Sunday, October 19, 2014

A Tribute to John Bergamo

One year ago composer, percussionist and CalArts faculty member John Bergamo passed away. He was a talented and inspiring man. Back then I wrote about him in this post.

Last night CalArts held a tribute to John.  It took the form of a concert on which all the music was John's.  Most of the performers were John's students.  Many other alumni were in attendance.  It was a pleasure for me to see and talk to those people who shared the same formative experiences which shaped my own musical life.

Naturally, many pictures were taken.

The concert took place at the Wild Beast, an outdoor high-tech performance space.  (Click on pictures for enlargements.)

Percussionists play multiple instruments - mallets, drums, gongs.  In John Bergamo's world just about anything could become a percussion instrument.  For example, the intermission feature, called On the Edge, was performed on a large metal aircraft engine cowling set up in front of the stage.  Look for it in the first picture.

The caution sign in the next picture is really an instrument, a wobble board played with virtuoso bravura by Gregg Johnson.  (I don't think Gregg and David are related, in spite of both being percussionists and having a common surname.)

The concert began with the CalArts Percussion Ensemble, i.e. current students.  They played John's early 1963 modernist piece entitled Interactions.  It has a modernist title to match.  Interestingly and positively, all the performers were women.  Percussion has been a traditionally male bastion.  I guess the future comes to CalArts first.

Two solo mallet works were on the program.  Three Pieces for the Winter Solstice for vibraphone (1963), performed by Jeff Brenner, is very coloristic and familiar to me.  Five Short Pieces for Marimba, played by Justin DeHart, was written in 2000 in a much more virtuostic manner.  First time I had heard it.

Here's an important fact about all-percussion concerts: it takes great amounts of energy and time to move and adjust the instruments.  Half way through the first half of this concert such a reorganization took place.  I made a video of this non-musical portion of the program.  Why I wonder.  The change was done very efficiently in a soothing blue light; it's like watching a cheap noir movie of avant-garde dance.

The voice you'll hear is that of David Rosenboom, a composer/performer who makes his living as Dean of the Herb Alpert School of Music at the California Institute of the Arts.  His job last night was to talk to the audience about John Bergamo during this particular transition.  David chose to take the very long view, putting John's career as a musician in the context of five millennia of human musical history.  He also talked about snare drum rolls and Christmas music albums.  Meanwhile, the stage is awash with moving performers and stage hands.  Or, if you will, imagine David Rosenboom is performing the part of John Cage, lecturing as a Merce Cunningham-like dance company performs randomly behind him.

I think David Rosenboom's assertion that the era of the imperial composer, one who writes but does not perform music, is coming to an end after 250 years is probably a bit premature.  John Bergamo was definitely a composer and performer, but then again so were Mozart and Beethoven.

Here's my favorite frame of the video.  This was a high tech concert, tastefully over amplified.

In the video they are setting up for a performance by The Repercussion Unit, an all-percussion rock band founded by John Bergamo and a bunch of other friends of mine way back in 1976.  The previous post about John has video from an R-Unit tour of Germany.

Among my pictures of the performance were several long sequences of nearly identical shots.  I was trying to get one where focus was right, the performers weren't moving too much and something interesting was going on.  As it turned out, these shots made for better animated gifs than for still pictures.  You'll have to imagine the music, but you can definitely get a feel for the energy of the performances.

First gif is the Repercussion Unit - left to right Chris Garcia (seated), Jimmy Hildebrant, David Johnson, Larry Stein, (you can see just the head of) Charles Levin, Gregg Johnson, Amy Knoles.  And way on the right is one brief flash of the arm of M.B. Gordy.  Sorry, M.B.

On the second half of the concert there was hand drumming, one of John Bergamo's specialities.  Another performing group, also founded by John, is called the Hands On'Semble.  The members are Randy Gloss, Andrew Grueschow and Austin Wrinkle - also John's students.  Since they went to CalArts during a different decade than I, I'm not sure which face goes with which name or what to call most of their instruments.  They played magnificently along with two colleagues of John's, Swapan Chaudhuri and Houman Poumehdi.  The piece is called Shradhanjali - a Hindustani word which means "thanks to the teachers".

