Michael D'Agostino

Drummer, vocalist and Songwriter

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We need the healing power of music more then ever

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It’s a different time we are in now. We’ve been programmed to view things through a filter to the past. As it pertains to music. The ways of the past have modulated and always do. Ego driven music is being transformed.  That doesn’t mean we’ll see it’s total disintegration in music anytime soon.  I can only imagine what music would be like corresponding to leaps in human evolution.  Music would be the mirror.   Past peak moments jump to future ones. Can point our compass there. A little bit…  And so very much can be learned from the past.  And needs to be.  Guidance from a deeper source avails oneself to a treasure trove of new creative possibilities.  If one can only get past oneself and connect with something more. Guidance from the unknowable,  unnameable. Someone once said, I can ‘t remember who, that the 26 letters in the alphabet combined in ending possibilities can do little justice to what is really out there beyond our human limits. It’s hilarious to think we have it all figured out! This is no new concept.  Reading this cannot make needed changes. Inspiration from words can point us in a direction that if one remains alert and conscious one can on marvel when many new facets reveal themselves.  Unveiling so much.

What If

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If we could piece the veil of time and then the hearts of those long gone who dreamed to create and play with music and dance and art and clay. A dedicate of our time and creativity to those forgotten spirits. Imagine if a connection could be made and music could heal that part of them  That they may soar on wings of grace.  

What of the girl from the middle ages, the renaissance or some other far distant time.  From eager means, her family worked the earth.  One special day her father took her to town, a summer solstice celebration was taking place.  She heard live music for the first time and her spirit soared as the sonority enveloped her soul.  She saw heart moving artwork and painters making new ones,  dancers in flight next to poetry readings.  Hands shaping spinning clay.  It was all new to her.  She wanted to create like this but was born in the wrong time with no means to pursue except to dream. And she dreamt of that day for years to come.  And those dreams are finally returning to lift her soul.  What if…

A call to all artists

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The recent developments between my country the U.S. and North Korea are very upsetting to me.  We are so connected, yet we hardly know it.  The earth is feeling the weight of years of human activity.  If I could dream a minute, imaginging drummers inside of North Korea.  Artists, musicians of all kinds, the dancers and poets that have a vision of peace and connection.  Even if they don’t know it yet, they might have the seeds in them of wanting to play and express though an instrument.  They can’t be heard right now.  In so many oppressed countries, maybe the fortunate ones can express through writing and playing music. I would ask them to keep doing the work of creating as the vibrations although invisible, are being released into the atmosphere where they travel, piercing hidden dimensions.

Imagine being able to connect and play with these people. They are Human Beings,  just like us.  Like all of us. The drums, singing, and the piano has shown me so much more then just the music itself.  Alive now in its power to move spirits, not concepts of what happened in the past or what may happen in the future. Talk of war and bombs and the effect on our earth, it’s people and the beautiful animals and and fauna.  It is so difficult to comprehend.  I pray this doesn’t manifest. 

My drumming, singing at the piano are prayers now, more then ever,  I ask God’s power to come through me like never before. To use me like an instrument of the spiritual dimension.  I wish this for all you creatives out there. As our consciousness is raised,  it’s power increases.  Not power to harm,  but power to heal,  connect, inspire and bridge the unspoken rifts that exist.  Man’s issues began so long ago but a change is in the air, even in the midst of some of the worst turmoil.  So this is a call for all artists in all countries to dance, sing and play and let this energy out into the world. It starts on the inside, formless into form.  So much incredible collaborations are in the potential state right now.  Many have manifested, fusing musicians from across the globe to connect and express through this not verbal medium that is needed now more then ever. Keep creating even if it means without thought of personal gain of any kind. It awakens a powerful inner dimension.  Then the music and the all the arts can penetrate the outer.  Giving birth to a new dream of artistic connection with it’s intrinsic power to lift spirits.

