Ive been teaching as an adjunct piano prof for nearly 15 years….I am making the same if not less than I was when I first began. I return every year because I love being around the students and I get to teach Improvisation, its almost as if I never left college (although I havent been in school for about 25 years) The students keep me young and aware of current trends. They also keep me grounded in the thought that I am doing good and changing the world through Improvisation every so slightly.
For many years I had a reoccurring dream. I’d be sitting at a piano improvising and someone would be listening to me. Slowly but surely more and more people would be listening, this would eventually grow to the point where the entire world was hanging on my every note and if I stopped the world would end or something tragic would happen. I had this dream over and over in my 20’s. Now entering into my 50’s I never have it, but at some point in the past 15 years I came to the realization that this was why I do what I do. I am slowly changing students lives through Improvisation and hopefully they will go forward into the world with the same excitement and insight it has given me. My students as well as myself view it as therapy. It’s been my meditation for as long as I can remember. Its all encompassing and fully immersive.
Sadly, as society changes and Higher Education slowly deteriorates in my view, Improvsation and its importance remains paramount but my feeling towards teaching decreases, and the way Ive been treated by the institution I teach at has left me with minimal students and a lack of compensation for all I give. I am saddened by this as the bonds I make with students increase in importance and they see feel the value of what I do as the powers that be in my department and school do not.
Tomorrow marks the soft release of “Random Milestones” by the Stehly / DeChellis Project. Burton Stehly / words and spoken words…I did the music and sounds…I’ve never worked with a poet / writer before, so this was a first. I think it turned into to something unique…poignant, funny and dark…I’d love to do more of this kind of music making…
i was given my first record player when I was in 1st grade, i was also given, or I adopted from my moms collection, “Rubber Soul” by The Beatles…at some point early on I was also given the Horowitz recording of the Tchaikovsky piano concerto by my Uncle Gary and Aunt Joanie…as I recall my first two 45’s were “Devil Went Down To Georgia” by Charlie Daniels Band and “Don’t it Make Your Brown Eyes Blue” by Crystal Gayle….the obsession began…in 2nd grade I remember going to see Star Wars with my dad in the theaters, i remember this very clearly because he seemed to always be working and for us to do something like this together was pretty special. I told my mom I wanted the Star Wars soundtrack really bad and she said as long as I only brought home A’s and B’s that week in my work folder she would get it for me…..friday came, and sadly I had gotten three C’s during the week….as was typical, the pencil sharpener was above the waste paper basket in Mrs. Laspe’s room…as the day went on I seemed to break my pencil 3 times, and each time I would crumple up one of those C papers and toss it in the basket…at some point in the day, Jennifer Livingston, a girl I had gotten in trouble for kissing in kindergarten was sharpening her pencil when she saw my papers in the garbage, she told Mrs. Laspe (a short stocky bull of a woman) “Danny’s throwing his bad papers away!” ….I remember Mrs. Laspe grabbing me by the ear and dragging me to the hallway….I tried to explain about the Star Wars soundtrack, but she wanted nothing to do with it, she called my mom down to the school…standing there in the hall with my mom and my teacher I remember my mom sorta defending me saying he was just, sorta, following my directions by ‘not’ bringing home his bad papers…im not sure sure how the rest of this all went, but when I got home the double-lp was sitting on my bed….this was a good day!
by the time I was 14 or so I had a subscription to Stereo Review magazine…I dreamed of owning a fancy stereo someday, i read articles about all sorts of equipment, i began to understand what some of the specs were and couldn’t wait to someday own my own component system…i was also at the time getting the BSR catalogs, and for xmas that year I pieced together a simple pioneer / technics system I was hoping for…on xmas morning i remember sitting downstairs on the floor around the tree…my sister engulfed in a mountain of presents and me with 3-4 boxes already opened…pj’s and sweaters i’d imagine…my father asked if I was happy with what I’d gotten and I reluctantly said yes…he then asked me to go into the next room and get him something….as I opened the door there it was, my first stereo…another great day!
