Opportunities for Personal Growth

My parents and I watch a lot of procedural crime dramas. Law and Orders of all varieties, NCIS, CSI, The Closer, and recently CK and I discovered Crossing Lines on Netflix. But my parents are obsessed with Criminal Minds. It’s basically all they watch. They’re either watching Criminal Minds or going to Menards.

In episode 8 of season 3, shortly after Gideon is replaced by Rossi, Morgan and Rossi are having a conversation in which both of them, at some point, utter the phrase “I was giving you an opportunity for personal growth”. This has become part of the Vanderburg lexicon, usually said in some sort of sarcastic way. Or, whenever dealing with things is hard.

I’m writing this percussion and saxophone piece. As it turns out, writing for multi-percussion is really hard, in really stupid ways. Despite having a basic background in percussion (go PBHS Drumline!), picking instruments was impossible. Where do I start? In an instrument group that includes basically anything I can imagine (and some things I can’t), how do I narrow down the number of instruments to something that is both engaging and logistical?

A second issue deals with the difficulty of the music. If I usually write rhythmic music, and percussionists are all about rhythm, then I need to up my rhythm game and write something nigh-impossible, right? Right?

The piece started out as a groove piece–like so much of my recent pieces (see also: Earmarks, Austerity, Joyride…). How do I keep from making this whole piece a groove piece? Or should it be?

Also, relying on computer playback for things like “swirled superball mallet” isn’t really a thing.

Most of these problems are mental–It’s seemed like I’ve been trying to drink from a firehose. Some of the problems have gone away by introducing boundaries. It’s like Stravinsky said, “The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self. And the arbitrariness of the constraint serves only to obtain precision of execution.” This was often expressed in my graduate lessons as “Give me limitations and I’ll give you the world”.

Some of these problems are solved by research–Steven Schick’s lecture “On the Bridge” helped tremendously, as did just listening to percussion things on YouTube.

Some of these problems are being solved by technology. Recording samples that I want to use, then dropping them into Pro Tools instead of using Sibelius, and then notating them later.

Overall, it’s a fun project–and an opportunity for personal growth.

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The Massive 2018 Summer Update

CK and I agreed that we wouldn’t travel much this summer. Maybe a conference, visit some family, but no 25-state road trip and no taking 300 high schoolers to Europe.

That idea was short lived, because here’s what we ended up doing:

Note: Squiggly lines are places we drove. We did not drive to Europe.

I’m going to paste a bunch of pictures, since I couldn’t do that before but now with WordPress I CAN!

The summer travel extravaganza started with CK judging the Musical Merit Competition in San Diego, while I drove to Missouri to visit my parents. CK joined a few days later, and we did our usual visit to Elephant Rocks and Johnsons Shut-ins. I broke down and finally bought an iPhone. And then it was back to Fargo.

Where we almost instantly put an offer on a house.

(this is still the only picture I’ve taken of the outside of the house)

We’d been wanting to not live in an apartment since the moment we moved into our apartment, and we’d been surfing Zillow for months, and we’d spent a few weeks looking, and the night we got back from Missouri–after a day of driving from Omaha to Fargo, we unloaded our bags and went and looked at three houses, putting an offer on one. The offer was accepted, and then we…left town again.

Trip number 3 was CK going to Madison for the MACRO theory conference. Trip number 4 was me flying down to Oklahoma to work with Jonathan Nichol and Marvin Lamb to record Marvin’s expanded Tenor Saxophone quintet, Woodcuts (previously: HERD!). Three incredibly busy days spent in OU’s recording studio before flying back to Fargo.

Here’s Marvin’s Woodcuts and Bartleby:

Shortly thereafter we headed west to Montana to visit CK’s family. Since our travels were far from over, we took Bartleby to stay with the Keoghs for the summer. Bartleby wasn’t thrilled with the car ride.

But I got my annual picture of Woodbine Creek

And Woodbine Falls

And, you know, nature stuff.

And then it was back to Fargo.

The sixth trip was the big one. The International Clarinet Association’s CLARINETFEST® was held in Oostende, Belgium this year. Last summer, CK asked if I’d be interested in writing a clarinet-saxophone-piano trio for NDSU’s Boreas Ensemble, to be premiered in Belgium. I said yes, knowing that if it got accepted I’d get to write a fun piece, and if it didn’t, I’d get credit for being agreeable. Well, it was accepted, the piece got written, and on the fourth of July we landed in Brussels.

We stayed the night in Brussels

We saw some churches

Église Notre-Dame du Sablon de Bruxelles

And some larger churches

Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula

And some pretty intense stained glass.

Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula

We saw some art

(Pieter Bruegel’s La Chute Des Anges Rebelles) – Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium

We saw the Manneken Pis

We saw…what is that thing?

(Trombone with seven bells, Adolphe Sax, Musical Instruments Museum, Brussels. Of course it would be Adolphe Sax)

And then it was off to Clarinetfest! Where we were greeted by the embodiment of the clarinetfest logo!

And of course we had to take a selfie

Oostende was nice, as a coastal Belgian vacation town, but not what you’d think of as stereotypical Europe.

And then it was back to Brussels, and then an express train ride to Amsterdam for a short trip. There was the Rijksmuseum, which we saw a tiny part of

And across the road, the Royal Concertgebouw!

And also more art:

(Joseph Klibansky’s Self Portrait of a Dreamer)

There’s something wrong with the clock at the Amsterdam Train Station

And then, back to Fargo again on Friday. But on Wednesday, we left again, CK to southern Minnesota, and me to New York for the New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival, or NYCEMF.

Andrew Allen at MSU Texas performed the New York premiere of Austerity for Soprano Saxophone and tape.

(Photo credit: the illustrious Joshua Tomlinson)

It’s a very long piece. Horizontally.

(Also Joshua Tomlinson)

So after all of that, we ended up back in Fargo, closed on the house, moved in, and stayed put for a while.

Until the next week when we had to go get Bartleby from Montana. Where he was enjoying nature.

After all that travel, we were all exhausted.

There’s more to report, but at some point summer stopped happening and the school year began, but that’s for later.

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Kyle Vanderburg