• Catch up

    I’m overdue for a post- if you’re not on my email list, here are some highlights since last time:


    While I was visiting AZ in December, my sister Ann and I interviewed Mom about her life. We’re so glad to get some of her stories on the record. e.g. when she was ~10 years old, she decided to get rid of a massive anthill with gasoline and accidentally set part of the house on fire! First she tried putting it out with her Alaskan Malamute’s water bucket. That didn’t work, but bought her enough time to get the garden hose and finish the job.


    Speaking of pets, my parents’ dog Ben is still afraid of me for being a tall person. I know it’s hard to believe, but he’s hiding somewhere in the above photo.



    And as far as work stuff:


    Jenn Medvin and Marcus MacDougald’s Little Hero has been making the festival rounds- from Belgrade to Nevada City to DOC NYC to St. Louis where it won a Crystal Gator (the award that deserves an award.)

    This article calls my score “quirkily appropriate”. NICE. It’s kazoo on every score from here on out, k?

    I’ve also been doing some recording lately, both at my place..


    Poet and performer Mayda Del Valle

    … and at Narnack Studios with the great engineer Griffin Rodriguez:


    Andrew Conrad (bari), Walt Simonsen (trumpet), Ryan Dragon (trombone)


    Brandon Dickert (drums), Griffin Rodriguez (hiding in the control room)

    There is really nothing quite like recording great musicians live in a great room with a great engineer. I don’t miss my Chicago days of tracking everything in the kitchen!

    I’m on a Timeboxing hiatus at the moment while I finish a bigger project, but here are the latest two if you haven’t caught ‘em yet:

    Will and Vince both had great & insightful stuff to say. As a bonus, Will’s interview is laced with previews of my Little Hero score :)

    That’s all for now!

  • The Devil’s Violinist - new film score

    Here’s Jeff Lamb’s new short film, for which I had the pleasure of composing a solo violin piece.

    When I first met with Jeff he told me how important it was for the music to be beautiful but haunting. And man, it’s vulnerable! It has no dialog, is shot on 35mm film, and the piece is performed live on set (with a film this centered on music, is there any other way to go?)

    Much of the music I make is full of instruments & textures & such, so it was a fun challenge to compose something this stripped-down. Jeff put a lot of trust in me (thank you Jeff!) and it was a rewarding & fun collaboration all around.

    I hadn’t written for solo violin before, and what an honor to have the piece performed by Barry Socher, who (as Jeff pointed out) has been in the LA Philharmonic since before we were born :)

    Barry and Jeff came by my studio one afternoon to discuss and rehearse the piece. Barry has a really cool beard and immediately struck me as sensitive, expressive, and humble- all qualities I aspire to as a music-maker.

    Hearing your piece come to life through an enormously talented musician is quite a thing.. you get a whole new sense of the possibilities. And though he has decades more experience than me, Barry was very collaborative and open to my little tweaks about this phrase or that phrase- a glissando here, an extra swell there- and quickly adapted each into his performance. Details like that are one of my favorite parts of music.

    Hope you like it.


    Barry & I. Someday I’ll learn how to not get freaked out and awkward when waiting for a camera to take a photo, but know I’m excited & happy to be here :)

    p.s. here’s a nice writeup by Jeff from the Shorts Showcase site about making the film.

  • CH's Comedy Music Hall of Fame airs on IFC tomorrow

    I produced some ridiculous music involving Russia, Canada, and Elvis for CH's Comedy Music Hall of Fame, which airs tomorrow at 10pm on IFC.

    Paul F. Thompkins hosts, and it features comedy music luminaries such as Tenacious D and Weird Al. Here’s a trailer:

    CH wrote the lyrics and I made the music. It involved a whirlwind of recording sessions including (Kazakh-American opera singer!) Timur Bekbosunov, vocalists Igor Komar + Mela Lee, comedy rappers Siobhan Thompson + Pat Cassels, and my trusty accordion (in mid-side, audio nerds!)

