Saturday, January 27, 2007

One Year After the Big Event - Mozart's 251st

Not much excitement to report concerning Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's 251st birthday celebration. Ho Hum. Last year was rather different. I guess the number 250 has a better press agent than the number 251.

Here is where you can read Mixed Meters' Measure of the Mozart Madness back then. And also find out what I used to do in college on Mozart's birthday.

Watch this YouTube clip of a La Linea animation: Mozart plays the piano. La Linea is a fine series of animated shorts by Osvaldo Cavandoli. I'm familiar with it because Leslie gave me a La Linea DVD for my birthday last year. (And it took months for me to figure out that our NTSC player plays PAL format DVD's with no problem. Who knew?)

Prior Mixed Meter Mozart Mentions

The Docker Awards for good and for bad Mozartian Commentary

30 Second Spot - Mozart & Microsoft, Early Death

A Boy Soprano sings Queen of the Night (The video is here now.)

Gilles Apap's Mozart O.T.T. Violin Concerto Cadenza (Scroll Down)
(O.T.T. = Over The Top)

Mozart in Egypt

Wolfie Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Who is this Philip Hensher anyway?

Here's a review of the Fifth Symphony by 15 year-old Julliard student Jay Greenberg. It's in the Manchester Guardian written by someone named Philip Hensher.

So, he's boppin' along, humourously dissing Greenberg's music (which I've never heard and have no interest in no matter what his age). Then Hensher hits me with this:
I would love to hear something genuinely
new from a US composer of any age,
let alone Jay Greenberg at 15.
Of course, as a music critic, he's not confessing that he is unfamiliar with all American music, no music critic would do that. Rather he seems to be implying that he has made an exhaustive survey and everything over here is crap.

If that's what you meant Philip, that's way below the belt.

The last complete revolution in the serious music world (minimalism) is a US invention. Since then America has come up with another genuinely new music called "Hip Hop" - which, like certain other American musics before it, has found its way into the pop music of just about everywhere. Granted both of these trends are passing middle age - getting long in the tooth, trying to cover their gray hair.

People are arguing about what it all means. Post hip-hop musicians are writing books and post minimalist composers are starting their own clothing lines. Or is it the other way around?

For a composer, finding something really new is a monumentally difficult task. We live in a world where any kind of music is possible and nearly everything has been tried before by someone. Any sound can be music to your ears if you want.

Meanwhile it makes me feel much better imagining Philip Hensher trapped in a concert hall listening to endless new complexity music. Oh, Schadenfreude! Maybe he was only trying to fill some space dumping on a poor fifteen year old kid. (It would have been better to bitch about the marketing machine behind that kid.) But he managed to offend the musicians of a whole country - quite a large inventive one at that.

If you don't know what "new complexity" is (or was) you should rejoice. It's the proto-typical ugly music for which life is way too short.

Complexity Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Monday, January 22, 2007

In which David is confused by The Second Coming

[Welcome to Mixed Meters - my post about The Second Coming is getting far more hits than Mixed Meters is accustomed to.

The Nike Second Coming campaign interests me because it uses apocalyptic music from the Catholic liturgy to sell shoes. I'm interested in music (I like it) and in religion (I'm against it) and advertising (say hello to Big Brother).

If you're interested in this aspect of the commercial, or if you've actually purchased shoes because of this advertising, I'd appreciate you leaving a comment about why.

I post on a variety of subjects with lots of pictures plus some mp3s of my own music.. If you really like Juelz Santana's music you will think I come from another planet. Please listen to some of my stuff anyway. I invite you to stay and look around.

If all you want the real lyrics to the music, Anonymous has kindly posted them in the comments.]

[The original post begins here . . .]

It's an advertisement from a company known by a four-letter N word. (They sell shoes. I saw this on Fox while watching a cartoon show.)

