A Surreal Drugstore Encounter with Hank Williams & Charlie Parker

A Surreal Drugstore Encounter with Hank Williams & Charlie Parker

Every now and then, my inner-city radar picks up something that is not quite right. In these moments, my subconscious throttles my awareness because the atmosphere is wrong- something is about to happen; something peripheral is asserting itself. The circumstances do not match the circumstances; be ready to react!

I was picking up some odds and ends at a Rite Aid Pharmacy in Washington Heights right under the George Washington Bridge. I was comparing the price per ounce of various products and wondering if Rite-Aid’s version of Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser was truly as meritorious as its box proclaimed when my nervous system went into high alert. I was particularly startled because nobody was standing anywhere near me. A split second later, I realized why I had suddenly dropped a can of Ajax and looked up at the ceiling: it was the steel guitar.

Instead of hearing muzak, hip-hop, pop, salsa, or smooth jazz on the Rite Aid P.A. system, I was actually hearing a steel guitar. Not just any steel guitar, mind you- this was one of the most recognizable and beautifully recorded steel guitar licks of all time. My jaw dropped. Here, in a drugstore at West 179th Street and Broadway, Hank Williams Senior‘s original posthumous 1953 hit recording, Your Cheatin’ Heart, was filling the air.


At first, I didn’t quite know what to do; this wasn’t supposed to be happening. It’s not so unusual for me to dream musical incongruities, but I was certain I was perfectly awake. The music seemed slightly louder than usual for a drugstore; I glanced around to see if anyone else detected anything unusual. The women coming down my aisle browsed and conversed in Spanish as if they heard nothing but their own voices.  I stood still, listening, involuntarily and silently mouthing a word or two as Hank entered with his inimitable vocals:

Your cheatin’ heart 
Will make you weep
You’ll cry and cry
And try to sleep

 

I decided I’d better continue shopping before two security guards (looking my way) mistakenly decided I was the anomaly that demanded immediate attention.

I made some swift decisions about cleaning agents and moved to the next aisle.  A young Rite Aid stocker stacked Cheerios boxes and mumbled along, dropping syllables and consonants and phonetically rendering the instrumental breaks: “Slee’ won’ come. . . Bearw! Bearw! Bearw!. . .whole night through. . .Hmmm cheatin’ heart. . . . will tell on you!” Although this made the scene a little weirder, something about the nonchalance and absentmindedness of his singing encouraged my own mind to drift again.

When did I first hear this song, anyway? I don’t even know. It’s something that’s always been there like the sun or the moon or gravity. . . my father occasionally used to sing it and accompany himself on guitar; I used to spin a 45 RPM record of it that I either permanently borrowed from him or got from a garage sale. In Texas during the seventies, the song could still make an occasional appearance on the radio, at a pizza parlor, or on the country music shows that were a mainstay of primetime weekend television.

Brushing aside an impulse to ponder the song’s sudden reappearance for any omens or personal relevance, I envisioned the music filling a darkened bar or a diner in Harlem almost sixty years ago . . .

Legendary be-bop musician Charlie Parker was notorious for pumping Harlem jukeboxes full of nickels as he punched in requests for Hank Williams tunes. His friends ribbed him for it:

“Bird, how can you listen to that hillbilly music?!  It’s so corny!”

“Listen to the words, man; do you listen to the words?!”

Parker died only a few years after Williams, but I’m sure he spun this record many times. I’ve never quite managed to connect the chromatic complexity of a chart like Parker’s “Hot House” with the earthy directness of a three-chord Williams ballad, and once again I struggled to build an aesthetic link from one to the other.


But I couldn’t bridge that gap, nor could I imagine what Charlie Parker might have been thinking as he silently brooded over his beer and listened to Hank’s sad story unfold because I was becoming aware of some strange sounds emanating from deep within the stock room. Once again, I had the sense that something wasn’t right, but this time I couldn’t identify the sounds; I only knew that they were vaguely human.

