Welcome to Glenn's Blog!

Here I will periodically post random thoughts and stories about what's going on in my life and the world around me. As if anyone cared. But seriously, you've found your way here, so hopefully you will enjoy at least some of what I have to say, even if you aren't entirely interested in it. At the least, it should be a good way to waste time.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Winding Down

Well, the end of the semester is finally winding down. This is the last week of classes, followed by finals week next week. Which of course means that there is a multi-day Disneyland trip in my near future.

It's been a good semester I guess; not horribly busy but busy enough to keep me out of trouble. The highlights are easy to point out - I received my Masters diploma in the mail after finishing and submitting my project in August. I'm currently churning out the parts for my Symphony No. 1, which is slated now to be performed in March. And, I started and finished a new composition for trombone and cello, which is being premiered today at the student composer's recital.

We don't always provide program notes at our composition recitals, but we are for today's program. Here's the notes from my work:

"The title of Into the Dark was inspired by a day recently when I locked trombonist Kari Estrada in her locker. She was literally in the dark. Compositionally, the duet (instrumentation suggested by Kari) utilizes a lot of minor triads and sevenths as well as diminished sevenths, which give the piece a somber or melancholy feel. It is essentially written in an ABA form which is illustrated most obviously by the tempos as well as the ostinato figures in the cello that open each section. I often feel as the piece represents an old growth forest at dusk, leading into the night hours. Kari says it makes her feel like she’s in a dungeon. I think she’s just remembering the locker incident."

It should be a fun piece to present, and I'm sure the audience will like it. Lots of other things going on in the next couple of days, concert-wise, so I've still got some work to do before I can finally relax. But the holidays are upon us!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

New Music

It's not often that I rant about new music. Certainly, as a composer myself, you would think that I would bear an open mind, and appreciate the artistic identity of it all. We're in the midst of the Festival of New American Music at Sacramento State - the 35th Annual Festival. It certainly has become it's own sort of animal.

Attendance has been quite good this year (as it was also last year), after years of paltry attendance. But it's a whole sort of different crowd that comes to FeNAM. On the one side, there's the whole slew of intellectual types that exude that stereotypical New York avant-garde persona. Even if they're only faking it. And then there's the hippies - original ones from the 60s, now in their 70s, mellowed out by years of rehabilitation from their former rambunctious lifestyles. And then there's the modern-day hippies - those caught somewhere in the middle of their lives in a cloud of marijuana, and tangled up in their own long hair.

And then there's the crazy people.

There's one lady who has shown up every night, talking in a very loud voice about how she parked in this lot and wasn't sure if it's the right lot and is she going to be fine there because she can't afford to get a ticket. You'd think that after I explained on the first night that the 6-story parking garage right next to us is free after 7pm, she would get it and just park there the next night. But no, she parks in a different spot each night and proclaims her location upon arrival at the music building. Sometimes she actually talks at an unsuspecting passerby who made the unfortunate mistake of making eye contact. Sometimes her words just fly out like a snare hoping to catch its next victim.

I have to hand it to the audiences though, they are dedicated. The same ones keep coming back night after night. And the ONLY come to the Festival. You won't see them at any other events of ours throughout the year.

But I said I was going to rant about new music. So, here goes.

Last night we had a string quartet here, and I was really looking forward hearing them. Partly because of their supposed reputation and talent, and partly just because I have long been considering writing another string quartet and was hoping to be inspired.

The first piece was by John Adams, and used harmonics exclusively. I'm not joking, the players' fingers never touched the fingerboards of their instruments. Even in the program notes, Adams was quoted saying that if he could figure out how to produce those sounds without them even touching the instruments, he would do it.

Now, actually, it was kind of a cool effect of interweaving harmonics. But after the first 5 minutes, you got it. After 10 minutes, you were pretty much done with it. But then the piece went on for another 10 minutes past that, just to annoy the hell out of you.

And it went downhill from there. The subsequent three pieces will all bizarre conglomerations of random hits, knocks, scratches, and occasions things resembling notes. To call it music would be false advertising. To call it atonal would be far too generous. Really, no melody or harmony or discernible rhythms to speak of for a majority of the works. We could have given a violin to a three year old and said, "Here kid, scratch on this for about twenty minutes". The end result wouldn't have changed much. You know it's bad one one of the performers quips backstage before going on for the last piece, "Let's go subject them to more sound torture".

