Curse of the Overachiever

If you, like me, always want to be doing All Of The Things, then listen up.

When I was fairly little, I told someone that I was afraid of dying young because I had too many things to do, or that I would die without achieving anything that mattered to me. Maybe that was kind of morbid for an elementary school girl to be saying, but it’s true. It’s still true.

I think, for most people who feel this way, you have a sort of “Oh Crap” moment, when you decide you’re going to go for it and try to get the Millenium Falcon into hyperdive, so to speak. Ophira Eiseinberg explained this well in her book, describing how, after a horrible car accident, she suddenly became proactive.

Nobody’s going to come knocking on your door and bring you what you’d like. Well, aside from pineapple pizza, but you still have to order that. I haven’t quite gotten to the point where I can blink and have pizza show up.

I've tried.

I’ve tried.

However, once realizing all that you want to do, and all that you have to do to get there, it’s likely you will not be the type of person who leaves their job at 5 PM, gets home, and then just relaxes until you fall asleep.

Even the New York Times did a piece this past December, profiling millennials and the fact that most of us don’t have just one job title. I definitely don’t see myself as having one job title. Most of my coworkers have jobs, freelance or part time, outside of our office, where they write, design, photograph, paint, archive, perform, etc.

A few years ago, I was working as a producer for a weekly children’s series, freelance writing and attending shows as a photographer, and performing in a band. I’d arranged to display some of my artwork in one of my favorite coffee shops after work, and the time had come for me to take the artwork down. I hurried over before they closed up, packed up the frames and wires, received some free and delicious baked goods that had not sold from the day (bonus!), and hobbled back to my bust stop with a heavy bag of frames, my work stuff, and a box of breakfast pastries under my arm.

It was a steamy day downtown, and the bus was not only packed, but stuck in horrible traffic. On top of everything else I was doing, I had told my sister I’d meet her at the cafe next to my apartment to review some music stuff before going home to make dinner. I was going to be late.

As the bus made its way to my neighborhood, I noticed my friend at the back of the bus. It was far too jam packed in there to try and say hello, so I just texted him to say, “Hey! We’re on the same bus! I’m going to meet Sarah. Want to join?”.

By the time we got off the bus, he told me he had to use the restroom. One of us suggested just stopping by my apartment, instead of walking another ten plus minutes to his place.

Then, we figured…well, the cafe has a bathroom! Problem solved.

I found my sister and sat down in a chair with all of my junk. My friend walked by me and mentioned something to me. I didn’t hear him, I was so frazzled at that point and it was loud in there. I figured he was just saying, “be right back, going to the bathroom.”

I ordered a drink. Sarah ordered a drink. We talked. He hadn’t come back.

Hey, hey, there. Didja fall in?

A barista hurried over to the counter, frantically waving about.

“Is there a doctor in here? There’s a young man in his twenties in the bathroom. I think he’s in cardiac arrest!”

Let me tell you (and if you know this feeling, I am so sorry), but if you think your friend is dying in the bathroom, it’s enough to put your body in panic attack mode. I didn’t know what to do.

Scared, I called my boyfriend. He was a certified Wilderness First Responder at the time, so my panic ridden mind thought he could at least help if we couldn’t get a doctor.*

Almost in tears, I told him that our friend was possibly having a heart attack or something in the cafe bathroom. What do I do while they call an ambulance?

“But…he’s here.”

Insert record scratch sound effect

Turns out, when he’d walked by us, he’d actually been saying, “yeah, I’m just going to your apartment and I’ll hang out with your boyfriend”, or something along those lines. He was not, in fact, dying in the bathroom.

Thankfully, a doctor from across the street came running in to help. Everyone else was asked to leave as the medics arrived. I went back to the cafe the next morning to see if everyone had been ok but, of course, they couldn’t tell me details due to privacy, which I understand. But whoever the young man was had been conscious when he was taken out of the cafe.

So, there’s one story when, in the midst of trying to do so much in one day, missing the fact that my friend had gone to my apartment caused me to think he was dying in a bathroom.

On another note, I give you my recent article for CollegeXpress.

*Since people have been concerned, please be assured that 911 was called immediately by the cafe staff, and patrons were then trying to find a doctor or someone certified to help in the meantime.

She & Him 2010 ©Farah Joan Fard

But How Does One Become A Concert Photographer?

For the words of the prophets were written on the studio wall…concert hall!

An upcoming series of posts for Question & Artist will be centered around some photojournalism career queries. Hooray! I’ll be splitting it up into three segments: news, music, and fashion (turn to the left!).

As I’ve been conversing with a peer of mine who has shot dozens of concerts, and is now a Rolling Stone contributor, I reflected on how the heck I got into concert photography myself. It’s still a hobby of mine, if you can call it that, but I don’t consider myself anything fancy. Then again, I need to fortify my self esteem and say, gosh darn it, I’m proud of some of the shots I’ve taken and it’s quite a thrill to be up at the stage.

So, to preface the photojournalist series, here’s my story.

I’d switched out of the journalism program at Emerson College. I decided that I wanted to keep writing, but I’d already been writing for some local papers and websites, and wanted to learn something new. I wanted to stay connected to arts and music, and had long loved audio and video. I applied and transferred to the Visual and Media Arts Department.

Since I was still writing for the school’s paper, and wanted to mainly write about music, I just started pitching. I actually got through step one of pitching to Modern Drummer (I have yet to have this luck since. We’ll see about that!), when I thought, “hey, I didn’t think I’d get through that”. I ended up writing for some online zines, and wrote for a metal site for a while. Rest assured, these album and band reviews have left the interwebs. I wrote a blog post for Drummerworld’s website. I can’t remember what else.

I’d been taking classes at Berklee, through the ProArts Consortium. One day I checked my Berklee email to find a call for music journalists. MyFox Boston’s music page, which also has left the interwebs, needed someone to review albums and go to concerts. My first review was for the White Rabbits.

I received press releases and press kits from artists, and pitched my own assignments. For instance, I was going to see Fiction Plane, so I offered to cover the show and interview the band. It was my first big phone interview! And, no, we didn’t have iPhones and Google Voice back then, so I wrote the whole thing down with a pencil while I was talking. Nerd.

I was very proud of this terrible photo.

I was very proud of this terrible photo.

Toward the end of the summer, the site’s content producer asked if I’d cover a show as a writer and photographer. It was a super 90s show. Emerson Hart (from Tonic), Collective Soul, and Live. Get out your flannel and Doc Martens! Oh, wait. Those are in style again.

I’d never shot a show in the pit before. I had a little Kodak camera (that little guy carried a lot of shows, next to lots of high powered Nikon and Canons), and I didn’t even know what the pit was.

If you’re unfamiliar, as I was, the pit is the area at the stage, before the barricades where the audience starts. The pit may also house the video track.

The woman rep from Live Nation met me, a completely wide eyed and nervous student, and basically laid it out for me. The rules that follow every photo set.

“I’m going to bring all the photographers out in the pit and Mr. Hart will start his set. He’s allowing three songs and then you’re out. Stevie Wonder was here last night and he only allows thirty seconds, so you’re lucky you get three songs. After that you can go back out to your seats.”

