Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Life Time - Winter 2014 (short version)

Most music is written by just one person.  In this post you can hear a piece of music written by two people.  Here they are:

left: David Ocker in 1972, composer of Sonata; right: David Ocker in 2015, composer of Life Time

On the left is David Ocker in the year 1972, age twenty.  On the right is David Ocker in 2015, age you-figure-it-out.  David 1972 and David 2015 worked together to complete a new piece entitled Life Time.  It only took them 43 years to finish it.  Listen to it here.

For a while David 1972 kept a list of his "Completed Works".  David 2015 still has it.  The first piece on the list was "Dance Suite for Piano".  The second piece was a trio for piano, clarinet and tuba.  (No, really.  I had two roommates in my Junior year of college - one was a pianist, the other a tubist.  And I was a clarinetist.  There's a word for that sort of thing.)

Piece number three on the list was a piano sonata.  David 1972 called it Sonata.  There were three movements:
The first movement marked "very fast and loud" was dated May 1972.
The second movement, called "trivially (no so fast)*", was dated June 1972.  [The tempo marking continued in a footnote at the bottom of the page: "* Andante?"]
The final movement, Allegro Moderato, was finished in July 1972.

It is significant that it took three months to compose this piece.

I do remember that at one point my pianist roommate hesitantly read through the first movement for me.  Since then no one has ever performed Sonata because no one has ever known about it.  Also because it's not a very good piece.

At some point within a decade or two I completely forgot that Sonata even existed.  How do you pinpoint the exact moment when you forget something?

David Ocker in 1973 with his found-objects wall sculpture and his liquor collection

Flash Forward to December of last year.  The scene: David's office.  Begin David 2015's voiceover:

It was December 2014.  I was close to finishing my piece Autumn 2014, yet another installment in The Seasons.  I needed an idea for the upcoming season, Winter 2014.

Meanwhile, a large stack of plastic storage boxes cluttered my office.  One of these was filled with old manuscripts, composition notebooks and other vestiges of my early musical creativity.  I resolved to move them to a place where I wouldn't see them every day.

Jolted by a bolt of nostalgia, I peered inside of one.

There I found strange, oddly familiar papers.  They weren't particularly dusty or musty, just old.  Artifacts from my life.

One particular manuscript caught my attention.  At the top it said only "Sonata".  Did I write this music, I wondered.  It was in my handwriting.  I found my post-adolescent signature on the last page along with the date "7/72".  I wracked my brain to remember what this was.

As I listened to bits of the music in my head, familiarity slowly increased.  That's probably the moment when I hatched my plan: I would use this music, one of my first ever attempts at composition, as the basis for the upcoming Season.

The process began formally on December 21, 2014.  That was the Solstice, the beginning of winter.  I used the first measures of Sonata as source material for the first fragment of Winter 2014.  The next day I worked the next few bars into the second fragment.  The process continued more or less daily.

If you are one of the three regular Mixed Meters readers, someone already familiar with how The Seasons works, feel free to skip the rest of this paragraph.  I compose a little bit of music for every day in the calendar.  I try to compose it on the day itself, but it's no big deal to skip a day and write two fragments tomorrow.  I present these fragments in two formats: the Long Version (each fragment is separated by a silence, lots of silence; the ratio is about 4 to 1 silence to music) and the Short Version (the silences are removed to reveal an actual musical composition underneath.)  David Ocker 2011 was the guy who hatched this plan.  It's now in its fourth year.  Still going strong.

David Ocker in 2015 with his found-object-adorned plant but without his liquor collection

On March 19, 2015, I wrote the last fragment of Winter 2014.  I managed, through careful planning (and blind dumb luck) to divide Sonata into exactly the same number of sections as there are days in a season.  The fragment of the final day uses the last two measures of the earlier piece.

In fact the last fragment is identical to those last two bars.   It's the only fragment where I used earlier music without changing it.  All the rest of the piano music was re-scored for the Peter Schmid Quartet, guitar, piano, bass and drums.  Those guys are such talented musicians that they always know instinctively just exactly what I'm thinking.   Uncanny.

You're probably still wondering why I said it was significant that David 1972 took about three months to write Sonata.