To be fair, some people really like this ultra-cerebral style of "music". I can accept that. I can even appreciate it in small doses. But when the ENTIRE program is of the same style as this; well that's just bad programming.

Incidentally, the crazy lady stormed out after the first 10 minutes of the program, loudly proclaiming that if "this is all it was going to be", then she wasn't going to sit through it. Maybe she's not so crazy after all.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Cars, Cars, Cars

Now, I know what your'e thinking. But, no, I did not take another trip to Disneyland to visit the new Cars Land. I still haven't seen it, and won't until my return to the land of fantasy and imagination in December.

Really, what I've been doing a lot of this week is scrutinizing new cars. I'm looking at trading in my 2006 Hyundai Tucson, which has served me well and is still in great shape and has less than 50,000 miles on it. I don't particularly need a new car, but I'd like to trade mine in while it still has some value and before it starts needing major work, like new brakes and its 50,000 mile service. Plus, anything I get now will get at least 4-8 MPG better on average than my car, which will add up.

So, really, a lot has been on my mind as I am looking at all sorts of possible replacements. It's nice to have the freedom to think that, really, I could get anything I want. Well, pretty much. Really I'm looking for something in a crossover SUV that comes in under $28,000 and has a good combination of stylish looks, comfortable ride, and great features. I'm surprised that this has become so hard...

Maybe I'm just too picky after all.

So far I have been on something of a test drive rampage. And I don't use that word lightly. Starting last weekend, I have driven the Hyundai Santa Fe, the Chevy Equinox, The Ford Escape, The Equinox again at a different dealer, the Santa Fe again at a different dealer, the Toyota Prius V, and the Kia Sorento. And today I'm hoping to hit the Mazda CX-5. If the 2013 Toyota Rav 4 would ever bother to come out, I'd probably try that too.

But so far, nothing has really wowed me. There are things I like about all of them...and things I don't like as much. The Ford Escape has nice features and good pep, but it's not exceptionally comfortable or quiet of a ride, and some of the interior design feels quite cheap. And for some reason, Ford seems too eager to balloon their car cost over $30,000. The Equinox has by far the smoothest, most comfortable ride, and exceptional rear seat leg room. But the exterior design doesn't wow me (though it's not bad) and the exterior colors wow me even less (that's putting it mildly). The Sorento is pretty decent in most aspects and has a great price point, and I like their available exterior colors, but I don't like the red illumination of their interior controls very much, and the interior design is just average. The newly redesigned Santa Fe was a surprise, and I enjoyed a lot about it. Available colors aren't as good as the Sorento, but they're okay. The problem is, to get it outfitted with comparable features as the others have, it brings the price over $29,000. That's $1500 more than the next closest, the Equinox - and the Equinox includes a premium stereo with 8 speakers and a subwoofer. The Prius wins the MPG battle hands down, but I'm not enamored with it's exterior design too much. Feels too much like a station wagon

What to do, what to do?

Well, I'm keeping at it, doing my research, and test driving like a madman. I'm sure something will win me over soon...but the good news is I'm really in no hurry. I don't drive that much as it is, averaging just over 8000 miles a year. And my current car would certainly keep me going for a few more years with little effort. We'll see what happens...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Well, I suppose it's official now. Or at least as official as it can be without having any "official" paperwork to back up my claim. Yesterday I turned in my final graduate project to the Office of Graduate Studies at Sacramento State. So, for all intents and purposes, I have finished my Master of Music in Composition.

Going to the Grad Studies office is always something of an adventure, as anyone who has ever had the experience can attest. The first surprise was actually a pleasant one; for some reason they've waived the binding fee you normally have to pay to have your project bound in an ugly green book format and stored in the dark recesses of the library. So, that was a $60 savings right there. Not exactly sure why it was waived, and no one there seemed to offer a reason. I believe it's because they are looking at taking these payments directly, and have stopped having the Cashier's office across campus take them - and they haven't quite figured out how to do it yet. But whatever the reason, I'll take the savings. I actually used it as an excuse to treat us out to Leatherby's for dinner last night...

