Friday, July 31, 2015

Space Time - Spring 2015 (short version)

Space Time, the short version of Spring 2015 from The Seasons, is now online for your listening pleasure.  Some explanation will probably be helpful.

Last month the Peter Schmid Quartet had a chance to record some of my music with a guest vocalist. This young man is named Elgnis Gnivres Tekcap.  Everyone called him Elgin.  He hails from the country of Abstemia which he said was somewhere in the Middle East.  Or maybe he said it was in the Caucasus.  Far away from California.

Gediz Çoroğlu singer
Elgnis Gnivres Tekcap

Elgin studied music in his home country.   He was eager to show us the unique Abstemian vocal styles. Despite the vast cultural differences, I think the Quartet did an excellent job of blending with his singing.

We asked him what he was singing about.  He told us he was riffing on one of the ancient legends of the native nomadic Abstemious peoples. This particular legend is called Tixe and the Elevator, which apparently runs to great length.  Modern Abstemian scholars have divided the epic into short segments, called books.  Here's as much as I can remember:



BOOK ONE

Tixe Retne lived in the small impoverished country of Teertsllaw, in the basement of the broken down shack belonging to his parents Pu and Nwod Retne.

Poor but honest, Nwod Retne plied the distinctive Teertsllawian trade of goatheading. You see, the local goats in those days grew small extra heads with the unique ability to breathe fire. A goatheaders job was to remove the dangerous second head before the obstreperous little bovid could burn down everything in sight.

Though Nwod found this work somewhat rewarding, the number of biheaded goats in Teertsllaw had dwindled ominously over the years and Nwod was no longer able to support his wife and son by beheading the biheaded.

"Tixe," Nwod said one morning, "you know that you are my favorite son."

"Yes Father. That's because I am your only son."

"Tixe, you must leave Teertsllaw and seek some small fortune with which to support your parents."

"I will do that Father because you are my favorite parents. But where shall I go?"

"Go to visit The Three Diabetes in the country of Gnosnaws. It is said that The Three can see the future. They are magical and will give you good counsel. And take this Goat Head with you."

Tixe look at the shriveled head with alarm. "Whatever for, Father?"

"Few people know this, but Goat's little heads still can breathe fire after they have been removed. But only once. Use it when things look darkest for you."

Tixe took the head from his father with a shiver.

"And here are five drachma - our family'e entire life savings. You may need to buy yourself a drink."

"FIVE drachma?" Tixe objected "That's not even one Euro."

BOOK TWO

Tixe set off immediately, trudging along the road to Gnosnaws, seeking The Three Diabetes, carrying a dead second goat head in a small sack. The five drachma jangled in his pocket. He had never left his home before and was definitely not looking forward to this obviously doomed journey.

As it turned out, Gnosnaws was extremely close to Teertsllaw and Tixe arrived that same day even before the sun had set. He had expected to have difficulty finding The Three Diabetes. Instead he noticed many billboards along the road advertising their magical fortune-telling services.

The first read: "The Three Diabetes - 5 Miles. Learn the future. Guaranteed".

Later: "Don't wonder what will happen next. Visit The Three Diabetes - 2 miles."

Each sign was more elaborate and brighter than the last. Finally Tixe came upon a massive billboard with an animated cat repeatedly pointing to a small run down shack. A mouse could be seen running into the shack. Periodically the cat would try to smack the mouse with a huge hammer.

The sign read "The Three Diabetes!!! 50 feet. Please have your question ready. Price: 2 drachma."

"This can't be right," Tixe thought as he looked at the building, "This looks just like my parent's shack."

Tixe paid his admission fee to a bored blonde Gnosnawsian girl wearing earbuds and was ushered into a small dark room. She handed him a brochure and motioned him to a chair. He sat there alone for a long time. There was no sound.

According to the xeroxed handout, The Three Diabetes are named Glipizide, Glimepiride and Glyburide. For some reason they appear to humans in the form of cats.

BOOK THREE

Tixe waited for The Three Diabetes. He heard what might have been a cat's meow in the distance. Startled, he looked up.

