Sunday, January 31, 2016

Winter 2012 (short version)

If you don't know about my on-going composition project The Seasons then this post might lean towards the obtuse. Sorry. There's no time for any but the most cursory explanations right now.  My goal is to do 3 new Mixed Meters posts per month.  This is the third for January; yet another "Last Day of the Month"-er.

I'm now composing the seventeenth season of The Seasons.  That would be the first season of the fifth year.  It's called Winter 2015.  The very first season was Winter 2011.

Each season has two versions, long and short. The long versions have silences separating the bits of music.  There's one bit o'music for each day.  The short versions have no silences but identical music. You can find all completed long versions here on Mixed Meters.  Until now I only posted short versions beginning with Mantra (Spring 2013, short version).

A few days ago, out on my walk, I set my iPad to shuffle play. It decided that I needed to listen to Winter 2012 (short version).  It had been some time since I'd played it.  And I enjoyed it.  I usually enjoy listening to my old music if I don't do it too often.  Sometimes, however, it depresses me.  I figured this piece was good enough to post.  Plus, it would make an easy third post for January.

After Winter 2011, the very first season, I tried different schemes for musical unification.  In Winter 2012 there is a 12-tone row used throughout.  There are no other serial techniques; it's just a kind of melody with all twelve pitches that pops up from time to time.  For the following season, Spring 2013, I figured out how to make the daily bits link together metrically.  I've been using that technique ever since.

In Winter 2012 (short version) the musical bits vary considerably in their musical style.  The shifts can be surprising.  Hearing it now reminded me of John Zorn's For Your Eyes Only which is filled with musical quick-cuts and stylistic changes.  I wasn't aware of the Zorn piece until several years after I wrote Winter 2012.  And, of course, my piece does has no movie references.

Anyway . . .

Click here to hear Winter 2012 (short version) by David Ocker -    © 2013 David Ocker, 889 seconds

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Harp of Life

Today, January 27, 2015, would have been Arthur Jarvinen's 60th birthday. It's been over five years since Art chose to take his final bow.  His decision left a lot of baffled and befuddled friends, family and colleagues behind.  He is missed.

Saxophonist and composer Eric Barber was a friend and colleague of Art Jarvinen.  And, for a while, his student.  Last fall Eric released a solo saxophone album entitled Harp of Life in Art's memory.  Here's the cover:

Eric provided this description of the album from his Bandcamp page:
This music is a tribute to my friend, mentor, and teacher Art Jarvinen. The years we spent together eating, playing, and discussing greatly influenced my musical approach and vocabulary. After his untimely passing in 2010, I began composing the music for this project. I think Art would appreciate the music, the meticulous dedication to the recording process, and the utter lack of any marketing potential or financial return on a multi tracked solo saxophone album. I miss him and will always remember the wonderful times we shared and all that he taught me.
Eric's precise order of "eating, playing and discussing" amuses me greatly.  Any friend of Art's will understand those priorities.  Via email Eric expanded on his relationship to Art:
I studied composition with Art for two years at CalArts (97-99) and he basically turned me on to everything good... Beefheart, Rweski, Feldman, Zappa. We had a duo called We Are Not Mailmen which was acoustic sax and his electronics setup. Our band Balkanova with Randy Gloss, Milen Kirov, and John Heitzenrater was a twisted Bulgarian gypsy wedding band with Art on bass, and we played a bunch of his originals too. And I had a trio with him with Art on drums, Scot Ray on trombone and Hammond. And I played a few cuts on Invisible Guy. Most of this was between 1999 and 2004. And we had a lot of Thai food, sea bass, and saunas along with all the Halloweenie fests and pig roasts. He really was like an uncle.

Harp of Life has six tracks - all for various combinations of tenor and soprano saxophones.  The tracks are entitled:
  1. Harp of Life (circa 2167 AD)
  2. The Folly of Primes (Libyan Fox Trot)
  3. Repose
  4. Simantronica
  5. 49 Halves of 14 (circa 2167 AD)
  6. Sabotage (via ledgerdemain)
I sensed allusions to Jarvinen in these titles.