yesterday was one of those days as well…in those Stereo Review magazines I was reading all those years ago, I often read about Thoren’s Turntables….i saw lots of beautiful pics and thought they must be the best of the best…I dreamed about owning one someday for many years….well this has finally come to be….I saw a really nice one on FB Marketplace for $500 two nights ago and showed it to Anita…she’s heard all about this stuff for nearly 30 years and just sorta glazes over whenever I talk about it, but she knows how much I’ve wanted one ever since we’d met…well the one I showed her wasn’t gonna happen, to expensive for sure….then yesterday I stopped down to my favorite local used record store, Easton Record Exchange just saying hello to the owner, a friend of mine, and hoping to find some Sandy Denny records, which I didn’t….but as we chatted I noticed a Thorens TD 160 turntable….it was just like the ones I remember seeing in Stereo Review 36 years ago…I inquired about price and thought, maybe…just maybe
well when I got home I sent Anita a message about it and the price….and as I sat there watching those lights blink on FB messenger when someone is typing, awaiting her reply, I sorta thought she might say yes, although I was bracing for the usual response of “no, we don’t have the money right now” which I understand is usually the case, there was a small part of me that felt optimistic….and she replied…”sure, it’ll be your xmas present”….yesterday was truly a great day!!
I am listening to it as I type….it has truly lived up to all my expectations!!
as i near the inevitable 50 years old, half century, 5 decades…i think about goals, or were they dreams, or are they still goals and dreams….either way, they are things I often think about…how many are still obtainable, how many have been achieved…another factor has entered, not dictated by health as of yet thankfully, but age…the music business I knew when I began and the one that exists now is quite different….by music biz I mean selling music and performing music as well as teaching….i also factor in life goals, which obviously include music, but there are children, wife, family, friends, bands, musicians….most of which i feel good about…each one has its own delicate dance…ebbs and flows…i think about my achievements and perhaps how those achievements aren’t quite as grand as they sounded or were projected to be when I was 24 out of music school….25 odd years ago in Boston…it seems as though I have at least satisfactorily achieved the life goals and perhaps certain, portions or definitions, of some of the music / career goals…whatever I have achieved, I am amply aware of the support and love I have used from my best friend and wife of over 26 years, none of this would have been here without her…not to say another path would not have certainly occurred if we hadn’t met, but this has been mine, and for that I am alive and thankful…I suppose I take solace simply in the work…this is a lesson I learned from my uncle…to be creative always, never stop…regardless…there’s no reason to…a legacy or body of work is all we really have…
I’ve been a fan of Brian Eno and long, slow ambient music for as long as I can remember….i started falling asleep to “Music for Airports” about 30 years ago, there were patches where I didn’t as well…for a long time it was a solo piano record by Ernesto Diaz-Infante called “Ucross Journal”….buy it https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/ernesto3 and at others it was George Winston or perhaps different Brian Eno or Harold Budd records.
When I lived in NYC I began recording my commutes on the subway to and from work with a small microphone in my jacket pocket. I would just record the entire commute and then break it into loops or tracks and then improvise some keys around it or record my self playing and then make loops out of that….essentially making my own sort of “Music for Airports” This was called The Sym-plifi Project. https://thesym-plifiproject.bandcamp.com/
About 2 years ago I discovered some free software that allowed me to to drastically alter time, at the same time I recall sitting on my deck with Anita after a rather busy week of rock and jazz gigs saying ” sometimes all I want to hear is a single pitch or sine wav, just something to occupy the space, but allowing me to relax” I shortly there after began making a ton of this type of “stretch-music”.
I recently completed a project using this material with poet and narrator, Burton Stehly. Burton reads his poetry and stories and I fill in the space around his poignant and often humorous stories and poems….coming soon!
This was completed last night, the photo is from a recent visit to the Blue Ridge Mountains in Boone, NC…. it’s called “patches” we all go through them….good and bad…
I’ve been a member of Acoustic Kitty Project for many years now, one of the pleasures of my life is to play with these fine musicians and to have the opportunity to interpret Carter Lansing’s great songs…please check out this video recorded a few months ago…