Getting to know… Ben!

Hi, this is Ben with yet another segment of ‘better know a beta’. I have had a
headache from trying to come up with a blerb about myself, so I decided to use ‘s random get to know you questions, and thought I’d roll a
die and select 6-10 quick questions that I could answer
about myself.

Think of this as one of those terrible facebook ‘fill in and forward to a friend’ forms
gone even more-terribly wrong. To make this more confusing I’m going to pretend
I’m actually being interviewed by the website, affectionately
nicknamed ‘G’ for the following.

G: What TV show do you wish was still on the air?
B: ( that’s me, stands for Ben) I wish that the twilight zone was still on the air, and
that Rod Sterling has secretly been a vampire since 1964, or something that keeps
him still around, and he could pick up, right now, where the series left off. I am also
very fond of MST3K.

G: What is love?
B: sheesh you don’t waste any time do you ‘G’. Well, love is made of dying stars, just
like everything else.

G: What is your favorite song from a Disney Movie?
B: ‘A Dream is a Wish your Heart Makes’ from Cinderella. Next question…

G: What is your favorite condiment?
B: Vigilance

G: Do you subscribe to any forms of alternative medicine?
B: What was that wink for? No I don’t do that stuff, alternative medicine just means
that it’s fake… usually.
I do believe in taking alternative approaches to some health issues/maladies. For
example, I always eat spoonfuls of honey, long before reaching for cough drops
when I catch a cold (for a sore throat and the like).

G: What is your favorite thing about winter?
B: Beta Test’s upcoming performances at Philadelphia’s Christmas Village in LOVE
park on December 1st 2012
2 sets, at 3PM and 5PM, Be There or REGRET EVERYTHING!!!

G: Is there any job you would want to work for 50 years?
B: I think when you follow your passion, work doesn’t get that ‘4 letter word’
connotation that some people tend to associate with it. Your work turns into
something that energizes you, keeps you healthy, and helps you thrive. I wake up
every day and ask ‘what do I need to do today, so that I can play and write music for
the rest of my life?’

Most of the time, I am working a ‘day gig’ or non-musical job to support these
efforts, but the opportunity to play, even just for a little bit, can keep the fire in the
furnace burning bright.

Music always tended to be the underlining focus in most of what I enjoy. I
remember watching Total Recall (the good one) when I was fairly young, and how
Jerry Goldsmith’s score revealed to me the duality of Douglas Quaid’s world. I
remember how exciting Gladiator’s soundtrack sounded… not so much anymore,
but the first time it was pure awesome. The story and acting did a little bit, the CGI
and fighting did a little more, but the soundtrack really told the emotion of what
these people, places, and things were. I always think about how music makes the
difference, and that is something I am looking forward to when playing with Beta
Test. To breathe life into works never heard before, or never heard played by
humans before, is always an amazing opportunity.

Upcoming Events

We updated the events calendar, but forgot to put a note here in the news section about our upcoming events! Please accept our sincerest apologies.

Next week we’ll be performing at a benefit concert for group called Playing for Change. Their mission is to expand youth arts education programs, which is pretty cool. The event proper starts at 1, but some of us will be hanging out playing beforehand to attract passer-bys to take in the show.

In October, we’ll be hosting a few excellent musicians at the Dalet Art Gallery. Our own Mark Zelesky will be performing some solo works for toy piano and saxophone, and Alexis Del Palazzo will be playing pieces for solo flute. They should also be teaming up for some duets during the night.

See you around!

Getting to know…. Doug

Hey everyone. Doug here. I’ve been pushing the group to put together some personal introductions for the blog, so I figured I needed to make one myself.

Besides being an arranger, composer, and trombonist for the group (and sometimes Beta Test Dad), I am also an educator and radio host on WRSU (a college station at Rutgers, who have yet to kick this alumnus out).

I also really like science fiction. The genre allows me to explore the impossible as potentially possible. My brain is delighted when it come in contact with the unknown. Not only would today’s world appear to be science fiction to a person in the 1950’s, but the science fiction of the 1950’s looks like our present reality. Today you can regularly find bizarre mixtures of fact and fiction, such as  Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeting the Mars Curiosity Rover.

