Work samples

  • Sandhya's INNOCENT MONSTER 10 songs in 10 minutes
    1 minute excerpts of all songs on INNOCENT MONSTER (2021), in track order. Half are just audio w/placeholder image, the other half are from lyric videos I commissioned. These are all original compositions 100% by me. They are my best 10 songs written between 2007 and 2019. PLEASE NOTE NSFW: There is an expletive word/profane idea at the top of track 3, "Better," i.e. just after the 3:00 mark.

About Sandhya (Sandy)

Baltimore City

A multi-discipline creative force in Baltimore since hte late 90s, Sandy Asirvatham, now known artistically by her full first name, Sandhya, is poised to break nationally with her newest project, INNOCENT MONSTER. This art-rock album contains ten original songs featuring vivid lyrics over deep-pocket grooves, all tied together by Sandhya's charismatic voice and bold choices at the piao. It embodies a throwback 70s-80s-90s FM radio sensibility that perfectly suits what Rolling Stonemore

INNOCENT MONSTER (2021) Full-length studio recording of 10 original songs


It was a brisk, sunny day in early March 2020. I walked out of my producer’s basement studio, and he said, “I think we may have captured a final vocal today!” I responded, “I think you’re right!” We stood there for a moment, grinning at each other. Years of work was finally coming to closure.

The “final vocal” to which we referred was one of the ten original songs on my then in-progress cd, INNOCENT MONSTER, my first studio recording since 2013 and first all-originals project ever. But both of us soon forgot which track we’d meant. The coronavirus shutdown began a few days later and the project—upon which I’d pinned so many long delayed ambitions—went into an indefinite hiatus.


As COVID-19 first-order tragedies and secondary or tertiary impacts go, this one obviously doesn’t rank. Nobody died, nobody suffered, nobody lost their life or livelihood or loved one. Still, I went into six weeks of private mourning. I had so much riding on the completion of this album. Some of the songs were over 10 years old. Others had been written within the past 12 months. They represented the absolute best of the best work I’d ever done, as a self-taught composer, as a pianist and singer, and as a lyricist with a literary bent but an ability and desire to humble herself to solid rock/pop songwriting practices.

After instigating and orchestrating MOBTOWN MOON, a huge Pink Floyd homage project in 2011-2013—with the help of singer-songwriter Ellen Cherry as my co-producer and over 40 local musicians and visual artists—I was anxious to get back to my own material, my 100% original vision. But I was also burnt out. I spent the better part of year unable to even listen to music. For a long while I’d had trouble gathering the time and focus—my son was still making his way through middle and high school—as well as a lack of funding, a need to take on various day jobs, and a certain dearth of emotional support from my husband.

Finding Pete Strobl as my new vocal coach, later my record producer, in 2017 had been a timely miracle. With Pete’s help, I worked my butt off for two solid years on a fresh, athletically wise approach to singing, and finally became the kind of vocalist I’d always suspected I might be. I just hadn’t known what kind of work to do, until Pete showed me. Then my own relentless work ethic kicked in. At the same time, I was inspired to dust off a bunch of old unrecorded songs and write several new ones, and they were all pointing in a new-for-me art or alt rock direction, still driven by a jazz sensibility, but harder, darker, edgier. It was Pete who put together a basic band consisting of a heavy metal drummer, rock guitarists, and a host of other musicians that I entrained into my clarified vision. INNOCENT MONSTER was going to be the most *100% me* project of anything I’d ever accomplished. Everything was finally coming together: my songs, my band, my artistic identity, even my new branding/marketing approach as “Sandhya,” an ancient Sanskrit word meaning the juncture of light and dark, and also my actual first name.

It fit the material so well: rockin’ tunes with lyrics that constantly hinting at or outright demonstrating a dark, cynical, philosophical, and sometimes even depressive view of the world. I’m a pretty joyful, amiable, and fun person, despite being a profound historical and political pessimist with little hope for humanity’s survival. The WTMD deejay Sam Sessa had made note of my musical duality way back in 2007 with my first released record, MEMOIR, but it had taken me more than 12 years to fully  own and embody it. Sandhya, an innocent monster, operating at the juncture of light and dark.