For example Simantronica is clearly a reference to the East European musical instrument (similar to a piece of lumber) called the Simantron.  Art was expert on all things simantronic.  He wrote this article about it.   Here's a short lo-res video of Art using a simantron to call his dinner guests to begin consuming a whole roast pig.  There are no simantrons in Eric Barber's Simantronica; it is for 3 soprano and 3 tenor saxophones.

I asked Eric what the other Jarvinen references in his titles might be.  He wrote:
Yes the titles do [refer to Art] but are not based on his music necessarily. Folly of Primes (Libyan Fox Trot) is a nod to Art's Egyptian Two Step.  49 Halves of 14 is a nod to A Conspiracy of Crows.  Harp of Life is inspired by the Hymn string quartet he wrote that was performed at his memorial.  Sabotage has a relationship to Breaking the Chink, which I got to play at CalArts as a student and was my entree to Art.
Eric added that Harp of Life is a reference to composer Henry Cowell who also wrote a piece of that title.  (Here it is on YouTube.)   While you're at it you can hear Egyptian Two Step (listen carefully for the bursts of air at the beginning) and Conspiracy of Crows.

More to the point, you can hear Eric Barber's Harp of Life on Bandcamp.   Better yet, you can purchase the whole album for the outrageously reasonable price of $7.  Talk about the utter lack of financial return.

The opening cut, Harp of Life, begins with several minutes of mournful solo tenor.  You might mistake this for the beginning of a jazz tune and expect a piano, bass and drums to enter.  Nope.  After this invocation Barber introduces a simple ostinato pattern taken up by more saxes.  The music with rich harmonies evokes a church hymn.  The relationship to Jarvinen's music is much more than in name only. Solos over the pattern search higher and higher for meaning.  

Barber's music on this album comes from the world of minimalism - often with multiple contrapuntal lines fusing into textures.  Much of the music is rhythmic but without an overall sense of meter.  As a composer Barber has an excellent feel for just the right moment to add bits of new material.

The piece Repose uses a muliple sopranos glissandoing in a narrow range.  You can hear difference tones being produced.  It would probably be devastating done live.

My favorite piece is 49 Halves of 14 (circa 2167 AD). This consists only of a series of complex chords, almost clusters, held for various lengths of time, separated by silences.  There is a great sense of anticipation.  You're forced to listen, to wait, because you never know when that next chord will explode, interrupt.

I agree wholeheartedly with Eric's statement "I think Art would appreciate the music."  And I commend Eric Barber for producing a well-crafted artistically challenging album.  He called it a "labor of love".

One way of honoring Art Jarvinen's memory is to play his music.  Another is to let Art's memory inspire us to make new music.  That's a very good thing and something Art would certainly have understood and approved.

There are many Mixed Meters articles about Art Jarvinen and his music.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Winning the Lottery in 1984

Today's Powerball Lottery is worth one and half billion dollars, the biggest jackpot ever.  I bought my tickets.  Of course, I'm not going to win  -- and neither are you.  Buying a ticket doesn't change the chances of not winning. You have a nearly identical chance to not win if you don't buy a ticket as you do if you buy some.  Either way, you'll lose.  I guarantee it.

They say "the lottery is a tax on people who don't understand mathematics".  Here's a website that convinces me that I don't understand mathematics.  I say "Screw math.  The fantasy of a big win is worth a few bucks."  I enjoy immersing myself in the occasional delusion of sudden, unlimited wealth.

I wonder how big the jackpot would have to be before Bill Gates or Warren Buffet purchased tickets.  And if someone who was already obscenely wealthy won another billion dollars in the lottery, how long would it take for people to start believing that the lottery is rigged.

I'm reading George Orwell's 1984.  I read it once when I was much younger, before the year 1984.  Orwell seems to have accurately predicted some annoying features of our society.   He was even better at describing life today in North Korea.

