New Year Rituals I ACTUALLY Stick To

I'm not huge on New Year's Resolutions (my god, so much pressure), but I do have a couple important rituals that have significantly improved my life, so I thought I'd share them with you!

RITUAL #1:  Positivity Jar

In 2013 and 2014, I did actual jars, but in 2015 and 2016, I migrated to small journals due to my heavy travels. Same concept though! Basically, all I do is write tiny positive things on a slip of paper or in the journal. I try to do at least one a day, or several a week. If I fall off the tracks, that's okay; there are some weeks I forget to write in it and then I end up writing 15 things at once. We're talking small stuff, like "I woke up well-rested today," "I'm looking forward to my massage," and "I'm so grateful to have a working heater this year."

RITUAL #2: Everything Journal

The Everything Journal (I made that name up today) is my creative secret weapon. I could talk forever about it. I can even trace snippets (or whole concepts) from my pieces to things I wrote, drew, or observed and documented in my journals. A lot of my text-based work comes from inspiration in there too. Basically, whenever I'm stuck, I have oodles of pages to mine for gems. I forgot to mention the big rule with these journals: They are not allowed to be perfect. I write in pen even though it means making mistakes. I just live with it and look back wistfully later on. If I write something that's actually promising, I will edit it on my computer and refine it there. Everything Journals are just a creative, freeing thing for me.

Bonus new ritual: This year, I was inspired by Gretchen Rubin's Happier Podcast to come up with a one-word theme for 2017. She and her sister/cohost Elizabeth suggest doing that instead of coming up with full-on resolutions, which I like. The theme I've decided to try on this year is "Follow-through," becuase I have trouble finishing the zillion threads I start, and I have a big case of artistic/inspirational overload (opposite of writer's block), which compels me to explore and expand things so much that I hate to just let them go and finish. There's always too much more potential for me. This year, I'd like to get better at wrapping things up. Here's the original podcast episode/blog post about one-word themes, if you want more background on the concept. The episode is only 5 minutes long, so I highly recommend!

If you have any more questions about the Positivity Jar or the Everything Journal rituals, let me know, and I can try to elucidate for you and help you start your own versions!

xoxoxoxoxoxoxox,

Chrysanthe

It's Patron Celebration Month! (Get ready for gifts)

Note: This post will be continually updated throughout the month, so keep checking back to see what the new prizes are, and let me know what you want!

December is an extremely special month for me, because it's my marks my 1 year anniversary of joining Patreon. For lack of better words...being on Patreon has changed my life. Like holy shit, friends!

Being on Patreon has allowed me to open up and be more vulnerable. It has made me feel supported. It has pushed me to create interesting content, record more videos, share my personal moments and backstage secrets with people, and provide free music downloads and secret tracks. And it has given me a tiny bit of extra financial security. This is absolutely huge. My patrons on Patreon are vital to my actual day to day life, as both an artist and human in the real world. Needless to say, I am really, really freakin' grateful! 

Given the holidays, my 1-year Patreon anniversary, and the extreme gratitude I have for you, it only seems fitting to do a Patreon Celebration Month! 

What does this mean? It means that every single day this month of December, I'm going to do a giveaway! 

I'm hoping this both invites new people into my Patreon family as well as makes the existing family feel appreciated. 

So stay tuned here. Every day from 12/1-12/31 will bring a new gift, prize, thank you, or incentive for people to join my Patreon. Consider it a Patreon Advent Calendar that goes all the way until New Year 😉.  The giveaways and prizes will range from free music to postcards to personalized theme tunes to me drawing you as your favorite vegetable or writing a 3-line poem.

Patreon Advent Calendar

Day 1: All new patrons today get a free piece of sheet music! The choices include any of the individual Stories pieces here, or as a bonus option, you can even receive a score for my solo violin piece On the Other Hand (which isn't officially for sale yet). Existing patrons are eligible for this prize as well; just let me know what you'd like!

Day 2: I will draw you as a sweet potato.

Day 3: If you become my patron today, I will improvise on the violin for 30 seconds and dedicate it to you! (Will post/send you the video.)

Day 4:

Day 5:

Day 6:

Day 7:

Day 8:

Day 9:

Day 10:

Day 11:

Day 12:

Day 13:

Day 14:
Everyone who is my patron by this day will be able to submit their favorite holiday song for me to play. I will make a video compilation of me playing snippets from all of the songs! 

Day 15:

Day 16:

Day 17:

Day 18:
Day 19:
Day 20:
Day 21:
Day 22:
Day 23:
Day 24:
Day 25:
Day 26:
Day 27:
Day 28:
Day 29:
Day 30:
Day 31:

Ok, I'm super excited for this. Happy December!!
xo,
Xanthe

PS: In a perfect world, I would be over the moon if everyone who currently buys my music just became my patron for $1/month instead, then received all of my future music and art for "free." Financially speaking, this would also make it possible for me to literally make more music and better produced music more often, which would mean that my patrons get new stuff all the time. I'd like to no longer rely on things like iTunes, and I'd like my fans to be able to literally get everything I make on a rolling basis. When I say $1/month in my grand vision above, I actually really mean it. It's the power of the collective that matters most to me. It's having a million ants instead of one cockroach. It's everyone's voice and contribution being important, not just those of the rich donors and big grant-givers. I don't want one singular patron to bankroll me like the kings did in the days of Haydn and Beethoven. I want everyday people, because that's who my music is for most of all.

PPS: I currently have 37 patrons. If I can get to 100 patrons by December 31st, I will post a goofy video of me dancing to a ridiculous song. 🙈 Or I'll do something else that y'all request that's either super out of character for me or is an absurdly good gift to you all. This is in fine print at the bottom because I'm already scared lol.

Halfway through #NaMuCoWriMo!

Pointless photo included solely to make this more visually interesting and to provide a thumbnail. 😂

Pointless photo included solely to make this more visually interesting and to provide a thumbnail. 😂

As you may know from my recent blog or my social media updates, I started a thing this month called NaMuCoWriMo (National Music Composition Writing Month). Basically, all that means is that I'm challenging myself to compose every day, no matter how crappy the output is. 

True to form, I have a zillion thoughts about this already, but I'll reserve the bulk of my reflection for my follow-up post at the end of the month. At the end of the month, I'll also post a list of what I worked on every day.

But I wanted to do a little check-in now that the month is over halfway over! It's been a GREAT experience so far.

My work has really been all over the place this month, and I mean that mostly in a good way. Because of the "rules" I put in place for myself (mainly not to stagnate in perfectionism), I've been a lot more willing to go outside of my usual boundaries. This means I've done more in Ableton, done more with visuals and space, worked on text, started things that didn't have a clear direction or destination. 

Some trends that have developed. I don't want to judge myself for them yet, instead choosing to (attempt to) focus on observing them neutrally. 

