Scribble on Cocktail Napkins

Quotes and Random Philosophy

Musings of the Day

Quotes by Others

Stories & Other Goodness

Twilight Culture - A Re-interpretation of
Classic Twilight Zone Episodes

Quotes and Random Philosophy


Surrealism is created first and analysed later, like a dream.
24 May 2005 Philadelphia

Composing and Composers

A composer does not create, he invents. Creation implies a bringing into existence something from nothing, while invention more accurately describes a composer's ability to assemble existant elements (be they forms, tonalities, textures, or simply instruments or more basically pitches and the laws of acoustics) into a thing completely new, redefining, and useful to some contingent of the population at large.  22 February 2006 Boston
All you have to have is a completely clear vision of what every note should sound like.
I’d much rather, for the whole of my life, to be able to do a few things and be unable to offer any explanation as to how they took form, than be able to perform a great many parlor tricks and circus acts always knowing exactly what had transpired during their conception--that’s Atheist Music. Those who insist on having a practical explanation for everything write human music--but it is in those times of silence, of void, when we have no concious connection to what we are doing, that the Divine breathes life into our mortal hands.    27 September 2005 Boston
What is a masterpiece? A piece, a work or an achievement wherein nothing sticks out to distract from its prevading essence of oneness--or a work which engenders forgiveness in its audience for those stray contrary moments...I think the latter should be considered a more successful piece because it eventually earns its forgiveness from its audience; it wins them and asks their constant attention--and this results in the piece becoming beloved, distractions and lives and survives in the listeners’ hearts as if they created it themselves.
I wrote better music when I didn’t know how to write music.
Shostakovich was undoubtably a masterful composer, but limited in almost every respect. Symphonically, Shostakovich only produced two sounds: tormented and noisy; and the rare but inevitable places where the two meet.
When method overshadows the dream, when rules quash the fancy, inspiration, struggling, suffocates, and art dies.
I don’t want to be a pillar--a pillar supporting what?
I don’t want to change the face of the art (ugly as it may be).
Those who do are responsible for creating the thousand disciples who create educated imitation. I will always prefer ignorant inspiration.
Those who create a style, create those who kill it.
No, I will just write what I want to,

because I know it’s right.
Although one would think that experiencing the emotion that one is writing about would make the writing more authentic, or at least the process easier, this is not always the case. Intense emotions may undermine the creation of the desired emotional effect on the listener; being happy can help you see the simplicity of sorrow, while being immersed in pain, one can see the fragile nature of joy.
The composer must write honestly, or risks creating a poor imitation of something else. The necessity of having an audience can be met by this compositional honesty - most everyone, musically educated or not, knows when they've been had and they don't like it, and it's uncanny how people, however varied, gravitate toward the authentic.
Music has to speak to the listener in their own language, and so thus it must walk the common ground between infinitely varied minds and souls. That line is composed of the experiences we all have, the struggles we all face, and the dreams we all wish.
Composing music must be a free flowing, unconscious stream of ideas, connections, and possibilities evaporating from a distilled mix of learned knowledge. Intuition crafts the clay, but one must first have the clay to begin with.

Conducting and Conductors

One of the greatest inquiries into the mystical nature of conducting came from a distant family member, who asked me once in perfect innocence:
“So, do you have to be a musician to be a conductor?”

A conductor should take his cue from a great violinist; when the music gets tense or passionate, he doesn’t clutch the bow for dear life or attack the instrument with an adolescent groping--nor does his stance, grip, or demeanor turn lifeless and flacid because the music happens to lull--no, he creates all his textures, all his countless colors, using the same physical approach to his instrument.


Do you ever notice with every image of a great artist, their eyes are intensely fixed with fiery certainty on some point? Their vision may blur and the structures of this world grow hazy, but that gaze keeps its laserlike precision--for it is their ideal, their world, their creation, their potential, their purpose, upon which their gaze is fixed.


There is no symphonic play; characters are a texture of recurring ostinati, acheiving a unified work through their combined distictions, not merely their combining.


If the definition of learning it behavioral change
Then it never comes from something we’d expect
But then from those things commonly called
or Fate.
17 June 2005 Petersburg

International Relations

Why is it that when an American makes blanket statements about another culture it’s ignorance, but when a foriegner does it, particularly if they’re old, it’s endearing?      4 November 2005 Boston


On the surface of intelligence is ignorance; in the depths of ignorance lies genius.
When did it become a common assumption that ‘different’ is good? ‘Good’ is good.


