Monday, December 20, 2010

My Year's End

Christmas is just around the corner. The new year will follow soon after. 2010 is quietly coming to a close. It was an interesting year. Somehow, it was one my most difficult years but also one of the most rewarding.

Many lonely nights I sat in my car trying to convince myself that driving home is not the right answer. Moving away from everyone I know. What was I thinking? It doesn't make sense really, what I did. I left everything. My family, my friends, my support group, my job, my teachers, my sister's home-cooked meals, and even my parent's Wii. It was all left behind so that I could, what? Eat mac n' cheese every night and live in a shoe box? No. It was left because it was my cushion. It was my comfort zone. Having all those things created this buffer around me so that I never had to think about anything. I never had to figure out who I really was. I moved here to tear off the mask and look in the mirror. It's the scariest thing I've ever done, but I would never grow without coming to grips with that stark reality. This is me. This is me. Oh my goodness, this is ME! I'm awkward and clumsy but I'm also talented and driven. I'm not afraid of who I am. I'm not afraid of who I could be, or who I will be. The future is vast and unimaginable. Full of choices and possibilities; full of failures and triumphs. But now I'm not so afraid of the failures that I'll ignore the possibilities. I'm not afraid of putting my soul on paper for fear that someone will reject me. Of course I'll be rejected. But not by every one. Not every time. And I know now that it will always be worth it to put yourself out there instead of hiding in a corner, afraid of what people might think. Scaring yourself into being someone you're not.

2010. It was a year for facing fears and for new beginnings. It was, overall, a year for going to the world and saying, here I am. Take it or take it because that's your only option.

Merry Christmas, my dear friends. Merry Christmas.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

My Opportunities

A few months ago, I went to a church picnic. I was still trying to find the right church for me and was checking out different churches around town. Another Sunday rolled around and I went to this new church. New to me anyways, they happened to be celebrating their 128th anniversary that day. I heard there was free food at the celebration and I NEVER pass up free food so away I go to join in the party. They have this little information booth where you can enter a free raffle for a iPod or something (it seems like all raffles these days are for iPods). I start talking to the guy running the raffle and tell him I'm new to the area and am interested in joining this church. I ask him what kind of programs they have here and he directs me to Maggie, the choir director. I hadn't told the raffle guy that I was a musician, but this is the person he introduces me to. She asks me if I'm musical. I say, "Well yes, I'm a percussionist." At this point she starts screaming and hugging me and jumping up and down in circles. (Not exactly the reaction I was expecting.) It turns out the church owns a pair of timpani and they've been looking for a timpanist for almost two years. In that instant, I became a member of the church, a member of the choir, and their own personal timpanist.
So I bust out my practice pad and start going to choir rehearsals. During my second or third rehearsal, a fellow alto tells me that our pianist is a composer. But not just any composer, he was absent from rehearsal that night because he was rehearsing his new musical at one of Denver's most prominent performing arts theaters. So I build up some courage and catch him after one of our rehearsals. I start with, "I hear you're a composer." "Yeah." . . . Ok, now what? I'm totally fumbling the ball here. Just pick it up and run! "Uh, I kinda compose too sometimes..." Eventually I'm able to spit out that I would like him to look at my score and give me feedback. Of course he's a swell guy and is not nearly as nervous as I am and is happy to look at it.
Tonight I went to my favorite park to finish one of my favorite books: The Complete Guide to Film Scoring by Fred Davis. I read about three pages and suddenly, mixed in with the other joggers and dog walkers, there's this guy sitting on a park bench playing the congas. I start wondering if I should go talk to him. I mean, obviously he has his own congas so he's probably connected to some other musicians. Maybe he could be a connection. But seriously? You want to walk up to a stranger on a park bench and just strike up a conversation with him? Yeah, not really. But I decide that if he's still there by the time I finish my book, then I'll go talk to him. This was a favorable agreement. I had thirty pages left to my book and as my sister will tell you, I am a VERY slow reader. There was no way he would still be there. But once I get down to ten pages left I start counting down each page. Eight pages. He's still here? Six... Five... Oh my gosh he's still here. Three... Two... I give up. I read the last page, put my shoes back on and walk directly toward him.
"Having fun?" I ask. "Yeah, yeah" he replies with an accent that reminds me of the Jamaican Boblsed Team. I continue to shock myself by sitting on the bench next to him. I tell him I'm a percussionist too. He asks me where I play. I told him I'm not really playing right now (except for timpani in church) but that I'm actually working on becoming a composer. I hold up my book so he can see the front cover. His voice goes up an few octaves as he starts yelling "No way!" Again, not quite the reaction I was expecting. But, as before, there's a reason for the excitement. He's a film maker.