    I also recorded percussionist Tim Carr (in the recording scramble I spaced on taking a photo.. sorry Tim!), guitarists Sasha Birrittella + Max Crowe (recorded remotely), and Klezmer clarinetist Andrew Conrad:

    You have now seen “behind the scenes”. Was it enjoyable? Terrible? Both?

  • Timeboxing with Rob Kleiner (Sia) and Ethan Nicolle (Axe Cop)

    Ridiculously talented people continue to help me stay sane & productive in pursuit of art, on my podcast Timeboxing:

    • Songwriter/producer Rob Kleiner (Sia, Nikki Yanofsky, Quincy Jones)
    • Comic artist Ethan Nicolle (creator of Axe Cop, Bearmageddon):

    Rob and Ethan are extremely driven and insightful. I hope you find their advice as useful as I do.

    More here if you like it:

  • Everyone's Bee is Important: bee-hind the noises

    As Mila puts it in this interview, “Daddy draws the (un-intelligible) and his friend made the noises.” Ha!

    This project came about when 3 year-old Mila Shane improvised a song about the Importance of Everyone’s Bee. (We all know everyone has a bee, so I won’t get into that here.) Then her fantastic filmmaking father Giga Shane animated it, and brought me on board to sound design. As you might imagine, I had a lot of fun with this project.

    Giga and I chatted about the approach on the phone and he basically told me “go nuts!” (while of course leaving Mila’s song as the focus.) I think this is the best sort of collaboration- where there are a few guidelines and boundaries but plenty of room for experimentation and fun.

    Despite the fact that this was one of those start-friday-finish-saturday turnarounds, I decided it would be a good challenge to not use any pre-existing sounds (i.e. commercial SFX libraries) since:

    1) I like how constraints often lead to more interesting results. Given the amount of personality in Mila & Giga’s contributions, I wanted to put as much character into this thing as possible!

    2) To paraphrase Alice Waters, if you want a great meal, start with delicious ingredients. I love applying this idea to music and sound, hence using homemade sound effects instead of “canned”. For this same reason, most projects I do these days involve at least a few live musicians :)

    Here’s a list of how I made every sound effect in this thing!

    sound effects

    • 0:00 waves/water = bathtub/bucket sloshing
    • 0:03 shooom = mouth sound
    • 0:03 birds = the sound right outside my front door in the morning (featuring my neighbor’s birds)
    • 0:08 logo disappearing = bathtub draining
    • 0:10 title card = B’s played on the chromaharp
    • 0:15 branches extending out = opening my blue umbrella
    • 0:16 bears = me growling
    • 0:18 bees = me buzzing
    • 0:19 bee body pump up = accordion air release
    • 0:19 bee’s wings sprouting up = umbrella
    • 0:19 hammer hitting flask = tapping trumpet with harmon mute
    • 0:21 honeycomb filling in = lips/finger noise with delay
    • 0:25 grey transition = removing disc from led zeppelin boxed set
    • 0:24 factory ambiance = bike wheel spinning + me saying “tikatikatikatikatika”
    • 0:25 flask falls = me meowing
    • 0:29 close-up flask bubbling = water boiling on gas stove
    • 0:31 psychedelic tongue warp = mouth/tongue noises + whistling with effects
    • 0:33 teeth flying in = trumpet valves rattling
    • 0:33 lips/faces appear = me “taking a bite” sound
    • 0:33 lips/faces pulled apart = me saying “whoa!” as grandpa
    • 0:35 teeth fly out = more trumpet valve rattling
    • 0:36 jar appears = catching a pickle jar
    • 0:36 house appears = snare brush in jar
    • 0:37 garden fall = oven opening
    • 0:37 shutters/walls appear = paper
    • 0:37 curtains up = my curtains
    • 0:38 plants grow = vocalizations
    • 0:39 volcano / green ocean = vent hood rumbling (cheap piece of metal from home depot)
    • 0:41 it’s like, the universe, man = bunch of vocalizations
    • 0:42 honey men vocalizations = “say ahh” vocalization
    • 0:47 cosmic honey color swirl = vocalization
    • 0:48 eating cosmic honey = me saying “bwlowllowllowllowlow”
    • 0:50 bee quick entrance = me quick buzz
    • 0:52 start honey button = me saying “blerp”
    • 0:53 honey machine = chromaharp and accordion ascending glissando + vocalizations
    • 0:53 honey machine slams = plosive P’s (me saying “puh!” really close to the mic)
    • 0:58 team hands = leg slaps
    • 0:59 space cats = me meowing
    • 1:02 bees fly by = me buzzing
    • 1:17 bees exit = more grandpa whoas

    Check out Giga’s write-up for even more Bee-hind-the-scenes goodness including storyboards and photos of him and Mila on their way to the Lower East Side Film Festival premiere.

