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One can’t write songs 16 hours a day. Well maybe you can, but I’ve never been the type to to tackle compositional duties with gusto. In fact, I’ll find almost anything else to keep me occupied in order to prevent me from facing my ugly, ugly demons. If you ever find yourself similarly in need of distracting activities while slowly penning masterworks of lied, here are a few I tested out for you this past week:

1. Catch up on your NewMusicBox reading.
I recommend Ingram Marshall‘s absolutely terrific piece on how composers define watershed moments in their careers. My head was continuously nodding up and down in agreement all the way through.

2. Follow The World Cup.
I admit, I do see the attraction. It’s true, like most red-blooded Americans, I played soccer in my youth, which never translated into a love of the game. Unsurprising, I suppose, when you think about how scarring the whole 10-year-old-sports-thing was. But these guys are fun to watch, and are helping me see past the damage Biddy Soccer did to my psyche…

3. Obsessively read through Duke Ellington charts.
Amazon’s latest shipment was a frivolous Warner Bros. piano/vocal of standards, which I haven’t stopped playing through, in a futile attempt of pretending I’m Marion McPartland. (I’m not. Well, I’m not nearly as cool, for one.) The Ellingtons in the collection make me particularly giddy. I’ve been listening to these tunes since I was 14, and even took an Ellington course in grad school (taught, if I remember correctly, by the then executive director of Jazz at Lincoln Center). But I have never played the tunes solo. It’s way too much fun. I believe the only time I stopped was to write this entry.

4. Peruse cool new multimedia sites.
Like Carnegie Hall’s fancy Emerson Quartet seminar on the Bartók quartets. I listened to the EQ’s recording of these, oh, I guess every day, in 1990 and 1991. I even went to one of their famous Bartók Cycle concerts at Tanglewood, and heard all six in one sitting (there was a dinner break). The site is designed for lay music lovers, so the commentary moves a little slowly for my taste, but it is pretty nifty to watch them play excerpts as the score goes by. It’s also geared more toward interpretation, and less toward analysis, but I’ll take what I can get…

Results may vary, of course, but I hope these help.

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