We had recorded the basic rhythm section tracks with me on keyboard in November 2019 at Stages Music Arts studio, and had spent the late fall and early winter doing overdubs with background vocalists, additional rhythm and lead guitarists, a B3 organist, a fiddler player, a percussionist, a French horn player, an accordionist…every sound we wanted, except for the vocals.

I was practicing them all the time, of course. The ten songs had undergone rigorous examination and reconsideration over nearly 3 years. I’d spent up to five hours a week with Pete just singing and singing and singing some more.

Never before had I allowed anyone as much power over and access to my process, but the results spoke for themselves. My range increased, my resonance increased, my confidence started going through the roof. Interestingly, the stronger I got as a vocalist, the clearer I also became as a self-accompanying piano player. No longer was I satisfied with being a good-enough singer who played good-enough piano. I was finally being held to account at the highest standards. (Pete had come out of the big label music industry of Los Angeles in the 70s-80s-90s, so his high bar became my high bar.)

To have this momentum suddenly stopped by the global pandemic was, as I say, nothing in the way of a tragedy. But it did crush me for a little while.


Then, after six weeks of feeling sorry for myself, I had to make things happen. I researched mics and bought an SM7B, an excellent workhorse studio/performance microphone most famously known as the one Quincy Jones made Michael Jackson use on THRILLER. I downloaded the digital audio workstation software called Reaper and began watching video tutorials. I turned myself into my own audio engineer, gathering advice from both Pete and my rhythm guitarist Scott Smith, a wonderful Baltimore-based producer himself, who had engineered the MOBTOWN MOON cd. Every day in July and half of August, I recorded myself singing. I’d spend all day on one song, sing it dozens of times, cut the best parts out of all those different takes to create a “comp” or composite track. Pete would listen to it and give me notes for improvement. At some point, I barely needed Pete anymore: I could hear what I wanted to do better or differently, and then just make the fix or the change myself. My ear got so persnickety I could hear when I was out of tune by mere “cents” flat or sharp. I was singing 8-10 hours every day, breaking only to cook for my family and eat a little something myself, and never struggling with vocal fatigue. I probably sang each song a couple hundred times over those 6-7 weeks. In the end, I was good enough to sing each track in one take with maybe just a few quick overdubbed fixes in a measure here or there.

It is hard to explain what happened next, other than to say this experience was so deeply empowering that it led to my decision to divorce my husband.

In part this was due to longstanding conflicts and a general growing-apart. We were 27 years old when we met and became inseparable. Now at 54, we’d spent half our lives together. But it was time for me to surrender to my most daring and relentless dreams. Living the musician’s life in full, putting creative visions front and center in my life. Our son would soon be off to college. I’d soon have a new record out, despite the pandemic, and it would be the first work of mine that truly hit national or international standards in terms of production quality and overall execution.

I was ready to do what artists have to do to achieve their absolute highest work. Live on my own, as frugally as possible, with only a grand piano as my roommate/best friend.

I’d dreamed of becoming a rock diva as a child, as so many do. Now I am ready to aim straight for it. Even if it takes me until age 60.