Here's a passage that seems relevant.  Our hero, Winston Smith, resident of Oceania and member of the INGSOC party, has taken a walk in the bad part of London, the part of town where the lower-class proles live, a place where Winston is not really supposed to go:
     In an angle formed by a projecting house-front three men were standing very close together, the middle one of them holding a folded-up newspaper which the other two were studying over his shoulder.  Even before he was near enough to make out the expression on their faces, Winston could see absorption in every line of their bodies.  It was obviously some serious piece of news that they were reading.  He was a few paces away from them when suddenly the group broke up and two of the men were in violent altercation.  For a moment they seemed almost on the point of blows.
     "Can’t you bleeding well listen to what I say?  I tell you no number ending in seven ain’t won for over fourteen months!"
     "Yes, it ’as, then!"
     "No, it ’as not! Back ’ome I got the ’ole lot of ’em for over two years wrote down on a piece of paper. I takes ’em down reg’lar as the clock.  An’ I tell you, no number ending in seven -- "
     "Yes, a seven ‘as won! I could pretty near tell you the bleeding number.  Four oh seven, it ended in. It were in February -- second week in February."
     "February your grandmother!  I got it all down in black and white. An’ I tell you, no number -- "
     "Oh, pack it in!" said the third man.
     They were talking about the Lottery.  Winston looked back when he had gone thirty meters.  They were still arguing, with vivid, passionate faces.  The Lottery, with its weekly pay-out of enormous prizes, was the one public event to which the proles paid serious attention.  It was probable that there were some millions of proles for whom the Lottery was the principal if not the only reason for remaining alive.  It was their delight, their folly, their anodyne, their intellectual stimulant. Where the Lottery was concerned, even people who could barely read and write seemed capable of intricate calculations and staggering feats of memory.  There was a whole tribe of men who made a living simply by selling systems, forecasts, and lucky amulets.  Winston had nothing to do with the running of the Lottery, which was managed by the Ministry of Plenty, but he was aware (indeed everyone in the party was aware) that the prizes were largely imaginary.  Only small sums were actually paid out, the winners of the big prizes being non-existent persons.  In the absence of any real intercommunication between one part of Oceania and another, this was not difficult to arrange.
"The absence of any real intercommunication"  Orwell predicted that truth was something which could be controlled.  Of course Orwell didn't predict the Internet.  Nor could he predict that the Internet would enhance the absence of intercommunication.

If you can imagine that you're in Australia, 1984 might be available to read online.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Kumquat Martini Season

Here's a picture of our dog Chowderhead contemplating the kumquat bush in the driveway.

Kumquats are among the few foods Chowder doesn't like.  He does sometimes help out by watering the bush - in his fashion

As you can see we have a good deal of fruit this year and that fruit has been ripening nicely.  Experience has revealed that if I pick them in large quantity they'll go to waste inside.  So, instead, I leave them on the bush as long as possible.  That way I can enjoy a few freshly picked bursts of citrus each time I walk by.

Yes, I like kumquats.  I'm like the dog in one respect; there are very few foods I don't care for, but our opinions about kumquats differ.

And I am the reason we even have a kumquat bush.  Leslie planted it.  She has occasionally attempted to grow certain plants simply because I like the produce.  She herself doesn't care for kumquats any more than the dog does.  She planted it for me.  The kumquats have been a great success.  Not so great successes have included strawberries and blueberries, those are both ill-suited to our climate.

One thing I've acquired a taste for as I've grown older is martinis.  I noticed that these always tasted better to me in restaurants than when I made them at home.  So I set out to make a better martini.

To this end, several years ago, I took an informal martini making lesson from composer Bill Kraft.  Bill makes a great drink.  I've experimented with his method and lately my recipe has formalized.

I realize that tastes and dogmas vary when it comes to cocktails.  This is just how I do it.  If this doesn't sound good to you, at least you'll know not to ask me to make one for you.

Mix together:
  • 4.5 ounces (3 shots) of gin (Lately I've been enamored of 114-proof Few gin.  It's potent stuff.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vermouth (Yep, this is a dry martini.  I try to ignore Tom Lehrer's recipe: "Hearts full of youth, Hearts full of truth, Six parts gin to one part vermouth.")
  • A dash or two of Fee Brothers Orange Bitters (you might already have McCormick Orange Extract in your spice cabinet.  That'll work too.)
  • Crushed Ice  
Shake well.

