Friday, September 29, 2006

BMI/NY travel journals: episode 1

...in which our protagonist often finds himself walking in the wrong direction, but at least taking the right subway trains.

Monday: awake at the foreign hour pre-7 am to catch the train at Gare Centrale. After arriving much earlier than expected, I go to the beloved Tim Horton's for some caffeine and a blueberry muffin. Upon my return I see a long line already formed to board the train to New York. Though the train was supposedly sold out, I had two seats to myself for the entire ride. My attempts to sleep were to no avail, so I resigned myself to working on some pieces to ultimately present to the BMI folk, listening to music (Guillermo Klein and John Hollenbeck to get in the big band mood, The Roots and Billy Joel to keep me pumped), and slogging through Steppenwolf. Delays at the border (which I thought undue at first, only to be surpassed in length and bureaucratic bumbling on the return trip) and a stretch of single-track along Lake Champlain resulted in an ultimate trip length of 12 hours.

Once in Penn Station, I walked through the corridor to the 2 express train and rode up to 96th and Broadway. After a rather tiring walk up Amsterdam Avenue, I realized I had written down the address of a different hostel than the one I was staying at. Retraced my steps and finally arrived at my destination, checked in, dropped my luggage off in the room and immediately proceeded to the jam session at Smoke. Talked to some of my fellow musicians, listened to Jeremy Pelt blow the hell out of his horn (fresh off his hit at Dave Douglas' FONT), got up and jammed on "What Is This Thing Called Love?," reunited and reminisced with old Rex cohort Josh Brown, satisfied the drink minimum with a couple of Yuenglings and returned to the hostel.

Tuesday: When you start the day off with a NY bagel with raisin and walnut cream cheese, it's bound to go alright. I'm still loyal to St. Viateur bagels, though. Hop on the subway and proceed to wander around Midtown and Times Square on a rather long and protracted search for a Village Voice. Stops include a browse through the Virgin Megastore and Colony Music, and I'm stunned at the sheer proliferation of Starbucks. I didn't realize they truly are on every corner - sometimes twice. Lunch at a deli on 55th, a detour to Patelson's to purchase Alban Berg's piano sonata (an overdue fulfillment of one of my teacher's many recommendations), and park myself in the Starbucks beside the BMI building to kill time before the meeting.

Mike Abene led the meeting, and initiated all us newbies into the BMI Workshop's process. As Jim McNeely wrote in an email, "Don't make the music so goddamn hard!" Discussions ensued about the clarity of music (in presentation and in composition), a BMI Workshop MySpace or other mailing list, Finale vs. Sibelius vs. pen and paper, and all sorts of other composerly geekiness. Thankfully I'm not the only long-distance commuter - another participant is flying in from Florida for the meetings!

After the meeting, I had dinner at the West 53rd deli, much emptier this time than during the madness of IAJE, and then made my way to Sam Ash to indulge in gear lust. Wound up helping a singer looking for a keyboard to improve her piano chops, as the salesman assisting her at the time was more of a production type than a player type. I don't know if she bought anything, but it was nice to just talk shop.

Hopped on the F train to check out the Sirius String Quartet at the Stone, and wound up walking the wrong way for about five blocks until someone redirected me. I knew the Stone was small, but I didn't realize how small - nor did I know that there's no address or signage to speak of. I saw an open door and heard some string music and assumed correctly. (A better review of the concert to follow shortly, after some sleep. Suffice it to say that I was quite inspired to keep doing the Strings project.)

Wednesday: Another ungodly arising, another breakfast of sugar and blueberries, another 12-hour train ride back home, in which we were inspected by both US and Canadian Customs, and everything that could go wrong at the border did - travellers without papers, without good reasons for entering Canada, with criminal records they didn't immediately admit to.

I do this all again for the next three weeks. And I don't mind.

1 comment:

Amanda said...

When I was at home I heard on the news that lots of Starbucks in the city (namely the one at Union Square) were infested with rats and other undesirables. I have been paranoid ever since.