The time is now.   
  • MONSTER (original by Sandhya aka Sandy Asirvatham)
    Vocals and Piano— Sandhya Drums— Jean-Paul Gaster Bass— Pete Strobl Guitar— Scott Smith Organ— Andre Mayeux Background Vocals—Sandhya, Piper Greenbaum, Mike Westcott, and Pete Strobl Produced by Pete Strobl, Co-Produced by Sandhya All Music & Lyrics by Sandhya Elizabeth Asirvatham BMI (c) 2020 I built a monster in my basement, and tried to teach him how to talk. But he could never manage more than an unintelligible squawk. I sent him up to the state college to earn his history degree. But what he learned there was so gruesome, back to the basement did he flee. He say “WORDS, they fail me, they fail me, they fail me,” he say “WORDS, they fail me, they fail me, they fail me…ev’ry time.” I put a parrot in my parlor, and waited long for her to speak. But she preferred to perch in silence, quietly burnish her mystique. I wondered if she were a goddess, reincarnated here and now. Does Polly really want a cracker, or does she want me to kowtow?
  • Mark Me by Sandhya from INNOCENT MONSTER 2021 (lyric video)
  • Better by Sandhya
  • Ode To Nick Drake by Sandhya
  • "Last Two Standing," an original by Sandhya (LYRIC VIDEO)
  • LOST CHILD by Sandhya
    LYRICS: Someone please witness this circus. Someone please tell me they see what I see. When will I be granted some purpose. I don't want to live this darkness in vain. I am the Lost Child (thunder closes in) I am the Lost Child and the treetops start to spin (Smile smile smile smile smile, gets me through the day) I have sensed the wrongness forever. I was just a baby but I knew what was what. Your excuses don't strike me as clever. Laughter in the hall, then shutters go shut. I am the Lost Child (thunder closes in) I am the Lost Child and the treetops start to spin Where is my mother Where is my father Where is my sister is my brother Where is the water Where is the air Where is my mother is the water Where is my hairbrush Who can I hold Where is the air and where is water Where is my dolly Where is my dog Where is the water is my Mother Vocals and Piano—Sandhya Drums— Jean-Paul Gaster Bass— Pete Strobl Guitar— Scott Smith Organ—Andre Mayeux Percussion—Mark St.
  • "Innocent," an original by Sandhya (LYRIC VIDEO)
  • "The Neighbors," an original by Sandhya (LYRIC VIDEO) from the album INNOCENT MONSTER
  • "Petting Zoo," an original by Sandhya (LYRIC VIDEO) from INNOCENT MONSTER (2021)
  • Track 10 "All Purpose Lament" by Sandhya

Live Recorded Cover Songs (2020-2021)

Recent efforts in my ongoing attempt to (artfully & respectfully) mess around with other people's compositions, and marshal them to my own storytelling impulses! 

1) Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) -- The Eurythmics
2) Angel From Montgomery -- John Prine 
3) Green Plastic Trees -- Radiohead
4) Shake Yourself Loose -- T Bone Burnett
5) Nothing Compares 2 U -- Prince (recorded by Sinead O'Connor)
6) Breathe -- Pink Floyd
7) Round Midnight -- Thelonious Monk
8) Wild Horses -- Rolling Stones
9) Wild Is The Wind -- jazz standard covered by David Bowie
10) Hurt -- Nine Inch Nails

These are imperfect videos by design....I premiered them in my Facebook private fan group page as "live streaming rehearsals," or precorded videos, but not final product in any sense. 

I keep cranking them out as quickly as I can. You'll notice I never use sheet music. One of my goals for the current year was to have at least an hour of music fully memorized and at the ready. I ended up with closer to two hours. I'm willing myself to become one of those people who sits down and "magically" seems to know every song ever written. 
  • The Eurythmics "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" as interpreted by Sandhya
  • John Prine's Angel From Montgomery as interpreted by Sandhya
  • Radiohead "Green Plastic Trees" as interpreted by Sandhya
  • Sandhya performs"Shake Yourself Loose" by T Bone Burnett
  • "Nothing Compares 2U" by Prince, & made a hit by Sinead O'Connor--as played by Sandhya
  • "Breathe" by Pink Floyd (Waters, Gilmour, Wright) -- by Sandhya Feb 2021
  • Round Midnight
  • Wild Horses live
  • Wild Is The Wind
  • Hurt

PLAY IT BY EAR new blog on Substack

I've long been offering brief essays as a part of my twice-monthly music newsletter. As time went on, the essays began to stand out as the main reason people bothered to open the emails in the first place, even if they contained tons of other news about my musical endeavors. So I've recently begun cross-posting those pieces on Substack, allowing them to get longer and meatier. Right off the bat, without any marketing, I received about 10 free subscribers and 4 paid ones. Now I'm locked in! Aiming to start putting material out there EVERY Tuesday in 2021. Doesn't always have to be a fresh new essay. I intend on recycling some of my interesting old published material, offering up picture essays, doing brief podcast commentaries, whatever strikes my fancy. 