The images are of 10 tall black men playing basketball inside a very large airplane hanger, cut against other shots of them walking out of the sunset (sunrise?) in a straight line, wearing all white, on a (military?) airbase runway with planes in the background. (I can visually recognize only Kobe Bryant. Is this his product-endorsement comeback? The only other name I recognize is LeBron James. No, I'm not a basketball fan.)

So far, it's a yawner for me. But the soundtrack made me perk right up. Someone is rapping over the Dies Irae, the Gregorian chant for dead people or the end of time or something, against a very heavy percussive back beat. Now that made me wonder what was going on here. (Read about Dies Irae on Wikipedia. Section 5 deals with the musical theme.)

The whole thing is entitled "The Second Coming." Watch it yourself, here. The website tagline is "The game is waiting. The future is now. And it belongs to you. Continue the legacy." Does this, I wonder, sell shoes or religion?

The Second Coming, Nike television commercialAre they selling basketball sneakers to young Catholics heading off to fight in Iraq? Are these particular athletes somehow leading George II's surge?

Rachmaninoff used the Dies Irae in his music quite a bit. (See this previous Mixed Meteristic post about the Iraq surge and Pasadena bumper stickers to understand that reference.)

Here's the "libretto" of The Second Coming (or is it some sort of sacred scripture or prayer?) (as near as I can figure it out):
They say the family that prays together, stays together.
And one that balks apart just falls apart.
So, together we stand, divided we fall
United we form ? and take our ball
Lets move, yes. The birds left the nest,
I'm all grown up I've got a flower to rest. Uh-huh
The best of the best it what we strive to be.
A legacy is what we tryin' to leave.
(?) Let's say good bye to the past.
The future's here, at last, at last.
The second comin'. The new beginnin'.
The truth is speaking. you should listen, listen.
So glorious, victorious.
We take what we want. We're ? warriors.
I'd appreciate if anyone who can identify the music or the singer would please leave a comment. (Addendum: Thanks to those who made comments for the help - it's Juelz Santana and Just Blaze. )

Here an English translation of the first 3 verses of Dies Irae
1 Day of wrath and terror looming!
Heaven and earth to ash consuming,
David's word and Sibyl's truth foredooming!

2 What horror must invade the mind,
when the approaching judge shall find,
and sift the deeds of all mankind.

3 The trumpet casts a wondrous sound,
through the tombs of all around,
making them the throne surround.
Does Dies Irae have a chorus to go with all those verses?

Here's one of my favorite MixMet posts about Iraq, television commercials, religions and virgins.

Postlude-addendum: Here's a press release with details of Nike's ad campaign - find out what they're really selling. Nike's ad agency is Wieden & Kennedy.

Another MM post, entitled Who Is Weiden-Kennedy Anyway?, about a different Nike television commercial they did which used religious-themed classical music to sell basketball shoes.

This little poem, straight out of Mordor, is from their website:
We specialize
in understanding
cultural trends.
As a result,
we have made
like Nike,
and Miller High Life
influence our culture.

Once brands
are accepted
on this level,
they are infinitely
more powerful.
Shoe Sale Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . .. . .. . .

Friday, January 19, 2007

10 Minute Break - Thinking With Other People's Words

Desire, it's a store in Pasadena - I guess they only carry things you want a lotclick here to hear Thinking With Other People's Words = the inevitable, interminable program-note-style words which every self-important composer adds to every piece in an effort to convince the audience that the music is really much better than it sounds are below. For this piece, however, I suggest you listen first, then read (or DON'T read) later.

Copyright (c) 2007 by David Ocker - 8 minutes, 29 secondsCompassion and Honesty - would you have thought of them all by yourself?Initially I intended to restrict the music I post at Mixed Meters to very short pieces called 30 Second Spots. None ever came out less than 30 seconds long, a few were almost 2 minutes.

When I started posting longer pieces I invented a second classification called 3 Minute Climax. You can figure out what it means, I can't be bothered to explain everything.

