This evening, the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) plays the music of Georges Aperhis, one of the most-engaging, challenging composers active today. To give you an idea how excited I am about this, I am delaying vacation just in order to see this, and I have not had a proper vacation for some time.
Ludovic Morlot will be guest conductor, and Tony Arnold will be singing soprano.
The program includes:
Shot in the Dark (2011) – world premiere, Miller Theatre and ICE co-commission
Two Miniatures: The Iliad and the Odyssey (2008)
Les Guetteurs de Son (1981)
Miller Theater is on the campus of Columbia University, and may be entered from Broadway (east side of street) at the intersection with 116th treat in Manhattan. It is easily reached via the 1 train, exiting at 116th Street.
Drop by and say hello, should you wish. I will be in the front row of the balcony, taking the occasional photo.
Website for tickets and further information:
New Spectrum Radio is currently running in beta-test mode at
Fortunately for me (and unfortunately for my music interests), my main day job (biotech) has heated up and presented some superb, ostensibly-near-term opportunities just as the technology has been queued up to start something that resembles regular programming. With luck (and a bit of sleep deprivation), I can get this station further off the ground over the next few days.
Today, sandwiched for 15 minutes between two other meetings, I managed to get together with the intellectually-gifted (and pleasantly-voiced) Dr. Sheldon Greaves for recording of some station-identification spots. One of my favorite station IDs mentions something to the effect of our drummers not exploding (that was Sheldon’s).
Sheldon, whose graduate work was in Near Eastern studies, runs the Renaissance-man-friendly Guerrilla Scholar ( http://www.guerrillascholar.com/ ) site, and is also one of the authors of a soon-to-be-launched Internet-based game focused on politics and economic power. I believe one of the ways one scores points is to “take last night’s escort to this morning’s prayer breakfast”. At any rate, this could be the first broadly-adopted political satire game on the web. I am looking forward to it.
There has been some interesting (“frightening” might be a better word for it) work on jet lag and brain shrinkage – as in, in they are associated, especially if one is subjected to quick turnarounds of about 7 days or less on transoceanic travel (relevant link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/1342081.stm ). This evidently has to due with disruption of daily sleep-wake cycles (also referred to as “circadian rhythms”).
Career choices do not put me in a position to avoid international travel, particularly to Europe (Japan travel again is looming for a couple reasons as well). What to do? Retiring at this point is not a good idea (so many unmet medical needs; so little time), nor is restricting my movements to the US. My last company was successful on the basis of a drug licensed from a Paris-based company, and some of my current work involves looking at drugs currently at European-based companies. Another opportunity on the horizon would likely involve travel to Australia. The circadian clock appears destined for further, vigorous mechanical assaults.
What to do? I have spent 28 adult years (12 at universities; 16 in “real”, full-time jobs) building up the capabilities and associations that make my current activities possible –and I actually enjoy my job, which is increasingly uncommon for an unfashionably-old (47 years) person in this economy. I have no intention of retiring this early (see above), and it seems a bad idea to go back to punching a clock (figuratively – actually the jobs in which I find myself tend to go beyond 40-hour weeks, and no one wishes to give adequate credit [least of all financial consideration] for that) at some much-larger organization that provides more predictability and supposed security.
My insightful response to this situation is to save what few brain cells I have left by aggressively reducing the circadian discontinuity. In general, this involves minimizing forced adjustment to time zones, particularly for transoceanic travel ( – Germany, France etc. are nine hours off from my home time in California, so this is not trivial). I endeavor to avoid morning meetings in Europe. In my case, this is frequently feasible when not involved in day-long, intensive diligence visits (in which case, the material tends to be sufficiently exciting to compensate somewhat for the pain, and perhaps even a few brain cells). I go so far as to keep the hotel curtains closed until waking up in the morning so as to decrease the sort of external stimuli that re-set the body clock (circadian rhythms and all that). Europeans frequently have late dinners anyway, so this tends to work: Wake up without an alarm clock, perhaps get in a decent amount of work before lunch (or late breakfast) and then nosh a bit around 4 PM, thereby allowing for dinner at a more-typically Continental hour. The goal in general is to keep the body clock closer than usually to home time. This has the added benefit of making one perhaps a bit less irritable when adjusting back at home in the US.
