Amy Beach and Me was in its first art show

Amy Beach and Me in Digital Eclectic exhibit May 8-June 18, 2011

My prototype / work in progress version of my interactive multimedia biography/memoir, Amy Beach and Me, was exhibited as part of the Digital Eclectic art exhibit at the Art Institute of California – Hollywood. The interactive exhibit was reviewed by NoHo News. Click here for the link to that review. Here you  get a glimpse of some of the show and in the background, a bit of my digital painting, Digital Olympia, too.

Research Research

for the past months I have been conducting research for my Amy Beach and Me book. Now I will get back to the process of writing and journaling about the writing. The writing, of course, is also making art, creating animations, making links to other information, recording audio, learning her music, etc.

I am also starting to apply for grants. I must go to the University of New Hampshire, where Beach’s papers are stored, to get my own look at them. I am very excited about the prospect of this. Research always involves reading the interpretations of other people about what Beach said, or wrote, or what was said about her. As my research and writing has uncovered  discrepancies and just plain wrong facts stated in books and reviews about this woman, it has become even more important for me to look at her diaries myself. Also, others who have written about her were writing in earlier times, and not from my 2011 feminist perspective. I look forward to interpreting her words myself.

Mostly I long to write Amy Beach and Me and my literary blog full-time. Some day. . . .

Studio back together – ready to start creating again!

One of the down sides of working with art and technology is that technology has to be tended to a lot, and it is not all that fun. There are days when I just want to create my Amy Beach book, compose music, make some digital art or a new media piece for my literary blog, but I can’t create because I have to tend to technology.

I am always grateful that I can take care of my own technology – that our digital world has evolved to the point that I can create independently in a technological world – but the technology itself is still an inhibiting feature of creativity. And I do have concern that current software and hardware creators are not keeping their eye on the goal of making technology easier over time, not more difficult.

That sometimes feels like the Lost Goal lately.

Let me give an example. I recently purchased a new computer. Way more powerful, lots of great features, but, as with every computer up-grade, there was a great deal of time consuming technical work involved before I could get back to creating. I had to transfer all my software, connect all my hardware peripherals, deal with items that were incompatible with the new system, on an on.

I discovered last week that my sound hardware was not talking to my music/sound software. I wasted a whole precious creative day in an attempt to fix this problem. I was not able to.

Idea for software and hardware developers: when you create software that allows the user to write code, you always put those little windows that allow us to troubleshoot all our lines of code. You highlight the bad code in red, you sometimes even give us suggestions about where we went wrong and what we might try to correct the problem. How about doing the same for users of hardware and software?

My sound problem was not a really complex one (tech problems seldom are!) I had set up my audio capture interface device to be recognized by my hardware and software, but I had forgotten to make the actual software connections to it. Imagine if the software developer had simply written a check into the set-up process that gave me a specific error message: “Terry, you forgot to set-up your VST connections” (I like the idea of personalizing those error messages, too, for it softens the blow to our ego that we made a mistake in the first place!) and then gave me step by step instructions on how to do make the connections, or told me what page in the manual to look at?

But, no. There I was alone in my studio the first week-end, in a pretty bad mood, aimlessly wandering through my system wondering why there was no sound. Reading manuals, checking cables, plugging things in and out in different orders, changing system settings. Ayeeeeee. And growing more and more frustrated – both that I could not get the hardware to work and that I was wasting precious creation hours.

The following week, I broke out the manual again, and figured out my problem in less than an hour. But, still, it was an hour that I could have been creating – if only that little error message and corrective advice had been built in.

Lessons I learned:

1. Don’t attempt to troubleshoot if you have just lost a loved one, suffered a heartbreak, or experienced some great disappointment. I was in one of those states last week, and found that I went in circles for a wasted 6 hours one day, never solving my problem. Yesterday morning, a week later, in a much better frame of mine, I figured it out in less than an hour.

