TELL-TALE DELAY

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It was June.  I was looking forward to finishing my short film “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre“, based on my musical adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe story.

 

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I was feeling good.  Post production was coming along steadily.  VFX work had been completed.  The final task was color grading.  Everybody expected the film to be done in a week, two at most.

 

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So I confidently submitted the film to about a dozen film festivals, whose final submission dates were imminent.  I uploaded an unfinished work print of the film to qualify, with the expectation and promise that the finished work would be available for viewing in just a week or two, time enough for festival adjudicators.

It was an act of blind confidence I would come to regret.

 

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The first pass at the color grading was completed.  But something went wrong when processing the data for me to view on line.

 

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The film files were “stuck” in the hard drive.  There were delays as we tried to figure out the problem.

 

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The hard drive holding the current version of the film was not responding anymore.  The hard drive had to be brought into the “shop”.  For analysis.

We waited for answers.

And waited…

and waited…

 

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BRYCE CANYON – PEEKABOO & QUEEN’S GARDEN TRAILS

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Hiking the Peekaboo Loop Trail

and then the Queen’s Garden Trail

in Bryce Canyon

 

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After hiking and driving along the Bryce Canyon rim and taking the Navajo Loop Trail, we returned the next day to hike from Bryce Point along the upper Peekaboo Loop Trail and on via the Queen’s Garden Trail to Sunrise Point.

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That’s Ed in the pink shirt and the enormous fanny pack carrying most of our water supply and our lunch.  You’ll be seeing a lot of the back of him as I tend to fall behind while I take my many many photos.

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See the opening center left?

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Let’s zoom in a little closer…

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We’ll be going through there ourselves in a little while…

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BRYCE CANYON – NAVAJO LOOP TRAIL

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Entering the Canyon Walls of Bryce Canyon

 

After enjoying the awesome views of Bryce Canyon from all along the rim, it was time to go inside.  Here the view from the top at the Navajo Loop Trail.

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Thor’s Hammer:

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BRYCE CANYON AMPHITHEATER

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A Place of Fantastical Beauty

In the series of marvels that we saw in the our tour of the Great American Southwest, Bryce Canyon may easily be the most marvelous.  (Although how to compare Wonders of Nature each so unique in its own wonderful way?)  Bryce Canyon is the place I found myself gasping in awe and joy the most, my eyes tearing up numerous times at the beauty before me.

But what you are seeing at this point is not yet Bryce Canyon.  It is Red Canyon, which you must drive through when approaching Bryce Canyon from the west.  It is pretty awesome in its own right, but a mere appetizer, a mere hint of the magnificence yet to come.

 

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Splendid structures formed of erosion, wind and water.

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After another half hour drive we arrived at Bryce Canyon.  And walked up to to this view:

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ZION!

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Announcing my new biblical musical extravaganza!?!

 

um, no – just an extravagant photo tour through Zion National Park in Southern Utah.

 

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Right at the entrance into the park, one is greeted by this majestic vista.

Let’s take a closer look:  to the left, the West Temple:

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In the middle, the Sun Dial:

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To the right, the Altar of Sacrifice:

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A lot of religiously inspired names for mountains in this park.  It is called Zion National Park, after all.  And we are in Utah.

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There is a natural wonder on Bridge Mountain.  Let’s take a closer look:

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Don’t see it yet?  Maybe if we zoom in closer…

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There it is.  A natural arch, sloping diagonally, like a stone surfboard or stone banana peel.  It’s called Crawford Arch.

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It’s an arch because it was created by wind.  When a stone structure like that is created by water, it is called a bridge.

 

360 degree panorama view of this part of the park:

 

After taking the shuttle bus to the Museum stop, we walked the Pa’rus Trail further into the park.

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HOOVER DAM, MEMORIAL BRIDGE and a CACTUS GARDEN

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Featuring Another Theme-tastic Music Quiz

 

Approaching the Hoover Dam on a day trip from Las Vegas, you first get these views of Lake Mead, the body of water the Hoover Dam created.