  1. Some days, I "finish" a draft. Other days, I do not. So far, I haven't gone back to fix or finish a lot of my compositions started this month, thus I have a lot of new incomplete things. This makes me slightly anxious but not nearly as much as usual.
  2. I really, really love working with text. I mean, I already knew this, but damn. I really really really do. 
  3. I am liking Ableton Live 1000% more than expected, and I actually think it'll be be a bigger part of my future. Here's a song called "Lament" that I made in there. I assembled the lament on the night of the devastating election, which also happened to be the day of my grandfather's funeral. 
  4. Writing myself etudes and beginner pieces has been really fun! I started learning marimba recently, so one of my compositions was an easy marimba etude to work on some 4-mallet intervals that I suck at. I'm actually totally into the idea of writing more beginner pieces for myself. Not even just beginning-level things. I'm going to start doing this for myself more with violin too, to work on specific things that crop up. Why didn't I think of this sooner?!
  5. It's been an interesting struggle figuring out the best way to notate experimental things.
  6. One piece I'm totally jazzed on is a collaboration with my friend Arthur Breur! We have never met, but we are "composition" friends online, and he is a fellow Patreon creator. I don't know too many composers on Patreon, so it's rad to have him there. We are writing a sonata for violin and piano together, sort of like the FAE sonata except totally different, of course. I want to collaborate with more Patreon artists in the next year, since there are so many creative, cool people on the platform, and Patreon is where I have the most fun with things creatively. So far, I've worked on initial melodies, and Arthur is in the process of coming up with harmonies.
  7. Related to the above point about my sonata collaboration with Arthur: Because he exclusively uses MuseScore for his composition notation, I downloaded it and will be using it for our sonata too. It's easier to share things that way, since it's an open source program that has easy online saving options. We tried sending back .xml files, but it was too clunky. I'm nervous but up for using this different platform (I'm normally a Sibelius person). In the past, I probably would have stressed about changing my routine in any way, but this month has freed me up a lot. 
  8. NaMuCoWriMo has made me even more obsessed with Patreon, to be honest. Since I've been trying a lot of new weird things this month, it's nice to have a safe place to share half-finished and vulnerable works. Most of the things I've done this month are definitely not polished enough to share with the public yet, haha. So if any of my patrons are reading this, thank you for being so receptive and in for this ride! (If you want to be one of them, you're of course welcome to join at any time! It's literally just $1 a month for the the secret updates.)

Stay tuned to hear my further developed thoughts and the day-by-day breakdown of what I actually worked on every day this month! 


Anyone wanna do NaMuCoWriMo with me?

This post is for my fellow composers and creatives who feel the unbearable weight of inertia as much as I do.

I'll speak for myself here: This is really uncomfortable to admit, but I have trouble working. It sucks. I'm a composer and yet I spend more time languishing, planning, fretting, troubleshooting, shooting down my own ideas, and feeling guilty than I actually do composing. It's a hard truth, but I gotta accept it. Both my greatest strength and weakness is my mastery of the art of deliberation. 

I'm tired of it, or at least I need a break from it this month. I have dozens of personal projects and pieces in progress, a lot of great opportunities scheduled for the next 6 months, and more commissions lined up right now than I've ever had in my life (YAY)! -- These are all blessings, of course, but, well...now I have to (get to) actually do them.

I'll get to the point: A lot of writers I know participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) every November, and I would like to do a composer-y spin-off of that. NaMuCoWriMo, if you will. (That's National Music/Composition Writing Month, if that wasn't obvious.)

I'm sure someone else can come up with a better title, but NaMuCoWriMo sounds generic enough to be flexible. I want to use the month of November to do one composition per day. It doesn't have to be an epic, big, real thing. I'm thinking little exercises, various challenges and prompts to get me out of my comfort zone. If I have a week-long project in mind, that's fine too, as long as I'm making sufficient tangible progress every day. I'm posting this blog for accountability. If I write the intention, it becomes more real, right? 

***This post has already changed 3 times, from NaMuWriMo to NaCoWriMo, and now NaMuCoWriMo, due to it being uncharted territory on Twitter, which makes it easier to hashtag and accurately check up on each other's progress.***

Here are some guidelines and general thoughts for myself this month:

  1. I must compose every day.
  2. I must produce "something to show for it." It can be a scratch recording, a sheet of handwritten paper, a page in Sibelius, a 1-minute Ableton file, really does not matter. 
  3. Nothing I compose has to be "good." 
  4. Ok, because I know I won't listen to the previous rule, I hereby give myself express permission to write REALLY CRAPPY STUFF. This will make me more comfortable exploring new territory.
  5. I'm not going to be concerned with "what is music?" and "does this count as music?" or "is this a serious work?" or any genre or other nitpicky bullshit. I don't care about weird standards like "50 bars of notation" or "5 minute run-time" or whatever. 
  6. I don't have to post my creations on my blog, but hey, I might from time to time! I think it would be really cool to document these terrible little compositions, but I also don't want to impose another ritual on myself, since I'm busy enough already. So I'm gonna go with no imposition for now. I'll just see how I feel as it goes.
  7. I'm actually probably going to be sharing this stuff on my Patreon, because I do want to share, but I don't necessarily want everything public. Become a patron here
  8. Oh, I'm allowed one day off per week. So if I really really need to skip a day, I will.
  9. Re-evaluate these guidelines from time to time and shift anything that isn't working well.
  10. I'm absolutely positive that I'm going to want to change one of the guidelines. Totally cool and good.
  11. If you want to join me, cool. If I'm totally alone in this, cool. But let me know if you do do it! Maybe we can just post on a group or thread or use the #NaCoWriMo hashtag on Twitter/FB just to say "I did my thing today."
  12. I was really back and forth between NaMuWriMo and NaCoWriMo, but idk, I guess my flavor of the minute is now Co (composition) rather than Mu (music), because I hate boxing myself into a genre too much (lol). ***edit: As you can see above, the people joining me on Twitter have persuaded me to use NaMuCoWriMo, for hashtagging reasons. 😉

The hardest thing about this will be shushing the deliberation monster that turns me into this absurd perfectocrastinator. I'm going to really need to embrace self-acceptance and "let it be" and "just let the piece go." It is in that spirit that I took the super snazzy photo of myself at the top of the post. Literally me now, just looking oh so fashionable and put together as I write this blog. I hope my mini-compositions this month espouse the vibe of that photo -- unpolished, unplanned, and unedited, but at the end of the day, totally fine.

Trends, Video Games, and Fandoms - September Podcast Picks

Happy International Podcast Day! As someone who's obsessed with podcasts, I'm surprised I haven't done more podcast posts. As someone also obsessed with reviewing things (and generally having opinions), I'm doubly shocked I haven't done more podcast reviews. I figure it's because I listen to so many damn podcasts so damn often that it's hard to keep track of them. Luckily, I remember some of this month's highlights, so I'm going to share my recent episode picks below. No particular order.

 

1) If you want something fun, surprising, and short.

99% Invisible #229: The Trend Forecast
Length: 17:41
Listen from their website 
Subscribe on iTunes 

This episode introduces Worth Global Style Network (WGSN), the company that predicts fashion trends. Turns out, WGSN is the secret weapon of the mass market. Pretty much every retailer, news outlet, and marketer relies on this company's trend predictions in order to stay current. All of this is incredibly fascinating. And it's not just about clothing, shoes, and hair trends; it's also food, behavior, technology, packaging trends, and more. Statistics and complex future projections play a major role in style prediction. This episode is a stimulating brain massage.

 

2) If you're a member of any fandom and have feelings. 