It's significant because it took David 2015 the same amount of time to finish Winter 2014.

I named the short version Life Time.  That's Winter 2014 with the silences removed.  The title is supposed to reflect the nearly 43 years between the first three months in 1972 and the last three months, mostly in 2015.

Forty-three years is just about two thirds of my life so far.  When I'm 86 years old the fraction will have dropped to half.  I should be so lucky.

Click here to hear Life Time (Winter 2014 short version) by David Ocker - 814 seconds - Copyright © 2015 by David Ocker




Winter 2014, the long version of Life Time, lasts 4232 seconds.  You can listen to it  or read about it.  Or both.

Links to all The Seasons by David Ocker, both long and short versions, both audible and readable, are here.

The picture of David 1972 , the one with his liquor collection, first appeared in the Mixed Meters post Philip Glass Enjoys a Cutty Sark.

If you're curious how much of Life Time was written by David 1972 and how much by David 2015, I scanned the original piano manuscript for you to study.  Download the Sonata (1972) in pdf format here.

A tangentially relevant Mixed Meters post/rant from 2007: Sonata Heaven.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Che Guevara and Ted Cruz

Here's a picture of two right-wing politically divisive U.S. Senators who happen to look a lot alike.


As things stand right now, the one on the left will be the next president of the United States, if only because he's the only person officially in the race.  I trust that's only a temporary advantage.

Here's another combination of very divisive politicians.


Same right-wing guy on the left - I did the best I could shoehorning him into the famous Alberto Korda image.  Red is a good color for a Republican.  On the right is left-wing revolutionary communist Che Guevara, possibly the most perfect example of a divisive political figure.

Guevara is known to some as only slightly less evil than the Devil or Adolf Hitler, nothing more than a mass murderer.  Elsewhere - like in rural Bolivia where Guevara was killed trying to foment class warfare - he's regarded as a Saint.  Fact is, both sides have good reasons for their characterizations: that's the most infuriating part of it.

I guarantee that today, nearly 50 years after his death, Guevara is much closer to becoming an actual Catholic saint than Father Junipero Serra was 50 years after he died in 1784.  Che has another connection with the Vatican: both he and the current Pope are Argentinian.

Here at Mixed Meters we're mostly interested in the famous photograph of Che Guevara, an iconic artistic visual meme of massive proportions, used over and over again for purposes even more varied than his reputations.

Two previous MM blog posts on the subject are called Che's Brand and Che's Image.   Check those out for some bizarre capitalist uses of the Che/Korda images.  The first one is a review of a book about the picture.  There's also A Combination of Jingle Bells and the Internationale a piece of my music. That post has pictures of the Che credit card and the Che Guevara Rolex ad.

Here are a few more I want to share.







Top to bottom - Chinese actress Fan Bingbing in Che drag; Adolf Hitler in the Che pose promoting  some website called The People's Cube; can't find this ashtray so here's a different Che Guevara ashtray on Amazon; Alberto Korda's heirs sued the maker of the Che dog image; you can buy Viva La Evolución throw pillows for less than twenty U.S. dollars here.

Want more?  You can see seemingly infinite variations on the Che image using Google Search.

I did two other variations on the Ted Cruz Che before I added some cheekbones..  I'm including them here just to prolong your agony.



Clicking on a picture might make it bigger.

Read about Joseph McCarthy.

Visit tedcruz.com.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Winter 2014 from The Seasons

It's hard to write a blog post like this one when you expect that no one will read it.

Mixed Meters posts announcing new long versions in my series called The Seasons get the lowest hit counts.   Writing an essay lamenting this fact would not be much fun.

In fact, the more I bitch the more likely you are to not to read what I write.

Go ahead, skip this essay.  Just do it quickly because I'm about to change the subject.

Advertising is everywhere. We are bombarded by messages telling us how to make our lives better. In reality these ads do not solve our problems.  They actually create problems which we can only solve by giving our money to the people who posted the ads.

Take diamonds, for example. Surely you've seen advertising suggesting that a diamond ring will tell your beloved how much she means to you - provided (of course) that you spend at least two months' salary for it.