Every man is the architect of his own future. Go out and build yours.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Quote #5


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley

Saturday, September 25, 2010

My Saturday

I told my mom once, I think there are more dogs in Colorado. She replied, maybe people here just walk their dogs more. I've never known a city to be so active. Everyone is always outdoors: playing, riding, walking, jogging. Pedestrians always have the right of way (I think this goes for the entire state) and there are so many cyclists that they have their own lane. The sky is nearly always blue, it hardly ever rains, and the clouds change shape every few minutes. This city has 39 parks, 4 lakes, and a 5 mile long trail that runs along the river. It has dog parks, recreation centers, public pools, and gelato sold in almost every shop (to counteract the activeness of our city).
Today is Saturday. And what a glorious Saturday it is. This morning I took my pug to the dog park where he ignored every dog he saw and stayed right by my side, wondering why I was forcing him to interact with any species besides homosapien. I gave this up after a while, dropped him off at my apartment, and went to one of my town's many parks by myself. My park of choice is really just a big yard. No, it's not the yard for someone's mansion, it really is a park. It even has a paved trail around it's borders, although the park is rather circular in shape so I wonder if you can get dizzy if you run around it enough times. It also has one large shelter that is used for concerts and jazz festivals. But for the most part, it's just one big, green, grassy yard. I brought my book, walked past the trail and into the yard a few feet, laid on the ground and read. There were times back home when I would go to the lake and lay in the grass to read, but I got a lot of strange stares, and only did it a few times before I gave up. The thing about this place is, I wasn't the only one. There were six or seven people scattered around the "yard." Laying down or sitting, reading or sleeping or otherwise just thinking. Some were in the shade of large tree, enjoying the light breeze. Others wanted to soak up the sun and delight in its warmth. On top of that, people would walk to the park from their houses with their dogs or friends, and just, walk. Around the park. Just for the joy of being outside. I saw five or six people who came there to jog and exercise (I never got a chance to ask them if they ever got dizzy). There's nothing special about this park. You can barely even see the mountains above the trees. Why are these people leaving their couches and going to this bland park? Now you may be thinking, duh? This is what people do, right? They go to a park to be outdoors, to enjoy the weather, to play with their dogs. Yes, I agree. But this town, this rather small town, has 39 parks. It needs 39 parks to satisfy all its outdoorsy residents. 1500 acres of parks and open space.
It's no wonder I've changed since I've moved here. How can you not change when you see all these people enjoying their lives so much? How can you not change when you actually take the time to stop and smell the roses? Or in my case, stop to feel the wind in your hair and the sun on your face. My mom got me a mug the other day. (I happen to love mugs for those of you who don't know) This one said, "Do what you like. Like what you do." And I had to ask myself, why not? Why not go out and do what you love? Why not enjoy each sunny day? Why not stop to listen to the rustling of the leaves? To the birds singing? Why not climb a mountain? Why not travel to new places? Why not get up and explore this beautiful world we live in?
Someone once said, "The present is yours. Do with it what you will." Don't settle for anything less than your true potential, and always take time to enjoy the sunshine.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Quote #4

Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, July 9, 2010

My Ninety-Three Days

Ninety-three days. I've been in Colorado for ninety-three days. Has it been worth it? Ninety-three days away from family, away from friends, away from everything I know. My human interactions have been reduced to skyping and texting and some very long phone calls. I keep trying to go out - to do something I like to do, something I would normally do. I've gone out to eat by myself, I've gone to the movies by myself, I even tried to go to a concert by myself. All things I love to do, but they're the most miserable activities if you have no one to enjoy them with.