Pour into a super-chilled martini glass.  I use a wine goblet from my Grandmother's etched pink depression stemware set.  My Grandmother was not a martini drinker.  The small size of this glass determines the quantity of gin in the recipe.

Garnish with two or three fresh-picked kumquats.  (In the off-season I settle for green olives.)

Drink up.  After all 'tis the season.  Best wishes for a prosperous new year to all three of my readers and everyone else as well.

The resulting libation looks something like this:

I've been using Carpano Antic Formula vermouth, a strongly-flavored dark-colored liquid.  I selected this brand mostly because it came in a small bottle.  I had been told that vermouths get old once the bottles are opened and you can well imagine that I don't go through the stuff very quickly.  I've started keeping it in the fridge to prolong its life.  I'll try another brand next time.

Listen to the source of Tom Lehrer's martini recipe:

Thursday, December 24, 2015

JB-AFAP Jingle Bells, As Fast As Possible

I haven't posted a 30 Second Spot in, like, more than a year.  (One year and four days to be precise.)

'Tis the season for my annual contribution to the War on Christmas, and let me tell you, this is not my best work.  It is scored for bass guitar, bass tuba, bass drum and sleigh bells.

The one thing JB-AFAP has in its favor, however, is short length.  You could listen to it twice in one minute - and that includes 10 seconds of silence.

Got half a minute?  Merry Melodies to all.

Click here to hear JB-AFAP (Jingle Bells, As Fast As Possible) by David Ocker, © 2015, 30 seconds

My personal history with Jingle Bells as an expression of my seasonal musical disaffections is almost as old as Mixed Meters itself.  Here's a complete list of the Jingle pieces so far:

Jungle Bells (2006 - 209 seconds)
Jingle Bulls (2006 - 231 seconds)
Jingle Bills (2007 - 30 seconds)
One Note Open Sleigh (2008 - 38 seconds)
A Combination of Jingle Bells and the Internationale (2009 - 327 seconds)
Solstice Lights (2010 - 640 seconds)
Jingle Bells - The Long Version (short version) (2011 - 212 seconds)
Jinglemonics (2012 - 247 seconds)
The William Bell Overture (Jingle Tells) (2013 - 390 seconds)
Jiggle Belts (2014 - 75 seconds)
JB-AFAP (Jingle Bells, As Fast As Possible) (2015 - 30 seconds)

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Genial Idiot Discusses the Music Cure

There are a lot of books in our home, most of them Leslie's.  One set of old volumes has occupied a prominent location in our den since we moved here nineteen years ago.  We have long since stopped noticing it.  It's decoration, like an art object, just sitting there because, well, what else would we do with it?

The Wit and Humor of America, in ten volumes, edited by Marshal P. Wilder, published by Funk and Wagnalls Company, has copyright dates of  MDCCCCVII (Bobbs-Merrill Company) and MDCCCCXI (The Thwing Company).   The whole thing is online courtesy of Project Gutenberg.

So, anyway.  One evening last week Leslie and I were sitting in the den, probably watching something boring  and forgettable on television, when I happened to pick up Volume VI.  Thumbing through it, my eye fell upon the title "The Genial Idiot Discusses the Music Cure" by John Kendrick Bangs.

This turned out to be a short story in which our hero, the Genial Idiot, confers with his doctor, Capsule M.D., about the efficacy of using music to cure physical ills.  In spite of the medical professional's skepticism, the Idiot proceeds to offer copious anecdotal evidence that music does indeed have healing powers and eventually suggests it will soon become a dominant medical treatment modality.   What was apparently just a silly joke over a hundred years ago has now become an accepted treatment in our times.  Thus civilization advances, first comedy, then remedy.

Of course, from my all-too-modern viewpoint, the story is neither funny nor well-written.  I have no way to evaluate how someone would have reacted to it in 1907 or thereabouts.  Probably rolling on the floor laughing, or whatever acronym for ROFL the hipsters used back then.

