Rhythm Study by Zachary Hazen

Posted on October 9, 2016

My roommate Zach, wrote a piece for me. It’s a little study for solo guitar involving layered polyrhythms. Learning this piece has not only been a journey for me rhythmically, but also musically overall. I don’t usually perform “classical pieces” and it was interesting how much of my brain went into figuring out dynamics, bringing out different lines, and shaping the piece as a whole. It made me wonder why I don’t always do that every time I play (the answer is, because it is hard). So there it is. I thought I was going to learn some cool polyrhythms, and I’ve uncovered a whole region of musicality that I have not worked out.

score (pdf): rhythm-study-for-roger-kim

Steven Universe Sheets!

Posted on July 23, 2016

Here are some transcriptions I’ve done for music from the cartoon Steven Universe.

Normally, the teacher in me would say that people should be transcribing these themselves, but then I remembered being a kid in the early days of the popular internet, and not being able to find all the sheet music I wanted and also not being able to transcribe things very quickly or accurately… so my latest obsession is your boon (if you came here looking for these sheets).

It’s Over Isn’t It
Pearl’s Room
Love Like You

Years ago I transcribed Django Reinhardt’s solo on “In a Sentimental Mood” and I posted myself playing it on youtube. Since then I’ve gotten numerous requests for the “tab.” Despite knowing that it would be better for all of these young players to transcribe it themselves, I wanted to help them out because I remember how terribly inaccurate my first transcriptions were, and I worries that they would just find a tab elsewhere with its own dubious claim to accuracy.

The problem was I never really tab things out, and I never got around to creating this oft requested file. Instad, I used to send out photocopies of my terribly illegible original transcription in my tiny moleskine notebook, which I misguidedly decided to use for all my transcriptions.

django in a sentimental mood

Some good Samaritan received my messy note, and sent me back a crisply notated and tabbed pdf of my transcription. So here it is: In a sentimental mood tab.pdf . Enjoy.

No I’m not going to charge for the transcription and tab. I didn’t even write out the tab myself, and if I wanted to make money off of transcribing things I would be doing much more of it.

My real get rich quick scheme involves a new youtube channel in which I teach music theory from the very beginning to hopefully quite an advanced level. If you came here for the tab and feel like paying me back, have a look and subscribe (if you like) to my new channel. The first two videos are posted below, even though they aren’t officially published yet (as of 2/15/2016).

Lisa Mezzacappa’s Glorious Ravage

Posted on September 29, 2015

Lisa Mezzacappa describes herself as “the hub of a wheel, with spokes going off in all directions.” This is in reference to her researching subject matter, collaborating with video artists, writing lyrics and music and rehearsing a 15 piece ensemble for her latest interdisciplinary project: Glorious Ravage. She could just as easily be describing her place in the Bay Area’s creative jazz scene, connecting musicians to each other and to audiences through her work as a bandleader and concert presenter. In addition to leading and co-leading several groups combining the best local and international musicians, she founded the “Monday Makeout,” a monthly series presenting progressive jazz and improvised music at the Make Out Room in the Mission, and Best Coast Jazz Composers Series at the Center for New Music, meant to spotlight the Bay Area’s most creative and prolific jazz artists.

Glorious Ravage is a song cycle with moving images drawing from the writings of women explorers from the Victorian era, and is in many ways a culmination of all the work Mezzacappa has done until now. It premiered at the Angel City Jazz Festival in LA on September 26th, with Fay Victor singing and the incredible cast of musicians, all accompanying fourteen videos by four moving image artists could represent a pinnacle that Mezzacappa has been wanting to reach.

Fay Victor is a powerhouse with a clear, precise and cutting voice, and the dynamic and textural range of any master instrumentalist. Mezzacappa describes an instant chemistry with Victor, who can easily match Mezzacappa’s wide-ranging, groovy, and sometimes frenetic, turn-on-a-dime aesthetic.