The finale of the concert was John Bergamo's most well-known composition, Piru Bol.  You can hear many different versions of Piru Bole on YouTube.  (The program says "Bol", You Tube says "Bole".  You decide.)  In any case Piru is a city near CalArts where John lived for many years.  Last night it was performed by a large group of percussionists - I count 16 in this picture.

For a while I focused on taking pictures of one quartet - Amy, Larry, Gregg standing and David seated - who had posed themselves artfully together.  Everyone else on stage was putting out this much energy at the same time.

The hand drumming performances were, for me, one of those magical musical moments.  I could hear something great happening without knowing what it was exactly or how it was being done.  I was experiencing the power of music.  It is a strong primal power.  It is the reason music has a 5000 year history and the reason music appears in every culture.  It is the power that long ago made me want to become a musician and, somewhat later, want to study at CalArts.

What I learned by studying music, alas, is that knowing too much about it can make you lose touch with the magic.  Friends of mine have often heard me complain about my education at CalArts.  Although my entire career is based on what I learned at CalArts and the people I met there, I've never really felt satisfied with my education.

Last night, as this performance was coming to an end, I felt tears in my eyes and recognized a strange idea.  I actually thought to myself "Gee, I'm glad I went to CalArts".  There's a first time for everything.  And indeed I am glad I attended CalArts, at least on that certain metaphysical magical musical level that I only get to touch on rare occasions.  The people on the stage of the Wild Beast let me channel a wonderful musical energy one more time.  I hope it happens to me many more times.  I hope it happens to you too.

It was a tribute concert and so there were speeches.  Many of the speakers talked of how John Bergamo had touched their lives through music.  And I knew exactly what they were talking about because John had touched mine as well.  And last night he did it one more time.   The spirit of John Bergamo was on stage at the Wild Beast during this concert.  So was his picture.

And then the concert ended.  You know what they say - every high must have its low.  I walked into the CalArts building, looking for the reception, and confronted a typical CalArts hallway.

Alone in the endless whiteness of hallway hell, you easily can believe that Walt Disney really is buried somewhere under the building.  It's an ART school, a DESIGN school, a MUSIC school, but the architecture can be simply antiseptic.  A little interior decoration - some art on the walls - couldn't hurt, could it?  A sound environment?  Something.

Then at the reception, more pictures were taken.  I like taking pictures of pictures being taken.  Here's one more.

Over the years I've written a number of posts that are tagged CalArts.  Click here to read them all. This is the third time I've ever mentioned David Rosenboom.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Phoney Religion 9-27-04

This post is the third of a trilogy on Mixed Meters.  A Trilogy of Anniversary Posts.

The first one celebrated the 40th anniversary of my arriving in Southern California.  The second, the 9th birthday of this here blog.  Now we will celebrate a decade of 30 Second Spots, my series of short musical compositions.

The record of exactly when I started the 30 Second Spot project has been lost.  There was, of course, an initial period of trial and error as the concept took shape.  Rules were made up (by me), some were kept (by me), others discarded (also by me).  At some point one of the rules became "30 Second Spots are written in one sitting."

That rule (broken more than it is adhered to) quite naturally led to adding a date to the file name.  The first dated 30 Second Spot was called Phoney Religion.  The date was September 27, 2004.

Don't expect much from Phoney Religion.  I can modestly claim that my work has improved since then.

I don't remember anything about the origin of the title.  It may have been suggested by the A Mighty Fortress reference.  Or maybe I added the music quote to match the title.  Most likely this piece was written at Starbucks on Leslie's hand-me-down 286 Gateway laptop using its sleazy onboard midi synthesis.  (Translation for non-computer musicians: "It doesn't sound very good").

Anyway, take a listen while you try to image how long a decade really is.

Click here to hear Phoney Religion 9-27-04 
© 2004, 2014 by David Ocker, 31 seconds

Here are two pictures of a ceramic yard ornament which we named Irving.  Irving is part of a couple.  His spouse (not shown here) is Happy.  The first picture of Irving, who had recently been installed in our backyard, was taken in late 2004, a few months after Phoney Religion was composed.  The second picture was taken last week.

Irving is showing his age - his complextion problems are noticable.  He also seems to have a lost lots of colorful succulent hair.  To his credit he appears to still have all his teeth.

