I don’t believe that my mistakes are really mistakes at all. I believe that God uses a mistake as the vehicle of teaching. Sometimes mistakes are handled incorrectly; like somewhere in the development of the human condition, we figure out that punishment was a means of reinforcement.  However when our tools of reinforcement became sharper and quicker, then digressed to a chemical cocktail, we accounted only for the justification of morality and not to the ending result of a mistaken repentance. As we drew up our amendments and resolutions, constitutions and arguments we narrowed our focus on granting civil rights that we wouldn’t need if we were good. But since we aren’t good, why do see ourselves fit to lead ourselves? Was Thomas Hobbes the winner or was John Locke? Or maybe Albert Einstein was correct in judging the climbing ability of a marlin. We keep a history of everyone so that they may be remembered,obituaries, social media sites, diaries. Glorify success. Avoid failure recollection. I believe in exploiting failure. I believe in telling the stories of how we didn’t smart well, and how we were the best stupid around. maybe if we are okay with the idea of failure damnation we can make light of the things done well.

At the end of my day I ask myself two things:

1. What was the best part?

2. What would you have done differently?

When I have made a decision I ask myself two things:

1. Was it worth it?

2. do you regret it?

If these two answers are the same, then I know it was a mistake. 

The Violet Process

            On a perfect day back in 2004, my emphatically cool God brother came over. Nothing particularly memorable happened, but the memory of that day remains prominently vivid. The air was calm and comfortable. The warm evening light stretched the shadows like dripping paint; slowly encompassing the world in imperturbable darkness. I asked him what his favorite color was- he told me violet. It was of course the duty of my 8-year-old self to inform him that violet was in fact a girls color. On my back deck his throne was a white lawn chair with a royal blue cushion. Staring through his spectacles into the amber sun, light exposed the left side of his face, in turn masking the right. Without taking his eyes off it the vision, he smiled and said “I think it’s beautiful.” This was my last conversation with Stephan.

            I wrote Violet to honor the memory of the person that inspired my music every day. My piece was performed by the Hockinson High School Wind Ensemble on Tuesday, March 25th, 2014. Our director of bands Corey McEnry graciously allotted me the first 10 minutes of class for the 2 weeks leading up to the concert. On a day that he was gone, I got the entire class period to run Violet and work transitions. This was such a blessing! The Wind Ensemble did a phenomenal job on it, and gladly played the oboe cues so I was able to wave a stick at them.

Writing a piece with 23 parts can be quite challenging. The piece took about a month and a half of intense composing from mid-November to the end of winter break; all too often into the wee hours of the morning. In case dear reader you are not a musical theorist or composer savvy, a month and a half is a ridiculously stout amount of time to write a piece of music. I knew what I wanted to say, but did not fully grasp how I wanted to do so. I’d toyed with a lot of musical ideas for previous 10 months. When I sat down to write what became Violet; I bled the notes onto the page. I felt as though my heart and soul was being transposed from flesh into ink in a notebook. Despite the fact the music flowed effortlessly from me, I had my fair share of writer’s block and I still made plenty of mistakes. I have never done this before, so fake-it-‘til-you-make-it was kind of my motto. After writing it all I used Musescore.com- composition software- to consolidate and print parts. It took me 3 times to get Dylan Rankin’s baritone part correct. We have 2 baritones, 1 reads in treble and the other in bass. They are also in 2 different keys, so I had to transpose it. Twice, I messed up the first time. Time was also a problem. The reason I waited until mid-November to commence writing was because I had swim practice after school every day leading up to it.