So, anyway, my interest in Bangs' story was piqued by mentions of composer Richard Wagner, who would have been ever so popular during those times.   And, as you know, Wagner's awful, endless opera music is one of Mixed Meters' favorite bugaboos.

First the Idiot tells the Doctor about claims for the healing power of music which he has read in the press:
It may not be able to perform a surgical operation like that which is required for the removal of a leg, and I don't believe even Wagner ever composed a measure that could be counted on successfully to eliminate one's vermiform appendix from its chief sphere of usefulness, but for other things, like measles, mumps, the snuffles, or indigestion, it is said to be wonderfully efficacious.  
Then, after describing his own experience of how his insomnia was cured by attending both Parsifal and Gotterdammerung, the Idiot adds this:
Clearly Wagner, according to my way of thinking, then deserves to rank among the most effective narcotics known to modern science.   I have tried all sorts of other things - sulfonal, trionel, bromide powders, and all the rest and not one of them produced anything like the soporific results that two doses of Wagner brought about in one instant, and best of all there was no reaction. No splitting headache or shaky hand the next day, but just the calm, quiet, contented feeling that goes with the sense of having got completely rested up.
Doctor Capsule is unimpressed.  He responds:
You run a dreadful risk, however.  The Wagner habit is a terrible thing to acquire, Mr. Idiot.
The Idiot is not worried about getting addicted to Wagner.
I am in no danger of becoming a victim to it while it costs from five to seven dollars a dose.
That's about $120 to $170 in today's money.  Sounds about right for a half-way decent seat at a live opera.  (If we're lucky maybe Martin Shkreli will buy up all rights to Wagner and raise the price by 5000 per cent.)

The Idiot then tells another story about his friend, an artist, whose upset stomach was cured by a neighbor playing Arthur Sullivan's The Lost Chord on a cornet.

As the story concludes our Idiot makes predictions on how music will, in the future, cure nearly all medical ailments and revolutionize the medical industry.
If a small boy goes swimming and catches a cold in his head and is down with a fever his nurse, an expert on the accordion, can bring him back to health again with three bars of Under the Bamboo Tree after each meal.

So, anyway, I'm sure that by now you're anxious to read The Genial Discusses the Music Cure.  It's available widely online.  You can even find audio versions.

For your convenience I scanned and OCR'd and posted the story myself.  Read it right here on Mixed Meters.  It might cure your insomnia better than a Wagner opera.

For further reading:

Monday, November 30, 2015

Out of Time Shuffled - Summer 2015 (short version)

This is the second of two posts.  You might want to consider reading the first one first.  If not, I'm okay with it.

You also might want to consider listening to (I'm Sorry We're) Out of Time Shuffled as you read.  Still no?  I'm okay with that too.

ISWOoTS is an alternate short version of my piece Summer 2015 from The Seasons.  The original short version is called (I'm Sorry We're) Out of Time.   "Short version" means all the silences of the original long version (entitled Summer 2015) have been removed.

Instead of presenting the daily segments in the order they were composed - as they were in (I'm Sorry We're) Out of Time - this time they are "shuffled" into a different order.  (I originally wanted to tell you that the piece was being played "sideways".  Shuffling, however, is much more descriptive terminology.)

There's method to my musical shuffling.  In the first three minutes you hear all the segments which I composed on Mondays in the order they were composed.  (That much, just the Monday bits, is also known as Garbage Days of Summer 2015.  Garbage Day versions for a few other seasons are online if you're curious.)

After the Monday segments come all the Tuesday segments.  Then Wednesday.  Then . . . you get the idea.  Eventually all the weekdays are accounted for and the piece ends.  (Don't you dare call this Serialism.  Well, go ahead, but please tell me you're only making a joke.)

To my ears the shuffle worked surprisingly well musically.  The two pieces are very different.  I'm hard pressed to decide which one I like better.  I think the shuffle works because Summer 2015 adheres to the Garbage Day Periodicity idea quite rigorously.  New ideas are introduced each week starting on Mondays and therefore the original music is quite episodic.

