Joie de Vivre

2022 and Season 3 of the Pandemic

Following my intermittent practice of year’s end posts, I want to express gratitude for the great parts of 2022. And what a year it was!

I’m wrapping up my first year on Patreon. I’m honored to have had folks join me there, watch my videos, and follow along with me as I worked my way through 2022.

Sweaty Eyeballs: Behind the Screens was an exhibition at Goucher College of animated works and the materials involved with making them. I love this festival, and it was an honor and thrill to be included in this show. I made several new films this year, including Plasticland and the Lunatics. I picked up a couple of awards, too!

I’ve written (and talked on Patreon) about the reemergence of music in my life over the pandemic. I’ve been “finding my note,” as Steve Vai likes to say.

Steve Vai talking to me over Zoom

Which means, a unique-to-me musical voice and identity. As I delved deeper into film work, I wanted to get better at improvising, with the idea that I could set up a projector in a gallery (or somewhere) and make an accompaniment to go with the videos.

I reached out to my favorite drummer, Billy Martin, and asked for help. He agreed, and I spent an afternoon in his New Jersey home studio. It was one of the greatest musical moments of my life to play drums and guitar with one of my musical heroes.

Billy Martin's Drums

Billy explained that improvisation, in essence, is something you just do. There are exercises and things one can do to help facilitate this, but it’s very different from what I learned in my academic studies. He shared stories, techniques, recordings and books with me, and I will be grateful to him forever. Thank you, brother!

I released three new recordings this year. The Goldberg Variations, The Old San Juan and Found and Chosen. I received a creativity grant from the Maryland State Arts Council to print physical copies of Found and Chosen.

Found and Chosen Cassettes

Found and Chosen is an extremely satisfying project, and the physical copies of the recordings are something I had dreamed up back in the early 00’s. And aside from having tape loops and CD audio to loop, it stands as some personal documentation of the pandemic, and ways I coped with uncertainty and anxiety.

coastguard practice space

I also did a few gigs with Coastguard, and really enjoyed getting my chops back. It’s helped me a lot when recording drums here.

signal chain diagram

As I continue to explore signal processing and improvising, I decided to write a small program that randomly assigns effects for me to play through. It’s an interesting constraint, and I’ve found it to be a useful device for getting myself going in a different direction.

I spent many, many hours in the basement working with loops and new-to-me guitar pedals. I’m especially fond of these new additions:

  • Count to Five by Montreal Assembly
  • Excess V.3, Dweller, Black Fountain by Old Blood Noise Endeavors
  • Blooper by Chase Bliss Audio

My oldest daughter took us to several great shows: The Queers, The Old 97’s, The Psychedelic Furs. I enjoyed it so much. And my youngest and I went to see the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra perform Symphonie Fantastique, something neither of us had done before.

I feel fortunate to have been able to explore these musical pathways. I got out in front of audiences again. Adding the adventure of improvisation brings with it a sense of freedom now. I’m not sure how much I’ll be improvising in front of other humans yet, but it’s becoming a source of real delight here in my studio.

Beverly and I traveled to Puerto Rico, New York (twice), and Cape Cod. We visited Edward Gorey’s house. And we’ve agreed to spend the rest of our lives together. I am so happy!

I’ve written about a couple of other milestones, too. Inspired by Beverly’s example, I got to run across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and we completed a half marathon just two weeks later. Holy Guacamole!

Icy loch raven reservoir as seen on a trail run

Beverly and I wrapped up year two of our book club. Here are the titles I read this year:

  • Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond (Music in the Twentieth Century, Series Number 9) 2nd Edition by Michael Nyman
  • Experimental Music Since 1970, by Jennie Gottschalk
  • What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher
  • A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
  • The Candy House by Jennifer Egan
  • Liarmouth: A Feel-Bad Romance by John Waters
  • Moon Knight, Volume 1 by Bendis & Maleev
  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  • Improvisation: Its Nature And Practice In Music by Derek Bailey
  • Moon Knight: The Complete Collection, by Lemire & Smallwood
  • The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil, by Stephen Collins
  • House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski (started in 2021)
  • The Anomaly, by HervĂ© Le Tellier, Adriana Hunter
  • Impossible Princess, by Kevin Killian
  • The Atlas Six, by Olivie Blake (started, abandoned)
  • Cloud Cuckoo Land, by Anthony Doerr
  • The Haunted Looking Glass, Various, chosen by Edward Gorey
  • Elephant House; or, the Home of Edward Gorey by Kevin McDermott
  • An Honest Living, by Dwyer Murphy
  • Novelist as a Vocation by Haruki Murakami
  • Batman: Ghosts by Sam Kieth

What’s next? Aside from more of all this, I’m returning to teaching. I’ve picked up a couple of classes for the spring semester. I’d like to finish Music to Hear Blindfolded, Vol. 2. and I have an idea for an album of instrumental guitar music. I have some animation ideas for 2023, and more video/music compositions. I’m going to continue to pursue animation festival screenings, and to hone my processes for making films.

Jim and BB

Happy 2023, friends. I hope this finds you happy, healthy and prosperous.