A Dollar Extra Shrimp

from Sunday, May2nd of the year2010.

One of the great things about touring is that you get to sleep in a moving bus “” I find sleeping in moving vehicles to be immensely soothing; I’m one of those people who can sleep in planes (sometimes with a little Ambien) but especially in trains. Put me even on a forty minute Metro North ride and I’ll be fast asleep. We’ve been traveling around France and Spain in this giant white bus called Moby Dick (not our idea, despite the name of the tour), which is driven by a lovably dictatorial conspiracy-theorist fraggle called Toon. I’ve, for the first time, tried to write music fully on the road; the Stabat Mater which Signal Ensemble & Brad Lubman will premiere later this month has been written almost exclusively on this bus. You can check out all sorts of pictures on this facebook photo feed.

One thing I have observed about traveling in a group is the importance of not eating as a group. I think people’s weirdnesses “” mine especially “” come out in the context of a meal. I’m firmly of the philosophy that there is a natural way that a restaurant wants things to work “” a qi, a sort of natural waterway that governs the appropriate things to order, the way to order them, the procession of dishes. Large groups need to really get on that boat, or it turns into a big nightmare shipwreck of people ordering god knows what kind of substitutions and random banana splits in the south of France. I had a friend at Juilliard who, whenever we all went out as a department for Chinese, which was basically once a week, would inevitably ask for this mysterious concept of “a dollar extra shrimp” on/in whatever it was that she had ordered. This was one form of her insanity; the other would be to turn dish (a) into dish (b) through a series of substitutions: a fried noodle with beef and chicken would turn into a Singapore mai fun by adding curry powder, ham, subtracting the beef, and a dollar extra shrimp. No matter what happened, the end result was that everybody else’s dishes ended up completely dada: shrimp in a noodle bird’s nest format, gai lan with shrimp all over them, a coca-cola with shrimp shells scattered around them like ancestral offerings. The moral of the story is that when you’re eating with a group, find that flow, and ride it all the way to shore.

We had a day off in Paris, and I saw such wonderful things that made me so happy.

Paris is so about this woman, in the supermarket, paying in pennies:

It’s about this poodle, tied to this pole:

It’s about precisely these oysters and a glass of white wine:

We also played such a great show in Paris, and I had the surreal experience of my piece with Benjamin Millepied, Triade, happening at exactly the same moment at the Opéra de Paris. I like this idea, that one trombonist can be playing the auxiliary vocal parts for The Only Tune in the 11th while two trombonists and a pianist bang out the vanilla gamelans for Triade up in the 9th. There’s a video here. I also find that simultaneity very relaxing in the context of all this yammering about style & genre on the internet of late. Dennis DeSantis wrote a nice retort and dismissal of all of it, which I would like to quote: “Figure out what you like to hear. Then go listen to it and make more,” he writes. Quite so. It’s been my experience that people who want to talk about style and genre are taking advantage of the noise of that conversation to avoid the actual task of writing or making music. Get back to work and get off the internet! Am gonna follow my own advice and edit these clarinet slurs right now, and figure out this harp pedaling.


  • Triade is very beautiful, both the dancing and the music.

  • I love your posts Nico. The blend of music, food, and social interactivity… brilliant!


  • ed verbke forgot to mention the parts of the mix that are classically puerile, The bragging, the pretentiousness (ooh Im so glad mr big won the pull it sir prize) but then very few of your fans (yes im still a fan) have seen the dna prototypes…Haute cusine vs SPRAY ON CHEESE. Or the generations of silly oscar wilde wannabes that homosexuality seems to induce in every cockhound with 2 wits to rub together.

  • The 5th peacock
    May 3rd, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Glad to see that you enjoy Paris.
    I enjoyed your concert here a few days ago. I didn’t know much about your music or the rest of the band. Your violinist is incredible. We appreciated your humor and your few words in French. Maybe it’s inappropriate but… if only you could join the Jónsi’s tour on some european date(s) to play with him (comme hôte d’honneur bien sûr !), it would be fun.

  • Latest scandal
    May 4th, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    “Christian right leader George Rekers takes vacation with “rent boy”

  • What on earth is Peter John Boyle talking about?

  • Wish the WWT would come to New York or Connecticut or something, you know, not a flight away…

  • I have been a fan of Nicos humor and satire since he was seven. But I am repulsed by the irksome sycophancy alternated with super erudite symphonic length responses by people who think are his peers or whom he thinks are his peers
    which is mere ego of the sort that made opera originally wealth set to music and the first alt rock PUNKish I still hate the ramones but the sex pistols were brilliant.This merging of bad singing and thundering orchestration powered by the snottiest twenty something peer group ever, contrapuntally droning against the snootiest classical music vampires and their need for wunderkind blood…is not the story of
    which brought nico the pickle back into my sphere of awareness.after ten years. And the more commentary that accrues
    after these ever increasing self indulgent and puerile attempts at satire
    like ARENT GAY PEOPLE JUST BETTER COMPOSERS, makes me as sick as listening to his mother play the trumpet. I wont read this page anymore.

  • But someone is very unhappy and cranky and deluded in thinking that the problem exists outside of himself.

  • I love your posts Nico. The blend of music, food, and social interactivity… brilliant!