Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy holidays from DCIC

DCIC is working on a holiday album. This is just a teaser for December 2010 - when our little project will be the hottest thing since yule log.

A few nights ago, I dug out a second parking space in front of the house and Mike came over to start work on this thing. Here are rough mixes of our first shot at the "o" section of holiday favorites.

Happy holidays!!!

O come, O come, Emmanuel (9:45, mp3)
O Holy Night (3:54, mp3)
O Tannenbaum (7:32, mp3)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

These are the ringtones you are looking for.

Amuse your acquaintances.
Befuddle your bro's.
Confound your coworkers.
Delight your dorm mates.
Enthuse your enemies.
Faze your family.
Gratify your girlfriend.
Hook your hubby.
Irritate your in-laws.
and so on.

With the Dada ringtone you've always wanted.
And they're free!
These are amazing times we live in.

Bowling for Women [mp3] 249kb
Duodenum [mp3] 165kb
Soda Can Mambo [mp3] 136kb

For full versions of the songs, scroll down to "novelties" on my music page.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Help the Low End String Quartet rock in schools

Dear friends,

Next year, The Low End String Quartet is heading back to elementary school.

We didn't want to do it half-assed so we've been moving forward slowly and intentionally. Thanks to the Cafritz Foundation, our county arts council, and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, phase one is now underway: developing a kick-ass in-school concert program. We are working with an arts-education consultant and observing other performing artists in schools so we can do this thing right.

Starting in the spring of 2010 we will perform our first in-school shows, and audition for local school systems and related agencies.

Here's the thing... Many of our local schools don't have the money for performing arts programming. We've got a great product that can mean a lot to kids - but we need to reach 'em. That's where you come in. A few small gifts from a few kind people can make a big difference: allowing us to offer low-cost, high-quality performing arts experiences for young people.

We're doing our homework to make sure the show is engaging, participatory, memorable, exciting, and curriculum based. The kids don't even know it's "educational." They just know it rocks.

If we can get 10 people to give $50, we can give a local, under-resourced elementary school two free shows (one for K-2, one for 3-6 graders). That's all it takes. Easy!

Gifts to Improv Arts are fully tax deductible.
Click here to donate via
or "join the cause" on facebook.

I hope you have a great holiday season & happy new year!
Thank you so much.

P.S. We have a record out. We think it came out awful nice. You might like it. You can hear the whole thing (for free) and download (almost free) at bandcamp, or order an actual plastic copy that you can hold in your hot little hands (or gift wrap for holiday purposes) - only $7 if you buy it from Dischord.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Anorak and DCIC, Nov 21

Thanksgiving is coming up, and then it's the holidays and everybody's got tons of stuff to do and no time and all that. Luckily we're not there just yet. Seriously. We are not there yet.

Ok, yeah the clocks fell back and now it gets dark at five pm and boo hoo. But wait a second. Winter hasn't taken over yet. We are not there yet.

I have an idea. Let's celebrate the last days of autumn, and do it up right. Before the shopping and stress and seasonal disorder and slush and don't wake me until it's spring. I've got a great idea: let's get together at a cool, fun, out-of-the-way kinda place and hang out for an evening. Even better, let's get some cool live music, too!

Lucky lucky us. It just so happens that we've got a cool place, and a great lineup for a fun night:

Anorak, a hard-to-classify trio of European improvisers (ok, one of them is from Baltimore, but she was living in Amsterdam and met the other two) will be in town. The DC Improvisers Collective (DCIC) will play too.

Anorak is a cellist, a pianist, and a drummer. They are doing neat stuff. You will probably like it. DCIC has a special lineup that night, featuring Vattel Cherry on bass and Ed Ricart on guitar, plus their regular trio of sax, guitar, drums. The music will be hot.

Show is at the artdc Gallery / Lustine Center in the Hyattsville Arts District. Hyattsville is a happening little place - just up the road from DC (really, not far) and just down the road from College Park.

Blurbage about the bands below. Show is pay-what-you-like so don't worry about the money. Just think about the fun we're gonna have.

When: Saturday, November 21.
Doors at 7:30pm, music promptly at 8:00pm.
Where: artdc / Lustine Center
5710 Baltimore Avenue
Hyattsville, MD 20781

American/European ensemble Anorak unifies musical and cultural backgrounds in an exploration of texture and sound-worlds unique to its piano/drums/cello instrumentation. Anorak’s work is informed by the jazz, contemporary, and classical vocabulary, but inspired by foregoing stylistic practice in exchange for open, impulsive, and raw exposition of sound and energy.

