Journey of the Multi-Keyboard Artist

by | Oct 20, 2022 | 0 comments


I have a low threshold for the Horror genre as a whole. I know I might be expressing something controversial, however outside of Hitchcock and a few other master works, (Is Hitch even considered horror by today’s standards?) I could live without the slashing and gore genre. I barely know Stephen Sondheim’s classic musical, let alone the Johnny Depp supposed master work. For those of you in the know, running any kind of business can be a horror itself but I digress.

That being said, this little vignette is our take on the Christopher Bond classic. With time to spare in the studio, actress Chelsea LeSage, the gang and I got uncomfortable, albeit not horrifically, to provide you with some our own captivating imagery to complement this very Horrific edition of KARJAKA. Peruse at your own risk!

Journey of the Multi-Keyboard Artist with Yearim Yi

Whatever path I take, I seem to choose a course that requires long hours of sitting at the keyboard, whether it be in the musical form or the computer form. My coding journey began early in 2021, around May, as I finished my offline, covid-friendly requirements for my Master’s in Piano Performance at the Manhattan School of Music (MSM).

My life as a musician has given me a unique insight into the importance of technology in the music industry. Even as music and technology are often perceived to be at opposite ends of the spectrum – the two areas have a lot more in common than might initially appear. Their commonalities stem from a shared origin in math and science. We often ignore technology’s significant role in classical music, anchored as it is in the obstinate world of western music tradition. But whether this impact is felt in big ways or small, there is no denying that this Luddite perspective is prevalent throughout the musical community. This problem, one I have personally encountered, is a real problem, but no one in my field of music has been actively working on resolving these issues.  

I have made it my life’s work to identify and solve problems as a musician. But, the ability to diagnose and fix technological issues was something I had been unable to do until very recently. During the ongoing pandemic, as my Master’s program and teaching jobs shifted to being solely virtual, I started to see the importance of the technology field. While at the same time, I began to feel betrayed by my major, as if “Music” wanted me to leave the field. I questioned my short-term and long-term musical goals. When told during the pandemic that music was ‘not essential,’ my rose-colored glasses, at last, came off, and the idyllic vision I’d had of my future in the field became permanently altered. And after completing my Master’s degree, I enrolled in a coding boot camp offered by Flatiron School.

I have learned a wide variety of programming languages and technological topics during the 15-week full-stack development program. After two months of mass applying and studying algorithms, an internship at Teladoc Health followed. Upon completing my internship, I accepted a full-time return offer at the same company as a software engineer. 

Having come through this career change, I can look back with a clear perspective and say honestly: I am proud of myself. It has been challenging to start over from scratch in a new field, but thankfully, the discipline and patience I learned from piano and teaching have transferred to coding. The fact that I have always been able to motivate myself during these transitional phases, even when out of my comfort zone, has always been one of my most significant and rewarding sources of pride. To build a successful career, I made sure that I reminded myself daily that perseverance, dedication, and determination are essential.

Because music is no longer my primary source of income, I can now approach piano and practice without any tension or stress. Having taken a year off from practicing piano and not even touching the keys, I felt I had been out of touch with myself for quite some time. The piano was the only instrument I picked back up after I graduated from my internship into a full-time position. Once I saved enough from my paychecks, I bought a Yamaha upright piano for my new apartment. 

It still was not easy to sit on my piano bench after an 8-hour work day. But, I knew that consistent practice was one of the most effective ways to get back on track. I created small goals – prioritizing my work hours over my practice hours – like during lunch breaks, saying to myself, “you can eat or practice as you wish.” When I can fit three hours into my weekday schedule, I consider that a job well done! On weekends, I’ve also found a lot of flexibility regarding practice hours. That is the beauty of not relying on music as my primary source of income, as I am not dependent on it. 

When I was young, I used to fear that I would never be able to make it as a pianist because I was not good enough. As a classical musician, I still fall into that trap sometimes. But now I like to think that I play piano for the love of music, not for the money! 