Full of Sith: Fixing Fandom - Ending Bullying and Gatekeeping
Length: 59:44
Listen on their website
Subscribe on iTunes

As almost any fan of anything knows, fandoms can be intense. What starts as a mutual love for a book or movie often becomes a pissing contest dead set on weeding out those with unpopular opinions, gaps in their knowledge, or newer points of entry. This episode is technically on a Star Wars podcast, but it's actually a very general discussion with panelists spanning different nerd worlds and perspectives. A lot of interesting points are raised here, including why gatekeeping may exist and be "important" for some people in the first place.

 

3) If you want riveting, well-reported, really fucking important.

This American Life #562: The Problem We All Live With
Length: 58:43
Listen on their website
Subscribe on iTunes

This one is about desegregation in schools (yes, in modern times). While all of the other podcasts mentioned in this post are fascinating, delightful, stimulating, educational, THIS one is like...super super important AND interesting. And it's not boring either, which I know is sometimes the danger when sitting down to specifically consume "something important." But I promise this isn't like that. You won't sit through it and think "I'm being a good citizen by listening to this" You will be riveted. And infuriated. I wish more people knew about these stories. Content warning: There are some intense, verbal moments of anti-black racism from parents at the recorded school district meeting. 

 

4) If you like playing games on your phone and/or if you struggle with anxiety, depression, or addiction.

Note to Self: The Secret to Making Video Games Good For You
Length: 26:29
Listen on their website
Subscribe on iTunes

When people talk about technology, I'm used to hearing skepticism, fear, and dismay. And negative conversation surrounding video games has been around since even before smartphones. As an unabashed technology lover, I always love a good discussion about the positive byproducts of tech, and this episode definitely provides that, complete with concrete research and tips on how can use games as a way of self-help and mood regulation. Lots of great points here, and a truly delightful listen, so I hope even the stodgiest of technophobes give it a try!

 

5) If you're an artist/musician who could use a quick pep talk.

The Entrepreneurial Musician #63: TEM Short: The Number One Trap For Artists
Length: 11:50
Listen on their website
Subscribe on iTunes

Be yourself. Don't listen to the haters. Don't send yourself into a spiral of self-judgment based on a couple less than perfect reviews. Just do you. I know this isn't new advice to anyone, but host Andrew Hitz does a good job quickly demonstrating how silly these vicious traps are and encouraging us artists to continue trucking on. Worked for me.

Anakin is My Hero

Anakin "testing out" her spiffy new hammock...

Anakin "testing out" her spiffy new hammock...

As I mentioned in my Debating Free-Feeding My Cat post a few months ago, I've been a bit concerned with Anakin. This concern sparked a huge "Enrich Anakin's Life" Project this summer, not only in regards to food, but with her environment as well. Suffice to say I've bought a billion cat things, returned about 75% of them, repurposed household items, put in maybe 50 hours of research, and experimented with food, play, litter, care, and more. It's been a thing.

When I was offered this spiffy cat hammock in exchange for an honest review, I jumped at the opportunity. I've always wanted a hammock for Ani! Watching Anakin lounge like a queen in her own autonomous hammock while I sit peacefully on the couch is kind of the dream. I mean, it would make such a good Instagram photo.

This particular hammock was a really soft material, and I appreciated how versatile it was. Its straps and clips are pretty easy to finagle and affix to various furniture, containers, or whatever fixtures people have in their houses. It's sturdy as well, so I definitely wasn't worried that Anakin would rip through the material or anything. Plus, it's machine washable...

This could have been so perfect for us...

But alas, Anakin was not into it. Even when I placed treats inside of the hammock, she would find a way to eat the treat right off the surface without going in there.

When I simply spread the hammock out flat on the couch, though, she was all about it! I suppose it's kind of hard to deny a soft, plush, warm surface when you're a cat, and this hammock was at least certainly that.

But...what about my fantasy!? 

At the end of the day, Anakin's gonna do whatever she wants to do, and dammit, that's why I like her so much.

To be honest, my cat is kind of my hero, and I'm not joking when I say that I actively remind myself to "be more like Anakin" quite frequently. I mean, the cat just lives her life, makes her needs known when she has them, outsmarts her assailants when they're trying to do things to her (like take her to the vet), and can stay quiet and still for hours when she just feels like chilling.

Not everyone likes her or gets her, but she's great. The cat is great.

PS: I should add that of course, this doesn't mean Anakin will always dislike all hammocks, but something about this particular combination of hammock-adjacent environmental details and events conspired to preclude us from making the hammock dream a reality at this time. With more persistence, at a different time, in a different place, perhaps it would have worked. That said, it truly is a nice product, so I am gifting it to one of my good cat friends.

PPS: If you're interested in a nice, versatile cat hammock, here's the link to this particular one. They have a money back guarantee, so you can definitely send it back if your cat pulls an Ani!

✌🏼

Portals: A poetry preview from my new album

Homecoming, my new album of musical poetry, will feature woven layers of acoustic violin and spoken word poetry. Below is the poem that goes with track 2, "Portals," which I wrote after being inspired by the beautiful doors on the island of Syros. Here is a rough video captured at a live demo presentation I gave at the Syros Sound/Word Residency.

Doors in Ano Syros, Greece

Doors in Ano Syros, Greece

Portals

First day here, I’m staying at a local’s house. The night is warm for exploring.

I take a picture of the front door before heading out.

A clue.

To find my way back.

I love the doors on this island, Syros. Can’t stop taking pictures.

There’s a royal blue one, a dark bold wood, turquoise with brass handle. Even chipped edges look just right against stark white walls.

Every house begins with a door.

Every door is a portal to a house.

Portal to a home.

I think about my own apartment door, identical to the hundreds of other doors in my building.
Is my door a portal too?

Last month, two neighbors mistook my door for theirs. In the middle of the night, I heard the clanking, scraping of misfit key entering lock.

This would not happen here in Syros.

Not to the faded aubergine nor the freshly-painted tangerine.
Not to the shy lavender or pastel pink with periwinkle trim…

How do I make my door a portal? What if a portal only happens when a house becomes a home?

I have a ways to go.

Is home really a home if it has one hundred clones?

 

-----

This work was written by Chrysanthe Tan during Syros Sound Meetings' Sound / Word Residency (Ano Syros, Greece, July 2016).

-----

 

I'm able to make art for a living thanks to my wonderful patrons! If you'd like to support my music for $1/month, plus receive free downloads, sheet music, virtual hangouts, behind the scenes, and more, click here!

 

Olympians and Ice-Cream

The 2016 Rio Olympics ended last week, and I have all the feels. Why?

Because of something I accidentally saw on TV.

It was a morning news show, and there was a cheesy montage of US Olympic athletes telling everyone what they were going to do when they got home from Rio. Some of the responses:

  • eat ice-cream
  • sleep for two weeks straight
  • have a pizza night with my family
  • hug my dogs
  • rest
  • go to a spa
  • get a massage
  • settle into my beautiful new apartment
  • go on vacation

 

Maybe it was the peppy editing. Maybe it was the my own longing to do things on that list. Maybe it being in a different time zone at the crack of dawn. Maybe it was Simone Biles with a huge grin on her face as she said she wanted to be pampered. (Maybe it was Simone Biles in general?) 

But I think what really stuck with me was the inherent personal acknowledgement in their answers. The combination of glee + exhaustion + longing for comfort + a healthy dose of "I deserve this."