Everything has a consequence. Including inaction.
It is simply impossible to hold all the questions and all the answers at the same time. Man’s failing lies in his refusal to recognize that answers without questions will always be more useless than questions without answers.
If you want the wind to blow ever at your back, you either have to constantly change your path, or learn to walk backwards.
No person is everything they can possibly be.
In this life there are takers and there are givers; and while the takers will succeed, it will be the givers who will ultimately win.
Never stop if you’re right, never start if you’re wrong. If you choose to get up in the morning, be awake; if you make a sound, make it beautiful; if something enters your ears, remember it.
Perhaps we demand more reality from our entertainment because we have not enough entertainment in our reality.     11 April 2004, Montclair


In our era’s pursuit of answers and fascination with facts, with our daily sacrifice at the altars of absolutism, we have created music which not only doesn’t require interpretation but prevents it. If a Bach partita were notated exactly as one plays it, with every dynamic, articulative and temporal modulation quantified and indicated in the score, it would look more akin to our chamber music of today--and this is why the simple true notes of Bach will always remain more difficult for the true musician to perform than the most complex pictures we can think of to draw on a page.
Bruckner is playing....the music lovers are stirring in their seats...
the others fell asleep long ago...
I now set home
to write all the things Bruckner didn’t.
There is no ‘intellectual interpretation’; analyzation is the only possibility for the intellect. Interpretation is a capacity solely of the emotions.
I believe in Fifths,
but I’m skeptical of Thirds
Music is one of the only things in which the body, mind, emotion, and soul are engaged simultaneously at the point, to create the point of creation.


Half the tree is all we ever see.

Personal Interaction

A Haiku:
When you want to know
Take the time when you would ask
and simply listen.
15 May 2005 Debrecen
What we do in jest is what we would do seriously if we thought the reaction would be the same.
No man is complete unto himself.
When people are allowed to do everything on the outside, they can have nothing remaining, living on the inside.
Everyone has the right to act stupid;
some people simply choose to exercise
that right more than others.
We as humans wear the pins of the groups we wish we could join while looking down upon those who illustrate what we like least about ourselves.      19 January 2004


Why do composers hate theorists?
A theorist can make you respect a piece you hate, and drive you to hate a piece you love.


We only travel the distance of our own hearts.
12 May 2005 Prague


A hurry is a distinctly human characteristic in which one sacrifices the quality of one’s work to increase its rate of output. The result is, invariably, shit, and lots of it.
We remember to do the things we write down
But we do the things which afford no time for the writing.
Interest becomes addiciton when desire for quantity precedes quality.

Musings of the Day

Musing of the day: May 19 2006:
Bowing looks ridiculous from the top view--
like you dropped something.
(read the article on excessive bowing)


Musing of the day: February 28 2006:
What value is reason? When has mankind ever benefitted from logical thought and proportioned analysis? The world moves to a different pulse than reason--the world functions, thrives, on inexplicable compulsion, instinctual conviction, which compels one to take a journey whose end is not visible but whose next step is inevitable.


Musing of the Day, 11 April 2004:
Perhaps we demand more reality in our entertainment
because we don’t have enough entertainment in our reality.


Musing of the Day, 23 October 2004:
Said the student: “There are so many 'isms'; What is the best thing a composer can be today?”

The Professor: “Versatile.”

The student transcended: The best thing a composer can be, superceding versatile, is imaginative.

Quotes from Others

"I am more and more convinced that music, by its very nature, cannot be cast into
             traditional fixed forms; it is made up of colors and rhythms...the rest is a lot of humbug
             invented by rigid imbeciles riding on the backs of the masters." --Debussy

"Music must not be understood. Music must be listened to."
--Hermann Scherchen


"There are two ways of disliking Art; one is to dislike it, the other is to like it rationally.
It is better to take pleasure in a rose than to put its root under a microscope."