 

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This is the first view of Hoover Dam you get after parking your car at the designated lot.

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Dam! Song Query #1 – Who are the movie/tv stars singing “Dammit Janet” in this song from which cult musical?

(What you thought I would feature songs about actual dams?  Nope, don’t have any, but I will share songs about actual bridges at least.  Answers to the query questions as always can be found amongst the tags at the bottom of the post)

 

Looking to the right, from the same spot, the new Memorial Bridge, that now diverts traffic off of the Dam’s road (which had become too narrow for all those cars).

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Memorial statues in the art deco style of the time the dam was completed.

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This would not be the last time this trip we would see tourists posing like this in front of something imposing…

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The Staten Island September 11th Memorial

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This year at this date, I would like to share photos I took earlier this summer at the Staten Island September 11th Memorial, just across the water from Manhattan’s financial district, and the new World Trade Center.

The memorial lists the names and sculpts the profiles of Staten Island residents who were lost.

 

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I will include recordings of my 9/11 oratorio “The Song of Job 9:11”.

You can watch video of a concert and listen to and read more about that piece at its designated page.

 

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1 – Awake

 

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LAS VEGAS STRIP TEASE

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Ah, Las Vegas…

They say what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

And that may be true, or it may just be a somewhat devilish advertising slogan.

But these photos of Vegas, or more specifically, the famed Vegas Strip of hotel casinos and their alluring attractions, didn’t stay there.  I brought these home to share with you.

For what that’s worth.  Some photos and some pithy commentary may not substitute for experiencing the real thing.  Think of this as a tease then.  A Las Vegas Strip Tease…

 

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We’ll start with some day time wide shots of the Vegas Strip.  We’ll get to the night later.  And we will get inside many of the more famous hotel and casinos too, past the outer facades, so to speak, to examine the inner facades …

 

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No, that’s not the real Paris Eiffel tower, of course (just as that’s not the real Venice Plaza de San Marco tower below).  It’s part of the Paris hotel and casino, only one of many hotel casinos that are constructed like theme parks, including actual rides, as I’ll show later when we visit them one by one…

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Ed and I actually slid down that particular water slide below, twice.  But I must say it’s a rather brutal thump in the groin as you take that final splash at the bottom.

Behind is the Stratosphere Tower, which boasts sky high thrill rides dangling from the tower.  I however only seldom saw these rides in action whenever I glanced at it from afar.

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Ed and I are not into gambling, or malls, or booze, or let’s face it most of the attractions Las Vegas offers its approximately 33 million visitors annually.  So why did we visit?  Well, it was actually our fly-into point to embark on a grand tour of many of the great National Parks of the American Southwest.  I’ve already posted a few introductory posts along those lines, and I’ll be sharing much more of that exhilarating beauty in many blog posts to come.

 

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Yet this blog post is all about Vegas, baby!

 

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Regarding Las Vegas, I have always wanted to see some of the Cirque du Soleil extravaganzas ensconced there.  We enjoyed Zumanity, Ka, and O.  The latter two, with their especially designed theaters and elaborate productions, are unique live shows that can only be experienced in their specific venues.  Those shows quite literally, logistically, will stay in Vegas, only to be enjoyed there.

As a friend of mine told me, some people spend their money on gambling, some on theatre.  Different kicks for different tricks.  Fair enough.

But I haven’t yet heard of one’s theater addiction resulting in bankruptcy, destroyed relationships, rehab and theatergoers anonymous.  Just saying.

 

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Above, the Shrine Of Four-Faced Brahma.  Below, the Vegas strip monorail.

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Sunset in the Trailer Park

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Just a little amuse bouche of photo and music quiz

in between larger courses of Two-fisted Touristing

 

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Ed and I stayed a few days in an airbnb 20 miles south of the Grand Canyon (major photo blog post to come, but be patient; there’s a major cue of major Great American Southwest photo blog posts forming here at Notes from a Composer’s Two-fisted Touristing division).