Tixe watched in amazement as two large gray and white cats and one small black one, the last barely more than a kitten, marched through a small cat door in exact formation, every movement identical, each pushing a small cat toy with their paws, their tails straight as arrows held exactly parallel to the floor. They marched in a circle for a long time and suddenly, all at the exact same moment, sat facing Tixe.

Still in perfect unison the cats moved their mouths. Tixe heard no sound. Instead there were three voices in his head. They spoke exactly together in a strange Gnosnawsian accent.

"What do you wish to know, Tixe?"

What Tixe really wished to know was how they knew his name but he had been alerted by the brochure to the fact that he was only allowed one question without paying additional drachmas.

"I am seeking a small fortune to support my impoverished parents." Tixe paused.

"Please state your question in the form of a question." said the three voices in his head, clearly irritated.  Still in perfect unison.

"How can I earn a small fortune to support my impoverished parents?"

"You must travel to the city of Ringburg in the country of Abstemia. There you must ascend the unclimbable mountain called Mount Foomboom seeking the mythical fire-breathing wooden bird Pegaleg.  Ride on Pegaleg's back and your fortune will be assured."

The Three Diabetes suddenly broke formation and began to scamper about just like cats are supposed to, stopping to lick their paws or swat at one another, completely ignoring Tixe. Even more suddenly, all at once, they ran off through the cat door. Tixe found himself alone again. He heard only the flapping of the small door.

Tixe pondered the information which had cost him 2 precious drachma. When he looked up he saw that the little black cat, the one called Glyburide, or was it Glipizide, had silently returned. It spoke to Tixe in perfect Teertsllawian:

“Should you ever return to ask us how we knew your name," Glimepiride (or maybe Glyburide) said, "Please bring us some decent food. The canned stuff they feed us here is absolutely for shit."



The story I heard never had anything about an elevator.

Click here to hear Space Time (Spring 2015 short version) by David Ocker - © 2015 David Ocker - 1174 seconds

The Peter Schmid Quartet is:
Peter Schmid, pianos
Lori Terhune, guitars
Cornel Reasoner, basses
Luis 'Pulpo' Jolla, drums and percussion
with special guest: Elgnis Gnivres Tekcap, vocals

Curious about how the vocals were done? click here.  
Want to hear some real singing? try this.

Music of Space Time reformatted:

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Garbage Days of Spring 2015

In my previous post Garbage Days of Winter 2014 I unveiled a new way I figured out for recombining the daily fragments of music I write for my ongoing project The Seasons.  This is the fourth year now and I'm producing music that I find surprisingly enjoyable.  Or maybe it's enjoyably surprising.

The most recently completed season was Spring 2015, written between March 20 and June 20, 2015.  I've already posted the long version.  The short version, entitled Space Time, is nearly ready.  I've been trying to mix the sound so it isn't too embarrassing.  I'm nearly finished with that task.  Space Time should be the next post here on Mixed Meters.  Real soon now.

Do you want an idea of what Space Time will be like?  I've created a sampler.  Or a trailer.  That's 'trailer' like a movie trailer.  It's a two and a half minute piece which might entice you into investing 19 minutes in the full version.   What I did was excerpt one segment from each week.   I used every seventh segment, every Monday, into a shorter piece.  It works as well as any of my music works.  Why?  I haven't a clue.

I called this short teaser Garbage Days of Spring 2015 because around here, Monday is garbage day.  That's the day people in my part of Pasadena take their dumpsters out to the curb for pickup on Tuesday.  On Monday I must remember to clean the cat boxes, take out the recycling, empty the garbage cans: send a week's worth of our suburban waste off to whatever magical land the municipality of Pasadena has decided can make the most productive use of it.

What a privilege it is to live in an era when the disposing our old newspapers, yard waste and pet feces becomes a religious ritual - a weekly veneration honoring the cycle of life.  No, the recycle of life.  No, not life: the recycle of stuff.   If you think about it for a while, you'll realize that taking out the trash is cosmic. 

So either this music is cosmic or it's a shameless exploitation trick to entice you into listening to the full 19-minute Space Time which is coming soon.  Real soon now.

Click here to hear Garbage Days of Spring 2015 by David Ocker - © 2015 David Ocker - 155 seconds


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Garbage Days of Winter 2014

I'm always on the lookout for easy ways to reuse and recycle musical material.  And recycling is something you do on garbage day, right?

