Dissertation Defense Looming

In under twenty-four hours, on 15 May 2009 at 8:30 AM, I have my final defense of my doctoral dissertation. In other words, I must sit in a small room with five professors whilst they attack me from all fronts. Yikes!

No, I doubt it will be that bad, but I admit that I’m nervous about the prospect. In a way, I’m also committed to my Fate, no matter the outcome. In one way or another, I’ll be finished come Friday morning.
No doubt I’ll post back here soon with the outcome, for better or worse. :-)

UT Tyler

uttylerI have another announcement, but this time, it’s not about a book deal:

In August 2009 I will join the faculty at The University of Texas, Tyler. My duties will include teaching Music Theory, Aural Skills, Composition lessons, and a rotation of upper-level courses including Counterpoint and Arranging.

Believe me, I’m excited to take this job. I visited the campus a couple weeks ago, and it’s lovely. The school itself is small, but growing (about 6,200 students).

On a personal note, I confess that I’m slightly saddened to leave Lawrence, KS. This is my favorite place that I have lived (so far), and I’ve had many great years here that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Still, it’s time to move on, and I look forward to a great life in Tyler, TX!

First Book Deal

wordpress-shiny-logoI’m pleased to announce that I just landed my first book deal. Believe me, it sounds strange to say that.

I wish I could say that I’ve been planning this book for years and that I submitted the idea to an eager publisher, who snapped it right up. Actually, the complete opposite is true.

Here’s the story: I’ve been writing on technology for a few years now, mostly via TipsFor.us, where I serve as Senior Editor. It’s a hobby more than anything else, and I enjoy writing on technology in my spare time, when I’m not writing music, prepping a lecture, grading papers, or furiously running in circles about some random matter.

About a week ago, I checked my e-mail one morning and found an e-mail from a publisher based in England. I read the e-mail in disbelief – it was an invitation to author a book on the WordPress software (free software used to power thousands – or maybe millions – of websites). An acquisition editor found some of my technology writings, liked what she saw, and contacted me. That was it. No begging or pleading on my part – just an offer to author a book. Was I interested? Yes!

I don’t want to reveal too much about the book yet, but it deals with WordPress’ integration with a certain popular plugin. The author of the plugin has already agreed to review the book when it is released. I’ve completed the book outline already, and I estimate that it will be roughly 250 pages. My contract from the publisher just arrived this morning, so it’s an official deal now. It will be a gradual process, but I’ll get rolling on it in the next few weeks. I expect to have a complete draft of the book around August 2009.

The significance of this book deal is beginning to dawn on me… slowly. I mean, this is a book that will likely show up in your local Borders, Books-A-Million, and other popular bookstores, and it will be written by a composer who only writes on technology as a hobby! To think that an offer like this just found its way to me through no active seeking of my own is both exciting and humbling.

If I’m lucky, the book will sell millions of copies, and I can forget about the imploding economy and retire to a Polynesian island. Ha, right. On second thought, maybe I won’t give up my day job. :-)

Agamemnon Performance – Saturday, August 23rd

This is just a quick post to say that the “North American” premiere of Agamemnon is this coming Saturday. Here are the details:

  • Date: 23 August 2008
  • Time: 7:30 PM
  • Place: Swarthout Auditorium, Murphy Hall, University of Kansas
  • Admission: FREE!

While this is the same show that we produced in Greece, transplanting it from an outdoor ancient theatre into a modern indoor space practically turns it into a different production. Still, it should be a good time, so if you’re in the area, so please stop by!

Just for the record, here is the “Composer’s Note” that I wrote for the program:

Creating music for this production was a unique experience. Due to the open nature of a study abroad program, I had little idea what to expect in terms of both performers and available instrumentation. The resulting “potluck” ensemble works surprisingly well, and the combination of a woodwind instrument, a string instrument, and a drum evokes a timeless sound that fits right in with an ancient drama.

Living and working with the cast this summer allowed me to familiarize myself with each of their voices and thus craft the music to fit the ensemble – rather than attempting to make the ensemble fit the music. It was an exercise in compositional versatility and flexibility.

It was also an exercise in haste. Due to the aforementioned uncertainties, I did not write any of the music until we left for Greece, and completed it within a few short weeks after arriving. I wrote whenever and wherever I could – on the plane, at cafes, and even at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens. Such speed was necessitated and inspired by the group. For a composer, little is more satisfying than rehearsing a new piece mere hours after completion.

