an elephant never forgets

Elephant's Graveyard by George Brant is a play about the terrible and fascinating events that led to an actual Elephant hanging in early 20th century Tennessee. The play premiered in Austin, Texas in 2007 and has been gaining popularity at regional, community, and university theaters for its diverse cast, Americana overtones, and flexible staging.

In 2012, I was approached by Red Tape Theatre in Chicago to adapt the play into a larger work containing original music. The final adaptation contained 10 songs and was performed by Bluegrass band The New Switcheroo and cast. The music was nominated for a Joseph Jefferson Award in Outstanding Original Music and was my first trip to the spectacle that is the Jeff Awards. It was an amazing experience and I am grateful to have worked with such great musicians, character actors, rich voices, and creative designers.

...but the curtain did not close there. The show must go on!

Two new productions will be using my music in their upcoming versions: Henderson Civic Theatre in Henderson, Texas (Sep. 19-28) and Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah (Oct. 9-25). I am so thrilled the music for this show continues to live on, unlike Mary the elephant. If you're going to be in Henderson or Salt Lake City in the next few weeks, I suggest you check it out; these productions are going to be moving, heart-wrenching, and as much fun as you can have at an elephant lynching.

I want to extend my sincere gratitude to Henderson Civic Theatre and Westminster College. I hope more future productions continue to use my music and attract the curious and the morbid to this haunted circus freak show. Thanks to both productions and keep those trunks up; an elephant is an investment.


A night with Jeff

As we all prepare dinner tonight for Tony, I want to reflect on his little brother Jeff, the Chicago Theatre award. Sound and Music are often the last recognized elements in theatre (if noticed at all) so if feels really special to be awarded the highest honor in Chicago Theatre for my work on The Mother, which included Original Music and New Adaptation (co-adapted with director Max Truax). The fierceness and vivacity of Chicago Theatre is what led me to migrate there from my homeland of Los Angeles in 2009 and it is why I still live a short 5-hour drive away in the Queen City of Cincinnati. In total, The Mother was nominated for 7 categories and won 5 Jeffs for Original Music, New Adaptation, Actress in a Principal Role, Ensemble, and Production. It was an unforgettable night for Oracle Theatre and the beautiful cast and crew of The Mother.

I often struggle with the disconnect between the ephemeral vision of music that I hear in my head and the reality of what eventually makes it on to paper. That is why I keep writing, to get closer to that perfect realization of the first moment I feel a piece of music from the dark ether of invention. Receiving this award is the validation that I am doing something right and will inspire me to continue to create many more works. Thank you Jeff Committee, Oracle Theatre, Max Truax, Katherine Keberlien, the entire cast and crew of The Mother, and especially my partner-in-crime Amy Smethurst; she is the inspiration that pushes me to continue to chase the ghost of a perfect dream.


space_cabin_ fever

For those of you who don't know, I am in an 8-bit electro-dance pop duo with graphic designer and art therapist Amy Smethurst. We are called space_cabin_ (the underscores are part of it, like programming in Python). I was in many pop rock bands and ensembles during my youthful Los Angeles tenure, but like many relationships they ended, some amicably and some not so much. I created space_cabin_ after producing and recording other wonderful artists throughout the years and feeling like I was not contributing to the pop music dialogue. I am grateful to have my music included in films, theatre, and musicals, but I can still write a poppy tune that may never fit into any one of those outlets, so space_cabin_ was born.

It has taken some time to get this cabin off the ground, let me tell you. Amy and I put together the first proto_hype of s_c_ around the end of 2011. We slapped some demos together and made some performance stems; we even played some shows if you were lucky enough to catch them. Then in the summer of 2012, as I was hunkering down to complete our first ep "proto_hype" (ep is a fancy way of saying "mini-album") my laptop was stolen right from our apartment, containing all of the master sessions not only for s_c_ but for an operetta I wrote in Chicago called "HamletMachine". A few days prior to that I had dropped the back up drive and broke it, so darn. The thief came in through the bathroom window for those that will note the irony. I was not protected by a silver spoon, so I was left to suck my thumb and wonder, 'what will I do now?" Luckily Amy had some mp3s of some early bounces, so I am able to Frankenstein something together, but it has been hard to regain momentum. It took me until 2013 to save up money for a new laptop; I also wrote 2 musicals between then and now, "Elephant's Graveyard" and "The Mother" so I've been busy. But along came a contest by Novation, makers of some fine analog keyboards. They provided about a gig of free samples (still available) and proposed songwriters to piece together a song from those samples. I took this as an opportunity to rebound space_cabin_ into the outer stratosphere and beyond. Below is our contest submission and is the first s_c_ recording in about 2 1/2 years. The ep "proto_hype" will be dropping on an official bandcamp page by the end of this year, but in the meantime follow us at www.facebook.com/SpaceCabin. Thanks for all your patience and support, space_campers_!