It occurred to me that I could excerpt segments from my ongoing daily composition series called The Seasons.  I would assemble these into a shorter piece.  If I selected one segment per week the length would be reduced by about one seventh.

Mixed Meters' Three Regular Readers probably understand the previous paragraph.  If you don't, try getting up to speed by going to The Seasons page and reading and listening and reading and listening.   Good luck.  This project is now in its fourth year and I'm still finding it difficult to explain.

It was easy to decide which day of the week to use.  I've imbued many of The Seasons with a musical quality I call Garbage Day Periodicity.  GDP just means that I try to add some sort of (more or less) noticeable musical change on Mondays, the day I have to remember to take out the garbage.

I picked the season called Winter 2014.  It is based on an extremely early piano sonata of mine.  I deleted everything but the Monday segments.  There was a little work pacing these properly (by adjusting the time between them) and a lot of work mixing the musical elements so everything balanced nicely.  The actual music is completely unchanged.  Just remember that the 13 segments of this piece were never intended to be combined this way.

The result worked out pretty well, in my opinion.  There are lots of little surprises.  It is sort of a time-lapse version.  Maybe movie trailer is a better simile.  I think this gives an excellent idea of the content of the longer versions but still reserving plenty of surprises for the full experience.

Click here to hear Garbage Days of Winter 2014 by David Ocker - © 2015 by David Ocker, 120 seconds


If you're curious about the other versions, here are the links:

Winter 2014   (4232 sec.)   [listen]    [read]

Life Time (Winter 2014, short version)   (814 sec.)   [listen]    [read]

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Spring 2015 from the Seasons

This is Spring 2015 from The Seasons. Yeah.  It was composed from March 20 through June 20, 2015.

How does it differ from previous Seasons?  Well, it has vocals of a certain ethnicity.  And a higher ratio of music to silence than any previous Season.  (That is still only about 25%.)

Click here to hear Spring 2015 from The Seasons by David Ocker - © 2015 by David Ocker 4505 Seconds




Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Short Life of Some Pasadena Street Art

The artist is named Cali Killa.  Probably not his birth name.  I had never heard of him.  He's a street artist whose work was briefly displayed here in Pasadena.

I have heard of Banksy.  Banksy is also a street artist.  I've never seen any Banksys in Pasadena.   I've noticed other art on my walks around town.  The boy trying to catch a missile with a baseball glove was probably the best.   The huge mural of the old woman's face was pretty neat but that was in Los Angeles.

I discovered Cali Killer's piece on Raymond Avenue, just around the corner from the Fillmore Gold Line station.  The date was May 29.  The low brick building looks abandoned.  There are sometimes people sitting nearby who I suspect might be homeless.  The land is probably pretty valuable considering its proximity to the light rail and to the hospital.  Commuters can pay to park in the adjacent lot.


(Click on any picture to enlarge it.)

The wording on the book held by the young lady in the hoodie is "How to make it in Los Angeles by Cali Killa".   She's also holding what looks like a rifle.  Great art naturally lends itself to many different interpretations.  My first thought was that the artist was telling us that one needs lethal weapons to make it in L.A.

Here's the wider view so you can see the piece in context.


On June 12, two weeks later, I passed the same spot.  Cali Killa's piece had been covered in black paint.


Also interesting: someone had made a little sculpture on the bus bench out of an old rug and a pair of crutches.


I wonder why the art was blacked out.  Maybe Cali considers his works temporary and he himself returned to Pasadena to paint it over.  Maybe the building actually does get minimal maintenance.  Maybe someone was offended by the notion that you need a weapon to succeed in Los Angeles.  Maybe another street artist considers that building his turf and wanted to send Cali Killa a message to stay away.  We'll never know for sure.

If you want to hear Cali Killa talk about his work, there's this video.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Five Reasons Why Serious Immobilities Is Being Performed In New York Soon

If you've been one of Mixed Meters' Three Readers for any length of time you'll recognize the names Arthur Jarvinen and Erik Satie.  And, most likely, you'll recognize the names of their pieces Serious Immobilities and Vexations.  Are you up to speed on these topics?  If so, you're cleared to skip the next two paragraphs.