It wasn't exactly a smooth process to turn the project in. They normally recommend that you print a draft copy and have their office review it - twice - before printing it out on the very nice and very expensive required cotton paper. So, naturally, I printed my first copy on cotton and dropped in to submit it.

Oh, the paper was fine of course. Mostly they just check the margins to make sure that it's 1.5 inches at the top and left, per their requirements. The score, however, as it's an orchestral score printed on standard size paper, did not conform to these guidelines. I suppose it could have conformed, had I set it up that way, but I produced it exactly as I would produce it for a conductor stepping in front of an orchestra.

So, that prompted discussion between the person who was reviewing my project and her supervisor, and for awhile it looked like they wanted me to re-do the formatting. As a minor aside, they also normally want to see the works cited page of your paper at the very end of the paper, after the project, as technically the project is an 'appendix' to the paper. But since my 'appendix' was 88 pages versus the 38 of the paper, I thought it made more sense to have the works cited page with what I refer to as the "paper proper".

In any case, I countered with the argument that increasing the margins would squish the score to the point of illegibility. And it really would - unless of course I went through and changed the number of measures per system (shhh! don't tell them you can do that! I sure didn't...). I did well making it sound like it would be an exceptional amount of work to make this happen. At one point the lady had mentioned that this was what they recommend, and they weren't sure if the library would accept it as is. I, of course, said that I couldn't care less if it was bound and shelved and left to die in the basement of the library. The point was obtaining the actual degree.

They also recommended that the page numbers should continue through the score, without starting over with page "1" on the first page of the score. This of course would be an easy fix, though it would require me to reprint the score. I wouldn't necessarily mind that part of it, except that I wanted the score to stand by itself - after all, THAT is the project, to me, not the paper. And whoever heard of a musical score that starts on page 39??

Well, in the end, they accepted it as is, and it was uploaded to the library's vast attic of internet depositories known as Scholar Works. And, now, I will supposedly get a piece of paper in 8-10 weeks that will say "mission accomplished".

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Mid-Summer Report

Well here it is nearing the end of July already; funny how the summer just seems to fly by. We've already had a three-day camping trip to Trinity Lake and a week-long cruise from Seattle to Alaska and back. Today we leave to Reno for a couple of nights to visit with family.

I have finally gotten the weight of my Masters project off my back; I was supposed to have finished it by the beginning of May initially. I've been writing for the last several weeks and have finally produced a finished copy. It is now being reviewed by the Department Chair. Well, really it's probably sitting on his desk biding its time until it seems as if enough time has passed. Does anyone even read those things?? I've had Matt Spiva's project checked out from the library as I was using it as a model example. It's probably the first time anyone had ever checked it out. How nice for it to spread it's wings and get away from the damp dark recesses of the library basement.

But I digress.

With my project essentially finished, I began focusing on the fall Marching Band show. Should be an exciting year! We've thrown out the model of the past couple of years of having 3, set pieces which were a minute and a half each and were designed to stand alone. This year's show is more of an integrated whole, with a mixture of music from classical to old rock/heavy metal to band literature. And it's all mixed together, sort of like a mashup a la Glee. Can't wait to put it in front of the band, although it is a bit more challenging than in previous years. Scary! I'm sure it will be fine, in the end.

In the mean time, we've managed to get out of the house a bit for some bike rides around town and a trip to see The Little Mermaid at Music Circus. And of course I could babble on and on about these things, but I find that I have to pack and get ready to drive over the mountains to Nevada. I spent the morning today re-vamping the Runaway Stage Productions website. Has a modified look which just streamlines things a bit more and make it look a little more professional. Still have some more pages to update though...will the work never end??

There's always lots to do, no matter how much we try to pretend that we're just spending our lazy summers afternoons vegetating in front of the TV.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

June Eve

Well, here we are on the eve of June; another spring semester at school has come and gone. I'm about ready to hop an Amtrak train to Seattle, but in my last hour of waiting I thought it was time I put in another post. Once again the semester has flown by; I had brief spurts of productivity this semester as I worked to finish my final grad project. But although the symphony itself is complete, I still have the paper to finish. As such I delayed my graduation till the summer.