The Mother returns!

The remount of The Mother at Oracle Theatre in Chicago is in full swing! So why should you see this show again and what can you expect?

You're going to hear the same amazing voices! All of the cast except one actress (minus one Sarah Pretz, add one Kate Staiger) are reprising their roles, so they get to revisit and explore new ideas with more potency, like a pot of spaghetti sauce that has marinated in the fridge for a few days. You're going to hear the same great music! I made some light orchestration adjustments and remixed every song. The new mix brings out instruments and timbres that would have otherwise been lost in the previous version. There's also some extra bottom for you bass heads. You're going to hear more dynamics! The cast and crew were busy during the last 2 months under the firm but loving guidance of music director Nicholas Tonozzi, adding more details, greater crescendos, softer pianissimos, and more articulation. You're going to see updated scenes, lights, sets, costumes, video, and choreography! Director Max Truax has been adding more nuance, more silent screams, and more cowbell to this production. That guy loves cowbell.

It's been Jeff Recommended, named 2013 Best of On the Fringe by Chicago Tribune, and to top it all, admission is FREE under Public Access Theatre. This is theatre at its best, so reserve your tickets here quickly because they are going fast. You don't want to miss it!


from Los Angeles to Chicago

2012 did not bring Armageddon but many great projects; I did the sound design for two theater productions; They Are Dying Out at Trap Door Theatre and The Sandman at Oracle Theatre. I wrote original music to the film Trupiak and the play-turned-musical Elephant's GraveyardI also did the sound design for the short film Disorder that was premiered at the Chicago Horror Film Festival.

There was a great review of Los Angeles Electric 8's recent release, Interlocking Textures, featuring a piece I composed entitled The Fog. I am ecstatic to be on an album alongside Steve Reich, Toru Takemitsu, and Dmitri Shostakovich. Check out a video of the LA8 performing that piece on the video page.

There was also a recent interview with Frank J. Oteri about his microtonal suite, Imagined Overtures, which was featured on the previous LA8 album of the same name. I mixed and mastered that album and it was a joy to work with such great musicians and compositions.

It has been a fruitful year and I hope the following will be equally productive and imaginative.


The Mother by Bertolt Brecht

I've been putting the final touches on the audio tracks for Oracle Theatre's production of Bertolt Brecht's The Mother, which opens this weekend in Chicago. I had some great assistance developing and arranging vocal lines from Nicholas Tonozzi, who also acted as the production's music director. The Mother was originally a serialist opera composed by Hanns Eisler in 1935. Director Max Truax and I decided to create new music and reinvent a musical work by Brecht. We wanted to capture the spirit of the Russian worker during the Bolshevik revolution, half drunk on vodka and half starved from poverty. The cast has taken to the music like reactionist propaganda and will be spreading the word from April 20 - May 25, so do try to catch it if you can. Forward without forgetting our solidarity!


Elephant's Graveyard at Red Tape Theatre

Hey you Chicago theater with music fans, very soon you will have a new show to listen, watch, and hum along to. Opening night of Elephant's Graveyard is right around the corner and I hear it's gonna be a hoedown. Here is a video by Don Markus that makes hours of laborious rehearsal look like magic in the making. This video was shot at the Steppenwolf rehearsal spaces and I think that is pretty darn cool. You should come check out what a full cast and band can do with my broken melodies. An Elephant is an investment.

Playing at Red Tape Theatre 

May 10 - June 16



All new for 1916

There is some strange brew concocting at Red Tape Theatre. We have about two more weeks of rehearsal before the opening of Elephant's Graveyard by George Brant. I am very excited to have 6/8 of The New Switcheroo breathing life and bringing killer harmonies into my music, as well as a wonderfully robust cast of talented performers. It is going to be a really great show, so if you happen to stroll into the windy city in May, come check it out. Peanut?


Trupiak teaser

This year has brought many interesting projects. One that I am very excited about (and currently writing the music for) is Trupiak directed by Michal Janicki. It's a Polish fairytale-noir shot entirely on green screen and it is going to look amazing. Think Sin City meets The Little Mermaid. Here's a trailer giving you a little taste of the magic that will be unleashed in 2012. Happy Holidays y Feliz Ano Nuevo! Enjoy!
Trupiak – teaser from michal janicki on Vimeo.


he is the god of love

Hey Chicago Theatre fans, I recently completed the sound design for Henrik Ibsen's Brand at Red Tape Theatre, directed by Max Truax. It has been receiving some good reviews and my sound design was mentioned, which is always flattering. It was great to work with Red Tape and I have signed on to write all new music for their spring production of Elephant's Graveyard by George Brant. I'm looking forward to creating a new vocal work (and follow-up to Hamletmachine) and to working with Red Tape again. Here are two promos made for Brand by film maker extraordinaire Don Markus. Enjoy!