2K15 by David Byrd-Marrow


What would we do without New Years?

I found myself mulling over the usual New Year's rituals this past week. The resolutions to lose weight, gain knowledge, treat others the way I'd like to be treated, treat myself better, eat less treats, etc. While considering which of these bowling pins of expectation I would hurl myself into this year, I thought about how nice it is even just to have this point of reflection. 

In a way Humans are just a collection of cycles. Breaths, blood circulation, blinking of the eyes. So it's only natural that we go macro with the whole concept, and highlight the trend in everything around us. 

I estimate that I've got about 18 New Years under my belt, at which I made conscious note of my existential circumstance. That makes me an adult on the subject, if just barely legal. Every time this time of year comes around, I find myself desiring similar things as the last. Don't worry, I won't list them, as they are usually just the garden variety, stock Hallmark card list of vanilla resolutions. If I ever needed an exhibit in defense of my normalcy, I could simply present my New Year's resolutions for the past two decades, and it would be the end of any dispute. Nothing to be ashamed of, if a bit unimaginative. 

That being said, I find it quite nice that once a year I can be fully reminded of these mundane, yet sturdy plans. It's like when you fly with the cape in Super Mario Bros. 3. Each year is like a little wind in your sail that helps you coast along. Why not once a month or week? It could only be helpful, right?


Good luck and all the best in 2015!

Post Audition Fallout...Post by David Byrd-Marrow

Not quite a month after the 3rd horn audition for the LA Phil, I'm finding myself in the grips of what I've been calling a "post-audition fallout". It's a phase that everyone I talk to understands immediately. Oddly, there's not much talk on the subject. 

If you've ever "properly" dedicated yourself to an audition, and lost, the you know exactly what I'm going to describe. It's really important that you've lost, though. In fact, if you haven't ever lost an audition, stop reading this and never talk to me again. You are not human, and I loathe thee. 

Three months is the longest I've ever intensely dedicated myself to any one audition. Yet, because of the time of year, it flashed by faster than I wanted it to. The whole time I was practicing in between rehearsals (trying to practice bits and pieces of excerpts, unrecognizably so as not to be noticed and categorized as "that guy") and shaping each day around the time I could spend shedding the list. I even played the list down for six different people. Meanwhile there was the regular work I had to do. 

Anyway, that happened. And, after three months of living and breathing self-criticism, I went to LA. No dice. "No dice" was the text I must have sent to two dozen people who asked about how it went that day. At least Disney Hall is near Eggslut. Thus began the slow beginning of the month of poorly timed post-audition fallout. 


Fortunately for all of us, my schedule doesn't really allow me to let go as much as had in mind. And I do think that the best way to get over these things is to move ahead. So it's good that I'm looking down the barrel of a 2015 that is a fear-laden mixtape of French Horn misery. No guts, no glory right?

I recently read an article that The Guardian had posted about how Olympians deal with failure. It sucked because they just ended up championing failure as a gateway to success. Ok, maybe they're right, but I wasn't in the mood at all. 

With that in mind, I will say that I am generally looking forward to playing these days. That's good, right? And it's nice when it's Christmas time in the city, silver bells and all. Ps, if you read this and have any input on how you bounce back from this sort of thing, feel free to let me know. Otherwise I'll just have to let time take its course! Maybe some presents will help...

Happy Holidays

separate from the purpose by David Byrd-Marrow

How much should a freelance musician know about the concert they are to perform?


I think a good way to approach this question is to understand the hurdles that a common musician (especially freelance) has to overcome to begin the process of digesting the importance - past, present and future - of the concert in which they will be involved.

Also, keep in mind that this blog is the digital equivalent of me talking to myself. So keep in mind, lest this sound preachy, that I am muttering to myself as much as I am the interwebs.


That being said, let's start with the call.

At some point, which ranges from years to months or days before, we get a date. In the case of a freelancer, we look to see if we're free. In the case that we aren't, we do a spiritualistic rain dance to the gods of hustling and hope for the best case scenario, which usually involves a tuck-and-roll out of a taxi and a sprint up or down 8th Avenue. This date is jotted down…no that's wrong. Nobody jots anymore. We enter. The date is then entered into the calendar, followed by a closing ceremonial dance, and then forgotten. This "forgetting" is the first step in the beginning of a mind-numbing cycle of just churning out gigs that is common, and very easily done. 

poor tower

poor tower

When I started my undergrad studies, I remember being insane over the fact that I had access to an entire library of recordings. When I was in high-school I worked at Tower Records in the Classical section, and I got to listen to lots of recordings, but I never got to take them home. I mainly listened to the big orchestral works, so when I got to college I devoted a lot of time listening to piano and violin concerti and also lots of string quartets, since I believed that the bulk of composers chose these forums for their grandest statements of expression.

Once my time in school was up, the glaring headlights of "real life" became white hot. In the early stages of my freelance life, I lost track of the academic approach that was readily available in schooland I just started playing the notes. Around the time I joined ICE, I started working with living composers with stories and appetites, and began somewhat of a retrograde interest in music history.

But this entry is not about me, so I'll go on with my point, which was that - one way to forget about musical importance is to start prioritizing your gig's "status" and choosing based on what seems en vogue, rather than what is interesting to you. It's precisely this mentality that has created the stereotype of the freelance circus that people associate with this untethered path. But it's a double edged sword because we all want to be working with consistency, for obvious reasons. But I think it has to be true that if your schedule is too full, so is your mind. Hustle shouldn't trump interest. First hurdle.

The second hurdle is what I'm tentatively calling the "3rd degree trickle". 

