Amazing two-cello cover of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck from 2Cellos

Wow wow wow. I’m so happy right now. These two guys just rocked my morning with this cello-powered version of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck.

As a devoted rock/metal violinist, I’ve long shredded these kinds of lines on my axe. And these guys are doing it at such a high level — great intonation, wonderful clear articulation in the high registers, awesome stage presence — that I’m not even jealous that their YouTube video has over 12M views. I’m grateful that the cello (my favorite instrument… ssh, don’t tell anyone) is getting some well-deserved attention.

This level of musicianship takes a lot of careful practice and dedication. It reminds me of both my violin-flavored, indentured-servitude-adjacent childhood, and my free-as-in-freedom early 20s when I dove into the rock and metal genres. These guys are obviously classically trained, and they have a great feel with the rock stuff as well. The studio effects that are added (some looping in the middle, some light distortion on the hits and shredding) are all tasteful and well-executed, not at all detracting from the musicality or performance.

I’m not sure if this video’s audio was recorded live or they dubbed the video performance to a studio track (I suspect the latter), but regardless, I’m so damn impressed, and more importantly, inspired to pick up my axe.

Thanks, 2Cellos. Just… thanks.

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Good Job!

I’m honored to be a part of the flagship episode of “Good Job,” a new Revision3 show about jobs in the game industry. This episode is all about Wabi Sabi Sound, a boutique game audio company where I’ve been composing music for about 6 months. The episode is mostly about game sound design but also touches on composing, which is where I come in. Enjoy!

(You can learn a lot more about Wabi Sabi Sound at our web site here.)

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Violin-powered dubstep, in an ice castle in Colorado

I’ll be honest. I don’t always dig other violinists’ “power moves.” By which I mean to say, the way that violinists move when they play often makes me feel funny on the inside. I guess I’ve always identified more with guitar players than other fiddlers (all the Jacks — Black, White, Bruce — I’m looking at you!). Power slides — and stage dives into the drum set — speak to me more than whatever it looks like when the average classical violinist starts to rock out. (Sorry, other violinists! How’s it going under that bus? Can I, erm, get you some water?)

Lindsey Stirling, however, tickles me differently. There’s a pixie-like charm, a genuine happiness that exudes from her as she struts her stuff in a real-life ice castle in Colorado. Riding atop from a well-produced dubstep bed, she busts some straight-up ballet moves, yo! Much respect, Lindsey, for pulling off some serious dance moves while seemingly keeping the groove up. (Admittedly, the video is a clear violin sync — her pickup isn’t plugged into anything.)

Lindsey, keep up the rockin’ videos (seriously, the cinematography is great in this, too). If you’re ever in the Bay Area and want to rock out with your violin out, hit me up and we’ll plug into some amps and crank ’em up to at least 1.5.

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“Grey Wolf” — new documentary cue co-written with John Mazzei

I wrote and recorded this tune yesterday with San Francisco TV composer John Mazzei. John’s a great guy, and amazing to watch at his DAW, editing scores with the greatest of ease. It was lots of fun to work with him, and I hope we get to do it again soon! Until then, enjoy our new cue, “Grey Wolf,” inspired by visions of spacious arctic landscapes.

Grey Wolf by John Mazzei Music

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Stompin’ cigar box guitar jam – Hymn for Her

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Judgement Day — Awesome string metal from Oakland

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Put off living your life much?

Yeah, me too. But don’t beat yourself up too much about it. According to Portland author and my new favorite non-conformist Chris Gillebeau, it’s a human condition. Boy, does he have my number in this post. I have spent so much time delaying making big decisions to help me to achieve what I want in life, I prefer not to think about it. I’ve been working lately on not beating myself up, and this exact subject is sure fodder for such activities, so this post did trigger me a bit. Witnesseth the cause of my discomfort:

Compare yourself to others. Instead of thinking about how everyone’s situation is contextual and unique, look at people who are more successful than you and fall into despair over why you haven’t achieved as much as them. Alternatively, look at people who are less successful than you, and console yourself that at least you’re further along than them. As a bonus, choose to apply other people’s definitions of success instead of thinking about your own.