Here's a NY Times article about the woman who, in 1947, wrote the line "A Diamond Is Forever". This is from the article:
Last year, Americans spent almost $7 billion on the rings. But in 1938, when a De Beers representative wrote to N. W. Ayer to inquire whether “the use of propaganda in various forms” might boost the sale of diamonds in the United States, their popularity had been on a downward trend, in part because of the Depression.
N.W. Ayer conducted extensive surveys of consumer attitudes and found that most Americans thought diamonds were a luxury for the ultra-wealthy. Women wanted their men to spend money on “a washing machine, or a new car, anything but an engagement ring,” Ms. Gerety said in 1988. “It was considered just absolutely money down the drain.”
Still, the agency set an ambitious goal: “to create a situation where almost every person pledging marriage feels compelled to acquire a diamond engagement ring.”
Promoting diamonds to men as symbols of undying love for women did solve a problem.  The problem was: how could a company with a lot of extra diamonds sell them at a high profit?

Here's a better article on the subject, especially about how De Beers maintains its monopoly.  It's called "Diamonds Are Bullshit", written by Rohin Dhar.  Here are a couple quotes:
The next time you look at a diamond, consider this. Nearly every American marriage begins with a diamond because a bunch of rich white men in the 1940s convinced everyone that its size determines your self worth. They created this convention - that unless a man purchases (an intrinsically useless) diamond, his life is a failure - while sitting in a room, racking their brains on how to sell diamonds that no one wanted.
We covet diamonds in America for a simple reason: the company that stands to profit from diamond sales decided that we should. De Beers’ marketing campaign single handedly made diamond rings the measure of one’s success in America. Despite its complete lack of inherent value, the company manufactured an image of diamonds as a status symbol. And to keep the price of diamonds high, despite the abundance of new diamond finds, De Beers executed the most effective monopoly of the 20th century. Okay, we get it De Beers, you guys are really good at business!
The next time you see Leslie (the lovely woman to whom I am married) ask her to show you her wedding and engagement rings.

And if you're interested in actually maintaining a good relationship with your spouse or significant other, here's an article that rings true: Ten Habits of Couples Who Stay Together.  Leslie and I do all of these things - except number one.  I suggest you read the article quickly - because I'm about to change the subject again.

My musical project called The Seasons is now entering its fourth year.  There is one short bit of music averaging about 8 seconds in length for each day since Thursday, December 22, 2011, divided up into chunks corresponding to the calendrical seasons.

Winter 2014 (the long version) is over seventy minutes long.  Well beyond 80% of it is total silence.  Weird, huh?

What kind of crazy music has four minutes of silence for every minute of actual music?

Click here to hear Winter 2014 (long version) © 2015 by David Ocker, 4232 seconds and find out for yourself.

Links to all The Seasons articles are here.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Ice Cream Trucks Play Schoenberg at USC

Poor Arnold Schoenberg. In spite of being a pivotal twentieth century composer his music just doesn't get performed that much.


His early music represented the glorious excesses of late nineteenth century über-romantisch extremes. His later twelve-tone theories and his music fueled the imaginations of the post-war avant-garde. Some people, including Arnold himself, predicted that he would become one of history's great composers.

Ticket-buying concert audiences, many of whom prefer their limited repertoire repeated endlessly, have never found Schoenberg's music that interesting.   They, for better or worse, are the ultimate judges of who becomes a great composer. Perhaps audiences don't have the necessary familiarity with the history or theory of music to comprehend the importance of Schoenberg's music.  And there's no question that Schoenberg is definitely important.  The problem is that a lot of people don't find his music that interesting.


A good place to learn why important things are interesting is in academia.  That's where professors explain Schoenberg in the context of music history.  They can teach you why he believed that his radical twelve-tone composition theory was both necessary and inevitable. And they teach how later composers, ones who don't get performed much these days either, mutated those ideas into even less comprehensible theories and structures.

Once you know all that, maybe you'll find Schoenberg's music more interesting.

But first listen to this fun mash-up for two pianos by Kyo Yoshida.  Music by Arnold Schoenberg and by George Gershwin combined together into one piece.  The two composers were friends here in Southern California.