Erik Satie was a French composer, an avant-garde beacon of the early twentieth century.  He is most famous for soothing piano pieces with names like Gnossienne or Gymnopidie.   Vexations is also a short piano piece of his.  It is the opposite of soothing.  In fact it's an aggravating, infuriating, maddening whorl of unsettled melody and twisted harmony.  Exacerbating this effect, Satie instructed that the piece should be performed 840 times.  Your mind will wander and possibly you'll hallucinate if you listen that long (like 18 hours).  I'm sure you will love every minute.  You'll definitely learn the meaning of the word "unresolved".


Arthur Jarvinen, a California composer who wrote music of great originality, had many different influences.  These include, to name just a few, Erik Satie, Captain Beefheart, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and the Beatles.  He is often associated with the post-minimal Totalist movement which had strong connections to New York City.  Serious Immobilities, however, is based directly on Satie's Vexations. Art wrote 840 distinct variations on Satie's trope.  These take a full day to perform.  Listening is sort of like being trapped inside Arthur Jarvinen's brain while he is trapped inside Erik Satie's.  You'll love it. (Much more info here.)


The big news is that all 24 hours of Serious Immobilities is getting another well-deserved complete performance, the first in 17 years. This will happen starting at eight in the morning on June 20th (that's next Saturday) through eight the following morning at the West Park Presbyterian Church in New York City.  I wonder if Sunday morning services begin immediately afterwards.  I sure hope their pews are well padded.  More details of the performance are provided here.  Here's the New Yorker listing. (I'm blown away that the New Yorker could condense the high points of this story into just over 100 words, even though they made one big mistake.)


The event is presented by Composers Collaborative, Inc. a New York group with a busy 20-year history of presenting new music.   Their press release for Serious Immobilities lists 16 pianists so I guess each pianist will be playing for about 90 minutes.  Jed Distler, described online as President and Treasurer of CCi and elsewhere as Artistic Director, took part in the 1998 New York premier of Serious Immobilities.  He's the moving force behind this important performance.


Serious Immobilities is more than just 840 variations on Vexations by Arthur Jarvinen.  There is another simultaneous layer of music by a different composer.  Randall Woolf, a friend of Art's, called his Vexation variations Spineless Dog.   He has described Spineless Dog as a guided improvisation and he scored it for Midi keyboard, computer and electronics.

(This post will help you sort through the versions and performance history of Serious Immobilities.)


Did I mention that this performance is FREE.  If you're nearby or within easy striking distance, I hope you'll attend.  Go for an hour.  Or two.  Or ten.  Heck, stay for the whole thing.  Maybe they'll let you roll out a sleeping bag so you can dream along with Serious Immobilities.  Although there are 70 minutes of Art's piano variations available on CD (from Los Angeles River Records and from Leisure Planet Music), attending this event is your first chance to hear the entire Serious Immobilities since 1998.



Since I've written so often about Arthur Jarvinen and since both Mixed Meters' posts about Serious Immobilities are among the most often read, I briefly considered flying to New York.  And then I calculated how much sleep I'd lose.  After all, it's not like I'm fifty years old any more.  I'll have to wait for another L.A. performance.

There must be at least five good reasons why a 24-hour performance of Serious Immobilities can happen only in New York and no where else right now.  Were you expecting me to list them?  What's most important to me is that this performance is a significant milestone in Arthur Jarvinen's musical legacy.  I'd like to congratulate all who are involved and wish their production the best possible outcome.


(To close, here's the text from the final variation of Serious Immobilities:)

You aren't likely to do much that's predicated on the depth of a literary fragment, and such a short one at that.
With your total lack of respect for it, and the extent to which you despise it, you were always certain there was ample justification for its moderate brevity, the audiences' not wanting to keep it short notwithstanding.
Denying the possibility of any motif occupying a full twenty-four hours is of course absolutely necessary, although falling even one second short would disqualify it anyway.
As you leave this performance perhaps you can't make up your mind whether or not to plagiarize several rather short works for mixed ensembles, none of which you can actually recall, such as any of those by this composer.
None of them are merely crude approximations of necessarily short motifs, with even one unique, fully-realized idea strictly prohibited.
Serious Immobilities is not deconstructed only from rests and single notes.
You obliterated any new sense of timelessness with widely separated silences; so why Vexations?
And you didn't introduce even one unique event.