Ok.

This felt so exciting, yet natural, that when I had tickets to see The Police a few months from then, I wanted to review the show. I was already going. Why don’t I…cover press and photo?

My producer wrote back. “There’s no way we can get you a press pass to The Police, but you can certainly review it. If you want to try and get a press pass, go for it, but it’s not likely.”

So, I shrugged, sighed, and gave up.

WRONG. So, I sat down at my computer and put those journalism skills to use.

I was seeing one of my favorite bands, one that I never thought would perform together again.

I was reviewing it for a Boston news site.

You’re darn tootin’ I’m going to see if I can get a press pass for photos.

There is one skill I have that I am very proud of, aside from Name That Tune or imitating R2D2’s scream.

And that skill is being able to track people down. You can run from Farah, but you can’t hide. That’s one reason why Question and Artist is quite the happy challenge, too. The challenge of finding the artist!

Anyway, I’m pretty sure I emailed Sting’s wife by accident at some point, or something. Awkward much? I didn’t want to feel like this:

Eventually Sting’s manager sent me to The Police’s tour manager. I was put on a waiting list to review my credentials. Days later, I received confirmation with instructions on where to go and who to meet.

Feeling legit.

Feeling legit.

 Being backstage with Stewart Copeland’s drum set (can we call it a drum set? Drum land?) was magical. The roar of the audience behind you is such a buzz! And then seeing a performance from that perspective is just out of this world. It’s like the bass just soars right through you.

The Police 2007 ©Farah Joan Fard, Andy Summers.

The Police 2007 ©Farah Joan Fard, Andy Summers.

I was definitely hooked. I wasn’t paid, but when you cover shows you usually get a comp ticket with the option, sometimes, to bring a guest. Some high security or sold out shows will not offer a comp ticket.

From there I pitched a lot of the shows I wanted to cover. The tour manager for The Police notified me that I could cover their last stop in Massachusetts, about ten months later. And a few years back one of these photos was optioned as a press shot for Andy Summers. Point being: don’t burn bridges.

Can you imagine some of the junk tour managers and agents have to put up with? Let us not forget the Sting Stalker, and other follies. After interviewing the friendly guys of Gentlemen Hall, for instance, they and their manager agreed to let me photograph their soundcheck. I had a brand new Nikon. Not only did it present a defect at the soundcheck, the strap on it gave out and I dropped it. All of the photos came out terribly. After all that. I was embarrassed to show my shots!

Even if I don’t cover shows much anymore, it led me to so many opportunities, and gave me a lot of work skills. I made working relationships with tour managers, PR reps at labels, venue managers, and some of the musicians. Some of these people have helped me with obtaining other press passes, interview subjects, or even job applications.

And, as I went on to finally cover an event as just myself for the first time, I met the photographer who will be first up for the Question and Artist photojournalism series. Do you have any music photography specific questions for him? Questions about this post? Send those questions my way!

Kimbra at Royale 2012 ©Farah Joan Fard

Kimbra at Royale 2012 ©Farah Joan Fard

More photos here.

Courtesy of Aaron Blaise

Question & Artist With Aaron Blaise

How does one become an animator, and what about 2D animation?
This is my first entry for the Question & Artist series!
If you don’t remember what that is, I’m more than glad to refresh your memory.
A little while ago, I decided to start a page on this site, where anyone interested in a specific industry within the arts can send their questions along. From there, I’d connect with a professional in that field, and we could then present the Q&A here on LaParadiddle. So, maybe you want to get used to informational interviews. Or perhaps you’re a prospective student and aren’t sure what to major in, though you want to stay connected to your art, whether it be music, visual arts, or theater. Maybe you’re just a curious cat! If anything, Question & Artist should serve as a way for the artist community to help others. I think we tend to feel a little stuck in arts oriented industries, and it can start to feel even more competitive, due to saturation in the market.
My first submission comes from a student who is not currently studying animation, but is curious about it. She is a 2D animation lover, but would like to remain anonymous for her Q&A submission.
She says, “I watch online critics catered to animated films. I listen to songs and think of how I would storyboard it. I just love to read up new for animated films that won’t be out for years, if ever […] one thing that leaves me immensely dejected is the lack of presence of hand-drawn animation. Perhaps in Europe and Asia the absence is nonexistent, but in the U.S., studios see the hand-drawn medium as a crutch. I really feel saddened by this mentality, because hand-drawn has just as much artistic potential as does CG.
Year after year, I keep getting built up inspiration from professional animators who similarly do not wish to see hand-drawn go away. To name a few:
– Andreas Deja is working on an independent animated film called “Muska”
– Glenn Keane recently did a beautiful short called “Duet”
– James Lopex is fundraising on Indie Gogo to make a hand-drawn short called “Hullabaloo”
– Aaron Blaise & Chuck Williams recently funded and are now working on a hand-drawn film called “Art Story
etc.
I would love to hear from someone who animates stories outside the “common” animation studios. They do not necessarily have to be the aforementioned animators (although that would be incredible), but just anyone who is familiar with and is a lover of storytelling and hand-drawn animation and is pursing it on a freelance or independent scale.”
I am excited to say that Aaron Blaise was kind enough to answer questions for this first entry in the Question & Artist series. You may recognize his work from Pocahontas, Aladdin, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, and Rescuers Down Under! Mr. Blaise’s answers are below, and my comments are added in italics.
Photo courtesy of Aaron Blaise's Creature Art Teacher website.

Photo courtesy of Aaron Blaise’s Creature Art Teacher website.

How should one interested in hand-drawn animation look at their college career and college major? As a building block to the interest they have, or as a practical back-up plan in case hand-drawn animation is not viable?
I highly recommend a degree in animation. There several great animation schools out there. Ringling, Savannah College of Art, Cal. Arts. A job in hand drawn animation is becoming more and more hard to come by with most of the work being done in commercials or television animation. Nobody is really doing any full hand drawn Disney style animation anymore from a feature standpoint. I recommend getting a degree in computer animation. You will learn the same principals as hand drawn and will come out of school with many more options available to you.
Is New York City a good place to make independent animation, or is better to move elsewhere?
To be honest, I don’t really know the best place to do independent animation. With technology the way it is now, I would imagine you could make it anywhere you like.

Are there ways to make independent animated content less financially risky?
Really there are only two ways to make animation less financially risky.
1. Make the story as good as it can possibly be! It needs to be entertaining or no one will want to see it!
2. Cut back on production costs. Find ways of producing the product that will cost less. Think about the style, the number of shots, the number of back grounds that can be reused, the character count…the list goes on. All of these, and more, contribute to how expensive or inexpensive a film is.

How does one get suitable voice actors to participate in an animated project? Do the circumstances change if the project in question is going to be an online animated series of shorts, or an animated web series, or an independent animated film?
I come from the big studio world where we use casting directors to help us find the voice talent and then go they go on to help make the deal with the actors. For something independent you might want to find up and comers or friends with good acting skills to cover that ground. You will not get an “A” lister to participate.
Farah: From a personal perspective, I know many who do voice over work or hire for voice over work, and use their own networks, casting agencies, or even online voice acting libraries to find talent. Whenever I’d had to cast for voice over, we went through finding talent online or through our own network.

