In Which Ryan Time Travels Several Times In One Paragraph
August 2021 | 2:8
Goomba thinks that something is a foot.
What's Been Happening
I usually write this newsletter over the course of the week before sending it, which sometimes feels a little weird by the time it goes out, but never as much as this month.
At the instant of this writing, I’m in my apartment about to head back to a drum corps rehearsal after picking up a couple things for the brass section. About five months ago we went overnight from “well we probably won’t do drum corps again this summer” to “well let’s try and come up with a plan and see what happens”. We knew full well it could fail or change at any point, but after auditions and teaching all the music completely remotely we got together a month ago and started putting everything together. I obviously can’t speak for every group, but while there have been plenty of challenges (foreseen and otherwise), we’re as prepared as I’ve ever felt for a first show of the season. By the time I actually hit send on this newsletter, we will have done our first real show since 2019, I’ll be back home for a break, and the corps will be on its way to its third show. As we keep an eye on numbers, and test results, and health protocols, we live in the constant reminder that the future is not a given whether you’ve earned it or not. We may finish the season in Indianapolis, performing in Lucas Oil Stadium as a reminder of the past and a promise of the near future, or we may have to stop and adjust our plans before the end of this sentence.
What I hope for everyone is that they can approach life in the near and long term the same way as the people I’ve been working with and teaching. Be responsible, be safe, be respectful, and most of all approach every day with effort born of love. The present is a gift, so don’t forget to open it.
Chart O' The Month
“Duplicitous” is one of the first things I wrote in grad school, and it was originally for big band but I quickly adapted it for the Medium Ensemble once the group came into being. I had been doing a lot of listening to Bob Brookmeyer’s New Art Orchestra so it’s somewhere between an homage and outright thievery with a couple twists, so if you enjoy the chart I highly recommend records like “Get Well Soon” or “Waltzing with Zoe”. My favorite description of his music is when one of my friends in undergrad called it “like watching an aquarium from above”, because there are constantly new things to hear, and new aural angles, and all of it is familiar and unusual at the same time, so I tried to catch some of that.
The other basic premise of the chart is that there’s almost always at least two things going on. While the word “duplicitous” has negative connotations associated with deceitfulness, I always feel like it’s much more neutral; if there’s two things going on and everyone knows both exist, it’s not really a deception and might actually be more revealing than an attempt at plain transparent truth. Charles Mingus’ autobiography is a great example of this as there are generally at least three levels in everything he writes; what he literally says, what he’s obviously lying about, and a deeper truth the reader can choose to find by how he did both. Another example would be the Norse god of mischief Loki, whose myths generally use misdirection as a way to reveal some secondary truth. In both examples the act of having more than one angle draws the reader in and forces them to ask questions, creating something unsaid but no less real, and unique to each person’s experience. I can’t claim to have captured all that musically, but I do think the constant layering and counterpoint throughout create something greater than the sum of all the notes. Together with the various devices and ideas I took from Brookmeyer’s writing, I think the chart came out really well and it remains one of my favorite things I’ve written.
My wife and I have started taking day trips to go hiking and visit various parks and gardens, which has been awesome.
This picture is from Fabyan Forest Preserve, and I just find it fascinating how it's clearly a tunnel forcing your perspective but also green, vibrant, and open.
It’s August, or as the music education world calls it “basically fall already”, so as always please feel free to reach out if you would like a clinic, or to have me take a look at a video, or just to say hi and get some moral support.