But the new piece in this post is much longer than 3 minutes. It's the longest new piece I've ever posted here. I needed a new classification and I've selected the name "10 Minute Break" - sorry if you feel short-changed by the missing 90 seconds in this piece. There may never be another 10 Minute Break for me to make up the extra time.

(If you're looking for even longer, try this Mixed Meters post where you'll find a link to a very very old 13-minute piece of mine, Voluntary Solitude for clarinet & electronics, one of my greatest compositional failures.)

Trustworthiness Fairness Self-Discipline and Integrity - vital to an orderly societyLast month I accidentally watched part of a PBS documentary about preserving native American heritage in Alaska. One woman, talking about the preservation of nearly extinct languages, talked about the cruelty of forcing young children to speak only English in government schools rather than their native tongues.

She said the students were forced to "think with other people's words." I immediately recognized this as a perfect title for the music I was planning to begin that day.

Responsibility, Citizenship, Perseverance and Respect - who thought those ideas up anyway?As I worked on the piece I realized that the concept of using someone else's words in thinking was far from unique and not always malevolent. In fact, it was omnipresent in our culture. Other people's words are an essential part of the transmission of knowledge and behavior from one generation to the next.

We all get our words, our concepts, our abstractions from our parents, our teachers and our clergy. Most of us never question these words. Bad people can do bad thing by misusing unquestioned words.

Love God graffiti - someone's idea of preaching on an alley wall in Long BeachI picked three words which I believe have been under-questioned and over-abused in the U.S. recently and I included them in the music. To speak them, I've used the voice of someone known to all who has greatly benefited from their misuse. These three words are markers which divide Thinking With Other People's Words into sections.

Blind Faith in Bad Leaders is Not Patriotic - picture of George W. Bush with horns - anti-war Rally - Pasadena CA 9/11/2006As the music grew I discovered that I was using "musical words" in a manner new for me. These would usually be called musical motives, or fragments or ideas. For example, in the beginning is a (musical) word which returns near the end of each later section. Its return is heralded by the "invocation sound" (a whistle, most often associated with authority figures such as policeman, athletic coaches, talk show hosts and composition teachers.)

More importantly, a few of these music words were not mine. I was writing with other musicians words. There are no direct quotes that I'm aware of, but there is clearly a recognizable aura of several other composers. So a big shoutout to Morton Feldman and Edgard Varese, neither of whom I'd previously felt were strong influences on me. (And also to whoever wrote the theme to The Jetsons.)

Beware of the God sign
Blogger Kyle Gann, inspired by a book about Stravinsky, wrote an article on the ill-effects of the way musical words are passed down through generations of composers, from teacher to student. Everything thing he said about the graduate study of composition tallied with my (negative) experiences until he got to the part on how Cal Arts (where I studied) was one of the few non-damaging place to study.

I would like to suggest that the graduate study of musical composition should be completely eliminated. Musicians who really want to compose will figure things out on their own. Imitation, cheap or otherwise, would be reduced. I sure hope the Cal Arts School of Music doesn't decide to offer a doctoral degree in music composition.

Explanation of 30 second spots
A previous Mixed Meterism about Varese, Zappa and Slonimsky.
More Mixed Meters Morty mentions.

Word Tags: . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Monday, January 15, 2007

Buying a Guitar in Pasadena (Mahler's Seventh)

Here's a picture of a Guitar Salesman taken on my walk up to Starbucks this afternoon. As this man was coming towards me it appeared that he was selling ukuleles, but on closer inspection these small instruments had six, not four, strings. The pink one was particularly cute. His final price before I walked on was $15.

Selling small Guitars on a Pasadena Street
Here's a previous M.M. post about Guitars on Pasadena streets.

The real authority on Pasadena Guitars is Paul Viapiano (click here for his excellent blog).

Paul recently told about performing in Mahler's Seventh Symphony at Disney Hall with the L.A. Philharmonic conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. (Click here for that post.) Pairing it with Webern is brilliant programming.

