Two Medicine

My last post on here was to announce that I’d be recording an album. That was back in March.

The good thing is that I did make the record. Maybe some of you were wondering (mom?). So here it is, and it’s also embedded below. Why don’t you press play on one of the tracks and then continue reading below?

The tracks took longer than I thought to mix and master. This is difficult. Part of it is that you get pretty sick of hearing your music over and over. Anyhow, I had it first mixed by Matt Marinelli at Exile Recording and then I had fellow Respecteteer Malcolm Kirby do another mix. The record uses a combination of both mixes and Malcolm did all the mastering. Friend and saxist Josh Rutner created the fine album artwork. I took the picture from a moving car, driving through Montana on Interstate 15.

The record is titled Two Medicine, which is the name of a region and lake at Glacier National Park in Montana. Two Medicine was considered sacred by the Blackfeet people and it’s easy to understand why. My man John and I have spent some weeks there, hiking along the continental divide, up through the Dawson and Pitamakin passes, past Old Man Lake and No Name Lake. Here is some video I took from one of those hikes.

I am grateful to have worked with such amazing people on this project. First, the musicians: Red Wierenga, Ike Sturm, and Ted Poor. The best of the best, I say.

I also had a co-producer in Grey McMurray who was with me from almost the very beginning. Grey plays in the phenomenal band Knights on Earth and hearing that group is part of why I wanted Grey involved with my record. He committed himself to the project and kicked my butt throughout–from the compositional process and rehearsals to the recording, editing and mixing. His advice was invaluable and in general, I would recommend a producer for anyone’s project. Specifically, I would recommend Grey!

The record can be found at I would be humbled if you took a couple moments to sit and listen to a track or two. And if you like what you hear, listen to the whole dang thing. I may make a limited run of physical discs for those of you who are into that. If you want me to mail you one, just send me a note! And if you listen to it and want to offer comments or criticisms, please leave a comment below or send me an email or facebook/twitter me.

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Recording Session

IT’S happening. This Friday, March 18th, I am making my debut record.

Since moving to New York City in 2004, I always knew that making a record should be my priority. Even back in college, teachers told us students: a CD is a calling card; don’t go to NYC without one. As a member of the Respect Sextet, I already had CDs and I figured I’d probably make a recording shortly after moving to the city. But years passed, and I found myself distracted with other projects, work, making ends meet, relationships, leisure, etc. BIG PLANS were always on the back of my mind. I’d play sessions with friends and bring music in, but it never got much further than that.

About once a year, I would resolve to make a record. Usually after my birthday, turning a year older, I would reevaluate my goals and send out emails to people to check availability for recording. THIS IS THE YEAR, I’d say. But once I actually had to do the work: writing, conceiving of what I wanted my music to be, it would become too much to deal with and I’d reluctantly call it off. This has happened about 5 times. It wasn’t a matter of laziness. Just putting too much pressure on myself. Paralyzing myself.

In October of 2010, I traveled with John and JACK Quartet to Germany where they were performing at the Donaueschingen New Music Festival. While I was there, I had this sudden realization (well, perhaps not sudden I guess) that it was ‘go’ time. I wanted to be a musician the way that the guys in JACK were musicians. Playing music that was important to me with people that I respected and making enough money to support myself through music alone. There are all these musicians out there I’d always wanted to play with. Why couldn’t I play with them? I knew that I’d never get anywhere without a recording that is representative of who I am as a musician. I can’t expect Carla Bley to just call me out of the blue if she has no way to know who I am (although, Carla, 646-709-4417 “Call me!”). This is “duh” obvious, but took about 7 years to realize. At the same time, I can’t imagine being very happy with a record that I had made when I was 22. It’s also interesting that John Coltrane didn’t make his first record until he was 31. So, in this one way, I am very much like John Coltrane.

Once I decided to do it, I knew I had to write about an hour of music. I had recently read a great article on writing and something stuck with me which was: Everyone’s unwritten work is brilliant. The thing is, my unwritten work IS actually brilliant!! REALLY! haha! Just kidding, but that’s how I felt. So getting it down on paper is this gradual realization that your brilliance is actually shit. And then the real work starts when you take that shit and try to make something out of it. Here is a link to that article.

Exhibit A

I also did something a little silly to help me follow through. I told myself I wouldn’t cut my hair until I had recorded my album. At the time, in October, my hair was in need of a cut, but each day, I woke up, saw this outrageous mop in the mirror and it reminded me of this thing I had to do. As I became uglier and uglier, the need to write the music and book the session and hire the players became more urgent. I admit that I chickened out and cut my hair in January, 2 months before the recording after I made the deposit at the studio, set up rehearsals and booked musicians. It was getting out of hand and I couldn’t respect myself looking like that. How could anyone else?

So, the recording is in one week. I have the great fortune to play with Ike Sturm, Red Wierenga, and Ted Poor. Grey McMurray is helping with creative ideas, moral support and overseeing the recording and mixing process. I will post here after the session to let you know what I learned in the process, what I’d do differently, etc. And I’ll post some clips. In the meantime, I’m trying to stay relaxed, eat well, exercise, practice, and stay calm.