Phoney or Phony?

You're Blaming Me For This is the most recent 30 Second Spot posted to Mixed Meters.  That was way last March.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Nine Years Of Blogging

I've named this hummingbird Red Thor.

Red Thor usually looks kind of orange in color.   Hummingbird markings seem to change according to the light.  For all I know Thor might be actually be female.  Guy or gal, Thor thinks he owns our driveway.

I see Thor most mornings.  I watch as he perches on a high exposed tree branch from which he flies short sorties to catch insects, hovering briefly in mid-air, then returns to his spot.  When another hummer tries to use one of the several feeders I've put out, Thor immediately dashes down from his branch at top speed, chirping menacingly.  Hummingbirds can move at tremendous velocity when motivated.

Although the little fellow may be all of two inches long, when he's mad you can definitely hear it in his voice.  Not until he has driven the intruder away does he stop chirping and return to catching insects.  One morning I heard angry hummingbird noises quite close to where I was standing.  It was Thor, feistily explaining that I (thousands of times his size), was intruding into his territory.  Eventually I did leave.  Thor had defended his territory once again.

Sometime this week Mixed Meters achieved the ripe old age of nine years.  The actual birth date of this blog is September 16, 2005.  Leslie saw me working on this post and asked "How long have you been married to your blog?"  I'm not really sure what she meant.  I don't spend nearly as much time with my blog as I do with her.  For good reason.

My only anniversary celebration was to update the RedHeaders list.  There are now over 1300 of the little buggers, one of which was randomly displayed at the top of this page.

According to Google this is Mixed Meters' 700th post.  Other sources indicate that they are nearly correct.

Here's a picture of a crow.

I haven't given Mister (or Ms.) Crow a name.  I can't tell one crow from another.  They all look identical and they are very stand-offish.  Crows are not friendly to humans.

Crows thrive in our neighborhood.  I often see them foraging for food in small groups, so I guess they differ from hummingbirds in that they know how to get along with certain members of their own species.  And they grow quite large.  I've watched birds whose wingspan must have been close to two feet across.  In that sense they differ from hummingbirds as well.

Crows seem to dislike sitting in sunlight.  I suppose being such a dark black color, absorbing all that light, keeps crows toasty warm.  A picture of a crow in the shade shows few details.  This particular crow obligingly sat in full sun while I took his (or her) portrait from 20 feet below.

Our local crows don't claim territory the way little Thor does.  They don't squawk or attack intruders.  They simply move away.  I've read that crows are among the more intelligent species which live successfully in proximity to humans.

Just what, you may be wondering (and rest assured that I have been wondering the same thing) do a greedy mean little hummingbird in our driveway or a big black standoffish crow on a utility wire have to do with the anniversary of  Mixed Meters, the personal blog of a barely known nearly senior citizen musician who updates it only a few dozen times per year and which most people don't know about, let alone read?

The moral of the story might be that we should be careful about which light we choose to sit in when someone takes our picture.  Otherwise the camera won't see all our feathers.

TagLine[1306] = "Thinking those things which cannot be thought."
TagLine[1310] = "Place fear-inducing headline of your choice here."
TagLine[1312] = "Topped with aged Parmesan."
TagLine[1315] = "Today is malarkey day."
TagLine[1316] = "The truth is not out there."
TagLine[1317] = "Mixed Meters - Ignore it and it will go away."
TagLine[1318] = "Mixed Meters - lacking false pathos"
TagLine[1326] = "Mixed Meters - the only place in the entire universe that is all about me."
TagLine[1327] = "Damn, have we fucked things up, or what?"
TagLine[1328] = "I*m thinking of a number between four and six."

Haven't had enough yet?  Here are some previous MM posts about animals:
Bird Brains of Pasadena (an old one, the pictures were taken two cameras ago)
What Is It Like to Be Dead  (one of MM's most often read posts)
Graffiti Animals of California
Russian Bestiary (pictures from Leslie's trip to Russia)
Stalking the Christmas Penguin

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Forty Years In California

Here are two pictures of me taken by my mother in 1974.  The date is September 8, 1974, one month to the day since Richard M. Nixon resigned the presidency.  The location is my hometown of Sioux City Iowa outside our family home (although our house is not shown in either picture).  I had just turned 23 years old.  The car is an infamous 1974 Chevy Vega purchased used earlier that summer.