2. Take some time between tech work and creative work. When I am in the studio, I can sometimes actually feel the tug in my brain as I shift from one side of it, used to set up my hardware and software, mics, etc., and move to the creative side of it to write, animate, sing, play my guitar, compose, etc. I now force myself to put some space-time in-between those two acts.

3. If hardware and software developers consulted more often with creators and designers, technology could be made more user friendly and we could evolve a world where creators could devote more of their time to creating and less to technology. That was the dream of early adopter designers when Steve Jobs burst on the scene with his easy to use Apple Mac. “User Friendly” was the motto, and his theme was all about computers for everyone. That was the point of his user interface, too, take it away from the geeks, make it an Everyman (and Woman, please) Machine.

I do have concern that some of those ideals are being lost of late. Jobs keeps talking to the geeks, and about how they are so special (e.g. iPhone app developers). He has made derogatory remarks about people who are not smart enough to develop (read: “program/code in C++) and how his app world is not for them anyway. Well, I for one hope he and his staff come back to their senses and remember that the Dream was computing for everyone. Adobe’s Flash was an example of this new battle between computing for everyone and for only the programming elite.

My Amy Beach book is filled with Flash. Flash is a great tool for a designer to create interactive content with a minimum of programming learning headaches. But Apple has banned Flash from the iPhone and iPad, making it necessary for designers to learn more sophisticated programming languages, or hire professional programmers, if they want to make animated and interactive content apps. And using the WEB coding tools available outside of Flash (read:html 5), the designer is quite limited. I won’t go into great detail about this. If you would like to know more, visit posts on my literary blog, where I tend to talk about this technology issue often.

Well, at least I have it all working again now. I can get back to the work of creating. And I will just make myself think of the technology time as my mixing paint before painting in oils time, and my cleaning brushes after painting in oils time (even though these were chores I happily relinquished for more actual painting – read: “creative time” – when I moved from painting in oils to digital painting years ago!)

Amy Beach and Me continues . . .


I just had to write that. The day today. We will have a 1-11-11 and a 11-1-11 and a 11-11-11 This year. Then that will be it. Too fun.

I have been away from Amy Beach and Me for some time, but I am back. Spent this last year doing more research, and getting my literary blog going. Now I will be back to writing in this blog and sharing the process of writing a new media / electronic / multimedia biography and memoir.

I am also going to be applying for writing residencies in order to have a long stretch of time to get more of it written, more art created for it, and more music recorded and composed. Keep reading »

How my teaching philosophy is influenced by writing on the bleeding edge – and Amy Beach, Part 2

As a teacher of new media my goals are to mentor my students to find their voices, be original and acquire the skills they need to communicate effectively. I challenge my students to go where no man (or woman) has been before rather than play it safe or repeat what has already been done or said. There is power (and a thrill) in creating new genres, in working with the very latest tools of communication and creativity, in crossing disciplines (I think it no coincidence that interactive multimedia was born at the same time the world began to wake up to the dangers of over-specialization). The tools of today are their tools, not the tools of a past generation. Those tools will help them speak with their modern day voices. Those tools will enable them to speak in such a myriad of manners, offering them the potential to say so much more. I do not believe that new media students must be young: anyone who is alive today is living in the modern world of new media and capable of incorporating it; some of the most curious and innovative students I have worked with were well beyond youth – the important thing was that they had stories to tell and courage. The man who inspired me to move into this field in its nascent days (when I was a filmmaker in my late twenties) was Harry Lieberman; at one hundred and four years of age Harry convinced me never to stop taking life risks when he told me that his life did not begin until he took up painting at the age of eighty!

At the root of all my new media creating and new media teaching are a few old-fashioned truisms: It is the story. And story is story no matter what the creation medium. Story comes from having lived and reflected. And it is about skill. Nothing of importance in literature or art or music will come without practice and skill building. The computer does not make a great writer, it does not make a great painter, it does not make a great composer or musician, it does not produce a new media piece – the Artist does the creating, and the more instruction and practice, and, yes, theoretical knowledge, a new media artist has, the greater her ability to create something of meaning and value.