DC Improvisers Collective:
The DC Improvisers Collective (DCIC) is a trio exploring the intersection of jazz, contemporary composition and rock music. Their current lineup features Ben Azzara (drums), Jonathan Matis (guitar), and Mike Sebastian (reeds). These musicians come together from diverse backgrounds, bringing experience from performing in rock bands and jazz groups, as well as post-classical composition. Drawing on the visceral energy and immediacy of rock music, along with the spontaneous creativity and subtlety of the jazz tradition, DCIC is able to forge new music that possesses both great intensity and mindful nuance.

Check out our new record, a live album featuring Greg Osby:

Monday, November 02, 2009


Halloween at our house was a dud this year. Rainy weather and a street light that went out made our house unpopular with trick-or-treaters. Oh well. Our pumpkin worked out pretty well, though! Scary spider.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 30, 2009

Another million-dollar idea

Outsource the "honey do" list and associated nagging. Allow a third party to keep you and your spouse on task with home maintenance chores. You have a weekly phone call with a honeydew manager. If you didn't do what you were supposed to do, on schedule, then they hire a contractor for you.

Think of the marriages that could be saved. And the money that could be made, no?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Another million-dollar idea

'Thread bare"
Recession-themed line of underthings.
For example:

  • Pajama bottoms that say "TOXIC ASSET" across the tush
  • Boxer shorts that read "Too big to fail"
  • a few items in a gift set, named "Stimulus package"
Who do we sell this to?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Church Car

Been a while since I posted any recordings here... I just made this one, although it has been on my mind for a long time. Charles Amirkhanian has written a whole bunch of great text-sound pieces (Eigenvalues does one called "The Mad Hymn" that's all in Hawaiian) and this is one of my favorites. It's written for two voices; Amirkhanian recorded it by himself and now I have a similar "karaoke" version in my iPod for live performance. I have no idea where I might perform such a thing, but now I can.

The piece has lots of great odd-meter rhythms that tickle my math-rock nerve just so. Which reminds me, a few weeks ago I learned to play Terry Riley's "In C" for a performance at a party put together by a friend who runs a classical chamber ensemble. It's about time I actually got that score under my fingers. That piece is the godfather of math-rock in my opinion. It was fun to learn it, and interesting to play it with a group for the first time. Learned some things about what to do (and what not to do).

While I'm rambling about recent musical endeavors... I played two shows last week with Daniel's dance company. He put together a multi-cultural version of "My ocean is never blue" with three other dance companies. Now we can finally put that piece to rest after three years. Two of the other companies used live music, and I was able to quickly throw together some ideas for how we could all play together, which was fun. The show was presented by the Clarice Smith Center for the Performing Arts and the University of Maryland. Nice to play in such a nice venue. Sound was good, and they provided snacks for the performers. I was also able to ride my bike to work for one of the shows.

DCIC has a few shows coming up, November 4 at Bossa, and November 21 in Hyattsville. More info coming soon.

Things are moving ahead with the Low End String Quartet, too. We got two small grants from the Prince George's County Arts Council: one for commissioning new music from me; one for an event at Joe's in Mount Rainer next spring. We're finally starting our project to develop an in-school show for kids. That's going to be an interesting adventure, hopefully. So far, it's just been logistics and grant writing. Looking forward to actually starting the work.

Hope you enjoy "Church Car." As always, would love to know what you think.

[if the attached file doesn't work for you, click here to play in your browser. Or click the blue play button next to the headline at the top of this blog post]

Monday, September 28, 2009

Hamilton Street, West Hyattsville, Maryland

Some photos I took in my 'hood, 9/25/2009.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

New Album: DCIC with Greg Osby "Live At Warehouse"

In August 2006 (don't mind the typo on the album cover), we put on a concert at the Warehouse Theater. They were renovating at the time, and from the street it looked like the place was closed.

The show opened with a set by Joe Lally. Accompanied by Jeff Barsky on guitar, he shared songs from his debut solo album, "There to Here." The we played, with Greg Osby. For real, us with Greg Osby.

It was a high point for DCIC, and luckily we recorded the show. There's some description of the actual music on the album page. One track is available for free, and the whole thing is only $5.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I am published (again?)

This time it's an article I wrote about a Jimmy Giuffre record. It went up today at the IndiePit blog.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

New Album: Low End String Quartet "Blunt Objects"

A few years ago, I had an idea: what if a string quartet could be re-invented for playing in modern chamber-music venues (i.e. bars and clubs)? Presto: A string quartet that is skewed toward the lower register, by adding a bass and an electric guitar and taking away the 2nd violin and viola. Damn, that oughta rock. So I wrote some music for this lineup - and found performers who were willing to give it a try.