About Music

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The instrument you are playing,  like a car, is meant to take you to a destination.  If you are traveling to Maine,  the car isn’t Maine,  it is a way of getting you there. The instrument we play isn’t the music, it’s what a musician uses to take the  journey through the performance of any type of music. A musical score is not the music either. It’s when we  interpret and give feeling and emotion to the music the composer wrote,  while playing an instrument,  that music is created.. A map of Maine may look great, reading books and studying about Maine may gain you information. Yet the experience of any destination happens when we are there, in the present moment. Same with music. It happens in the moment. Not in some distance point in time. One may be able to speak most eloquently about  music or a place to visit.   Words can’t substitute for the real thing.   Being invisible to our eyes also makes it way cool.

On Listening

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This morning as I sat outside,  quieting my mind from the parade of thoughts.  My attention was on listening to the natural soundfield that was present.  Not adding anything but just hearing.  Sounds emerged 360 degrees around me.  I was hearing the front field,  which ones were more left, right and then above and behind.  When the stream of thoughts subsided, I was left just “hearing”.  It was clear how much this can help in ones playing.  Listening more to the musicians as the running commentary fades.  Merging with the sound and getting inside it all.  Seems easy but for me a daily challenge that I’ll keep working on.  Just being aware of it.  Getting off the buss of guilt, comparisions, judgements,  criticisms and the whole lot.  It’s what meditation points to and each have to find for oneself.  Inner peace and calm that effects the outer in positive ways.  Inner space creates space in ones playing.

Thoughts on developing one’s musicality and A letter by Albert Einstein to his son about music.

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When you love what you are doing in the moment, clock time often dissolves.  Albert Einstein was able to distill so many areas of life to their essential core.  In his eloquent letter to his son, he hit’s it right on the mark.  I always loved that he had a great sense of humor and his humanity shined.  His observation about playing what you love as opposed to what someone may want you to play is key to developing owns on individuality.  I believe if one can couple working on what you love and if that love can find it’s way into all sorts of studies to develop your musicality, your abilities on your craft will increase exponentially. Whether a combination of technique building exercises, improvisational studies or learning all sorts of music in different genres etc.  I’ll cover in more detail key areas to work on as the list is extensive and beyond the scope of this short blog.

Technique as an end conveys nothing, a monkey in repetition.  Technique combined with the appropriate emotion creating the right feel is everything.  You’ll be playing much more than notes, this is were the magic resides. And you’ll be able to do it with ease.  There are no short cuts.  Some find it easier, others have to dig deeper for it.  There is a natural power when it is right. No undo effort.  Balanced.  Over years of this type of “work with love” can lead to mastery of ones instrument. What you play and how you play evolving like the outward growth of a seashell.  Nautilusshell

The many paths of working on one’s playing can be done in a creative way.  Leaving behind the old model of playing scales or rudiments, incessantly non-stop.  A dichotomy arises, because there is value in playing and holding steady a technical exercise. As a drummer, holding a groove is paramount and a student can gain much by playing a specific exercise along with a metronome. I am suggesting bringing an improvisational exploratory layer to any specific study, once one is capable of playing it well. Endless possibilities of morphing and developing arise.  Spontaneous composition.  But one has to find it for oneself.  Even with the aid of a good teacher. That is the key to so much in life. The map points but the experience is the experience that can never be quite understood mentally. Many great songs the seeds of which emerged not my saying ” I am going to write a song or some other composition now” but by free association, by impromptu improvisation on some idea that lead to a musical gem worthy of further development.

                     

 

My dear Albert,

Yesterday I received your dear letter and was very happy with it. I was already afraid you wouldn’t write to me at all any more. You told me when I was in Zurich, that it is awkward for you when I come to Zurich. Therefore I think it is better if we get together in a different place, where nobody will interfere with our comfort. I will in any case urge that each year we spend a whole month together, so that you see that you have a father who is fond of you and who loves you. You can also learn many good and beautiful things from me, something another cannot as easily offer you. What I have achieved through such a lot of strenuous work shall not only be there for strangers but especially for my own boys. These days I have completed one of the most beautiful works of my life, when you are bigger, I will tell you about it.

