Tuesday, July 31, 2007

What's On David Hockney's iPod

I found the article below by reading Disquiet.com

iPod blamed for stealing the thunder from contemporary art

Posted Jun 15th 2007 6:36AM by Darren Murph (on engadget.com)

If you've been yearning for controversy, why not meet Mr. David Hockney? Commonly know as "Britain's best-loved living painter," Hockney has suggested that the proliferation of the iPod has been a primary contributor to the recent "fallow period of painting."

He insists that today's society is "all about sound,"
and even mentions that people are turning off their eyes and ignoring contemporary art whilst "plugging their ears."

Put simply, he believes the modern "decline in visual awareness" rests heavily on Apple's own cash cow, and further stirred the pot by insinuating that it led to "badly dressed people" who cared not about lines nor mass.

As expected, a spokeswoman for Apple Australia refuted the claims, and while we certainly have seen no shortage of brilliant creations since the iPod explosion, there's always two sides to the canvas.

Mixed Meters' response: "David, I wish your loony idea was correct. It would be so nice if people let their eyes take a rest in favor of their ears, even briefly."

Oh, generally a canvas has
only one relevant side - but I have wondered occasionally if some Hockneys might be more interesting viewed from behind.

Nutty Chocolate Tags: . . . . . .

Here's a post from the blog Overgrown Path about music that David Hockney selected for a radio show on BBC.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Pasadena City Hall

Last month, in search of a license for Chowderhead, I visited Pasadena City Hall for the first time since it re-opened. It had been closed for earthquake retrofitting and general refurbishment. After the license was acquired I wandered about snapping pictures with my point and shoot. (The poor puppy is still waiting for his tags to come in the mail.)


Pasadena City Hall - a light fixturePasadena City Hall - a metal railing

Pasadena City Hall - Urning To Be FreePasadena City Hall - a spotlight in an empty fountain

Pasadena City Hall - vaulted ceilingPasadena City Hall - outside columns
Click here to see how a real artist depicts this building. (I discovered this link at Eye Level Pasadena.

Pasadena City Hall

More pictures of Pasadena City Hall than you can shake a stick at.
Pasadena City Hall on Wikipedia.

City Hall Tags: . . . . . . . . .

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Mr Composer Head: The Right Tool

(Editors note: This post will also appear in Mister Composer Head, a new blog dedicated to the posts of (wait for it), yes, Mister Composer Head himself.

He refuses to start his own blog, although he should (in my opinion). So I've started it for him.

For a while I'll post his writings both here and there in identical format.
But eventually, like maybe the next time, I'll post an announcement here, with excerpts - the Reader's Digest version - and my three readers can click over there to read the whole thing. Hey, that would be way cool, huh? Or what?

The red squiggle pictures don't have anything to do with this post - but I had them ready and was going to run them anyway. That's what Mr. Composer Head gets when he lets me run his blog. /David - Mr. Composer Head's Amanuensis)

red squiggle logo on a bike shop
Okay, so folk wisdom has it that you should use the right tool for the job. I can go with that, and I have quite a few tools. In fact, I have most of my power tools thanks to an N.E.A. grant. They stopped giving those to composers right after I got mine. I wonder why? Never mind.

But what about the right tool for the song? Where does folk wisdom get you on that one?

“If I had a miter saw (and I do) I’d miter saw in the morning…”

Hmm, not quite there, let’s try

“If I had a complete set of socket wrenches - both SAE and Metric …”

Maybe not.

“If I had a radial arm saw…”

Now that one’s good, because I don’t have a radial arm saw, but would like one. Where’s the N.E.A. when you really need ‘em? Are you starting to catch my drift?

“If I had a cordless screwdriver,
I’d cordlessly screwdrive in the morning.”

I sort of like that, but I’m not convinced by the image of a Cordless Screwdriver of Justice, which is what the song is getting at.

So you need to have the right tool for the song.

red squiggle ess on a hair salon
What is the right tool for the song? Obviously, a hammer. But why?

Because it sings smoothly, has a kind of authority that, say, “wood rasp” lacks, and most importantly, “hammer” is both a noun and a verb.

You can have a hammer, and hammer with it, in the morning or the evening as you like, all over this land.

But you can’t really “plumb bob” in the morning. Even if I could, I wouldn’t want to.

Although a “level” of Justice does seem to make some sense.

So anyway, you have to have the right tool for the song. And you can’t just make this stuff up.

red squiggle someone cleaning their brush on a wall
There are rules that we do not make, but by which we must abide.

So, for example, why did people, in the 1980’s, start making verbs out of nouns? Because you have become a parent, you are therefore “parenting”? That is so lame. I think I understand why people try that, but that’s just not how language works, as far as I can tell.

Just try composing the salutation for a letter to someone you don’t actually know! Ha! Try sidestepping gender specificity. NOT easy to do. Language likes gender differentiation. There’s a Hammer of Justice for ya!

“Hey, I got your Hammer of Justice…”

Which reminds me of another song about a tool.

“I’d rather be a hammer than a nail…”

Simon and Garfunkle. My sisters were huge fans, and always said they liked “folk music”. Sorry gals. S & G were (still are I guess) pop stars. Folk music is another thing altogether.