Eating dinner on the picnic table by our humble temporary abode we enjoyed lovely sunsets.  So here are a few lovely pics of that, accompanying a little sunset (and trailer park) related music quiz (as ever, the answers are tucked in the tags below).

 

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Sunset Music Query #1: This track, titled “Sunset”, is from which Tom Ford directed movie?

 

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Sunset Music Query #2: Which British Pop Goddess is singing about the “Sunset” here?

 

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DEATH VALLEY

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A Day in Death Valley

Intense Heat and Awe-Inspiring Desert Beauty

 

Our first stop in Death Valley, after driving two hours west from Las Vegas, was Zabriskie Point.  A million years of volcanic emissions, lake-bed sediments, seismic activity, and rainstorm erosion created this fascinating landscape.

 

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The actual Death Valley, as seen from Zabriskie Point:

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(those odd creaking sounds may be from my camera, I’m afraid…)

 

 

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As we leave Zabriskie Point to view many more otherworldly, beautiful sites, here is a detail of a map of Death Valley, encompassing all the stops we made this day:

 

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The Furnace Creek Visitor Center keeps you abreast of the temperatures.  110F (44C) seemed really high to us when we arrived.

We would learn that was just the beginning…

 

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VALLEY OF FIRE

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East of Las Vegas. West of Lake Mead. North of the Hoover Dam.

A Day in Valley of Fire State Park.

 

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We start our tour of the Valley of Fire in and amongst the Beehives, wonderfully fabulous red rock formations, sculpted by the wind and the (occasional) rain over thousands of years.

 

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It looks like some fabulously alien metropolis.

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Valley of Fire, burning burning

I’m at the point of no returning

Valley of Fire, rock formations

Caught in a landslide of creation

 

 

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RED ROCK CANYON

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A Scenic Drive West of Las Vegas

Ed and I flew into Las Vegas last weekend.  It’ll be our base for a week (more on that later) as we plan a tour of the Great American West, or as much of it as we can manage.  I’ve never been to this perhaps grandest part of this great country, and I’ve always wanted to.  So this is the year that particular dream is being fulfilled.

That’s why my first post of this series of Twofisted Touristing chronicles will start with a desert park, not the glitz of Las Vegas lying just a few miles to the east of Red Rock Canyon.

It is natural wonders these posts will be mostly about after all.

 

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Just a hop, skip, and a 20 minute drive from the part of Las Vegas where whatever happens happens to stay, is the scenic drive that takes you on an easy access loop past some of the main attractions of Red Canyon National Conservation Area.   The view above is from the visitor center.

 

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Below, a hiker on one of the many hiking trails through the desert and into the mountains.

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The visitor center has humming bird feeders, which attracted this little fellow with the bright red neck:

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The view of Las Vegas from the park.

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First stop on the scenic route road: Calico I.

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I would guess these are the rocks that give Red Rock Canyon its name.

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This formation looks a bit like a giant turtle.

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Let me see how well I remember what I learned at the visitor center.  These rocks were formed from primordial sand dunes, which themselves formed after the primordial ocean, that once covered these parts with water, disappeared.

The darker red rock is from a more recent geological age, the lighter rock is older.

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The lines in the rock are various levels of sand before they petrified into stone.

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At the visitor center we were reminded to leave no trash (Ed found himself picking up glass and other items fellow travelers had discarded), and to “leave the park better than we found it.”

Which brings me to these four whimsical stone sculptures (peace sign, heart, smiley faces) previous visitors created.  Is that leaving the place better than they found it?

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TELL-TALE RINGTONE

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Dial M for Macabre

 

Todd Maki, the sound engineer on our short film “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre” surprised me this morning with an email with no subject heading and merely “just for fun” written in the body of the message.  Attached was the following video clip, which he titled “Todd’s New Ringtone”:

 

 

The clip is from early in the film, quoting a line from the third paragraph of Edgar Allan Poe’s text.  Todd had some fun replacing the cello music originally accompanying the narrator with a cheery “ding”.

