It's about time that I move my little blog to my website. I've had my share of trials and tribulations in the digital world, and I can safely say that I'd like to leave at least one of them behind. I don't like to leave really, but I just don't have patience to figure out how to maneuver through uploading this or that... there are far to many uploads that I must endure. Like the rest of you must also have in these kinds of days.
So here is the last post that was made on blogspot (below). And from now on, (or until there's a better way,) I'll post here.
Thanks, friends. It's always an adventure.
With love,

Flip side.

The first post in a long time, I mean, a REALLY long time, finds itself anew like I'd never done it before but somehow I know what I'm doing.

(I almost couldn't log in, it's been so long!)

The NYC conundrum, ever prevalent, reveals the flip side through a visit with an extraordinarily creative mind. I almost thought these were gone, and I've often lamented how I've missed thee...

... but it was really nice to revel in what our dreams once were and really believe again that our creations might yet find a place in this... this... whatever this is.

New York is an awful garbage-laden prison of a place, filled with murdererers and soul-suppers. Yes, SUPPERS. Delight in the very essence of what makes each of our souls so purely unique and beautiful. And SUPPED. Engorged upon, like a delicate and fine aperitif... the finest your tongue has ever chanced to embrace. That's This Place. You, like me, are a commodity. And, oh, how exhausting it's been to count oneself amongst the creative entrepreneurs of This Place. How ought one protect and confide their spirit in a generally undeserving world when all you want to do is somehow find one good reason to share your chaos and beauty?

New York can really make one believe the worst, and yes, the best of people, too.

Moder music.

It was with great unease that I announced my first public show.

The choice was to either move forward, or stop.  Because, as music is a living, breathing creature, it can't just stay in one spot forever without withering away.

So my first show is on December 28, in Minneapolis, at Jazz Central; and in preparation, I held 3 private house concerts.  All were very different, but all were a much needed experience that I'm really grateful for.  And, in the vein of this whole project, I recorded everything.  The last night was by far my favorite set of music.  Evolution has seized me.  I'm excited to perform.

And here you go, if your curiosity lends itself. 

Here we go, post grad 6:
and another:

Please excuse the chatter at the beginning.

Pickled beets.

It's been many, many months since I've visited you.  I'm not very good at being in touch, but I'll never forget our friendship.  I miss you, little blog.

In these busy, many months, I almost don't know what I can write about... there's too much.  I'll narrow it down to just a few jots.

I got my Steinway.

I'm still improvising.

My trepidation is starting to melt away.

I asked myself the other day, what direction I thought the music world was headed in these days.  With the revival of bluegrass and all things homemade, I'm pretty sure there's going to be a shift from a lot of the electronic stuff we've been hearing in the past few decades.  It won't disappear, but I anticipate a big split between a school where technology rules music, and a school that completely rejects technology and heads back to acoustics.  A parallel extension of that could be what I think of as neo-impressionism.  Define that as you would imagine.  I don't see a frightened grab at classical form, but of something more rustic or perhaps primitive.  And/or music freed by expression in rebellion of highly controlled, mathematically based composition.  I guess time will tell.  And everyone's always floating their own boat.  Who am I to say any of them have leaks?

Where do you think music is headed these days?

I forgot how tedious this writing thing can be...

Here we go, Post grad 5:

Old new.

So it's a new year, and with that, the fulfillment of goals.  That was the title of the last entry, after all.  It's not good to make goals, and then abandon them, so.... 

One of these goals, I had alluded to many months ago, and the impetus of fulfillment was, in fact, catalyzed by trying to fulfill Sebastien's goal.  I went with him to look at pianos, and got a little carried away in the grands room.  Sigh.  It ended up being good, though, because, a month later, I bought a Steinway, and I couldn't be happier.  Finally, after three and a half years of being "grandless," I'll have one back in my space.  And not just ANY piano, but the iconic piano of the music world.  I didn't think I could have found something so lovely in my budget, but after lots of footwork and anxious nights, I was proven wrong.  Sometimes you just have to DO.  Rejoicing all around!

The other goal was sort of open-ended, but was just to go somewhere further with this little project.  And so, I met with Angela today, and we improvised together.  And though this has been done before, neither of us had ventured into multi-media improv.  Angela, a visual artist.  We did four pieces.  The first three were with me improvising on the piano, and her creating a piece based on what she heard.  For the last piece, I watched her create, and had more of a conversation with her.  There was a lot of side-conversation, and analysis, which I won't bore you with.  I'll just share results here!  I think I got them all in order.... ;-)  Sorry for the terrible photography.  They are much nicer in person.

