music, technology & life in pasadena, california

On Creativity

Writer Elizabeth Gilbert gives a fantastic talk about living the artistic life, muses, pressure and just keeping your head down and doing the work. | From the TED conference

February 22, 2009 | Link to this entry

Keep Your Head Down

Many times when musicians get together, they start comparing notes. How's work? Where'd you work this week? Who was on the session/concert? Who played (insert your own instrument here)? What inevitably follows is the realization that you didn't get called for the gig in question, followed by questions that haunt and a slight realignment of your place in the pecking order. Even some of the best and most workingest players fall into the above trap...players look in from the outside wanting to get in, and the ones who are firmly established keep checking to make sure no one is gaining on them, all of which makes for a very un-creative and paranoid-ish approach to work which should essentially be joyful.

Sure, it's understandable. No one wants to invest 10 or 20 years only to find themselves on the outside because someone new came along, and young people resent a field closed by an insurmountable can't-get-in-until-someone-dies wall.

But there's one approach that seems to elude many otherwise wiser persons. Just keep your head down and do good work. Day after day, and night after night, find the pleasure of doing a good job in and of itself and the rest will come.

I'm reminded of the well-known MacArthur Grants, the so-called Genius Awards that are given annually to people in diverse fields. The awardees don't even know that they are being considered until a phone call announces the award. Were they looking over their shoulders or bemoaning the fact that someone in their field had won a major award in the previous year instead of themselves? I doubt it. They just did the work that was important to them, the work had its own purpose, it needed to be done.

Keep your head down and do good work.

February 17, 2009 | Link to this entry


It’s been a long while since I talked about new restaurants here, but I just experienced a brand new place that knocked me out. Wurstkuche is a small sausage grill just to the east of downtown LA, near 3rd and Traction, an area that’s increasingly being populated by artists and young hipsters as it gentrifies from its former iffy and dangerous self.

After reading a small mention in the LA Times, I talked a few of my mates from the Ahmanson Theatre orchestra pit (OK, so I’m doing another show again…sue me!) to take the long hike down from Bunker Hill. After much complaining and several taxi-hailing threats, we arrived at Wurstkuche. Even when armed with the address it’s hard to find the door, but once inside the small counter-ordering area (there’s a larger sit-down area with tables and a bar down a narrow 60-foot hallway), the variety among the meat case and beer taps was mind-bending.

Wurstkuche offers sausage varieties familiar to everyone, such as bratwurst, Italian, kielbasa and Louisiana hot links, but I went in for the exotics. I had an incredibly delicious buffalo, beef and pork sausage with chipotle peppers served, as all their offerings are, on a roll with a choice of carmelized onions, hot and sweet peppers. Also in the case that night were sausages made with duck, rabbit, alligator and rattlesnake as well as those with chicken, turkey and several vegetarian numbers.

The Belgian fries are probably the best in LA, especially when paired with a few of their tasty dipping sauces. The beer selection, especially the Belgian and German beers on tap, has everything from light to black, and can be sampled for the asking. I had an almost black German Koestritzer Schwarzbier from the tap that cooled the chipotle and helped prepare for the leisurely walk back for a second show of two-beat hot jazz and naked women.

February 6, 2009 | Link to this entry

Lukas Foss

Lukas Foss, conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic throughout my grade school years, died this past week. He was a brave soul who will best be remembered for his new music compositions and quirky mad-scientist personality among those who knew him. He was introducing audiences to what we now call “new music” as far back as I can remember, when it wasn’t very hip or palatable to be listening to anything other than Elvis and The Beatles. He stood his ground and was relentless in his zeal, drive and passion. The world finally caught on in the last ten years, at least here in LA, and now new music concerts at Walt Disney Concert Hall sell out quickly.

I had the chance to work with him once in Buffalo and again here in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Bowl one summer, playing “Phorion”, a piece of his that was a wild fantasia of stolen Bach quotations that included an electric guitar, electric organ, harpsichord and strings.

Lukas was a giant precursor to the current fervor and uniquely dedicated to furthering the expansion of our minds and ears.

February 6, 2009 | 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.

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