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Kafka by Flashlight

Dark star crashes, pouring its light into ashes.” ― the Grateful Dead

For years I’ve planned the Sound of Silent Film Festival for the second weekend in April but for some reason this year I put it on Saturday of the third weekend which coincides with not one but two religious holidays which is bad enough but, to make matters worse, apparently 4/20 is some kind of stoner holiday as well so now I have no idea who’s going to show up.

And, because we get a day rate on the theater, we hold our music school fundraiser on the same day as Sound of Silent Film so now I’m having our school fundraiser on 4/20 too which is kind of weird right? Thank goodness we’re not selling muffins or brownies or something as part of the event.

I was told recently that 4/20 came about because it was police code but according to Wikipedia it’s because of five high school kids who called themselves the Waldos because they met at a wall to get stoned way back in 1971 which technically should have made them the Walldos but let’s let it go.  They had a treasure map leading to an abandoned cannabis crop and were going to meet at 4:20 to go find it.

They never found the treasure but they coined the term 4/20 and inspired the movie The Goonies though obviously some changes were made. One of the kids later became a roadie for the Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh because of course he did and he told Lesh their word for getting high was 4/20 and it became a common term among Dead Heads from whence it eventually leaked out to the general public.

You may not know this about me but I followed the Dead for one summer way back in 1993 when I was a tender lad of twenty-one.  My girlfriend and two friends and I concocted a scheme to go to a Dead show in Ohio and sell a ton of tie-dye T-shirts and veggie burritos and make so much money that we could drive to Nova Scotia and spend the summer camping out and reading Kafka.  Well I was planning to read Kafka all summer, not sure what they were going to do. Not that Kafka would have lasted the whole summer.  I would probably have gotten through his complete works in a couple of weeks and then gone stir crazy.

Anyway, as you can probably guess, the plan didn’t work.  Although sales of the shirts and burritos were surprisingly strong, the VW van we bought to get us to Ohio and which we were going to live in in Nova Scotia was a piece of junk and kept breaking down and we traded it for a gas-guzzling black van with no windows.  Basically we earned just enough money to get us to the next show where we would sell more burritos and shirts and earn just enough to get to the next show and so on.

Instead of reading Kafka in the serene Prince Edward Island countryside I spent my nights in dingy campsites reading The Castle by flashlight to the accompaniment of drum circle jams which frankly is less than ideal.  I went to four or five shows that summer and never saw one of them though we did get “miracle” tickets once but our sculptor friend Takashi really wanted to go so we gave him the tickets.

I don’t remember anyone saying 4/20 that summer but I kind of had my nose in a book the whole time so I’m hardly a reliable witness.  I wonder if Phil Lesh still celebrates it?  Maybe he’ll show up to our fundraiser.  We could do a Dark Star jam.

Composers With Drinks


ACM is teaming up with Composers Concordance for a fun masterclass with Austrian ensemble Hi5. Each composer will write a short, really short, piece for guitar, bass, vibes and drums and the ensemble will sight read and discuss.

And as you can probably tell from the title, there will be drinks!  I’ve never written for this combination of instruments before, it was super fun.  That photo is of Igor Stravinsky taking a swig of scotch which apparently he never left the house without.

Friday April 12th
from 6:30pm to 9pm

Michiko Studios – Stage 1
149 West 46th Street
New York, NY 10036

Picosa Performs ‘Three For Zhou B’


Picosa is playing my music all over the place lately!  They’ll perform my chamber piece Three For Zhou B, inspired by paintings by the celebrated Zhou Brothers, at the Chicago Cultural Center as part of a great concert of multi-media works.

April 18, 12:00 PM
Chicago Cultural Center
78 E. Washington, Claudia Cassidy Theater

More info

Molto Tutti Student Film Festival


ACM’s 3rd annual Molto Tutti Student Film Festival Fundraiser is April 20 at 3:00 PM.  More than fifty of our students are participating by writing and performing original pieces and then working with their teachers to make animated videos.

All of the original works will be shown on the big screen at the Davis Theater and all proceeds benefit the ACM School of Music.  This was such a heartwarming event last year, I’m really looking forward to it.

Hearing so many world premieres on one concert and seeing the joy from the kids as people react to their music, well it was pretty great.

Saturday, April 20 3:00 PM
Davis Theater
4614 N. Lincoln Ave.

More info

Here’s a picture of me and fellow ACM’ers Christy and Trevor jumping for joy last year after a successful fundraiser.

14th Annual Sound of Silent Film Festival


In 2005 I had the idea to commission some composers to write new scores for modern silent films and play the music live to the films at the Chopin theater.  The event sold out and I’ve been stuck producing it every year since. Over the last fourteen years we’ve screened more than a hundred films with live scores, we’ve moved to an all-submission basis, gained a wonderful film review panel to help us choose the films, toured the show to Mexico City, Austin and New York and we’re in the process of licensing it for performances around the country.  We even have a laurel now like a real film festival!

This year we’ve got two shows, our feature presentation which is the slick we’ve honed this over fourteen years version and a late show in which we try something new.  This year we’ve partnered with art-rock band Origin of Animal for the late show.  Both shows will be fantastic and will likely sell out.

April 20, 7:00 and 9:30
Davis Theater
4614 N. Lincoln Ave.
$25, $15 or $35 for both shows

Tickets and more info

Featured Seth Music: Daughters of the Moon


The announcement last month that I was going to write a large-scale work inspired by stories of Italo Calvino prompted a really nice response.  It’s great to know that so many people are interested in hearing music inspired by an Italian surrealist humanist writer.

The first one I wrote is Daughters of the Moon and it was just performed on the most recent Concept Lab concert in New York on March 31 so check it out!

Performed by:
Talia Dicker – cello
Irene Fitzgerald-Cherry – violin
Ford Forqurean – clarinet


Miscellany, mélange, hodgepodge, etc.

How cool was that photo of the Black Hole yesterday? Just in case you didn’t see it, I’ve included a photo of it below.

Here is a fun sentence about the Black Hole from the NY Times. “The image, of a lopsided ring of light surrounding a dark circle deep in the heart of a galaxy known as Messier 87, some 55 million light-years away from Earth, resembled the Eye of Sauron, a reminder yet again of the implacable power of nature.”

How is the fact that the black hole looks to some like the Eye of Sauron a reminder of the implacable power of nature?  The Eye of Sauron is neither real nor a naturally occurring phenomenon. The fact that the black hole looks like the Eye of Sauron, and that’s indisputable, is not a reminder of the implacable power of nature.  It’s just a fun coincidence. Or is it?

Back to the Grateful Dead for a moment though. A dark star is another word for black hole.  Dude you just blew my mind.






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