Last week, in an effort to drive up interest in Schoenberg's works, the University of Southern California, home of the most important music school on the Pacific Rim, decided to broadcast his music in a novel manner, by playing bits of it on loud speakers mounted on small electric trucks which roam the bucolic campus.

The intent, I suppose, was to attract the attention of some eager young college students. Maybe hearing a bit of Schoenberg would make them curious enough to attend a concert/lecture.  There they might learn why Schoenberg is both important and interesting.

This was the idea of USC art professor David Schafer. Read the press release here.  Here's a quote:
Avant-garde music will fill the air of the University Park Campus next week, thanks to a Visions and Voices project that will mount loudspeakers on five USC Hospitality trucks making their regular deliveries around campus. The trucks will be playing works from the late Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg, who revolutionized music with his 12-tone system that produced dissonant and asymmetric compositions.
How could any project which promotes dissonance and asymmetry not be a huge success?  Here's the USC picture of one of the trucks.


Here's my picture of the same truck, A221.


Notice the added signage:

THE SCHOENBERG SOUNDWAYS
TRUCK NO.3: Erwartung Op.17, 1909-1924
Presented by USC Visions and Voices: The Arts and Humanities Initiative.  
Organized by David Schafer (Roski School of Art and Design)
For more information, please visit the Visions and Voices website  
Visionsandvoices@usc.edu or 213-740-0483
Live event and recital at Ramo Recital Hall, March 7th, 7pm.
USCExpressCatering expresscatering.usc.edu (213) 740-6801

Don't laugh.  A scheme like this just might work.

No. Go ahead, laugh. E. Randol Schoenberg, the composer's own grandson, wrote on his Facebook page "This may be the funniest thing I have ever seen . . .". (Has he never watched a Mel Brooks movie?)

When ice cream trucks give you stuff that's good for you, important stuff like German expressionism, instead of fun fattening stuff, like say actual ice cream, they aren't as welcome.  This Far Side cartoon, posted on Facebook by Joshua Creek, drives the point home.


My friend composer Carlos Rodriguez even invented a word to describe the Schoenberg Soundways event: AUTOnality.   I think that's funny.  Would Mel Brooks get the joke?

Christian Hertzog shared a video of an early Steve Martin television special. Here Steve's working with a string quartet which performs music by Bartok, Schoenberg's contemporary.  Since our friends the paying concert audience actually like Bartok's music, Bartok is well on his way to being regarded as a truly great composer.

Steve Martin does his best to make this bit funny.  Mel Brooks would have been funnier.


I decided to visit the campus during this autonal event. I wanted to witness it for myself.  So, last Thursday, before meeting Leslie who works nearby, I spent an hour and a half searching the USC campus for Schoenberg in the wild.

The USC campus is a big busy place filled with students coming and going or just hanging out. The most common modes of transportation seem to be skateboards and bicycles. There were also many little white electric vehicles of various designs.

It took a while to locate any of the five special Schoenberg trucks. I found only two. They were number two labeled "Gurrelieder" and number three labeled "Erwartung".  These two trucks passed me four times. I recorded each drive-by on video. Then I edited these videos into a single 2-minute YouTube upload.

Please note that I have not altered the audio levels. The moment when the Erwartung truck driver honks at a bicyclist is the loudest sound I heard these trucks make.  Sometimes the sound seemed to be turned off completely.  I was only a few feet away.  Notice how interested in the music the students seem.


You probably want to ask "David, why do even you care about this?" Good question. On one level it's just a silly art project. Or maybe it's a badly executed on-campus concert marketing stunt.  It's certainly not doing Schoenberg's legacy any favors.

I do find the idea of playing music on mobil vehicles very interesting.  Not important, just interesting.  Doing this on a college campus has a lot of potential, in my opinion.

Done well, a project like this would blend musical sounds with environmental sounds.  Music from multiple trucks would also combine in unexpected ways. I like that sort of thing; I'm the kind of person who sometimes listens to multiple pieces of music simultaneously.

A proper presentation on a large college campus would require many more vehicles.  You could even mount small loudspeakers on bikes and skateboards and synchronize them all with some sort of wi-fi.  You would turn up the volume if you really wanted to attract any attention.