Here we go, Post grad 4, Part 1?:
Post grad 4, Part 2:
Post grad 4, Part 3:
Post grad 4, Part 4:


I'll be honest... after the year was up on this project, I lost a lot of direction, and found myself aimless in what I have been trying to do with my music.  For many of us artists and musicians, it's hard to keep up momentum, because the yard stick by which we measure our accomplishments is so hazy.  And also, it's difficult to come up with a concrete goal.  And not just the immediate goals, but the ultimate life goal.  Then, usually, the goal is something that doesn't actually exist in the present, but needs us to create it.  And it follows that we have to determine the value of that goal, and decide how much time we will devote to it; and rest assured that dividing resources between that goal and our day-to-day existence creates much conflict, both personally and professionally.  It's REALLY HARD.  And that's the objective perspective.  Throw ego and confidence into the equation, and then you've REALLY got a conundrum.

Anyway, I sat down the other day to discuss a "five year plan," and though there was nothing permanently decided, it was very clarifying for my own direction.  Some things came out of my mouth that were like little light bulbs flickering on.  (Cue triangle sound.)  I know the feeling of stagnance is always looming, and ready to cloud us in a grey fog, but for the moment, I have my little torch back.

Here we go, Post-grad improv 3:


I'm waiting, for some reason, for my improv to be legitimized by the outside world.  Well, maybe I'm holding my breath.  I shouldn't wait for anyone to say it's good or bad.  It's probably better, in fact, that I can't seem to find a way to categorize what I do.  No more holding... just doing.  Just.  Do.

I wish I had recorded my improv from today... then I'd have something to share.

Oh wait!  But I DO have something to post.  This one is from a few weeks ago.

Post-grad improv 2:


It's been at least two months since I've come here.  It's a familiar sensation.

That's what we feel when we return to some place we haven't been in a while.  A nostalgic remembrance that resembles deja vu... slightly eerie as if you've slipped softly backwards into a cloudy memory.  In those moments, your body isn't sure what the time frame is anymore; and your physical confusion only adds to your psyche's displacement.  It's all very strange.

Sometimes, the mix of body/mind/meta memory is not a good one.  Interesting how lasting some impressions can be, and how strongly they can influence us years and years and years later.  Some of the things I've learned, I wish I could unlearn.  That same sentiment, though, from a different perspective, makes me take my role as a teacher and as a human much more seriously.  (Silver lining.)

Anyway, this may all sound cryptic and strange, and guess what.  Chances are, if I'm writing cryptically and strangely, you can bet I'm not going to clarify at all.  Ah, homecomings.  We don't ever really change, do we?

So here I am after two months of not blogging, and not really doing much improvising.  To be honest, I haven't been doing much playing at all.  Yesterday, I sat down at my lonely piano, and gave it some love, the results of which, I will post here.

Here we go, Post-grad Improv 1:

Still learning.

You didn't all think I was going to be able to stay away for THAT long, did you?  Ha.  Well, there's no intention left for this little thing, but I did want to pop back and jot down a thought I had today.  I hadn't played at all the past couple of days, because my best friend from kindergarten came to visit over the weekend.  But she left this morning, and it gave me a moment to sit at the piano.  I didn't feel like anything written... so I slapped together a few notes for an improvisation.  It was perhaps the fourth or fifth improv I've ever done without recording.  And it's really crazy how different it is when the recorder is on or off.  I literally held back NOTHING, and the music came out so naturally and personally.  After a year of getting comfortable putting myself on the spot, I guess it STILL was not as comfortable as when I am in solitude.  There were no feelings of, "uhhh, what next?" or, "just make some noise! Fill that void!! FILL IT!"  And if I can say so myself, it was actually really good.

Still learning....

We end here.

How to begin?


A year ago minus a day, I never would have thought that I would now be wrapping up a project such as this.  It did not occur to me that improvisation is something that I would one day feel somewhat comfortable with.  In complete truth and honesty, the day I found the resolve to do something like this and took a decision to make it happen was the very day I started WhereWeGoWhen.  I started it on an impulse.  To want to know.

I remember googling the way to upload easily from my iPhone so that I would not feel hindered by my lack of computer savvy on a day to day basis.  And I opened my blogspot account with determined fervor and frenzy... I did not care what the title would be, nor the layout.  It was only important that the account was open, to force myself into the project without a moment to second-guess what I might be getting myself into.

It turned out that the project was a far larger commitment than I might have anticipated.  There were many days... MANY... when having to get my daily improvisation recorded interrupted other plans and/or obligations.  (For those of you who waited an extra twenty minutes for me to arrive at an agreed destination over the past year, I take this opportunity to blame The Project.)  I'm lucky that I was able to always find a piano at hand, each and every day.  Even when I wasn't in town.  I feel VERY lucky that I never had to resort to an electric instrument, nor had to pass off my improv to any other instrument... voice, violin, tin cups... none of which I am very skilled with.  And I'm really proud, very proud indeed, that I never missed a single day in the entire year.