Then it hit me: somebody is yodeling.  Badly.

The sporadic muffled yodels unpredictably joined the song at various intervals. Either somebody in the stockroom was loving the music and having a great time exulting in it, or he was mercilessly mocking it and Williams’ tendency to pass fluidly and frequently between his head and chest voice in the great American passaggio tradition of artists like Jimmy Rogers.

-Or worse: maybe this whole scene was the brainchild of some sadistic manager who was using Hank Williams’ music for evil. I tried to stifle the image of a bound, blue-and-red-uniformed Rite-Aid employee being tortured and forced to yodel along to an endless-repeat cycle of “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” until he finally breaks into a chorus of “Please Release Me,” and is allowed to flee the building and drown his sorrows at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola, where he can listen to an Upstarts! group perform a sophisticated, Charlie Parker retrospective set curated by Jazz@Lincoln Center after which there will be absolutely no Hank Williams tunes playing on the nonexistent jukebox.

Somebody even deeper within the bowels of Rite Aid laughed and bantered happily. The yodeling continued.

I realized this was not a yodel of duress. . . whether exulting or ridiculing or merely groaning because he had to endure somebody else’s favorite music, the employee in the back was definitely having a good time. Like it or not, great music of any kind refuses to be ignored.

No longer on alert, I savored the moment. In twenty-two years of living in New York City, I had never heard any Hank Williams music in any store, and it will likely never happen again, unless the guys in the Rite Aid stockroom have a deep and abiding love for timeless music or a penchant for quirky inside jokes that help to make tedious working circumstances considerably more tolerable. Bring it home, Hank!

When tears come down,
Like falling rain,
You’ll toss around,
And call my name,
You’ll walk the floor,
The way I do,
Your cheatin’ heart, will tell on you… 

After the steel guitar tag faded away, a forgettable, more contemporary country song softly wafted through the P.A. system and was appropriately ignored by all, as the scene began to resemble any other chain drugstore in New York City.

-Some brilliant producer needs to bring back the steel guitar and the yodel.

Happy Labor Day weekend!

-Doc Wallace

Eavesdropping on Ear Shot at the New York Philharmonic

Eavesdropping on Ear Shot at the New York Philharmonic

Chris Rouse and Jesse Jones listening to "Innumerable stars, scattered in clusters" Photo credit: Chris Lee

Chris Rouse and Jesse Jones listening to “Innumerable stars, scattered in clusters” Photo credit: Chris Lee

One of the best perks of my job as a Senior Teaching Artist at the New York Philharmonic is the opportunity to give pre-concert talks.  Why?  I actually get paid to study great music, speak excitedly about it, and then hear it dazzlingly performed by one of the world’s greatest orchestras, often with marvelous soloists like Midori and Alisa Weilerstein (both featured this weekend)!

This year, my opportunity comes June 5-7, during the NY PHIL BIENNIAL: an eleven-day, twenty-one-concert, new music extravaganza, which included the premiere of my William Blake Rhapsody last weekend.

Currently, my studio is not only cluttered with pages from complex scores by Christopher Rouse, Elliott Carter, Matthias Pintscher, and Peter Eötvös, but it is also scattered with SIX amazing new scores that were read at this morning’s Ear Shot National Orchestral Composition Discovery Network readings in Avery Fisher Hall.

Of the six works, three will be selected by a top-secret committee for performance on each of this weekend’s concerts.  All six composers will receive feedback from New York Philharmonic musicians,  Music Director Alan Gilbert, Composer-in-Residence Christopher Rouse, and other composers.

Julia Adolph’s Dark Sand, Sifting Light automatically gets a strong nod from me because she features our Principal Violist Cynthia Phelps in a gorgeous solo.  The rest of her score is lyrical, colorful, well-balanced, and clear, with other engaging instrumental spotlights.