My father is standing behind me in the first shot.  In the second you can clearly see bags hanging in the back of the car.  I was about to leave on a long trip.

I was going to California to attend graduate school in music.  At the moment these pictures were taken I thought that I would be attending the University of California at San Diego, although my first choice was the more exciting but less practical California Institute of the Arts.

If you figure three days driving from Iowa to Southern California, today is exactly the 40th anniversary of my arrival in Los Angeles.  Or maybe yesterday.   Anyway, I've been here ever since.  The longest I can remember leaving California is three weeks - and that only happened once.

During my undergraduate years in Minnesota, I remember telling my clarinet teacher that I would be continuing my education in California.  His response was that he had noticed musicians who go to California were never heard from again.  I thought that a little strange.  Turns out that he was right, because he never did hear from me again.

I still have two copies of the Cal Arts Admission Bulletin from that year.  In it composer Mel Powell, then the Provost, began his message so:
A scholar of the bizarre, having read the bulletin of several hundred American universities, colleges and conservatories, proclaimed the discovery of a curious new language of garniture.  He found that bulletin prose tends to vibrate with fervor as the distances that separate description from reality extend themselves and promote euphoric envisionings by students, parents, teachers, administrators and trustees.

Despite this oblique warning (written in a curiously common double talk I had never encountered before), I was strongly, yes, euphorically attracted to the California Institute of the Arts, especially to studies in electronic music.  I was also seduced by their lack of Eurocentrism which I understood at the time only with relief that foreign language proficiency was not required for graduation.

On my first day in California I drove directly to Valencia - home of CalArts - intending to retrieve my admissions deposit.  They had not offered me enough financial aid and I needed that deposit money back.  The original plan was to drive on to my second choice school the next day.  Apparently being present in the flesh makes bureaucracy move more quickly because a couple days later, with offers of sufficient money, I found myself enrolled at CalArts.

All my major career opportunities during four decades in California can be traced directly back to people I met at CalArts.  My time there was, for all its faults, a life-changing experience for me.

If you had asked me in 1974 where I would be in 2014, I don't know what I might have said. I'd probably first wonder whether I'd even still be alive.

If you had told me that I would still be a musician whose only tool is a computer and who works exclusively with people I never see - some of whom I've never even met - using something called the Internet, you would of course have been correct.  I expect that I would have laughed at the absurdity of such a notion.  "Not likely.  That's science fiction."

Here's a video of Arthur C. Clarke being interviewed in that same year 1974 about the future of computers.  He was not far off in his predictions, although he suggests that only businessmen and executives will be able to live wherever they please thanks to computers.  Thankfully I've become neither of those things.

Arthur C. Clarke might have said some really dumb things in the rest of that interview.  This clip makes him sound prescient.

By attempting a career in music I was aware, even in 1974, that I wasn't likely to earn piles of money.  I admit that I had faint hopes of getting famous.  Getting rich seemed especially unlikely.  I do feel extremely lucky that 40 years later I'm able to spend my life involved in music and even still make some money at it.

Do you notice that money keeps coming up in this post.  My parents and I shared the uncertainty over whether I would be able to make a living as a musician.  There was no way to know whether graduate education in music, especially at such a strange institution, would just be a waste of resources.

Financially the United States has changed a lot since 1974 and it hasn't been getting better for most people.  In fact, according to this article, The 40-Year Slump by Harold Myerson, 1974 was a watershed year for the American economy:
        But no one could deny that Americans in 1974 lived lives of greater comfort and security than they had a quarter-century earlier. During that time, median family income more than doubled.
        Then, it all stopped. In 1974, wages fell by 2.1 percent and median household income shrunk by $1,500. To be sure, it was a year of mild recession, but the nation had experienced five previous downturns during its 25-year run of prosperity without seeing wages come down.
        What no one grasped at the time was that this wasn’t a one-year anomaly, that 1974 would mark a fundamental breakpoint in American economic history. In the years since, the tide has continued to rise, but a growing number of boats have been chained to the bottom. Productivity has increased by 80 percent, but median compensation (that’s wages plus benefits) has risen by just 11 percent during that time.
Driving off to start my adult life in 1974, I was really quite optimistic.  I was taking a big chance on my dream of being a musician.   Back then there was no way I could have predicted the details of what would happen to me.  Or to the people around me.