One of my most valuable lessons from this project is that the idea of perfection in music is total hogwash.  It's something that we already know, but few of us dare to accept in practice.  This is particularly true for my classical musician friends.  And I know that, however hard I might try to fight it, I will never fully be able to give up the notion of perfect playing.  Not really.  But it is easier now to accept whatever ideas might come out of me in improvisation.  At the beginning, I used to record several improvs a day, and then pick the one I liked best to post.  This continued for a long time.  It was difficult to find satisfaction in just the first one, knowing that it was going to be public.  The improvs, in the first half of the year at least, felt terribly awkward.  And since I'm a "professional pianist," I felt expected to put out something that was, at the very least, tasteful, and hopefully something that would make sense.

I don't want to say that I was wrong to do that [record a ton, pick one], because ultimately, it was part of the journey that got me to a place where I could be more comfortable.  And to be fair, I was essentially practicing improvisation, and needed the practice.  I don't think many people would be willing to put their practice sessions online in any genre of music.  What we want to present is our final draft; not the rough, unedited one.  Certainly not the little exercises that mean diddly squat, and expose our many, many weaknesses.  Anyway, as the project wore on, it became easier and easier to risk the embarrassment.  Maybe because the improvs got better and better, but probably just that I desensitized myself to that fear.  I couldn't, after all, give that much time to recording and listening, day after day, for the whole year.  (At the beginning, it would take hours.  Literally.)  So I think the endurance factor forced me to let go of my pride and ego, both of which bind us all, anyway.

What I did not expect from the project was the extent to which my life changed because of it.  I thought this was just going to get me into improvisation.  But having to examine the improvs, the good and the bad, the confusing and the obvious, made me become a philosopher.  The connections between music and life are vast; time, nature, physics, emotions, mechanics, dreams... the whole gamut.  And I considered all of it over the year.  There's certainly a lot that I missed, but some things crept up that had never occurred to me before, and this project was the magnifying glass that made me take notice.  The people that I spoke to, the situations that arose, and the conversations that came up were so fascinating and explorative; and were often, either directly or indirectly, results of being in the midst of this process.  I'm so grateful to those of you who were part of this project, in big ways and small, whether you know it or not.  If we talked at all over the past year, or if I taught you, you taught me.  And I learned from you.

It was startling to listen to live music during the project.  I no longer listened to music as a product, but rather to the elements that contained the process.  Most classical music turned into improvisations before my very eyes, and I started to feel grateful that I already knew what was going to come next as I played written compositions.  I gained a closeness to classical composers, and began to recognize their idioms in a much clearer way... in almost a funny way, as I found many motives that would present themselves over and over, subconsciously and unintentionally in my own improvisation.

After this year, I realize that I have a very recognizable style and voice.  This was a concern for me all along.  I didn't know what my voice would sound like, if I would like it, or if it was something I would have to consciously develop.  I didn't know if it was important to try to break away from what felt comfortable and easy, or if I should just follow what was natural.  To be honest, I still don't really know how to approach that, because I feel it's important to push ones boundaries, yet remain true to oneself.  But what I have been able to conclude is that the voice comes out no matter what.  Day by day, it started to become more and more clear, and resistance was futile.  My stamp is on every improv I do, whether I want it there or not.  And the recurring motives, patterns and intervals that you might catch on any number of the improvs are not there by any choice of mine... they just live there.

Now that the year is up, I want to be able to answer all the questions that I had when I first began.  I know that would be impossible.  The questions never dry up.  They're not to be answered with any degree of certainty.  And in fact, the questions were actually never part of the initial goal... they were just side-effects.  But it's interesting to note that I had a lot of preconceived notions about improvisation when I started... for example, the idea that I didn't have any language to begin with.  At first, I was under the impression that improvised music must somehow be based on "jazz."  Well, I think it's pretty obvious to anyone who's heard any of my improvs that they are clearly not jazz.  It never really mattered that I didn't know chords or charts or any of that.  I had all the language I needed, as Jesse advised early on.  The hardest part was simply letting go of what I thought I should know or be.  Expectations, whether they were mine or what I thought were others', were the biggest hindrance to my progress.

Two words I mentioned in the first post that should be addressed: fear and vulnerability.  They'll never leave us.  It is only human to have these, and if you don't, you've got no self-worth.  I mean, it's only natural to want to preserve the self, and these two things, well... they're necessary for survival.  That being said, it's healthy to exercise them in the proper context.  And still, beyond the end of this project, I will continue to have a certain amount of irrational fear.  But, I can say that this project has forced me into scary places that I've walked away from relatively unscathed.  I'll never regret having done this, and as I stated a few days ago, this project has been the best education I've ever received.  So fear and vulnerability, we've got each other by the throats; strong wills and strong grips, but with a wink and a smirk from all sides.