Violet opens with rubato section, the trombone melody symbolizes the consistence in life as supported by the baritone, euphonium and tuba like those close to us support us. At measure 6 the same trombone melody becomes a countermelody during a color shift transferring the melody to the French horn section. Burdens should be shared, not carried on our own. At bar 10, the flutes enter quietly to add a light graceful tone to the brass heavy section, providing optimism. Then at 13 the tempo quickens just slightly, as life often does, the trumpets and flutes harmoniously build that same melody while the rest of the band played contrasting countermelodies, allowing the listener to feel the emotions the chord structured evoke. 4 before 21 the song dampens- as if foreshadowing bad news- to make way for a dissonant oboe and bassoon soli, the music as a certain sorrow in it because of the minor key, underscored by the bass clarinet, bari sax and 1st flute, reminding the listener of the false-key change effect. This intensifies into the baroque section at 30 where in the entire band plays forte and in marcato rhythmic unison with the exception of tuba euphonium and baritone (they sustain a concert pitch for the purpose of listening down to balance the rest of the group). This paints a colorful chaotic panic hashed with triumphant valiancy. This dispels into a langsam chamber section- you may recognize the accompaniment as the cello part from Cannon in D. Imagine here a hospital room, with few people, just close family and friends, the occasional nurse or oncologist. This falls away into an exposed bassoon and bass clarinet solo, accompanied by only clarinet, the symbolism being a person and God and the spiritual realm. The ideas being you don’t take anything with you when you go, be it leukemia or past mistakes. The other instruments are added in gradually like angels at the entrance to heaven until the espressivo section at 51. The French horns and oboe hold the bold melody and the rest of the low brass accompany it with a choral.  The woodwinds play alternating 16th note runs, and the alto saxophones add additional walking lines to enrich the chords, the trumpets sore over everything when they enter in measure 55. This section signifies the cross over into heaven and being wonderstruck at all that is around you, then realizing that its home, you are joyous and free. At bar 59 the upper woodwinds play a syncopated funk rhythm, this is when the high begins to wind down and the reality of everything sets in. The remainder of the voices plays a variation of a melody from Switchfoot’s song “Enough to Let Me Go”, the lyric being “Every seed dies before it grows”. I chose to do this so the listener could imagine pondering the life that was left on earth, was it lived to its fullest and was a legacy left behind worth remembering. The last 4 bars or so of Violet revive the oboe solo from bar 21, meaning that the past is just a memory of a history, and history can only be remembered not changed. The first fermata is a bottomless 5th chord, the fabrication of a thought and then the root note is added into a major resolve, giving resonance and peace to end it full-circle. You may realize percussion is absent in the piece. Stephan was a drummer, and it seemed wrong to cover those parts. Instead I gave that up to the audience. The tapping of their toes became the snare, and the leaning forward then relaxing into their theater seats became the timpani rolls. I believe that Stephan’s spirit was there doing it all.

            The thing about music is it is poetry. It is a story. And like most stories, it is left with ambiguity and is up to the listener’s interpretation. The writer exposes itself creating a vulnerable state for the sake of doing something they love. After I did this with Violet, I picked up my oboe and we played Handel in the Strand by Percy Grainger, Shenandoah by Frank Ticheli and Puszta by Jan Van der Roost, the lights blacked out and I sat in my seat dead center, first row. I didn’t even have time to organize my music before Ian Garner, an alumni from when I was a freshman and arguably one of the most gifted musicians I know jumped on stage and exclaimed that what I did was f*cking bad-ass. He was followed by my best friend and his little brother who had a dozen white daisies for me from my parents. I told the band that night that my goal was to make my mother cry. She unfortunately fought hard and held composure. My dad however didn’t, who I had only seen cry once prior. Even now, months later I see parents of band students’ parents and they remember it. Stephan’s parents were in the crowd that night and once I got onto the floor, they gave me a hug, and thanked me. I thought this was an odd concept, because it was I that should thank them. They brought to life the one that gave life to my music.

            Choosing to write and direct Violet gave me a new-found appreciation for the people that write big band music, especially the pre-21st century composers. Most modern writers use technology with synthesized woodwinds, brass and strings but there is something special about writing it before hearing it. This is why I did what I did. I wanted to experience what the forefathers of the music went through to make their music heard. I want to change the culture of the music industry and fill the world with music that is raw and from the heart like it used to be. The guess-and-check system doesn’t produce as authentic of a product. That being said, I am thankful for the software that we have now because it allows the author of an archive to hear mistakes and get a better understanding of a song’s sound before playing it in a full band setting. Not to mention imagining dynamics isn’t as good as hearing them. With the click of a button you can hear you piece at a different tempo, with a different style, even in a different key. Plus, if a note is out of range for an instrument that isn’t as familiar, the software will alert the composer and offer suggestion. Is this cheating? Maybe. Are winners simply determined by whoever manages to cheat first and better? Maybe.