I graduated from CalArts two years later and within a year I was working for Frank Zappa - starting salary was $410 per week.  (Adjusted for inflation, that would be about $1600 today.)  After putting over 100,000 miles on the Vega I traded it for a new Toyota.  In September 1984 I quit working for Frank and started freelancing.  I'm still a freelancer 30 years later.   It was a few years more before I shaved off my beard.  In 1991 I met Leslie Harris and we were married the next year.  She has done far more for the positive quality of my life than being a musician ever has.  We're living happily ever after as best we can.  Life is good for us.  I can only wish that were more universally true these days.

In 1974 I was driving off into an unknown future and I had no idea of what would happen.  It's fair to ask what useful advice I would give my hopeful young self based on my 40 years of the California experience? A few things that come to mind:
  • 1) When your father told you to save your money, listen to him.  
  • 2) Be honest with yourself about what you really want.
  • 3) No matter how much you weigh, you will always feel fat.
And where, I wonder, will I be forty years from now.   The odds are good that I will be merged one way or another with the ecosystem by then, well separated from consciousness, remembered only faintly by a few, mentioned infrequently in biographies of Frank Zappa.  Hopefully, if my life means anything, I will have proved that life really is too short to spend it listening to ugly music.

Here are Mixed Meters posts about Cal Arts.
Here are Mixed Meters posts about Iowa.
Here are Mixed Meters posts about California.
Here are my expectations of what death is like.
My essay on the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Pet Pictures

New camera.   Lots of work.  No time to blog.  What does that add up to?  Yes - it's a long overdue Mixed Meters' post with pictures of our pets.  Bloggers are supposed to publish pictures of their pets.  It's the law.

Dog.  Cat.  Another cat.  The line-up hasn't changed since Ivy died.  The dog: Chowderhead,  now with gray hairs amidst the red, chaser of the red rubber ball, always outside except under supervision.  The cats: siblings Crackle and Spackle, gray and white, big and small, afraid of strangers, always inside.

The two species never mingle because, frankly, we don't trust the dog.





Click on any picture for a larger view.

Crackle and Spackle were SO cute when we got them.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Peter Schmid Quartet Plays Swing Left

Today's post is from the Things Which Get Lost In The Shuffle Department

Two years ago I composed a piece called Swing Left.  It was recorded by the Peter Schmid Quartet at the criminally out-moded Aphrodita Japonica Recording Studio.  AJRS is a crowded little room with inadequate sound isolation.  If you take your headphones off you can hear the Metro Gold Line trains whizz by every few minutes.  But hey, when you're a failed composer you take what you can get.

Back then, on August 16, 2012 to be exact, I uploaded Swing Left.  I even created a link to it on the Peter Schmid page.  For reasons lost in the mists of time, I never posted an announcement of Swing Left here on Mixed Meters.

Fast forward to today.  It's almost the end of the month and Mixed Meters is still two posts short of our very modest Three Posts Per Month goal.  So . . .

Click here to hear The Peter Schmid Quartet Plays Swing Left - © 2012 & 2014 by David Ocker - 253 Seconds

There's also a piece called Swing Right.  I might post that someday.  It was never finished to my satisfaction.  Once a long period time passes I forget why I was dissatisfied and the piece becomes completed by default.  Maybe I was waiting to share Swing Left with Swing Right at the same time.

The phrases "Swing Left" and "Swing Right" were intended as political references.  All the Peter Schmid pieces have more or less political titles.  Our country does a good job of swinging to the right.  It's been an awful long time since we've swung back the other direction.

The Ocker Scale, which features the voice of Leslie Harris, is another piece I never finished to my satisfaction.   I posted it online after waiting about two years.  By then I had pretty much forgotten why I was dissatisfied.