It is not uncommon for me to play some entertaining pieces to myself when I am losing focus. I am not pressured or feel guilty about learning anything because I only focus on my favorite parts. Having the freedom to choose my repertoire and practice it at my own pace is one of the most significant advantages of being a musician outside of school. I have been creating my own concert opportunities over the past few months. This month I will be attending two of these events. My musical chops have been kept active because I’m playing a challenging piece, but it’s been rewarding all the same! Additionally, I plan to hold a concert at my home next year as part of a home concert series. An intimate concert at my apartment would be an excellent way for me to invite some close family and friends to join in sharing something still very dear to me: my love of being a pianist. 

As my ultimate goal, I hope to get back into teaching over the weekend. I would like to restart my piano studio in the future, but this time I’d like to do it in person. I feel that COVID has musically opened up a wide range of possibilities for me, even though it seems to have stifled the opportunities I built during my Master’s degree. I might be construed as not being traditional enough in my approach to music to pursue it throughout my life. However, there are times when it is necessary to prioritize paying your bills over pursuing your passion full-time. It does not dim that passion for relegating it to a part-time pursuit, but in my experience, it gives you the freedom to enjoy it just for itself—art for art’s sake, rather than money. I’ll always be a pianist at heart, more of a musician than an engineer. (I’ll just be better paid).

Dress to Express Your Inner Muse by Tania Sterl

Do you have another side of you yearning to be expressed? What better time of year than Autumn to allow yourself to express a side of yourself you don’t get to express on a daily basis. With the Fall equinox brings a new season, a new moon. Change. Transformation.

Like the colors of nature, the leaves magically change from green to golds reds and violets. Like a living art canvas that changes season to season, consider yourself a work of art, because you are, darling. You are a work of art, a force of nature.

When preparing for this photoshoot with Aleks I tapped into one of my inner muses. Imagine the 1920s artist Erte and his paintings and prints of fantastical femmes. I reimagined myself as an Erte Muse to portray an autumnal Goddess like Artemis meets Persephone and turned myself into a work of Art.

How do you explore your inner muse? Honestly I didn’t have something in mind. I simply wandered through my local resale shop in Brooklyn and let my imagination be open to what I saw and touched. Then this dress like magic appeared.That turquoise color drew me in like a cool pool of water or aquamarine sky.

Take on a different character. Perhaps an aspect of yourself that is yearning to emerge

Go to a resale shop. Play with hats and colors. Play with jewels and vintage jackets. Play with tweeds or leather. Get a new haircut or hairstyle. Grow a moustache or trim your beard. Try a new hair color or let yourself go naturally gray. Dare yourself to try something new.

You’re never too old to play. Play keeps you young at heart.

Give yourself permission to dabble and experiment. You just may discover something new about yourself you can incorporate into real life. A daring side. A bold side. A more fully expressed YOU. What is that inner Muse yearning to unleash and express itself?

So go on. I dare you. Play. Dress to express your inner muse. And see what else emerges for you that you can take into real life.

The Sound of Fear By Nicole Vitale

The smell of plastic clamshell packaging and freshly vacuumed carpet permeated the air as my father held the door open for me, the bell above calling out a delightful little ring. “Welcome to Blockbuster” said the greasy teenager behind the counter. “Pick any movie you want”, my dad said. I strode with purpose to the Horror/Sci-Fi shelf, seeking the perfect, scariest looking cardboard VHS dust cover. Scream? Nah, I’ve already rented both 1 & 2. Poltergeist? Meh, seen it, I remain unimpressed…ooh, what’s this, Bride of Chucky? That could work…

As an 8 year old in suburban New Jersey, trips like this were the highlight of my week. The relationship I had with Blockbuster is something I romanticize as an adult with a seemingly endless collection of scary movies I can digitally thumb through. There is a discernible lack of both purpose and pomp and circumstance associated with perusing Netflix, compared to the ritual of hopping in the back seat, anticipation growing, knowing that I’d need my dad to show his ID in order to rent the movies I wished to see. How grown up; How rebellious! I wonder if my parents were ever concerned that their young and impressionable daughter preferred slasher films to animated ones – that fictional, bloodthirsty predators and psychopaths appealed to her more than more lighthearted characters, like the little green blob from Flubber that accentuated Robin Williams’ brilliant physical comedy, or the lovable, goofy Mr. Magoo.