So how did my project change the world around me? It didn’t. And I’d be a fool to think that one project can. Death is inevitable, but memory is indelible. All too often people are forgotten when they leave. If each of us could remember 14 different people, everyone who had ever lived would be remembered. The quandary is everyone remembers John Wayne, but no one remembers John Doe. My project didn’t change the world, but it changed a few select elements of it. I inspired a couple people. I challenged a few musicians. I cut the quiet in the world for four minutes and 46 seconds. The trick isn’t to change the world. The truth is to bring something into it that wouldn’t be there without you. 

The Quicksand Marching Band

Whisky Well is an interesting opening song for an album. To start on a harmonica before adding any percussion or guitar caught my attention. The harmonies are very tight, and not overdone. The stinger 1:49 seconds into the song then going acapella was awesome! “Tunnel black…bright white light” then back to the Yellow theme from the first verse was lyrically stunning.

Fly Home, the first record displayed on the site, I’d assume is the band’s favorite. The punk voice provided a grit that wasn’t there previously. 1:16 in, some sweet soloing done by those sweet rhythmic strings, melodically unlike the verses. 2:10 in, there is a breakdown that gives Fly Home a lot of soul. The song as a whole grooves nicely.

Good Chains is rockin’ the upbeats! More close harmonies and soloing. I’m starting to get a feel for Quicksand Marching Band. “Oh let me free” more like oh let me preach! 1:33 showcases the upper register of the lead singer with some good southern inflexions. Thank God he didn’t start to Yodel. 2:16 in sounds almost off key until the dissonance resolves.

Mirrorwater River: gorgeous. The mandolin! It’s like chocolate to the ears. I want to be the woman in this song.  Those melodic chords in the chorus the lyric ending in “goodbye” especially reminds me of something that Fleetwood Mac would do. This one is my favorite. The diction in the lyrics isn’t complex, it stays very “Your voice is my favorite place to dine…starving inside” after the comparison to an uptight critic drove in the point of the writer brilliantly. Choir effect 3:24 was magnificent, I found myself anticipating it the second time, not because the music is predictable, but because QMB has a way of keeping the listener hopeful.  It was cruel to end that song after all of that. So I listened to it again. Echoing “Fallin’ behind” with a guitar riff was the best. “Next to you my days are empty, so I write in poetry, still I’m too shy to ever put them into song, you’re the singer after all… but your ear prefers the sound of goodbye.” These lyrics are money. Poetry is words in their most vulnerable form. And music is poetry with a rhythm and soul. I don’t know what it is about this song but I keep coming back to it again and again. I like the walking bass. I like the straight 8th notes leading into the final break down bridge.

And now for something completely different: Blues of Jefferson’s Barn. Nice lap guitar effects. The gritty quality of the vinyl-like recording panned with the egg shaker is very cool. The tambourine and hand percussion entrance at 2:21 sounded like rain and dynamic contrast shift 2:28 thunders and then evaporates into more reserved music. The lead vocals seem very seasoned and I’m curious as to what he has sung before. I’m guessing bluegrass roots, but in a pop-punk group or gospel choir before making QMB.

Shady Lady is so fun! This is straight up bar music right here. It provides a good segue into The Murfreesboro Saloon Is Now Closed. It’s a bit rock n’ roll, I dig it. Bluegrass done well, while sticking to its roots, no pun intended… these guys are out of control. They’d be a fun show to be at I think. His vocal jumps remind me of Justin Timberlake.

Driftwood Roots: nice elk calls. Again the lyrics reference yellow stones like in Whisky Well. 1:40 the gong was neat! The chill and somber vibes seem to be shared by the entire band.  I’m interested to see if the singers were set up facing each other when recording.

Outrun The Storm: damn these guys like yellow. I like the dueling in a song paralleling band vs. storm. I feel like these guys have great beards. If not, they should. Rain and thunder! Head for The Hills!

An epic from Outrun The Storm 1:30 in made me think of Lifehouse or Safetysuit. It’s a good color change. 3:04 I thought they were done and going into a fade until the banjo player woke up.