It might be better to have music specially composed for this situation.  I wonder if there is a student composer at USC right now who would risk jeopardizing their future career by composing for ice cream trucks?

If you insist on using already existing music Schoenberg is clearly not your man.  Still, an important big-name composer would give a project like this much more visibility.

Someone suggested Karlheinz Stockhausen because he's the guy who wrote a string quartet where each player travels in their own helicopter.   I suspect that if Karlheinz were a USC professor he'd jump at the chance to write a new piece for five ice cream trucks.  Or 500.

Karlheinz Stockhausen is definitely an important composer even if he isn't around any more to write new pieces.  Maybe a professor could present a lecture explaining why his music is also interesting.




Here's an interesting explanatory interpretation of a piece by Arnold Schoenberg:





Here's a picture of me, years ago, playing the clarinet in an actual ice cream truck.  This was taken by a photographer named Mike Bloom.  Now it dawns on me!  I must have written this entire article because I needed an excuse to publish this picture.



Check out the vast collection of Schoenberg self-portraits at the Arnold Schönberg Center.

The twelve-tone sudoku puzzle apparently originated here.

A Mixed Meters post about Schoenberg's life in Southern California: Schoenberg in Hell

Two other MM posts about Schoenberg suffer from missing Internet links.  They are not important, just somewhat interesting if you use your imagination: Schoenberg and Shostakovich for Marching Band and Mozart's Penis vs. Schoenberg's Penis

Mixed Meters posts about ice cream:  Ice Cream Wishes (which is mostly about Yoko Ono), Che's Brand (only because it has a picture of an ice cream bar called Cherry Guevara), or Four 30 Second Spots in the form of a Horoscope (a very early post where each short piece of music is illustrated with a picture of disgusting ice cream).

An Antenna Repairmen Performance - a recent post involving the Roski School at USC

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Talking With Bob and MB

Last month, on the birth date of Arthur Jarvinen, I posted an article called An Antenna Repairmen Performance.   The members of the Repairmen were Jarvinen, M.B. Gordy and Robert Fernandez.  The post included a video of their magnificent joint composition Ghatam in live performance.  (Go.  Listen.  Watch.)

Yes, M.B. goes by his initials.  Everyone calls him M.B..  Most people don't know what the letters stand for.  I'm not even sure if I'm supposed to use periods.  Robert usually gets called Bob.  Everyone knows what 'Bob' stands for.

That post prompted the three of us to get together to talk about the Repairmen's history.  We met last Wednesday.  I recorded everything for use in future Mixed Meters posts.  This post is a quickie to say thank you.  Thanks, guys.

Here's an early picture of the trio - scanned from a xerox of a photograph.  Bob said it was taken in 1978 or 79 at CalArts where the Repairmen, all students of John Bergamo, met.

L to R: M.B. with hair and mustache, Art with hair and sideburns and Bob with hair and beard.  (I love the video camera on the left and the shadow of same on the right.)


You may well wonder what these guys are doing.  Certainly not conventional percussion music.  The tall cylindrical object is a resonant metal artillery shell to which long strips of masking tape have been affixed.  The shell was amplified.  The trio slowly pulled the strips of tape away from the shell creating sounds.  Neither M.B. nor Bob could remember a title.  We'll also have to imagine what it sounded like.

I asked about how the group got started.  Bob answered:
We gravitated towards each other.  We were in the new music ensemble together.  We had a lot of likes, our personalities.  Art could see that we had chops, we could play already.  We were getting better.  And he said 'You know, this might be something.'  It was his idea.  He said 'Let's do a trio.  Let's start writing.'  It was wide open.
M.B. added:
And it was going to be not just a percussion trio because it was pretty much going to be whatever it was.  Sort of a Performance-Art-for-Percussion trio because we did plenty of pieces where there wasn't a whole lot of percussion going on.
Back to Bob:
We started kind of sifting what was out there for trios.  Art started writing text, you know, just to push the boundaries.  We knew that text could be involved, that non percussion activities could be involved.  There was theater, how hard could [that] be?
In our discussion we covered the piece Ghatam in detail.  They gave me a lot of information about the history and structure of Ghatam.   Watch for that in some future Mixed Meters post.