William Dougherty’s Into Focus gets a prize for most direct and instrumentally idiomatic application of the overtone series. . . as a meditation on how our consciousness tends to drift between different degrees of focus and clarity, it relies heavily on drones and has the orchestra resonating naturally in a way that truly does impact our consciousness and sense of time.

Max Grafe’s Bismuth: Variations for Orchestra aims to embody the structure of a pure Bismuth crystal.  (The chemists in my family would have me lobby for this one).  The structure is indeed clear, and it contains some of the loveliest oboe and bassoon writing of the six.

Can you imagine this Bismuth crystal as music?    Max Graf can!

Can you imagine this Bismuth crystal as music? Max Grafe can!

Jesse Jones’s Innumerable Stars, Scattered in Clusters sounds exactly like one would expect from the title: full of harmonics, bright mallet percussion, with all the composite sounds undulating, swirling, and sparkling.

Wang Lu’s Scenes from the Bosco Sacro musically depicts some of the fantastic monsters from Rome’s sacred grove of the same name.  It was by far the most grotesque and dissonant work of the day, but with a good dose of playfulness, quirkiness, and humor.

Andrew McManusStrobe rounded out the set, with a kaleidoscopic whirlwind of musical images he describes as “flashing lights, stop motion, faded, photographs, electronic dance music.”

You can learn much more about each piece and each composer at the American Composers Orchestra’s Sound Advice blog 

I must say, I’m glad I am not part of that secret committee because I enjoyed all six scores immensely, and in my book, each piece is a winner.  I look forward to hearing the results!

UPDATE: Congratulations to Julia Adolphe, Andrew McManus, and  Max Grafe, who have been selected to have their works performed respectively on June 5th, 6th, and 7th. -Gotta catch ‘em all!

#LetsPlayNYP!

Doc Wallace, 3 June 2014

 

Come Hear My New York Philharmonic Premiere!!

Come Hear My New York Philharmonic Premiere!!

Dear Friends and Fans,

Lucy Shelton with Elliott Carter

Soprano Lucy Shelton with composer Elliott Carter

I am SO EXCITED that the New York Philharmonic is performing the world premiere of my orchestral song cycle William Blake Rhapsody as part of its 2014 BIENNIAL festival.  The great Lucy Shelton- who has premiered and recorded works of Elliott Carter, David Del Tredici, and countless other composers- will be singing; longtime New York Philharmonic conductor  Michael Adelson will be at the podium.

William Blake Rhapsody embodies the struggle to find enduring love, joy, and faith in a broken world fraught with suffering.  The work is entirely driven by Blake’s poetry, which the singer presents, personifies, deconstructs, amplifies, and reflects.

The musicians sometimes paint the imagery in the text: as literal depictions of birdsong or infants, as symbolic representations of Blake’s theology and worldview, or as malevolent or benevolent forces acting upon the soprano’s personal Heaven or Hell.  Whose the dedicatee?  Find out by reading the full program note and libretto!

For a sneak preview and fun behind-the-scenes secrets, please enjoy my “Making of the William Blake Rhapsody Video”:

William Blake Eternity Manuscript

Blake’s Manuscript for the Poem “Eternity”

The concert is at on Saturday, May 31st at 11:00AM in Merkin Concert Hall, one of the best acoustics in the city for strings, singers, and chamber ensembles.  -And it’s TOTALLY FREE!  No tickets required!  World class musicians in a world class hall- what more could you want?

Rehearsing "William Blake Rhapsody" (l to r) Michael Adelson, Lucy Shelton, David Wallace

Rehearsing “William Blake Rhapsody”
(l to r) Michael Adelson, Lucy Shelton, David Wallace

Okay, how about additional world premieres by rising stars Daniel Felsenfeld, Richard Carrick, and many of our teenage proteges?!  It’s going to be an awesome event; I hope to see you there!