Working in close collaboration with Dennis and the cast, we were able to create a highly-unique production. From beginning to end, every note, lyric, and phrase has been designed for the members of this company. Enjoy the show.

Greece 2008 – Corinth, Mycenae, and Nafplio

I’m pleased to say that we all made it successfully and safely back to the United States. We’ve actually been back for a couple weeks now, so this post is long overdue. Apologies!

As promised, here is an update about our weekend trip to Corinth, Mycenae, and Nafplio.

Corinth

We left Katohi around 7 AM on a Friday morning. Most people slept on the bus (myself included). On the way to Nafplio, we stopped by ancient Corinth for a couple hours and tromped around the ruins. Honestly, ancient Corinth isn’t very impressive to me. Sure, it’s a major attraction for many people because of its connection to the Apostle Paul, but as far as ruins go, there are much better places to visit in Greece.

Far more impressive to me are the ruins just outside the main “touristy” area of Corinth. Across the street from the entrance to ancient Corinth and just down a rocky hill are a number of unlabeled, unguarded ruins, including the ancient theatre! We spent less than an hour exploring the “paid” part of Corinth, and well over an hour scampering around the “unpaid” part. Please be sure to see the picture below of Adam and myself standing just above the ancient theatre.

There’s also an ancient fortress at the top of a mountain nearby (called “Acro-Corinth”), but we didn’t have time as a group to hike to the top. Since several members of our company wanted to brave the mountain, we organized a side trip the following week back to Corinth. Hiking to the top was a blast, especially since I’d been dying to do it since my last trip to Corinth in 2006.

Here’s a slideshow of pictures from Corinth. Click the “play” button to begin the show, and if you wish to download individual pictures, just click anything within the slideshow itself to see all the individual photos.

Nafplio

After our Corinthian excursion, we resumed the drive to Nafplio. After we checked into the Hotel Amalia (5-stars!), we relaxed, napped, and took luxurious showers (yay!) before heading into Nafplio for dinner. Dinner was amazingly expensive. Kat and I only ordered appetizers and a beer, yet the bill turned out close to 20 Euros (around $35). Ouch!

Of course, we could not resist the urge to gorge ourselves on Italian gelatto afterward, so like a herd of salivating zombies we marched in a group from dinner to the world-famous Italian gelateria. Yum! I think almost everyone in the company visited the gelateria at least once a day while in Nafplio.

SATURDAY: After a filling breakfast buffet at the hotel, we visited the old fortress in Nafplio. It’s difficult to describe how much I like running around this fortress. At every turn there are nooks, crannies, ledges, tunnels, towers, and other potentially-dangerous places to explore. It’s wonderful! The view from the fortress also provides some of the most breath-taking scenery I’ve ever seen.

Since the fortress is on top of a small mountain, we had two options for descending: take the bus down, or walk down 999 steps. Naturally, most of us opted for the steps despite advice against it from some local Greeks. They told us it would take at least half an hour to descend the steps. Bah! It only took us 15, and that included stopping to take pictures on the way down.

Here’s a slideshow of assorted pictures from Nafplio.

Mycenae

SUNDAY: After breakfast, we drove out to the ruins of Mycenae. This was the famed city in which Agamemnon, Clytemnestra, Aegithus, Electra, and Orestes lived. The ruins of the city are impressive enough, but the massive tombs are unbelievable! Supposedly, the gigantic tombs are for Agamemnon, Clytemnestra, and Aegithus, but no one really knows for sure. We spent close to two hours exploring the ruins, including singing inside the hollow, conical “Treasury of Atreus” (tomb of Agamemnon). Very nice! Very resonant!

Most people went to the beach on Sunday afternoon, but Kat and I opted to stay at the hotel. I’m glad we did because I somehow managed to take a 4-hour nap! For some reason, I didn’t sleep much the first night we were here, so I was grateful for the chance to catch up on some lost sleep.

Sunday dinner was on our own in Nafplio again. After that first expensive meal, we wanted to avoid fancy restaurants, so we found a place that sold gyros and ate our fill, (followed of course) by one last batch of gelatto.

And finally, here is a collection of photos from Mycenae. Enjoy!

Greece 2008 – Agamemnon Performance in Oiniades

It is now early August, and our time in Greece is rapidly coming to a close. I’m pleased to report that our performance of “Agamemnon” at the Oiniades Theatre Festival was a success.