Regardless of medals or wins, each of the athletes Rio put in an extraordinary amount of work, lived dedication and sacrifice for years, and had just gone through something huge, transformative, exhausting, epic.

So what were they going to do when they got home? Freakin' rest, get a massage, and eat ice-cream! Treat themselves.

Treat themselves. Okay, that's definitely what made me emotional. That self-acknowledgement. The feeling deserving of something. Celebration of self. What I didn't detect in any answers (thank you, cleverly manipulative TV editing) was a hint of guilt. There was no "well...I should be training more, but I'm going to take a week off" or "I feel bad about taking a break but my coach is making me get over my injury."

Ah, I am so, so bad at celebrating myself! It is very hard for me to notice when I've achieved something worthy of celebration. (I know, I know, we shouldn't tie self-acknowledgement with external markers of success, and that's a pervasive problem in our shallow, capitalist, overly-work-driven society, etc., etc., I GET it, but...)  I'm not sure when I can take breaks, pretty much ever. My last true day off was on March 11th (my birthday), and wow it was the best day ever, but I had to mentally prepare for a month in order to ensure I'd be guilt-free.

I'm currently typing this post on a Saturday morning, and I see on Facebook that my friend proudly has nothing planned for the weekend but a Netflix binge and reading marathon. Talk about true goals. I love that. Wonder if it'll ever be possible for me. 

Here's the good news: I am actually getting SO much better at acknowledging myself (SO MUCH BETTER)!  But that cheesy Olympic montage is going to stick with me for a long time. I shall look back at it for inspiration, validation, and motivation in my continuing self-care and self-celebration efforts. Also, I sincerely hope that Laurie Hernandez enjoyed her family pizza night and that Simone Biles had the best spa day of her entire life.

xo,

Xanthe

PS: I am fairly certain that my Facebook friend is more evolved than I am, as I recently heard on the Happier Podcast that it's important to give oneself treats that aren't tied to accomplishment. That giving oneself "just because" treats every now and then actually makes us work more happily and productively. It makes us instinctively know that we are fine and taken care of. I also learned from one of my favorite books, The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal, that willpower is a finite resource that we can deplete and run out of. Just more food for thought.

 

17 Notes to Self: Greece Edition

Most touristy photo possible. No selfie stick required! 😉

Holy moly, I went to Greece & it was ALL OF THE THINGS & then I got back and didn't know how to process it until weeks after my return, so that said...I don't mind that this blog post is 3 weeks late, because let's face it: 

It takes time to separate real lessons from nostalgia.

So please remember this stuff, future Chrysanthe:

  1. Pack more shirts next time you travel in the summer. Fewer jackets.
  2. If you have an absurdly large suitcase, make sure your AirBnb apartment has an elevator -- or at least not a perilous, narrow, marble spiral suitcase.
  3. Embrace JOMO (Joy of Missing Out). Remember how you skipped the final group outing, and how it was totally okay. You saved yourself from developing insidious, unintentional resentment, and your non-participation didn't affect your relationship with your colleagues. 
  4. Whipping out your violin and jamming with the performing musicians at a cafe is never a bad idea, especially if it's a Vamvakaris song.
  5. Remember how upset you were about the slow album progress at first. Then fast forward to the final days when you had all those new revelations and ideas that wouldn't have been possible to implement had you rushed the process. Stop freaking out about productivity the whole time.
  6. Just accept the siesta hours. They're not gonna go away, no matter how much you wish they would. Seriously though, Syros is a ghost town from 1-5pm, and there's no use fighting it.
  7. Pay attention to the status of your luggage at international layovers. Apparently, bags don't always automatically meet you at your destination. Thank god for the one incredible Philadelphia Airport employee who gave my suitcase a second chance to make it through with me.
  8. Bringing Lysol spray, a power strip, Tupperware, and tons of batteries = the best idea ever. Good job. Pat yourself on the back and do it again, always.
  9. Set small, manageable, imaginable goals, because it's really easy to feel disappointed and lost when you're deep in the middle of work. You're never sure if you're living up to your expectations if you don't set a realistic, concrete expectation to begin with. You always fall into the vicious cycle of progress without acknowledgment, which certainly contributes to your rampant artistic malaise and insecurity.
  10. People don't ALWAYS suck. Remember that you actually had some nice moments. Highlights: learning Greek phrases from my colleagues, interviewing people about home/having a couple of unexpectedly deep offshoot conversations sparked by that, randomly hanging out with the drunk Greek band at Apano Hora. 
  11. Never forget the time you got really lost on your run and found your way back operating on pure instincts (!?!?). Your instincts aren't always broken after all!
  12. No matter how hot the climate of your destination is, dress for the Arctic on the plane.
  13. Always have cash on hand for cabs. Drivers don't always take card like they do in the US.
  14. Remind my cat-sitter that he should refill the litter when it gets low...I shall never make this mistake again...
  15. Staying with an AirBnb host who is actually present can be nice if you're new to a city and want insider tips. I learned so much from Eugenia, my Syros host, and she even came to my presentation at the residency!
  16. Speaking of presentation, why do you always think you're a terrible public speaker and articulator? You walk around telling everyone you can't talk, you're too awkward, no one will understand your gibberish, but maybe it's time to acknowledge that sometimes you're actually very good? Your Syros residency presentation is where you found the sweet spot in terms of preparation + confidence + trust in the moment. You were certainly prepared -- that's for damn sure -- but not over prepared. Your material was very strong. You had all the goods, so there was no need to feel like an imposter. And your usually annoying tendency to think everything to death came in handy when having to speak about your process and inspiration. (I have acquired a few minutes of footage from the presentation, which I'll be privately sharing with my patrons.)
  17. Being in a different time zone than everyone back home is the best thing ever. I LOVE BEING OUT OF REACH and missing out on live updates. I wouldn't want to be without internet at all, of course, but catching up with things on my own time is really one of the secrets to calmness.

If you're curious for some footage from the Syros Sound/Word Residency, here are several video diaries I posted during the trip. They are linked here in chronological order. 

Carob tree, yellow split peas, midnight snack hunt, impromptu drunk musician hang

Ocean views, Greek coffee, emo art thoughts, cats, vegan food.

Cats, class, colleagues, cooking, emo art thoughts

Mysterious rye bread, Greek coffee, musical preview, midnight Vamvakaris concert

Sanitizer, salepi, spoken word, sleepy composers, deadly delicious rye bread

Water, hills, bread, split peas, work, emo art thoughts

Last day of the residency, colleague presentations, group improv performance

Athens, Acropolis, travel lessons, perilous staircase

For more blog posts about this trip and my new (in progress) album, click here.

Stream this short film

Last year, I worked on a very special project, a short film called Vámonos. I don't like to score films very often, but as soon as I saw the rough cut of this in a screening, I fell in love. I even shed a tear (and I don't shed tears even during Pixar movies). I was so enthralled that I was too nervous to speak with the director, because the other composers in the room all wanted to speak with him as well. I escaped the screening and took my awkward self to the bathroom to hide, figuring there was no way I'd get to work on it. 

I hate falling in love with things, because that means admitting I want and care, AKA setting myself up for disappointment. But I couldn't deny it; this film was both beautiful and important.

Not only does Vámonos center the stories of queer, Latinx young people, but the cast & crew is also comprised of LGBTIQ people of color. I wish more media and entertainment were like this.

