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  • Writer's pictureJustin

Goodbye / Hello

I have a couple of rituals that I reserve for the end of the year. Sure, I think about the year that's passed and the one that's about to begin. I think about all the places I've been, all the new experiences I had, what went well and what didn't quite pan out the way I expected. The landscape is certainly a lot different now when compared to, say, 2019, but I still managed to "accomplish" a lot this year. (I think even my definition of "accomplish" has changed.) So allow me to catalog some of my creative highlights as 2023 disappears.

From January to March, I embarked on the "100 Songs Project", in which I attempted to record piano & vocal demos of all of the songs that I actively play these days. The number has changed a lot over time; new songs come into my life and get added to the pile, while old ones that don't resonate with me anymore get retired. But the number is usually around 100, and so that was the goal # of recordings. Since I added and cut songs along the way, I ended up with around 120 recordings, not to mention all the unsaved takes. You might have noticed that I didn't make any of this public, nor do I intend at this point to release these recordings (they are only demos, of course), so . . . what was the point? Well, simply put, it's for me. For me to keep track of all the songs that I play, for me to hear what my arrangements and voicings are like (I don't write anything down), and for me to have a sonic record of where I was in 2023. For the songs that I cut during the recording process, it's likely the last time I will play them, so that's cool too.

Recording 100 demos

Also back in January, a friend helped me go through some very old files and uncover some compositions and song fragments I wrote between 1997 and 2006. Dang, that's a while ago. Anything worth bringing to light? Hmm, maybe? Maybe not! :) But the archivist in me is very pleased to have organized that stuff and converted some obsolete formats to PDF and MP3 for perusal in the future.

I finished my Max class in March and really enjoyed myself. I have a project on the back burner right now to utilize Max in a dance context that I'd really like to get back to soon. Then September through December I had two new classes, Creative Coding and Microcontrollers. I learned a lot and had fun with text-based coding for visual purposes. I found less joy in soldering and the annoyances of cheaply made hardware, such as wondering if the problem was in the code or whether it was a loose wire! So I'm going to be trying something new in 2024, but we're not done with the 2023 wrap-up yet!

A Daisy microcontroller wired to some LEDs, a gamepad-style joystick and a photocell

Some time in the spring & summer, I wrote a whole bunch of new songs and wrote some new short stories, so that was fun. Then after visiting Whitaker Ponds on a whim, I was inspired to create my first art event in a while, and I had a great time. I was happy to see some new faces at Pondwalk and I managed to persevere through the hot weather, mosquitoes, and my lingering arm issues. Not long after that, I presented GAMES as a totally different kind of artistic event. I loved how participatory the event was and how everyone felt comfortable and excited to join in. It was also a lighthearted affair rooted in the absurdist humor of Dada, reinforcing that quote from Bill Wurtz, "The content doesn't have to be serious; you just have to feel serious. You just have to do it on purpose."

The year ended with a clarinet gig in early December. The music was fun and I made it through, but once again my arms were not so happy. That's a good segue for what's coming up in 2024.

What's coming up on the road ahead?

- I've ordered a Kooiman thumb rest for my clarinet. This is a special device that substantially changes the angle of the right hand and radically shifts the weight distribution. It has a solid track record of helping people with overuse injuries, tendonitis, arthritis and other conditions that make it difficult to play. I'm hoping it will work its wonders for me too -- fingers crossed!

- I'll be taking a class called 4D Foundations, an introduction to very new technologies in the service of sound, video and experimental art. I'm hoping to use what I learn in new kinds of work, new performances, web-based art ... who knows what else?

- Katherine and I are already working on a new event for early summer. Inspired by Pondwalk but set in a completely different location, expect music, dance, a guided walk and the sounds of nature all around you. More info as we get closer!

- I have one more event idea I have been working on but it's not ready to share just yet. Suffice it to say that I have been interested in social art events in an intimate environment, and I am going to see what I can do to help bring something like that to life in 2024.

Thanks for reading, thanks for caring, thanks for being here in 2023 and I'll see you next year!



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