 Mandolin. Now guitar and vocals back in! So many feels from this one, I love it!

I Know ukuleles are fun and sound like sunshine, but this panic con vivo tempo… is that needed? Barbershop quartet going on to finish it out was cool. These guys like harmonies.

Manzanita; this one vibes like none other. It’s the apple of your eye. Get it, because Manzanita is Spanish for little apple? It’s also a beach town. Probably more likely, unless this band really enjoys fruit. I guess it could also be a woman. Musically: Again with the Mandolin runs and fringe at 1:51 gave this down-home group a really classy sound. Where did this deep bass guy come from? He should stay. I imagine Paul Bunion sing, and it’s VERY amusing. Story telling would be a good plan to fall back on if music doesn’t work out. “Manzanita, I’m comin’ to stay”

Ponytale: a little Death Cab flavor, yum! I like the ballad groove it brings the listener back to earth a little bit at a lime after the heaven that is Manzanita and Mirrorwater River. Another yellow lyric, my favorite color is green. I should write about that more. I like the laid back feel, but the interesting solos here and there that keep the listener engaged.

Brethren, Wrenches, & Beasts, I’m stoked to find out what this one is about. It makes me want to get up on my feet and dance, but I with those angel voices would sing to me. Shoot we’re half way through already? Those damn singers are always late. I don’t think they’re showing up. Lucky for them, I love instrumental tracks! Suck it!

Collateral To Keep: Allison Krause comes to mind. Those vocals are distant to start. Then grow and fade in a very rubto fashion. It’s a very pretty one; tragic. “Think of all the love that we take for granted” is a powerful lyric, and then to end it on a 7th chord was very carefully planned and thought out. Would they have come back to the root chord in the key, it would have ended the song there, but instead it left it open-ended in a way that provided just enough closure to to still be ambiguous.

The only negative thing I have to say is that there were some grammar issues with the song titles, however that isn’t the band’s fault at all! I like good bluegrass, and I really like these guys. 

How Close are We?

I’ve found myself binging on dystopian fiction. I’m fascinated by the ability of books written in the 1930s and 40s to accurately hypothesize what the millennial generation will be born into. It’s not dramatized with fictitious dictators, but very discretely… accurate. with a culture filled with conspiracy theorists, are they providing plausible dead ends, or actually seeing into something that is being hidden from subjects and parochial citizens alike. So many of these books I’ve been reading speak of hidden cameras all over the streets and spies that seem ridiculous. But then I finish my chapter and I drive to the store to pick up milk. Passing under each light there is a camera. I enter through the electric double-doors of Safeway, and there is a security camera. Cameras places all over the store for security purposes. Then I leave and a Progressive insured driver has a dash cam. My cell phone has cameras on the front as well as the back. Web cams are almost standard on computers, which every college kid has.

A popular conspiracy theory is the ideal that Free Masons and the Illuminati run the world. But the illuminati was only around for 3 weeks during the 18th century, did next to nothing for 3 weeks then was dissipated. Free Masonry is still around mostly so that men (with or without loads of money) can escape their nagging wives for a couple hours, get a beer, and help out children’s hospitals. Definitely not to run the world.

What if these books are what most influence the future? Apollo is the Death Star. Helicopters are Hover Crafts. Are Divergent and Hunger games fictional entertainment prophecies?

Questions People Should Stop Asking.

What college are you going to?

This question is all too often invalid. The economy is bad. A senior feels bad enough already if they can’t afford college, don’t drill that in any further!

Are you trying to grow your bangs out?

My hair is fabulous at all lengths, I call this the shaggy beach look and I look great. Fact, I could be a Hollister model.

When are you due?

I am not pregnant nor a library book so you can back off, thanks.

You have a bad back? Have you considered surgery?

Nope. Not even once. Pft, really? I think I’m going to stick to popping Advil. Why would I want to be bed ridden for several months so I can heal and risk being paralyzed? Dooooood.

When are you going to get a boyfriend?

When I’m done being an independent woman and doing just fine on my own.

Have you been eating enough?

I was born without a stomach. I have to get my meals via IV. I’m sad and self conscious. And no. I haven’t been eating enough.