But at heart, this is a fundamentally literary endeavor because no matter how much time I spend in music, I still need to honor my first love, writing. 
  • Children ruin everything. - by Sandhya, writer & musician.pdf
  • Eat me. - by Sandhya, writer & musician - Play It By Ear.pdf
  • Dry bones. - by Sandhya, writer & musician - Play It By Ear.pdf
  • Sweet dreams & flying machines.pdf
  • What's your Nate_Ted percentage_.pdf
  • Memorized versus known. - by Sandhya, writer & musician.pdf
  • Never and always - by Sandhya, writer & musician.pdf

SLEEP (in-progress original songs planned for a 2023 new CD release)


The lyrics always have to come first for me--I'm still fundamentally a storyteller--but the rhythmic and harmonic ideas usually come simultaneously or almost so. It's a matter of hammering them out on piano and making decisions...and then sometimes changing or complicating or simplyfying those decisions once I pull a band together and start rehearsing/recording.

Here are two performances of songs more or less finished.  The notebook pictured  more whole lyrics or beginnings of songs I generated during the early part of the pandemic. In many cases I scribbled them somewhere else, then typed/printed them out and then pasted them in place so I can revise and add more words, as well as start to sketch out chord progression ideas.

These are the songs I want to include on SLEEP, my next full-length cd....some are completely written, others still in scraps. Hope to make that happen in 2022-2023.:

1) Sleep (2021 version, original was on my first CD) 2) All Night Bandstand 3) The Surrender 4) Don't Cling (older, never recorded) 5) Rigged Game (older, never recorded) 6) Tell Me Something 7) Quixote's Mistake 8) Friday Night with the Elephant Man (2021 version, original was on my first CD) 9) Universal Expat 10) Feast of Love
  • Quixote's Mistake, original song by Sandhya
  • All Night Bandstand (new original, summer 2020)
  • 2020 2021 songs in progress
    Lyrics I began and in some cases finished during the early part of the shutdown, March-June 2020. Looking to make many of them part of my next record.

soundtrack composition: THEO AND JOHN TALK NONSENSE (2018)


For the NYC-based novelist, playwright, and filmmaker John Reed, I composed and played a piano score on his quirky character study called Theo and John Talk Nonsense, starring character actor Theodore Bouloukis. The film was created from outtakes of three of John's previous projects in which the actor had appeared.  Between takes, in conversation or just riffing on his life, Theo proved to be a charmer, often confident and self-aware, occasionally anxious and self-involved. He's a guy many of us artists can relate to.

I was proud and excited to be a part of this project. John requested something in the way of "ragtime" or "oldey-timey jazz." I suggested that those types of motifs should be counterbalanced with more modern sounds, so as not to sonically ridicule Theo in any way. There are subtly funny moments throughout the film but I didn't think we wanted to underscore the humor with music that sounded like a circus.

I first came up with a set of short melodic/harmonic themes to fit various parts of the film. (See the Soundcloud playlist for the "rough drafts" I demo'd on my home piano.) The goal was to prepare this basic material and some preliminary time cues in advance, but to otherwise to improvise my way through the film scene by scene. (I did a lot of 'shedding in the key of Db to get that lefthand stride bass-line up to tempo.) We did the shoot/audio capture in a lovely studio room at Opera America in midtown Manhattan. I'd had trouble sleeping the night before--two mewling cats at my friend's apartment proved unhelpful--but some coffee and donuts helped with that. In general my piano work that day was solid, or at least imperfect in just the right ways. John later made a few timing adjustments in edit, but for the most part this was my live, in-the-moment response to Theo's off-the-cuff commentary. A fun day and a fascinating project.
  • Theo and John Talk Nonsense, a film by John Reed (2018)
    A film of outtakes by novelist, playwright, and filmmaker John Reed. I composed/improvised the piano score and John filmed me syncing my sounds to the film. Then he went back in and cut me, and my hands, into the final edit--I appear in occasional footage starting at 47:15. He said he wanted to show how all aspects of a creative work like this involved collaboration.
  • Theo & John Talk Nonsense (demo themes) by Sandy Asirvatham
    Rough tracks I recorded on my home piano, just to let director John Reed hear the themes I was developing for his film.

studio CD and major concert: MOBTOWN MOON (2013)


“Wildly eclectic, yet consistently absorbing.” ... Baltimore City Paper

Mobtown Moon studio CD (released May 2013) is a new interpretation of Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon album, co-produced by me and ellen cherry with the participation of 40 outstanding Baltimore-based musicians in rock, jazz, classical, hip-hop and other styles of music.