We did a proof-of-concept performance at the now defunct Warehouse Next Door a few years ago. Cameron made cookies-and-cream cupcakes for the occasion. That's what I'm talking about. It seemed worth pursuing further.

I wrote some more music for the group, as did Jodi Beder. We played another show. People seemed to get excited about it. We booked studio time at Inner Ear. The air conditioning broke down so our recording session was a sweaty affair. TJ Lipple, the golden-eared engineer who was running the session, had just come back from Morocco and had a case of what would later be diagnosed as Typhoid Fever. But we got the work done anyway.

The record is out now and we're celebrating with a show this coming Saturday at the ArtDC Gallery [event info] [preview article in Wash. Post Express].

Tracks 1 - 5 are pieces that I wrote for the group. And I mean "wrote," like notes on paper like a real composer and stuff. Well, not entirely. "Metal" is an open-form piece - there are written riffs that the group assembles as we're playing; and "Shut up and listen" is a structured improv piece with some notated music and lots of room for improvising. But the others are honest-to-god composed. Except for the cello solo in the middle of Grinder, that's improvised too.

Track 6, "Mystery Snail" was written by the cellist, Jodi Beder. It's based on a Sarabande from one of the Bach cello suites (she plays the Sarabande straight at the very end... after the wah pedal section).

I love the sound TJ got for us. It sounds kinda like "punk classical." It has a sort-of classical, roomy quality but there's something DIY sounding about it, too. He's really good at that sort of thing. He got the perfect rock / jazz hybrid sound for the DCIC record too.

You can hear the whole thing (and buy a download for only $5) here. Or you can order a physical CD here. Or your favorite record store can order it for you via Dischord Direct.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New to You: DCIC "Meme and Variations" (2007)

This album captures a variety of live recordings from DCIC's 2nd quartet lineup:
Ben Azzara: drums
Daniel Barbiero: bass
Jonathan Matis: guitar
Mike Sebastian: reeds

Dan culled through a year's worth of performances and rehearsal tapes, pulling together a nice assortment that makes a solid representation of what we were up to. There are some swinging passages, some noisy energetic passages, some modal chant-like stuff, and a touch of electronic weirdness.

Originally, this was released via Sachimay Records' "Interventions" series as a CDr. We got a few nice reviews. Only a handful of people in the world actually have a copy of the disc, though. I'm happy to announce that we've got it posted now and you can download a copy. 128k mp3 for free, and only $3 for a nicer sounding format. (Name-your-price, $0 ok)

Track one came from a show at Warehouse Next Door, June 2, 2005.
Tracks two and three were rehearsals at Mike's house, March 19,2005 and May 28,2005
The final track is from a live radio show we did at WMUC (University of Maryland) on March 4, 2005.

All told, it's about an hour of several flavors of free jazz.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A batch of upcoming shows

I have three shows coming up next week... want y'all to know about 'em. Perhaps you would enjoy one?

Sat. 8/22:
A Light Sleeper
Low End String Quartet
at Artdc gallery in Hyattsville
[facebook] [upcoming]

Wed. 8/19:
Eliot Levin
DC Improvisers Collective
at Bossa Bistro
[facebook] [upcoming]

Sun. 8/16:
DC Improvisers Collecive
at Galaxy Hut
[facebook] [upcoming]

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

New to You: Braxton/Matis "Death Slug 2000" (2000)

Ty Braxton has a new solo album coming out next month on Warp Records. Let us celebrate via shameless self-promotion.

I went to graduate school at the Hartt School of Music. While I was there, Ty was a fellow composition student. We had some seriously overlapping interests so we talked often about playing together sometime. Towards the end of my last semester we made sometime into an actual time.

We got together one afternoon and did some improvising. Nothing planned in advance - just feeling things out on the fly. We recorded it. Here it is.

At the time, Ty was doing lots of rhythmic loop-based stuff. He called it "guitar techno." This recording has none of it. Plenty of looping, but all texture - no groove. It's two long tracks (about 30 min. each) of guitar noise. If that kind of thing floats your boat, it's a sweet ride.

We originally released it as a CDr on the Metatron Press label. We did a short tour at the time, along with another friend from Hartt, Eric Bernasek. One of the best shows was in Eric's backyard. I remember the Pittsburgh date pretty well, too. That was the first time I heard El Guapo and they were awesome. The next year I played one other show with Ty at an art gallery in Hartford.