Sunday, May 31, 2015

Doctor Pyewacket

We have a new kitten in the house. His name is Doctor Pyewacket.  He was a foundling.


One day (May 11 to be precise, a Monday) Leslie heard a high-pitched sound of distress coming from some bushes near our house.  The source was a little black furry thing.  The feline-human bonding process began almost instantaneously.


We performed a modicum of due diligence to determine if the kitty belonged to anyone.  We asked a few neighbors, none of whom claimed him.  We put up a single small "Found Kitten" sign for a few days.  No bereaved little girl appeared asking for the return of her cat.

Apparently someone had just dropped their unwanted kitty in the shrubbery and run away, hoping cat lovers would find it.  That's exactly what happened.  Doctor Pyewacket is one seriously lucky cat.


A week later we took Pyewacket to the vet.  The contract he agreed to was simple: we'll take care of him for life.  In exchange all he needs to do is be cute and affectionate.  Oh, and he never gets to go outside again, ever.  He gets extra bonus points if he remembers to use the cat box.


Leslie named him Pyewacket after the Siamese cat in the movie Bell, Book and Candle.  You can watch some scenes of Pyewacket in this video (just remember that Frank Sinatra has nothing to do with it.)  That was one seriously well-trained movie animal.


The name Pyewacket was originally one of several imps (along with Elemanzer, Peck in the Crown, Grizzel and Greedigut) described by "witchfinder general" Matthew Hopkins in 1644.  I'm sure he knew where-of he spoke.


Our houseguest Isabel gave Pyewacket his doctoral honors.  The name has stuck in that form.  Dr. P. is not to be confused with Mr. P. the peacock who lived in our tree the first year we were in Pasadena, shown here confronting our mackerel tabby Big Boy.


Dr. P. is getting along as well as might be expected with Chowderhead, our big red dog.  Our two older cats, however, are not so accepting.  The male, Crackle Pop, is curious but standoffish.  The female, Spackle Puss, thinks that this new rival is evil in the flesh.  Spackle is seriously unhappy about the extra pussy cat on the premises.


I tried hard to catch some of Dr. Pyewacket's cuteness on video.  His dark color makes him hard to photograph.  The good pictures happen when you're quick and well-lit.   I edited the best scenes into a short video.  Then I added a frightfully over-composed soundtrack.


Watch as Pyewacket is tormented by his humans!  Marvel as he drags a mouse by its tail!  Thrill as he meets the dog!  Laugh as he chases the evil laser dot!  Snicker as he swipes at me for not wanting him to chew on my computer cables!  Guffaw as he attacks the camera!  Marvel again as he sings along with the music while he rides on my shoulder.


Someday, when Pyewacket is older, heavier and not nearly so active we'll show him this video and say "You were so cute.  What happened?"  Meanwhile, here are some pictures of our other pets.  First the brother sister team of Spackle Puss on the left and Crackle Pop on the right, shown dozing in their natural habitat.


Then, Chowderhead waiting to be given a treat and Crackle resting his head on my thigh as I sit at my computer.



Finally, just because, here are some pictures of other animals, real and imagined, photographed in the more-or-less wild.





Here's a Mixed Meters post with video about dinosaur puppets at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (where Leslie works on worms).   Another post which delves into the history of the dueling-dino image after discussing the Rite of Spring.

There are plenty of other Mixed Meters posts about cats and/or dogs.  Check them out.  You know you want to.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Gerry Fialka Interviews David Ocker

Last November I was asked by Gerry Fialka if I would consent to be interviewed on his series called MESS.  He set a date nearly 6 months in the future.   I announced the interview here on Mixed Meters and then promptly forgot about it except when I tried to imagine what it would be like, what he would ask me or how I would respond.  That happened only almost every day.  I had no answers for the first two questions so answering the third question with any accuracy became quite difficult.

Gerry Fialka interviewer at the UnUrban May 9 2015

As the date slowly loomed closer and closer I did some research by looking up Gerry's interviews on YouTube.  For example this one.  And this one.  Or this one.  While I didn't necessarily know who the interviewees were, I did get a sense of what Gerry wanted to know.