Hear an NPR All Things Considered broadcast about the New York Philharmonic BIENNIAL

 

#letsplayNYP

Transforming the Landscape of Music Education via the Web

Transforming the Landscape of Music Education via the Web

David Wallace Sharing Technical Secrets at Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp

David Wallace Sharing Technical Secrets at Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp

The digital age has profoundly changed the way people learn music. With twenty-four hour access to digital libraries of sheet music, recordings, and tutorials, people now study in the comfort of their homes without worrying about schedules or geographical access to a teacher.

As a violin and viola teacher, I am thrilled to join the digital pedagogy age with MyTalentForge.com, which makes my teachings available to more students than ever before.

I am particularly happy to align myself with [my] Talent Forge because this site only features musicians who are established as outstanding performers, as well as teachers. Without the quality control of sites like [my] Talent Forge, the learner’s job of separating the wheat from the chaff becomes prohibitive.

Having expertly curated lesson material is extremely important when you are learning a stringed instrument. For example, type in “vibrato tutorial” into Google. You get over 80,000 results. Some are laudable, but far more are bastions of horrible or even crippling advice uploaded by amateurs who have no business teaching anybody anything.

In contrast, [my] Talent Forge subscribers learn vibrato from my whole series of videos sharing the best exercises, information, and shortcuts I have gleaned over the past three decades from legendary string pedagogues.

Seriously, given a choice, would you rather get the best information straight from a Juilliard professor, or would you rather try your luck with YouTube’s 40,000+ offerings?

Some of my videos walk students directly through exercises that cause vast improvements when practiced on a regular basis. Here’s a lesson that teaches a phenomenal tone production and relaxation exercise I learned directly from Josef Gingold, Joshua Bell’s teacher:

 

Other videos share a few simple tips that can instantly improve technique:

 

And I’ve started a whole series of videos coaching subscribers on stage performance, performance anxiety, and peak performance.  Ever wonder how to conquer the problem of cold hands?  Here’s how!:


To date, I’ve created almost forty videos, and about forty pages of sheet music on topics including vibrato, tone production, comfort with the instrument and bow, stage presence, stage fright, left-hand short cuts, general musicianship, and revolutionary scale exercises. And there are more than 100 more lessons by other expert teachers on the site to further expand your musical prowess.

I’m constantly developing new content according to the needs and requests of the [my] Talent Forge community. It has been particularly exciting to respond to custom requests and questions of subscribers.  I hope you’ll join us!

Oh, and when you do, be sure to use the coupon code DavidWallace for added savings!

-Doc Wallace, January 18, 2014

Reaching Out with the U.S. Coast Guard Band

Reaching Out with the U.S. Coast Guard Band

Thankfully, the U.S. government is back in business, and I mean that from the bottom of my pocketbook. A week ago, the shutdown threatened to cancel today’s work with the U.S. Coast Guard Band, an ensemble I have coached on audience engagement for the past two years. Recently subject to budget cuts, layoffs, and government-imposed travel restrictions, the USCG Band and other military ensembles are increasingly required to perform in local schools and community venues to justify their existence beyond concert tours and ceremonies. (I like to fantasize about a future when professional ensembles are so inherently invested in schools and communities that they have to justify the occasional performance for bankrolling patrons or heads of state.)

From a purely selfish perspective, I enjoy working with the USCG Band because their live performances replace my everyday, string-centric reality with fresh sounds and musical perspectives. In that regard, I am no different from the fourth grader or senior citizen attending their community performances.

This morning, the band rehearsed an interactive concert designed for middle-school students. The program explores musical inspiration and reveals how musical compositions can emerge from almost anywhere. The far-ranging inspirations included historical figures (John Mackey’s Xerxes), the focused inner state of a dancer on stage (Warren Benson’s Solitary Dancer), a Saturday Night Live punchline (Scott McAllister’s More Cowbell) and several other contrasting sources.

While the audience-interactions are still being refined and tested, the middle-schoolers will be asked to sing themes, clap rhythms with the ensemble, provide improvisational input for USCG performers, and visualize their own solutions to compositional problems posed by composers. Each segment aims to give the young listeners entry points or “hooks” to focus their ears and minds on the musical materials.

