I want to become a better musician. Specifically, I want to write better music. I know exactly what I need to do to improve myself, but due to many excuses I make for myself (work takes up a lot of time, social obligations, family obligations, overcommitting myself to non-profit volunteering, enrolling in grad school in chemical engineering, competition with other hobbies such as Matchingfreak, addiction to social media, laziness, food comas), my musical self-development agenda has been pushed aside. That is the first problem I have begun tackling.
My grand plan to develop myself musically (partially implemented so far) involves the following activities:
- Eliminate all other “unnecessary” activities. My main focus outside of work should be on two things: music and grad school. Anything outside of that realm should be highly scrutinized. Social activities shall be reduced to a sustainable (sane) bare minimum. I will get better at saying “no” to people. I have already leaned down my out-of-work life by withdrawing from two non-profits on whose boards I was volunteering as secretary.
- Focused listening. Listening assignments were a large part of my undergraduate musical education. When I had a listening assignment, the only thing I would do would be to pay full attention to what I was listening with full silence in the background. That means no internet browsing, no driving, no reading, no thinking about anything else. I haven’t been doing much of that since I graduated. It doesn’t have to be music. It can be a very specific sound or a noise. It doesn’t even have to be a recording. I recently discovered oontz.ru, an audioblog dedicated to binaural recordings from a small town in Russia. Most are 1-minute recordings of a moment at a park, the babbling of a brook, the bumps of techno music heard through a car… The magic isn’t there unless you are paying full attention to it with your headphones. It’s making me realize all the sounds I used to hear around me, and what I’m missing out on by blocking them out mentally. While we’re on the topic of listening…
- Construct a listening diet. I’ve been brainstorming ways to find new listening opportunities for myself to expand my ear. I flirted with the idea of spending a certain amount of time per week on finding new music, but I’m not exactly sure how I’ll structure that yet. The easiest place to start would be to revisit my listening in college, and branch out from there. And by branch out, I mean in all directions. More jazz, more opera, more ‘experimental’ music, more of Indian classical music and “non-Western” music, as well as more Western classical music, as well as progressive rock, pop, country, electronic, etc. I should create a “listening wishlist.” It would help to have a few websites I could draw guidance/inspiration from.
- Go to concerts. I already know many places to look. It’s important to keep my personal concert-going calendar constantly updated.
- Participate in a musical group. I’d been doing this until a few months ago. Work’s been busy, but I plan to get back into choir as soon as possible. It’s a routine that forces me to set aside time for music-making, and I enjoy it immensely.
- Learn a new instrument. I started learning violin when I was 23, because I wanted to learn an instrument that was technically different than the piano. Now I just have to keep getting better at it.
- Play the old instrument. Duh. I have a piano sitting right next to me, and I never touch it. Whenever I don’t take regular lessons, my motivation for playing the instrument goes to zero. The main problem is that I don’t know what to play. But we can deal with that with the following next steps.
- Improvise. I hear all the time that a good composer is also a good improviser. It’s definitely a musical muscle I need to flex. We used to do frequent vocal improvisation exercises in high school jazz choir. It had taken me a while to get over being self-conscious, and the feeling is still there even if I’m in a room all by myself. We’ll have to fix that ridiculousness.
- Improve piano sightreading. I must say, I’m a pretty good sightreader when it comes to voice and violin, but give me a piece of music that involves use of my ten fingers, and I’m stumped. The solution is to sightread more and more. I have tons of piano books, and there are tons of free sheet music I can download from the Internet.
- Exercise. I’m not talking about physical exercise (sorry, mom). I have a bunch of theory books I’ve amassed over the past few years – classical Western theory and jazz theory from school, and several books on modern counterpoint or harmonic tools used in the 21st century. I should give myself assignments on writing short exercises that apply the concepts in these books. Maybe set up a certain amount of time each week to dedicate to this activity. I may come up with new musical ideas as a result.
- Jot down ideas. I already do some of this. I either write a few notes that are stuck in my head, or I have verbal clues of musical concepts I think up during the day. It usually takes me a few years to get to them and flesh them out, but they’re all there, written out in a list!