Of course, trying to work in one final meeting in the morning prior to departure back home (or, of course, taking a standard 9 AM or so flight, which usually requires waking up at 6:30 or 7 AM) can put a cramp on this. Such was the case this morning. I had particular trouble the previous evening [and its associated wee hours] convincing my intransigent hypothalamus into sleeping before 6 AM. At about 5 AM, I gave up and decided to shower before going to sleep, thereby allowing me to finish most of the packing. The 10 AM wake-up call was painful, but bearable. I went into what I hoped was a high-efficiency mode, even on the way down to breakfast pocketing the toothbrush and a small tube of paste from the Business Class goodies bag of last week’s flight so that I could go on to the 11 AM meeting without ascending once more to the hotel room. The breakfast buffet (I tend to avoid these in favor of less-expensive, more-pleasurable fare, but time was of the essence) officially closed at 10, but I was only a few minutes late, and they were accommodating, particularly since I was not ordering any of the no-extra-charge cooked items of the menu. Two fashionably-small bowls of yogurt/museli, one fashionably-small bowl of cereal, one fashionably-tasty slice of bread and one moderately-indulgent hot chocolate later, I was in the gent’s cloakroom for a brilliantly-efficient application of toothpaste, only to find that (in my not-so-efficient grogginess a few minutes earlier), I had managed to mistake a tube of body butter for toothpaste. (“Look before you grab “ is a useful proverb early on attributed to porcupine farmers.) Fortunately, I read the tube prior to squeezing its contents onto the brush. I instead made due with water and a bit of extra vigor in the brushing.
The meeting was with an investor at least somewhat interested in a deal which was discussed, so I expect the circadian disruption (and possibly-compromised brain-cell count) was worth it.
Another important strategy I have involves flying at least 100,000 miles per year on my favorite airline so as to have easier access to upgrades (thereby enhancing the duration and quality of sleep in transit). I have on a couple occasions taken a cheap flight to London in order to catch a December holiday party ( – work has taken me to London for various reasons over the years, and this is a good opportunity to continue old relationships) and boost me over the 100,000-mile level for the year. Those trips tend also to get some business drawn in, so this approach works well in general.
This holiday practice did, however, put me at odds with US immigration/customs authorities one year. Said official displeasure was triggered when a piece I had arranged (with some nice compositional gestures of my own, so I thought) was being performed at my church’s Christmas program back home in Palo Alto the Sunday immediately after said Saturday-night holiday party. I managed to make it to the program just in time for the performance of said piece. I did this by going through immigration and customs without waiting for my checked baggage (I had to check something, as I had brought back a doll’s house of Anglophilic Bliss for some family friends) to come out on the conveyor belt. There was a bit of personal disappointment at the chapel, as one of the more-technically-demanding passages I had written was left unplayed by the pianist (she afterwards explained that it was too technically demanding; I figured the truth was that the piece was within the span of her capabilities, but that the holidays had not left her adequate practice time). The organ was also playing at the time, so no one without the score knew they were being deprived of one of my more-indulgent ego trips to date. There was also a bit more personal disappointment when I returned to retrieve my baggage at the airport and was sternly informed that I had flagrantly violated any number of federal statutes. I explained that I had rushed off to perform in the choir for my church’s Christmas program, and that I had barely arrived in time. As some of you know (and as I certainly learned myself when leading congregational choirs), getting grown men to sing in a church choir is about as fun (and realistic) as getting college-aged men to abstain from sex over a period of multiple years. While there are some men willing to submit to such instructions (indeed, my church thrives on that very concept, with thousands of abstinent men at Brigham Young University [non-marital non-abstinence can be grounds for excommunication and expulsion] and tens of thousands of flamboyantly-abstinent college-age missionaries), it generally takes extensive effort to get at least three tenors and three basses out of an average Mormon congregation. There was therefore some merit to my argument that it was important for me to abandon my baggage at airport for a couple hours. I managed to escape after only a moderately-severe tongue lashing, but said officials were none too pleased.