Our genre-defying version of this classic album highlights the lyrical and melodic beauty of the original, by taking the songs out of their stadium-rock context and reconsidering them from a grown-up, singer-focused perspective. Baltimore CityPaper called it "wildly eclectic yet consistently absorbing," while both CityPaper and Baltimore Magazine awarded it their respective "Best of Baltimore" honors. The CD has received coverage in many music blogs and we’ve been interviewed by several Internet and terrestrial radio stations around the nation. So far, we have been overwhelmed and grateful for the positive response to our venture.

We're especially proud that we were able to create a beautiful, unique, meaningful music product showcasing the tremendous talents of our friends and colleagues here in Charm City. Already, this project has spawned all sorts of new partnerships and creative ideas.


I conceived the project in 2009 while listening to the original Floyd recording, which remains very moving and relevant four decades after its release. 2009 was a dark time in the country: we were reeling from the aftershocks of a global market meltdown and the beginning of an endless recession; we were still at war, still paranoid, still so at odds with each other politically, still in denial about things like growing income inequality and potentially catastrophic global climate change.

Personally, I was feeling the weight of unhappy current events, and also suffering my own private confusions. Listening at this time to Dark Side was a source of comfort and connection. It reminded me that every era of human history has been dark, has been filled with war and want, one way or another.


As a jazz person, my inclination was to take this beautiful, sometimes sad, sometimes angry music and respond to it with meaning, in the same way that master jazz composers responded to Tin Pan Alley favorites or great European classical composers responded to the folk songs of their childhood: by revisiting, reinterpreting, and reinventing.

What I also wanted to do was avoid the traditional “tribute” album that simply recreates the original songs in the same form but with different players. There are already way too many Pink Floyd cover bands in existence and I have no interest in that kind of shallow mimicry.

I had a demonstrated knack for making interesting arrangements, but this kind of project was significantly more ambitious and potentially tricky. After all, many millions of people love the original album, which is still a perennial bestseller. To "mess" with these beloved songs was to take some amount of personal and professional risk, for sure--especially because it represented a fairly great leap compared with my earlier work.


In 2010 I spoke about the project with my friend, award-winning singer-songwriter ellen cherry, who immediately loved the idea and met it with a vision of her own: to make a true Baltimore collaboration that demonstrated the depth and breadth of musical talent we have in this town. We created a partnership to make this dual vision happen, and then set to work: making two demo song recordings, fundraising through individual donors and grantmakers, partnering with local nonprofit collaborators (especially the Hearing and Speech Agency and MammoJam), developing a production and promotional timeline (we were determined to release the record in spring 2013, close to the 40th anniversary of the original recording’s release), recruiting and scheduling many busy musicians (which occasionally felt like herding cats), and doing all the executive work required to put together such a massive collaboration.

As the chief arranger, I was directly responsible for the arrangement/instrumentation/sonic details of 10 of our 12 tracks, and indirectly for 2 more done in collaboration with the instrumentalists who played on them. (ellen took over the arranging for one track entirely, and she is also fully responsible for art-directing our beautiful album cover and for our entire project “look.”)


Andrew Grimm (banjo)
Ben Frock (trumpet)
Brian Gundersdorf (vocals)
Brian Simms (piano, organ, accordion, vocals)
Bryan Young (bassoon)
Christian Stengle (drums)
Craig Alston (saxophone)
Cris Jacobs (vocals, guitar)
Dave Hadley (pedal steel)
David Ross (spoken word)
ellen cherry (vocals, cello, synths)
Eric Kennedy (drums)
Femi the DriFish (spoken word)
Frank Russo (drums)
Jake Leckie (bass)
Jeff Reed (bass)
Jen Smith (cello)
John Thomakos (drums)
Kate Zahradnik (viola)
Katie Graybeal (vocals)
Lea Gilmore (vocals)
Matt Everhart (bass)
Mike Gambone (drums)
Nick Currie (violin)
OrchKids choir (10 students with director Dion Cunningham)
Patrick Klink (vocals)
Russsell Kirk (saxophone)
Sandy Asirvatham (vocals, piano, synth keyboards)
Tim Anderson (cello)
Todd Marcus (clarinet)
Scott Smith (guitars, percussion, recording engineer)
Vincent Stringer (vocals)
Warren Boes (guitar)