Like Paul, the Seventh Symphony was my first introduction to Mahler. I was in high school in the sixties when I discovered the Bernstein recording in monaural at the Sioux City Iowa Public Library. The Seventh remained my favorite work for decades - until I gave up listening to Mahler altogether sometime in the nineties.

Last week, at another Philharmonic concert, I told this story to someone. She asked me "Why did you lose interest in Mahler?"

My response (instant, unthinking and completely accurate) was "I grew up."

Mandolin Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Peanuts mentions Mahler

Friday, January 12, 2007

David's Eight Favorite Things of 2006

Okay, so I'm 2 weeks late and 2 items short of a ten best list. And one of the items I did pick is artificial butter. You should be able to infer that not much gets me excited anymore.

Also, not all these things came out in 2006. But they did come to me in 2006 and that's good enough, I figure.

1. Mozart in Egypt

Mozart in Egypt album coverA strange and wonderful album that I bought used on a lark in a local record shop. Egyptian composers created music using familiar bits of Mozart. Although I don't understand much about Egyptian music, its very different timbres and tuning make exciting and startling contrasts with the music I do understand.

2. Os Piratas Do Karnak

Os Piratas Do KarnakI blogged about this album previously. A really tight rock band from Brazil led by Andre Abujamra - if I understood the words they're singing in Portuguese I'm sure the experience would be ruined.

3. Fools Paradise

Fools Pardise with your host Rex
Fools Paradise with "Your Host, Rex" is 2 hours of "unsung" fifties Rock & Roll records every Saturday afternoon on WFMU radio. "Unsung" as in "really obscure" "Unsung" sometimes as in "can't carry a tune". Scrunch up your ears and it can become just like modren avant-garde music - only lots lots lots more fun. Rex lists the official gamut of styles as "vintage rockabilly, R & B, blues, vocal groups, garage, instrumentals, hillbilly, soul and surf". Lousy website, alas, but years and years of shows are archived. Get listenin'.

(Disclaimer - I knew about and enjoyed Fools Paradise long before 2006 - but the music I hear on this show (and nowhere else) remains such a kick that it still seems new to me.)

4. Serenity

the movie Serenity - a shot of the ship, Serenity
A fast-paced little space opera with a real plot, actual acting, humor and plenty of explosions. Everything George Lucas forgot about making decent movies in his recent Star Wars blockbusters. But Serenity proves someone out there still remembers how to do it - please, won't someone send me more escapism like Serenity?

5. The Huntington Conservatory

the new conservatory at Huntington Gardens in Pasadena CA
The Huntington, right here in Pasadena, is a collection of boring artwork, inaccessible libraries and fantastic botanical gardens. Gardens Beyond Fantastic. Their new Conservatory, modeled after one in England, is a fine place to marvel at strange natural beauty. Honorable mentions to their cactus garden and succulent house.

6. Lio

Lio, a new comic strip in the Los Angeles Times, nearly wordless, about a young boy with a There's Something About Mary hairstyle, who consorts with monsters and ghouls in the most pleasant way. Here are two strips, not really typical, in which Lio is called upon to provide music to the liking of his demanding, fluffy white cat Cybil.
Lio a comic strip by Mark Tatulli
Lio a comic strip by Mark Tatulli
Click on the strips for bigger strips.

7. Flickr

Hey it's a website. I use a lot of websites. This is the only one that never seems to screw up, is well thought out, works as advertised, never loses an upload, and surprises me with features I didn't know I wanted. Check it out Blogspot, it can be done!

Some of my snapshots live on Flickr.

8. Soy Garden

Soy Garden

If you're about my age and weight then your doctor has probably also told you to watch your cholesterol, like by giving up dairy products. For example, butter. But I love butter.

And anyone who thinks the I Can't Believe It's Not Butter crap in any way shape or form resembles butter must be missing a few senses. Fabio, are you listening?

But this stuff, Soy Garden, tastes like butter and it even stays hard in the fridge. Alas, it has all of the calories of real butter, but none of the cholesterol.