You can still order a CDr copy from Metatron Press. If you do, I'll make one for you. It's much more economical to download it, though...

You can stream the whole thing, or buy it for only $3. (Link)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

I have the proof

Communication is impossible.
No one will really understand what someone else is trying to say.
Why bother?
If it were possible, would it mean anything?
So I sit quietly.

Yet miracles do happen.
I have the proof.
His name is Peter Orlovsky.
Where it comes from and how and the mechanics of it
Are all beyond me.
Maybe beyond human mind? Maybe just me.
Either way, here it is.

Pure being molded into words and left on a page.
Just sitting there like that.
Like it's no big thing.
And the guy can't even spell.

(inspired by this)

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

New to You: Jonathan Matis "Four Sculptures" (2000)

I made this album a really long time ago. When I started work on it, Bill Clinton was still the president, and no one had heard of any Monica Lewinsky. When I finished it, Sisqo's "Thong Song" was top 10. Those were the days.

It's a collection of ambient guitar pieces. At the time, I was obsessed with playing the guitar in such a way that you never heard the sound of a plucked string. Seems silly in retrospect, but this was really important to me at the time. I spent years, literally years not plucking the damn strings. Youth is wasted on the young.

Track one was made in the summer of 1998. I got all John Cage-y and recorded one long take of guitar/electronics, then a few days later did another one of the same length. Then I put them together. No edits. Turns out they work really nicely that way.

Track two is from almost a year later. This one is also made up of two live passes with the guitar and gadgets, but this time I allowed myself to hear the first track as I recorded the second. One nifty thing in the mix that you might not notice: at first the two tracks are both panned dead center; at the end, they are hard panned right/left. Over the course of the piece they are moving away from each other very, very slowly. Just like the musical material is unfolding very, very slowly. What can I say? I was into music that moved very, very slowly.

Track four is the latest of the album, and marked a personal breakthrough for me. I plucked the strings! And it was ok! In fact, I really liked plucking the strings. This piece was the end of an era. It's also the only "solo" on the album, done live with no overdubs. Also the first one that I recorded into a computer. The other three were mixed on a computer, but recorded on my cassette four-track.

That was also one of the first pieces I recorded in my basement after moving to Takoma Park, Maryland. Now, almost ten years later, that's the same room where Reversal, my rock band, rehearses. It's my friend Trav's basement now. Life is funny like that sometimes.

This record was originally self-released via Gather round kids, grandpa will tell you a story: Back then CD burners were still really expensive. The cheapest way for me to make a small quantity of cd's to have on-hand to sell at gigs was to upload to their site, then buy physical copies back from them at $5 each. That was a wacky time. Some kind of internet-bubble venture capital nightmare made it possible for me to get short-run cd's on the cheap (and I got a free tote bag). Not surprisingly, that company is long gone and my album went away when they did. Now it's a free download on my bandcamp page.

IF (you're into ambient loopy guitar music) THEN (you might like it) ELSE (so what? It's free).

Thursday, July 30, 2009

We're getting a baby! (dog)

The stork is dropping her off on Aug. 15. How could we say no?
She might have some special needs... she's very shy. Was a stray, and is being rescued from a high-kill shelter in South Carolina or something. They were seeking a home with an adult well-adjusted dog and no kids. Sound like us.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

New to You: Fending/Matis “Three Rocks” (2006)

Several years ago, I released this album as a very, very limited edition CD-R. I only made 20 of them, and most of those are still in my house. Since I bungled the original release, I'm delighted to offer it up now, far & wide, thanks to the interweb. Listen / download / buy it here (pay-what-you-like, $0 ok).

I used to play in a guitar / drums duo with Brian Fending. He moved to Buffalo. Now we don't get to play much.

Thanks to several things outside my control lining up just right, I was offered three days of free studio time at a cool little recording studio in Minneapolis. I'd never been to Minneapolis, and this seemed like a great reason to visit. In retrospect, the cost of airfare, hotel, and rental car came out to more than we would've spent for the same (or slightly more) studio time here at home, but it was fun to go out there anyway. Minneapolis is cool, and in the summer it's really nice.

We had no idea what music we might play, so we just set up and dove right in. Most of the record is improvised. I had a fortunate technology problem: my laptop got zapped by a virus when I joined the hotel wireless network on our first night. It wouldn't boot up or anything after that... so I did most of the session without fancy gizmos or looping. The studio had a beautiful Vox AC15 guitar amp that I think I might still be in love with. Yeah, a little bit in love with a guitar amp. Embarrassing but true. I did some overdubs and played the looped parts manually. That was much better. The first two tracks have “laptop guitar,” the rest are post-virus-crash-meltdown. (I'm still using that damn laptop and it's never really been the same.)