Tonight I went to "Rhythm on the River". It's a three day event in my new hometown with food venders, duck races, and three different stages where you can watch anything from dance groups, choirs, concert bands, country, rock, irish, bluegrass, and even a "strolling accordian/harmonica/djembe group". I knew this was something I'd enjoy so I got off skype, and headed to the river.

You know you're in Colorado when there's a sign in the parking lot for Free Bike Valet Parking. I laughed at the sign and walked along the St. Vrain River with high hopes for this event. It was a great place. Lots of food, people, tents, chairs, and a country cover band playing on the stage. I strolled around, talked to some vendors, signed up to win a free iPod, and then I left. There was no one to enjoy it with me. There was no one I could sing along with, get root beer floats with, or sign up for the duck race with. This event should have been fun. I should have loved it. I would have loved it. If I had someone here to love it with me.

I got home, laid in bed, and cried. Why am I here? Why am I STILL here? Is it worth it? Ninety-three days. What have I done in ninety-three days?

I've gone hiking. I've gone hiking at Chataqua in Boulder, and I've done four hiking trails in Rocky Mountain National Park. I've been to Alberta Falls, Gem Lake, The Pool off Cub Lake, and I've climbed to the top of Deer Mountain. I've explored the towns of Longmont, Boulder, Lafayette, and Estes Park. I've explored the St. Vrain Greenway walking trail, Golden Ponds, and Northshore Lake. I've gotten my own apartment. I've read Charles Dickens' Our Mutual Friend, Jane Austen's Emma, and J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. I've eaten at new restaurants like Pinnochio's and Dickens' Tavern. I've eaten Indian food for the first time in my life. I've taken my dog to a dog park. I've jogged a half-mile. I've gone horseback riding. I've gotten yet another person to fall in love with the score to Blood Diamond. I've learned half of a new Beethoven sonata on the piano. I've studied Dvorak's 6th Symphony and Stravinsky's Petrouchka. I've started writing a passacaglia for string quartet. I've started transcribing Path to Heaven from the score to Kingdom of Heaven and am arranging it for marimba quartet. I've started working on a jazz band piece based on the Nat King Cole Trio's Sunny Side of the Street. I've been working on a theme and variations piece for full orchestra. And I've written two cues for a promo video for a student TV show. I've saved enough money to go white water rafting. I've joined a church and will be playing timpani with their choir at Sunday masses starting this fall. I've found a food kitchen where I can volunteer on weekends. I've asked my sister to send me the locked picture of a film she recently produced so I can use it for practice.

I'm a new person. I have energy, I have passion, I have drive. I'm not as scared anymore. I have more self confidence. I'm not worried about weight or what people think about me. I'm not freaking out about letting people hear my music. I'm not afraid of writing music. I'm not afraid of putting myself out there and staying true to myself and my music. A quote from one of my favorite movies (don't bash the movie if you know what it is) says "Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game". I've embraced that. I know that I will be rejected. I know that I will be torn and hurt and bleeding on the inside. But that's part of the game. That's part of life. I can't let that keep me from going out and doing what I'm here to do.

So these ninety-three days. Has it been worth it? Yes. Am I lonely? Yes. Am I going to stay and keep pushing towards my dream? Most definitely.

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.