My congregation, alas, persists in its practice of holding Christmas programs the morning after the London holiday party that re-establishes old connections and frequently re-sets my 100,000-mile counter appropriately. My response to this situation has been two-fold: (1) discontinue the practice of arranging/composing Christmas pieces for my congregation, as they are not likely to be realized in performance anyway; (2) discontinue the practice of arranging my schedule around church Christmas programs in the first place. This second measure is as good a way as any to protest the fact that my Church has a policy against singing in Latin (or any other languages that are not the principal language of a congregation’s constituents), thereby ruling out much of my favorite Christmas music (or church music in general for that matter). The Catholic Church might have had its occasional hiccoughs (Inquisitions, pogroms, etc.) through the cneturies, but it sure has had some superb music (most of it in Latin). I have yet to hear a Mormon hymn (or for that matter a performance by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which anyway usually consists of Mormon hymns) equal in harmonic beauty to (for instance) Machaut’s Messe de Notre Dame, and that was written in the 14th Century (!). One of the unfortunate consequences of my church’s (increasingly aggressive and frequently successful) pursuit of consistency is that its music consistently falls short of the potential inherent in the art.
. . . but I digress. Fortunately, I was able to upgrade on this morning’s flight.
A number of my friends use pharmaceutical agents (melatonin, etc.) to decrease the pain of the transoceanic experience. Perhaps I should look at that more seriously. Melatonin in the past has been of only limited benefit for me, and I have been avoiding the prescription route (for one thing, there is going to the trouble of meeting a physician during prime work hours, and then there is the bother of filing the prescription), so for now I am sticking to my “natural” method. Mind you, prescription drugs are my business, and I am a staunch advocate of their appropriate use. I merely at times prefer behavioral approaches to pharmacological ones.
It has been a busy week, a moderate exaggeration of the usual competing priorities.
Business: I currently am in London, having arrived from a week in Paris. I went to Paris principally to meet view some drug dossiers (i. e., information archives with regulatory documents, etc.) whose access is controlled by someone whose phone message (that he was going to be in California for the week) reached me only as I was disembarking in Paris, having flown there from my home in California. I knew it was a bit of a risk, but I had begun sending that I would be heading back to Paris for this particular week) messages about two weeks earlier. Also, I am more likely to get some conversation with this person and his company (one of the larger pharmaceutical firms in the area) if I am actually on the ground in Paris; that is how these things usually work when you are an entrepreneur and do not command the resources of a sizable company.
It was OK that I did not have much business in Paris, as other business kicked into gear (though I would rather have been home with family), particularly in the form of a business opportunity that had certain potentially-active players in Europe. In short order, I have been communicating with the related company’s key personnel (board members, investors, bankers) from my hotel room, using combinations of land line, mobile phone, Skype and email. This particular opportunity involves and interesting company presented to me (from proverbial left field) by some of its bankers last week (when I was on vacation with family in Utah). I did not manage to make it to any museums this week, but I did get a good amount of exercise walking around the city, as I balk at paying $30 for a single gym visit, when I pay only about $80 (thanks to the current economy) for an entire month at the gym near my sublet Manhattan apartment, and less for the club near my home in Palo Alto.
Family: I have managed to compact my remaining (London) business into Monday morning, so I am cutting few days off my trip and will be home in tome for Monday dinner. Nice. Not seeing enough family lately.
Music: I have spent the past few weeks working on a composition called Synchronizations I, where a fairly-simple device of multiple, coincident time signatures allows the ‘cello (7/8), violin (19/8) and vocal (over the course of the piece, following the arc of 3/8, 2/4, 5/8, 3/4, 5/8, 2/4 and 3/8) to go in and out of synch with each other. I have some superb musicians (mainly in the NYC area) lined up to record the piece. I will make sure they remain interested in the project before mentioning them here; so far they have been encouraging.
Yesterday, I made it to IRCAM (a Paris research institute for research in music and acoustics; Frank Zappa had some collaborations there, and his work was not the most unusual to come out of that organization) for a few minutes, where I picked up some volumes on computer music as well as a couple music CDs. I also joined IRCAM’s software forum, which already is providing some excitement in the form of new platforms. I had been to their Agora conference (on complexity science and the arts; fit in nicely after an investor conference in Munich, though I had to miss the last day in order to make it home for family vacation) a couple weeks earlier, and am excited about tapping into their resources.
