instead of just trashing it, I’m putting it out there into the void for you to maybe enjoy!

Here’s what I learned from this process:

1) Attempting to make music during a quarantine, even if you’re not fully satisfied with it, is still a useful process and a good way to distract yourself from everything else going on. Good for mental health, good to keep honing your craft, good that we turn to art in times of trouble. So if you’re reading this and have the ability to—go make some music. If not, at least go listen to some!
2) It’s not impossible to sing and make recordings without live accompaniment of any kind, but it’s a heck of a lot harder. Trying to synchronize the vocal recording takes (there were at least four or five) with the piano accompaniment was not at all easy without the pianist in the room! For this project—inspired by the ways that our EMU voice studios been adapting voice lessons to Facetime and Skype with recordings of our accompaniment recorded on cell phones by our usual collaborative pianists—I went on YouTube and searched for piano accompaniment to “Maria” from Bernstein’s West Side Story….and because I’m terrible, I’ve forgotten to give that person attribution in the MP3! Dang. Well, for those of you reading here, I found it from an Italian pianist, composer and YouTuber named Marco Velocci. Go check him out!
3) All that to say: you’ll be able to tell on the recording that syncing the voice with the piano was troublesome. There’s nothing like not being able to have voice lessons or rehearsals in person to make you all the more grateful for when they DO happen—so thanks to my regular collaborative pianist, Mark Loring, and voice professor, Dr. MeeAe Nam!
4) I made some weird vowel choices [in my native language of ENGLISH, mind you…] that didn’t even occur to me until I thought I was ready to start editing, and after I heard them I was mad but didn’t really want to record yet another take.
4.5) Relatedly, it’s really difficult for me to record at home in the office when you have to compete with dogs and Karen (and even the wind chime…good grief!) for background noise. I got most of these takes in while Karen was outside cutting wood for a garden bed or something. I can’t imagine how torturous this whole process must be for other voice students such as those at EMU who are having to (or will have to soon) record themselves at home singing along with the piano backing tracks in lieu of their final jury. Blah.
5) Attempting to edit sound files with my usual method of using Audacity (which I’ve used to edit sound files for Karen to use with auditions for several years now) is increasingly obnoxious… The program crashed more than a handful of times while working on editing this all together, which shouldn’t be that hard for a relatively small, ~3:00 minute song with an imported MP3 track and a few recording tracks using a YETI USB microphone. Fortunately, I didn’t lose much each time it crashed, except for pieces of my sanity and soul…
6) … and finally—when this process was nearly complete, as in yesterday during editing, I remembered that I have EMU Faculty access to the entire Adobe Creative Cloud including Adobe Access, one of the top sound/music editing software programs on the market…brilliant. So I have it downloaded now. Sorry Audacity, but… there’s only so much I take with you!

Finally: here ya go! Here’s hoping you don’t completely hate it!

♪In the springtime, the only pretty ring time♪

Let’s about clear about something.

I know everybody’s all like “Oh hi Spring. How ya doin’? I think I kinda like you! Wanna go to the Middle School dance with me?” right now.

But here is a dose of reality for you: Spring is not going to be your new BFF. It has bees – particularly carpenter bees, which are going nuts on our back porch right now. It has yellow jackets, which apparently like to dive bomb you when you’re working late at night in your office and freak you out only to reappear the next day lethargically sitting on one of your books begging to be taken outside. Not that I would know from experience or anything.

Spring has ridiculous changing weather. And seasonal allergens that wish to destroy you.

I’ll take the fall any day.

Saturday Cups o’ Tea

From earlier this morning…

Of course, the Knoxville Choral Society concert tonight will be awesome with or without my vocal contribution, so I’m not worried about that. I am a little more worried about having to sing both services tomorrow at Church Street, and be one of only two tenors in the first service octet. At least the Bach and Telemann pieces we’re singing aren’t particularly high. All the same, #notwinning.

In better news, I make a mean cup of green tea with Tazo Zen and honey. So at least there’s that.

Change in Photography [Uploading] Philosophy

Danke!, originally uploaded by archelenon.

I decided today to slightly shift the way I handle sharing my photography.

For years, Flickr has been my default dumping ground for my photos, as the site was one of the leading photography sites on the Web when I signed up for it, seemingly ages ago. (Yeah, OK, so it was only 2006…) Anyway, much has changed since then. For example, my photography has gotten a lot better. More and more photo sharing sites have popped up in the “Web 2.0” generation. Other sites, such as Facebook, have added photo sharing features that make it really easy to share photos to a mass audience.

Now that I’ve whetted your appetite, the change in thinking is thus: Flickr is for better and more artistic photography, and as such, will no longer be the dumping ground for all my photos. That doesn’t mean that I won’t upload multiple photos from locations or events that I shoot; I just won’t be uploading, for example, 200+ photos from Germany that I never even get around to naming or describing. The best of my work deserves to be on Flickr where plenty of other amazing photographers display their work. Throwing up 200 photos from every single location and event just waters down what could otherwise be a great collection of photography. Now, along with this change in mindset, I have tried to go through and at least name every photo in my Flickr photostream, and I have cleaned out several boring or mundane or just technically bad shots that weren’t meaningful. More of this will probably be happening over the summer as I have time to get rid of some of the junk. This will make it easier to find the “good stuff.”

The second part of the shift was a difficult decision. It has long been my policy that uploading photos to Facebook was a two-edged sword that I did not want to deal with. For one, you have no idea what Facebook will do with your photos, and in fact for a long time in the past (haven’t checked here lately) Facebook had in their user agreement that they could use your photos for whatever they wanted. I don’t exactly trust Zuckerberg with my photos, and given Facebook’s recent privacy snafus, they’re becoming less trustworthy for just about anything. But I digress. Even given these potential privacy/usage issues, I have come to believe that Facebook is not the location for my best work (those are for Flickr) but for photos for the community’s consumption.

For example, I shot over 200 photos for the BCM Spring 2010 Banquet recently, and uploaded 180 of them of Facebook. The feedback was overwhelming. Tagging people in the photos, to let them know which specific photos are of them, is a great way to get the photo noticed, and works especially well for large group events. Now, for those of you who might be active on Flickr, you are probably saying that Flickr has added the ability to tag other people in your photos. But this feature is limited by the very nature of Flickr itself – that it is primarily geared to photographers and not the general population. Thus, very few of my friends and people that I would be photographing are ON Flickr to see the work.

So, with all those factors weighed in, I think it best for Facebook to become the “dumping ground” for lack of a better term.