To cut a long story short, I ended up having the honor of scoring the film. My dear friend and duo partner, Sean Hayward, played the guitar on it. The film made a successful debut on the festival circuit, and I'm very pleased to finally share that Vámonos is now available for free streaming on PBS Indies! So if you have 12 minutes to spare...

Click here to stream the film.

 CREDITS 

TRIVIA: Moira was recently the cinematographer for the new Tegan and Sara music video, and Marvin is the creator & director of the upcoming America Ferrera web series Gente-fied, which some of the Vámonos cast is also a part of! Rad people.

xo,

Xanthe

Note: This post originally appeared on Patreon.

Doors as Portals to Home

One of the first things I noticed upon arrival in Syros was how uniquely beautiful each door is. I love walking and taking photos while I admire the wide plethora of colors and constructions: faded turquoise, royal blue, bold dark wood, forest green, a shy lavender, pastel pink with periwinkle…

Seeing all these doors has added a new dimension to my thoughts about what makes a home, as doors are portals to a home.

My first day in Syros (when I was staying elsewhere on the island), I took a photo of my host’s front door as a way to remind myself which house to come back to at night. I do this everywhere I travel.

My apartment door in Los Angeles is identical to the door of hundreds of other units on the premises. Last month, a confused couple tried to open my door with their own key simply because they mistook my door for theirs.

This would not happen in Syros.

I’m not sure where these thoughts are going, but my brain is spinning, thinking about doors being portals, signifiers, symbols, invitations to a home. What does it mean if your portals looks identical to all the other portals? How important is differentiation or customizability in establishing home?

Is a home really a home if it has one hundred clones?

For what it’s worth, the day after my neighbors tried to enter my unit, I went out and bought a doormat. I think it helps. Perhaps my subconscious already knows how to make a home.

This post originally appeared on the Sound/Word residency blog.


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8 Mindsets That Are Keeping You Broke (& What to Do About Them)

You’ve got the talent. You’ve got the drive. You’ve worked long and hard on your craft. You have complex thoughts. Creative ideas. Hell, people even like your music!

So you’re making a decent living, right?

Cue collective sigh.

If you’re struggling to make money from your music, you’re not alone. However, you’re not doomed to this fate.

Read and comment on the rest of this article at iCadenza's blog! I enjoyed writing this and hope it helps some fellow musicians.

Scoring Scripts vs. Annotating Music

At the beginning of each composition, there's a brief down point in which I wonder "Do I know how to do this anymore? What if my last piece was really my last?"

In the creation of my musical-poems, my question is always this: Which should come first -- the music or the text? All week, I have been jotting down ideas, collecting notes, basically being a data collector. I have themes, musical motifs, photos, annotated receipts, 3 hours of field recordings, and pages of journal notes about all the things that make me think of "home." 

Since I am writing a concept album, the question of whether text or music comes first seems more pressing than usual. I want the pieces to flow together, so I do have to be mindful of beginnings and endings, as well as the overall sonic and textural arc. At the same time...this also applies to the text. It seems almost as if this album will end up as one continuous story, should the listener choose to regard the work in this way. I do want each piece to stand alone as an entity independent of the others, but I can't ignore the fact that when put together, there will be a verbal/textual narrative. 

Balancing tones and weights is a delicate act. 

By tones and weights I mean the heaviness and emotional charge of not only topics but also renderings of such. For example, one piece on this Homecoming album will likely center around addiction and mental health struggles/shackles while another will be about cats. When I wrote my MFA poetry manuscript a few years ago, I dealt with this range by splitting my book up into 3 distinct sections, but it made more sense, since I was dealing with a significantly higher volume of words.

I guess all of this is my procrastinatory way of saying that I feel stuck and confused today. These are the approaches I've considered taking: 

  1. Writing out all the text first, in track order, as if it were a screenplay. Then "scoring" the text afterward.
  2. Opposite of the first one, that is, writing the music first and fitting the text in afterward.
  3. A hybrid approach in which I focus on one piece at a time, or switch off between tasks.

My favorite interpretation of the meaning "experimental music" is that which acknowledges the scientific, literally experimental process in which the music can manifest. 

My brain tends towards the analytical, so as much as I'd like to throw caution to the wind, I almost must think about the above things while producing my work. I know many of you reading this are probably thinking it doesn't matter; just start and see what happens. In the end, you are right. 

I hypothesize that approaches 1 or 3 would be best. After assessing my mental and physical resources and restrictions (a big one being that a large portion of my best workday period must be dedicated to quiet siesta time), it seems that I should go for #3. That way, I can use the mandated siesta time (2:30-5:30) to write text and the other hours to record my violin.

Crossing my fingers. Let the experiment begin (or continue).

This post originally appeared on the Syros Sound/Word Residency blog.


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Homecoming

Note: For the next 10 days, I will be at the Sound/Word composer residency in Syros, Greece. This was originally posted on the communal residency blog, where my colleagues and I will be posting updates throughout our time here. 

I feel like I'm always searching for home, in almost every sense of the word.

I've been on the road a lot in the past few years. Lived out of a suitcase while on tour for most of 2015. Moved my place of residence several times. Packed up, sold things, stored things, started over, bought, packed, sold, started over again.

Like most biracial, 2nd generation American kids with immigrant parents, I'm never sure how to answer the question "where are you from?" Should I say the west side of Los Angeles, where I live? Long Beach and Orange County, where I grew up? Maybe Hawaii, where I was born. Or Cambodia, where my dad was born. Greece, where my mom was born?

Now that I am finally in Greece, I am too embarrassed to speak Greek, for fear that my accent is too American, that I can't remember the right words, or that my grammar is unintelligible. I overhear people talking about me, staring at me, whispering to one another about my hair and assuming I cannot understand. I also experience comforting familiarity. It is a complicated homecoming.

The search for home also takes place within my body. I have a history of dissociating as a coping mechanism. Evicting parts of myself from "me" in order to function smoother on the surface, resulting in sometimes-homeless brain, homeless body.

So what, where, who is home? I am artistically, intellectually, emotionally, and physically invested in these answers.

 

Incipient Project Proposal

During my residency in Syros, I plan to continue a series of musical poetry pieces investigating home.

Here is an example: 

As in the above piece, I will be weaving spoken word with layers of music and field recordings, culminating in a continuous or semi-continuous concept album that uses only the instruments and tools I have here: violin, H4N Zoom field recorder, Apogee portable mic, Oxygen 25-keyboard controller, Akai mini controller, and anything sourced from the island or my fellow composer participants. I foresee mainly using the first three items on that list. I will be writing all the spoken text/poetry myself, though I haven't decided if I will stick to my own recorded voice or include others, particularly when it comes to Greek-speaking portions. I think it is too early to make an assertion either way, as the content and development of the project will likely reveal a clearer direction.

I have many more thoughts and ideas but will save them for later.


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Debating Free-Feeding My Cat

Scared kitty at the vet.

Last night, I tweeted my intent to experiment with free-feeding Anakin. I was met with unanimous objection from my well-meaning followers, who relayed horror stories, photos of their own obese cats, and reason upon reason why free-feeding a cat is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea. 