Similar to the above, how do the music compositions get handled?
Music is handled the same as above in the big studio world. We have a music executive that helps us find the artist we want and then that person goes on to make the deal. I worked with Phil Collins and Tina Turner on “Brother Bear”. That is how their deals were made. The same advice applies to smaller independent productions as above. Also scour the internet…there are a lot of composers fresh out of school that are itching to do something like that. I get contacted all the time by these people.

How can other animators willing to do independent work be found?
It comes down to money. Quality animators will not work for free. If you have a budget you can use social media quite well to find potential candidates. If you don’t have a budget, look to the school that you attend to find the talent.
How can artistic ownership be protected when doing independent projects?
Farah: Non-disclosure agreements, or NDAs, are often used on features.
I work a lot with the Artists Rights Society at my full time job, and they have a lot of information on artist copyright here. Your artistic ownership may depend on your work for hire agreement. If you’ve created your own artwork for your own project, and somebody wants to use it in a project for profit, they really should be asking your permission. A permission agreement may include the term of the use, whether it will be print or digital, the print run, if applicable, the territory, and the fee.
Aladdin concept art, courtesy of Aaron Blaise and http://creatureartteacher.com/.

Aladdin concept art, courtesy of Aaron Blaise and http://creatureartteacher.com/.

You can check out more of Aaron Blaise’s work at his website, which also includes great blog posts about his animation work, as well as prints. I’m so thrilled Blaise was able to help with this…his work has been so influential to animation…and our generation, too!
Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 9.50.25 PM

Arts Matter Day 2014, A Group Effort

Arts matter more than my ego.

Why do I say that? Because, sure, this isn’t the best cutting I’ve ever done on a video. No L cuts, noise reduction, color correction. I’m pretty sure I hear some clipping, I myself look pretty goofy, and I wanted to spend some more time on the audio levels, but that’s not the point of this video.

October 24 is Arts Matter day, supported by MassCreative.

A little over a month ago I expressed the idea that I’d like to put together a video for Arts Matter day, comprised of different Boston artists or artists who’d studied in Boston.

Why the group effort? Because I believe that is one of the qualities of the arts community that is so compelling. I find art to be collaborative, not competitive. Sure, we have battle of the bands and competitions, but the arts community needs to be collaborative to survive, and survives on the support of each individual in the community. I felt that I could demonstrate this quality by reaching out to those in the community, past and present, and putting together a sort of collage of why arts matter to us, and why the Boston arts scene matters to us in particular.

So, here it is. Special thanks to Adam 12 of Radio BDC, Gaby Dunn, George Watsky, REKS, Rachel Cossar of the Boston Ballet, Timothy Genis of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the performers of Fermata Town, and Lucius (for their support and enthusiasm, and sorry that I was not able to obtain their video…their support is much appreciated!).

This, in a 5 minute collaboration…THIS is why to me and should matter in the November election.

Why do arts matter to you? What are you or your community doing to support the arts?

Timothy Genis

Adam 12

Watsky

Gaby Dunn

REKS

Rachel Cossar

Fermata Town

carrie_fisher_princess_leia_by_dave_daring-d5laxr7

All the Star Wars Ladies (Give Your Han Up)

There is a little Yoda that sits on my desk at work. He used to sit on the computer desk at my parent’s house, and then he sat on my computer in college. He’s followed me to all of my jobs.

I guess part of the reason I have Yoda with me in my creative space is because Star Wars has been a huge influence on me, creatively.

A proud moment, despite how terrible I look in this photo. At the Museum of Moving Image,

A proud moment, despite how terrible I look in this photo. At the Museum of Moving Image.

But today, as the new cast of Star Wars Episode VII was revealed, I came to terms with something that disappointed me. In short, that a universe I love and reference so much sorely under-represents ladies like me. Or, well, ladies.

Let’s back this TIE fighter up a bit, shall we?

The first two nightmares I ever recall having as a child, maybe age three or four, both centered around science fiction. In one dream, I was faced with a room full of angry Klingon, and they threw tomatoes at me (I must have ran out of prune juice. If you get this, you win extra points). The second nightmare was that I was a waitress in a diner, and I was waiting on Darth Vader himself. I forgot to bring him ketchup, and then feared I’d get the death choke on my return to ask him how his meal was. I know it makes no sense. How does the he eat a hamburger and fries with that snazzy mask? I’m not sure why my childhood nightmares centered around tomatoes and sci-fi, but there it was. I also had nightmares about AT-ATs stomping through our playground. You know, rational childhood fears.

I was fascinated by Star Wars. Return of the Jedi and Thanksgiving just seemed to go together. While some of the creatures scared me, I stayed up to watch the behind the scenes specials after the movies. I loved Yoda and, yes, Ewoks. When my first grade class went on a field trip to the fire station, my mom chaperoned and volunteered to try on the whole fire outfit. Through the breathing mask she said, “Luke, I am your father”, and all the children scampered away. And I was proud of my mom for making such a dorky joke. My dad’s Palpatine impression makes most people chuckle, and I’ve even seen a few people request it. We had a dog named Chewbacca (RIP), and nicknamed my childhood friend’s mom’s van the Death Star, despite the fact that it was a big, white, mini van.

I loved the costumes of Star Wars, the music, and the sound design. I’d have to say that the sound design of Star Wars and Jurassic Park are two major factors as to why I studied post production and sound in college, and John Williams’s score was a huge chunk of my senior thesis.

 

 

A good art school student can always whip up a sci-fi costume in a moment's notice. (Blurring out others to protect their geekiness)

A good art school student can always whip up a sci-fi costume in a moment’s notice. (Blurring out others to protect their geekiness)

 

Leia Organa is a pretty interesting character (understatement of the week). I surely hope most people don’t just think of her as Han Solo’s lady (hence the title of this blog post), or a pair of cinnamon buns and a gold bikini. Leia is not afraid to call people out, go her own way, or strangle a Hutt. *

Is she our only hope?

Is she our only hope? (Lucasfilm)

Likewise, Padme, her mother, is one of the best marksmen in the films (along with Leia), is a political leader, and smart lady, despite the terrible dialogue and her ultimate demise. And yet, her character didn’t seem to make much of a splash. I threw together a last minute costume my freshman year of college, trying to duplicate her outfit from one of the battle scenes, because it was simple enough for me to put together. I should have just worn the Leia buns and called it a day. Nobody knew what I was supposed to be. But did anyone know what she was supposed to be?

Padme was seemingly panned by many for being either a) creepy for going after Anakin when she was so much older than him, b) a terrible character for the dialogue given to her, and c) weak for crying over and dying over Anakin. I find these criticisms a little unfair. For starters, yes, the age difference is a  little creepy, but it always seemed like a mutual relationship as she and Anakin grew up. Second, did any of the characters in Episodes 1-3 have really great dialogue? Third, she’s still a human and was trying to help someone she loved, not to mention she was carrying and protecting her children. There are blog posts all over fanboy geekdom dedicated to why Padme is lame, and most of the reasons given are attributed to characteristics displayed by many of the male characters, too. Except, while Anakin was having a temper tantrum and going to the Dark Side, Padme was trying to get crap done in the senate, all while hiding that she was carrying twins.