*Gulp* OK… You mean… comparing myself to other people in order to illustrate my own failure isn’t how I reach my dreams? Damn. Ain’t that a bitch. What else can you tell me about myself, brother Chris?

Ask everyone for advice. No need to think for yourself; ask everyone else to do it for you. For best results, signal your hesitation about the decision to the people of whom you ask advice. This way, they’ll tell you what you want to hear: take your time, there’s no hurry. You’ll be happiest if you receive conflicting advice from your advisers, because you’ll then feel more comfortable about waiting it out.

Damn… I always feel so productive when I’m asking people for advice. And on top of that, I’m often defensive against the advice they give! Are you telling me that’s not a recipe for success?

I admit, I’m being a little over the top here to illustrate a long-running internal dialogue. I’m grateful to Chris for such a nice summation of this behavior we’ve all indulged in to some degree or another. We’re all human and can all use a gentle kick in the ass from time to time. Click here to read the entire post here, and get ready to cringe as you see yourself therein. Then, get off yer ass and go do something to change it!

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The topic of originality has loomed large in my head lately. I recently undertook a challenge to produce two 3-minute pieces of original music by October 31. I failed to meet that commitment, failed pretty hard in fact. The most challenging aspect of this endeavor was the fact that these songs were to be my own art, not made for or with another person. (I am a composer by trade, and have collaborated in many bands, so making music with or for other people comes naturally. But I have never made much art that is strictly mine.)

What came up for me as I toiled for long hours in the studio, hunched in front of the computer and not having very much fun, was the desire to be original. Not just to create an original-sounding piece or to have my material judged as original in the aggregate, but to embody originality in my work down to the finest possible granularity. Every part of every song would need to sound like no other part of no other song ever made! (Don’t worry, as this sounds as preposterous to me as I write it as it does to you reading it.)

And so, after writing a perfectly good — albeit fairly basic — song, I proceeded to add complexity for the sake of originality. And I took a song that would have likely made me happy once it was done and turned it into what felt like a cobbled-together mess that I never want to hear again, let alone perform for other people or release into the world. I left the experience dazed by my failure to create even a simple 3-minute piece after 6 weeks of struggle, but determined to keep pushing through this all-too-familiar issue until I change the script inside my head.

Today, as I sat and talked with my co-worker Andy, something hit me that really made me stop. It occurred to me that by changing parts to death, by adding complexity for the sake of originality, and by comparing my raw, unfinished musical building blocks to others’ polished work was the safe path. Not to say that it is enjoyable, or easy, but it is safe in that I’ve been there before, lots of times, and I know how it ends. It ends in me creating a piece of music that I don’t even like because it’s mutated so much compared to what I made that first moved me. It ends with me quitting halfway through and destroying the work, because who wants to work on music that they don’t even like?

So, in the future, my challenge will be to let the simple part stand. To let the riff I just made, that I genuinely like, be enough. To allow parts to breathe and take on a life of their own instead of smothering them with well-intentioned but ill-fated mutations. To have faith that I can make music I’m happy with despite the fact that I’m using all the same tools that every other composer is using — sounds, chords, notes, instruments, rhythms, ears. And that will feel like the most original thing I’ve ever done.

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Rocking violin-powered cover of “Toxicity”

When I first found this video, I was chasing video links watching various badass rock drummers do their thing. Danny Carey, Neil Peart, Stuart Copeland, all my faves. Then I hit up Meytal Cohen’s videos of her covering badass drum parts. At first, the drumming was almost too perfect for me to believe that it was really her playing. But by the end of the first video, I was convinced. Meytal Cohen is a badass rock drummer. I’m not sure if she writes her own stuff, but I’d sure love to hear it.

How is this related to violin? Don’t worry, it’s coming. I picked this video because I love System of a Down, and wanted to see a drum video of Toxicity. What I didn’t realize is that two other badass women, Christine Wu (of LA Strings — she’s got enormous industry cred and is very nice to boot) and Jennifer Lynn (of Violution) would be accompanying on electric violins. I’ve met Christine Wu before at the Taxi conference, but I didn’t know she rocked this hard! Anyway, the cover is a really rockin’ version of this song and has a place in my metal and violin hearts.

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