I vividly remember being curled up on the recliner in the den, shrouded in my favorite blanket which served dual purpose as a source of warmth and as a shield if I felt the need to cover my eyes. The popcorn bowl was never out of arm’s reach, the crunch muffling one of the elements that made these movies so incredibly frightening: the score and the sound effects. Think about it, would the Halloween films be half as thrilling without that iconic, staccato opening theme song? How would any tension build without a lack of sound in a suspenseful moment, followed by a sudden burst of screeching violins and piano dissonance? What about the squelching of organs, the wetness of blood, the crunching and snapping of bones so intricately recorded that they conjure a twisted grimace? 

Sound is an incredibly important element in any film, let alone horror films. Nothing makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up more than a blood curdling scream, accompanied by a chaotic crescendo of music and sound effects. Creating sound for the movies is an art in and of itself. Foley artists are the people who enhance the details of the mundane that emphasize and accompany the feeling attached to a particular scene. Everything you see in a movie scene requires dubbing; Microphones used in filmmaking are only equipped to pick up dialogue. Everything else is added in post-production. When a character walks through the woods, leaves crunching underfoot, that sound was fabricated in a sound studio. The Foley Artist fabricates a theater of the mind of sorts. Without the visual accompaniment, because of their work, you’d be able to determine what’s going on in a scene, even if you’re peeking from behind your fingers. From a refrigerator opening, beer bottles clanging on the door, to a sinister hand rustling through a cutlery drawer, searching for a knife. All of these sonic details are created with everyday objects such as walnut shells and celery stalks (for breaking bones and snapping twigs), tin roasting pans and spatulas (for sword and knife shings), potato chip bags (for fire crackles), gloves and feather dusters (for bird wings), and watermelons and gourds (for those ever-so-gruesome head smashing sounds).

When it comes to sonic accompaniment in films, more specifically music, dissonance plays a huge role. Dissonance refers to a distinct lack of harmony in music. Playing two or three opposing notes can create an uneasy feeling. Add a few staccato violin plucks, and you have yourself a very uncomfy composition. Minor tonalities are also hallmarks in a spine-tingling soundtrack. You usually hear major tonalities in mainstream music (think pop and country specifically), therefore it’s slightly jarring to hear a song in a minor key. Much like Leatherface, music also has texture. Musical texture refers to the layers a piece of music may have, encompassing vocal and instrumental. The more instruments, the thicker the texture. And, I would be remiss if I neglected to mention rhythm and tempo. They’re the twins that truly help make a scene scary and highlight the on-screen action. An actor running through the woods, pumping their legs as hard as humanly possible to outrun a masked murderer wouldn’t produce half the heart palpitations without a thunderous, quick paced composition blaring in the background. 

It’s safe to say that the things that go “bump” in the night wouldn’t be as threatening without the “bump”. The next time you watch a horror movie, pay close attention to the sounds in the scene; Recognize the texture, feel the rhythm, try to identify what objects the Foley artist may have used to transport you to a place of terror. And make sure to check out the Spooky Sounds playlist included in this article…if you dare.

The Exorcism of Workout Demons By Craig Thomas

This one of my favorite times of the year. The leaves fall from trees and turn vibrant colors. The weather is comfortable with non-humid warm days and cooler nights that can be supplemented with my favorite leather jackets and fashionable attire (although these specific items for me are neatly stored away until my girls get a little more adroit with their motor skills and dinner side manners). But most significantly, it’s Halloween season and that means scaaaary fun.