We were thrilled to present our premiere performance of MOBTOWN MOON at the Kraushaar Auditorium in front of more than 800 fans. We had an incredible cast--not everyone from the album, but close. Thirty of Baltimore's finest musicians in rock, jazz, classical, hip-hop, gospel, bluegrass, and opera/choral music were crowded on that stage together, making music and listening to each other as the audience of 700+ watched in wonderment. By the time the Baltimore Choral Arts Society came on for the last two songs, there were 50 of us on that stage. The communal feeling of the event was palpable. People cried at some of their favorite old Pink Floyd songs, reinterpreted here and presented by some of their favorite local artists. It was a thrilling and moving evening for all of us.

ellen has been in many big shows, but this was a personal milestone for her in terms of the size, ambition, and authority she had over the performance details. I handled pre-show stuff like press and finances. By the time we started actually playing music, most of our hardest work was well behind us, and while we had some musical duties, we also had the opportunity to relax a bit and enjoy our incredible musical friends doing their thing.

I would have to rank 9/28/13 as one of the best days of my life, along with marrying my husband and adopting our son.

Getting to sing my version of "The Great Gig In the Sky" was also simply a 30-year dream-come-true.

But really the most satisfying thing was this: After the show, so many of our stellar musicians--Jen and Scott Smith of Naked Blue, Jonathan Gilmore, Brian Simms, Warren Boes, Andrew Grimm and Dave Hadley of June Star, Dave and Femi of the 5th L, Jake Leckie--so many of these fine and highly experienced performers said to us:

"That was one of the best shows I've ever been in, in my life."


"When can we do it again?"

That was the REAL dream come true: the joy and respect of peers.
  • Breathe, arranged by Sandy Asirvatham
    Breathe was the first song I arranged for MOBTOWN MOON, a massive 3-year project co-produced with ellen cherry. This is our "world premiere" performance at Kraushaar Auditorium in Baltimore County. Such a thrilling way to start off one of the best evenings of my life.
  • Us and Them, arr. by S.A.
    In a way, this song was the kernel of the whole project. I used to play this arrangement and sing it myself in my quartet years ago, but for Mobtown Moon it was really an ideal vocal number for ellen's gorgeous plaintive sound. Hear it and try not to weep, people.
  • Brain Damage, arr. by S.A.
    Jonathan Gilmore takes the lead at the Mobtown Moon premiere performance September 28, 2013 at Kraushaar Auditorium
  • Any Colour You Like, arr. by S.A.
    I had fun taking the spacey guitar-jam elements of the original track and transforming them into a post-bop vehicle for the wild improvisations of Todd Marcus (bass clarinet), Derrick Michaels (saxophone), and Ben Frock (trumpet).
  • The Great Gig In The Sky, arr. by SA
    The single most challenging vocal performance I've ever allowed myself to do. I had some melodic ideas worked out based on what I'd done for the recording, but I wanted to allow for improvisation, too. It just kind of happened, and felt so easy, especially with the incredible support of the audience and the stellar playing of the band behind me. A profoundly meaningful personal moment. And also the only time when I really had to work hard during this show--otherwise, everybody else was doing all the heavy musical lifting.
  • Eclipse, arr. by S. A.
    Jen Smith, Pat Klink, Brian Simms, and ellen cherry lead off the vocals, and then the Baltimore Choral Arts Society (director Tom Hall) blows the roof off
  • Money, arr. by S.A. and the band
    Andrew Grimm (of June Star) takes the lead at the Mobtown Moon premiere performance September 28, 2013 at Kraushaar Auditorium
  • Time, arr. by SA and the band
    Brian Simms (of Speakers of the House) takes the lead at the Mobtown Moon premiere performance September 28, 2013 at Kraushaar Auditorium
  • On the Run, arr. by ellen cherry
    ellen's terrific reimagining of what originally was an electronics-only track. She likes to call its sound "banjo whales." That's the famous Grimm on banjo and Dave Hadley on pedal steel--both of June Star.
  • MOBTOWN MOON (2013)

early published work: short fiction & "Underwhelmed" essays (90s-early 00s)