The shuffled version, however, is not episodic.  It has more of a periodic feel, like a set of seven variations, cycling through the sequence of a dozen or so weekly ideas before going on to the next day.  I think these segments are fairly easy to hear if you're attentive.  If you're multitasking, this time chart will help you identify when each new day begins:

Monday 0'00"
Tuesday 3'11"
Wednesday 5'28"
Thursday 7'28"
Friday 9'43"
Saturday 12'06"
Sunday 14'45"

I felt free to adjust the time between segments if I felt that was needed in the two versions, so I was surprised that they turned out exactly the same length.  The versions are, however, mixed quite differently because musical bits appear in quite different contexts.  I was also surprised when I listened to both versions simultaneously - there was cacophony, just not as much as I expected.

Click here to hear (I'm Sorry We're) Out of Time Shuffled (Summer 2015 short version) by David Ocker - © 2015 David Ocker, 1084 seconds

Links to all the Seasons in all their versions are here.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Out of Time - Summer 2015 (short version)

Autumn 2015 is almost over and I'm finally just posting the short version of Summer 2015.  Listen to it now.

Besides the generic seasonal titles which I give all my pieces from The Seasons, the short versions (those are the ones without the long silences) also get poetical titles.  I'm pretty sure this double titling is misleading or confusing to many people.  Sometimes it's just downright deceptive.  And intentionally so.  These additional titles often refer to some personal aspect of the music.  Most likely they're irrelevant for anyone except me.

I've titled the short versions of Summer 2015 "(I'm Sorry We're) Out of Time".  Imagine a game show host telling us that the fun is finally over and, if you want more fun, you'll have to tune in next week. For expediency's sake I often shorten the title to "Out of Time".

Musically, my principal intent was to create music no one can dance to.  (If you do succeed in dancing to this music, please please post some video.)

The opening of (I'm Sorry We're) Out of Time was inspired by the annoying confirmation beeps of car alarms.  You know the drill, some jerk with an expensive car pushes a button on his keychain and his car yelps like a cat whose tail has been stepped on.  This serves two important purposes.  First of all, the jerk is secure in knowing that his car is protected from malefactors.  Also, he has the small pleasure of informing anyone nearby that the car is valuable enough that he feels entitled to startle and aggravate us with ugly electronic sounds.  It's a small social faux pas which our culture provides to people who spend too much money on their automobiles.  On the relative scale of vehicular sound pollution, locking your car with a beep is a far cry from the asshole who guns his Harley in a freeway underpass.

Anyway, keep your ears peeled for the Beep Theme right at the beginning.  It recurs periodically throughout (I'm Sorry We're) Out of Time. Enjoy.

Click here to hear (I'm Sorry We're) Out of Time (Summer 2015 short version) by David Ocker - © 2015 David Ocker, 1084 seconds

(I'm Sorry We're) Out of Time quotes a famous classical piece.  Be the first person to correctly identify said classical music and win a not-so-valuable prize.  Really, I'll send you a CD of my music which is otherwise unavailable online.

If you're not so sure you want to invest eighteen whole minutes listening to Out of Time - after all, time is money, right? - then you might want to gamble three of your valuable minutes listening to Garbage Days of Summer 2015.  This is a kind of time-lapse version comprised of the musical segments which I composed on Mondays.

One more thing - the undanceable nature of (I'm Sorry We're) Out of Time prompted me to make time-lapse versions for the other days of the week.  Those are the days when I merely created garbage but didn't share it with the world.  I've strung all those versions together to create a whole different version of Out of Time.  I called it (I'm Sorry We're) Out of Time Shuffled.   The two pieces are exactly the same length and have exactly the same music, only the ordering is different.  Listen to Out of Time Shuffled here or read more about Out of Time Shuffled here.

Links to all the pieces and articles in The Seasons are on this page.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Meaning of a Clarinet

Here's a movie poster I snapped today at a bus stop.  (View a high-res photo.)  Can you guess why it interests me?

