Trailer for the final show of “City of New York, 2013”

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Meet the Players: Eric Lemmon, violist

Eric Lemmon is great violist who has been playing a lot with Aerial Photograph this year.  I really enjoyed his answers to the questions I posed to him. Learn more about his music and musical life at ericlemmon.net  – Thanks Eric!!!

eric lemmon

When did you start playing music/viola? What got you to start playing? 

I started playing piano when I was seven and picked up the viola when I was 12.  It’s a little fuzzy as to what really precipitated my starting piano, but I think my parents made my brother and I both take piano.  I studied with this amazing old pianist named Mrs. Barnhart.  I think that she was the one who really cultivated my love for music, as she let me write my own pieces, and didn’t kick my ass about boring technical stuff while I was young.  Maybe she was and I just didn’t realize it because she was an exceptional teacher. In 7th grade, I had started doing too many extra curricular activities, so my parents forced me to choose between viola and piano.  I cried my eyes out and then I chose viola because I could play with other people.

Who are some of your biggest influences as a violist? As a musician in general?

As a violist, it’ll have to be my teachers and instructors.  Each one has imparted really different important aspects of technique and musicianship.

As far as who I want to sound like?  It’s funny, I’ve looked up to beautiful aspects of my peers’ playing more than William Primrose, Kim Kashkashian, Roberto Diaz, or any other famous soloist.  In composition, Beethoven is the one who cemented my decision pursue a life in music, wherever that journey may take me.   He represents clarity, brilliance, and most importantly, hard work.

 

Do you have a favorite performance you’ve done in the last few years?

This is tough.  Maybe Mahler 5 with the Sheep Island Ensemble, or playing as a ringer for the Yamaha Junior Original Concert?  The latter was great, because I got to work and rehearse with some of my students in addition to kids from all over the east coast who wrote pieces for Viola and Piano.

I know you work with a lot of different ensembles that do a wide variety of genres. How do you maintain balance in your music/practicing/scheduling/sanity?  Any specific things you do to keep focused in your musical life?

Balance? What’s that?  Truthfully, I try to always make sure I’m doing something productive with my time.  I fail at this a lot, but whatever I’m doing, it gets me by.

Do you have any specific practicing routine that you work through?  How do you practice?

Currently I’ve been starting by doing scales and arpeggios, moving onto technical exercises and then etudes, and finally rep.  This general structure means that I always build technical elements from the ground up, even within a practice session.  It also helps keep the earlier technical work focused, as technical work inside of a piece can become distracted by having to combine all the elements of the music.

What have you been listening to these days?

I listen to a lot of Minimalist composers in addition to a range of pop/rock, soul and jazz.  Choosing one from each category, I’d say I’m listening to Philip Glass, Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, John Coltrane.

Do you have any book recommendations?

The Phantom Tollbooth.  It’s for kids, but it’s a wonderfully profound book in a whimsical way.  There are many allegorical moments in the book.

What are some of your goals for the future?

World domination.

Any additional thoughts? 

Playing with Aerial Photograph has been a ton of fun this year.  The music is great, and the concept can be funny, poignant, sad, and enlightening.  Because of the range of populations that can be surveyed over a year, one really gets the broad range of the human experience here in NYC.  I’m all about opening up ontologies.

Caregivers

This month I am talking with caregivers in NYC.  I am writing music based on some of the incredible stories of selflessness, compassion and love that they have shared with me.  I pulled up some statistics about disabilities and the number of people who require daily assistance from others because of their disability.  I found it really fascinating. These numbers are a little outdated, but still really eye-opening. If you are in NYC this week, this show is Wed. the 20th at the Douglass Street Music Collective in Brooklyn.

As always, thanks for reading – 

Matt

 

 

Disabilities in America

Info is from from www.disabledinaction.org

51.2 million
Number of people who have some level of disability. They represent 18 percent of the population.

32.5 million
Number of people with a severe disability. They represent 12 percent of the population.

11%
Percentage of children ages 6 to 14 who have a disability. This amounts to 4 million children.

72%
Percentage of people 80 and older with disabilities, the highest of any age group.

20%
Percentage of females with a disability, higher than the 17 percent of males. On the other hand, among children under 15, boys were more likely than girls to have a disability (11 percent versus 6 percent).

 

Using or Needing Assistance

10.7 million
Number of people age 6 and older who need personal assistance with one or more activities of daily living (such as taking a bath or shower) or instrumental activities of daily living (such as using the telephone). This group amounts to 4 percent of people in this age category.

2.7 million
Number of people age 15 and older who use a wheelchair. Another 9.1 million use an ambulatory aid such as a cane, crutches or walker.

 

Specific Disabilities

1.8 million
Number of people age 15 and older who report being unable to see.

1 million
Number of people age 15 and older who report being unable to hear.

2.6 million
Number of people age 15 and older who have some difficulty having their speech understood by others. Of this number, 610,000 were unable to have their speech understood at all.