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66 Rivington (The Audio Bunker)

Me recording at The Audio Bunker

Being the lucky guy that I am, I share a recording studio on the Lower East Side with about 8 great people. About twice per week, I am down there recording either by myself or with others that I invite. So on this blog, I am going to post some of the results of those sessions. Much of the work that I do at the studio is experimental and I’d never release it properly, but it seems a shame to record and never have anyone hear it! It’ll all be rough and mostly unmixed, but I hope that it will give you an idea of what I am up to.

John Pickford Richards

The first track I’ll post is something I recorded with my main man John playing viola. I used an EV RE20 mic on the viola but I don’t think I would use it again. The only thing I composed was the 4 note (F-C-A-E) riff that repeats throughout. We made up the rest, over dubbing together twice.

Day 1 (James Hirschfeld/John Richards):

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The second track I’ll post is something I made today. I’ve been playing with drones a lot using a digital sruti box for the last year and have been studying just intonation as well. I’ll probably do a number of posts on just intonation, but for now, I’ll just post this track which is based on just intervals and sliding between them. It’s very rough and basic….not my ideal vision of what I want to do with just intonation…really, it’s just a study I guess. Playing a note and holding it very steady (within a cent) is very challenging. Ideally, everything I do would be in just intonation, but it’s a work in progress.

Drones ( James Hirschfeld)

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A Tale of Two Cities

I hate to say it, but the Red Sox’s chances at another World Series are gone until next year. Though last night was the proverbial nail in the proverbial coffin, the outcome of this season was iced about 2 months ago when the Sox lost their two best players (Youkilis and Pedroia) to injuries. Those injuries came when the Sox were already missing Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Cameron, Victor Martinez and, shudder, Jeremy Hermida. For this Red Sox team to finish with 90 wins will be a pretty amazing feat.

Me and Pesky's Pole at Fenway Park

Last week, thanks to Phil Weinrobe and that unpredictable Jewish calendar, I got some tickets to Fenway Park and took Nick Consol with me. We took the bus up at noon, went straight to the Park, and took it all in. I can only say what has already been said about Fenway. It’s very old (it’ll be 100 years old in 2012). The cement floors have buckled and slope in odd directions. In typical fashion, the Sox completely blew it and lost an easily winnable game. We took the 1am bus back that night and got in to NYC at 5am.

Then last night, I got another opportunity (thanks to Nick) to see the Sox play again, this time against the Yankees in the Bronx. It was my first Sox-Yanks game and I was not afraid to support my team even at Yankee Stadium. In contrast to Fenway, Yankee Stadium is about twice as large. It’s got a 103 x 58 foot television screen (1080p) in centerfield and there are 625 speakers in the seating bowl (with another 675 in the suites and back of house). Between almost every pitch, some pep-inducing song is played out all those speakers (in case Yankee fans are bored by the game I guess). Oh, it’s also absurdly expensive. But because of the rain forecast, tickets were cheap on stubhub ($20). Sadly, again, the Sox lost, but it was the most exciting game I’ve seen in person with both closers blowing their respective saves.

Being ridic at Yankee Stadium

The Sox tied it in the 9th off of Mariano Rivera on a base hit by #22 Bill Hall. Well, I don’t claim to have anything to do with that, but I should mention that I was wearing Bill Hall’s jersey (and pants and socks, er, sox). While this may seem like a crazy thing to wear to Yankee Stadium, I was really disappointed by the Yankees fans…not a single beer thrown at me (maybe because a beer is $11). I mean, come on Yankee fans! You people make me sick.

Peasant Bread

Also check out this bread I baked. I’ve been baking bread for awhile, but now I am using a starter (like a sourdough) based off of a recipe in William Alexander’s book 52 Loaves. The best part is that it only takes about 9 hours to make.

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Free Ringtone!

No, this isn’t spam. I made a ringtone that you can download here. And if you are technically savvy, you can probably get it on your phone somehow (it works on my iPhone).

Josh Rutner, perhaps performing a magic trick, but where is he?

Daniel Wright

Credit to Josh Rutner who wrote the song “Slow” (including these 4 bars), Daniel Wright who was blasting those high Es, and finally to me, who by the grace of god was able to conceive of such a triumphant melody.

The Ringtone:

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The whole blessed track:

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Michiel Braam, Wolter Wierbos and Michael Vatcher: Back to School

I found this video on youtube tonight. I love what’s going on here. Some school children in Utrecht were taught a piece called Gestures. They were then lucky enough to get to work on it with 3 of the biggest stars of the Dutch music scene: Michiel Braam, Wolter Wierbos and Michael Vatcher.

I’d love to see more of this in American schools, but you’d probably lose your teaching license if you got caught doing this in any public school…

The Respect Sextet at Chestnut Hill Academy - Springside School

That said, The Respect Sextet has done some clinics in this vein with great success. We have found that kids are very responsive to free improvisation. This picture is from Respect’s most recent clinic at Chestnut Hill Academy (outside of Philadelphia). Thanks to Ms. Satryan for inviting us; her students are very lucky to have her as a teacher. For any other teachers out there, Respect would be more than happy to enlighten the minds of your students anytime!

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My new blog and website!

After years of having one of the all time worst sites, I hope to gradually improve my online presence. Stay tuned for exciting updates.

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