Visiting Martha

It’s about 27 miles and a felony conviction between Turkey Hill Road in Westport, Conn., and the Federal Corrections Institution in Danbury, where Martha Stewart is likely to serve her time in prison, should she fail in her promised appeal.

By law, federal inmates are granted four hours of visiting time per month. The length of visits and number of visitors at any one time are up to the warden’s discretion. New inmates establish a visitors’ list, which includes immediate family, extended family and usually no more than 10 non-related friends and associates.

For an A-lister like Ms. Stewart, whittling down her contact with the outside world to 10 place cards must be a daunting prospect. How do you trim a lifetime of air-kisses and sweetheart deals to admit only the most insidery of insiders? While many famous names like Bill Cosby, Rosie O’Donnell and Brian Dennehy came out to support Ms. Stewart at trial, Danbury is a long way from Foley Square. On the other hand, Mariana Pasternak, described as “a frequent traveling companion” of Ms Stewart’s, seems be a shoo-in for the Top 10, unless the inmate Stewart decides that Ms. Pasternak’s testimony for the prosecution is enough to cross her off the list.

Anyone fortunate enough to be among Ms. Stewart’s coterie of callers ought to familiarize themselves with the etiquette governing federal prison visits, which is spelled out on the federal Bureau of Prisons Web site (

For example, inmates “cannot conduct business in prison. An inmate is expected to assign authority for a business or profession to someone else.”

This doesn’t mean that Ms. Stewart need abandon her influence on Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Inmates are allowed to make decisions that “substantially affect the assets or prospects of the business. In such cases, the Warden can allow a special visit.”

Other kinds of “special visits” are discouraged or prohibited. Conjugal visits are out. Visiting on both days of the weekend is frowned upon. Visits may be restricted if an inmate is housed in a special-detention unit or in protective custody, or if an inmate has lost visiting privileges in a disciplinary hearing. A visitor can be barred at the gate for wearing “provocative or revealing clothes.” Handshakes and hugs are permissible, and kisses must be “in good taste.”

Of course, good taste is required when visiting Ms. Stewart in or out of stir. When gifting, remember that “contraband is anything that is not allowed in the prison, such as drugs, weapons, unauthorized medicines, or unauthorized money.” Cash is always tacky. Better to deposit a few dollars in Ms. Stewart’s commissary account than risk the stiff penalties that accrue to prison smugglers.

While Ms. Stewart is apt to miss the little things from the outside world, be advised that prison authorities will not look kindly upon vials of saffron or baggies of fresh-picked oregano. Clear all gifts with prison authorities before a visit, or they will be confiscated upon arrival. You could always bring Martha something yummy from Ondine, a French restaurant less than a mile down Route 37. Zagat gives it a food rating of 26 (don’t tell Martha, or she’ll bore you to tears explaining the survey’s suburban grade inflation) and describes it as being “refined without being pretentious.” And remember: Soufflés are apt to drop during a gate inspection, so keep it simple.

-Adam Mazmanian

The Computer Ate My Symphony

In late January, Kenji Bunch was sitting in his Cobble Hill apartment, finishing work on a symphony on his iBook, using a program called Sibelius. The 30-year-old Mr. Bunch is one of the country’s most promising young composers, with music recorded by the Ahn Trio, a smashingly trendy girl group of classical performers, among others. This was a major commission from a woman in San Francisco named Kathryn Gould-venture capitalist, music lover and, as of late, benefactress. She’d chosen three composers and commissioned them to write works to be performed by symphony orchestras in a series of premieres.

Mr. Bunch’s symphony was called Lichtenstein Triptych , with each of its three movements inspired by a Roy Lichtenstein painting. He was expected to send the completed score to the director of the Santa Rosa Symphony no later than Jan. 31, just days away. Mr. Bunch had spent over 100 hours on the third movement alone, working over Christmas in his parents’ home in Portland, Ore.