"Sheath" is one of the only short stories I've ever completed (I'm built for long work!). It was published in the Berkeley Fiction Review in 2000. The other pieces are more along the lines of personal essays, originally published under the column banner "Underwhelmed" at Baltimore CityPaper. In some ways, all this early work together can be taken as precursors to/practice for my finished memoir, PLAY IT BY EAR.
  • SHEATH, a short story published by Berkeley Fiction Review (2000)
    My right hand is a shark, the spiny metallic jacks are starfish I scoop and spit out, scoop and spit out. Three at a time, four at a time, five, six, seven, all eight. The pink rubber ball smudges the air going up and wipes its own trace away going down. ...
  • Archaeology of a Dream - Dec. 26, 2001 - Baltimore City Paper.pdf
    On Sept. 15, 2001, still zombified by grief and fear, my husband and I drove to D.C. to attend our first information meeting about adoption. I cried in the car the whole way, convinced the world was soon going to end and there was no point in making plans.
  • Unforgettable - Sep. 11, 2002 - Baltimore City Paper.pdf
    I don't really want to contribute to this week's juggernaut of verbiage marking the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but I also can't come up with a strong enough reason to resist doing so. Somehow I would feel I was being disrespectful and selfish to use this space today for any other topic. At the same time, I find myself sensing the inadequacy of words, their ultimate failure to encapsulate all the complex and contradictory sensations and thoughts generated by our year-old collective trauma.
  • Flood Time - Oct. 3, 2001 - Baltimore City Paper.pdf
    Somewhere in that irretrievably pacific mental space known as "Before"...
  • Baby Makes . . . ? - Jul. 4, 2001 - Baltimore City Paper.pdf
    In my late teens and early 20s, I'd occasionally mention that I didn't think I'd ever want to bear children. And the responses--from men, women, young, old, friends, and near-strangers--ranged from bemusement ("Don't be silly!") to extreme puzzlement ("What kind of woman doesn't want children?") to outright indignation, as if it were blasphemous to even voice such a thought.
  • Moment of Truth - May. 3, 2000 - Baltimore City Paper.pdf
    Most of us fantasize that, in a bad situation, we'll act with resolve and courage. It's awful being faced with the truth of your capacity for indecision and cowardice -- not to mention the truth that all those years of watching TV cop shows has taught you exactly nothing.
  • The Secret History - Aug. 16, 2000 - Baltimore City Paper.pdf
    As I prepare to fly out to Los Angeles this week for a cousin's wedding, I'm reminded of the bizarre family secret that emerged the last time I attended nuptials on my mother's side.

collective improvisation CD: PANORAMIC PATHS (2009)


Kevin Robinson is a composer, bandleader, and reeds player who specializes in collective improvisations based on very minimal preplanned or composed material (sometimes called "free jazz"). He's a Baltimore native and I was lucky to play and record with him for a few years before he made a permanent move to California to study with Wadada Leo Smith and further his spiritual/musical explorations. The members of his band KREation could fluctuate from gig to gig, but his players were always phenomenal listeners and great on-the-fly compositional thinkers. A kind of throwback beatnick scene all around. It was probably the most fun I had in an ensemble ever, even better than playing my own compositions with my band. We almost never got paid but I'd follow Kevin almost anywhere to get a chance to be a part of his group again. (And I don't enjoy following anybody ever, so....)

Here's a disc of some of our spontaneously created recordings. This includes some of the best (craziest, loosest, freest) piano work I've done.

By the way, this is wholly Kevin Robinson's project on which I participated--don't let the Soundcloud verbiage "by Sandy Asirvatham" distract you. It happens because I've loaded the CD to my site.

Please also see the chapter of PLAY IT BY EAR entitled "Conversation With The Trees" all about my collaboraitons with Kevin Robinson.