(Lucasfilm) Senator Amidala had more to say.

(Lucasfilm)
Senator Amidala had more to say.

If you’ve watched any of the behind the scenes footage from Episodes 1-3, or any of the post-production specials, you’ll see that an entire subplot was cut from Revenge of the Sith, which dealt with Amidala and the formation of the Rebel Alliance. I would have much rather watched that than over the top CGI action scenes.

So, as it stands, we have two prominent Star Wars characters who are female. Leia, of course. And Padme, kind of. I just don’t feel that her character is as respected in Star Wars land which, again, I find unfair.

There are other ladies, of course. And I don’t mean the Mrs. Hutt. Don’t forget the Twi’leks! Alas, in the film world at least, most of us remember Twi’leks by Oola, who was pretty much Jabba’s slave dancer. Shout out to my sister, who dressed up as a Twi’lek Jedi one year for Halloween. Did you remember characters like Jedi Master Aayla Secura?

Don't you forget about me! (Lucasfilm)

Don’t you forget about me! (Lucasfilm)

 

Today, as I sat next to my little Yoda at work, drinking water out of my fancy-pants retro Star Wars water bottle, my coworker notified me that the casting had been announced for the upcoming Episode VII. I scanned the list and was surprised by some of the choices. Plus, something seemed odd in the list. I couldn’t pinpoint what, but when I read Daisy Ridley’s name, it broke my thought process. Of course, the cast was mostly men.

My coworker said aloud exactly what I’d been thinking at that moment. Why aren’t there more leading ladies in Star Wars films? The prominent females are all somehow related to Luke or Darth, and I am seeing that this could be the case with Ridley as well, though it has not been revealed.

Of course we remember Luke’s mother, Shmi Skywalker, and Padme’s handmaidens, but does anyone remember Queen Apailana? Probably not.

I admit that I should have realized this a long, long time ago (pun intended), but what the heck happened in that galaxy far, far away? Or, perhaps the story is so centralized to Luke, Leia, Han, etc, that we don’t see as much diversity between men and women?

Yes, Leia is a pretty strong character. But do you recall any ladies working on the Death Star? Any fighting in the TIE fighters? Honestly, I can’t tell if the Cantina Band was a boy band. Sorry, guys.

Perhaps George Lucas never gave it much thought, and didn’t do it on purpose, and I’m overreacting to my lunchtime realization from today’s cast announcement. Or perhaps in that galaxy far, far, away, where someone thought Storm Troopers were better than battle droids (I mean, that one guy hitting his head on the doorway? Battle droids don’t waste time on that. Don’t even get me started on how they treat the clones), women just weren’t as prevalent.

I’m sure part of the difficulty, as with the robots vs Storm Troopers deal, is that Episodes 1-3 take place before the original films. The Star Wars universe wasn’t as out of control, and Leia reigned (so long as we excuse her singing in the Star Wars Christmas Special). Would the Dark Side have really devolved society so much, though? Again, it’s tough to say when you have decades between filming the two sets of stories.

So, J.J. Abrams, while I am upset that, in this galaxy of 2014, we are still short on strong female leads, I’m hoping that you will surprise me. If Ridley is playing Jaina (is this the rumor?), here’s hoping she at least has some supporting characters with some depth to them.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love Star Wars, specifically the old ones. Lando, Han Solo, they’re all great characters. Let us never forget Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi. I am in no way saying that Star Wars is bad, or intentionally sexist (it did give us Leia in 1977), or any of that nerf herder brouhaha.

I’m just saying that I’d like to think the Star Wars universe has a few more bold ladies on those planets. **

Aw, you guys. And...girls?

Aw, you guys. And…girls?

 

There’s a reason why I have Yoda at my desk, or a little C-3PO on my key-chain.  Films like Star Wars fueled my imagination as a child, as a student, and beyond.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed and I’m hoping that, as we move from a long, long time ago, to just a long time ago, some things have changed since the Rebel Alliance first kicked it.

If not, eventually I’ll just have to wear a Leia costume for Halloween, because what other choices are there REALLY.

Hold your cinnamon buns high (aka your head, duh, not your bum).

And, oh yeah, May the Fourth soon be with you.

 

*Not condoning violence or choking aliens

**I’m referencing the films only here, not the books or cartoons.

 

©Farah Joan Fard

An Unpopular Opinion: I’m a Vegetarian, But I Don’t Think Everyone Should Be

Why am I a vegetarian? Don’t I want everyone to be a vegetarian?

Well, I’ll tell you. And no. Hear me out.

I already started off not being a fan of steak or pork. As a kid, I could only eat steak if it were near burnt and doused in ketchup. My family never made pork and, that’s right, I didn’t really like bacon. Ok. You may now judge me.

Even when my parents made beef it seemed very different to me than what was served outside of our house. Of course!

One of my friends had been a vegetarian since we were very little kids. I kept saying I was going to go vegetarian, because I didn’t really care too much for eating meat and didn’t enjoy the thought of eating someone’s flesh, but that was that. I wasn’t about to demand my family make a separate dinner for me in the hectic years of high school. Who would have time for that?

Then, one day, I was at a Wendy’s with my friend. I know, possibly not the best standard of meat, but it was the only thing open later at night within 45 minutes of where we lived, other than a Barnes and Noble. My friend joked, “If you look at it, you can’t eat it.”

And I looked at it. And I never ate it again.

That left chicken. For some reason, grilled chicken had started to gross me out. One day, before an audition, I tried to eat my leftover grilled chicken for lunch. I’m not sure if it was the texture, the thought of it, the nerves for my audition, but I ran out of the cafeteria, gagging on the meat, promptly hurling it out. Lovely. End scene on grilled chicken.

At this point it was just fried chicken, and I figured if I liked it just because it was fried, then what was the point?

I went to college as a pescetarian (someone who only eats fish outside of a vegetarian diet).

Somewhere between then and graduating college, I just went full vegetarian. A few years ago I went vegan, then weekday vegan, and then back to vegetarian.

Yes, the more I learned about factory farming, the less I wanted to eat animals, but that wasn’t the crux of my decision. I don’t really enjoy eating meat, the texture is gross to me, the thought of biting into skin and flesh that used to be part of a living animal is also gross to me, and the smell is something I also find unpleasant. Sure, learning of animals packed full of antibiotics and sitting in their own feces, chicken meat that has to have chicken flavor added to it because the chickens were so sickly they taste awful, or animals being mutilated while still alive definitely DOES bother me. It’s insanely disturbing. It’s grotesque. Reading some of the counts from people who work at these places, or seeing video, makes me wonder how detached you have to be from what you’re doing in order to cause something to suffer like that. I don’t wear leather because it also doesn’t sit well with me to have some animal’s skin on me, but I see why some people do. But don’t get me started on wearing fur. That does make me angry. Sorry/not sorry.

Papa gorilla looks at us with skepticism. I don't blame him. ©Farah Joan Fard

Papa gorilla looks at us with skepticism. I don’t blame him.
©Farah Joan Fard

But here’s the thing: I grew up in a farm town. We got hay from a farm that had cows. One of the cows was named Annie. She was adorable, and we would often pet her when going to get corn, hay, etc. I’m pretty sure Annie ended up as the family’s dinner. But they also milked her, fed her, treated her with kindness.

