Guit-A-Grip Episode #7 – Confessions Of A Former Music School “Failure”

Hello everyone!

Guit-A-Grip podcast episode #7 (Confessions of a former music school “failure”) is now out and available for download/streaming.

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Guit-A-Grip Episode #7 – Show Notes

Several things got me thinking about this topic – but the key moment I knew I’d have to write about this came the last time I saw my mother in upstate New York and found a bunch of old scores from my Berklee composition days and sat there scratching my head.

They were really disjointed and amateurish.  It was like seeing myself go through puberty again and hearing my voice crack.  For a moment, it made me feel awful and then I remembered that I wasn’t that guy anymore.  Just as a 5 year old version of me tried to stick a fork in an electrical socket to see what would happen (I’m not doing that anymore btw) I’m not that same person.

I should know this but it’s either The Code of the Samurai or The Hagakure that has a philosophical maxim that I’ve held onto for much of my life,

“Seven times down – Eight times up.”

And it’s served me will.  You will hit walls and obstacles in whatever it is you do, but the actions  you take in resolving those things will ultimately be how you define yourself.

You are not your job (Unless you define yourself that way)

One of the first jobs I ever had was in a department store.  It was supposed to be a temp job during renovation, but I worked really hard, hustled and made myself an asset to the store so when the time came to keep a handful of employees – I was one of the ones they kept.

Perhaps there’s an alternate universe where I’m still working at that store, but I knew that there would be other things for me to do and so I moved on.  It’s not part of my self definition.

While my undergrad experience was a lopsided one  I don’t view myself as a failure (even though I have a few grades that argue that point!)

I had a bad experience and had to decide what was important and move on to the next thing.

I had to teach myself what I needed to know and transition from thinking to knowing.

I made myself a better musician, learned a lot of hard lessons and eventually transitioned to a place where I got into grad school (and no failing grades that time around).  That experience is a big part of what’s gone into making me who I am but, like the department store job, it’s not part of my self definition.

Things referenced in the Podcast

I mentioned that I’d link to some things in the Podcast so let’s try that.

First – some clarifiers

1. I remember the instance with the guidance office now.  We had to fill out the applications but the guidance office would not release transcripts to us – so we needed to give them our applications to submit so they could enclose transcripts.  I was told, “Our office does not make mistakes” when I got the letter back from Berklee even though I pointed to the requirement in print and noted that the transcript provided didn’t meet them.

2.  Eugene’s trick bag is the Steve Vai guitar solo that Ralph Macchio is hand synching to for the film Crossroads.

3.  Self Educated man – was a reference to self-taught man in La Nausée – a novel a mischievous member of the faculty gave me to read as a book report.  In 7th grade.  Brought up unsuccessfully in an attempt to woo a weary admissions counselor.

4.  Books Berklee recommended – Robert Starter’s Rhythmic Training was one of them but the others evade me now.

5.  In finding the scores I actually found the letter kicking me out of the composition department and found the photocopy of the letter I got from the chair to get back in.  A series of correspondences (and conversations) that I had previously blocked from my memory.

6.  Juggernaut.  This was the composition I referenced in the Podcast.  Don’t ask.  My instructor didn’t use the term “stones” that I used in the podcast either.

7.  “They were torn apart” – specifically one faculty member with a real problem with me blocked my graduation and took no small pleasure in COVERING my scores with red writing.  Now I don’t blame him – but at the time my thought was, “I was already graded on these why are you grading them a second time?”  Other comments included weird personal observations on how he didn’t like my music.

8.  This podcast is for everyone who had a plan.  Tried to execute the plan.  Had the plan blow up in their face and continue on despite everything.

Second – some music links.

Comité de salut public

I mentioned that I had a group at Berklee that used some of the contemporary composition techniques and wrote tunes with them.  That group was called The Committee Of Public Safety and (to my knowledge) was the only avante garde-core French Revolution “tribute band” in Boston at the time.  I wrote all the tunes and some of them are below:

But you can hear (and download) all of the tracks (and read more info than you ever wanted to know about this group) here.

The Committee of Public Safety was:

Pat Aldous/Marko Djordjevic – drums

Caroline Dillon – cello

Mike Mallory – bass

Teresa Sienkiewicz / Pat Raymaker- voice

The Time with the Tub


Click for more info

Tubtime came out of a series of sessions I had with drum / recording guru Geoff Chase.  I dragged my friend Joe Rauen along to play bass and Geoff dragged the incomparable Patty Barkas along to sing.  Somehow we got the mighty Keichi Hashimoto to play with us as well.