--Oscar Wilde


"Intelligence is often the emeny of poetry because it limits too much, and it elevates the poet to a sharp-edged throne where he forgets that ants can eat him or that a great arsenic lobster
could fall suddenly on his head."
--García Lorca, Juego y Teória del Duende


"I hope you enjoy tonight's music; and it you don't
there's absolutely nothing I can do about it."
--Victor Borge


“No, those guys are geniuses---
I could never think up something like soup or a pencil." 
--Homer Simpson


“Rien de plus haïssable qu’une Musique sans arriére-penseé.”   
--Frédérick Chopin


“Let everyman in mankind’s frailty
 Consider his last day, and let none
           Presume on his good fortune until he find
              Life, at his death, a memory without pain.”
            --Sophocles (Oedipus Rex)


“Every moment of the heart has a tone to express it.”  
--Cartaud de la Villatte


“The very substance of the ambitious
Is merely the shadow of a dream.”
            --Hamlet, II:ii


“Boredom is the Root of all Evil.”  
--Johannes, Diary of a Seducer


“An Artist must work all his life; he may never despair and never relinquish his main purpose--to love his art with all his strength and love it unselfishly.” 
--Constantine Stanislavski


“Unrest alone proves man is man.” 


“You come into life alone, and you go out of it alone, and you’re gonna be alone a lot of the times when you’re on this earth; and what tells it all, it’s the music.”   
--Sidney Bechet


“Nothing in Art should resemble an Accident.” 
--Edgar Degas


“In Art one is never entitled to disregard what is true.” 
--Edgar Degas


“I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief.”  
--Jerry Spence


“A man can be destroyed but not defeated."
--Ernest Hemingway


"Youth has no Age."
--Pablo Picasso


"To Live, is to war with Trolls."
--Heinrich Ibsen


“It remains to be seen whether we will renew the world;
but within ourselves we must renew it daily, otherwise we’re useless.”
--Hermann Hesse, Demian


    “Art is the cry of distress of those who personally experience the fate of mankind.
Within themselves they carry the pulse of the world, and only an echo reaches the outside,
and that echo is the Work of Art.”
--Arnold Schoenberg


"Show me a thoroughly satisfied man, and I will show you a failure."   
--Thomas Edison


“Learning without thinking is useless; thinking without learning is dangerous.”
--The Analects of Confucius, I:II:XV


“Lord, I should be very sorry if I only entertained them; I wanted to make them better.”
--Georg Handel


Mittler Zwischen Hirn und Händen Muss das Herz Sein.


"Beauty must be relative, or, itself a harmony, would make only discord."
--F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise


"I have nothing to say        and I am saying it         and that is poetry             as I need it."
--John Cage, Lecture on Nothing


“Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain that way.”    --St. Augustine


Deine Zauber binden wieder
Was die Mode streng geteilt;
Alle Menschen werden Brüder
Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt.


“ ‘Reality’--one of the few words which mean nothing without quotes.”  
--Jerry Spence


"If you get one good line a day, you’re doing well."   
--Billy Roche


"This land is a region of dreams and trifles." 
--George Berkeley, The Querist


"Satire must be personal, or it will never do."  
--Charles Johnstone


"Self-denial should have a reasonable limit."  


Nuair a sroiceann tú imeall gac arb eol duit,
Ní mór duit ceann de dá rud a creidiúint:
Go mbeaidh talam ann le seasam air
Nó go mbronnfar sciatáin cun eitilte ort.
--Gaelic Proverb


    "Whether one calls oneself conservative or revolutionary, whether one composes in a conventional or progressive manner, whether one tries to imitate old styles or is destined to express new ideas - one must be convinced of the infallibility of one's own fantasy and one must believe in one's own inspiration."    
--Arnold Schoenberg


"A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world."
--Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist


"The true artist is a man who believes absolutely in himself, because he is absolutely himself."
--Oscar Wilde


"No great artist ever sees things the way they really are.
If he did he would cease to be an artist."
--Oscar Wilde


“Art arises from something stronger than stimulation or even inspiration--that it may take fire from something closer to provocation, that it may not just turn to life, but that it may at certain times be compelled by life.” 
--Ben Shahn, The Shape of Content


“To criticize criticism is the irresistible sport of artists.” 
--Ben Shahn, The Shape of Content


"In order to compose, all you need
is to remember a tune that nobody else has thought of."



"Conducting is like holding the bird of life in your hand;
hold it too tight and it dies, hold it too lightly and it flies away."

