This past Thursday, May 26th, I gave my first recital since my senior recital at UCLA – 6 years ago. This was a very significant moment for me. It’s been a struggle for quite literally the last 6 years to find a satisfying balance between performance and scholarship. And, as I’ve been rather unhappy with scholarship of late, this recital provided the perfect way to both find my way back to playing and feel content as a musician.

The recital program consisted of 5 all-new pieces for tuba:

SVPER-ANGRY DEATH-BLAST ASSAVLT COVNTDOWN III
by Francis Roberts

Wouldn’t Need You
by Nicholas Deyoe
for tuba and loop pedal

The Sedge Warbler, or The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha
by Carolyn Chen
for tuba, tape, and projection

Jejunum Pummeller
by Clinton McCallum
for tuba, electronics, and drum machine

Crapiccio
by Brian Griffeath-Loeb

All 5 pieces were incredibly fun and rewarding to learn and perform. Crapiccio was particularly special for me. It is a re-composition of Capriccio by Penderecki, which was a big part of my senior recital.

You can play through the entire program below.

[audio:http://www.jonathanpiper.com/audio/recital2011/01%20-%20Roberts%20-%20SVPER-ANGRY%20DEATH-BLAST%20ASSAVLT%20COVNTDOWN%20III.mp3,http://www.jonathanpiper.com/audio/recital2011/02%20-%20Deyoe%20-%20Wouldn%27t%20Need%20You.mp3,http://www.jonathanpiper.com/audio/recital2011/03%20-%20Chen%20-%20The%20Sedge%20Warbler%2C%20or%20The%20Ingenious%20Gentleman%20Don%20Quixote%20of%20La%20Mancha.mp3,http://www.jonathanpiper.com/audio/recital2011/04%20-%20McCallum%20-%20Jejunum%20Pummeller.mp3,http://www.jonathanpiper.com/audio/recital2011/05%20-%20Griffeath-Loeb%20-%20Crapiccio.mp3]

So Day 9 of my 12 day qualifying exam period just ended.  I’m doing pretty well, to the point where I feel comfortable saying I’ve just about finished.  Maybe a few revisions tomorrow, maybe not.

All three of my exam questions concern digital media in some way: a lit review/methodology of online ethnography, an ontology/phenomenology of digital music, and the changes to the musical commodity in digital media.  For the last 3 years or so, this is what I’ve done.  Digital media, digital music, online culture, online music, blah blah blah.  And then I realized, about 6 months ago, that I’m completely sick of it.  Beyond the practical difficulty of studying a moving target, I found that, quite simply, I have just stopped caring.  I’ve stopped caring about the cultures popping up around digital media, I’ve stopped caring about the technologies of digital media, and most distressingly I’ve stopped caring about the music I encounter via digital media.  Even music I used to love.  Even music that I currently love when I see it performed live.

I can’t exhaustively explain why this is.  I’m just really not totally sure.  I’ve dealt with a lot of the relevant issues in my papers on ontology/phenomenology and object/commodity status.  But nowhere in those papers do I attack digital media the way I find myself doing in conversations with my peers and day-to-day engagements with music.

As an experiment, a desparate attempt to reinvigorate my passion for music, I’ve been exploring the question of format in these past few days (I suppose there’s nothing like dealing with a topic you hate – and only that topic – for an extended period to get you thinking of evasive maneuvers), and the one that’s resonating with me right now is the 7″.  I don’t doubt that in a few weeks, when I’ve amassed a sizeable collection of these little bastards, I’ll suddenly say to myself “WTF?  Why did I think it was a good idea to invest in a format that requires constant interaction and, quite honestly, discourages extended listening sessions?”  I mean, really.  These things hold, what, 10-15 minutes of music at most?  And still, I can’t help but feel incredibly excited about this ridiculous inconvenience.

Maybe it’s because I have to physically intervene on a constant basis to keep the music playing.  Maybe it’s because the time constraints don’t let me sit back and space out.  Maybe it’s because I’m a consumer whore who uses objects to make my pathetic life more meaningful.  Probably a bit of them all.  But regardless of the reason, and regardless of how long this infatuation lasts, I’m really excited about listening to music in a way that I haven’t experienced in far too long.

Just about half a year since the last post, and very similar content to report. Rather odd, that.

This past weekend was the 54th annual Society for Ethnomusicology Conference, at which I presented a slightly updated version of my IASPM-US paper, albeit with a different title (“Creative Listening: Playlists, Mixtapes, and the Virtual Ethnography of Virtual Music”). I got some really good questions, including a prompt to consider the ways I’m using the term “consumption” (spoiler alert: I used it really sloppily). That might actually end up being a major part of my qual essay on the same topic – what exactly it means to consume something without the explicit exchange of goods. Then of course there’s the issue of radio, which I’ll need to deal with in some way. We’ll see.

Amazing food was had in Mexico City, including tacos piled sky high with delectable meat (the highlight being carne asada+bacon+onions+charred queso fresco), verdolagas (my new favorite vegetable), and escamoles (which, while very tasty and fun to eat, were a bit too pricey). Other highlights include lamb with beer/tequila salsa and getting drunk from two bottles of Negra Modelo because of the altitude.

