What I’m Doing This Summer

After years of attending Paperhand Puppet Intervention Summer shows at the Forest Theater in Chapel Hill and thinking “I want to be in that band!”, I’m finally in the band! We’ve been rehearsing in the sweltering Paperhand headquarters in Saxapahaw and the process has been exciting and interesting. The musicians are led by multi-instrumentalist and violinist extraordinaire Jennifer Curtis. The head puppeteers provide us with a framework and Jennifer has been composing pieces but it all evolves together as we put puppeteers and musicians together with everybody contributing. The pieces grow through repetition and improvisation and happy accident. The stories are crafted and refined by head puppeteers Donovan Zimmerman and Jan Burger. It’s a wonderful collaboration. The other musicians for this show – all multi-instrumentalists: Eric Kuhn, Peter Lewis, Alan Best (also a puppeteer!).

Check my performance calendar for show dates. Note that the last weekend of the show is at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh. All other shows are at the Forest Theater on the UNC Campus. Here’s the show poster:

Paperhand Puppet Poster

And click here for a gallery of photos and a video tour of the studio.

The Source of Wisdom

“The source of wisdom is whatever is going to happen to us today.   The source of wisdom is whatever is happening to us right at this very instant.”

                                      – Pema Chodron


I always wondered if birds sought out places that made their singing sound better like musicians do.

The first one is a wren perched just outside the Bryan Center parking deck on Duke West Campus. The song reverberates through the entire parking deck.

The second one is singing just above the courtyard of the nursing home where my mom is staying. There’s quite a bit of natural amplification there. Sorry about the wind noise. That’s my mom speaking.

Recorded on my phone.


A New Saint Luke Passion

Performing in the US Premier of James MacMillan’s “Saint Luke Passion” this Sunday at 4:00 in Duke Chapel. We’re still in rehearsal but this is an amazing piece – very powerful and VERY dramatic. Beautiful singing by both choirs (children and adults) and a fascinating orchestra score. Info at http://chapel.duke.edu/passion and a video of MacMillan conducting the world premier is at http://www.npo.nl/ntr-zaterdagmatinee/19-03-2014/WO_NTR_506338

Golden Rules for Ensemble Playing

One of those web things I found years ago and don’t know the origin of:


Golden Rules for Ensemble Playing


1. Everyone should play the same piece.


2. Stop at every repeat sign and discuss in detail whether to take the repeat or not. The audience will love this a lot!


3. If you play a wrong note, give a nasty look to one of your partners.


4. Keep your fingering chart handy. You can always catch up with the others.


5. Carefully tune your instrument before playing. That way you can play out of tune all night with a clear conscience.


6. Take your time turning pages.


7. The right note at the wrong time is a wrong note (and vice-versa).


8. If everyone gets lost except you, follow those who get lost.


9. Strive to get the maximum NPS (note per second). That way you gain the admiration of the incompetent.


10. Markings for slurs, dynamics and ornaments should not be observed. They are only there to embellish the score.


11. If a passage is difficult, slow down. If it is easy, speed it up. Everything will work itself out in the end.


12. If you are completely lost, stop everyone and say, “I think we should tune”.


13. Happy are those who have perfect pitch, for the kingdom of music is theirs.


14. If the ensemble has to stop because of you, explain in detail why you got lost. Everyone will be very interested.


15. A true interpretation is realized when there remains not one note of the original.


16. When everyone else has finished playing, you should not play any notes you have left.


17. A wrong note played timidly is a wrong note. A wrong note played with authority is an interpretation.

Quote of the….

“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”



Hunter S. Thompson

USB sound in Ubuntu – automatically selecting a USB audio device when it is plugged in

Sometimes you run into a problem and do a Google search and up pops a solution that instantly solves your problem. This is what happened when I realized that I didn’t know how to switch my sound input and output from the computer microphone and attached speakers to a USB headset that I wanted to be able to sometimes use. I was messing around with various software settings every time I needed to make the switch.

Thankfully, Stephen Ostermiller had this same problem in Ubuntu 13.04 and wrote a script that automatically switches your input and output to the USB headset when you plug it in and turns off the default microphone and speakers. You can read about it here: http://blog.ostermiller.org/ubuntu-usb-audio/

Thanks, Stephen!