One of the earliest field trips I can remember was going to milk a cow at the farm and then making butter out of it.

I know you might be thinking something like this:

But I swear that’s not it. However, I know a good deal of people who have worked around cows, and I don’t see the harm in milking a cow the natural way. The assembly lines of cows being milked by factory machines is creepy and unnerving, though.

Some chicken friends back in NH. ©Farah Joan Fard

Some chicken friends back in NH.
©Farah Joan Fard

Ok, ok. So we’ve got the vegetarian part. And, honestly, aren’t you used to people who are on a specific diet kind of looking down on others who aren’t on that diet? But there are three main reasons why I’m not about to hit everyone in the head with Eating Animals (good book; very disturbing).

I’m not a doctor.

Health conditions.

“Processed” food.

I’m not a doctor.

Well, hey, you don’t say! But really. Though I read a lot about health and nutrition (for a while I wanted to be a medical reporter), listen to NPR daily, read all of the labels on what I buy, yada yada yada…I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist or, basically, anywhere near educated enough or, hopefully, arrogant enough to think I should tell other people how they should be living their life in the kitchen. Outside of the pretty obvious statements, such as ‘sugar/fast food/boxed foods/soda/cigarettes/not exercising/you get the idea’ is not healthy, I’m not about to turn my nose up at others like that. It drives me nuts to see some of the ‘fitness and health experts’ out there who are just self proclaimed health geniuses. There have been many instances where I’ve looked up an individual who is the namesake to a fitness or diet trend, only to find that this person, while getting rich off of telling others that what was good for their body is good for everyone else’s, doesn’t have much of a background to back that fact up.

Man, you sound smart when you back that fact up!

Some diets are trendy because they’re just that…trends. Fads.

A marvelous piece of dietary advice I found within an old LIFE magazine.

A marvelous piece of dietary advice I found within an old LIFE magazine.

And…newsflash! Every one of our bodies is different!

This leads me to…

Health conditions.

I remember hearing of people who were really annoyed when Zooey Deschanel declared she was no longer a vegan for health reasons. I’d seen her at a concert shortly after this and remember being startled by how frail she looked. Deschanel is allergic to eggs, dairy, and gluten, and stated that she could not stay healthy on a vegan diet with these health problems.

There’s no reward in suffering. Honestly.

A few years ago I was tested for a nickel allergy, where I would have had to adhere to a nickel free diet. As a precaution, the doctor gave me a list of what I could not eat. YOWZA. Goodbye beans, peas, chocolate, dried fruits, pears, asparagus, cabbage, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, nuts, grains, and even tea. It would have made a vegetarian diet very difficult. Luckily, the severity of my nickel allergy does not make its way to food.

Someone I know who cannot eat gluten recently posted this, and I couldn’t agree more. Some of these diets are for medical reasons, and using at as a way to be trendy can be infuriating to some. My freshman year roommate had celiac disease and it was not fun, or hip, and I am betting she would have wished not to have to go through that. Her diet was very limited. One day she ordered a salad with no croutons and yet a few crumbs of bread may have found there way in there. She was sick. Celiac disease damages the lining of the small intestine. It’s not a fad to lose weight.

I also have friends and family who can’t eat too many carbs for reasons like Lyme disease, or because of intestinal issues that have landed them on the FODMAP diet. Being a vegetarian on that diet would also be very tough.

Everyone’s body is different. Some of us absorb things differently, or our bodies reject them. That doesn’t mean we should all eat the same way. And if following a certain diet is going to make you miserable, because you already have  dietary restriction, wouldn’t it be better to be healthy?

Speaking of healthy…

“Processed” foods.

I use quotations because sometimes I feel the word ‘processed’ is thrown around the way the words ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ or ‘free range’ are.

It’s like when people seem to think everything is healthy if it comes from Whole Foods. Cake, candy, soda? It’s ok! It’s from Whole Foods!

So? Candy doesn’t grow off of trees, does it? If it does, please don’t tell me where because I will want to go to there.

I didn’t find it that difficult to eat vegan. Baking was actually pretty easy without animal products. I found hummus or avocados to be great substitutes for cheese or buttery cravings, though making pizza was disappointing. Vegan ice cream is actually quite tasty. Chia seed pudding is delicious, in my opinion. And I don’t like drinking milk, anyway, so woopdy doo. I started to find that I didn’t crave cheese so much, or eggs, except nothing can ever replace The Gouda.

But while I made a lot of vegan stuff at home to take with me, such as breakfast foods or baked goods for parties, I was constantly reading labels. Even more than I used to! And I wasn’t too fond of what I saw.

Some of the best tasting vegan cookies I have ever had? Read the label. Oof. The amount of fat, oil, calories, you name it was outstanding. A lot of vegan products tried to make up for animal fat by loading it up with other junk. And I was consciously avoiding soy products, too.

Try to find me one vegan butter substitute (outside of peanut butter, avocado, or pumpkin, etc) that does not have palm oil or cottonseed oil in it. I couldn’t.

When I was a kid, I didn’t understand some of the things my mom bought. I always felt slightly jealous of the kids who had Pop Tarts or the fancy juices, the cool cereals, or the Lunchables. Everything seemed much more plain on my side sometimes. But every time I went to a party and piled on the junk food, I’d come home feeling like I had the flu. I wish I had appreciated it then. I certainly do now! Thanks, mom, for the healthy food! And I still love brussels sprouts!

Point being, I guess I feel like if I have to choose between something that is vegan or gluten free, and something that is more to its true form, less processed, or made from scratch…I’d rather go with the less processed item.

I still try to buy cheese that is made without animal rennet, but its not always labeled. We try to buy the most animal friendly eggs we can find, or buy them from a local farmer. I admit I try to avoid foods with gelatin. I also see other vegans trying to hard to minimize animal suffering by restricting sugars that could be burned and processed with animal bone. But if the goal is to cut out anything that harmed an animal, you may end up on a strict diet similar to Jainism. Which is fine if that is what’s for you. My question is, what is really worse for the environment and animals? Eating eggs from the farm up the road, or using a butter replacement full of palm oil (read up on palm oil if you haven’t) and other ingredients that may also plug up your cardiovascular system? Eating locally sourced goat cheese on our homemade bread, or buying a vegan and gluten free food that is riddled with refined sugar?

Sign outside of lovely Lull Farm. ©Farah Joan Fard

Sign outside of lovely Lull Farm.
©Farah Joan Fard

And that’s that.

What about you? Do you follow a specific diet? Did you do it to follow a trend or for health reasons? Are you unable to go on a trendy diet due to health restrictions? Does it bug you when people follow a diet that you have to follow due to allergy or other medical concerns?

Let me hear it!

 

 

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In a World, In a Nutshell

I finally watched In a World a few weeks ago.

If you haven’t heard of it, let me get you up to speed.