Recently people have been considering  the genre as no longer a space for “Big Ideas” (a great read that links to a few other great reads). Looking at it objectively, my Eureka and Warehouse 13 binges are nothing but fun escapism. I might slash your tires if you spoil the new season of Doctor Who for me in the coming weeks. Those shows, however, aren’t what immediately comes to mind when I think about why I’m drawn to science fiction: Philip K Dick, HG Wells, Ray Bradbury. These truly let me look at the world in a different way, and they create ideas that had previously never existed.

It’s also what has drawn me to contemporary music. I get a kick out of hearing something that reaches out into unexplored musical territories. It’s a lot of fun to hear a piece of music that has never been heard before. (You’re the audience that gets to collectively write ‘first’ in the comment thread).

One of my ideas for Beta Test has been to incorporate some new music into our set lists. There’s a certain impression in culture that contemporary classical music is really stuffy and hard to listen to. There is some truth in this, but new works today cover a much wider spectrum than that. Living composers create music that sounds like this, and this, …and this. Of course, you can also show up to a premiere of a work that uses mathematical formulas approached in graduate level work (that might sound like this and even that music is math-geeky).

What’s more, some of my favorite new films and games are full of all sorts of contemporary music. Heath Ledger may have made the Joker, but James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer let you peer into his mind. Dead Space 2 has some creepy outside the box music.

In my mind, contemporary music and my geeky interests aren’t all that different. Both spark a sense of wonder in me towards the future and give me a better appreciation for the present.

(they’ll be more of these from other members as we head into the Fall…)

Live at William Way on bandcamp!

We’re all pretty thrilled to share with you our set from the LocalArtsLive showcase. We put the four tracks on bandcamp just a little while ago, and you can download them at a name your price rate starting as low as free dollars. Of course, any money you pitch in will help us to create some new recordings that we’ll be working on this fall.

The live EP contains our arrangement of the Beetlejuice theme, music from Doctor Who, our Legend of Zelda medley, and Doug’s piece Dimunitive Tetriminos. Its also your first chance to hear any recordings with our new members Ben and Mark!

Take a listen below and let us know what you think on facebook or twitter.

[wp_bandcamp_player type=”album” id=”2812218840″ size=”grande3″ bg_color=”#F8F2F2″ link_color=”#4285BB”]


This Sunday, the Beta Testers congregated to work on music for our upcoming gigs at Philly NerdNite and the LocalArtsLive Showcase. Doug passed his phone to Drummer Rob and asked him to take some photos while we were working on some music from Zelda: A Link to the Past. He mostly took pictures of his drums:


He also took some pictures of actual group members, like Steve:


Ben’s shoulder:


I also snapped this picture of Mark working on Doctor Who:


and Steve’s tuba taking a break.


You can, of course, come see us in person at Philly NerdNite July 11th!

Dimunitive Tetriminos

Doug here. I’ve been playing a lot of the original Tetris lately on my 3DS. The game truly is the king of replayability, and I’ll probably spend a lot of time dropping tetriminos until I have a few large blocks of free time to drop into skyrim.

I’m also playing the game with a purpose. A while back Steve suggested that all of the Beta Testers come up with re-imagined versions of the Tetris A Theme (a lot more on the melody itself later on). I’ve been playing the game to try and come up with some inspiration for how to modify the tune. My focus lately has been on how the game forces you to fit objects into spaces that appear to be smaller than the objects. In other words, the game requires you to figure out how to squeeze a T block

 into a two block wide space.

My first non crazy idea was to liken this to the musical process of dimunition, which shortens the lengths of notes in a melody. So I have been messing around with different ways to shorten the melody, which give it some different feels. Take a listen to this short example. The first is the original, and then each following example is inxeasingly diminished.

[mp3j track=”″ autoplay=”n”]

So this is what Tetris would have felt like if it had been created by an Irishman! I’ll have some more updates as I plug away on the music, as well as a history of the original tune.

Current listening to Gotye
Currently playing Tetris (duh)
Currently watching Primeval