Ten Best Tags: . . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I Can't Believe It's Not Torture

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A Surge of Political Bumper Stickers

I listened to an NPR piece about the media's recent adoption of the term "surge" to describe George II's plan to reduce the number of troops in Iraq by increasing the number of troops in Iraq. If he keeps up like this for two more years I fear he will need to destroy his Presidency in order to save it.

Give War a Chance sticker on a car window
I laughed out loud when the NPRs played a bit of Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini as bumper music after the spot ended. (If you don't get the joke, I'll explain eventually - maybe.)

ACLU - Enemy of the State bumper sticker with a hammer and sickle as the C in ACLU
Read about public opposition to the war (in Vietnam) including reference to the phrase "it was necessary to destroy the village in order to save it".

Fuck Terrorism bumper sticker
And speaking of "bumpers" - these pictures are all vehicles I've seen in Pasadena, my hometown. All owned by people with whom I would have great disagreements.

On Fire for God - does that mean burned at the stake?

Tag Surge: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Sergei RachmaninoffHere's a picture of "Surge" Rachmaninoff.

I've been a proud member of the ACLU for several decades.

This link ("ACLU, Enemy of the State") is quite a telling indictment of George II's war on civil liberty.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Bird Feeders And Squirrel Centrifuges

Here is a NASA centrifuge - a high-speed merry-go-round for training astronauts to ride a bomb into orbit.

Astronaut Walter M. Schirra Jr. prepares to enter gondola of centrifuge which is used to test gravitational stress on astronauts training for space flight. Schirra became the pilot of the Mercury-Atlas 8 six-orbit space mission. Credit: NASA Johnson Space Center (NASA-JSC)

Here is a squirrel in our backyard.

Human, will you please give me another nut?

Here is a link to a very entertaining story "What The Forest Animals Tell Me." about how a smaller centrifuge failed to keep squirrels from eating bird seed.

The article is from composer Kyle Gann's blog Post Classic which otherwise deals with the arcana of musical geekiness. Yes, I read it.

It's apparently hard to get a good photo of a squirrel being flung into thin air
Kyle purchased a high-tech bird feeder called The Yankee Flipper. It uses a weight-sensitive perch and an electric motor to become a rotating squirrel accelerator. You can watch still-hungry squirrels being flung off into space in this marketing video.

I'd be happier if you gave me some nuts instead of this birdseed!
At one point the video announcer says "Everyone agrees that squirrels don't belong on bird feeders. Birds do." This is wrong. Just spend the money on more food for the squirrels.

Droll Yankees
is the maker of The Yankee Flipper They also make the Yankee Tipper, the Yankee Whipper and the Yankee Dipper. Definitely Droll!!

Animals Sharing Food and Space
Both birds and squirrels eat the seed we put in our backyard. I initially felt the squirrels should be kept away, but Leslie was having none of that. Our well-fed cats, would just love a birdie for dinner, so the cats always stay indoors. Hawks appear occasionally to eat a juicy pigeon.

Hand over those nuts and no one gets hurt.
We have never been able to visually identify a single backyard squirrel. They're identical in size and color with no distinctive markings. We've never seen a baby squirrel or even a dead squirrel (except one killed by someone's cat.) Illogically, I've concluded that some of the squirrels in our backyard must be the same ones living here 10 years ago when we first arrived.

a close-up of the nose and claws of a squirrel dining
Occasionally we can identify an individual squirrel by its behavior. There was one little guy (gal?) who learned to accept food directly from us. Nuts! It liked nuts. Several others learned to open the small garbage can where we store the seed. These behaviors are not happening currently so I guess those particular squirrels got better jobs and moved to a nicer backyard.

I want those nuts now, ya hear?
Here is a Band-Tailed Pigeon - a very large very dumb bird that the Yankee Flipper would think was a squirrel and send flying. We get a lot of these guys.