Mind you, I'm not planning to see this movie.  To be honest, I'm not planning on seeing any upcoming movies, even the Star Wars reboot.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are great comedians but this poster is not particularly funny.  It contains a collection of clues to their movie characters, carefully selected to separate us from our theater admission money.

Two grown women are taking a bubble bath together, presumably in the nude.  Strewn about are a series of artifacts from their lives.  Apparently the plot line revolves around selling the home where they grew up.  Am I interested in the bottle of wine?  The plastic Big Lots bag?  The pink bra?

The answer is . . . The Clarinet . . . that musical instrument I used to play.

You don't see ads with clarinets in them much any more.  Well, never.  This one must be there for a reason.  What exactly is this clarinet telling us about the movie character Maura as played by Amy Poehler?

First of all, clarinets aren't usually stuck in boxes quite that way.  That's a really bad way to store a clarinet.  You can also see the clarinet case peeking out of the box, behind a thick book.  So, this clarinet is not well cared for.  We can guess that Maura played in high school band for a while, then gave it up through a combination of lack of interest and lack of talent.  I'm guessing she does not much care for her old clarinet.  Or for any clarinet.

Lots of high school kids try playing the clarinet.  Marching bands need lots of clarinetists.  I wonder how many of them think back on the experience with any sort of fondness.  Probably very few.  In America, a lot of clarinets end up gathering dust in closets.  Still, for this movie, it was important enough to be included in a box marked "Maura's Special Memories".  Maybe she aspired to be a great clarinetist -- a sure way of becoming an unhappy adult.   I'd have to see the movie to find out if the clarinet really is important to the plot.  I'm not that interested.

Could the licorice stick be a kind of phallic reference?  After all, clarinets are longer than they are wide.  I found another picture of a scantily clad woman with clarinet, a magazine cover from 1937.  The clarinet was actually an important instrument in pop music then.  And this picture also shows a brassiere.  I wouldn't want to over-interpret this, but the girl certainly has a provocative way of holding her instrument.  The clarinet was sexy then.  Now, not so much.  (Her purple shadow however is the weirdest part of this painting - kind of like a jellyfish.)

Another idea might be that the clarinet in the movie poster is like countless bags of movie groceries
with a long French bread sticking out of them.  Just one item tells you immediately what is in the bag.  Here's actress Anne Hathaway carrying such a bag in real life.  It doesn't take much imagination or even a line of dialog to guess where she's been or what else she has in that bag.

In just the same way, a clarinet sticking out of a box, even if it weren't marked "Special Memories", quickly tells us that the box is filled with old, unfulfilled childhood dreams.  On the other side of the tub, Tina Fey's box is marked "Kate's Shit".  (Of course in America you can only show the "sh" and not the "it".)   Can you imagine what kind of shit we are supposed to be reminded of by that box?

And what have we learned about the semiotics of clarinets in popular advertising?  Has the clarinet become the go-to icon of abandoned, forgotten childhood fantasies and aspirations?  The advertising industry doesn't have much use for it otherwise.  Actually, you never see clarinets in advertising at all, so they must not have any use for it.

Here's a movie poster from a movie called Solo für Klarinette.  I suspect the instrument here is actually phallic and not musical.  Go ahead, read the plot description.

Here's a woman who actually played the clarinet.  (source)

Here's a Mixed Meters post about women in ads with tubas.

Some other MM clarinet posts:
What To Do With a Clarinet
Worst Clarinet Playing Ever

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Garbage Days of Summer 2015

America is all aflutter over the upcoming Star Wars movie.  Tickets for the first showings are already available.  Merchandising is being tied in.  More importantly, trailers are being released.  Expectations are being thoroughly stoked.

You can learn a lot about a work of art from a trailer.  In the case of Star Wars I'm learning that I'm not too excited about it.  There's no way I will thrill to this movie the way I did to the original back when I was 25.  Science fiction adventure movies now seem formulaic.  Special effects are predictably dazzling and overbearing, the Star Wars musical themes are excessively familiar and overamplified, and the old actors (who still can't act) will make brief appearances before dying heroes deaths.