The lovely Lake Bell noticed that there are few female voice over artists for feature film trailers. As she stated in this NPR piece:

“It’s still an ambition … I get in front of this microphone right now, and I get very excited. But I was always interested in the idea that the omniscient voice was always considered male. This sound that’s telling you what to buy, what to think, how to feel about what bank to have, or what kind of car, or what movie to see — so I thought it would be an interesting protagonist to have a female vocal coach who would sort of aspire to take on this world.”

While I had wanted to get into a recording studio internship for music back in the day, I quickly fell into the world of voice overs. And it was a harsh landing at first.

My first internship, if you could call it that, was at a broadcasting company that owned a cluster of radio stations. I could only go in once a week, because I was working at a HAM radio repair shop full time as well (which I loved) and shared a car with my sister. Assigned to the Friday morning show, I also couldn’t make it in before dawn. I admit that those two factors probably already stuck me as the least favorite intern (on top of the fact that my supervisor constantly reminded me how much he despised Emerson students) but, frankly, I was trying hard and not everyone can afford to work for free and have their own car in college. That’s life.

So, I would  get in at 7 AM for the Top 40 channel’s morning show, help that wrap up (program the rest of the show), record some stuff, and then head over to the traffic department for the class rock channel, and sort through broadcast times for advertisements.

Most of the post morning show recording was for local companies and their advertisements, or public service announcements. One man, who owned a sporting good store, insisted on speaking the words to Queen’s “Bicycle Race” for his bike sale. He couldn’t remember the words, so decided to find the video on the studio computer, to everyone’s dismay (if you recall the amount of ladies not wearing clothing in this video, it’s not quite safe for work). Another man insisted on having an arena rock guitarist from the 70s do the jingle for his advertisement.

And then, one day, we received a public service announcement script for a children’s home. My supervisor decided to have me do it.

Halfway through the recording, he snatched the script and huffily announced that, “nobody can understand you with your speech impediment.”

That was it, and I was sent to the traffic department. I was hurt by how rude he was but also because I had never mentioned that I have a speech impediment! I’d gone to speech therapy as a kid, but had since done theater and improv and nobody had ever brought it up.

I thought of this incident after watching In a World, because it is true that enunciation and articulation in the voice over world is so strict. What I consider my first real internship was at a studio where I mainly assisted with voice overs for shows like Animal Planet, The Discovery Channel, or VH1, as well as press and music sessions. My last internship was at one of Boston’s largest studios, where they mostly focus on advertisements, voice overs, ADR, etc. My only time there actually participating with any voice over was when a major cruise line needed the voice of a child in the mix. That would be 21 year old me.

I have to say there were lots of women who did voice over work there, and a woman who also taught a class there after hours, much like Bell’s character in the film.

It’s often assumed that voice over work is easy. People have scoffed at me when I’ve talked about my job (later recording voice overs for ebooks and educational games) and referred to the individuals I’m recording as voice actors or voice talent. However, I wonder if they would snicker if these actors were voicing cartoons? Somehow, if you aren’t doing someone’s voice, a la Mufasa or Buzz Lightyear, people think it’s funny to call yourself an actor for doing voice over work. If you think it’s easy, try sitting in on voice over auditions for television. Ok, maybe you think you’re good at it but, by golly, there are a lot of people who can’t put emotion or personality into reading lines. It’s true! It’s hard when you can’t act with your body language and facial expression, and it’s not just silly voices and emphasizing syllables.

You have to think about tone and pacing..a lot. You have to make sure your breathing is steady. If you’re a woman, you have to make sure you don’t sound like a girl. If you’re a boy…that’s a whole other trick. We tried to cast for a young boy once, but every boy who was old enough to read the script well had an ever changing vocal timbre and tone. Every boy that sounded good was too young to sit with us for long. I ended up working with a grown woman who used to voice a little boy cartoon (scientist!) on Nickelodeon, but then our project was cancelled. Still, the process was fascinating to me.

I’ve worked with a good deal of people who are great at what they do. I know a lot of them also do voice over work for television, radio, phone services, etc. However, I see Bell’s point. I thought back on all of the advertisement or television sessions I sat in on. Outside of a health insurance advertisement and a windshield glass jingle, I only recall men coming in for these voices.  I have to say I saw a lot more diversity in the educational media I’ve recorded or edited voice overs for, and that is telling to me.

It’s an odd niche, and In a World brought to light some things I never stopped to think about. I think Bell is incredibly talented as a voice actor, too, and I also appreciated her attention to wanting women to speak confidently, not like little girls who are always asking questions, instead of making statements.

Spoiler Alert Possible Here:

In the end we are really proud of her character, but when we find out why she has been singled out it’s a bit of a groan. Unfortunately, it’s not unrealistic, in my opinion. I know a lot of women, including myself, who have worked in male dominated fields and often been afraid that we were chosen just to get a female in there, over our talent or portfolio. Is that worth it? To get the ball rolling on females in an industry, so to speak?

I guess you’ll have to watch the film and let me know what you think.

Happy holidays, from Farah!

2013 Holiday Gift Guide for Music Enthusiasts and Audio Nerds

I hope you know I say the above with love and joy. It’s true, because I’m a music enthusiast and audio nerd, and there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that!

You may know that some of my posts promote and reference the writing on Blast Magazine. I’ve been writing for Blast since I graduated from Emerson back in ’09, and they’re a great bunch.

So, this year I volunteered to steer the 2013 Holiday Gift Guide for music, throwing in some audio toys.

iZotope RX, anyone? Uh-mazing. I think back on the low budget videos I had to remove background noise and crackle from a few years back and weep for the fact that I did not use RX. Well, now there is RX 3. Great Thor and a hammer! It’s serious.

Running along the audio chain (but not an actual chain, or side chain…if you get this pun…+85734985674396 points), I also tested some noise cancelling headphones. Let me tell you, Ian Malcolm would not have hear any T-Rex had he been wearing these.

As for the music…I’ve got box sets, new releases and more, from classic rockers, retro tunes, legendary drummers, and 90s favorites.

So, to all of my friends here…happy holidays!

Photo (c) 2011

Janelle-Monae

A Resolution for the Electric Lady

Janelle Monáe, the Electric Lady herself, graced Boston with her presence just a little over a week ago. And Boston graced her with quite an honor.
janelle_monae_robot_large_1283438946_crop_550x454
I wish I had taken a moment to listen and absorb Monáe’s compositions and lyrics long before I finally did. What this women stands for is, in my opinion, pretty remarkable. And she does it in a way that is classy, musical, and sprinkled with science fiction.
The City Council office of Charles Yancey in Boston seemed to have a similar sentiment.
Read an interview with Boston City Council assistant Segun Idowu here to find out more on how the resolution came about, and to view a video of the event.
[http://youtu.be/UMLHJKlXnFs]
hocus-pocus

Upcoming Music Q&A Teaser: It’s Just a Bunch of Hocus Pocus!

I’m working on my next music/sound career profile for the music blog, and it will be slightly Halloween themed for the upcoming (best) season…

I love Halloween. Costumes. Autumn. Cider. Spooky, scary! When I do Halloween costumes, I really do my darndest at going all out.

Therefore, some of my favorite films as a child were Hocus Pocus, Batman, The Addams Family, Casper…you get the idea.