The desire to write music for Victor planted a seed that began as a trio premiered in 2012, and grew into Glorious Ravage. Inspired by Victor’s journey westward from New York to play with her in San Francisco, Mezzacappa began researching women pioneers and explorers, eventually using their accounts as source material for lyrics. The rest of the ensemble includes Myra Melford (piano), Mark Dresser (contrabass), Nicole Mitchell (flute), Vinny Golia (winds), Michael Dessen (trombone), Darren Johnston (trumpet), Kyle Bruckmann (oboe), Cory Wright (reeds), Dina Maccabee (viola), Kjell Nordeson (percussion), Jordan Glenn (drums), John Finkbeiner (electric guitar), Tim Perkis (electronics), and Lisa Mezzacappa (contrabass); represent a heavy-hitting cross section of Mezzacappa’s past musical collaborations.

Mezzacappa’s ensemble writing relies heavily on the unique voices of the musicians, providing space and freedom for each to express themselves, all the while providing enough structure to maintain a narrative in the music, or keep synced with a projected video. The compositional techniques she has developed over the years will be thoroughly tested with this group, which is the largest she has yet written for.

Over the course of the last year, Mezzacappa has “co-evolved,” as she put it, the videos that will accompany her songs with four moving picture artists. Though the artists were given open-ended assignments and artistic freedom, Mezzacappa, ever the hub, has kept them and her music connected by exchanging excerpts recorded from rehearsal and song lyrics for video clips and still images as the material developed. All together, the music and the videos will delightfully portray Mezzacappa’s survey of Victorian era women explorers, who were both literal and figurative pioneers: a fitting subject matter for an artist creating incredible work so far off the beaten path.

Lisa Mezzacappa’s Glorious Ravage will appear at the Brava Theater, 2781 24th St., San Francisco, on Thursday October 1, and Friday October 2 at 8pm. Tickets are available at brava.org or in person beginning one hour before showtime at the Brava box office.

This article will appear in the October edition of SFSounds, edited by Chris Weir.

Teaching Music (2): imperfect curriculum

Posted on November 30, 2014

Teaching, to me, involves breaking down the subject into it’s simplest most basic pieces, and finding an efficient, straightforward way to explain those basic pieces in a logical order that builds on itself so that the student eventually understands a complex concept. Basically my goal is efficiency, and it leans on a cumulative approach to explaining concepts.

I think that I came up with this idea while tutoring economics to my peers as an undergrad. Several students depended on my digestible concepts approach to explaining macroeconomics to get through their weekly problem sets (apparently the professor was terrible). I found pride in being able to decipher their homework problems, and then guiding each student logically through what they needed to understand. Students needed to understand supply and demand curves separately before they could find where they intersected. Then they could understand what it means to shift the supply or curve, and from that the concept of elasticity.

I discovered pretty quickly that my ideal of hyper efficient teaching, where the student grasps and understands each concept perfectly before moving on, was impractical in reality (as it turns out, teaching music to complete beginners is very different from teaching the second course of economics to highly motivated Berkeley students). Beginning students, especially children, may not grasp these new concepts immediately. Trying to make sure they understand each one before moving on can get frustrating, not just for the teacher, but for the student (more importantly). Even if this isn’t an issue, most students will not begin with the perfect technique to demonstrate their perfect grasp of musical concepts anyway. Slow perfections have to take a backseat to simply pulling music out of fingers, keys, and strings in any way possible. We can always go back and fix any particular issues… or not. Not everyone is going on to be a highly trained musician, and even if they are, a few mistakes at the beginning are not going to throw them off the path.

Looking back on my musical education, I made several missteps. I would say that I practiced incorrectly and operated under misguided ideas about technique and practical theory among other things for years at a time. It is a painful thing to think about, one that took me a long time to learn not to regret. Now I feel I’ve come full circle. While I am not encouraging my own students to learn “incorrectly,” I see now how it is an inevitability in the process of learning, if not almost essential.