After 3 hours of talk and laughter hunger overtook us.  Here's a picture of M.B. and Bob taken later that evening, before the food came.


THE DANCE CLASS COUNTING STORY

I'm not very good at telling jokes.  One joke I do tell, however, is about how dancers count to three or to seven.  Musicians often find this very amusing.

Unfortunately the joke cannot be conveyed through written language.  It must be told by someone out loud and in rhythm.  I've mentioned this before in the post Counting to Seven.  Back then I didn't try to tell the joke.

It turns out that this bit of humor is based on reality.  It actually happened to M.B.  Here's audio of the three of us discussing how it happened.  (Note: To protect the innocent I removed some personal details about the dancer from the clip.)

Listen right here:



(If that doesn't work try this page instead.)

BOMBED

Somewhere, back in history, I wrote a piece for the Antenna Repairmen.  It was called Bombed.  I've mentioned Bombed before here.  (That page has a story about how Frank Zappa reacted to Bombed.)

Bombed is in three movements.  Here are the program notes for each movement.

1. Into the Stone Age – Three young Americans, believing the sound-bites of their leaders, participate in the destruction of a less significant culture.
2. Pan Am 103 – Wrapped up in their own problems and fears, they have no conception of what is happening around them.
3. Out of Your Mind – Our heroes, trying to walk home after the bars close, cannot remember the music they heard that day.

Bombed came up in our three hour marathon Wednesday.  Here's Bob talking about it.
That was a fun piece.  That was a hard piece too.  We played it pretty damn well.  You know why I think we liked that piece so much?  Not because it was well written.  To me it epitomized the Repairmen, the kind of weird things that we did, the odd rhythms.  'You're playing seven?  I've got my six in that time.'  It was no problem for us, we got so used to doing that.
You can listen to Bombed here.  You can even download the score here.








Thursday, February 19, 2015

In which David encounters some forks.

Back in 2009 I posted this picture on Mixed Messages


I called the picture Fork in the Road.  Indeed it shows a fork, a very large sculptural fork located on a traffic island.  And there is a road.  However, the road does not fork.  The Robert Frost poem does not apply here.  Drivers have no choice about choosing the road more or less travelled by.  This is merely a spot where two one-way streets merge to form one two-way street.

Anyway, back in 2009 the fork appeared mysteriously and received considerable notice.  The local paper even wrote an article about it:  Pasadena's fork in the road is guerilla art installation.   I was under the impression that it was to be removed pending approval from CalTrans.   I hadn't noticed it for a long time.

Until last week.

On one of my recent walks I was surprised to encounter the fork.  It's been moved away from traffic and more securely mounted.  I stopped to take some pictures.  I saw no plaque explaining the origin of this culinary geographical sculptural pun.  People are left to wonder why it is there.  It's just there because ... well, why not?  Art.  Fork Art.

Google Street View confirms that the fork was not there in 2011.  The story of its reappearance is here.  Also here.  Old news.  Liability Insurance was needed.  This being America, nothing happens until the financial responsibilities are sorted.

Here's what it looks like now.




I know of another big fork in Pasadena.  It's on Holly Street, outside a restaurant.  Which restaurant?  (I don't remember the name.)


Finally, here are two pictures of an actual fork in the road, one with no artistic pretensions and no liability insurance.  You could eat with this fork, not that you'd want to.



You can click on the pictures to embiggen them.

Friday, February 06, 2015

My Day in Paintings

Thursday morning I downloaded a free Adobe IOS app called Paintcan.  It allows you to convert digital photos into virtual paintings just by waving your finger over them.

So here are some paintings from my day.  First there are scenes from my walk; I took the Gold Line to Old Pasadena.  There's also a picture of Leslie at the computer, a selfie of me, our cat Spackle sitting at the window and our dog Chowderhead on my office floor.

The app is simple and intuitive and fast and fun.  Click any of the pictures to see them full size.

Digital cameras have turned everyone into annoying photographers.  Maybe programs like this will make us all elitist painters as well.  Once again the power of personal computing lets everyone become a starving artist.





Compare the next "painting" with the original photo from Mixed Messages.  
(I called it Man in the Moon.)






Wanna see my Doodles?