Whenever I try and share the delight that is Hocus Pocus with someone who hasn’t yet experienced it, I find it difficult to get the reaction I was looking for. I’m thinking, “This is pure gold! Witches! New England! The songs! The flying vacuum! Does it GET better?”

I guess it does. The last time I tried to share, the general reaction seemed to be “where did the last few hours of my life go?”

But fear not, Hocus Pocus fans.

I’ll be profiling a music and sound oriented job you may not have heard of, and doing some Q&A with the individual as well. One of the films she worked on is…you guess it…Hocus Pocus!

HOCUS POCUS, Kathy Najimy, Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, 1993

It’s like the Black Flame Candle has been lit again! Stay tuned!

Keeping Classical Music Friendly

Contrary to what some people may think, we can interview classical musicians for an inside scoop. Classical music is not dead!
I started this blog to focus on careers in music. All of the options! And you know what genre is left in a corner far too often these days? Classical.
Right? I know there are tons of you who enjoy classical, whether it be film scores, modern, or Mozart. To others…you may ask…’what exactly is classical? Why are we still talking about it? Isn’t it boring?’
Well, everyone is different, but read this first and you be the judge. If you’re ready to dismiss classical music, then it is my challenge for you to check this out. If you already dig it, prepare to meet Sally Whitwell.
Sally Whitwell

Sally Whitwell. Credit Rhydian Lewis.

Keeping classical music friendly. This is how you describe yourself in the first line of your ‘about’ section. Why do you think people feel it is ‘unfriendly’? How are you changing this?
I’ve talked at length about this to friends of mine who are not classical music people.   Of course this is purely anecdotal evidence and should be understood as such, but so many of the people I’ve asked simply feel that classical musicians are very far away from them.  Far away in terms of the way they have been trained to do an extraordinary thing, in terms of the kind of life they lead, often even in terms of the way they present on stage.  Essentially, it seems to me therefore that it’s all about communication.  I try to show that we classical musos can be friendly and immediate and upfront and real, too.  I play concerts as much as I can in intimate venues where I can see everyone’s face and share a beer with them afterwards.  I chat very happily directly with anyone on social media, not through an agent or manager or other minion.  When I organize a concert out of town, I directly involve some local musicians so that we’re all making music together.  Real contact.  This must be the future of classical music.
Is there a classical piece that you think people are familiar with, but not for their original use. I know that each piece can mean something different to any person, and at least it is being heard, but…for instance, Ride of the Valkyries?
Something like how the opening minutes of Also Sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss were used at the beginning of Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001?  The mighty expansiveness of that music, I can’t think of a better piece for that moment in the film!
I did a study on film score during my last semester of college and was very interested to find how many pieces of music are referenced in film scores. Barber’s ‘Adagio for Strings’, Holst’s ‘Planets’, Dvorak’s ‘New World Symphony’–all compelling pieces on their own. Do you have any thoughts on the evolution of film music? Especially with electronic music now-Trent Reznor’s Oscar winning score for The Social Network, for example.
The use of music in film is such an enormous topic, I hardly know where to start.  There are two film soundtracks in particular that leap out at me simply because of the way the combination of music/image/narrative made me feel.  One was Jonny Greenwood’s soundtrack to There Will Be Blood which had me feeling this constant uneasiness.  I wouldn’t say I identified with the greedy oil barons of the film, but I certainly felt what it was like to have a desperate greed so strong you could almost call it addiction.  The other soundtrack is Michael Nyman’s music for Jane Campion’s film The Piano.  Because the central character Ada was mute, the only way she could communicate her emotions was through the abstract form of piano music.  I can’t recall any other film in which music and characterization were so closely woven together.  Extraordinary artwork.
What was the first piece you ever wrote?
It was a setting of the Byron poem She walks in beauty like the night.  It was inspired by my beautiful partner Glennda, the light of my life.  Actually, I wrote a little story about it too, you can read it here.

Beautiful!

You say the piano chose you, but you dabbled in other instruments. When did you first play the piano?
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t play.  My lovely grandmother Beryl lived in the house with us and brought her giant monster of a steel framed upright into the house.  She taught me to play quite a few things, my favorites being Cockels and Mussels and The Wedding of the Painted Doll.  As soon as they realized I was interested, I got sent off to piano lessons.  It was a revelation to me!
This quote in your bio, regarding composing and performing, is so lovely: “I even help them to manifest their own imaginations in sound”. Growing up, I got lost in sound. We didn’t have cable, and I lived on 5 acres in the middle of the woods, so we couldn’t just walk to a gathering place that wasn’t a pond or something (because the pond was a gathering place!). I would sit in my room and listen to music, and that was enough a lot of the time. Music is so important for brain development and memory…could you elaborate on what you hope to accomplish with the imagination?
Everyone has a voice, but to express yourself creatively you need to feel that it’s safe to do so.  I try to create that safe space for people, whether it be a private composition lesson or a group writing session with 10 year olds (I’ve done a fair few of those).  I’ve been moving into new territory lately by workshopping composition with teens through improvisation.  It’s all still a bit of an experiment, but I was pretty pleased with the 2 minute opera that a bunch of kids and I created at the Perth International Arts festival early in 2013.  They inspired me! It was magical.
Was there a turning point for you deciding you wanted to be a professional musician?
I did always know that music would be in my life.  For a while there, I did think that ballet was going to be my future, but I realized was actually the music that drew me in to that in the first place, so music won.  Also, I like my body too much to subject it to the kind of punishment that dancing requires.  I’m not built for that.
Working in a creative field can be a constant struggle, as these jobs are usually first to be cut or to lack funding. What is the oddest job you’ve ever done while pursuing music, if you had another job?
I played a really silly gig once as an accordionist.  These rich housewives were having a lingerie party (kinda like a tupperware party, but selling each other very fancy expensive French designer lingerie).  Anyway, they wanted live music so my friend and I went to this enormous harbourside residence and whilst I performed Sous le ciel de Paris as she danced around pegging little lacy numbers onto washing lines strung up about the room.  The money was excellent and we got fed and watered and supplied with other, um, party favors. It turned into a bit of a wild night actually.
Sally Whitwell

Sally Whitwell. Credit John Fick.