Just as I didn't know how to begin, I don't know how to end.  I'm beginning to feel pretty emotional to set the pen down.  I'm relieved and apprehensive at the same time.  But let's just say it's only for now... a break to celebrate the year's achievement.  At the very least, I'll come back to begin the next project (whatever that may be).  Maybe we'll even get some new improvs on here at some point.  Until then, goodnight.  And with that, the journey ends.

Here we go, Day 365:

Flip the coin.

I have to admit that even though I'm almost at the end of this project, I've become worn out by it.  Instead of a feeling of adrenaline to the last push, I've felt a little bit resigned lately.  Maybe I'll get the kick in the next couple of days.  Maybe not.  But I'm surprised by it all.  Maybe it's just August, the heat and humidity, and I'm still just trying to get back into a New York groove.

The ebb and flow of life is remarkable to me.  That one day we can feel so thrilled, and shortly thereafter shrug our shoulders.  That anger or sadness dissipates over time, but sometimes, so does joy and excitement.  When we flip the coin, there's no telling how it will land.  But the two sides are always inevitably there, and the balance is always there.  And the unpredictability is predictable.  If there's one thing I would want to do with my life, it would be to flip the coin so that it lands on it's finger-worn, smooth edge; rolling off the table, onto the floor and out the door.  It's balanced like that, too, you see?

Here we go, Day 363:

An education.

As I near the end of this long journey, I reflect upon what just happened.

I can hardly fathom the amount of information I've processed.  Despite loads of school, I don't think I've ever felt I've learned so much in such a short amount of time.  This blog and project has been the catalyst for endless hours of philosophizing, both on and away from the piano.  I'm a different person.  And the world has opened up in a way that I never would have expected. 

I'm starting to touch on a lot of the things I'd rather save for the final post, so I won't go on much more.  But I want to share this: that this project is the best education I've ever received, and has tested my limits, fears, talents, curiosities, and discipline.  As the final day closes in, I tremble with excitement, relief, and trepidation.  I don't know what will come next, and the idea that I won't have a project to work on makes me worry.  I worry that if I don't have a goal, then I'll be wandering aimlessly.  I think it's a valid concern.  And if I continue?  The commitment for an entire second year is daunting... I'm not sure it would have the same impact anyway.  So the question looms... and I have just a few days left to come up with an answer.

Here we go, Day 361:

The blues.

As I recalled to a friend, this is the first time I've been alone in four weeks.  Maybe longer.  It is a strange feeling.

I mean, really alone.  This is the first time that I've had any glimpse of total privacy since about July 10 or so.  I need it, I love it, I can't stand it.  It's as if all of the stress and buildup of the last few weeks is still there, but now there's no objective for any of it.  So it's a wild chaos with no outlet, and a pleading calmness that betrays all urgency. 


Here we go, Day 360:


Back in the city.  Three weeks is so long and so short.  It feels almost like I never left, yet so much happened in that time.  We wondered what it was that turned those kids, of all ages and backgrounds, into such a close knit family.  And we realized it was because of the intensity of what they had been through.  Growing that much in musicianship, discipline, patience, camaraderie... in just 21 days.  The unexpected happens in the instant that we blink.

Here we go, Day 359:

Getting there.

After a few days of the internet not working, I was forced to leave my blog to its own devices.  I did not, however, abandon the project.  I still have an improv for each day.  I'll put them all here.

Now in Greenfield, MA, atop a very cozy bed, decompressing from the last four weeks or so of heavy duty, constant work, I'll see what is still in my head that I could pour out onto this cyber page.

On August 1, my improv must've contained at least a little element of franticness.  It was the day before my concert with Pitnarry, and I was a wreck.  The August 2 improv, however, took place at Chandler Center for the Arts, one of the most incredible halls I've ever played in.  The acoustics are magnificent, and I'll actually post both of the improvs I did that day... I just love to bathe in the sound of that place... it was a special improv moment for sure.

The last few days have been full of strife and emotion, last pushes to the finish line, disappointments and accomplishments, deep breaths, teary eyes, bleary eyes, 3am phone calls, and... the like.

I think the improvs say it all, really.

Here we go, Day 353 (August 1):
Here we go, Day 354 (August 2):
and Day 354, Part 2:
Here we go, Day 355 (August 3):
Here we go, Day 356 (August 4):
Here we go, Day 357:

I can't believe I have such few days left.