There's a moral to this story somewhere.  On second thought ... no there's not.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The New Point and Shoot In My Pocket

On this blog I've often referred to the camera I carry with me nearly all the time as "the point 'n shoot in my pocket".  I've always worried that the phrase had an element of sexual innuendo to it.   No one has ever mentioned being offended by any oblique phallic reference, so I guess it's all in my mind.  Probably no one read those posts.

The camera in question was introduced to Mixed Meters' three readers back in August 2007 after I received it as a gift from an anonymous admirer.  That post was called The New Point and Shoot In My Pocket.

This post is has the exact same title.  Can you guess why?

First, let's detour briefly into the world of sexual innuendo.  An alert Mixed Meters' contributor, Michael of Oakland, was amused by this book cover because it suggested male genitalia rather than a rocket ship.  I just don't see what he's talking about.  Do you?

A recent article on Alternet, 19 Best Double-Entendre Songs That Are Really About Sex, details the same supposed phenomena in the world of popular music.  People must have dirty minds.  Number seven on the list, Keep on Churnin' by Wynonie Harris, has always been a Mixed Meters fave.  Maybe that's because I grew up in Iowa where there are many farms.

Anyway, I was talking about cameras.

The new Point 'n Shoot In My Pocket is a Lumix, made by Panasonic.  It's a little bigger than my old one.  Every man wants something bigger in his pocket as he ages.  That's probably why they invented Viagra.

This camera was also a gift from my anonymous admirer, given as an early birthday present.  Thanks, Leslie.

Seven years ago I posted a picture of the new camera taken with the old one.  I wanted to do the same thing this time.  I felt it would be best to show it in animated format.

Nothing phallic about that.  Nope.

The photographic capabilities of this camera far exceed my previous one.  It's going to take me quite a while to learn to use it properly.  In my first evening I crashed it twice trying to set up the wi-fi link.

Leslie snapped the very first shot with the new beast, taking my picture.  I intended to smile.  Instead I was completely surprised by the aggressive focus lights and bright flash. The full-size shot focused too directly on my nose hair so I reduced the resolution.

And here's the second shot.  I took this one completely by accident at full 30x optical zoom from about the same position.  It shows the base of the television set behind my left shoulder.  The little patch of in-focus grid is the window screen.

Regular readers should expect my pictures here on Mixed Meters and on its sister blog Mixed Messages (and also my videos on YouTube) to improve somewhat more than this last picture might suggest.

BTW, over my right shoulder are two pieces of art featuring my face.  The top one is called Blood, Sweat and Tones by Robert Jacobs.   The bottom one, a sketch by the artist Spark, shows me composing music while seated at Starbucks.

Click this link to read all Mixed Meters posts which are labeled "penis".  You'll find such classics as "Celebrate Leslie's Birthday With Penis Fencing" and "Mozart's Penis versus Schoenberg's Penis".

Monday, June 30, 2014

Minuet - Spring 2014 short version

Back in 2006 I wrote a 30 Second Spot called Carpool.  You can still read the Mixed Meters post about Carpool.  It's dated March 12, 2006, a Sunday.  The Internet never forgets.  Usually never.

Better yet, if you read that post you'll discover that the link to listen to Carpool still works.  (Go ahead, listen.  I'll wait.  It's a short piece.)  I've had to update the link a couple times over the years in my efforts to keep my music from disappearing at the whim of some failing capitalist website entrepreneur.   Actually the Internet does forget.  Quite often.

Carpool, all 38 seconds of it, has a particular type of septuple meter which I discovered while listening to music on a streaming Internet radio station playing music of Afghanistan.  This particular song, whatever it was, divided the seven beats into three groups: three plus three plus one.  It was the kind of discovery that makes a composer's heart beat just a little more quickly.

This 3+3+1 meter, plus the hand drums, plus the semi-sinuous melody I cooked up give Carpool a kind of camel caravan feel.  I thought about calling it "Caravan" but reconsidered.  Hence my 2006-ish comment
I was going to call this spot "Caravan" but someone said the name had been used. I think "Carpool" gives that same sense of slow, long-distance travel via pollution-emitting beast.
The thing is, however, that you don't get a "sense of slow, long-distance travel" in 38 seconds.  Pollution control or not, a 30 Second Spot just isn't long enough for this particular music.