  • Little Hero - An Autism Documentary

    If this kickstarter succeeds…

    1) We’ll get to see a short documentary about a 6-year-old boy’s Autism as seen through his twin sister’s eyes.

    2) I will get to compose the score.

    Check it out and consider donating if you are moved. I just did :)

  • Will Roseliep, Roshin Mathew, Accordion for Deadwood

    Time to catch up on a few updates:

    I had the pleasure of interviewing classical hype man, cellist, and author Will Roseliep for ep 2 of Timeboxing. He recently released a new book (which I enthusiastically recommend) about how to quickly diagnose and treat problems within the classical music industry e.g. “being out-hustled”.


    I recorded voiceover with my new friend Roshin MathewBig Bowl of Ideas.


    Finally, I played accordion in a 4-hour musical adaptation of Deadwood by the SIlverlake Children’s Theatre Group.  (There are no typos in the previous sentence)  Talented and ambitious kids!


  • I had the pleasure of producing the music for this Reading Rainbow parody featuring the man himself, LeVar Burton! The amazing Mela Lee is on vocals.

    Thank you to director Charles Ingram, producer Rachel Goldenberg, and the other talented folks at Funny or Die for bringing me on.

    LeVar is currently raising funds to get Reading Rainbow online and in thousands of classrooms for free… what a great and worthy project. You can join tens of thousands of people in helping him out here:

  • Timeboxing with Sam Reich

    Sam Reich runs video for CollegeHumor, and I had the pleasure of interviewing him for episode 3 of Timeboxing!

    Hear his thoughts on creativity, productivity, a “light hand” in the writers’ room, and the sociopathic gear shift between creative and executive modes.  Then he brings up Getting Things Done and derails everything.

    If you enjoy, feel free to like/share/etc!  Write a short iTunes review and I will be forever in your debt.

    image  image  image  image  image  image

  • New podcast: Timeboxing (1st guest: Patrick Horvath) and spring recap

    I’m starting a podcast about creative pursuits vs. sanity called Timeboxing.  Here’s episode #1 where I talk to filmmaker and illustrator Patrick Horvath:

    Why does this exist?  Over the past few years I’ve found myself compulsively pulling friends & collaborators into conversation about how they balance creativity, productivity, and sanity. Many people seem to have some useful perspective or personal angle on this stuff, and since I would be having these conversations regardless (almost as a form of therapy) I decided to start recording them.

    Like/share/etc if you enjoy!

    facebook iTunes soundcloud stitcher

    After the interview I hired Patrick to do the cover art :)  Check out more of his illustration work at


    In other news, it’s been a great start to 2014.

    2 of David Fishel’s films which I created music for had the honor of screening at Lincoln Center in NYC!  A short called Natural Selection and a feature documentary involving dance, horses, and autism.  Here is the trailer for the latter:

    I’ve been mixing/scoring a video by Eric McCoy & Justus Meyer for Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.  Here’s Eric with actress Nicky Hawthorne in our VO session:


    In February, I traveled to NYC to finish vocal recording with Angeline Gragasin for an upcoming project:


    While in NYC (and then Boston) I also caught up with other friends and filmmakers:



     I recently completed a score for a DVD series by DawnSignPress.  Here are some of the session photos (Paul Fuller: banjo, Sasha Birrittella: guitar, Allen Fogle: french horn, Eleanor Weigert: bass clarinet, Jaimie Lee Mendoes: flute)






    And finally, I retired an old hard drive:


    Until next time!