Some highlights:

  • Track 5 is a short little rock number. I love Brian's entrance.
  • Track 9, “Perpetual Motion,” is a math-y piece that we wrote at a bar after our first day in the studio. It's built on a cliché metal riff of steady 8th notes. After that's established, we each start dropping 8th notes (We each have a different pattern for the dropped notes). Eventually we only have one 8th note left (the “and of four” if you want to count along at home). We hit that a few times together and end it. I do loves me some math rock.
We did a very short little East Coast tour when we first put the album out. That didn't work so well, logistically, but the music was solid. We haven't played together since... but I'm still proud of this record and I hope you enjoy it.

Let me know what you think.

More history:
original blog post about the recording session
original blog post about the tour

Saturday, July 25, 2009

I am published

The last ad down is mine. McGreet / Mccob! Genius I tell you! The extraneous close-parentheses is an homage to some ads that ran over the last few months featuring ridiculous punctuation nightmares.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Two new solo pieces posted.

Some new guitar music. Let's call it a "Virtual 7" single." Two wacked out ecstatic improv tracks.

<a href="">Explosion in a Shingle Factory by Jonathan Matis</a>

If that embedded player thing doesn't work for you, it's on my page.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Stick a fork in me

I'm Done.

I'm Done trying to:

  • be somebody
  • make things happen
  • build an audience
  • cultivate a fan-base
  • raise money
  • get publicity
  • get noticed
  • be cool

Turns out I've wasted the better part of two years (or more?) trying to get my music & "business" to coexist. For better or worse, I opted for a nonprofit arts organization business model. I think I did many things "right," plenty of things wrong, or incompletely. In any event, results have been disappointing.

I've written a mighty pile of grant proposals, mailed out over two hundred promo cd's to press people and sent a gazillion "follow up emails." That took a lot of time. What I have to show for it is a large collection of rejection letters and a tremendous indifference with which my work has been received in the world.

Reviewing these results / metrics, I think it would've been better to simply spend that time practicing and writing music. So now, I'm done.

I'm happy to continue making music, but I'm done trying to "do something" with it. Music is useless. Instrumental music is largely meaningless. No sense trying to commodify it or build myself into a "brand" or any such nonsense. I'm done. I don't need to make my artistic practice into a business. That was foolish. If you catch me trying to do it again, please smack me.

I'm going to keep writing and playing and practicing. Hopefully my friends will work with me from time to time. If you want to hear what we're up to, come on out to the house and we'll play it for you. You're totally invited and I'd love to hang out for a while. Or don't come. Either way, I'll be here. And the music will get better and better.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Rant RE: Fringe Festival Echo Chamber

This year's Capital Fringe Festival has begun. I know this because I am deluged with promotional materials: emails, postcards, facebook event invitations, and on and on. Feels like every artist I know (in any discipline) is working 24/7 to promote their damn Fringe show. I even received a postcard mailed inside an envelope. I think an envelope containing nothing but a postcard is actually an elegant metaphor for everything that bothers me about Fringe - especially as a business model for artists to self-produce their work. I would elaborate on this but I don't think it's worth the time to explain it.

As a performing artist myself, and one who spends considerable effort on self-promotion, I admit that this is some serious pot-kettle-blackness. I can relate to the folks working hard to promote their shows, but damn this onslaught of self promoted amateur and/or semi-pro stuff is leaving me in a near constant state of nausea that will hopefully subside when the festival is over.

Each new invitation, email blast, and postcard just makes me want to stay the f--- home. Besides, as an artist, I have precious little disposable income. So unless you're offering me a comp, don't bother inviting me to your damn show. I ain't gonna buy a ticket.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

May - June summary

Happily, I continued to exist throughout May and June. I did some stuff, too. Such as:


  • 5/16 DCIC at Hyattsville Arts Festival:
    We played a long & informal set in a little atrium space behind the gallery in "downtown" Hyattsville (my little home town). We invited some guests to sit in: Ted Zook and guitarist Ed Ricart joined us for the afternoon. I felt a good rapport with Ed right away. I hope we get to do some more playing together. He's gigging a lot around town, including a trio with Scott Verrastro on drums and Anthony Pirog (my guitar teacher). I'd pick Anthony any day over me, so I can understand that, but with Anthony moving to NYC maybe I'll get a chance to do some work with Ed. We'll see...
  • 6/13 Low End String Quartet at Comet w/ Tone:
    This was a fun night, but the show ran really late. Jodi was out of town so we were joined by Gordon Withers on cello. He's terrific (and look for his new album on the way soon; he was recording that week with J. Robbins up in Baltimore). We also found ourselves a new bass player: the inimitable Vattel Cherry. I made sure to make Vattel take a nice long solo during our set. He burned the place down. Tone has never sounded better. Those guys were awesome.
  • 6/26 Reversal at Artomatic:
    A fun Friday night free show. We debuted two new songs and played everything pretty much as intended. That's the best I can shoot for... the music is hard.
  • 6/30 Combustion at Source Festival:
    This one came up really last-minute. "Combustion" is a 20 minute inter-disciplinary collaboration between a musician, a playwright / actress (Allyson Currin), and a visual artist (Kate McGraw). They've been working together on it in a structured workshop setting for 8 months. The musician had a medical problem and had to miss the performances. So the day before opening night I jumped in and we had one rehearsal. First show was last night. We do it two more times: Thursday at 8pm, Sunday at 2pm, at Source Theater. [tickets]

Projects / work:
  • LESQ "Blunt Objects" media push
    I sent out a big batch of cd's to various journalists and media outlets. Starting the machinery to try and get some reviews written. We'll see how that goes. Also thinking about doing a CD release event in DC this fall (October-ish). Any ideas where we should try to play?
  • Grant awarded: Prince George's Arts Council (PGAC): for LESQ to work with an arts-education consultant to develop an in-school concert program for elementary schools. We also got one from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities so we've got enough dough to get the ball rolling, but still only about half of the project budget.
  • I wrote a whole mess of grant proposals:
    • Cafritz Foundation: for the LESQ educational program (see above)
    • Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation "jazz.NEXT:" to hire Ben to help 10 jazz musicians utilize web 2.0 technologies effectively
    • PGAC: individual artist proposal: to commission me to write more music for LESQ
    • PGAC: organizational proposal: presenting an LESQ concert at Joe's in Mt. Rainier, and a daytime kids show for their after-school program.
  • ACF: some bad news: the local chapter will have no operating budget after September 30, so that part-time job (that has been shrinking gradually over the last few years) is going to vanish.Probably good for me, if I can find some other freelance work I should be able to make more money in less time.

I left the house to hear some shows that I wasn't playing in, and they were good:
  • 5/30 Isis at Black Cat w/ Pelican and Tombs
  • 6/16 John Vanderslice at Black Cat
  • 6/20 Soft Power at Comet

  • Cameron and I are off from our regular yoga schedule. There was a time when we made it to the Bikram studio three times per week. Not so much these days. And I have the belly to prove it.
  • I did not attend my 20 year high school reunion. I'm old. It cost $100 per person, so that seemed crazy to spend $200 (I gotta bring Cameron to show off, right?) to hang out at some country club in Bethesda with people that I'm not all that interested in... To quote one of my actual high school friends, it seemed like it was going to be "a waspy nightmare" so I opted out. I suppose "waspy nightmare" is totally appropriate for my high school. Hmm, college too, actually. But I went to my 10 year college reunion (some number of years ago) and that was kinda fun.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Gigs, meet lap.

Over the last few days, a few nice gigs fell into my lap. Nice when that happens! The Low End String Quartet was offered a show at Comet Ping Pong next month. We're on the bill with Tone and The Mantis. Free show. It's gonna be, how do the kids say it, off the hook?

DCIC got two shows on the calendar out of nowhere. This Saturday, we're doing something at the new ArtDC gallery in Hyattsville, part of the city's Arts Festival, and in August we're playing a Sunday night show with Zevious (a jazz / prog / metal trio from Phildelphia).

Reversal has a show lined up at Artomatic... so this summer I get to perform with all three bands. Nice. Only two downsides so far:

  1. Low End Quartet gig is same night as Joe Lally at Black Cat, so I won't get to hear him while he's in town (and won't get to hear my replacement in his band). I am not bitter, really. Really.

  2. Low End Quartet needs to find a bass player. Fast.
If you know any great bass players in the DC area who might be a good fit for the quartet, give me a shout.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The Dog People

Cameron and I had an idea for a radio story, in the style of "This American Life." We're thinking of trying to pitch it to them. What do you think? Any other ideas for where we might look to produce such a thing?

Cameron and Jon are thirty-something. They don't have kids and do not plan on having any. They volunteered as a foster home for a local Australian Shepherd Rescue, meaning they took in Australian Shepherd puppies that had wound up at local shelters, temporarily, until the dogs could be placed in permanent homes.