I am very pleased that you find joy with the piano. This and carpentry are in my opinion for your age the best pursuits, better even than school. Because those are things which fit a young person such as you very well. Mainly play the things on the piano which please you, even if the teacher does not assign those. That is the way to learn the most, that when you are doing something with such enjoyment that you don’t notice that the time passes. I am sometimes so wrapped up in my work that I forget about the noon meal. . . .

Be with Tete kissed by your

Papa.

Regards to Mama.

 

Manny’s Music Store/NYC Life in the 1980’s

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 I worked at Manny’s Music store, 156 WeManny's Music Store Frontst 48th St, in New York City in the early 1980’s. It was a different world in music retail then today. It was a college of life for me. Having just finished a year at SUNY Fredonia and a year at the Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam as a Percussion Major and many years working on a farm in between school  before that. At Manny’s, not only did I learn a wealth of information about drums and the recording studio, I was learning social skills, dealing with so many people in the busiest music store in the world at the time. Become immersed in NYC life, my band at the time “The Kind” shared a loft in the West Village. I was playing all the time and retail wasn’t something I wanted to do. Turns out in retrospect just how important it all was for my path. I am very grateful for this experience and how it was a perfect handoff from college for me. All the new technology that I was learning would become an integral part of my work. Drums, MIDI, synthesizer programming, keyboards plus inner workings of a recording studio. All the extra money I made I invested in equipment as the first of many incarnations of my recording studio, Intuitive Music, came about. Getting to meet some of the worlds premier musicians, Stewart Copeland, Buddy Rich, Max Roach, Shelly Manne, Peter Erskine, Brian Eno, Simon Philips, Lionel Hampton amongst many others, was sometimes bittersweet but I have fond memories of those years.

Hired by Danny Burgauer because of my mallet experience, owning a Musser 4 octave rosewood marimba, and studying with Leigh Howard Stevens paid off that day I wallked into Manny’s. I sold that marimba to by a Yamaha recording custom kit, one of the first kits in the US. Before Yamaha released this line in the US, drummers went to Japan to buy kits. I waited about 8 months for mine. got it at cost, a great perc from working at the store. Manny’s owner’s, Henry and Judy Goldrich let me take the drumset and pay something towards it each week. In retrospect,  what a rare thing that was. Many items purchased  this way are still use to this day. The whole store had this historical vibe. One could feel the deep legacy walking intoManny’s. The handoff of Jazz to Rock could be seen from all the cats coming in and the walls were lined with proof. The place had deep history. Hendrix, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the top touring bands would always send roadies in when coming through town to buy gear and working with some of them garnered many backstage passes to great shows. The Who at Shea, with the Clash opening was the pinnacle. I worked on Bill Bruford’s kit when he was playing duo at the Bottom Line with Patrick Moraz. Bill was a hero of mine as a kid. My shyness, got in the way of meeting him, even when I saw him again with his own band, I wished I met him and told him what an influence he was, I loved his work with Yes and Genesis, UK, and I really dug his solo work when I was in college. I remember meeting Brian Eno at the store and asking him if he’d listen to my band. He was real cool and said to drop it off in his mailbox at EG Records which was up the block. Never heard from him after I dropped it off, also I don’t recall a good follow up either. Young and unadvised.   I was at the store during the heyday of electronic drums and was the go to cat for Simmon’s drums. I was selling many kits a week at over $3500 a pop. Not good when commission was not a factor! Manny’s had the exclusive on Simmons so calls where coming in from all over the country. Simmons gave me a special card allowing me to  pull a drum module out and plug it in while re-programming the default sound which could only be accessed by powering the card outside of the brain. Soon after I was selling my custom drum sounds and programming them into clients Simmons kits. But those early electronic kits where brutal on your hands. They had all the feel of a formica tabletop. Many drummers complained of carpel tunnel like symptoms while playing em. The second generation although rubber still was brutal on your hands and wrists. Terry Bozzio was doing great electronic drumming work at the time with Missing Persons, he was using alot was all custom made gear. It wasn’t till I played the early Roland V Drums that the “feel” made a leap in the right direction.