I miss you, my dear friends. I miss you.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Quote #3

If a composer could say what he had to say in words he would not bother trying to say it in music.
~Gustav Mahler

Monday, May 3, 2010

My Music

This passion I have inside of me is so strong. It fills every cell, every fiber. It makes me feel so alive. It makes by blood race through my veins. It makes my heart beat faster. It makes my stomach flip. It makes me close my eyes and let it's waves of beauty flow over me. It give me chills in my toes. It makes me move. It makes me stop. It makes me feel with all my senses. I feel it in my skin and in my blood. It overwhelms me. It directs me. This is beauty. This is passion. The sounds, the colors. The touches and smells. This is music. This is music as I know it.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Score Review

The composer - Ilan Eshkeri
Ilan Eshkeri was born in London to a musical family and grew up playing violin and guitar. He majored in music and English literature at Leeds University where he created a great film score connection with Edward Shearmur. Here he was able to learn the technique of film composition first-hand from his new friend. After graduating, he went on to work with Michael Kamen and Hans Zimmer, furthering his craft with their guidance. Mr. Eshkeri believes that working with real musicians during the creative process results in an authentic performance filled with integrity. He believes that "if music is the soul of a movie then capturing an emotional performance is key to its success."

Ilan Eshkeri has written numerous film scores including Hannibal Rising, orchestrated scores like Open Range with renowned composers, and has worked as production assistant on The Count of Monte Cristo. He has also been nominated for World Soundtrack Academy awards and has received the Film Music Critics Award for "Breakthrough Composer" in 2007.

The movie - Directed by Matthew Vaughn
This movie has everything - comedy, romance, pirate fights, witchcraft, death, royalty, magic, and that happy ending everyone is always hoping for. The cast includes well-known actors like Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Ian McKellen as narrator, while bringing in some unknowns for the major roles. Claire Danes does a beautiful job as our fallen star, Yvaine, and Charlie Cox's youthful yet sincere performance makes every girl wish they had a Tristan Thorne in their life. But this movie is not just about getting the girl in the end, or living happily ever after. This is a story about a young man finding out who he is, learning what true friendship means, and realizing that life may not always end up how you planned it to be. It is about being true to yourself, showing kindness to others, staying open to suggestions, having courage, and never losing hope. This movie may be off the radar for a lot of people, but if you give it a try, you won't regret it.

The listening CD - Released by Decca Records
From its magical beginning filled with celesta, mark tree, violins, and horns with the melody, you know this is going to be a great CD. The opening track, "Prologue", gives us an idea of what we're in for. Not only does it include little hints of different themes, like the pizzicato violins that will later be known as part of Yvaine's theme, but it also shows us some incredible instrumentation, flowing melodies, exciting percussion, brilliant performances by the musicians, and harmonies that are not afraid of dissonance. These are just a few of the wonderful ingredients that make up this soundtrack. This score uses the standard orchestra plus some little additions like harp, piano, and voice. Some of the more hidden instruments also get to shine with bassoon, flute, and piano solos sprinkled throughout.

Ilan Eshkeri uses many smaller motifs to create this score and mixes and matches them to create an ever-changing and exciting soundtrack. One full piece on this CD is not an original Ilan Eshkeri and that is track fourteen, "Pirate Fight". "Pirate Fight" is actually a piece titled "Galop Infernal" (or, "Infernal Gallop") and it was written by Jacques Offenbach for his operetta Orpheus in the Underworld. It is more commonly known as the "Can-can" piece and creates a wonderful addition to this score. Antonin Dvorak's Slavonic Dances, opus 46, can be heard in track eleven. Track number six, "Yvaine", is filled with playful pizzicato depicting her innocent character and her relationship to Tristan. A little over halfway through the track, we hear the melody "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" with one slight variation. The melody opens with the perfect fifth interval that we expect, but changes the next interval to a minor second instead of a major second. This minor second motif can be heard numerous times throughout the soundtrack. The third track, "Tristan", has its own little theme that can be heard in a minor key in the beginnings of both "Shooting Star" and "Coronation". "Coronation" is a brilliant combination of Tristan's and Yvaine's themes with brass and strings giving us a wonderful feeling of satisfaction as it moves into the last track, "Epilogue", to finish it off with a sweet and happy ending.