--Sir Colin Davis


"Only conscience can produce great art." 
-Rafael Kubelik


"One reason why chaotically abstract music and free jazz never gained a wide audience is that you cannot embrace entropy; it is like trying to embrace the waves of the ocean."
--Ken Burns' Jazz Documentary


"Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the artist do good things."
--Edgar Degas


"Thinking people write a lot of nonsense about beauty.
Beauty cannot be discussed, cannot be criticized."
--Vaclav Nijinsky


"You know, whenever I die, it's going to piss me off."  
--a wise man


"A composer [is] a doctor. But, there is the doctor who opens you up, does exactly the right thing, closes you up--and you die. He failed to take the chance that mght have saved you. Art is a crucial, dangerous operation we perform on ourselves. Unless we take a chance, we die in art."

"Just concentrate on not making the lazy move."
--Morton Feldman


 "Art demands of us that we should not stand still."

Stories and Other Good Stuff

These theorists are still, after all these years, so myopically concerned only with the 12 tones they themselves created! So many 'advancements and innovations' are entirely dependent on our tuning, our instruments, our notation...all of which are so haphazard and by no means (even today) standard.

    It seems, if nature provides the immutable laws, than that sound should be the standard--perhaps that should be learned to be liked...we've become passive and disinterested enough to accept everything else. 5 May 06.   


The painter paints not
what he sees
but what he wants to.
The perfection of his art
lies in the omission of those things unecessary
And the elaboration of those truly beautiful.
                                                                                            Pavlovsk 2005

I found myself in Russia again in June 2005 and this time decided to return to Petersburg, and see the outlying estates which once served as the summer residences of the tsars. In Pavlovsk, I saw among the tourists (primarily Russian) were musicians, painters, and other artists, trying to recieve some inspiration from being in this place. One which caught my eye was a painter who had set up his easle with a view of a quaint bridge and garden. The bridge was, of course, filled with loud foriegn tourists and groups of Russian teens smoking. I wanted to go and talk to this painter, but as I turned from the bridge to face him, I saw he was being tormented by two Russian youths, who were, in adolescent ignorance, mocking him, imitating him, all but taking the brush from his hand and ruining his picture.
    While I was silently walking away, though, I couldn't help stealing a glance at the picture he was creating--I looked back at his canvas and what I saw deeply moved me. There on his canvas he had created a world; a world with a bridge, a garden, a gentle sky....and nothing more. Even by now the crowds remained, marring the perfectly serene scene with their heavy dose of reality, but this man, this painter, had not recreated what he saw, but created from what he saw, what he wanted to see. He managed to push aside the dust of life to see the glow of existence. And that, in purest essence, is art.


   One of the most dangerous preoccupations in this world today seems to be the desire to deny humanity, to renounce nature, to close ourselves off, shut ourselves down . . . to play it safe, to ‘not get involved’, to murmur to ourselves and pretend we don’t care when no one else understands what we said. A sad day it is when the Human strives to shed the skin of his own essence, damning himself to forever be a shadow of his own lost possibility and potential, an echo no one hears, in a language no one speaks.

    If the 19th century saw music rise to the heights of irrational idealistic human individuality and emotion, the 20th definitely was the age in which the silver tarnished. It was the age when artists lost their souls for want of their minds. The color has faded, the light grown dim, and the once grand palace appears as dilapidated and broken as the hearts of the populace waiting for the one thing they no longer even know they need: Truth. Not the despondent reality of the weary world which surrounds us, but the truth of the pristine place within each of our souls, where the world is made better by mankind truly realizing its potential. A second Romanticism? No, no ism at all; just people, the person, being honest to others and to himself.

    Some would say the more intellectual a piece becomes, the further it travels from the emotional, the more real it is. But they are forgetting the most important factor, the human factor. Humans have always longed for and responded to what was true, regardless of whether it was real. And innumerable calculations, graphs, plots, pictures, and symbols will never explain to the intellectualists why a passionate speech by a general, however flawed, will make his soldiers want to march off to battle more than a well-laid-out list on the pro’s and con’s of war; they will never understand why all the ‘facts’ presented in a courtroom dissolve in the tears of a distraught family member giving testimony; they can never understand why belief is more important than reality--

Belief creates reality, emotion creates belief, and the soul creates emotion.

It’s time we lose our minds, and find our souls.


  While at the Conservatory in Moscow, I attended a concert once with my friend Carolyn, a flautist who had commissioned and premiered most of my flute music. It was a class concert of her teacher’s, a Professor Korneev. The man was a definite celebrity, and a consummate gentleman. Commanding over a face which seemed older than the repertoire he taught were two blue eyes which belied the impulsive, passionate young man who had lived inside this body for decades.