He was nearing the end when he received an envelope in the mail with a software upgrade that he’d been waiting for. His mother had sent it on from Portland, as it had arrived the day he left. Only she’d sent it without the manual. The new Sibelius software seemed to walk him through the upgrade without incident-until he tried to find the symphony.

“File not found,” it said on the screen.

A friend, a drummer who uses the same software, came over to help.

“It’s gone,” said the friend.

“When it happened, I just stayed there looking at the computer screen for a long time,” said Mr. Bunch. The friend left, and Mr. Bunch sat down on the blue exercise ball he uses in place of a chair. He started feeling hot and sort of nervous and got up because he wanted to hit something. But there was nothing in the apartment to hit. After a while, he laid down on the floor in his clothes and fell asleep.

A few days later, Mr. Bunch called his manager, Monica Felkel, at Young Concert Artists, where he’d been composer in residence from 1998-2000. She told him to call Sibelius immediately; they’d helped when another composer had a laptop with a symphony on it stolen in Rome. Mr. Bunch called Sibelius tech support, but nothing they suggested worked.

“I e-mailed Kathryn and told her it was going to be a little late,” he said of his benefactress. “I said, ‘I’ve been having a little computer glitch.'” Ms. Felkel contacted the music director of the Santa Rosa Symphony, Jeffrey Kahane, who agreed to extend the deadline to mid-February.

Mr. Bunch was able to recover early drafts of the symphony’s first two movements, but the third movement was gone and he would have to reconstruct it.

In the days following, Mr. Bunch couldn’t eat or sleep. “I would just fall asleep for a few hours on the floor with my clothes on, then get up and drink coffee; I think I went a stretch where I wore the same clothes four days in a row,” he said. There was nothing in the refrigerator and nothing in the kitchen except coffee and a coffee maker. His heart began to beat strangely; he saw a doctor. “I would have dreams in Sibelius,” he said, “where I’d be in a situation and the only way I could get out was with Sibelius commands.”

Sibelius and another composition program called Finale have made it possible for composers to spend less time on the fairly rote task of orchestration. But even younger composers are often hesitant to use the programs. “I used to think there was something honorable about using pencil,” said Mr. Bunch, who only started using a computer to compose a year and a half ago.

He didn’t spend every night at his computer: On Feb. 2, Young Concert Artists brought together four composers for a concert at Weill Recital Hall. Mr. Bunch stood in the lobby before the concert, wearing a puffy coat and running his hand through his black hair. Upstairs in the hall, two young violinists played his “Three American Folk Hymn Settings.” The New York Times would call the piece “dazzling” and publish a photo of Mr. Bunch applauding the violinists onstage. But the whole time, Mr. Bunch wished he could be home working on the symphony.

Not that he was getting much work done when he was home. “I’d boot up the computer and see where I was in the piece, and get too depressed to work,” he said. Then: “One day, I woke up and felt like doing it. The thought that if I just plowed through it, I’d be done for good, was so appealing that I just wrote the whole last movement in a day. I was excited about it. I had it in my head constantly.”

The next day, he revised; the day after that, he canceled the classes he teaches at Juilliard and took the score to the music librarian for preparation.

“I honestly believe, I really do believe, that it’s better now than before,” he said. The third movement had been inspired by Lichtenstein’s painting In the Car , showing a man and woman going somewhere, fast. Now, with the increased time pressure, the revised movement better captured the painting’s velocity. “I find that when I’m desperate, I think of more off-the-wall things and it comes out more creative, in a way,” said Mr. Bunch. “It gives it more excitement, more feeling of insanity.

“Initially, I wrote it under pressure-but not with the fear of God in me,” he added. “I wonder if, on some level, I wanted to hold on to it a little longer.”

The Santa Rosa Symphony will premiere Lichtenstein Triptych on April 17 with Jeffrey Kahane conducting.

-Margaret Menge

Visiting Martha