In the afternoon, I led the USCG chamber ensembles through the process of designing activities for deepening listeners’ musical perceptions. Because I had already worked with most of the musicians before, I wanted to give them a challenging piece to think about sharing with new listeners. I settled on György Ligeti’s Ten Pieces for Woodwind Quintet III. Lento, a slow, intense, atonal movement. Here’s an excerpt:

Click here to purchase or download the full awesome Ligeti album!

At first, many musicians struggled with Ligeti’s contemporary material, which potentially could bore or confuse their typical audience members. By the end of the workshop, however, all five groups presented successful strategies and activities that would intrigue even a first-time listener. One group focused on the delicate, subtle shifts of color and developed an activity where an onstage color spectrum would provide a basis for interpreting the sound at any particular moment. Another group focused the audience’s ears on the organic blending and seamless shaping of the instruments’ pitches. Other groups helped listeners form their own subjective interpretations by encouraging personal narratives or making real-time artworks in response to musical details. Yet another group explored a movement activity that would simulate how Ligeti created diverse interactions among the instruments, even with limited material.

Assuming there isn’t another budget sequester or shutdown, I’ll return in February to coach USCG chamber ensembles on their own original programs. In the meanwhile, the USCG musicians have given me some great ideas for introducing middle school students to Krzysztof Penderecki’s dissonant, modern Concerto Grosso at the New York Philharmonic this Thursday.

Peace & Prosperity!

-Doc Wallace, 22 October 2013

PS Enjoy a playlist of some of my interactive concert presentations!

Reflections on the Zorn at 60 All-Star Orchestra Concert

Reflections on the Zorn at 60 All-Star Orchestra Concert

Composer John Zorn

Composer John Zorn

My mind and body still resonate from last night’s opening concert of Miller Theatre’s Zorn at 60 festival. In mid-August, I had received an invitation from conductor David Fulmer to join a “mega-orchestra to include all the most distinguished contemporary ensembles, quartets, and chamber formations here in New York City” to perform an evening of John Zorn’s new or rarely played orchestral compositions.

David wasn’t exaggerating; the all-star roster of eighty-eight musicians represented a staggering array of ensembles and renowned soloists. To name contemporary string quartets alone, we had representatives or founders from Kronos, Flux, JACK, Ethel, Mivos, and Momenta, to say nothing of mixed ensembles like Tashi, Decoda, Ensemble ACJW, International Contemporary Ensemble, Talea Ensemble, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, countless downtown ensembles, and musicians with rare pedigrees like Avery Fisher Career Grants and Juilliard doctorates.

From the first rehearsal to the final concert, everyone’s total commitment and enthusiasm drove the ensemble to deeper aesthetic extremes and fuller realizations of the scores. While people frequently evoke words like “anarchy” or “chaos” to describe Zorn’s music, an incredible amount of structure and detail underlies a seemingly frenzied exterior.  When performers fully realize every nuance and instruction, Zorn’s complex rhythmic juxtapositions, colorful orchestrations, and larger structures emerge as intricate, expressive, adventurous and oftentimes humorous tapestries, not the jumbled, sonic messes that too often result whenever new music receives too little rehearsal or exceeds the limitations of its players. Believe me, John was pushing the ensemble to its absolute limits, and each second of rehearsal counted.

While Fulmer and the ensemble did their utmost to prepare the music, Zorn guided the process by making sure every last actual sound matched his imagination, whether it meant experimenting to find just the right dynamics for the trumpets’ muted “murmurings” or making sure that the percussionists had heavy “1950’s vintage garden shears” not “cheap 1990’s hedge clippers” for the perfect chop to punctuate a phrase.

