AlexMarina_233

Playing Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” to my beautiful bride Marina.
Photo by Greg Cohen

The last time I posted here, over six months ago, I wrote:

Next up: I’m flying to Chile on Thursday to start a month of fieldwork in South America. Wish me luck on the next step of this adventure—and let’s hope that it generates lots more writing in the near future!

I’ll say! But more than just writing, I have been incredibly fortunate to start this new chapter in my life with projects that incorporate many aspects of what I enjoy, including writing but also music, teaching, improvising, reading, making new friends, and—most important of all—the love of my life, Marina. 

Nearly seven years ago, when I had just graduated from college and moved to Oakland, I didn’t know much about what I really wanted to do with my life. But I did have two goals that were crystal-clear: return to Santiago to make music, and marry Marina. Of course, I didn’t know that it would take over six years to achieve either, and that both would occur back-to-back in an intense rush of brilliant activity.

During my month in Santiago, I played a lot of music, including two gigs at the Santiago club Thelonious, Lugar de Jazz with local musicians: one with Diego Urbano, Carlos Cortes, Milton Russell, and my gringo travel buddy Jonah Levine, an undergraduate jazz studies major at UCLA about whom I have written previously; the other with Nicolás Vera, Rodrigo Espinoza, and Cristobal Massís.

Jonah and I also made a detour to Argentina for the annual Trombonanza Festival de Trombones in Santa Fe. I wrote more about Trombonanza in a post for the Ethnomusicology Review Sounding Board in August. Can you find me in the video of the final concert?

I returned to Los Angeles on August 30, with just over a week to prepare for the wedding. I know that everyone always says, “your wedding is the best day of your life!” but I remained somewhat skeptical. The week leading up to it was hectic and stressful, but the celebration really did live up to the hype. I couldn’t believe how truly incredible the whole thing was—I hesitate to even write anything down, because the experience was so indescribably beyond-words-awesome. But I will share a photo that sums it up pretty well:

wedding sunset

Photo by Jessica de Barros

I just celebrated my first Valentine’s Day as a married man, and I have to say: so far, so good!

Later in September, I hopped right back onto the conference circuit, presenting at the McGill Time Forms Conference with my friend and fellow improviser Joe Sorbara. We also published a version of our talk, “Musical Rhythm: Considering the Mind in Time,” on the Ethnomusicology Review Sounding Board.

While I was in Montreal, I learned that one of the Chilean jazz musicians I had just seen in Santiago, Melissa Aldana, won the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute saxophone competition. The following week, I wrote a profile of Aldana for NPR Music’s jazz blog, A Blog Supreme. She is featured on a new album with the Chilean jazz collective La Resistencia, which is fantastic:

Once the school-year got underway in October, publishing my writing took a back seat as I prepared for conferences with the Society for Ethnomusicology and the American Anthropological Association. I especially enjoyed AAA, where I was part of a panel on music and fieldwork talking about my recent trip to Chile.

I also started working with young musicians again, teaching trombone and trumpet with the Santa Monica Youth Orchestra and Pluralistic School One. This season, I am teaching the orchestra an arrangement of Sun Ra’s “We Travel the Spaceways,” which has been a lot of fun. I wrote about Sun Ra and Ornette Coleman recently for the SMYO website.

Another teaching project has also just begun, which has been a real joy to be a part of so far. Since January, I have been co-leading (with my advisor, Steven Loza) a new World Music Ensemble in the UCLA Department of Ethnomusicology. Tentatively called “Intercultural Improvisation,” the group includes musicians from a variety of musical backgrounds and is working to develop frameworks for making improvised music that crosses cultural and musical boundaries. How can musicians make music together when nobody knows the same tunes? How can that music communicate something powerful to an audience when we can’t rely on the aesthetic guidelines of our previous musical experience? These are the sorts of questions that we’re exploring, and so far, it has been a lot of fun.

And finally, as I just announced at the Ethnomusicology Review website, I’m stepping into the role of Editor in Chief for this year’s volume! The timing is interesting: both the journal and I will be celebrating 30 years of existence in November. (I guess 1984 wasn’t so bad, after all.) I am incredibly grateful for the wonderful team of editors that are joining me to produce this year’s volume (see the link for details about all eight of them)—so bookmark the page, like us on facebook, follow us on twitter, and stay tuned for more from the preeminent open access ethnomusicology journal! (And by “preeminent” I mean “only.”)

Whew! Over 800 words just to write about what I’ve been writing about for the past few months. To everyone who reads these posts and cares about what I’m up to: thank you for following along. And to Marina: being your husband is awesome! Thank you for putting up with all of this stuff I do, and for encouraging me every step of the way. I love you.