It was a unique cultural experience for me to sit in the midst of the Greek audience during the performance. To get an idea of what I mean, first take everything that you know about audience etiquette at theatrical or musical performances in the United States and throw it out the window. At the beginning of the performance, the audience quieted while the musicians tuned, but shortly thereafter, the commotion began. People talked and gossiped, kids ran around, camera bulbs flashed, cigarettes went ablaze, and cell phones rang constantly. Like in America, people fumbled for their mobile phones when they rang, but for a completely different purpose. Instead of silencing the phones, people ANSWERED them and carried on conversations right in the theatre! There was often more activity happening in the audience than on-stage!

As I said, it’s a unique cultural experience. Aside from the mobile phone aspect, this must be how audiences in 17th and 18th century Italian opera houses behaved! Despite the general commotion, once something of importance starts happening on-stage, the audience snaps to attention. For instance, when the handmaids brought out the purple cloth for Agamemnon entrance to the palace, you could have heard a pin drop. In short, I learned that you must EARN the audience’s attention here – it is not granted by default.

We were afraid that attendance to our performance would be lax due to the language barrier (our show is in both English and Greek), but we were wrong. I have no official head count, but the mayor of the city estimated that roughly 500 people attended. Not bad at all.

I took no pictures during the actual performance, but here is a huge gallery of pictures from tech week, including the final dress rehearsal.

After-Party

After the show, we tore down the set and raced back to Katohi to change clothes for our dinner with the mayor. Dinner started around midnight, and we ate outdoors in the town square. I thought it a feast fit for a king – they brought out platter after platter of delicacies, and we ate “community” style by passing plates to one another. All in all, we feasted until 3 AM. Wow. It was a memorable experience.

My next post will cover our adventures in Corinth, Mycenae, and Nafplio. Stay tuned!

Greece 2008 – Delphi and Yannina

Time flies. This past week was our “tech week”, meaning that every evening we rehearsed “Agamemnon” at the Oiniades theatre with full set and costumes. Our final dress rehearsal is this evening (Saturday), and Sunday evening is our performance.

The mayor of the village of Katohi wants to take us out for dinner after our performance. Keep in mind that our show will not start until 9:30 PM, so we’re likely looking at dinner around midnight. While that may sound bizarre to my American readers back home, it’s perfectly normal in Greece.

Two years ago, the mayor took us all out to eat after our performance of “The Bacchae”, and he liked the first piece I wrote for the show so much that he demanded an encore performance around the dinner table! :-) It’s a different mayor this time, so we’ll see if anything like that happens again.

Delphi

As I promised in my last post, here’s an update (plus pictures) concerning some of our recent adventures here. Back in June, our first weekend excursion was to the ancient sacred site of Delphi. We left early on a Saturday morning and had a three-hour bus trip, the last hour of which was uphill, through twisting, treacherous terrain. We all held our breath when our bus driver attempted a 180-degree turn on a tiny mountain road with no guardrail to stop us from careening off the cliff, but the driver did a masterful job.

This was my second trip to Delphi, and I found the ruins just as impressive as I did the first time. Most things were just as I remember them, such as the lovely temple to Athena and the vast temple of Apollo (the oracle itself). Please see the collection of pictures below.

There’s a lot to see at Delphi in addition to the temples, such as the ancient theatre and the Stadium at the top. It’s customary to engage in a foot-race in the Stadium, but unlike my last visit, no one was allowed into the Stadium this time. That minor inconvenience did not stop two members in our company, who proceeded to jump the rope and race through the Stadium, much to the dismay of the guard!

Once we descended from the mountain, we cooled off in the museum. Unbelievably, I was able to take some pictures of the famous “Delphi Charioteer” statue without anyone around it!

Yannina

The following weekend (in early July), we took another day trip, this time to the city of Yannina. This was my first visit there, so I had no idea what to expect. Yannina is a fairly-large city in north-western Greece. Since it has a major university, I kept humorously trying to envision it as Lawrence, KS, but with mountains and ocean. :-)

Our first stop was the famous wax museum, which contains dozens of life-size sculptures all impressively created by a single man. No pictures were allowed inside the museum, so I regret that I have none to show you now.

After lunch, we took a short ferry ride to a small tourist-trap of an island, filled with dozens of little trinket shops, all containing practically the same trinkets. The main attraction on the island was the Ali Pasha museum, which was essentially the place where he lived and was murdered. Apparently he was shot several times and had his head delivered to the Sultan on a silver platter (remember that Greece was swallowed up by the Ottoman empire for about 400 years). Please see the pictures below, including the pictures of a painting representing the death of Ali Pasha.

Once again, thanks for reading! Stay tuned for updates and pictures about Corinth, Mycenae, and Nafplio.

Composer of music