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September 04, 08

"For Dad" with Gary Schocker, Flute and Hugh Sung, Piano

Flutist Gary Schocker performs one of his compositions, "For Dad", during one of his masterclass sessions this past July. Gary is the most prolific living composer of works for flute and piano. Our first CD together is about to be released soon - stay tuned for news on that! In the meantime, enjoy this performance and watch out for more performance clips from a busy summer of music!
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September 03, 08

The Speed Demon Arrives!

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The "world's fastest laptop computer" - ie, my Sager 9262 - has just arrived!! Quad Core, 2.8+ GHz, double graphic card XP goodness was liberated from its cardboard carrier as soon as i arrived home to undergo installations of necessary software (Pure Data Extended, Quick Time Pro, Firefox, Google Chrome, etc.)  A full detailed review will be forthcoming, but suffice to say this thing is wicked fast!!  I'll be eager to put it through its paces and am keeping my fingers crossed...

The puppy is over-the-top big (the power block itself is laugh-out-loud-large), but actually not as much as i had feared.  I can actually lift the darn thing, and it's definitely more portable than the desktop i had originally purchased.  That being said, it's definitely not a unit to be carried under one's arm for any sane period of time. 

Hm...makes me almost want to go out and get one of those new-fangled PC games just to have something to show off with....

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September 02, 08

My Summer in 10 Words

A whole month has gone by with me being the absent blogger, and the cumulative burden to get around to putting something up has finally taken its toll. Rather than trying to tackle an essay of titanic proportions, I thought i'd wean myself back into the web fold with a little “less is more” gimmick. So, here goes my attempt to summarize a summer that's been like no other in so many respects:





  1. Packed





  2. Productive





  3. Infuriating





  4. Inspiring





  5. Exciting





  6. Exhausting





  7. Varied





  8. Video'd (um...my made up word to express that I have a TON of video footage to edit through and post up...)





  9. Tech'd





  10. Tapped (as in, um...tapped out! Hahaha)





As an old pastor friend of mine once put it, “let's unpack this”:



Packed



– Two weeks of teaching the inaugural year of Strings International Festival's Piano Studies program in Bryn Mawr, immediately followed by two weeks of teaching/performing/programming (in increasing order of busy-ness) at the Rocky Ridge Music Center Festival in Estes Park, Colorado, accompanied by my whole family;





  • Two recitals at the Great Auditorium in Ocean Grove, NJ – one with the inestimable Nitzan Haroz, principal trombonist of the Philadelphia Orchestra (and high contender for coolest guy in Philadelphia, perhaps the entire East Coast!); the other recital jointly with Gary Schocker, flutist/composer/pianist extraordinaire and soprano Jacquelyn Familant.





  • Two recitals with Gary at his own masterclass session in Poughskeepie, NY (YouTube videos to be posted very soon)





  • Visual Recital to celebrate the debut of the new 9 foot Cunningham Piano at the Woodmere Art Museum





  • Visual Recital/Music Technology lecture/performance at the Summit Music Festival





  • Recital with my dear old friend and master violinist Aaron Rosand. According to one cello professor in attendance, he thought it was one of the greatest recitals he had ever witnessed – wow!





Productive





  • Finally, after two years of beating around the bush, got down to learning Pure Data/GEM, the open source audio/visual programming language. Still a lot more to learn, but the basics are tremendously promising, and I hope to devote a good portion of the coming year to getting comfortable creating new Visual Recital programs with this amazing program.





  • Got my feet wet with Blender, the open source 3D modeling/animation program. Two excellent textbooks should help me get a better handle on this program. Oh, and check out these amazing videos created entirely with Blender and other open source programs!!





  • More toe-dipping with another realtime visualizing program called VVVV (how in the world does one pronounce that??) This program works natively with DirectX 9 in Windows, such that the performance and speed with massively complex visual algorithms is by far the most impressive i've seen with any program of its kind. Can an old brain learn two new programming languages simultaneously? This year we'll find out...





Infuriating





  • Pure Data doesn't come with a manual per se, but only with a series of example patches that range from incredibly helpful to infuriatingly obtuse. I think I lost the most hair this summer trying to figure out some of the most embarrassingly basic aspects of this program...