As always, Zorn embodied the perennially youthful, joyful, downtown “bad boy,” dropping double entendres, cajoling players by name, and sporting his signature camouflage pants and black t-shirts commemorating past seasons of his East Village new music venue The Stone.  I’m happy to report that our concert was recorded and you will be able to hear it in its entirety on a forthcoming album from Zorn’s record label Tzadik, which has selflessly furthered the careers of so many creative, non-mainstream artists.

Miller Theatre features additional concerts this week of Zorn’s chamber music and game pieces. All year long, venues and festivals around the world will continue to celebrate his vast and contrasting legacy.  If you don’t know his music, check out one of the many documentaries on YouTube and have a listen to some of his scores.

For a taste of the wonderfully creative and eclectic New York City downtown music scene Zorn has fostered, enjoy the opening improvisation from my band KNOT’s debut concert at The Stone:

Click here to view the full  John Zorn at 60 Orchestra Roster- arguably one of the greatest large-scale new music orchestras ever assembled!  Read Steve Smith’s rave New York Times Concert review.   Click here to read 60 tributes for Zorn at 60. Or listen to an in-depth NPR Radio interview with Zorn.

Peace!

Doc Wallace

26 September 2013

Doc Wallace Trio to Record New Live Album

Doc Wallace Trio to Record New Live Album

Yes, it’s true! The Doc Wallace Trio is recording a long-overdue sequel to our sold-out Live at the Living Room album.  In keeping with our debut CD’s spirit, we will record one hot live set at Cornelia Street Café on Thursday, September 12th at 6:00pm. $15 cover charge includes one drink; reservations are recommended.

A designated New York City culinary and cultural landmark, Cornelia Street Café combines great food with over 700 stimulating performances a year. The warm ambiance and professional sound system make it an ideal venue for the Doc Wallace Trio’s rollicking, jazzy, soulful music.

To get a better picture of the venue and its significance, enjoy this short documentary teaser featuring singer/songwriter Suzanne Vega, Tony award-winning playwright/activist Eve Ensler, jazz musician Gerald Cleaver, and other artists closely associated with Cornelia Street Café:

As you can tell from this Doc Wallace Trio performance at Lincoln Center, we play our best in the presence of friends and fans like you:

We hope to see you this Thursday!

-Doc Wallace 9 September 2013

Doc Wallace Goes for the Emotional at MWROC 2013

Doc Wallace Goes for the Emotional at MWROC 2013

David Wallace Performing at MWROC 2013

David Wallace Performing at MWROC 2013

My musicianship owes a debt to fiery collaborators of the great cellist Pablo Casals: Karen Tuttle, Julius Levine, Felix Galimir, and Alexander Schneider. When these gurus conducted, taught, or coached me, they demanded 110% emotional commitment. Anything less was a crime.  Casals imparted this impassioned approach to them, and it is now my duty to pass their fervor on to the next generation.

This year, “Going for the Emotional” was my mantra at Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp. In my classes for the entire student body, I put everyone through gut-wrenching actor’s studio work as we explored Karen Tuttle’s compendium of the five human emotions: love, joy, anger, fear, and sorrow.

Facsimile of Karen Tuttle's Compendium of the Five Human Emotions

Facsimile of Karen Tuttle’s Compendium of the Five Human Emotions

We conjured up personal experiences and modulated our emotions on a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being a mild manifestation of the designated emotion, 10 being the point where one completely loses control, breaks down, shatters sanity, has nothing left to give). We expressed ourselves through vocalizations and dramatic poses, as well as instrumental improvisations and compositions.

While coaching small ensembles, I took the opportunity to deepen our initial emotional explorations. One group, The Indubitably Sunny Phish, explored the mellow end of the spectrum with an improvisatory performance of Trey Anastasio and Tom Marshall’s Wading in the Velvet Sea. A technically advanced ensemble, Harbingers of Darkness, explored the dark recesses of the human psyche in our performance of Tet Offensive from Billy Bang’s Vietnam: The Aftermath.