I worked with Herbie Hancock when he was preparing his “Rockit Tour” at SIR Studios in NYC. I’d go there to   program a Simmons SDS7 analog/digital hybrid drum brain, to sound as close as possible to the Fairlight sounds that were used on the record. I also programmed drum sounds for Third World, Kiss, Yoko Ono, and drummers Ronald Shannon Jackson and Kenwood Dennard.

Before the big move into NYC with the band, The Kind, I lived in Bohemia Long Island New York. I was working in a plant nursery that was next to my family’s home. Had a car, summer’s at the beach. Played in a club date band, original rock group, pit orchestra in HS doing “West Side Story”, a jazz trio and one summer was a percussionist in Long Island ‘s “Opera on the Sound” company performing Tosca and La Boheme. A colleague percussionist Michael Parola got me the gig. This experience taught me that I did not want to go into the legit field. Even though I studied classical percussion, played in orchestras in high school and college, the lure of drumming in an original rock group was were I was at. Shortly after I knew I wanted my own studio.

Everything changed in the fall of 1980. Instead of returning to start my sophmore year at SUNY Potsdam, I moved into NYC and started a new life. I landed the gig at Manny’s my first day looking for a job. I went to Ponte’s music and Manny’s that day on a recommendation of my former drum teacher on Long Island, Jack “Red” Snyder. So now I’m living/rehearsing in a loft with my band on Sixth Ave and 8th street, right in the thick of it in Greenwich Village, NYC. A year before I moved to NYC, I went to see Peter Gabriel at the Dr. Pepper Concert series when they were still at Wolman Rink in Central Park. An amazing show in support of his third release, I remember that balmy summer eve, saying I could never live in the city. The next year I did just that. Manahattan grew on me and I miss a lot ot the vibe, the energy. I am grateful for the experience of living there. It’s a different place now, it has changed. Obviously 9/11’s impact was huge, but the recession’s effect, artists moving out to Hoboken and Brooklyn, all contributed to a different city. I have so many found memories of NYC when I lived . I traded my subway straphanger days for a being closer to nature.  Now I live with black bears roaming behind my home, only 35 miles from Manhattan. If I climb up the trail in back to the top of the ridge I can see the skyline of Manhattan in clear weather. The sun shining off the Chrysler and Empire State buildings during daytime. At night in winter when all the leaves fallen, the skyline sparkles in the distance on a cool crisp night. The empire state’s varying colors during the holidays bring back distant memories. With binoculars I can see the flashes of cameras on the observatory deck. I missed the natural world during my NYC stay, but took advantage of the Parks. Great memories riding laps around Central park on my road bike. Riding from my first Apt on Ave A in the East Village, up over the GWB and into Alpine NJ.