Anakin is my first cat, so I'm really not sure what I'm doing half the time. Since day 1 (okay, day 5), she has been on a strictly portioned, calorie-controlled diet, as per my vet's orders. "Even though she looks small, she has the perfect amount of fat for her body right now," Dr. M said. "Don't let her gain any weight, or it'll lead to health complications and pain." I was told that it was especially important to be diligent since she is indoors-only and doesn't get much exercise.

Like many adopted animals, Anakin has a troubled past.

All I know for sure is that she was confiscated from a hoarder's house. She along with 60 other cats. Yes, 60 cats under one roof, all sent to the LA County Shelter in one fell swoop. When I found scared little Ani in her cage on May the 4th, 2013, the shelter employees were pretty desperate to get rid of her. I'm not sure what Anakin went through at that hoarder's house, but when I got her, she was very skittish, startled, and scared, even moreso than most cats. She'd bite and scratch at me frequently. I had no control over her, even having to cancel a vet visit once because I couldn't get her in the kennel. When I had to give her ear drops at one point (after already having had her for two years), I tried desperately to hold her down in a blanket burrito, but she squirmed out of it and slipped away every time (I tried twice a day for 7 days).

After a couple years and a bunch of research, I realized that she is probably still experiencing the effects of PTSD and trauma. (Thank you, Jackson Galaxy.)

Since then, I've been trying to figure out what could make her comfortable or even "happy." She meows, cries, and squawks all the time, and I never know what to do.

Actually, that's a lie: I've always known that I could feed her. Food was the one and only thing that could consistently calm her down, get her off my back, make the scratching and biting stop. Thus, I got in the habit of spreading her half cup's daily allowance over multiple small snacks per day; that way, I'd have something in my arsenal to distract her with whenever she bit, scratched, or meowed at me. It got to the point where I was feeding her six times a day, in tiny portions. Each time I filled her bowl, she inhaled the entirety of the portion within seconds. She was perpetually ravenous. Addicted? 

(Perhaps it was I who was addicted to soothing her in that way, using it as my own coping mechanism for not knowing how else to deal with her.)

When I first talked to my therapist about Anakin's "bad behavior" and my inability to control her, the first thing she asked about was food. Without passing judgment on my situation, she simply mentioned that she free-feeds her own cat. The idea shocked me at the time, and I shuddered at the thought of Anakin -- innocent, unbridled, food-obsessed Anakin -- inhaling 3 cups of kibble at a time and vomiting all over the place. After all, I'd given her a slightly bigger portion once, and she threw it up as soon as she finished eating.

I hate the idea of exerting control over another being, even a cat. I hate enforcing restriction. I've always had violently strong reactions to any sort of control or restriction from others in my own life, so this hits close to home.

I feel like a perpetrator in my cat's psychological struggle. I feel responsible for not helping her develop alternate ways of feeling soothed, for becoming addicted myself to this routine of feeding her to shut her up. 

As someone who has struggled with addiction (and yes, food addiction) and restriction in the past, it has never felt right to do this to my cat.

I've been depriving her of honoring her basic instincts, mistrusting her ability to self-regulate. In reality, these are all things I mistrust in myself, and if Ani were a human, the blatant projection would be easy to see. But because she's a cat, I get away with saying "it's for her own good," much like a controlling parent might claim that restricting their child was merely for her own protection (sometimes this is true, but it is also a slippery, debatable slope).

So I'm slowly weaning away from my old methods of feeding Anakin. I am nervous, especially with so many terrible warnings of free-feeding, but I feel that I must try this. I just found out that two of my best friends (siblings) free-feed their (formerly abused) cats too, and they've given me lots of wise, helpful cat tips this month. In the past couple days, I have given much larger portions than usual and been pleasantly surprised at the amount leftover in the bowl. When she meows, I try to pet her or play with her, and I've noticed that she uses her scratch pads more often (hallelujah to my couch and skin). Her biting, scratching, and begging for food is less frequent so far -- for the past two days, it's only been in the morning (at 5am, no less). I can't say with certainty that this will continue to be a success, or that she won't gain initial weight, or that my vet won't chide me, but I will try my best to keep tabs on the situation and be responsible about it. Perhaps I will weigh her this week and then check the status again in a month. 

Ani & me two days ago, the chillest I've ever seen her.

On a final note, I sometimes wonder what her life was like when she lived with the cat hoarder. With so many other cats competing for attention and resources, it wouldn't be a stretch to consider that she didn't always know when or where her meals were coming. Fearing basic survival sure does a number on humans, so why not cats?

Wish me (and my jedi cat) luck. This is a very nascent experiment-in-progress, so I am by no means claiming victory or wisdom at this point. And though I do feel committed to trying this for a little bit, I am open to suggestions and insight nonetheless. 

 

"Sleep With Me"

After keeping mum for ages, I finally have to declare my peculiar yet persistent love for the Sleep With Me podcast. Does anyone else listen to this show? Despite being a listener for months, to this day I have no idea what it's about.

Seriously, it is such an effective sleep aid that I cannot vouch for the actual content. 

I'm inclined to say that Sleep With Me is actually a fine specimen of performance art. Again, I have no idea what the stories are really about, but damn, I feel like it's brilliant all the same. The podcast, written (by Drew Ackerman) and performed (by Dearest Scooter), features a narrator who tells stories in a dreamlike, semi-conscious state -- he'll start one topic, trail off, slur his speech, takes random turns into streams of consciousness, morph into other topics, change his addressee, break out into an imaginary conversation, and does it all in an even-paced monotone that sounds like someone on the verge of, well, sleep. It's like an audio representation of how my own brain wanders and loses focus when my consciousness is slipping. Just...go check it out for yourself.

This podcast has caused me to really think: What makes people relax or fall asleep in the first place? It seems that sleep invades us when we least welcome it (in class, during meetings, while driving, while trying to focus on a book or meditation) but eludes us when we really desire it. What does it mean that this podcast is not only entertaining (supposedly) but also functional? Is it art or a tonic? Both? Can art be functional, or created with the primary purpose of functionality?

As someone who frequently writes lullabies (and considers them primarily a form of entertainment and enjoyment), I think of these questions often. I used to be slightly offended when people told me they used my music to help them fall asleep, because I assumed that meant my music was boring. However, I have since embraced that feedback as a new kind of gift. Doing something that helps people fall asleep is by no means a bad thing, and I love to imagine that things like music and stories can be enjoyed at specific times to help transport a listener into another magical realm.

I've digressed, but I'm sure I'll be sharing more thoughts on sleep in future posts.

What do you think of this podcast? Have you listened to it before? Curious to try? What else helps you fall asleep? Seriously, let me know.


PS: Like so many artists and creators today (myself included!), Sleep With Me has a Patreon page, so if you love their show, do consider contributing to their page for as little as a dollar a month.

PPS: I'm at jury duty today, so I will not be listening to the Sleep With Me podcast...


Chrysanthe's independent work is supported by her contributors on Patreon. For exclusive content, mp3s, sheet music, live streams, and more, please consider supporting her at $1/month!

How Shame, Secrets, and Hang-Ups Affect Our Art - Join the Chat this Sunday!