    When he rose after the concert to give a salutation to the audience, his speech was precluded by a 10 minute ovation, during which time he promptly called out to the stage all of his performers, so that the applause would fall on them as well.

    His speech began simply enough, evidenced by the fact that most of it was understood Carolyn and myself, despite our limited command of the Russian language. He stood there, slightly on an angle (which made him distinctly discernible from other professors at the conservatory), giving a traditional speech, “thank you, but you should thank these performers, for it was their hard work and etc. etc. etc. which made this etc. etc. possible...”

    I was just about to whisper something in Carolyn’s ear, when something happened. He had struck a chord with the audience, or within himself, or some cosmic electricity entered the hall, but everyone felt it. Then this man, the gentle, old man, proceeded to give the most impassioned speech I had ever witnessed, and just when he wound himself down, he turned himself loose again, letting flow a cascade of laudatory adjectives and personal emotions. This went on for fifteen minutes, and the audience held their breath awaiting his next word.

    His final crescendo was gratified by a brilliant flourish with which he thanked the audience, recognized his students, and brought the whole house to its feet again.
Amid the tumultuous applause thundering from the seats, Carolyn leaned over and whispered, rather yelled something in my ear, something I was thinking but could not solidify into one thought. She said it perfectly:

“I have no idea what he just said, but I believe every word of it.”

During the whole stay at the Conservatory, language was always an issue, but this was not human language;

the man was talking inspiration, and everyone understood.


    Music had always surrounded me as a child, and perhaps I took it for granted. I did not know that what I saw and heard in my house and from my family was not typical of the early musical education every child gets. Because of this wonderfully ignorant lack of respect, I always regarded music as a hobby; that is, until my freshman year in high school.

    I thought I was the one of the best musicians at my school, and maybe I was. But even then I did not realize a distinction between those who play for fun, and those who play for life. I attended an honors band (a wonderfully intense day of music, if you are unfamiliar with the process--you arrive with nothing but your instrument (mine at the time was trumpet) get placed into a band with 100 strangers from across the state, each with different backgrounds,  levels of ability, and musical philosophies . . . you get the music, which you’ve never seen before, and start rehearsing, under a conductor you’ve never been under. You rehearse from 9-12, break from 12-1 for lunch, then rehearse again from 1-4. From 4-6 the faculty treats you to concert, and then at 6:30 you warm up for the 7pm public concert of the music you just got that day.

    Obviously the musical atmosphere was intense, but all the talented instrumentalists, the shiny brass, the Chopin etudes, and the stories the conductor told to loosen us up combined to some sort of general musical inspiration, rather like an intense interest . . . but still I remained me, that was, until lunch break.

    It was a cool April day, so I ate outside. Not knowing anyone there, and still a cursed by the shyness which characterized by younger years I ate alone. While dutifully munching my gourmet pizza and trying to soak in the events of the day thus far, I heard voices. Human voices, four of them to be exact. I followed, and eventually spied four guys--students, no older than I, standing in a courtyard singing. At first I thought they were students of the University at which the festival was held, based on their camaraderie and level of skill . . . it was much to my surprise that, after they finished a glowing rendition of whatever they were singing (shamefully, I have forgotten), they, amid congratulations, were asking each others’ names.

These four singers had never met before. They were strangers.

    Not only were they strangers, they weren’t singers . . . or, rather, they weren’t exclusively singers (this was a band festival, after all). They continued their private concert unaware of their audience. There I sat and hear them reharmonize, improvise, and compose music on the spot for fun. Their stratospheric talent was rivaled only by the countertenor’s falsetto, and their instant friendship came from their shared language. As I traveled to a new world which fills silence with sound and unites its faithful, where talent and technique are only a means to gain a more artistic, more emotional end, their impromptu concert itself came to an end suddenly, as an official called us back to our posts. Lunch, the lunch wherein I dined on the most divine fare, inspiration, had ended.

    My desire to get back to the rehearsal hall was overcome by my curiosity as to what would become of my secret quartet. I should have expected what I saw, but I still remember my complete surprise as I watched them shake hands and depart, in four different directions. These men, these boys, these musicians, who had come together by stroke of fate to create art from nothing, were never going to see each other again. It was at that moment I realized my own fate.

I rose, and set off, to complete their song.


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