- Just sit down and write. I have a few unfinished pieces. It takes a long time to get into them, so I only revisit them once every few months. I’ve been unable to do it in short, consistent chunks of time. I need 4-5 hour periods, if not entire days, to be fruitful. The first step would be to make more of an effort to set aside time for them, no matter how painful. Still working out the time management logistics of this one.
- Cherish musical friendships. I have musical friends, but I don’t see them very often. I also have a few musical friends online. It’s refreshing to share works and ideas with them.
Have I missed any? Let me know what you think!
I haven’t drawn anything in over a year, but lately I’ve been having vivid dreams about things that used to inspire me creatively (old notebooks, colored pencils, making electronic music, photography…). While trying to fall asleep last night, this peculiar skirt concept came to mind, and I had to illustrate it. The skirt itself is short in front, longer towards the back, with a cream-colored exterior but a striking red interior color. In the front is a peculiar looking brown folded-over flap of fabric. The two pieces are loosely linked together with two small chains on both sides (would probably make it easier to sit down without exposing too much leg). The waist has a black belt. I drew it with a white shirt to keep it simple and focus on the skirt, but if I were me, I’d probably wear this with my leopard-print shirt.
It all started when I took out a notebook and began taking notes while listening to a career advice talk in a first-year engineer training program with my company. In this living (periodically updated) blog post, I will be collecting career advice I’ve heard people tell me that stuck out to me. It felt selfish to keep all this advice to myself, so I’m sharing them with you. Feel free to offer your own advice in the comments section!
On setting yourself apart from others
- Either effectively use company resources, or be a resource.
- Technical curiosity is a great indicator [of potential]. [Seize the] Opportunity to make data-based decisions using principles, data, and calculations.
- Would you hire a lousy gardener to paint your house?
- Do more than you are asked without stepping on people’s toes.
- Competitiveness motivates you to do things for the wrong reasons.
- People who excel always know what tree to bark up.
- Collect professional articles of interest to you in a folder.
- Asking good questions is an important skill.
- The best mentors are people who can identify gaps.
On new opportunities and shaping your career
- “The best jobs I’ve ever had were the ones that scared me.”
- Be open to many opportunities early on, then focus.
- Even if you don’t think you’re qualified for a job you’re interested in, try it out anyway. You will pick it up.
- If you want to explore something, the sooner the better.
Each year on January 1st, I walk over to the bookstore and pick out a daily planner at 50% off. It’s become an unintentional tradition for me. Above is shown this year’s planner, which I will use mainly at work, and other acquisitions. Yes, you betcha I bought those dove cards at half price!
On a slightly related note, I don’t make new years’ resolutions. Whenever I resolve to do something, I just do it. You should, too!
Here is my Christmas gift to you all: a hundred new quotes added to my quotes page! These are all new quotes I’ve collected from my friends since my last update at the end of 2011. Below are all the new additions. To see all 2140 quotes, sorted into categories and ordered chronologically since the year 2000, go to The Quotes Page. Happy reading!
Keep reading below for the hundred new quotes…
Read the rest of this entry »
Since this is a place where I post my creations, visual, aural, and otherwise, I present to you a flyer I made for Rotem’s upcoming comedy show (guided with some of his artistic direction, of course). The show will feature all one-liner comics – no rambling comedians allowed. If you are in the LA area on November 30th, might you consider coming?
I’m breaking my blogging silence with the description of an amazing dinner I had about two weeks ago. I can’t stop thinking about it still, but the details are escaping me, so I’d better write it down already.
I had some time to kill before I met up with a group of friends for a Book of Mormon showing at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood, so I stepped into a fancy looking farm-to-table restaurant and treated myself to a delicious solo meal.
- Their special Cabernet of the day,
- Hand-cut seasoned fries,
- A salad with arugula, mint, pomegranates, candied pecans, and honey vinaigrette,
- Sorbet made with fresh grape, pears, and orange, drizzled with fresh local honey.
The meal was so simple, but the flavors were so delicate and satisfying. And now it is captured forever on the Internet.
It took me a few hours to realize that the name is a play on words for the nearest intersecting streets, Hollywood and Vine. But shhhhh…..
Today marks the end of the Zombie Queenoflub saga in my life, and I will tell you the story (as briefly as possible) now that it is all over.
