Getting Settled

I am finally getting settled after more than a month in Oslo. My apartment is just a short walk to NOTAM, the electronic music studio where most of my work and research is taking place. I have figured out the public transportation system, and I finally know where to buy the best coffee beans. The time is literally flying by, as the city loses over five minutes of sunlight a day.

It always amazes me how these artist residencies work out. The American-Scandinavian Foundation is funding me to work on a project for a few uninterrupted months. Sounds great, right? Well it is, but to get here, there was quite a bit of legwork involved. First, there was the application. With over twenty pages of material, it seemed odd to require ten copies! No box seemed big enough after adding scores, recordings, letters of recommendations and other supporting materials. I still have nightmares about the Fulbright application, a similarly involved process, that first got me to Europe. After mailing the behemoth package out, there is almost always a long wait.

I usually try to cast my net far and wide, hoping my odds of success will improve with each subsequent application. This inevitably results in overlapping residency proposals, but it seems better to choose from two conflicting opportunities than to have none at all.

In the meantime, you have to continue on with your life. Some combination of teaching, performing, composing, and traveling usually helps with the anxiety. After my fair share of unsuccessful applications, I have also learned to curb any expectations. One day, many months later, a letter arrives in the mail. I gauge its thickness; assumptions are made, until I finally get the courage to open it.

Wow, I got it! Now what? After a few phone calls and a celebratory beverage, it all hits me; this is really happening. I head to the store to pick up a guidebook and start to realize how little I know about this place. Oslo is consistently rated the most expensive city in the world, and I immediately find out why. The search for housing takes months. Everything I find is either too small (one place was advertised as eight square meters!), too far outside the city or way too pricy. In the end, a friend of a friend comes through for me.

After packing my three saxophones, warm cloths, recording equipment and anything else I could cram in two twenty kilogram suitcases, I was ready to go. I will never tire of the excitement gained from stepping off an airplane in a new country. Ten months after sending in the clunky application, I am finally here. Since my arrival, I have been collaborating with sensor guru Hans Wilmer at NOTAM. Our work on the integration of sensor technology with the saxophone has given me a much-needed artistic boost. This very special collaboration would not have been possible without support from organizations like the American-Scandinavian Foundation. There have been obstacles along the way, but believe me when I say it is all time and energy well spent.

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