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Down Time - Autumn 2014 (short version)

Does anyone still play bridge, two couples, tricks and trumps?  Always seemed like a waste of time to me.  Still, people are entitled to use their spare moments however they want.  Some people sure must have a lot of them.

Apparently I had enough free time to write this music.  I'll be stumped if I can think of anything to say about it that I haven't said a thousand times already about a thousand previous pieces.

If you happen to have enough extra free time to actually listen to Down Time maybe you'll find one more minute to leave a one-word comment explaining its meaning.  One.

Click here to hear Down Time (Autumn 2014 - short version) by David Ocker - © 2015 David Ocker - 990 Seconds


The performers are The Peter Schmid Quartet
  • Peter Schmid, pianos 
  • Lori Terhune, guitars
  • Cornel Reasoner, basses 
  • Luis 'Pulpo' Jolla, drums
The full version of Autumn 2014 can be heard here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

An Antenna Repairmen Performance

Composer Arthur Jarvinen was born on January 27, 1956. Today would have been his 59th birthday. Each year I try to remember Art on his birthday with a Mixed Meters post.



This year I'd like to highlight a concert by The Antenna Repairmen, a percussion trio.  The members, Robert Fernandez, M.B. Gordy and Art, started playing together in 1978.  Yes, they were all CalArts students back then.

This particular concert was given at Roski School of Fine Arts at USC on November 5, 2009.  It was organized by Karen Koblitz an artist and professor there.

There is a fine video of the concert available online, in two parts.  It is well worth watching if you're interested in Art's music.

More importantly for those of us who knew the man, Art talks to the audience after the first set of pieces.  (You must listen carefully however because he isn't miked well.)  He describes the music, reveals the origins of the instruments and gives some insight into the ideas behind the compositions.  At one point he says:
Much of what we're playing is inspired by world music.  But it is all original music of our own, sort of filtered through the sensibilities of other world cultures that we politely borrow from.
Here is Part One of the video:


It begins with an introduction by Karen Koblitz.  At about 6 minutes the Repairmen make an processional entrance playing simantrons and chanting a Zen Buddhist proverbNichi nichi kore kōnichi.  It means "Every day is a good day."  Art adds "Some days are better than others."  At the end of his life Art was studying to be a Zen Buddhist.

Simantron?  That's an Eastern European instrument, little more than a shaped board hit with a hammer.  Art was fascinated by it.  He wrote In Search of the Simantron at the New Music Box website.  I guarantee, there is more information about simantrons than you are expecting.  Art ends his article with this:
Bells can be solemn; I can play a bell with solemnity. But I have yet to learn how to play the simantron solemnly or in sadness.  Maybe it’s only because I’m a percussionist, but damn do I love to play the simantron!  I compose for it, I improvise on it for fun, and I beat it on July 4th to announce that the roast pig is ready. And whenever I play it, people seem to lighten up and enjoy it.

This is followed at about 10 minutes by a performance on a "big fake rock" The California Gaval Dashy created by Karen Koblitz.  It is initially wrapped in paper but the Repairmen remove that with scissors.  Rock?  Paper?  Scissors?  (Yes, that's the reference.)  They also play the rock with sticks and stones.  Then Bob clips Art's hair while M.B. waits his turn.  (The remaining pictures are captures from the video.)



The third piece on Part One (at about 15 minutes) is called Bong's Garbo, for three gongs.


After a spoken introduction by Art, Part Two of the video consists of a performance of the major sections of Ghatam, composed jointly by Fernandez, Gordy & Jarvinen.  It is a most satisfying and successful piece.  (That's my opinion of it.)


Here are some excerpts from the liner notes of Ghatam:
Ghatam is a collaborative work by percussion group The Antenna Repairmen and sculptor Stephan Freedman.  It is a sculptural/musical performance piece ... played entirely on ceramic instruments designed and built especially for this situation by Freedman.  Some of these are unique, while others are variants on instruments found in non-western cultures.
Ghatam is an interaction between sculpture, music and theatre.  Besides standing on its own merits as a purely musical work, it is meant to be beautiful to watch.