His questions definitely don't cover the who, what, where, when and why stuff.  You might call it more of a meta-interview.  Apparently he's been asking questions like this of all sorts of people for decades.  At one point Gerry says
"We try to talk with artists or musicians or filmmakers and not so much ask them to tell us what their art is about, because as I. A. Richards taught us, the artist is the last person you want to ask what their art is about.  But we talk about the philosophies of life."
The questions ran a gamut from what I thought was the best thing for a human being to what I would do if someone threw a bag a shit at me while I was in a vat of vomit.   My research into Gerry's previous interviews helped only a little.  I had a few prepared answers but was surprised to find that some of my spontaneous responses were much better.

Gerry Fialka and David Ocker at the UnUrban May 9 2015

Gerry suggested that I should take the task of recording the interview into my own hands.  I used the point 'n shoot in my pocket to record video of most of it and also made a backup audio recording.

As I've reviewed my performance, I am relieved not to be cringing too much at what I said.  There are a few places where I didn't express myself as well as I might have and other places where I wish I had expounded more.  I still pretty much remember what I meant to say so feel free to ask about the incomprehensible bits.

I decided to share the interview here.  I knew I would.  After all, this blog is specifically about things I have to say so what could be more perfect than two hours of me saying things.

Gerry Fialka and David Ocker at the UnUrban May 9 2015

Here are some points you should probably read before watching:
  • This video is as a massive selfie.  At Gerry's suggestion the camera shot was framed to show only me.  The room was not well lit, so the video also qualifies as film noir.  
  • I was distressed to learn at the last moment that my point'n'shoot would take no more than 30 minutes of video at one go.  I managed to stop and restart it twice.  If you're quick you can see my arm reach out to the camera just as a few words are dropped from the conversation.  Alas, I didn't restart he third time, so at about 90 minutes the recording switches over to audio only.  I added some fifty of my photographs to satisfy the visual nature of the medium.
  • In spite of all my facial and hand gestures and all my photographs, this is essentially an audio document.  If you listen without watching you won't miss much of anything.  In a hurry? YouTube gives the option of faster playback: 1.25 and 1.5 are still understandable.  Double time is not.
  • I am grateful to all the people who attended.  The room was small but well filled.  Some old friends showed up to mingle with Gerry's regular audience.  One questioner, who might well have been drinking, didn't belong to either group.  He's the one who asks me for a hug.
  • Gerry and I share the experience of having worked for Frank Zappa.  There are a lot of Zappa-related questions.  If you're interested primarily in my experience working for Frank, then you should check out this interview from the mid-90s.  Or this interview about Francesco and Frank.
Okay.  That's the end of my preamble.  Here's the main event . . . .

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Four Winters

The Seasons is not just some dead European's collection of four tired old warhorse violin concertos that everyone loves.  It's also my series of pieces that almost no one knows about.  You can find links to read about or listen to all my Seasons here.  Sometimes it seems that you can hear that other set of seasons just about anywhere.

One aspect of Vivaldi's Seasons that makes sense to most people is that there is one concerto for each season.  Old Antonio figured that's all he needed to do.  Once you hear his impressions of a particular season, say, Winter, you've heard as much Winter as you'll ever need.  The theory here, I guess, is that all winters are pretty much alike.


My Seasons are much more ambitious.  There will be a new piece called Winter every year, as long as I keep writing them.  So far I've completed four Winters.  To distinguish them from one another (and from Vivaldi) I add a year to the title.  My four completed winters are Winter 2011, Winter 2012, Winter 2013 and Winter 2014.

If you're one of Mixed Meters' three regular readers, you'll already know that these pieces contain huge amounts of pure silence - up to 80% has no sound whatsoever.   Listening to a piece like that would be madness, right?

Also, there's no intent on my part to portray Winter.  There's no tone painting here.  If you feel cold while listening to this music, I suggest it's because you forgot to turn up the heat.  My pieces are called "Winter" because they were written during the winter.  Simple, huh?

My intention, is that The Seasons are combinatorial - you play them with other music.  Yes, two or more pieces simultaneously.   Mostly I listen to my Seasons in combination with my other Seasons, although playing them with Vivaldi works pretty well too.

