I tried to get out of writing this story. I've been completing a composer's internship at a music house where I make music to go with commercials, generally composing and producing 2 to 3 spots a week. It's insanely engaging, not to mention time consuming, so the majority of my energy has been going there and not to pitching stories to my editors.
A month ago my editor at Metromode asked me to check out a local youth robotics competition called Robofest and feature a group from Royal Oak high school who placed high with their landmine-detecting robot, called Seeker. It sounded simple and cute and like something I could cram in easily between my composing work. But after some back and forth, my editor asked me to broaden the story to encompass robotics in the Southeast Michigan region in general. That's something completely outside of my area of knowledge and sounded like too big of an undertaking. After some of my interviews flaked on me, and my internship went into overdrive, I tried to get out of the assignment. My editor essentially said, No.
So I dug some more, beginning with a round of interviews at a local Technological College that was sponsoring the competition, including its founder, who teaches artificial intelligence and computer science. By the end of that afternoon I was so unnerved by what I had just heard, by the borderless overlap between military armament funding and higher education, that I couldn't even imagine working on music until I had gotten this story out of my system. Instead, I drove straight to work and spit out a Nuetrogena commercial track aimed at 13-year-old girls. When I got out of work, around 11:00 p.m. that evening, I managed to get in an interview with a rep from the U.S. Army - he was leaving town the next day and graciously allowed me to call him at that late hour.
Four days later, as the birds were waking up just before sunrise, I hit send on this story. I turned in a piece at four times the assigned word count, which would make even the most patient editors consider never working with a writer again. Instead, my editor went for it, taking on the extra burden of last-minute editing work to accomodate our deadline.
I got nothing but cooperation, respect and frank conversation from everybody I spoke to, including the military itself. Still, I can't believe some of the things that people said to me. Can't believe the things that are happening in my state. Can't believe so few people are questioning this.
If you have time, check out the story. I think it's a story worth reading.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Monday, June 15, 2009
Noah Harris is a songwriter from Champaign, IL that I met probably seven years ago. My band was on an epically bad tour (which we named The Trail of Tears Tour after the fact because it had been so poorly booked). We shared a bill with Noah at a coffee shop in Wisconsin and I watched the room go still as he chased the demons out with his voice, acoustic guitar and strong fingers. Days later he put us up when we came through Champaign. He made us breakfast and it made us happier to be around him. He can do that.
We kept in touch and then years later he asked me to produce a record for his group Elanors, a collaboration with his wife Adriel. I’m not sure how it happened, because it happened gradually and slyly, but I ended up getting so obsessed with Noah’s music that I forgot it wasn’t mine. And there was a while when I cared more about Noah’s music than my own. That was a happy time. That collaboration went deep, maybe too deep. We made a band to tour the record (Movements), and even did a pretty swanky small East Coast tour, but nothing much came of the record or the band and eventually Noah went off in another direction.
Honestly, I was sore about the way things turned out, but I kept tabs on his music from a distance. After all, the friendship started in worship. At first it was difficult to separate the hard feelings from my feelings about the new songs. But time and music won out.
He’s billing himself as Noah Harris and the Nagant Quartet at the moment and I’m pretty sure he’s finishing a record with solo voice, piano and string quartet. He released a promo single earlier this year, called “Your Side,” and it’s crushingly good. If you live in the Chicago area, catch one of his three nights at the Chopin theater coming up. Everybody knows about the physicality of seeing live music. Not everybody knows about the healing benefits of being in the room with orchestral instruments and the unnamable calm that comes from bathing in those vibrations.
More Noah and ticket info: here.
Noah Harris - "Your Side"
I recorded this in my living room one night in the middle of the Movements sessions, after dinner. It was a brand new song then that Noah was just working out. You can hear the crickets getting in on it.
Noah Harris - "The Song About the Sea"
Posted by Daniel at 8:23 PM
Sunday, June 14, 2009
This chunklet of a baby boy in front of me is Kirsten's nephew Anthony. Big T. It was his first birthday today. I'm kind of bothered by the fact that my baby voodoo doesn't seem to work on him. We've had odd moments here and there where it felt like we were bros, but for the most part he's not feeling what I'm putting out there. This is me trying all of my tricks to get him to laugh, specifically the let-your-face-go-slack-and-swing-it-from-side-to-side-so-the-skin-flaps-and-everybody-laughs.
It didn't get so much as a chuckle.
Stay tuned, because I'm going to have this kid eating out of my hand by age two.
Posted by Daniel at 11:48 PM
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