So I’m working at the store, Buddy Rich walks in one day to the electronic drum room where I was playing/programming the new Simmons SDS7 analog/digital kit, it’s just me and Buddy in the room so I ask him if he’d like to try it. Buddy’s response “ Kid, do you want to play the drums or push buttons” and then he left………ouchywahwah…..but he had a point. My friend and co-worker Steve Arnold was good friends with Buddy, they’d hang whenever he was in town and he even let Steve sit in with his band. My time in the drum dept was ending as the next room over was were all the cool drum machines and synthesizer’s were. I was really drawn to all of it. I switched departments, with a a little help from Synth Guru Rick Stevenson putting in a good word for me. I learned boatloads. This was before commissions. We were paid a salary so it wasn’t a feeding frenzy whenever anyone walked into the store. Many a day I’d walk into work with a cup of coffee, go to the synth room, open some manuals and dig in and learn the gear. I learned a wealth of information back then. The personal computer was just coming on the scene and the Apple IIe had Passport’s 4 track midi sequencer, The commoador 64 had Dr. T’s Music Software. I was giving private lessons on this new midi recording software. I made some big purchases that year, I bought a custom Simmons SDS7 kit, a Voyetra 8 synth, a Juno 60, a Oberheim DX., Roland MC500 sequencer, Lexicon PCM 70 and Ibanez SDR1000. My studio was morphing all the time. Soon I sold my 4 track cassette Tascam 244 Portastudio sold it to buy a Tascam 38-8 track reel to reel and a 16 channel tascam mixing board. I had a Roland MC500 synched up with a JLCooper sync box on track eight of the Tascam reel to reel. I was working in a band signed to a development deal with Polygram records. I left music retail after working one more year across the street from Manny’s, at Sam Ash. The Apple computer was just coming out and I bought a Mac Plus with 4 megs of Ram , a 20 meg hard drive, Vision software and Studio 3 interface. An Akai S900 Sampler soon followed. My studio was about to take a major turn in capability. A few years later I would upgrade again to 2 Tascam DA88’s digital recorders, Apple Quardra 840 AV, w/A Digidesign AudioMedia Card, Studio Vision midi sequencer/4 track audio HD recorder and Sound Designer 2 track editing Software. I was using StudioVision as my sequence/audio recorder at the time. I cut my teeth on this setup for many years.   I have had 8 Mac’s for music production/recording. MacPlus, Mac IIsi, Centris 660AV, Quadra 840AV, Apple dual core G4, Apple dual core G5, MacBook Pro, MacPro 8 core.

If it wasn’t for landing that gig at Manny’s Music Store, I don ‘t think I’d have a studio today. I now think of it as a huge blessing as so much knowledge about music and life came from it. If I could purchase one thing again it would be a new Rosewood Marimba. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manny%27s_Musichttp://mannysmusic.ning.com/

Jimi Hendrix Birthday Live Simulcast on WKCR

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In 2005 I was invited to drum alongside a great cast of musicians  for the first Jimi Jazz Birthday tribute, a live simulcast.

It was filmed on his birthday, Nov. 27, 2005 @ the WKCR-FM New York studio organized by producer/engineer Charles Blass. These musicians joined the jam:
Spaceman Patterson, Vernon Reid, Paul Caruso, Ronnie Drayton, Andre Lasalle, Kim Clarke, Bryon Hankins, Michael D’Agostino, Aaron Whitby, Daniel Moreno and Rufus Cappadocia, Tomchess. It is filmed with available light/ camera verite. Deep thanks to Charles Blass.
This show will air in November, 2014, celebrating Jimi.     Clips can be seen at:   http://michaeldagostino.com/video/

ON TV IN NYC: TIME WARNER, CABLEVISION, RCN & VERIZON FIOS

LINK: www.BRICartsmedia.org, (Community Media, Brooklyn Public Network, channel 1); on BPN1 Cable in Brooklyn, on Verizon Fios in all of NYC

CACE INT’L TV, a 30 minute show, airs online weekly on Wednesday @ www.BRICartsmedia.org (MEDIA / Brooklyn Public Network, channel 1) , on BPN 1 Cable in Brooklyn,NY, on Verizon Fios in all of NYC @ 1:30 pm & 9:30 pm (New York time). As cultural historians, CACE INT’L TV showcases the art , music and culture of our international creative artists, continuing to bring the best to our international audience.

Drumming for the music

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Veteran drum master Dennis Chambers speaks eloquently on the drummers role in playing music.  All too often technique is masked for music. Technique is a means to an end,  helping one articulate musical ideas that are musically relevant to the music being played.  This video is a music see for all young drummers.

 

Pangea and Evening Raga, by Michael D’Agostino and David Ellenbogen

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Musician and friend David Ellenbogen visited my studio for a series of improvisations that ultimately became distinct pieces.  Pangea was a special one.  Dave recorded a kalimba part in 7, while  I recorded a large frame drum part.  We both then took turns overdubbing, first guitar through a variety of effects and many percussion tracks.  One evening I recorded Bob Magnusion on sax while I played traditional drumkit.  Mark Egan added the final touch on fretless.

 

md drums singsDave Ellenbogen