Long-time fans of my website (yes, there are some!) know that my website used to be on the domain name queenoflub.com from 2000 until 2008. For obvious reasons, I grew out of the name and wanted to recreate my “brand” so it didn’t sound juvenile and idiotic for the rest of my life. In addition, I was not happy with the customer service in HostOnce, so I wanted to move to a new hosting company. It was a great opportunity for a fresh start.
I moved all my files to www.melikeyersiz.com and made the decision to let www.queenoflub.com expire and buy it again as soon as it expired. Who would want that stupid domain name, anyway? You can imagine my shock when I clicked the button at 12:01am the moment it expired and got the message that the domain name had already been sold! To someone else! It’s an unsettling feeling I’ll never forget.
The site remained parked for several months. During this time, I learned all about scavengers who snatch up domain names as soon as they expire and turn them into porn sites. I had no control over its destiny. The ugly name, which I despised for years, became something valuable and priceless to me for the first time in a long time, but it was too late.
One day I visited queenoflub.com and was hit with another surprise: a version of my website from 2005, with pop-up ads, broken links, and broken images. I was filled with horror as I wondered if the old host had kept all of my old files (including private ones) and transferred them to this new, disgusting guy’s account. Thankfully, that was not the case. A little bit of detective work proved that the guy had actually downloaded an archived version of my website from The Internet Archive, uploaded scraps of it to his new host, and added a bunch of ads. I suppose it was nice of him to revive the old website for nostalgia’s sake instead of turning it into a porn site, but I was not happy that he was now posing as a 20-year-old version of myself, with a personal profile that was embarrassing and out of date.
I once reported the abuse to the hosting company for the website, and had the material taken down. However, the evil person simply revived queenoflub using another hosting company a week later. I decided to leave it alone, since I didn’t want him to realize that somebody out there cares about this stupid domain name, in case I could someday contact him and make him an offer for it. For the past three years, I turned a blind eye to the whole thing, because ruminating on my stupidity and helplessness had become overwhelmingly stressful.
A few weeks ago, I decided to use GoDaddy’s DomainBuy service, where I use GoDaddy as a middle man to negotiate a price for the domain name. I wasn’t expecting much, as I had tried contacting the guy before with no response. To my surprise, this time he was willing to sell it! I jumped on that opportunity!
Today marks the day when I finally set up domain forwarding, so that old fans of queenoflub.com are redirected to melikeyersiz.com. I can’t tell you the relief I have felt ever since this large burden has been lifted off my back! I can move on with my life feeling a little better now.
A few years ago, when I used livejournal regularly, it was a popular practice to write the first sentence of the first post of each month and use it to reflect on the past year. Since Twitter is the service I’ve been using the most frequently lately, I am bringing the tradition back with the first tweet of each day in 2011:
January: Birds perform disgusting acts occasionally, like feeding each other their own vomit.
February: Check it out! My newest piece: Viola Trio by queenmelike via #soundcloud
March: Hmmmm… Feeling demoralized today.
April: I hate clicking on a link and finding out it’s a video instead of text. I hate videos! I want to skim! I don’t want to pause my music!
May: Sipping on Jim Beams, waiting for Miller Puckette to perform live!! Ahhhhhhh!!!! http://twitpic.com/4s758e
June: I set my alarm to 5:10am, but then I changed my mind and set it to 5:18am. It makes a difference, okay?!
July: I need a secretary.
August: My jewelry is making my violin sound like a prepared violin.
September: I think teachers say, “there are no stupid questions” in math classes to lower the blood pressure of those students that see the stupidity.
October: Happy birthday, @SteveReich! It’s my birthday today, too!
November: I listened to all Radiohead albums in my possession tonight, Amnesiac to present, in order.
December: Him: Ask and ye shall receive…. a kick in the face. Me: Then you look like a very inquisitive person.
On a more serious note, 2011 was a very busy year at work, and also a year of great milestones, such as applying to, getting accepted to, and starting graduate school. I was able to continue with choir, violin, and my other little side projects almost the entire time and went to plenty of cool concerts. I also made and broke some important friendships, but we will keep that discussion outside the scope of this blog.
You can follow me on Twitter at @melike. Happy new year!