Maybe I should ask my VFX guy Austin Lepri to add a starlight twinkle to my eye, like in those old detergent commercials.

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SKY MUSIC PUZZLE

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Some views out the window on our flight home from Wisconsin will accompany this music quiz (as ever the answers are tucked within the tags below).

 

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Sky Music Query #1: Who sings this song called “Big Sky”?

 

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Sky Music Query #2: Who sings this song called “The Big Sky”?

 

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Remember the days when pop artists released 12 inch vinyl extended versions of their hits?  Well I do, because I’m old that way, and here is the 12 inch version, the “Meteorological Mix”, of “The Big Sky”:

 

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“That cloud looks like cumulus castellus.”

“That cloud is nothing but trouble.”

“That cloud looks like … hmmm… one of those …”

“That cloud looks like snow.”

“No it doesn’t!”

“This cloud ought to be removed immediately!”

 

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Sky Music Query #3: Of course I will include a song called “Sky Fits Heaven”.  You probably can easily identify the singer.  Can you also name the album it’s from?

 

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Ed arguably spent the flight more productively than I:

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The Sound of Recovery Music

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Not your childhood van Trapps…

 

The same friend who treated us to the SCA benefit performance “Snow White and the Seven Hos” invited us to see that show’s impresario Michael Roth’s latest romp “The Sound of Recovery Music”.  Once again a beloved classic musical would be lovingly, trashily repurposed as a hysterical inspirational parody polemic about overcoming one’s addictions.

We meet our heroine Maria twirling on a mountaintop singing “The hills are alive with recovery music”.  It turns out this novitiate is a sex addict, immediately illustrated by a tryst with a hunky shirtless goatherd.

A sextet of nuns, some played by men in drag, discuss how does one solve this problem with Maria:

“I’d like to say a word on her behalf:

Maria …

would fuck a giraffe!”

 

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Mother Superior sends Maria to the home of Captain van Smack, where she is to be a temporary governess to the Captain’s seven children, all of whom have addictions of their own.  Friedrich has a meth problem (in addition to being an insatiable power bottom), Brigitte has a gambling addiction, Louise a food addiction, Kurt is a pothead, and so on.  While the diverse cast of adults playing the children were only a few years out of adolescence, Gretl, the youngest van Smack child, was played by a gnarly 60something in drag.

The children struggle gamely and uproariously with their various addictions.  Soon we see Liesl singing with boyfriend Rolf about their sobriety journey: “You’ve got six days, going on seven days…”.  (The actor playing Friedrich also played Rolf, which makes sense since both Rolf and Friedrich are both so obviously homosexual in the original movie; as I said to Ed when we later watched Liesl dance with her brother in the movie: the dear girl is fated to dance only with blond gay boys).

Maria bonds with the kids through cheerful songs that aid sobriety and recovery.  When they struggle with their addictions, she rallies them by singing about having memories or waking up without mysterious bruises in “these are the joys that recovery brings” (although there is a dark part of me that wants to remember this song rewrite as focusing on “those are a few of my triggering things”).  And, rather than teaching them, say, the names of musical notes, as another governess might, Maria teaches mnemonic melodic phrases about the 12 steps (“One, you quit, you say that’s it…”).

 

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Oh How I Love Our Japanese Red Maple In The Sunshine

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Includes the “Red” music quiz

All answers, as ever here at Notes from a Composer, are tucked inside the tags below.

 

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Red Music Query #1:

We all remember Prince’s  “Purple Rain”.  Which pop/rock legend sings “Red Rain”?

 

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Red Music Query #2:

This is the title track from the classic movie “The Red Violin”.  Who is its Oscar winning composer?

(PS: Read/hear more about “The Red Violin” in The Sighing Strings of Cinema.)

 

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