We recorded another album’s worth of material that we’ll leak out eventually but for now here’s a soundcheck you might dig as well.


The Book

Ah, yes – I referenced the book I wrote to get into grad school.

First, there were two components to the application.   In addition to the Tubtime CD there was some audio:

and then the book.  Excerpts of the ORIGINAL (error plagued) version was on Google Books but I don’t see it now.

The New (VASTLY improved) book:

12 Tone Cover small

Is available on Lulu or Amazon.  (Amazon probably ships it easier – but the Lulu page has WAY more information and book excerpts).

Note: the cover is vintage 2013.  The original cover was a flat blue with a white title.


I promised a linked post that related more of this story and you can read that here .

Onward and Upward

I hope this helps (or is at least enjoyable or amusing to you)!

As always, If you like the podcast please let me know. If you really like it – leaving a rating on iTunes would be really appreciated!

More posts and podcasts are on their way.

Thanks again!



Guitarchitecture Post Featured In Guitar Player Holiday 2010 Issue – Quick Licks Section

It’s been a couple of productive days – The pentatonic/blues lick that was featured in the quick lick/rig du jour post has been featured in the Guitar Player Holiday 2010 issue. It’s the issue with Santana on the cover.  Thanks again to Matt Blackett  and the GP staff!

The long overdue Tubtime cd, “We Bleed The Sun And Make It Pay” – is finally up for sale on Itunes and on the CD baby tubtime page. Featuring the talents of Patty Barkas, Geof Chase, Joe Rauen and Keichi Hashimoto – Tubtime was the first project I was involved with that was based solely on of structured improvisation and in many mays was a cornerstone of what I do now. In addition to cd baby and Itunes – it’s also available on emusic should be available on Amazon and any other digital distribution service over the next several months.

Rough Hewn Trio @ CalArts was a big hit!  We should have video/audio up soon.

More info coing soon!  Thanks for dropping by!

Tubtime: “We Bleed The Sun And Make It Pay” now available on CD Baby

The long overdue Tubtime cd, “We Bleed The Sun And Make It Pay” – is finally up for sale on the CD baby tubtime page, and should be available on Itunes and Amazon over the next several months.

Featuring the talents of Patty Barkas, Geof Chase, Joe Rauen and Keichi Hashimoto – Tubtime is an experiment in 2003 to see if an accessible cd of structured improvisation could be successfully executed.

The CD notes are below:

Tubtime has its roots in work in the unholy union of drummer/engineer Geoff Chase’s “Directive 4″ project that featured rock improvisation with various Boston musicians and guitarist Scott Collins’ goal to be able to work with musicians of such a high caliber that they could perform a full set of improvised material that sounded pre-composed.

Over the course of 2003-2004 Tubtime ended up with several cds worth of material that will all hopefully see the light of day. The music is being finally released after numerous relocations and other various hold ups, because we kept running into people who had heard of us (or heard the tracks) despite having never played live. While we haven’t performed since then – the threat of more music is always a real one.

“We Bleed The Sun And Make It Pay” was the culmination of 4 such sessions. All of the music was written and tracked live and in real time (although, Geoff took some of the improvised material and used it as transitional material on transitional tracks.)

The poem on the cover photo (taken by Joe Rauen) was inspired by a quote attributed to Dick Cheney who rationalized a series of governmental policies by saying, “this is out due.” It was such an incredibly brazen sense of entitlement that the poetic fragment was written around it.

Visually, the Tubtime project was working around a “disturbed child” aesthetic with lots of pictures with distorted perspective and coloring outside of the lines. I think that the music captures some of that as well. There is a certain honesty of immediacy that comes from real improvisation – and hopefully that translates as well.

There was no real concept when we recorded the tracks, but I developed one when assembling the cd. As the tracks were mixed and sequences there was a specific story line worked out involving themes of narcissism, paranoia and altered states of perception.

“We Bleed The Sun and Make It Pay” is a type of sonic documentary of where we all were at the time of recording it. As it takes a couple of minutes to develop each of the pieces – I think It works best as a bumpy 58 minute sonic journey. I hope you enjoy both the turbulence and the scenery.

The tracks were performed by:
Patty Barkas – vocals
Geoff Chase – drums
Scott Collins –guitar & loops
Keichi Hashimoto – trumpet
Joe Rauen – bass & loops

Thanks for reading!