Tonight, after sifting through listings in Time Out, I have landed at a place called Café Oto to hear a group called Work in Progress; they are presenting of a couple dozen video/music/etc. pieces by various artists in rapid succession.
Afterward: There was some good material, and a couple pieces were truly memorable. This is evidently one of the main places for contemporary music in London. It was reasonably sized (capacity for about 100 people seated) and was pretty much at capacity. I am always thrilled to see appreciable audiences of young people (under-35 types) for new music; it gives hope that classical music is not dead, and will last at least another generation or two.
A major difference between London and NYC is that the latter has new music venues that are conveniently located in relatively-safe areas. Even The Stone, (John Zorn’s place at 2nd Street and Avenue C in Manhatan’s East Village) is not exactly next to posh condos, but it is safe enough. Le Poisson Rouge, another favorite of mine, is at a very safe, nice place in Greenwich Village. Even Brooklyn’s Williamsburg, home to a number of edgy-music venues, is not a dicey-safety neighborhood, and is only one subway stop away from Manhattan. Compare this to the situation in London, where it appeared the most interesting new music event was at Café Oto, 25-pound cab ride away from my hotel (which is somewhat centrally-located in London). I was considering taking mass transit, and was repeatedly advised not to due to safety concerns. So, I paid 5 pounds sterling to get in, and roughly 50 pounds sterling for transit. Many of the edgy artists live in neighborhoods near this evening’s venue, but they know how to navigate the subtleties of the environment as natives.
At any rate, it seems that London property costs are still so high that they push new music out to inconvenient, unsafe areas. This is unfortunate, as I do not intend to make a regular practice of paying 50 pounds to see a 5-poind concert (though it was a good one). This trip out was particularly useful, however, as I am trying to meet people in the new music community here who might provide material for the Internet radio station I am hoping to get operational over the next couple months.
By the way, when I hit edgy “legitimate music” concerts such as Classical Revolution events in San Francisco, I am at times made uncomfortable by the virtually-uninhabited, metal-gated areas through which I need to walk between car and venue; London is not the only place with “venue issues”. Berlin (my favorite European city for music) and Munich, by the way, have great, safely/conveniently-located clubs such as A-Trane and Unterfahrt that have experimental music (usually jazz t these place, but worth the trip and the ticket). My solution for London is usually to do something besides music.
This blog focuses on synthesis (hence the “syn”) and complexity (hence the ”plexity”).
“Synthesis” in two senses: Synthesis across disciplines (e. g., medicine, basic science, business, music, etc.) and synthesis of (at least) three major activity streams (family, business and music) into a single life.
“Complexity” in two senses as well: Complexity in terms of a penchant for complexity science (some times referred to as or associated with “chaos theory”), and complexity in terms of trying to do well as a husband and father while pursuing ambitious agendas in business (biotechnology, for the most part) and music (production, composition, performance, etc.)
This blog was originally started a couple years ago, only to fall into immediate neglect due to the then-pressing complexities of founding and running a biotech business (which went well, after some time, effort and risk). This time is likely to stick.
Your humble blogger (Glenn Cornett, AKA Synplexity) is a biotechnology entrepreneur (multiple ongoing projects) who has previously worked in a large pharmaceutical firm (Eli Lilly), consulting (McKinsey, as well as a VP position at a global Internet/mobile advisory company [ > 2,000 employees ]; also at his own consulting firm) and government-related endeavors (policy analysis, etc. as a consultant at Los Alamos National Laboratory).
Initial involvement in complexity science was during graduate school, and has continued during consulting work (at McKinsey, as well as at my own consulting firm) and current entrepreneurial activity. Also, I have made a few public presentations over the past while on use of complexity science in understanding the unfavorable impact of increasingly-authoritarian culture (“Obedience Culture”) in religious institutions and elsewhere.
Education includes a chemistry undergraduate degree (University Honors; Brigham Young University, aka BYU), an MD (Distinction in Research; U. Michigan), a neuroscience PhD (UCLA), and a brief, NIH-funded fellowship in artificial intelligence and medicine (Harvard / MIT).
Hobbies include exercise, music, literature/poetry, complexity science, current affairs and social entrepreneurship.
Family includes one wife and a few children; all of them wonderful.
I may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org