Hi everyone,

I'm really excited (and nervous) to be hosting my first Twitter chat this Sunday, May 8th, at 6pm PDT! I will be leading a discussion about shame, secrets, and hang-ups -- or more specifically, how these things affect our music and art-making practice. The chat will be hosted on Twitter under the hashtag #musochat, so yes, you do need a Twitter account to participate. If you've never heard of these, Musochats are weekly, informal discussions on topics of "classical and new music." Always at 6pm (AKA 9pm EST) on Sundays. Always on Twitter. If you don't use Twitter but would like to add your two cents to this discussion, feel free to make a comment here, and I'll put forth your thoughts to the forum (either crediting you or anonymous, if you prefer). After the conversation, I'll post a recap and a link to the Storify summary. 

Here's the official description:

Even the most confident and accomplished musician has hangups and experiences shame from time to time. These things can sometimes hinder our work. Perhaps when utilized a certain way, they can also help our work? I’d love to create a judgment-free space for us to share and bear witness to one another’s thoughts and feelings. Perhaps we have more in common than we think. Either way, I find that honest communication and expression often carve a path to more genuine art-making.

Photo by Elizabeth Lies, courtesy of Unsplash

I'm stoked to engage in this important discussion. See you there, or see you on the other side! 

--Xanthe

From the Trenches

Dear everyone reading this: 

I am currently writing this post from the trenches. That is, I am deep in the middle of a composition that I’m having a really hard time with. 

I don’t communicate from the trenches very often. Sure, I have gotten better about sharing my struggles, but I tend to write about them in retrospect. After I have already finished the piece or “overcome” the hard thing. When I’ve supposedly reached a wise and better place from which to tell a neat story. You'll hear that I was once vulnerable but do not hear when I am still actively vulnerable. 

Today, I feel scattered. I am overwhelmed. I have notes spread out in more places than I can count, and not enough time to collect, assess, notate, and curate them all in an organizationally rigorous fashion. I have digital notes (typed in Evernote), handwritten notes (in my Moleskin journal), audio snippets (on my Zoom recorder), more audio snippets (in Garage Band), handwritten music (on staff paper), a drawing of caterpillars climbing a tower (also in my journal), and one hellish-looking Sibelius project containing a multitude of independent ideas separated by empty measures. Furthermore, instead of reviewing, refining, and committing to my ideas, I feel a desperate urge to come up with just one more, for certainly my last idea will be the idea to end all ideas, and it will be so beautiful and perfect that I can scrap all of the previous nuggets and finally focus on this clear path, right? 

For someone who thrives on structure, regularity, organization, knowing where everything exists and how to access it, this point in any given composition is a nightmare. 

I don’t normally speak from the trenches, because whenever I am here, I am not sure how I will escape, if it will be graceful, even if my current ideas will survive the inevitable developments. I extol the virtues of “sharing one’s work” and “process over product” (hell, the name of my blog is Process Report), but these things are easier to contemplate than do. 

But today, I will share this. The piece I’m writing is a duo for cello and violin, and it is inspired by an illustrated book called Hope for the Flowers, by Trina Paulus. It is allegorical tale about two caterpillars that set forth on a journey to the top of a caterpillar pillar, unsure of what lies at the top. Thousands of other caterpillars concurrently pursue this journey, not a single one certain of the destination. Suffice to say, the tale has always been meaningful to me. But as I type these words at this very moment, I wonder if Hope for the Flowers will even make it to the final iteration of my composition. If it doesn't, will I look back on this naive blog entry and judge myself for changing my mind, feeling silly for having introduced the story so lovingly to you in the first place? 

In the past, the answer certainly would have been yes, but with practice, I hope in the present and future, it will be no.

My Birthday Is Tomorrow and I Promise I Don't Need a Party

Photo by Kayte Deioma, a million years ago

A funny thing always happens my birthday week: Incredible people reach out to me and ask if I’m going to have a party. Some even offer to help put one together, suggest cool restaurants, take me out for dinner or drinks, or buy me a present. I’m really lucky to have people who care about me enough to want to do these things. 

To be honest, I don’t particularly enjoy any of the above activities. I deal with pretty bad social anxiety, and things that shake up my routine tend to cause more stress than cheer. I don’t want a social event to commemorate my birthday, I don’t need surprises or extravagance, I don’t want to add dinner or drinks to my schedule, and I truly don’t need physical gifts. I promise I’m not saying these things to test my friends' true loyalty, insinuate self-pity, play games with you, or appear fashionably nonchalant.

I’m not nonchalant, and I’m absolutely thrilled to spend my relaxing birthday off the grid tomorrow! But it recently came to my attention that some of my loved ones are at a loss for how to show they care on my birthday. If you’ve heard of the Five Love Languages, you know that different people give and receive love in different ways, and that these differences are okay. The key to adapting to these differences is understanding what yours and another's needs are in the first place. It's always better to make your needs known rather than hope others read your mind. At the end of the day, each of us simply want to be acknowledged for who we really are, to be truly seen. Thus, I thought it would be fun and helpful to use this space to articulate my own desires and offer a list of alternative ways I would love to be celebrated on my birthday! These are all things you could do that make me feel seen.

These are the ways you could support me on my birthday that would truly be the most meaningfully received by me.

  1. Become my patron on Patreon. If you had to choose just one thing from this list, I’d have to say that becoming my patron is by far the best thing you could do to show continual support for me as an artist. I am my art, so to support my artistic life is to directly support me in the biggest way possible. I currently have 33 patrons on Patreon, and I love them a lot! But I have almost 3000 personal Facebook friends, another 2000 public Facebook followers, 5600 Twitter followers, and nearly 13K Instagram followers. Thus, if only 5-10% of my friends and fans became my patron at $1/month, it would actually revolutionize my life and open up so many possibilities for me to expand my art further
  2. Buy an album! I sell both physical CDs and high-quality digital downloads (including PDF liner notes) in my online store. My Stories album is also on iTunes, Amazon, and all major online stores. Already own my album? Perhaps it could make a nice gift for someone else! Here is a video I made that showing how easy it is to send an iTunes album as a gift. Or if you want to order autographed CDs, you can do that through my store and specify a different address for me to mail it to.
  3. Purchase some sheet music!!! Ok, I’m super excited about this, because I just released it today. It took forever to put together, and I’m really stoked about it. It was a huge labor of love to put together, because I didn’t read from real sheet music when I recorded my album. The few handwritten manuscripts I used were lost along with my whole composition binder a couple years ago. I owe a lot of thanks to Sean Hayward for assisting me in preparing these official parts for you. (Sidenote: If you’re a composer looking to outsource some score prep or get some parts arranged, Sean’s your guy!) 
  4. Share any of the above things with a friend. Not everyone has the ability to make monetary contributions, and even though I hope to be compensated for my work as an artist, I totally respect and understand this. I am very aware of the real things that prevent people from contributing with money. Thus, I want to underscore the importance of sharing my work. Word of mouth can be just as helpful as buying my work yourself, because personal, passionate recommendation is the best way an independent artist reaches more eyes, ears, and hearts. If you like my work but can't afford to buy an album or support my Patreon, please don’t be shy, feel bad, or apologize to me; simply keep listening, keep streaming, and think of a friend or two that may actually like what I’m doing too! You may not have bought my album personally, but because you streamed it in the car so much, your cousin did, and then when she needed a recommendation for a new easy piano piece to play, she ended up buying the sheet music to “Paper Flowers.” All of this is to say, I value you, whether you have money to give or not.
  5. The gift of time. If you've never heard my music, of course you wouldn’t feel compelled to jump right into Patreon or buying an album! And if you're not a listener of my music, I of course wouldn't expect you to feel comfortable with sharing it, because how would you vouch for it? So…If you’re someone that wanted to take me out for birthday dinner or were already willing to give up a couple hours to attend a birthday party, I have an alternative idea for how you can give me the gift of your quality time: Listen to some of my music. You can stream my Stories album on Spotify, check out things I’ve posted on my Patreon page, or spend some time on the “Composer” section of my website. If you can’t listen to my music, or you don’t like it, you can check out my Xanthe Briefly podcast, my blog, or my vegan cooking videos on YouTube (I try to caption my videos, if that helps). As an introvert, I rarely open up to people in person. I pour everything into my art and work, so taking the time to tune in for even 20 minutes would bring us much closer, I guarantee it.
  6. Miscellaneous Fun Ideas: Stream Stories on repeat on Spotify for a day. Even if you turn the volume off but leave it playing, I’ll receive some royalties from that. Request my music at your local/college radio station. Add my music to public playlists (like the ones on Spotify). Use a piece from my album for your dance routine. Learn how to play one of my songs on your instrument or in your chamber ensemble (I’d love video of this)! Paint a picture or write a story inspired by my music. Use a song of mine as background for your next school project, student film, or YouTube video (please make sure to select “Monetize” in the settings!). Leave a review of my album on iTunes. If you do any of the above, please let me know so I can smile and shower you with gratitude. Seriously, if you ever perform my music yourself, or use my music in anything, I would be happy to share your project/video. If there are enough things, I may even make a gallery on my website.
  7. If you don’t feel like engaging in anything artsy but still want to do something that supports and affirms who I am, here are the non-profit organizations I donate to most regularly. Perhaps you could consider putting a few dollars toward the important social justice work they do. FIERCE NYC, Food Empowerment Project, Audre Lorde Project, and Trans Lifeline.

