The Lord Is My Shepherd (I Shall Never Want)

March 11th, 2012

My setting of the 23d Psalm was performed at a concert in Brooklyn last night, at Our Lady of Refuge Church. The announcement on their website said this:

Annual Lenten Concert Saturday, March 10, 2012
This concert will feature the Haitian Choir directed by Bijoux, the Spanish Choir directed by Nidia Rivera, Instrumental Soloists featuring Glen Balck & Frantz Lafortune, The English Youth Choir, The English Adult Choir and the Parish Choirs.
The concert will also include renditions of Andrea Bocelli and a piece being performed for the very first time in public, Psalm 23 “The Lord Is My Shepherd” arranged and composed by Michael Cook who will be in attendance that night.

A soup dinner starts in the school hall at 6pm and concert starts at 7:45pm.
Tickets to the dinner and the concert are: $12 for adults and $5 for children under 12
Proceeds from the Concert Benefit the Parish Fund to Restore the Pipe Organ.

Melissa and I went to the 5:00 Mass, then the dinner and concert. The people were very friendly and welcoming. I was reminded of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor,” because it is a poor parish. Interestingly enough, though, the church is very impressive – large, with beautiful stain glass windows. The dinner was a soup kitchen type of affair, a bowl of chicken soup and some bread, and a piece of bread pudding for dessert. Father Perry welcomed us, and led us in a song prayer. He is a terrific person, a priest who clearly loves his work.

I felt honored and touched by their treatment of my piece. They put my piece second to last, the last one being a sort of hymn in three languages we all sang together. They did a very good job – I liked their arrangement, and the piano player, the conductor, and members of the choir all really liked the piece and enjoyed doing it. They were concerned that I would like what they did with it – which I did. After the performance of Shepherd, the priest called me up to the front and gave me flowers – as I said, I was quite touched. And after the concert several audience members came up to me and said how much they liked the piece.

Northern Star

March 18th, 2010

Northern Star is a musical that my mother, Joan Kennedy Taylor, and her collaborator, George Broderick, worked on for many years, starting in the 70′s.  In 2008, while going through my mother’s house in the Berkshires, I found a box full of demo tapes made during the course of their collaboration.  I took the tapes – some reel to reel, some cassettes, some taped from live performances, some recorded in studios, some of Joan and George just singing into a cassette recorder – to a recording studio and had them all transferred to CD’s.  This resulted in about 18 hours of music.  I went through this material, and assembled the “best of the best” into one CD (about 68 minutes in length).

Needless to say, this was a moving experience.  I was familiar with much of the material, but I also found material I had never heard before.  We cleaned up the recordings as much as possible – using digital signal processing to reduce noise, balance volume levels, do some minimal pitch correction – and sequenced the songs in the order suggested by existing scripts.

I am posting the results here.

The exponential pace of change

February 6th, 2010

I bought a new laptop recently, and was surprised by the computer power available for $700.  But I’ve been surprised by the exponential growth of computer power ever since I was aware of it. In 1980 when I started working with computers, I was amazed by the power of microcomputers – they weren’t called PC’s yet. I compared them to the first computers that were built in the 40′s, and they were unimaginably more powerful, smaller, and cheaper. The “big” system my company was selling had 64K bytes of memory. The system I have now has 4 gigabytes of memory. This is almost exactly a doubling of memory size every two years.

This is an instance of Moore’s Law, which says that the power of semiconductors doubles every 18-24 months. This has been about right, and it has meant that I have been surprised every couple of years by the pace of change. But now I suddenly realize that I will continue to be surprised for the rest of my life, even though I expect to be surprised. The reason for this is that exponential growth is literally impossible to imagine. I can write down the equation, I can project out the numbers, but when they arrive they blow me away. Try to graph the function y = 2^x. You can’t. Try it! Your paper isn’t big enough.

So this is my theme, these days – the exponential pace of change. Moore’s Law applies only to semiconductors, and some say it is trailing off as they get down to the size of an atom. But I personally believe that the pace of change we are experiencing will continue, perhaps via other technologies – quantum computing, nanotechnology, DNA computing, or something not yet visible. Consider Facebook as an example – three years ago it didn’t exist, it now has 300 million users. Wow. What will we see three years from now? Dimly I can see a world in which my entire life is stored on the Web, in the cloud, accessible from anywhere via a netbook. But that’s just an extrapolation of where things are now – what new applications will be available I cannot say. And when I think about 10 years from now, I am really in the dark.