Kevin Robinson, woodwinds & bandleader
Sandy Asirvatham, piano, keyboard, & vocals
Vattel Cherry, bass
Chris Taylor, electric guitar & percussion
Nathan Epstein, drums
Jeff Swiss, spoken word

  • KREation (Kevin Robinson Ensemble)PANORAMIC PATHS (2009) by Sandy Asirvatham

debut CD: MEMOIR (2007)


MEMOIR (2007) Debut CD of almost all original songs. Jazz with eclectic influence. Honored as a Best Jazz Debut in The Village Voice by jazz critic/historian W. Royal Stokes. This disc contains 9 originals that were essentially the very first songs I'd ever written. I suppose there was a certain chutzpah involved in making this project....and yet I stand by these fledgling efforts, even more than a decade later, when I could probably arrange and execute them much more skillfully. The Downbeat-poll-winning bari sax player Claire Daley said this sounded like music that I simply had to create. It certainly felt that way to me at the time.
  • MEMOIR by Sandy Asirvatham (2007) by Sandy Asirvatham

future projects: one novel, one screenplay


The story is a vivid, detailed dream in my mind, but I've only just begun to sketch the characters, structure the plot, do helpful reading/research, and write a few test pages. Given how busy I am with smaller intermittent projects and obligations, I suspect this epic-length concept may take me 10 years to draft in full. 

I used to be a journalist, i.e., a purely deadline-driven writer. In 2017-2018 I finally taught myself the practice of sitting at your desk for several hours every day, without fail, in order to let the world of the book envelop and contain you...even if nobody is waiting for it on any particular date. But only by this total immersion was I able to let my best and most cohesive work emerge. Having finished a memoir--autobiographical, yes, but built scene by scene, with a real narrative engine driving it--I'm now getting flooded again with the same kinds of big, bold novel ideas that descended on me regularly in my (far less productive) youth. At this point, time and distraction are my only enemies. 

A TYRANT FALLS IN LOVE will be a mock-epic, fake-historical novel inspired, indirectly, by the shock of Donald Trump's ascendance to the presidency in 2016. (Some of its roots, however, are much older than that and grounded in a certain sensitivity I've always had to issues of wealth and power--see "Blue Traveler," the 1998 piece I've also attached here.) Like so many Americans, I have been appalled and chastened to watch a classic authoritarian peresonality rise to power here. Trump is new on the local scene, yet by global standards, he is a walking cliche. The narcissism, corruption, and comical self-glorification are straight out of the dictator playbook. Even his quasi-incestuous relationship with his daughter echoes ancient and premodern imperial history.  I see A TYRANT FALLS IN LOVE as a tragicomic fable about human behavior: the perpetual dialectic between power-sharing and tyranny, freedom and repression, love and hatred, peace and war, selflessness and greed. The omniscient narrator will indulge in occasional anachronisms for humorous effect and to create a certain mythic resonance.


ACCIDENTAL TRIO (indie drama) In late 1970s New York, a cult-figure punk rocker—the estranged daughter of a famous civil rights attorney—learns of his unexpected death and abruptly quits the music scene in grief. Slowly she finds solace in music again, via the beautiful upright bass she has inherited from him. She’s helped by a mysteriously accomplished old woman pianist next door and a trumpet player who’s been stalking her.

  • A TYRANT FALLS IN LOVE preplan.pdf
    In a long-ago empire of unspecified time and place, Robard, the imperial Master Builder, pursues a lifelong dream. A natural egalitarian who rose up from humble roots, Robard wants to provide all citizens rich and poor with running water and indoor plumbing as good as the system he and his fellow elites now enjoy.  Over the decades of Robard's brilliant career, his dream is stymied again and again by other professional obligations, by courtly machinations, and by wars and instability fostered through three generations of a fractious, incestuous, glory-mad ruling family.
  • ACCIDENTAL TRIO treatment in progress.pdf
    ACCIDENTAL TRIO (indie drama) In late 1970s New York, a cult-figure punk rocker—the estranged daughter of a famous civil rights attorney—learns of his unexpected death and abruptly quits the music scene in grief. Slowly she finds solace in music again, via the beautiful upright bass she has inherited from him. She’s helped by a mysteriously accomplished old woman pianist next door and a trumpet player who’s been stalking her.