What's more, in the end, Good will triumph over Evil.  I guarantee it.  Hollywood knows no other way.  There is definitely going to be a happy ending to Star Wars three more movies hence.

Trailers, however, can be used for other art forms.  Consider what a trailer might be like for music.  You could determine whether you'll enjoy a piece of music before you listen to the whole thing by  simply listening to the trailer first.   Then you can rush to judgement the same way I've rushed to judgement on Star Wars.

I've figured out how to create musical trailers for my ongoing daily composition project, The Seasons.  What I've done is excerpt one segment from each week and combined those into a shorter piece.  This gives a good overview in a fraction of the time.

The three minute trailer for Summer 2015 accurately reflects what happens in the entire 18 minute work, Summer 2015, (short version) also known as "(I'm sorry, we're) Out of Time".  Coming soon to this blog.  It's rated U for Undanceable.  (I've intentionally written music you can't dance to; don't even bother to try.)

To increase confusion the trailer has its own title, Garbage Days of Summer 2015.  I chose all the Monday segments because Monday is the day I take out the garbage.  Keep your expectations low and everything will make sense except possibly the music which doesn't require sense.  You don't have to trust me on that, simply trust the force.

click here to hear Garbage Days of Summer 2015 by David Ocker - © 2015 David Ocker, 198 seconds

The long version of Summer 2015 has silences between all the daily sections
Be teased by other Garbage Day trailers:
Back in 2008 I did a 56-second musical trailer for my piece Poof, You're a Pimp.  (I think the full Poof, You're a Pimp is still the strangest piece of music I've ever posted online.)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Summer 2015 from The Seasons

Summer 2015 is the fifteenth season of my endless musical series unsurprisingly named The Seasons.  Lately I've begun posting multiple versions of each season; Summer 2015 will have four separate versions.  This post marks the debut of the long version - the one where each of the 90 or so daily musical segments is followed by a long silence.  Listen to it here.

The title Summer 2015 reminded me of Samuel Barber's famous work for voice and orchestra entitled Knoxville: Summer of 1915.  I can think of two similarities between his work and mine: the word 'summer' and the number '15'.  Beyond those two things Barber's impressionistic tone painting of a six-year old boy's memories of idyllic life in Tennessee just prior to the death of his father could not possibly be more different than my music presented here.  Summer 2015 bears no relationship, connection or comparison to Knoxville: Summer of 1915 - in this universe or in any other.

Summer 2015 is more than one and a quarter hours long and it contains 57 minutes of complete silence.  If you're not a regular MM reader you may well wonder why anyone writes music which is 75% complete silence.  Actually, some Seasons have an even higher percentage of silence.  Answer: I hope that listeners will combine these long Seasons with other music at exactly the same time.  This requires someone to choose which Seasons to play simultaneously with which other music.  Feel free to choose from any music whatsoever.  There's an awful lot of music out there, too much; the possibilities are literally infinite.

(If you want to listen to several Seasons together - something I often do myself - go to The Seasons page and click on several [listen] links in the first section The Seasons.  You'll need a pretty good Internet connection.  Need a suggestion of what to click on?  You might try all the Spring seasons at once or all the 2013 seasons.  Four is a good number.)

Once you make the necessary creative decisions just carry on with life - let the sounds be background.  The result will inevitably be filled with many unintelligible moments, occasional bursts of intense chaos and the periodic bright flare of pure serendipity.  It does not make sense to evaluate the result the same way you would a conventional piece of music.  This is a random process, like life.

You could listen to Summer 2015 and Knoxville: Summer of 1915 at the same time.  I tried this.  At first I put the Barber on repeat play and Mr. Barber dominated the mix.  I was happier with the results when I listened to all four Summers (two of them are based on classical music) and then added Knoxville: Summer of 1915 just one time.    I'm sure Samuel Barber's publishers will spin in their graves when they read about this.

Click here to hear Summer 2015 from The Seasons  - by David Ocker, © 2015 by David Ocker, 4494 seconds