music, technology & life in pasadena, california

A look back...and ahead

2005 was a terrifically fun year for me in putting this site together. It launched in April and each month has seen a steady increase in visitors, and in any given month 6-11% stay for 15 minutes or longer. I’m thrilled that people are taking their time to read through the archives and discover things they may not have seen on their first time here.

Much thanks goes out to several generous people who have sent many visitors this way. Alex Ross, music critic for The New Yorker magazine, added this site to his music blog list and has been very supportive. Danny Gregory, an artist with a terrific site that deals with creativity, has been an inspiration ever since I met him online. He used a recording of mine to score a drawing demonstration and visitors have been stopping by ever since. Danny has a new book out called The Creative License that I highly recommend. Jason Kottke, one of my favorite well-known bloggers, linked to my Rip and Remix Culture essay and introduced many new readers.

I have a great time writing the pieces for the site, choosing to write longer entries rather than just letting go with a stream of consciousness. (Of course, there are exceptions.) That’s why there are only three or four pieces per month rather than a daily update. The most widely read essay in 2005 was Wynton Marsalis & The City of New Orleans, followed closely by Rip & Remix Culture. In the coming year I’ll continue with the Music in a Digital World series (here are parts one and two), and write more about the copyright debate, an issue that I have particular interest in and one in which my opinion is still being formed by some very persuasive arguments on both sides. I hope to publish several interviews with interesting composers and musicians who are finding new audiences. I’d also like to address issues that affect working musicians and introduce the larger public to the things that musicians are most concerned about.

Overall, I’m satisfied with the design of the site, but will probably make a few tweaks here and there. I’m experimenting with Google ads on the individual archive pages to test out their AdSense program. In the coming weeks, I’ll archive the individual links in the Browsing, Reading and Listening sections, and include a link to them from the front page. That’ll help clean things up yet still have all the previous info easily accessible. I also want to add reader comments at the end of each essay to provide a dialog and gather feedback. I’ll have to upgrade my Movable Type installation in order to do that to stay safe from comment spam. Hopefully, the changeover will be seamless.

I’d love to hear from every reader who stops by, whether you have a comment, criticism, suggestion or just want to say hi. Please drop me an email…

See you in 2006…and have a happy new year!

December 31, 2005 | Link to this entry

John Adams' El Nino at WDCH

Paul Viapiano and Brian Head play El Nino at WDCH

Paul Viapiano and Brian Head onstage at the Walt Disney Concert Hall this past weekend where Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted the LA Philharmonic, LA Master Chorale, Dawn Upshaw, Michelle DeYoung and Willard White in three performances of John Adams' El Nino.

The score calls for 2 steel-string guitars with light amplification. I played my Taylor 810 with a Dean Markley pickup and Brian played a Larrivee cutaway with onboard electronics, and each guitar was amplified through a Trace Elliot TA100R amplifier.

December 19, 2005 | Link to this entry

New Music, John Adams & Boulez

Last night, I performed as a guest artist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group in their Green Umbrella series playing a piece written by Gyorgy Kurtag, titled Grabstein fur Stephan. The piece, which contrasts serene moods with violent discord, places most of the musicians onstage and scatters several more groups of players around the hall playing brass, woodwinds, whistles and plastic duda horns. The guitar is the serene center of this little universe, playing slowly strummed open string arpeggios that change ever so slightly over time. Alexander Mickelthwate, the new assistant conductor of the orchestra, presided over this unusual composition. The near sell-out crowd went wild at the end of the piece. It’s great to see enthusiastic audiences turning out for new and challenging music that’s far off the beaten path. It’s especially exciting to hear music like this played in Walt Disney Concert Hall, where the transparent acoustics bring every individual instrument to life in its own psycho-acoustic space.

Next week, Esa-Pekka Salonen will conduct John Adams’ nativity oratorio, El Nino at Walt Disney Concert Hall. The LA Philharmonic last performed this piece in early 2003 in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, their former home, and played several more performances immediately thereafter at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, while on tour. In both cities, the orchestra played in the pit while Peter Sellars staged the action above them. It’s an incredibly moving piece that utilizes three counter-tenor voices (an otherworldly sound), soprano, mezzo-soprano, baritone, chorus, children’s choir and two steel-string guitars. The guitar parts are challenging, intricate and they mesh perfectly. I had so much fun playing this piece 2 ½ years ago with guitarist Jim Hershman. I was excited every night just watching Esa-Pekka as he explored the piece and led the orchestra through each inspired magical evening. This time, guitarist Brian Head will join me while Jim enjoys a holiday break from his busy schedule in New York. Brian is a wonderful guitarist/composer and we had a lot of fun working together last year when we played the west coast premiere of Osvaldo Golijov’s, Ainadamar. It just doesn’t get any better than this…what a great way to wrap up the year.

And if that wasn’t enough to keep me practicing for hours, the LA Phil New Music Group will be performing Pierre Boulez’s, Le Marteau Sans Maitre on January 17 at Disney Hall. Originally premiered in 1955, this is the piece that put Boulez on the map. Written for three percussion, guitar, alto flute, viola and alto voice, it weaves an incredibly complex path through a soundscape that breaks Boulez’s “rules” of total serialization and allows it to flex and become a poetic and communicative work of art. Alexander Mickelthwate will conduct and we will have seven rehearsals (in 1955, Boulez’s musicians had an unheard of 60 rehearsals!) to prepare the piece. I’ve been practicing many hours and listening to the Boulez recording (I found it on iTunes, can you believe it?), but the true test is always that first rehearsal, when you can actually see how the conductor is going to play this section or that particular grouping of measures, and you dive right in. As Esa-Pekka once said to the orchestra as they were rehearsing an extremely difficult piece, “The look of concentration on your faces is the most beautiful sight to me.”

December 7, 2005 | Link to this entry


My apologies to anyone who tried to access this site in the last 18 hours. There was a problem with domain name renewal at my webhost. Hopefully the problem is fixed...

December 2, 2005 | Link to this entry


Paul Viapiano is a guitarist working in film, television and live performance based in sunny Pasadena, California.

You can email me here.

Return to the front page