Friday, May 27, 2011

Why I love the Mission

Spent a couple of hours yesterday evening working in a pleasant hipster coffeeshop where I heard Sinatra singing My Way. Then on the way home I stopped off for tacos at one of the best taquerias in the Mission (and, therefore, in the country), where I heard a Mexican band's version of My Spanish.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Notes from an Open Window

Music has always been a central part of my life –- at least until I started medical training. For most of my life I couldn't have imagined music not being a part of every day, and for most of my career I couldn't have imagined music not being part of my livelihood. But training to be a doctor has a way of taking over your life and over the past decade the musical part of my life has dwindled to occasional composing, occasional arranging, occasional playing, and finally to nothing at all.

Last year I began feeling the loss more acutely than ever before, and in the past few months I finally started to take some steps to get music back into my life. Oddly enough, though, I found it hard to simply start playing or writing again. After so many years of training so hard and earning my living in the arts, I found it frustrating to approach it as a part-time amateur. I bought my first keyboard instrument in 15 years, but playing it was marred by my excruciating rustiness. Sitting down to attempt pieces I could once play fluently, I could now barely get my fingers to play the first few notes. Of course, every musician experiences being out of practice after being away from the routine, but this was a pretty extreme case.

I tried to persevere, not beating myself up or regretting past choices, and trying to play as best I could for the sheer joy of it. Then last month while on vacation we visited friends who are professional ballet dancers in Sweden. For the better part of a week we went to their performances and rehearsals, hung out in the opera house, attended the symphony, and met their friends, also professional artists, whose life revolves around art and music and planning the next big performance. And I was transported. It took me straight back to the days when I, too, spent all my time in the theater or studio or practice room. The experience inspired me, and I came back home determined to make music once again an integral part of my life.

But then there's this pesky residency: 80-hour weeks, 30-hour shifts, night shifts alternating with day shifts. Forget a regular daily practice schedule; it's pretty difficult to have a regular daily anything. I needed to find a way to somehow keep me in touch with music while I finish this overwhelming, all-encompassing medical experience.

What I came up with was to start a companion to this blog: a music blog. But not a blog about music. I'm going to try to blog using music. Each post will be a piece of music, whether it's an original song or composition, a re-recording of my old music, an original recording of existing music, or something else. As much as possible I want to present my own originals, but I'm constrained by fearsome time restraints and the disastrously atrophied state of my musical skills. Still, even if I can post a few interesting bars from time to time I think it will be rewarding for myself (and perhaps a few dedicated listeners), and I have a hunch that over time the musical choices will start to tell a story.

I'm still going to maintain this blog: medicine remains pretty darn interesting, at least to me. But when you've read enough here at Until Proven Otherwise, plug in your speakers or headphones and check out the latest at Notes from an Open Window. The very first post is up now (a revision and new recording of a piece I wrote 20 years ago), and we'll see where things go from there.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Pictures from the North

As promised, here are some pictures from our circum-Baltic explorations.

Niels Bohr and me (Copenhagen, Denmark):

Town Square in the long northern twilight (Tallinn, Estonia):

Zeppelin hangers, now housing the central market (Riga, Latvia):

Riding up the hill to the castle (Sigulda, Latvia):

Gothenburg Opera (Gothenburg, Sweden):