I’m a closet slasher film fan from the mid 80’s and onward. I’ve seen a litany list of films that I was initially scared to death to see. But I had friends that insisted on having their teenage birthdays ensconced in the cool darkness of a movie theater having the bejesus scared out of them. And I was required to be a part of it.

The first half-dozen viewings of horror films were accompanied with hard-to-fall-asleep nights swearing that I was seeing figures in the shadows of my bedroom. Under my bed. Wrapping on my window. Clawing at my door.

But I mostly got over it. Mostly. There are still moments. Maybe not Freddy Krueger bursting through my walls. That’s silly. But most recently the basement TV was still on, blaring and I half expected the Strangers sitting on my couch with axes in hand ready for me.

It’s kinda like starting an exercise program. Starting out is always the hardest part. No one likes being the new kid. But in time it becomes sort of like a club like my horror movie grade school friends: once your body acclimates to the first half dozen or so training sessions it gets a whole lot easier. And you get to refine your weaknesses and improve your strengths.

But the opening phases on what to do and how to do them can be daunting. It begins with mindset. Shifting your thoughts toward the outside quality of life is one of the major driving forces. The capability of participating in hobbies like hiking, tennis or yard work that have been avoided for the last few years can be a targeted payoff for work performed in the gym. Being able to lift up your kids, nieces, nephews or even pet dogs or cats can rekindle the vehicle of physical connection and cultivate a newfound sense of self reliance.

It has to start somewhere and somehow. Getting a professional coach to help you figure out your movement limitations, uncover neglected injuries and address immediate discomfort and pain through a screening or assessment is the first big step in tackling the imposing task of a training regimen. Addressing weaknesses first and foremost will result in a more efficacious program and won’t impede progress. As the body gets stronger and more sound it will make smaller strength wins more ubiquitous and foster more confidence with newer movements later on.

And as you become more proficient at training techniques, form and functionality, you begin to see the infinite list of benefits it provides your body and mind. Moving without pain or impediments, completing more work throughout your day due to higher energy levels and having clearer and more concise thoughts are just a few of the features that an efficient program can offer. Old injuries and hesitations of doing specific tasks each become a distant memory.

And the last chapter of a well-designed strength and mobility program is the aesthetic improvements. Old dresses and old jeans that are too tight can now become form-fitting. Going to the beach is now something be looked forward to and not stressed out about. New acquaintances think you’re a decade younger than your actual age and your doctor may decide the long-standing statin is no longer necessary.

So maybe a training program isn’t quite the same scary fun as being taken on a horror story, but it can be as rewarding as getting through a viewing of The Exorcist or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Maybe it isn’t scary fun. And it might be a little scary to begin. And perhaps the actual work won’t be the traditional “fun”. But all of the resulting accomplishments, new abilities of the body and hormonal releases will subsequently bear more fun in your every day life.

It all starts with a plan.

Beyond the Facade By Kat Chan

“Look up. What do you see?”

These are the words that I frequently say to a client, usually an architect, when we walk out onto the street after a meeting. 

It’s not a test, but let me tell you, the response can say a lot about a person and reveals surprises every time. It’s unusual enough to be asked that. Not when you’re in the company of a facade engineer like me though.

What is a facade engineer? And why does it sound so sexy? Let’s answer these together, starting with the last question first.

If you’ve fallen prey to associating the French language with desire, you’re not alone. Many associate the melodic, vowel-filled language with culture, breathlessness, and desire. From the French word for face and a dash of Italian influence, in 1681, it was first used to describe the face of a building. Somewhere along the way, I imagine through espionage, drama, and intrigue, facade also took on a figurative meaning, to indicate a dissonance between one’s expression and true intention. There is a contradiction between outside and inside. Can’t help but imagine a correlation between the word facade developing its dual meaning and French history in the 18th century. Between the decadence of Versailles and the French Revolution, it’s not hard to see how the facade of a luxurious ruffled daydream can hide the reality of a rebellion.