Band Tailed Pigeon perches on a bird feeder meant for a much smaller bird
Feed Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Friday, January 05, 2007

30 Second Spots - Twenty Balls In My Fingers and I'm Not Done Yet

I woke up one morning . . . yesterday actually . . . with this tune and these words in my head.

theme and lyrics - Twenty Balls in My Fingers and I'm Not Done Yet (c) David Ocker
I do dream melodies occasionally - but usually they're lost in the fog of my re-awakening consciousness. Maybe I remembered this dumb tune because it has dumb words attached. I don't remember anything else in the dream.

I don't recognize the tune so I guess my mind made it up all by myself. But who knows. I once spent a week in college thinking I had written a particular tune from Handel's Water Music.

Streamers and Balloons used to sell automobiles

I fleshed the raw material into a half minute of "glorious" Mixed Midi.

click here to hear (I've got) Twenty Balls In My Fingers and I'm Not Done Yet

Copyright (c) January 4, 2007 by David Ocker - 34 seconds

Explanation of 30 second spots

Dream Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A better class of Vice-President

In the various eulogies and encomia to Gerald Ford that I've encountered in the last few days, I've yet to see this: Ford never would have become President if we, the citizens of the United States, had chosen a better Vice President in 1972.

This crook was elected to be a heartbeat from the Presidency not just once - but twice.

Spiro Agnew - 39th Vice President of the United States
If Agnew had been an honest man, he'd have become President of the United States.

If Nixon had lost in '72, Sargeant Shriver, not Agnew, would have become President when George McGovern was forced to resign because of his dirty tricks against the Nixon campaign. It's so much fun to re-write history.

There was no mail Tuesday and no Wall Street - a memorial to President Ford. I wondered how, someday, we'll celebrate the death of George W. who, it has been pointed out repeatedly, has made Nixon (who was not a crook) seem like a much better President.
"People have got to know whether or not their President's a crook. Well, I'm not a crook. I've earned everything I've got." Richard M. Nixon
Including his pardon.

VP Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Monday, January 01, 2007

Left Behind After the Rose Parade

Pasadena California, where Leslie & I live, prides itself on being the focus of the entire world for a few hours on January first of every year. Or, if the first is on Sunday, then on January second because we're all busy worshiping the sun on Sunday.

Rose Parade 2007 Garbage - Silly String and LA Times.jpg
Colorado Boulevard becomes a large all-night party as people cheer midnight, eat junk food, try to stay warm and jockey for the best free view of the parade.

Rose Parade 2007 Garbage.jpg
Television viewers (at least 3 billion of you) see only the fantastical floats, the bright sunshine, the exotic flowers, the picturesque mountains, the beautiful girls - and then you decide to move here. (Please move here - it keeps our real estate values and smog levels up.)

Rose Parade 2007 Garbage - Fries and Cheetos.jpg
What no one shows you (except Mixed Meters) is the garbage left behind on Colorado Boulevard after the crowds leave and before the estimable City of Pasadena Street Maintenance & Integrated Waste Management Division moves in. Tomorrow morning it'll look like nothing ever happened. How do they do it?

Rose Parade 2007 Garbage - broken yellow childs chair.jpg
Rose Parade 2007 Garbage - trash.jpg
Rose Parade 2007 Garbage - Ugly Betty.jpg
Rose Parade 2007 Garbage - corn tortillas used as frisbees.jpg
Rose Parade 2007 Garbage - pillow.jpg
Rose Parade 2007 Garbage - doused fire.jpg
Rose Parade 2007 Garbage - Dead Flower.jpg
Rose Parade 2007 Garbage - keeping warm.jpg
Rose Parade 2007 Garbage - confetti.jpg
Rose Parade 2007 Garbage - cheetos and Happy New Years Hat.jpg

Click on any of the pictures for an easier-to-see size.

The previous Mixed Meters Rose-Parade-Related Post is HERE.

Rose Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . .. . .. . .