So, earlier this year, when I was beginning work on Spring 2014, yet another episode in my series The Seasons, I decided to use the music from Carpool as a source material.  For the next three months, ending last week, I wrote a bit of music every day.  For these bits I appropriated the melody, harmony, rhythm and most especially the meter of Carpool.

Spring 2014 turned out to be almost one and a quarter hours long.  Eighty percent of that time is pure unadulterated silence.  You can read all about Spring 2014 (and even listen to it) by reading the previous MM post Spring 2014 from The Seasons.

Grizzled, old time Mixed Meters readers know what's coming next.  For the rest of you, keep reading.

Once I'd finished Spring 2014, a.k.a. the long version of Carpool, all 72 minutes of it, I mercilessly removed all the silences, leaving only the music.  This revealed a piece of music nearly 14 minutes long.  I called this piece Minuet.  You'd be surprised how different it seems than the longer version.

Yes, I can hear what you're thinking, even over the Internet.  Minuet is a dull name.  Yup, I agree.  It is also a very musical name.  I especially like it because it's an antique.  It gives virtually no expectations to modern listeners.  No one, at least no one that I'm aware of, writes or dances minuets these days.   And if they do, they're probably professors or professors in training.  These days a composer has no problem living up to your expectations of what a modern minuet should be because you don't have any of those sorts of expectations.   Nor should you.

The musicologists amongst my readers will know that a minuet is usually in triple meter.  In my piece, the meter is also triple - if you ignore that extra beat crammed in there after every second measure.  Sometimes Minuet does have a kind of dance feel - a lopsided, bad-dancer, one-leg-shorter-than-the-other, Ministry-of-Silly-Dances dance feel, to be sure - but danceable nonetheless.  Go ahead, dance.  I'll wait.

Click here to hear Minuet (Spring 2014 - short version) by David Ocker  
© 2014 David Ocker, 833 seconds

You can listen to Spring 2014 (the long version of Minuet) here.
You can listen to Carpool (the short version of Minuet) here.
You can find links to all The Seasons, both long and short versions, and their associated Mixed Meters blog posts here.
You can't imagine what I'm talking about when I say "30 Second Spot".  Click here.

Addendum.  Here's a minuet by the great Slim Gaillard that's not in seven.  Nor is it in three.  It's in vout.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Spring 2014 from The Seasons

Summer has begun.  Spring is done.  Yeah, I know that this happened like 10 days ago - news travels slowly on the Internet.

The join between Spring and Summer is called the Summer Solstice, longest day of the year on the top half of the planet.  There's enough sunshine for me to go to bed at sunrise and still enjoy hours of daylight once I struggle back to wakefulness.  Bad season for vampires.

I finished my most recent Season, called Spring 2014, just before the Solstice.  I began composing Spring 2014 back on the Spring Equinox, and it, like all my previous Seasons, consists of one music event for each day.

Many of these events were composed on the actual day.  In the score each segment is marked with a date.  I add an asterisk if I actually worked on the music on that very date.  On Mondays I add a double bar because of something called Garbage Day Periodicity.

Spring 2014 is one hour and twelve minutes long which is an average length for pieces in this series.  Annoyingly, 80% of Spring 2014 is silence.  That's only one minute of music for every 5 minutes of actual time.  Listening to it as if it were normal music could try your patience.

I offer two better ways to listen.  One is to remove the silence.  I would be silly to expect you to do that yourself, so I do it for you.  I call these shortened versions The Seasons (short version).  With the silences removed a real piece is revealed.   You could almost call it "normal music".  Yes, I compose The Seasons with that in mind.  Think of it as time sped up.

The other solution is to play Spring 2014 simultaneously with some other music.  The best choice is to combine multiple Seasons, just play several at the same time and let whatever is going to happen happen.  You can also combine The Seasons with normal music.  Baroque music is a good choice.  So is minimalism.  In fact The Seasons is a perfect addition to any music which could use an added element of surprise, some extra variety or a bit of aural spice.

Click here to hear Spring 2014 by David Ocker  © 2014 by David Ocker, 4357 seconds

Click here for links to all The Seasons and The Seasons (short versions) and their associated blog posts plus some other stuff that I think is related to this musical project.