A facade engineer is an engineer who specializes in the design and technical performance of the outermost layer of the building, also called the building skin, enclosure, or envelope. You may not have heard of it because it’s a relatively new discipline that draws on traditional engineering disciplines like structural, mechanical, and environmental engineering. The first facade engineers were structural or mechanical engineers in European countries, where materials and energy have been more expensive than here in the States. The discipline evolved from a necessity of optimizing materials and costs. Think of an iconic all-glass space. For me it’s the Time Warner Tower. Generally, if you go in winter, it is cold as hell. If you’re there in summer, it is hot as hell. I’ve never been one for religion, but I’ve come to describe hell as basically any temperature or environment you don’t find comfortable, magnified.

A building’s facade is really important, because while maintaining a comfortable interior space, it helps bring the outside in visually. No one wants to spend time in a windowless room. Unfortunately, glass is excellent at bringing in the exterior views and sunlight, but glass is not really good at helping maintain the interior conditioned space. A well-designed facade inspires awe from the outside and from the inside of the building, and it helps to save energy. Together with an efficient heating and cooling system, it helps keep the building cool in the summer and warm in the winter. We have come to expect any space we enter to be perfectly conditioned for our comfort, but let’s aim even higher shall we? Let’s fill our cities with sophisticated buildings of beautiful materials. We’re talking buildings to match the glossy pages of fashion mags and feeds of Instagram influencers AND comfort. And for our more rural areas, let’s create spaces people want to gather in, especially if traveling there requires a lot of effort or time in addition to putting on pants.

Think of it this way: the perfect facade is the perfect 4-seasons jacket. Waterproof for the rain; warm in the winter. It ventilates when you’re sweating in the summer. And, it’s custom tailored to show off your figure, and damn, do you look good. But, much like all things in life, you can’t have it all. In practice, something’s gotta give. And, you sometimes have to compromise on functionality, especially if you choose to disproportionately prioritize fashion.

Unlike fashion, or the traditional disciplines of engineering, you can’t go to school specifically for facade engineering here in the States. I didn’t know what the field was until I graduated. How I got here is a much longer discussion for maybe the next installment, but it involves heartbreak, existential crises, and #growth. There is even theater and copious amounts of drinking involved. It’s a banger, but that’s for another time. 

Until then, let me tell you what I see when I leave my front door: New York is one of the most fascinating cities in the world, the newest shiniest glass towers next to forgotten brick buildings a century or more past anticipated shelf life. But, not all is as it seems. Not all that glitters is gold. And, not all new buildings are new. Much like books, I don’t recommend judging buildings (or people) by their cover.

Everyone’s got a multifaceted story. From the materials that are used to build the buildings themselves to the people that are the real fibers that weave this technicolor and aggressively fashionable textile that is New York, we’re from everywhere and, damn, have we had journeys. 

I wish more people knew about facade engineering concepts because a lot of them affect most people who live in buildings, New York or elsewhere. Knowing how a facade works and being able to express your feelings about its design enables you to advocate for what you want for yourself and your loved ones. And, isn’t that what we all want at the end of the day? To cultivate a place that centers the people that we love the most, our family, our chosen fam, and our community, to feel at home in this wild concrete jungle and relentless city? So stay tuned to arm yourself with talking points for the next community hearing about a new building, or at least a lens to view the city for some interesting points of discussion for your next dinner party. Until then, next time you leave home, say to yourself, “Look up. What do I see?”

Katherine (Kat) Chan is a facade engineer with more than 10 years experience in the built environment, hyperlocal to NYC, where she calls home, and internationally. Her self-propelled desire for thorough analysis and a propensity for detail has enabled her to advocate for innovative approaches and materials. Her aim is to make facade design and engineering concepts accessible for more people, so they can have an engaged experience in the environment they live in. Kat has a degree in Structural Engineering from Columbia University, where she teaches as part of Adjunct Faculty in the Graduate School of Architecture, Preservation, and Planning. 

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