I think there are probably a large number of musicians who have gone through the experience of trotting into a rehearsal for a gig that they got a three line email or a two minute phone call for, and then slowly realizing that the magnitude and historical implications of the concert could (and perhaps SHOULD) have been further emphasized at the time of contracting. This happens with abundant regularity. The excitement that is present in the administrative brain of a group is often not communicated to those less tapped in. Sure we could all take it upon ourselves to research. The most curious of my colleagues vigorously investigate every date they are given. However, it would be much easier if we could take and trust the temperature which we are given.

My third thought is really just rhetoric, but I'll say it because I don't want those who think about it to think that I didn't consider it. There are people that will ask, "Once the knowledge is gained, how much does it really inform the performances?"

Well, I don't know. It's very possible that a musician can walk in to a concert that they know nothing about, and read and play their notes in a way that resonates within the souls of every listening being and every other being they tell of their experience that night. This is all well and good, and some might argue that it is the only thing that matters.

But here's the push: we do it for ourselves, as well. Knowing enriches our (the performer's) experience.

This may be the ONLY time you ever hear me argue the academic side of, well anything short of Evolution. And it seems like a very basic point. However, even the most elementary logic can be trampled and lost in the grind. So hustle on, folks. But be sure to smell those roses. 



On the issue of the (once) lost horn: by David Byrd-Marrow

When I look back on this past Easter, I'm sure I will remember the details more than usual.

Spring weather was in full effect. It was hovering around 70 degrees (in typical New York fashion, it's now a confusing 50 degrees outside), and everything was pointing towards a classic city summer. Except Meenzer (German for someone from Mainz, where the horn was made), my newest horn went missing. I had left it in a cab, after the Wednesday rehearsal for this divine Easter celebration. Most inconveniently, I had to leave town early the next morning for upstate so I would have to do most of my searching via phone.

Many people have a hard time relating to the emotions that are associated with losing a horn. Thus, the reaction you get from person to person is super rangy. Some people, even after they figured out what a french horn was (a trombone, right?) still couldn't care less. Fortunately, the majority of people's reaction was somewhere along the lines of "OH MY GOD!!!", like I had accidentally decapitated myself, or just won the opposite of the MegaMillion lottery. Not totally parallel to the trauma of the incident, however much more in line with the enthusiasm I would need if I was ever going to get my horn back.

"I WANT MY HORN!!!"                                                                                                       "WHAT'S A FRENCH HORN??"

"I WANT MY HORN!!!"                                                                                                       "WHAT'S A FRENCH HORN??"

After a couple of days of meaningless talks with various disinterested police, and literally hundreds of calls to NYC taxi garages, I had a conversation with a driver who told me that all of the cabs in NY are covered by one of two GPS companies. These companies both have their offices in Long Island City, and he said that I should go to them and give them as much info as possible, and see if they could help me. I had already talked with one of them (Verifone) on the phone with no success. This was also the company that ended up finding Meenzer. 

When I went to the Verifone office on Monday, I was expecting a full fledged circus. Something like the DMV, except on crack. Instead, I found it to be really well run and the people were very easy to talk to. The lady that helped me, and eventually found my driver was incredibly nice, and did the search while I went to the other company (CMT) to check with them. I got to see way more of LIC then I'd planned, but it was a nice day so I was into it. Plus, I got to exercise my new dead-person's-ACL. 

Of course, my phone died so I went to a coffeeshop to charge it. Asking to charge your phone at a coffee shop can give you a really acute sense of the vibe. I had been to this place before because it's near a friend's apartment. But, since I wasn't a regular I decided to order something before asking to suck up some of their electricity. They had cold-brewed ice coffee, which was named "Rocket Fuel". I figured it might be a long day/night so I had two. 

I met up with my friend and had a burger and a beer, because that's what you do when everything else fails. I had only that day posted my crisis to Facebook, so we passed the time looking at the 90+ comments of empathy that were posted. Someone even wrote me a private message that said (in caps) "CALL ME". I knew it wasn't what I was looking for, and I didn't really know this person super well, so it was weird. I did call them, just later. And then I got the email.

The lady at Verifone sent me an email saying that she had narrowed the search down to one car fitting the description of my ride. I don't know where I get this trait, but in moments like this I  tend to keep my hopes on the floor, so not to be disappointed later. The next 12 hours were still a blur of suppressed anxiety. Perhaps next time I'll just have one helping of Rocket Fuel.

I got Nestor's (my driver) call at 8:48am the next day. I missed it, because don't ever effing call me that early. But my girlfriend noticed right as it was missed, and I called him back. Nestor was nice enough. Said he had a son named David, who was in college. He insisted that he didn't touch anything. I asked him if he had fixed my high Bb. Not really, but it would have been nice if he did. Now I actually have to deal with it again. But not having my horn made me realize how much I like it. Perhaps, after months of complaining about a couple of details, this is the kick in the ass I needed to just plow ahead. 



Incidentally, this is (almost to date) the ten year anniversary of the last time I left my horn in a NYC taxi. In 2024, I'll just get someone lock me in my house.

Grand old man by David Byrd-Marrow

I remember my grandfather in only a handful of states.

HAM radio operator. It was a way to be involved. 80's. His way underground. He never knew what a spin class was. He'd preferred I learn morse code instead of the horn. Sax(!) instead of the horn.

Military veteran. I never confirmed that he was a war vet, which is to say that I don't know if he'd killed. For that matter, I don't know if anyone of my family has or hasn't killed.

Beano. Intestinal fortitude doesn't run in my genes. It runs in my genes jeans. That was awful.

So maybe a poem:


"With this drink...take hell by storm." (2014)


longing for a groan,

searching for static

childhood bores the young.

The old watch in envy.

Wringing the lake water 

from the towel to make

rat tails. Stinging more with age.

Wanting more to sing, and

sing louder the chorus


steam and pastures.


© David Byrd-Marrow 2013