14.3 million
Number of people with limitations in cognitive functioning or a mental or emotional illness that interferes with their daily activities. This includes those with Alzheimer’s disease, depression and mental retardation. This group comprises 6 percent of the population.

 

On the Job

11.8 million
Number of 16- to 64-year-olds who reported the presence of a medical condition that makes it difficult to find a job or remain employed. They comprise 6 percent of the population.

56%
Percentage of people ages 21 to 64 having some type of disability and also employed in the last year. The rate ranged from 82 percent of those with a nonsevere disability to 43 percent with a severe disability. For those without a disability, the rate is 88 percent.

44%
Percentage of people with a nonsevere disability who work full time, year-round. This compares to 53 percent without a disability and 13 percent with a severe disability.

 

Perceived Health Status

33%
Percentage of people ages 25 to 64 who have a nonsevere disability and report their health as being “very good” or “excellent.” This compares with 13 percent of those with a severe disability and 73 percent of those without a disability.

 

Income and Poverty

$22,000
Median earnings for people with a nonsevere disability. This compares to $25,000 for those with no disability and $12,800 for those with a severe disability.

18%
Percentage of people with a nonsevere disability and household incomes of $80,000 or more. By comparison, 26 percent of people without a disability had household incomes of $80,000 or more with the same being true of 9 percent of those with a severe one.

11%
The poverty rate for people ages 25 to 64 with a nonsevere disability. This compares to 26 percent for those with a severe disability and 8 percent of those without a disability.

 

Living Arrangements

60%
Percentage of people ages 25 to 64 with a nonsevere disability who live in married-couple families. The corresponding rates are 68 percent for those without disabilities and 50 percent for people with severe disabilities.

23%
Percentage of people with a nonsevere disability who live alone or with nonrelatives. This compares with 28 percent of those with a severe disability and 19 percent without a disability.

 

Education

33%
The percentage of people ages 25 to 64 who had a nonsevere disability and were college graduates. This compares with 43 percent with no disability and 22 percent with a severe disability.

 

Plugged In

36% and 29%
Percentages of people ages 15 to 64 with a severe disability who use a computer and the Internet at home, respectively. The respective figures for those without a disability are 61 percent and 51 percent.

 

Serving Our Nation

2.6 million
Number of veterans who received compensation for service-related disabilities as of 2004. Of these vets, 506,000 served in World War II; 237,000 in Korea; 1 million in Vietnam; and 540,000 in the Persian Gulf (the data cover service from August 2, 1990, to September 30, 2004).

 

Small world

With Veterans Day having just past, I thought I would share an experience I had with a vet I met earlier this year – 

       In April, I was walking downtown near Harold Square towards Chinatown. I noticed a man sitting in an alcove with a cardboard sign saying something like “lost my job, need work boots for a job I was hired for next week, veteran, god bless.” After thinking about it for a minute, I went up to him and asked him if he really just needed boots for a job. He said yes, and then began to tell his stories of woe – bad luck, a bad woman, got mugged, no money… I asked him what war he fought in and he said “Bosnia, ‘94 to ‘97”, and then told me a bunch of stories about his time in the service. Unlike some of the other stuff he said, I could tell he wasn’t making anything up with these stories. I enjoyed talking and listening to him.

      Then it got really surprising… I asked him where he was from and he said Philly. I lived in Philly for 10+ years, so I was surprised and asked him where and when. It turns out that he lived a block away from me in Fishtown on Frankford Ave. in 2008 when I lived there. Crazy right?! He knew people and places that I knew.  He even knew a brother of one of my teachers.  We talked about Philly and all the changes that have happened there in the past few years. We talked for a while longer, I gave him a few bucks and kept walking.  I would never have thought that I had any connection to this guy on the street, but we had a ton of connections and talked for almost 40 minutes. You really never know. What a small world.

I hope he got his boots.

Thanks for reading.

Matt

Air Mail

 

 

 

City of New york 2013 – In august I wrote music based on conversations with veterans. I happened to be be at a flea market early in that month and came across someone selling letters that had been sent home from soldiers during WWII, and later.  One of the veterans I spoke with talked about how important it was for him to get mail from home – how it was “euphoric”. I ended up writing a piece called “Air Mail”. Here are some images of the letters/envelopes and an audio clip of a veteran speaking about receiving mail while in Iraq.  

 

 

 

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Meet the Players: Paul Jones, Saxophone titan.

Paul Jones is an incredible saxophone player I met while at MSM. I urge you to visit paulthejones.com to listen and learn more about his musical pursuits.

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When did you start playing music, and Jazz? How did that come about?

I think my first initial interest in music was Michael Jackson.  Apparently, as my parents tell it as a toddler I was very into Michael’s album Off The Wall.  I started playing music when I was 8.  I wanted to play saxophone, but the music teachers told me I had to wait until I was ten and my hands got bigger.  So I started on piano.  I wasn’t in love with the piano and as soon as I could I switched to saxophone.   I didn’t discover Jazz though until I was about 14.  I moved to New Hampshire and they had a Jazz band instead of a concert band or marching band like in Maryland.  Immediately after my first day of Jazz Band I was hooked.  I started listening to Miles Davis and John Coltrane records with friends from school.