This opened a window into a subculture of breed-specific dog enthusiasts. Looking through said window creates some anxiety for Cameron. Is she like these people? Is she not? Is she on her way to becoming one? Or maybe this isn't really about the dog-people at all. Is this the manifestation of some deeper anxiety about her life and the decisions she's made that have led her here and will define the rest of her life? We need to find out more...

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In case the embedded player doesn't show up in your reader of choice, here's a link to the mp3 file.

April. Done.

April opened and closed with Reversal gigs. (We've got one more show on the calendar, June 26 at Artomatic.)

Some highlights from in between:
Cameron was in San Diego for a conference, so we used that for an excuse to take a long weekend in LA and visit some old friends.

We did some gardening. Check back mid-summer. Hopefully we'll have so much zucchini and so many tomatoes we'll be desperate to give 'em away.

LESQ cd's are in. The official release won't happen until September. That way I have time to get press copies sent out, and get the disc into iTunes, eMusic and other digital retailers, etc, etc. Trav donated some great photos for the package, and Alec donated the layout. Finished product looks really awesome. Sounds ok, too.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

March is over already?

That was quick. This past month I kept busy with some music projects, and probably blew off a little too much day-job work, but hopefully that will come back when I need to pick up some more. We'll see.

About a week ago, DCIC had a fun show at Galaxy Hut with Altamira. I hadn't played there in a very long time. I think the place has changed owners multiple times since my last show there. Seems like they're doin' it right... it's still a fun place to hang out and hear music. Altamira was fantastic. Those guys have mad skills.

I spent this past weekend at Dance Place, performing with Daniel Burkholder's dance company, The PlayGround. It was a split bill with Jane Jerardi. The split bill concept worked really well, there was a nice turnout for both Saturday and Sunday night. Ginger Wagg was back in town to perform in Jane's half of the show - that's always good news. She did this really really simple, short solo piece that was quite effective, in my opinion. I've been working on this piece with Daniel's company for something like three years now. It's been evolving very slowly. I think this latest version is a bit longer than it should be, but other than that, I think this may have been the best version so far.

Spending the weekend at Dance Place was only mildly disorienting. We did Daniel's piece there (with Ginger, before she moved away) two years ago. I've barely been in touch with Jane in the last three years. On Saturday night, I talked to Lucas Zarwell for a few minutes in the lobby. I don't know how long it's been since I've talked to him. He's got a kid and got promoted at work and is all grown up and stuff. Not that he wasn't grown up before, but anyway, there was something weird about the whole thing. What year is it now? Ok, 2009. April of 2009. Got it.

I did my taxes, and it turns out that 2008 was a pretty good year for me, money-wise (relatively). I did lots more day-job than I had the two previous years, so it wasn't hard to beat my annual income from 06 or 07. Funny how it worked out, though... since I was totally broke after touring last spring with Joe Lally. So even though the year started out slow, it worked out well in the end. Mostly due to the fact that Cameron got me a nice consulting gig with her employer. Working as a sub-contractor for a government contractor is the secret to financial success apparently.

Now the important stuff: what are you doing tomorrow night? Well you oughtta be going to Solly's Tavern on U street for the big debut of my instrumental rock band, Reversal. We will math-rock you. Show starts at 8pm. We're on second, probably at 9pm. Get there early, our set is, um, short. But awesome.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A dream about scales

I recently started taking guitar lessons (again). That means I'm practicing every day now, including thirty minutes of playing scales daily.

Last night I had a strange dream about playing scales. The key of F had recently passed away. Apparently, musical keys were like people who were among us and then departed. I was setting up for a DCIC show just after F's passing and we wanted to play something as a memorial. The dream quickly turned into an anxiety dream where I was desperately trying to decide what scales I could play that would somehow evoke F, even though F was gone so I couldn't play anything in F. I never did come up with a good solution.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

February 2009

Cameron and I spent a week in Costa Rica, which was awesome. We were at a resort in a little out-of-the-way beach town called Montezuma. We lounged in hammocks hung between palm trees looking at the ocean. Monkeys played in the trees. It was ideal.

Work-wise, I had occasion to learn the basics of SQL because I got an interesting job from the Future of Music Coalition. The project was a preliminary study of the state of jazz radio in the US. We put together a database of playlist data and crunched some numbers. The findings will be released soon.

I started taking guitar lessons. It's been a long time since I had any formal instruction, and it's about time! Now I'm playing scales for 30 minutes every day. Fun. Too bad I didn't take care of this a long time ago.