  • being told the night before a show after having spent nearly an entire sleepless week programming (and learning to program) that the visuals were too “over the top” for a particular piece. Well, why the dadgum blazes didn't anyone TELL me what they wanted from the beginning, instead of at the last minute?? I was ready to smash my computer, go home and forget about this whole crazy “visual recital” thing. Somehow I managed to neuter the “wild” visuals and create an entirely new set of visuals for another piece piece in under 10 hours, to rave reviews.





  • Discovering that high altitude causes my 5000 lumen projector to shut down after only 40 minutes or so, due to insufficient amounts of air to cool the lamps!





  • My faithful old Samsung i730 PDA phone was starting to kick the battery bucket, so I upgraded to the Samsung i760. Neat phone, except for some strangely sluggish performance – but then, the USB connection started to die out, even after hard reboots. Called Verizon tech support, and they sent out a replacement i760, but the LCD screen died shortly after arrival. Cool phones simply aren't cool when they're slower and more problem prone than older models...





Inspiring





  • Believe it or not, Verizon tech support! They were great about sending over the replacement right away. When the LCD on the second unit died, tech support asked if I wanted yet another i760 as a replacement, or if I was willing to try another unit. I had originally wanted the VX6800, but the store I was at didn't have it in stock, so I went with the i760. Fortunately, tech support had the VX6800 – not only that, but they were willing to FedEX it to me overnight for a Saturday delivery! As the agent started processing the order, I quickly scanned through some online reviews and found some complaints about the speakerphone sound quality and overall volume problems with the phone. I asked if it was possible to change my mind, but the order had already been placed – I was also starting to have reservations since I had invested in a dock, a belt clip, and a travel charger for the i760. The agent recommended that I try the VX6800, and if I didn't like it I could still return the phone for another exchange. If I decided to go with the VX6800, he offered to send me an extra battery, a leather case, AND another travel charger – all for free. I did a double-take on the phone – was I dreaming?? Since when did customer/tech support go above and beyond the call of duty like this?? Not to mention the fact that the VX6800 was at least $100 MORE expensive than my i760 – needless to say, I am in complete awe of Verizon from a customer support point of view!! Bravo, Verizon – you're setting an incredibly high bar that other companies should really pay attention to!! (kaff kaff – Apple 3G iphone? Kaff kaff...)





  • Performing with Aaron - it's been a long while, much too long, due to a series of health ailments for my dear friend, but what an incredible comeback!





  • went to my first-ever rock concert, seeing Coldplay at the Wachovia Center. The first two hours were pretty wretched, with two amateur opening acts that made Kyungmi and I wonder if this was all going to be a waste of time. But then, after a lengthy sound check, the lights dimmed, the opening riffs started, and 10,000 people leaped to their feet all at once, screaming and cheering and singing along with every single song! NO ONE sat down for the entire 2 hour show – one guy right in front of us was having a “religious” experience, waving his hands in the air, much to Kyungmi's and my own amusement. The lead singer even made a dash towards the end of the show off stage and ran up to the back of the stadium to sing a few more songs, just a few rows away from where we were sitting - er, standing! Now why can't classical music concerts be this much fun and inspire that kind of reaction from an audience?





Exciting





  • Watching Korea beat Japan in the semifinals of Olympic baseball. Baseball?? Who'd a thunk that Korea would excel in a sport like that!





  • Riding horseback in the Rocky Mountains with Eric and Timmy





  • Advancing to high orange belt, despite missing so many karate classes with my crazy schedule





  • COLDPLAY LIVE!!





Exhausting





  • Programming nonstop and trying to get computers to talk to each other through Pure Data net connections (one computer to process audio input, the other computer to receive audio data and incorporate into reactive visuals) – all at the last minute, naturally (WHEN am I going to learn?? sigh...)





  • Trying to adjust to 9000 feet altitude. My previous visit to Boulder hadn't been that bad, so I was unprepared for the effects of thin air. Being constantly winded with racking headaches is no fun when you're just walking from point A to point B! Everybody advised drinking lots of water and staying away from caffeine (hm...i guess caffeinated water wasn't such a good workaround...)