Some of the music not on the CD includes a wonderful string piece at Tristan's place of work, Tristan's fight with the guard at The Wall, and the poisoning of Tertius. The CD has been beautifully edited to include every theme in the movie, but not too much of one or another in order to maintain interest throughout the CD. This CD has 21 tracks, in film order, and is just over 53 minutes long.

Track Number, Length, Title
1. 3:45, Prologue
2. 2:47, Snowdrop
3. 0:40, Tristan
4. 3:26, Shooting Star
5. 2:42, Three Witches
6. 2:48, Yvaine
7. 1:22, Septimus
8. 1:59, Creating the Inn
9. 8:04, Lamia's Inn
10. 1:27, Cap'n' Shakespeare
11. 3:42, Flying Vessel
12. 1:02, Cap'n's At The Helm
13. 2:05, Tristan & Yvaine
14. 2:04, Pirate Fight
15. 2:26, The Mouse
16. 3:58, Lamia's Lair
17. 1:42, Lamia's Doll
18. 1:09, Zombie Fight
19. 3:22, The Star Shines
20. 2:32, Coronation
21. 0:52, Epilogue

The score
This really is a beautiful score. Ilan Eshkeri does a wonderful job linking themes and bringing the right emotions out to complement the actions on screen. The playful pizzicato strings that are later used for Yvaine and Tristan's relationship can first be heard at our first glimpse over The Wall. Tristan's Mother, Una, always brings a sad note as the music plays a minor chord going down followed by a diminished seventh chord in the same direction. This is first heard when we see Una's chain of captivity, then again as Tristan reads her letter years later. As baby Tristan arrives on screen, we hear the first three notes of the "Tristan" theme but it changes and ends with the minor second motif we will later establish as Yvaine's "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" motif. We don't hear the full "Tristan" theme until he's grown up and heading out to win his true love (or so he thinks), Victoria. The second time he sets out to see Victoria, the "Tristan" motif is played but in inversion, telling us that this might not work out. Another beautiful setting of the "Tristan" theme is when the King of Stormhold takes off his ruby, but here the motif is in a minor key (this can be heard at the beginning of track four on the CD).

The spotting for this movie was done beautifully. There's not too much music and not too little. The music comes in at the right volume and it doesn't startle you when it's not supposed to. One sudden stop that was used to create a comedic atmosphere is just after Lamia heads out to find the fallen star. The shot moves to Tristan who has just found the star and complains that she is keeping him up at night. The music ends directly after Tristan's first line and is a wonderful example of how spotting is so essential to a good score.

Source music is used in this film in three instances and all three are on the pirate ship. The first is a very short, three-note piano solo, which is viewed on screen as Captain Shakespeare teaches our young friends how to play the piano. The second source is from a gramophone on the ship which plays Antonin Dvorak's Slavonic Dances, opus 46, while Captain Shakespeare and Yvaine dance. Both of these can be heard in the eleventh track on the CD. The third is also from an onscreen gramophone which plays, Jacques Offenbach's "Galop Infernal" (track fourteen on the CD).

There are many more things I could point out, like how the choir and arpeggiated strings are heard whenever Yvaine shines around Tristan, and I'm sure there are even more things I haven't even noticed. This intricate and wonderfully written score has a million gems to find and treasure and it brings the words and actions from screen to life.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

My Next Step

For those of you who don't know, I am moving to Colorado tomorrow (I currently live in Missouri). I graduated with a degree in music technology last fall and have been living with my sister and working at a bank for the past eight months. Now, I'm someone who loves school. So, I took a few extra classes, spent a little extra time, started college when I was sixteen and with a year off, finished when I was 23 with over 200 credit hours. Now that I'm done I just keep asking the question: Now what?