I've been playing in an instrumental rock band for a little over a year. Progress has been steady, but slow. Now we have a name and a gig! The debut performance of Reversal (I'm not crazy about the name, but let's not get into that) is coming up on April 2nd at Solly's Tavern on U Street. Mark your calendar now. We will rock.

DCIC has been active. We had a fun show in Silver Spring a few weeks ago, at Kefa Cafe. Very small venue, but a nice turnout - and we were well received which was nice. I feel like we are often met with indifference, but that night there was an audience of interested listeners, which felt great. We're performing again soon - Monday, March 23 at Galaxy Hut in Arlington. We're opening for Altamira from Philadelphia.

The Low End String Quartet was awarded a "small projects" grant from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, for the purpose of developing a program that we can take to elementary schools. Now I just have to raise the rest of the money we need to do that project...

The Maryland State Arts Council "Individual Arts Awards" have been awarded, and I didn't get one. Again. Rejected for eight years straight. Awesome.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Inauguration Day

We went over to Jen and Trav's house, fixed up an awesome vegan brunch, and settled in to watch the festivities.

I made Obamawaffles, which, it turns out, are exactly like regular waffles except that they are made on the day of the inauguration of President Obama. I love seeing that. President Obama. Do it again. President Obama. Mmmm that's good. The other phrase I enjoyed greatly was "former president Bush." Love the "former" that's in there now. FORMER president Bush. Uh huh. That's the stuff.

I thought the poem missed the mark a bit, but I think its nearly impossible to meet expectations on such an occasion. "On the Pulse of Morning" set the bar pretty damn high for inaugural poetry. On the other hand, I thought Dr. Lowery hit a home run.

My spirits were also lifted watching Bush get on the helicopter and fly out of town. That was great.

Also enjoyed seeing Cheney, a.k.a. Mr. Potter, wheeled off to McLean where he can continue being, I don't know what, rich and powerful? He not only closed that old savings and loan... this time they wrecked all the banks. Like, in the whole world.

After the ceremony, we went home and I took the dog for a walk. I met up with our neighbors along the way, Penelope's humans (I can't remember their names, but I'm pretty sure they only know me as Wickett's person). They were also very excited and smiled uncontrollably enjoying, "the first dog walk with a black president!"

At home, we watched the parade on c-span (so we could watch without all the blathering). I think my tolerance for marching band music is pretty much exhausted, but who cares? It was somehow incredibly satisfying just to see the Obama's on the viewing stand. And to continue seeing them. That's the new president! And his family! There they are. Still there. Pinch me. Still there. This band is from Iowa. Still there. Pinch me again. This marching band is from Kansas. Look, he's still there. He's the president.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

No, thank you

From NPR's "On the Media" this week: a remarkably frankly written look back at the Bush administration through the lens of their relationship with the press.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Pi to 100 Places

I wrote and recorded this little gem yesterday afternoon.

While working on it, I found the coolest website EVER: The On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences. If you're not convinced that this resource is, in fact, the bomb, then perhaps you should read more about it.

I tried a new (to me) web service to make this little gadget. There's a "share" button built in, so in addition to playing the music right here in your browser, you can easily embed this player in your website, facebook, myspace, blog, etc, etc, etc. Why you might do that, well, that's up to you.

Here's a link to some pi related humor.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Last night on "All Things Considered," there was a feature about the DC experimental music scene.

There's a few snippets of music by DCIC - but they're not identified as such. We do have one track streaming on their website, though... I went in for a nice interview with Neda Ullaby while she was working on the story - not much of that made it into the finished product, but I do show up briefly.

It's funny that the further away I get from the experimental scene, the better it seems to do. I extricated myself from organizing Sonic Circuits and Jeff Surak has grown the festival into something much larger and more awesome. My own music is getting less and less experimental, and my (former?) peers are getting some nice press. Wacky how this works.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Zevious, DCIC, Anthony Pirog Sextet - Thursday

DCIC is performing this coming Thursday night at Velvet Lounge. We'll be joined by a special guest, Ted Zook.

Also on the bill, The Anthony Pirog Sextet, and Zevious - a jazz trio from New York. Have a listen to Zevious, you just might wanna check this out...


Sunday, January 04, 2009

Old cookbooks

We took some pictures of odd old cookbooks during our visit with Cameron's parents last week:

Saturday, January 03, 2009

You PaintedYourself In

Here's my version of a song by Jolie Holland. I made this little arrangement of it over the last few weeks.

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