I was pleased to observe that when the entire faculty and student body came together as a magnificent orchestra for the final concert, we were not just playing loudly. Yes, we were rocking out, but we were filling every note with uttermost feeling. All my mentors would have been proud.

I strongly believe teachers must practice what they preach. Anything less smacks of hypocrisy and diminishes credibility. For my faculty concert on July 17th, I put together as emotionally loaded a set as I could envision, and pushed myself right to the emotional breaking point (9.8 level).

I’ll share the entire set as soon as the video has been edited and posted to The Doc Wallace Music YouTube Channel. For now, enjoy a priceless text message I received from fellow MWROC Faculty Member, Producer Matt Vanacoro after the concert:

Best. Text. Ever!

Best. Text. Ever!

Hey, David!  Karen just texted me. They found your soul onstage after you ripped it out and showed it to everyone. Might want to run back and pick it up!

Be Expressive!

-Doc Wallace, 29 July 2013

#Harbingers of Awesomeness

#Harbingers of Awesomeness

I just invented a new hash-tag:

#HarbingerOfAwesomeness.  In plural form: #HarbingersOfAwesomeness.

Twitter doesn’t recognize this hash-tag yet.  It does know #HarbingerOfTheMundane, but that sounds rather awesomeless.  Let’s teach Twitter this new hash-tag by tweeting our #HarbingersOfAwesomeness on a regular basis!

A little inspiration to get you started:

Before I went to bed last night, Delta Airlines notified me that I had received an automatic first-class upgrade.  -Which inspired my historic first #HarbingersOfAwesomeness tweet:

Harbinger of Awesomeness Op.1, no.1

Harbinger of Awesomeness Op.1, no.1

“#FirstClassUpgrade?! ALL bags fly free?! Boarding first?! Room in the overheads for my viper & viola? #Hallelujah! #HarbingersofAwesomeness.”

Traveling with instruments can be a major ordeal.   Here’s a reminder from Canadian musician Dave Carroll of Sons of Maxwell:

And if you’re not convinced, here’s another woeful saga from Yours Truly: David Wallace Delta Airlines Saga- “My bags are WHERE? Ghana! YOU SENT THEM THERE AGAIN?!!!”

As you can see, a first-class upgrade bodes well for a musician concerned about flying with two instruments and a backpack full of electronics.  It is a #HarbingerOfAwesomeness.

Before I went to the airport, I encountered another #HarbingerOfAwesomeness in human form. While making a mad, last-minute cash-dash for the bank, I was greeted by a soft, friendly, “David Wallace!”

I spun around to face a smiling Bridget Kibbey, on her way home from an early morning jaunt.  Bridget was the original harpist of my group that recently re-emerged as Hat Trick, and she toured with the Teaching Artist Ensemble of the New York Philharmonic on our inaugural tour in 2004.  Wherever anyone encounters Bridget, something good follows.  –Usually of a musical or spiritual nature.  Bridget Kibbey is a certified #HarbingerOfAwesomeness:

Awesomeness!  No traffic to LaGuardia Airport.  No standing in the “infinitely long, plebian, non-elite traveler” check-in line, as is my usual custom.  More awesomeness!

Then came the next MAJOR #HarbingerOfAwesomeness: during a Transportation Safety Administration inspection, my electric viola tested positive for explosives for the first time in over ten years of travel with it.  Believe me, I want to give some EXPLOSIVE performances at Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp this week!  I couldn’t be happier.

Electric Violas are indeed most explosive.

Electric Violas: most explosive, indeed!

I resisted a strong urge to cause more trouble by photographing the large “EXPLOSIVES DETECTED” message on the computer screen. I didn’t want to arouse additional attention because in a #HarbingerOfTheMundane, the TSA was acting predictably suspicious about one of my favorite electronics effects pedals:

Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler: #Awesomeness!

Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler. 100% probability of receiving a TSA inspection. Heck; who can blame ‘em? Admit it. You wish you could swab it right now!