Who are some of your biggest influences as a performer and as a composer? As a musician in general?

As a performer I’m extremely inspired by John Coltrane, Joe Henderson, Bill Evans, Miles Davis, Jerry Bergonzi, George Garzone, Mark Turner, Chris Cheek, Brad Mehldau, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Lettuce, Soulive, and all my musician friends and mentors.  There’s so many musicians who influence me on a daily basis.  As far as non-musical influences, my grandfather for his inspiring work ethic and personality.  As for composing one of my favorite pieces is Ravel’s String Quartet in F major.  Kurt Rosenwinkel’s compositions are some of my favorites.  Lately I’ve been checking out the Rite of Spring.  Bach and Beethoven are the best.  If I had all the time in the world I’d work on playing Chopin on the piano.

I know you keep a pretty busy schedule, and that you also have health concerns.  How do you manage to balance these two things as a musician?

The answers to each of these questions could take a whole page each easily.  This one especially for me.  Just before moving to NYC in 2009 I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.  It’s a chronic illness and demands my attention all hours of the day everyday.  As time has passed I have become much better at managing it and learned how to not let it determine my life.  But my health comes first before music.  There have been many doctors visits and beyond numerous phone calls to insurance and supply companies.  I’ve been fortunate to be able to keep progessing in music though through this condition.  Many days I just work on music.  But there are many days where it’s just taking care of my health.  Another added toll of Type 1 Diabetes that is not as commonly known (I believe) is that it is one of the most expensive diagnosis’ a person can receive.  The management of Diabetes requires life long care, supplies, and supervision.  There’s not a lot of downtime for me currently.  I feel fortunate to be gigging a lot this year but since most gigs don’t pay a lot I keep a day job to cover my regular expenses and medical bills.

Do you have a favorite performance you’ve done in the last few years?

I have felt fortunate to be performing a lot this last year.  Some of my favorite performances have been with my own group, once at the Cornelia Street Cafe and then IBeam.  Performances with the Uptown PartyDown at Rockwood Music Hall have also been really inspirational.  A standout performance with AP was at the Tea Lounge in Brooklyn.  I’ve been learning how important auxiliary perc. can be on performances.  A performance with the SNAP Saxophone Quartet at Somethin’ Jazz Club was really musically challenging and nerve racking because I felt like it was the most musically obscure gig I played so far this year.  But I loved it and am looking forward to performing with all these groups soon.

Do you have any specific practicing routine that you work through?  How do you practice?

My practice routine changes often I feel.  I usually focus around what gigs I have upcoming.  When not working on the music for the gigs I generally work on instrument technique.  Keeping my sound, hands, and mind together.  I’m currently taking a group class with Jacob Sacks on mixed meters.  This class has been taking up a lot of practice time lately.  Once the class is over I’ll not exactly sure where my practicing will head, but I think it will involve transcribing, playing songs in 12 keys, and composing.

What are your musical goals?

I’m not trying to think to long term these days on my musical goals.  I want to record my first album this year and need to find funding for that.  I also also want to make a 4 part video of a suite I am currently working on.

What are you listening to these days?

Lately I’ve been listening to Ben Wendel’s record Frame.  Kneebody: The Line.  Aaron Parks: Alive in Japan.  Thundercat. Gregory Porter.  Rite of Spring.  random videos on youtube like Brad Mehldau in 94.  Gerald Clayton.  Marc Copeland: Night Whispers.  Miles Okazaki: Mirror.  Tony Scherr.

Do you have any book recommendations?

Next on the list is Lolita. I’m not an avid reader, but books and writing have helped me discover how I compose music.  I started using the titles to develop pitch material and have learned a great about building music through editing essays and papers.

1932

A song from 1932 that I’ve been checking out lately. An apt tune for this month – I’ve been focusing on people in NYC struggling with homelessness. 

“Brother, Can You Spare a Dime,” lyrics by Yip Harburg, music by Jay Gorney (1931)

They used to tell me I was building a dream, and so I followed the mob,When there was earth to plow, or guns to bear, I was always there right on the job.They used to tell me I was building a dream, with peace and glory ahead,Why should I be standing in line, just waiting for bread?

Once I built a railroad, I made it run, made it race against time.Once I built a railroad; now it’s done. Brother, can you spare a dime?Once I built a tower, up to the sun, brick, and rivet, and lime;Once I built a tower, now it’s done. Brother, can you spare a dime?

Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell,

Full of that Yankee Doodly Dum,

Half a million boots went slogging through Hell,

And I was the kid with the drum!

 

Say, don’t you remember, they called me Al; it was Al all the time.Why don’t you remember, I’m your pal? Buddy, can you spare a dime?

 

Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell,
Full of that Yankee Doodly Dum,
Half a million boots went slogging through Hell,
And I was the kid with the drum!

 

Say, don’t you remember, they called me Al; it was Al all the time.Say, don’t you remember, I’m your pal? Buddy, can you spare a dime?