  • Wrestling with a nasty bronchial cough for almost 2 months, thanks to lack of sleep (at least nothing shows up on chest X-Rays – still pretty frustrating to deal with, especially with hack attacks in the middle of the night)





  • Back to back everything - this has been one nonstop summer, i'm ready to drop thank-you-very-much...oh, wait, Curtis just started its fall semester...sigh...





Varied





  • the Rocky Mountain YMCA in Estes Park – this must be the most amazing summer camp for kids! The campus is absolutely gorgeous, and the variety of activities is amazing! Kyungmi was able to enjoy a day hike to snow-capped mountains; the boys enjoyed activities ranging from archery, swimming, and hiking, to horseback riding, rock and rope climbing, and white river rafting.





  • splurging at Wegman's to prepare a terrific dinner for some good friends of ours, consisting of marinated lamb chops, strip steak, Alaskan snow crab legs, my own Lychee martini concoction, and discovering the Assouline Ting gourmet warehouse in Philadelphia, one of the only remaining places where I could find authentic foie gras.





  • Multiple trips to Kress Wine and discovering a new favorite red for Kyungmi and me, Red Zinfandel





  • Seeing Sheryl Crow live at the Mann Music Center (and being disappointed with the way her band kept drowning her out)





  • Discovering Sheryl Crow's opening act James Blunt (his live performance is terrific; CD leaves something to be desired, but still decent)





  • Labor Day with the family at Cape May, a nice departure from our previous trips to Ocean City and Wildwood. Much nicer atmosphere, not nearly as crowded or over-developed, terrific beach and perfect weather. Lovely way to end the summer!





Video'd





  • stay tuned, tons of concert footage (and other neat stuff) to be posted here very shortly! I still have last year's concert footage to put together...sigh...





Tech'd





  • New toys galore! In addition to my new VX6800 PDA phone:





  • a new regular non-tablet pc laptop (HP Pavilion dv5-1002nr) – actually pretty disappointing, given that there's no firewire port and the graphics card actually leaves a LOT to be desired performance-wise – but the keyboard has a nice feel, and Vista actually looks nice (as long as I don't try to push it too hard...) Oh well – this is what happens when you buy a laptop in a rush from a retail store like Best Buy...




  • The HP laptop was supposed to power the visuals for my updated visual recital - given its lackluster performance, i discovered much to my chagrin that there simply aren't any laptop graphics cards that are comparable in performance to their desktop siblings.  To power my presentation at the Summit Music Festival, i invested in a Gateway GT5692 Desktop, fitted with an NVidia GeForce GTX 260 graphics card.  The desktop runs Vista 64, an ornery operating system that doesn't like most of my older programs (including the drivers for my page turning pedal...had to resort to an X-Keys workaround).  At least the graphics were decent, but with only a 2.1 GHz clock speed (AMD Phenom 8450 triple core processor) i'm sure there are much better solutions in the $1000 price range.  I was hoping to transport this desktop as carry-on luggage in airplanes, but to my dismay i've recently discovered that my next flight will not accept computers as checked baggage (coupled with the fact that any protective case would exceed the allowable travel dimensions - boo on the airline industry!  They should let Verizon take over!!)  Which leads me to my latest (yet unarrived) purchase:


  • My (soon to arrive) Sager 9262 laptop computer.  I'll do a full write up on this as soon as i receive it, but the basic idea is that this 12 pound portable monster actually uses DESKTOP graphic cards - two of 'em, in fact! - to mow down pretty pictures on the screen.  This franken-puppy has been called "the fastest laptop on the planet" - given that i was able to downgrade the OS to Windows XP (yay!), i'm eager to see if that nomenclature holds true!  Should be arriving at my doorstep tomorrow!



Tapped




  • All of the above was paid for in cash, believe it or not (the Sager was a bit over $3K...yikes...)  That said, there ain't no cash in my checking account anymore now...sigh...



 



Hm, now that was a fairly effective word exercise to jumpstart a stalled blogbrain!  Pictures, videos, reviews and lots more goodies coming (hopefully) very soon!  Nice to be back in action in the blogosphere!


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Welcome!

Thank you for visiting this site! I hope you'll find this to be a friendly place to learn about and discuss the fascinating technologies available for the Classical Musician. A great place to get started is with the ongoing "Getting Started" series. Remember, the worst questions are the ones you never ask, so feel free to email me!

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