Here, for no particular reason, is a picture I took because I always try to post at least one picture.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

In which David considers Stuff while attempting to fall asleep

I should fall asleep now.  Close my eyes and wait.

If I try not to think of an elephant - or of anything else - eventually I"ll find myself, hours from now, twisting in this bed, slowly waking up, trying not to drool on the pillow or to kick the cat, thinking to myself that I could still get another hour if I just rolled over, kept my eyes closed and ignored the fact that I really need to pee.

As much as more sleep would be nice, more waking time would be nicer.  That is because I have "stuff" to do.  Every day (once I pee) I make a mental list called "things I'd like to accomplish today." Thankfully I'm not so anal that I actually write the list down.  Even so, the list is very real, always near by, in my brain.  Damn brain.

At the top of each and every day's list of "stuff" are my irreducible four double-ewes - "work, walk, wife and write".  These are the things my life is really about.  Unalliteratively you could think of these as "earn money, get exercise, devote time to my relationship with Leslie and do something creative". These are my essential daily goals.

I try to do some of each W every day.  This is not always easy.  The things one does everyday are the most important parts of life.  My Four Dubs are are important stuff.  Important stuff is still "stuff".  This stuff is always on my daily mental list.

And lots of other stuff ends up on my daily list as well.  That stuff is not so important in the long term. Sometimes it doesn't feel even the slightest bit important in the short term either.

Stuff can include taking out the garbage, shopping for pet food, gassing the car, mindlessly watching television in hopes of finding a good laugh, making "ice cream" out of over-ripe bananas, wondering why I'm not more successful than I am, washing the dishes, feeling lucky that I'm not a complete failure, browsing the net on my iPad, wondering if today would be a good day to make myself a martini, imagining what it would be like to be someone else, cleaning the cat box, dreaming about what a nice guy I'd be if I accidentally became a billionaire by winning the lottery.  It's all stuff.  It's the stuff of life.

Some stuff gets added to the mental list later in the day, on the spur of the moment.  Stuff erupts. Suddenly.  Sometimes unpredictably.  Spilling coffee on the floor and having to wipe it up immediately?  That's stuff.  Just sitting in a chair thinking "it's okay to just be sitting in this chair." becomes stuff.  Thinking "I could fall asleep in this chair." also becomes stuff.  Actually falling asleep? Yes, that too.

Stuff is all inclusive.  Everything is stuff.  Stuff, stuff, stuff.  It's all stuff.  Life is filled with stuff.  Some stuff gets in the way of getting other stuff done.  Circular?  You betcha.  Would I wish for more time to do my stuff or for less stuff to do in the time I have.  Dunno.


Once again, I'm back in bed, poking at my iPad.   I could fall asleep right now.  I really should fall asleep, simply close my eyes and try to drift off while not thinking of an elephant.   It would be easy.

Exactly twenty-four hours have passed since I started this essay.  I've done yet another day of stuff including, on this day, all four W's plus a few unexpected bits of other stuff.  I killed a marauding ant colony in the kitchen and ran to the store for a carton of heavy cream because the one we had turned prematurely sour.  I spent a while trying to understand why Linux crashes so much.  I even found some time to edit this essay.

Now, however, I'm back in bed, finally lying between my wife and my cat, trying to convert the silly thoughts in my brain into conventional English.  Personally I'd much rather fall asleep.  Sleep would be better for me, but my brain is keeping me awake.   It's my brain that is the problem.  Damn brain.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Still More Musical Product and Business Names

It's a Mixed Meters thing.  This is the ninth installment.  If you want to see all of the previous posts in this series, click on this link.

This time around we begin with five businesses (the first three photographed hurriedly while driving past):
  • a tuned percussion instrument made from precious metal
  • a sexy dance number with combustible airborne particulates
  • a variation on that instrument Yuba played in Cuba
  • a specialty piece for three
  • an in-time HVAC
We follow up with potables:
  • a Beethoven Symphony
  • another metal percussion instrument
  • a piece sung in church or before sporting events (in two varieties)
  • a Renaissance part song
And, finally, to tie it all together, some dark, gentle and syncopated music to burn up and enjoy as we suck it into our mouths.

Yes, you can make the pictures bigger by clicking on them.