Someone commented to me: “Why, to be a new media author, one would have to know something of writing, and art-making, and sound, and music, and video, and programming, and animation and more!” I said, “Yes.”

Let’s get started.

How my teaching philosophy is influenced by writing on the bleeding edge – and Amy Beach, Part 1

As a new media author and digital painter, I have always worked on the bleeding edge. Not the cutting edge. The cutting edge is a respected forefront position, while the bleeding edge is the space beyond the forefront – the risky space that challenges the status quo and invariably attracts pushback. Working on the bleeding edge takes a thicker skin and an ability to tune out the din of protest while staying focused on the process and goal at hand.

“I need to hold a book.” “That’s not art.” “A computer made that?” “Where is the original?” “How are you going to monetize something that can be so easily replicated?” “Call me old-fashioned . . .” “I hate computers . . . the WEB . . . technology.” “Maybe you could take it to a science museum, we just deal with ‘real’ art.” “That’s not literature, where is the writing?” Keep reading »

What Virginia Woolf is teaching me about Amy Beach

I have heard from a few sources that the best writing is a process of discovery for the author. As opposed to a laying out of the facts known already by that author. I have also discovered this to be true in my writing of Amy Beach and Me.

I  began with a vague plan, some questions I wanted answered and an outline. But as I wrote, thought and continued to research, my story took on new directions and new dimensions. That to me is the most exciting aspect of writing: the process of discovery, the little lightbulb moments of inspiration that drive me forward in glee and excitement about what I am uncovering, bringing to light, and expressing.

It is interesting to me that other creative people talk about this same process of discovery. Was it Michelangelo who stated that he did not create the figure from the stone, but that he was discovering it and bringing it to light, into physical existence as he chipped away at the stone? Film editor Walter Murch (Conversation, Apocolypse Now, Incredible Lightness of Being, English Patient) says something similar in his book Blink. Or was this in the Conversations with Murch by Michael Ondatje? Anyway, he talks about how the process of editing is not simply cutting one scene or shot together with the next, but a process of discovering Keep reading »

Writing on the Bleeding Edge

Home Page Amy Beach and Me

Home Page Amy Beach and Me

As a digital painter (since 1988!), I am not new to creative controversy. For years no gallery or juried show would accept a work of art from me when they learned it was “made in a computer.” That is changing, certainly, but there are still vestiges of prejudice, fear, controversy surrounding digital art. (btw, while it is indeed made in a computer, I am doing the making, and it is my skill as an artist that creates, not the computer). Digital Art/Painting acceptance is a subject I discuss in various places on my personal web site,, so I won’t go into great detail about it here. But the impetus behind a blog to coincide with my new media bio and memoir, Amy Beach and Me, which I have just launched online is that same controversy: the pushback to “new” in the world of the arts.The positive reception from close literary friends and those at Antioch University, where this book began as my MFA thesis, has been passionate; the pushback has also been passionate!

What about the future of “real” books???? The soft leather bound form I can cuddle up with in front of a fire? “Call me old-fashioned” – they often preface their remarks with.

I’m okay with all this. It is exciting. Hey! I am standing on some remarkable bleeding edge shoulders here. When Beethoven changed the form of music, created a new form, someone remarked that his 7th Symphony could be his passport to an insane asylum. Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, Keep reading »

Amy Beach and Me Blog Launches Today!

Hi! I am the author of a new media, web-based book, Amy Beach and Me, which is a biography of the first noted woman composer of the United States and a memoir. I began this book as my thesis in an MFA program at Antioch University. I have graduated now, so can devote even more time to its creation! You might call this book a “live” book in that I am going to be adding to it, growing it, over time online. The first 100 virtual pages are already published at The pages are filled with story, animations, images, links and music! I am building this blog to accompany the book in that I will journal about the process of writing this pioneering effort at new genre creation, and I hope to have a dialogue here with my reading audience! Please check out the book, and visit the blog as you do. Welcome!