I try to keep a level head and keep reminding myself that I cannot predict the future. I just have to find the next step. So I went backwards. Why did I go into music in the first place? Sure, my sister and I thought we would be this Christian-pop-sister-duet sensation so we did little concerts and recorded albums and wrote music and waited in anticipation for the Dove Awards each year. That was fun for a while but it eventually sizzled out. I really didn't enjoy performing and I've never enjoyed words. I can never say what I want to with words. The songs I wrote were never enough and I was never satisfied. Then a glorious thing happened. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings was released in theaters... and my sister bought the soundtrack. Here it was! The answer to my problem! Let the actors speak the words, I'll create the music behind them that gives them meaning and connection and beauty! Sure I had heard classical music before, and I always made up stories to go along with any piece I played for piano lessons, but it wasn't until I heard that soundtrack that I realized how much music can inspire one's emotions. It was then I decided that I wanted to write film scores.

My life has been dictated by fear. My college choice is one example. Instead of working hard and going to school for composition, I decided I would go for a back-up plan. "Annie," I said, "it's really hard to become a film composer. Why don't you learn how to do something behind the scenes so you can still work with film scores even if you can't make it as a composer." I went to school for music technology and was very open with everyone, this is my back-up plan. I just want to work with film scores and if producing is all I can do, I'll love it. Tech really isn't my thing though. It fascinates me and I'm glad to have the skills because I'm sure they'll come in handy one day, but it's not what I want to do for the rest of my life. Once my degree was wrapping up, I started thinking, ok, what next? Composing? "No, no, no," I said. "We'll save that for last. Let's look for a second back-up plan. If I can't compose, I can produce. But if I can't produce, I can play in the orchestra." So I started working towards getting my master's in percussion performance. I applied, I auditioned, and I didn't make it in. Maybe it was nerves, but I really think it was God who made my auditions the worst I've ever played in my life. So I went back home, found a boring job, and did nothing.

A cold November slides into bitter December and I'm now one year older. Listening to the hundreds of film scores on my iTunes, I think, "I'm gonna compose film scores one day." One day. One day?? I've been saying that for nine years and what have I done for it? Nothing. The answer is completely nothing. So I start composing again. Just a little bit every day. I start praying for guidance. I start going to daily mass, talking with friends, and looking for possibilities. But I feel suffocated here. I feel stuck. I feel like life is way too easy right now and I have no drive and no fear to get me off my butt and really work towards something. What's wrong with living a slow life, living with friends or family, working a silly job, eventually get married and that's that? I need to force myself out of my comfort zone. I don't want to get stuck! I want one day to be today. Why not? What's holding me back? Fear? Not anymore.

There are a couple of great film score programs out there, but they're way to expensive. Besides, I don't have a big enough portfolio to even be considered yet. So what's another option? I have an aunt in Myrtle Beach and friend in Colorado. Both of which I can live with until I get settled in my new place. Both have great the 'great outdoors' for inspiration and solitude. In the end, I decide to go for Colorado. I love the mountains, I love the rivers, I love the atmosphere, and there are so many opportunities. CU is close by with some fabulous composition and percussion faculty (I'm still in love with percussion, but mainly just for myself to enjoy; I'm not still not too fond of performing) and there are lots of great connections to be made in Colorado.

So there it is. My next step. It's probably the scariest thing I've done in my life. I still can't predict the future. I have no clue if I'll be crawling back home in just a few short months, unable to keep afloat. Maybe I'll get there and realize I don't have to be a composer, I'd rather be a ski instructor. Although I doubt that last one, nothing is impossible and only God knows what's in store for me. But if I don't go and see what I can make of it, I will end up at another birthday with the same feeling, the same thought. Where has the time gone? What have I done with all that God has given me? Every minute, every breath, is precious. Do what you want to do and don't let anyone, especially fear, hold you back.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Quote #2

If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.
~Russian Proverb