VerdolagasHere’s my attempt at pork & verdolagas in salsa verde. Turned out pretty well!

Aquapuke recently performed a new piece, “Aquapuke and the Reefed Victory,” at the first UCSD Grad Forum of this academic year. It was a piece less obviously related to contemporary issues of body/presence/sexuality than, say, “Industrial Transsexual” was. Rather, it drew from the mythology of sirens as seductive/destructive binary, effectively making Clint into the siren to my ocean/sailors. The sailors, conquering the ocean, are lured to and eventually destroyed by the siren, bringing about the realization that their conquest was false, unattainable from the start. Plus it was loud and noisy and I was in fishnets and booty shorts. High art indeed.

The xoconostle beer that Clint and I made is almost ready. The unconditioned beer that we tasted (right out of the carboy, prior to bottling) was incredibly tasty. Very light body, with a great balance between sugary sweetness and fruity tartness. Plus some really great yeasty flavors from the mix of Trappist and Belgian Ale yeasts we used.

And now it’s all preparation for qualifying in the early half of next quarter. Woohoo. Then I can put some of this work aside and move on to the stuff I’ve been loving lately. More to come.

Happy Thanksgiving!

che flyer

Yup, Aquapuke is officially a band.  Not only did we play the Che Cafe, we finally got a flyer that’s not done up in Microsoft Word.  The show was crazy in a good way, probably our most energetic yet (and boy, did it hurt).  Turns out substituting grape juice for wine didn’t make a huge difference.  Thanks to everyone who came!

Oh, the IASPM paper is over and done with.  It ended up going really well.  A number of people showed up just for my paper, which I wasn’t expecting at all.  We had a great panel with some very interesting discussions, as well.  All around a great experience.  I definitely feel a lot better about myself after yesterday.  Thanks to everyone for all your support!  You’re the best!

Because I’m so absolutely sure that there’s someone out there who is curious about Aquapuke but unable to attend a performance, I’ve decided to upload a recording that Clint and I made of the final rehearsal of Aquapuke and the Industrial Transsexual, our most recent piece.  It should be clear, of course, that this recording represents only half (or maybe less) of the performance.  Not only is it missing the unprocessed sound of the tuba and voice and the acoustic effects of a performance space (this is only what we patched into ProTools from the effects rigs), it’s missing the most important component of all – our bodies.  We imagine Aquapuke as not only a sonic endeavor, but also as an expression of the musical possibilities of self-inflicted bodily violence.  What you don’t get in this recording, for instance, is the sweat pouring into our eyes, the pain building in our backs as we approach hyperventilation, the extreme torment in Clint’s throat as he tries to get out one more primal scream, the intense suffering in my lips and diaphragm as I reach for the highest note possible after playing for 29 minutes, and finally the offering of our bodies as surrogates for Kim’s once we have died our musical deaths.  In short, this is nothing like the real thing.  Hopefully it’s enough of a tease to make those of you who haven’t made it to one of our shows yet to get off your butts and come THIS SATURDAY, MAY 30TH, TO THE CHE CAFE AT 8PM.  $6 COVER, ALL AGES.

[audio:industrial-transsexual.mp3]

Apparently the WordPress audio player plugin hates our music and makes it sound awful (or more awful, depending on your opinion).  So here’s a link for a direct download if you’re that interested: Download

UPDATE: Youtube videos of the show!  Thanks, CacaPeneVagine!

Aquapuke Part 1 of 2

Aquapuke Part 2 of 2

Aquapuke and the Industrial Transsexual

Last night was the (first) performance of Aquapuke and the Industrial Transsexual, a piece based on the story of German pop singer Kim Petras.  Clint and I aimed primarily to create a ritualistic feel for the piece, focusing especially on coming of age, the movement between genders, and of the consumption of the body via the media.  Basically, while I was shredding away on a solo, Clint served communion.  Body and blood, indeed.  It seems to have been a pretty big hit, and hopefully a worthy piece to end the 2009 UCSD Spring Festival.

I’ve been feeling myself edge closer and closer to either a heart attack or a stroke in preparation for the IASPM conference next weekend.  My heart has literally been beating above its normal resting rate for most of the last two weeks.  On a few occassions my vision has gone blurry.  I’ve often had to stand up, and oppositely sit down, for fear of passing out.  Is this normal in the run up to a conference?  Nancy tells me that conference papers “are fun,” but of course only after you’ve done it God-knows-how-many times.  I’ll definitely be ready to reprise Industrial Transsexual later that night, at which point I’ll get wicked drunk and pass out 4 rlz.  It’s been a long time coming.

I got a phone call yesterday, a couple of hours before the Aquapuke show, about a gig in La Jolla today.  The very nice gentleman told me it would be for a company that trains life coaches.  Interesting.  One of their corporate rules, in jest of course, is “no tuba playing.”  Another, as it turns out, is “no nudity.”  Interesting.  So initially the request was for a semi-nude tubist, but I put my foot down ever so gently and we went with fully-clothed tubist.  Basically the gig was: show up, play for a few minutes, and then go.  All in all it was a lot of fun.  Everyone was incredibly nice and seemed to like the performance.  And because they were life coaches (I assume), they had very, very, very, very, very positive things to say.  Quite an uplifting, albeit weird, experience.