Can’t you get Lasik?

Well American, I know Retinal and Degeneration are big words, but degeneration won’t be reversed by cutting pieces of my eye off.

What is your view on gay marriage?

I don’t want to fight you today.

Do you have a minute to talk about Jesus?

Hold on, let me get up on my soap box.

OMG is that your boyfriend?!

Hi girl in the freezer isle I think I talked to once, this is my brother. Hence why we have the same face.

What are your plans for the future?

Too vague try again!

There are no stupid questions, just stupid answers. But that doesn’t disregard the way that people go about conducting their conversations. Read George Orwell’s 1984 and you will gain a new appreciation for questions. Know that questions are in fact gifts, and are not viewed as protest against a hierarchy. Read A Brave New World and realize that eacher person is an individual, not 1 in a batch of 76, but a creature born for a reason.

1 in 3

1 in 3

One week ago today, I became a statistic. I became the 1 in 3 people with scoliosis. Although minor and treatable it perked my interest in the human body. I found out because I was in a yoga class, and despite my loose clothing, the instructor noticed a misalignment in my shoulder-blades. She checked my spine after, and found a Z curve in my upper back. fortunately I should be able to correct it over the next several months.

Troutdale

The man that discovered this town was a fisherman named Dale, and he never bathed, so he possessed the stench of trout.

Just kidding.

Ponds built for hatcheries back in the day are called dales. Given that this town was built in a crevice bog, it was perfect for trout. only 1 of these dales still exist, right in the back yard of a 2 story Arts and Crafts style building. Its being turned into a 4-plex apartment building, but the owner couldn’t tear it down. House was built in 1911, and is shockingly sound. The structure was founded on thick wood panels that were in no way rotted after 103 years. The blue tattered building housed forest rangers, then was later converted to apartments for soldiers during World War II.

The dales are not home to a new ecosystem. Mallard ducks, frogs, crickets, dragonflies, larvae,  and an otter named Mona Lisa. As you may have guessed the new owner of the building is an artist. You can find much of his bronze creations throughout the building. Pretty much anything that is used for decoration was made by him, which is pretty neat.

Should you want to stay here, you will be in close vicinity to hiking trails, the best chicken and dumplings you will ever have, Troutdale Creek, Wood Village, numerous art galleries, restaurants and friendly people.

I’m Letting My Wife Go

Thoughts AP?

Seth Adam Smith

I’m sure it may come as a shock to some people, but I let my wife go. It was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do, but it was the right thing for the both of us.

Kim and Seth WeddingNo, we’re not getting a divorce and no, we’re not separating. Truth be told, the practice of “letting go” has actually brought us closer together. But in order to understand what I mean by “letting go,” you must first understand that Kim and I are two very different people.

In fact, the differences between us were Kim’s primary concern with us getting married. “Seth, a fish may love a bird,” she said. “But where would they live?”

I smiled at the comparison because it’s fairly accurate.

Kim and I are incredibly different people. She’s the oldest in her family; I’m the youngest in mine. She’s very responsible; I’m…very much not. She…

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Ethical Morals

I’ve been thinking about ethics and morality in the Christian church. I’m curious as to why Christians are so quick to use examples of sin like Murder and Stealing as obviously wrong, but shy away from topics like Adultery, Gluttony or Pride. I believe that all sins are equal, because it’s stated very plainly. All sins are different, but weighed the same.    Adultery is unique, because it isn’t just a sin against God, but against someone’s own body (1 Corinthians 6:18). What is Paul speaking of when he brings personal transgressions to the foreground? All other sins can be “justified” with out any permanent repercussions. If you lie, you can confess that what you said was not truth and hold no account that you ever stumbled. But committing a sin against yourself leaves permanent stains. In no way am I trying to say that this is an unforgivable sin, because it is. Murderers and Pride riddled men are all already forgiven; their debt was paid in blood when Christ was crucified. That isn’t the point. But like all testimonies are different in themselves and vary, so do struggles. I’d like to see more talk within church walls about pride. Gluttony. Adultery. Sin shouldn’t be a taboo but instead be a commonly addressed topic, in all forms.