This process requires creativity on the part of the listener.  My sense is that listeners do not like exhibiting creativity when they listen.  Most listeners, whatever their favorite genre, don't like unexpected, unusual, abrupt cacophonous interruptions when multiple unrelated pieces of music are played at the same time.  Imagine that.

To make matters worse, most playback systems, analog or digital, do not facilitate multiple simultaneous streams of music.  To allow those few people who want to hear all four Winters simultaneously, I've mixed them together and uploaded a single easy-to-play file.  Just click and play.  No creativity is required.

Click here to hear Four Winters - by David Ocker
4384 seconds   - Copyright © 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 




If you are inspired to try combining some of my Seasons simultaneously on your own, there is a way to do that online.  First be certain you have a good Internet connection.  Then go here and in the first category, "The Seasons", click on "Listen" several times.  You can separate your clicks by a couple minutes for added variety.   Alas, these sound files won't repeat endlessly which would be a nice touch. (UPDATE: so I just tried this again and was surprised to discover that the sound files DO repeat endlessly. Oh joy. I have no idea what changed. Maybe it happened when I switched to the HTML5 player as default.)


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Repercussion Unit at Feed the Weed

We're having a serious drought in California, so when it rained here in Pasadena last Saturday most everyone was pleased.  The only possible exceptions were the members of Newtown, a local alternative arts organization, who had gone to a lot of work to plan an outdoor fundraiser for that day.

True Pasadenans will immediately associate the name Newtown with Oldtown, the local trendient shopping and eating district, more properly called "Old Pasadena".  Newtown's motto is a persistent weed in the garden of art.   The fundraiser was called Feed the Weed.

Since music was a large part of the offering of Feed the Weed and since I was likely to see a number of friends, the rain didn't stop me from attending.

Of course I took some pictures.  And if you hang on to the end of this post, there's even a video of the Repercussion Unit!



The setting was a large already-well-watered yard of a Newtown supporter's home.  Various  fruits were strewn on the grass for anyone who wanted to play melon soccer or possibly citrus lawn bowling.  Eventually the rain lessened.  The sun made a brief appearance - for like five minutes.  The show went on, more or less as planned.



Richard Amromin, whom I have known for nearly 40 years, is the out-going artistic director of Newtown.  Richard was involved with the Independent Composers Association back "in the day".  You can see several more pictures of him in the MM post Second Second Story Series - Portraits by Robert Jacobs, one of several articles about the ICA from 2008.


The musical events at Feed the Weed included the group Non Credo, fronted by Kira Vollman and Joe Berardi.  There was also a tribute to Arthur Jarvinen performed by Jack Vees, Miroslav Tadić, and M.B.Gordy.  Pianist Irene Gregorio-Stoup also performed some of Jarvinen's Serious Immobilities plus other works by Rima Snyder and Eric Satie.



The remaining musical ensemble of the afternoon was the Repercussion Unit.  I've written twice about the R-Unit: one was in my obituary for long-time CalArts percussion teacher and Unit founder John Bergamo and the other was about A Tribute to John Bergamo held last year at CalArts.

At Feed the Weed the Repercussion Unit consisted of three founding members Larry Stein, Gregg Johnson and James Hildebrandt plus newcomer Amy Knoles.  They dedicated their performance to Bergamo and to Lucky Mosko, another Unit original member who passed away in 2005.  The performance started with instrument building.  Each player constructed their own cajon.  (Cajons are wooden boxes that people who are impervious to pain sit on and slap with their hands.)

I happened to shoot some video clips of their carpentry work and also most of a performance of Wake for Charles Ives from Four Pieces for Drum Quartet by composer James Tenney.  Tenney was another respected CalArts composition faculty member who died in 2006.

I assembled the video clips into this:





At 2'03" of the video there's a short cut-away showing Robert Fernandez and Dee McMillan.  She's the one in the red hat.  At the very beginning of the video you can hear Bob's voice saying "At least my wallet stayed dry."   Bob and M.B. Gordy were featured in this recent post.

Another participant in Feed the Weed about whom I've written here at Mixed Meters is Susan Braig.


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.