TSA agent: What’s this?

Doc Wallace (with pride & enthusiasm): It’s the Line 6 DL 4 Delay Modeler!  It makes electric violas sound mad awesome!!

I daresay the agent cracked a smile before she nudged her male colleague to give me the full-body patdown.

“Sir, I’m going to gently pat your buttocks with the back of my hand.”

I suppose under very special circumstances, someone might consider such an intimate utterance a #HarbingerOfAwesomeness, but in a TSA inspection context we are reminded:

#HarbingersOfAwesomeness are not about business as usual. . . they are portents of exciting or extraordinary realities on the horizon.  They are neither guarantees nor assurances.   They simply are hunches sparking our minds and sensitizing our intuition.  They wake us up, and make us open and available to transcendent realities or a greater appreciation of the mundane.  We just know that we’re onto something good.

I’ll leave you with a short video from Robert Brooker, a train engineer who works in the Toronto subways, and who subscribes to my YouTube channel.  He gets it.

Hey, did I mention my plane arrived in Kansas City fifty minutes early?!! Awesomeness!

For more of today’s #HarbingersOfAwesomeness visit my Twitter page.

Wishing you extraordinary realities!

-Doc Wallace 14 July 2013

Look Out, World, Here Comes docwallacemusic.com!!

Look Out, World, Here Comes docwallacemusic.com!!

Dr. David Wallace performing at The Bell Center

I can hardly believe it. . .

After years of dreaming, procrastinating, and pouring all my energy into living the life of a musician, composer, and teaching artist based in New York City, I’m finally launching a website!  What’s that, Vi?  (Vi Wickam’s my web guru / personal-mentor-in-all-things-internet).  This post is actually the beginning of my Reaching Out with Doc Wallace blog?

Oh, man, I should say something pithy, momentous, or engaging. . . but I’ve only got a few hours to pack all my clothes and electronics gear for Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp!!  Come to think of it, MWROC is extraordinarily momentous; I’ll let next week’s events do the talking!

I’ll be performing on every faculty concert next week at the Bell Center in Olathe, Kansas.  My own set is Wednesday, July 17th.  I’ll be performing a movement from a string quartet I’m writing for the Marian Anderson String Quartet, some Lead Belly, my ever-popular Nahum: An Apocalyptic Prophesy for Electric Viola, as well as some surprises.  Other highlights include performing a Mahavishnu Orchestra chart with Joe Deninzon, Tracy Silverman, Lucas Shogren, and Matt Vanacoro on Monday; shredding heavy metal medleys and a movement of Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 3 in F Major, Op. 73 with Rachel Barton Pine on Tuesday; and joining the MWROC Beatles and Zeppelin orchestras for the final concert on Friday night.

Spread the word!  I sincerely hope some of you can make it out to some of the concerts.  Here’s a sample from last year to whet your appetite.  This is a 100% improvised psychedelic jam based on Janis Joplin and Big Brother & the Holding Company’s cover of Moondog’s All is Loneliness: 

Can you see why I’m so excited?!  But that’s just part of the adrenaline and endorphins:

During the day, I will be teaching and coaching inspired musicians of all levels and ages how to improvise, rock out, create their own arrangements, and thrive in an atmosphere where everyone is unconditionally loved, celebrated, and accepted.

So, I think that’s plenty of material for this first entry.  My website is still a work-in-progress, but it gets a little better and more complete each day.  I’m editing and uploading new content constantly, so check back frequently.  My goal is to have all sections fully developed by the end of July.  Meanwhile, please browse!

Thank you so much for sharing the journey with me!

Rock on!

Doc Wallace

13 July, 2013

PS While you’re at it, check out the Doc Wallace Music YouTube channel.  I’ve been developing it for over a year now, and it’s another great place to keep up with me.  If you like what you see, please subscribe.  That way, you don’t miss any updates!  Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a Gmail account; you just need to sign in.  Google will kindly walk you through the process.