Now that you’ve read this far, I’m going to announce the birthday sheet music specials! They start right now and go through my birthday weekend (until Sunday night).

  • All my new patrons will receive their choice of 1 free sheet music or 1 free digital download of my Stories album! You can peruse all the options here. You receive details on how to redeem that when you sign up for my Patreon.

  • Sheet music deals! 10% off your purchase of $30 (use discount code “birthday10”). 25% off your purchase of $50 (use discount code “252525”)

 

Thank you for reading this. Thank you for celebrating my birthday, my music, my art, me. Thank you thank you thank you. And now I'm off to go cook a sweet potato...


10 Reasons I Exercise (that have nothing to do with fitness)

I am not a physical person. I am intensely cerebral, so lost in my thoughts and work that I forget to stand up, go outside, and take bathroom breaks. Because of my sedentary disposition and underdeveloped mind-body connection, I find it important to dedicate a block of time each day to moving my body.

Exercise is a cornerstone of my life. If you’re looking to read about the physical benefits of exercise, however, you’re in the wrong place. I can’t speak with authority on those matters, nor do I currently seek specific physical results. What I can vouch for is the tremendous impact exercise has had on my mental health and artistic practice.

When I talk about “exercise” and “working out,” I'm referring to an uninterrupted spurt of moderate-intensity (or higher) activity typically lasting an hour. Exercise may mean something completely different for you, so please contextualize as you see fit.

This is why I love exercise:

  1. It starts my morning off right. I love to work out in the morning, before my hazy optimism has a chance to fade. Working out wakes me up and prepares me for the day. If I’m sleep-deprived and have to be somewhere really early, it’s even more crucial for me to squeeze in my workout, otherwise, I’ll be doubly groggy. Maybe if I'd exercised before school, I wouldn't have fallen asleep in every high school class and earned the nickname “zombie.”
  2. It prepares me to interface with people. Being around other people is a huge energy suck for me, so I need to muster up my own reserves first. I know this sounds dramatic, but it’s just the way it is. Exercise is my time, and as an extreme introvert, I need my time before I can proceed with my day and make room for others. Seeing me pre-workout is like seeing other people pre-morning coffee.
  3. Learning! Listening! Reading! Watching! I constantly consume a ridiculous amount of information in various mediums: podcasts, paperbacks, Kindle books, magazines, newspapers, chapbooks, blogs, newsletters, webinars, tv episodes, Spotify Discover playlists, and more. I do the vast majority of my reading and listening at the gym. This allows me to learn and enjoy many things I wouldn’t otherwise carve out time for, plus it encourages me to keep better focus during the day, since I know I can always save an article for later. My friends call me Encyclopedia Tan, largely due to the vast amount of knowledge I soak up at the gym. It really is my secret weapon (along with listening to podcasts in the car).
  4. Work catchup. Work inevitably does spill over to my precious gym time, but something about sweating on the elliptical while marking up a score or studying required text makes the tasks easier. The change of setting does something to my brain that makes me access and interpret information in a fresher way. I even printed out this blog and proofread it at the gym before posting.
  5. Social catchup. Similar to the above point, checking emails and getting pesky administrative tasks out of the way is easier when I’m at the gym. Toward the end of my workout (once I’ve waken up to myself), I sometimes begin to text friends back from the night before. I also check my Instagram feed during my 5 minute cool down, which forces me to scroll quickly and be selective about who I follow in the first place. I know a lot of people consider social media a huge waste of time, but I’m a staunch defender of it, for reasons I’ll likely explain in a future blog or podcast.
  6. Creative ideas. I call the gym my “idea incubator.” Showers and workouts (of all kinds) are magical havens for creative problem solving, and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Countless concepts and conundrums have been birthed and solved while sweating.
  7. It can provide a nice break in the day. When I don’t exercise first thing in the morning, working out in the afternoon or early evening serves as a nice recess time. It’s a perfect break if I’m switching gears between two projects. It also dramatically increases my mood, as I tend to devolve into frustration and fizzled focus when I work for too many hours.
  8. It makes my body feel things. Not only am I naturally sedentary, but I also resist almost anything that reminds me of possessing a physical body (other than frighteningly intense deep tissue massages). I avoid cold, hate the act of putting on lotion, don’t like running my hands under water or wearing clothes that rub my skin, showering, or even paying attention to my breath. Thus, exercising and sweating and being dirty then showering afterward and being exposed to the elements is important for me. It’s one of the few times I inhabit my body. Otherwise, I feel like a floating brain in space.
  9. Exploring a new city. I’ve talked about the gym quite a bit, but of course I can’t always work out at the gym, especially if I’m traveling. If I can’t go to a gym, I go running. It’s a great way to cover a lot of ground quickly. I don’t always have a ton of time to explore a new place I’m in, and jogging allows me to see far more things than I would otherwise, plus it’s nice to stumble upon the unexpected — I’ve seen all kinds of hidden beautiful treasures.
  10. The comfort of routine and maintained health. I’m a creature of habit who falls apart if I don’t have certain routines or rituals or schedules. As an independent artist, many aspects of my schedule, work, and finances are unpredictable. The more things I can hold onto, cherish, and count on, the better off I am. 

 

What’s your relationship to exercise? How does it fit into your life (or not)? What other things inspire and stabilize you? 

I’m genuinely curious, so please comment, tweet, or email me!

—Xanthe

Unexpected view on a sunrise run in Spain.