Ghatam is a remarkably well paced work. It bubbles with rhythmic vitality and musical sophistication. There are some surprising performance techniques - watch for flip flops and ping pong paddles. The theatricality and ritualistic sensibility is essential to the piece.


There is a wonderful commercial recording of Ghatam.

Here's an interview with Art on the Composer's Voice series. (Real Audio)

This link will reveal all Mixed Meters' posts about Arthur Jarvinen.  (There are a lot.)

The Invisible Guy (Art's surf music movie sound track presented with commentary and images)

Another performance video of M.B. Gordy and Bob Fernandez on the Gaval Dashy is here.



Sunday, January 18, 2015

Autumn 2014 from The Seasons

Even if I haven't been blogging much lately or composing much or doing much of anything much because I recently was afflicted by some sort of virus, I have been managed to stay current with my daily composition project, The Seasons.

Much is a funny word.  Say it out loud 10 times before you read on.  Much. Much. Much. Much. Much. Much. Much. Much. Much. Much. Good times.

Listen to the latest installment of The Seasons entitled Autumn 2014 here.

Alert Mixed Meters readers (if any actually exist) will protest that I couldn't be _that_ current with The Seasons since I seem to have skipped a season.  For you non-alert readers, they're referring to Summer 2014 which has yet to appear online.  The story is: I actually finished it right on time on the Equinox back in September but that I wasn't completely happy with it - and haven't found the time or energy to go back and fix it to my satisfaction.

My satisfaction is the ultimate arbiter of taste at Mixed Meters.

New Mixed Meters readers (if any have read this far) are probably wondering what this thing called The Seasons is.  You might pick up some clues by checking out this post about Autumn 2013.  Right now I haven't got the energy to explain why I'm posting a nearly 75-minute long piece of music 78% of which is complete silence.

Click here to hear Autumn 2014 by David Ocker - © 2014 David Ocker, 4402 seconds




Tuesday, December 30, 2014

David's Best of 2014

Every December the media is filled with "Best of..." articles, helping readers sort through an entire year's deluge of news, promotions, advertisements and click bait.


I'm suspicious, however, that because these articles are easy to prepare in advance their real purpose is to allow the harried media professional to knock off work early during the holiday season.


We here, in the Mixed Meters newsroom, want to do year-end "Best of..." lists as much as the next blog because we like quitting work early too.


We've done such lists before.  Last year had an exceptionally negative tone.   The 2012 entry was very misleading.  In 2008 I listed things I had genuinely liked during that year . . . that was boring!


Now consider the human hand.  What an amazing tool the hand is.  Civilization would lack so much without the help of hands: typing, sign language, wind instruments.
  

Our hands are very delicate and easy to damage.   They are a complicated array of bones, muscles and nerves - all designed for touching and manipulating the world around us.


Sometimes we need to protect our hands from things that are too hot or too cold, too rough, too sharp or too infectious.  We do this by covering our hands.


That protective thing we wear on a hand is called a glove.  Since our hands come in pairs so do our gloves (except for baseball gloves).


Disposable gloves have become very common.  Workers at the deli counter put on gloves before they touch my food.  Then they throw them away unless they forget.  I can't decide if the glove is to protect them or me.


Humans also have feet.  Our feet are no less complex than our hands but they serve completely different purposes.  We use feet to walk and run, to kick soccer balls, to play the pedals on a pipe organ.


Every day I use my own feet to walk at least 10,000 steps; that's a little over 3 miles.  In one year I walk about 1000 miles.


All that walking can get a little boring.  To give me something to think about while I walk I carry a camera.  I take pictures of the strangest stuff.


Among my favorite photo subjects are abandoned gloves.  I usually don't bother to take pictures of shoes or socks or any other articles of clothing I  encounter.  I find gloves far more interesting; they twist themselves into the most interesting shapes.


And that's the story behind this blog post, David's Best of 2014,  These are my best "lost glove" pictures for the entire year.  I wonder what lost gloves 2015 will bring.


Be honest.  Have you been ignoring the pictures as you scrolled through this blog post?  Hands up if you've only been reading the words.  Now you can go back and click on any picture for an enlargement.


The short history of previous Mixed Meters posts about Gloves:
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blue Glove
Gloves in the Wild