It does seem odd even to have a summer graduation; I'm not aware that there's even a ceremony as such for it. I think it was likely created as an excuse for grad student to have an acceptable way to turn in their projects late, while not having to wait for the next semester. And of course they charge you another diploma fee of $28 for the right to change your graduation date. But, hey, I didn't finish on time so it's a price I have to pay. I decided early on this semester that I didn't want to rush my project; I wanted to be happy with it and let it finish out naturally. And in the end, I am happy with the finished product. Assuming we still have enough players to form an orchestra in the fall at Sac State, the piece should get premiered.

Today was a pretty productive day, as I had the day off from work to prepare for our trip. Lots of laundry was done, $92 worth of rolled change was turned in to the bank for some spending cash, I helped an old guy finish changing his flat tire in the hot sun, went swimming, had dinner at Johnny Carino's, gave some leftover salad to a man begging for change in the street, finished packing, and am now just awaiting our ride to the station. So all in all, a good day was had.

Now on to further adventure...

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Springtime Already?

Well, here we are in the first weekend of March already. The sun is shining high and bright in the sky, and we're expecting mid-70s tomorrow. Just a couple of days ago it was raining with intermittent bursts of downpours. As I walked across campus early Friday morning, after the rains had passed, the world seemed refreshed and cleansed. It was like stepping back in time to when things were newer, simpler. Of course that's just a mirage created the rains having washed the tiredness and staleness away, but still it was refreshing.

This weekend should be a fairly nice one, and indeed it the last few have been fairly nice as well. I actually have my first rehearsal this morning for the musical South Pacific, which opens in Woodland at the end of next week. Which, of course, means that next week is tech week. So my early evenings and fairly leisurely lifestyle will be temporarily suspended as the busy-ness of life returns. But still, it will be nice to play in a show again after quite a bit of time.

For now, or at least after rehearsal, I intend to relax to enjoy the weekend. We'll probably do a bike ride on the trails around here this afternoon, and perhaps go to the gym later for a swim. Sunday should be an even more relaxing day at home, though since it will be my last freedom for a week, I'll probably need to spend it working on my symphony.

Speaking of which, my final grad project is coming along nicely. The first two movements are essentially done and are only being subjected to minor tweaking at this point. The third movement is well under way and should be nearing completion in the next couple of weeks. If all goes well, of course. Then it only remains to write out the last movement, which I've already decided to base in part on a string orchestra piece I had begun years ago but never finished or had performed. So, things are looking good, though the clock is ticking. The project has to be completed and ready to be bound by the first of May. And that includes the written thesis part of it. Plenty still to do!

But for now, time to enjoy the early spring...

Friday, January 6, 2012

New Year: Week One

Be careful not to turn your back; before you know it, not only has the New Year passed but we're already a week into it. Strange how time flies by.

This should be, by all account, something of an epic year. On the one hand, I'm scheduled to be completing my Masters in Composition this semester by writing a symphony orchestra piece. Granted, that's a tall order to accomplish in one semester, though thankfully I had already started working on it in 2009. But now I've started afresh and am tasked at finishing it before the end of March. That should mean working on it virtually everyday, if only a little bit. Well, we'll see how that goes. There's always the fall if it doesn't work out...

I'm about ready to take another mecca to my homeland, Disneyland. I'll be leaving Sunday morning on my tri-annual journey to the Magic Kingdom, for a few days of relaxation and disillusionment. Or at least a distraction from the everyday real world anyway. But it's been over three months since my last trip...this time I'll be arriving for the last day of the holiday cheer before the Christmas decorations all magically disappear overnight. Chirstmas time is always special in Disneyland, even if it is a week into January.

This summer I'll be embarking on another vacation involving exploration to a new (for me anyway) unexplored region. This time it's the tropical islands of Hawaii. Normally I end up going somewhere or doing something in the summer that I've already done before in the past, but this will be a new experience for me as we explore the beaches of Waikiki and Honolulu. I've already begun making preliminary plans for an 8-night trip, and assuming I actually finish my Masters as planned, this will be in a way my graduation present to myself.

It's kind of interesting to consider the free time I'll (supposedly) have once this journey of education is complete. It's been a few years now of slowly taking courses and spending oodles of time reading and writing papers and so forth. I'm sure the fall will be filled with something else; life always get filled with something. Guess we'll have to wait and see...