This portion of my blog aims to profile as many different professions in music and sound as I can. I was led to focus my blog on this mainly due to two thing: 1) being laid off twice and finding, while networking, lots of interesting people and careers and 2) receiving questions from students and wanting to get the info out there. I think starting a discussion is important for the arts community, and I’d like students-or anyone-to be able to relate and learn from one another. I can relate on your ‘shared‘ page of your site. That being said, if you were to make a sort of bullet list of the things that were crucial to you getting your career off the ground, what would that be?
1.  Theory and Aural skills – even more important than mastering the technique of your instrument, learning how music actually works is the most important skill you will ever learn.  You can apply that knowledge to every single thing you do.  if you’re just really good at your instrument, you’re basically, um, a jock.
2.  Be yourself – find the thing for which your desire burns hotter than the sun and do that thing.  Let lots of people know you’re doing it.  Be seen doing it as much as possible.  It builds you a kind of accidental brand.  I got known for doing lots of contemporary music cos I just did it, said yes to all the ensuing opportunities and suddenly found myself in a bit of a niche.
Out of those, what was the most challenging? Did you ever feel like giving up? What kept you going?
It’s a constant challenge to live like this, juggling the different facets of my musical existence.  Time management is the hardest thing, especially finding time out for non-musical pursuits.  When your work and your play are so inextricably linked, it can be difficult.  Also when I see my friends with ordinary day jobs and how they get to have this thing called a weekend, it’s occasionally tempting to think I could just chuck this in and get a real job.  But then I’d be miserable and unfulfilled.  Music is the only thing for me.
Of course, you have some pretty impressive collaborations. Philip Glass and Steve Reich stand out to me. How did you meet and build your work relationship?
I made my first album at the request of the ABC Classics producers, they came to me saying rather enigmatically “We’d like you to make a solo piano album of approachable contemporary music.”  We met in their offices and the “approachable contemporary” meant Philip Glass.  I made the album and it led to an invitation from Perth International Arts Festival to perform Glass’s complete Piano Etudes with the man himself!  What a wonderful experience to meet and work with such a unique and driven artist.  I’ll be performing some of the Etudes with him again in Los Angeles and New York in 2014. Can’t wait!
Amazing, and congrats on your ARIA award! Can you explain the experience, in your own words?
It was of course a great honor to win the ARIA Award, because it’s a peer voted award and to know that your colleagues support your work is a lovely thing.  There is only one award for classical music though, and it’s hard to compare what I do to an opera recording or a string quartet or a period instrument band.  I felt like I was accepting on behalf of the entire classical music community.  In a sea of pop music, it’s the only mainstream recognition we get!
Speaking of Aria, slight digression here. My cat’s name is Aria, and I see you have cats with very interesting names. Did you choose those? I love it!
Our cats, or ‘fur babies’ as we like to call them, are our pride and joy. I’m a stepmother to Gandalf, named for the character in Lord of the Rings.  Lucky was so named because she’s lucky to be alive, having been rescued from a rubbish bin.  Boudica is our posh fluffy Selkirk Rex and is a bit of a princess so it seemed appropriate to name her for the Iceni queen.  And Dickens is named after the great British author who hails from my partner’s hometown, Rochester, Kent, UK.
You also have a really awesome style and flair. Is this part of keeping classical music friendly?
It’s just who I am!  And I feel that keeping classical music friendly is not about how cool or up to date you are, it’s just about how you share your passion with the world.
The unanswered question (pun intended har har)…how do Charles Ives and The Muppets fit together? 
He wrote a splendid song called The Circus Band which I did in a concert with my cabaret soprano friend Nadia Piave and a bunch of friends, choristers from the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir.  It was called The Children’s Hour (after another Ives song!) and we made little mini operas out of all these art songs strung together into a loose kind of narrative.  After The Circus Band had come over the hill and disappeared again, we were left alone on our dreamy lily pad to sing The Rainbow Connection.  Maybe you had to be there to understand? Trust me, it worked.
I love it!
Are you drawn to minimalists? 
I have at times in my life been very drawn to different types of meditation practice.  Through the process of learning a whole lot of minimalist music over the years, I came to the realization that performing, listening to or experiencing this music is a kind of meditative practice for me.  Life imitates art imitates life.
What are your thoughts on John Cage? I find musicians tend to have very torn opinions on pieces such as 4’33”.
4’33” still totally works for me.  I went to see Bang on a Can All Stars the last time they came to Australia.  They performed in a John Cage anniversary festival here at Sydney Opera House.  4’33” was the first piece on the program and the audience, fully aware of what was about to come, dutifully sat in complete silence for the length of the piece.  This was interesting in itself.  I wondered if there was anyone there at all who’d never heard of it? And what were they thinking? As you can see, this piece still causes me to question and that, after all, was it’s purpose.
If you could pick four words to describe your songwriting process…?
Text, understanding, communication, layers.
And your post modern pop minimalist baroque’n’roll project?
I’ve recorded an album of solo piano music by Michael Nyman called All Imperfect Things.  We’ve already talked about Nyman’s unique contribution to film music.  I’ve just posted a copy of the album to him; I hope he likes it.
How has technology impacted your career over the years?
It’s had a huge impact on the music industry as a whole, I think.  Through the development of all manner of instruments of course.  Then there is the way technology helps us to disseminate what we do.  Finding the audience is another matter altogether.
Do you think there is going to be a change in music education at the university level, due to the economy and rising costs of tuition? 
I think there’s a bit of fear surrounding future careers in music, which has a flow on effect.  Music is not seen to be useful, so it’s a low priority.  I am reminded of a quote from Winston Churchill when the finance minister suggested cutting arts funding in order to fund the war effort.  Churchill said “Then what are we fighting for?”
What do you think is the most important thing to keep in mind when working in music?
Say something.  Your musical voice is unique and important.
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All Imperfect Things is now available on iTunes. For more info, you can check out Whitwell’s work at her site, http://sillywhatwell.weebly.com/index.html, and on Facebook.
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Creative Outlets Keeping Us Afloat

The past year of job searching/layoffs has made me feel like a Ted Mosby. Instead of girls, though, it’s a full time job. I get very excited and eager, ready to give it my all, and then there’s an “if/but” or, who knows, maybe Barney Stinson is pulling a giant prank on me.

Either way, the job market is obviously tough right now. It’s hard on employers and employees alike. I know every rejection has a reason behind it, but let’s be honest. There’s no hiding the fact that continuously looking for work for over a year can be exhausting and start to impact you in a negative way.

Remain positive.

The recent blog post I re-blogged from Sybaritic Singer reminded me of one very important thing for…well, everyone. But I think creatives take it very personally (correct me if I’m wrong).

Why do we keep up with side projects to fuel our creativity? It keeps us going, keeps our mind sharp, and can often lead to a full time gig. Take the 100 Interviews blog, for example, or the Modern Seinfeld Twitter page.

What’s your creative escape? Are you doing it as a continuous hobby, or to work toward a stepping stone in your career?

Chin up, everyone! I know it hurts out there, but I believe that connecting with others in the same boat can only help.

Send me your creative outlets if you’d like! Soundcloud files, images of you and your work, videos. I’ll post them here! A short bio about yourself, what you do for your day job, and what your applying the hobby to would be great!

let’s discuss: Three Reasons Why I Blog

laparadiddle:

This latest blog post on Sybaritic Singer shares a sentiment many artists feel…or at least I think so. What do you think?

Originally posted on The Sybaritic Singer:

To be honest, I started this blog while working a soul-sucking day job. Like many bloggers, I desperately needed a reminder that I was working that job to support my habit (singing — for anyone who wasn’t sure.) I would also like to make an open apology to those that had this displeasure of knowing the unhappy me during that time. Luckily, I have moved on to much greener pastures, a happier me, and I still hold on to the blog. Why do I keep doing it? I read this quote yesterday from Anaïs Nin, “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.” I am inundated with amazing and interesting music. Plus, I get to meet such fascinating musicians, composers, and entrepreneurs along the way. Who wouldn’t want to taste the sweetness of those experiences again? There are so many creative professionals giving of themselves…

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