Right Tool Left Tool Tags: . . . . . .

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Creature From the Backyard

Mixed Meters' Oxford reader recently lamented the dearth of pictures of Chowderhead, our new dog. Chowder's been living in our backyard for over a month.

Chowderhead's Head - the view from above
Chowderhead now has a private tutor and a curriculum:
  • He will learn to Come
  • He will learn to Heel
  • He will learn to be inside the house and not chase a cat round and round the dining room table the way he did last night. (Connie, the trainer, called it Doggy Derby)

Chowderhead's Head
Here's MacTabby, formerly the backyard cat, sitting on the front porch and looking very skinny. He has had to relocate to the front yard away from Chowderhead.

If McT were thinking clearly he would have become an indoor cat long ago. Inside he could become fat and lazy. Getting chased around the dining room table once in a while would be a small price to pay for that.

The Outside Animal Tags: . . . . . . . . .

Previous Chowderhead pictures here and here and here.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Bunches of Bunnies - Bunches of Balloons - 4

How to feel like an Old Composer in three easy steps:

After studying to be a composer, attempt to have a career actually composing music.

bunch of colored balloons
2. After many years realize it isn't working, redefine yourself as a "failed composer", get a life.

colored Bunny sippy cups
3. Attain the age of 55 without controlling the inner urge to compose and then read this article entitled Writers' Block (by Chris Pasles in today's Los Angeles Times Calendar section) about a bunch of unknown younger composers attempting the same sorts of things my generation tried (plus one new one called the Internet) and snicker with the statistical near-certainty that none of them will have the slightest effect on the world of music but will most definitely get old themselves eventually, and, having resigned themselves to whatever modest level of success they might achieve, will someday read an identical article about hordes of even younger upcoming composers who will then be attacking the very same career barricades in mostly the same old ways with an equally small likelihood of success, and know that they themselves will feel their age as well.

3 mostly deflated balloons under a bench
4. Gratefully consider the fact that no one will be able to parse the thought in section 3 unless it is re-written into several shorter sentences.

In America Everyone Is A Great Artist (a 30 Second Spot)

Young Composer Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Previous M.M. B&B (Bunny & Balloon) posts: number one or number two or number three

Friday, July 20, 2007

Mr. Composer Head: Don't Fix It If It Id Not Broken!

(Mr. Composer Head has graciously and anonymously provided another guest post while I consume the other things on my plate. I thank him for all his efforts. Click here to see a list of Mr. Composer Head's previous Mixed Meters appearances.

I'd like to point out that Mr. C.H. provides no images, a hallowed M.M. tradition, hence I scrounge those myself as best I can. There are no pictures of Composer Head's actual composer head. Instead I've substituted the well known Mr. Potato Head - whose head, I'm sure, is equally big and brainy. /David)

Mr. ComposerHead Saze…

Don't Fix It If It Id Not Broken!

Okay, so most of my music is released on my own label, recorded at home, and the CDs are burned one-at-a-time as needed – which is not frequently. That makes it possible for me to make my music available.

Okay, so I stick labels on the CDs to make them look nice and finished and if you pay attention you'll notice that it's a LABEL, not printed on the CD. Of course then you'll look at the back of the CD and see that it's a ONE-OFF, not pressed from a glass master at a big factory. That might seem cheap. IT IS!!!! That's why I do it.

CD Stomper
One astute consumer, noticing these details, wrote to complain, thinking I was dealing bootlegs, and asked if the artist was getting any royalties from the sale. He also felt a little cheated because it wasn't a "real" CD, and it was also kind of short.

I refunded $5 of his $15 purchase price, via PayPal, and explained why I make my CDs this way, and that, yes, the artist gets royalties. I get ALL of them.

He wrote back about the five bucks saying "I guess you didn't really have to do that".

He was right – I didn't. But I digress…

Mr Potato Head as Darth Vader and Mario
Anyway, as someone doing things as described above, I have always been thankful for CD Stomper, a simple and efficient way to make a nice label and stick it on your CD very quickly and easily. I have even recommended it to students, friends, and colleagues. A Great Product for us DYIers.

Then they fucked it up. And don't "they" always?!

Coke Museum Las Vegas
The other day I ran out of labels and needed to burn a few CDs. So I went out and got a Big Honkin' Box O' Refills, and what did I find?

Instead of the super-mindlessly-simple peel 'em off-and-stick 'em ons that I have grown to love and depend on, they now have TABS – not just one, but two, one on each side, plus a dubble donut hole in the center. So, you have to gently pull the tab so as not to rip the label, and while lifting the label GENTLY put your finger in the sweet spot to pull away the unwanted donuts, and once you manage to get the *^$%#*ing label on the disk, you have to GENTLY try to remove the tabs without ripping the edge of the label – which I can do about one out of three times.

So, now I get to spend about three times longer than I used to putting a label on one CD [thank God there's not much demand for my work!], and the end result is no better than it used to be with the old labels about one third of the time, and worse the other two thirds.

Win money making a Heinz ketchup video
My point (besides bitching that the world is not made to my specs)?

Some things cannot be improved. So don't try to do that to them. Heinz ketchup. Coke. These things are either perfect, or beyond repair.

But I think there are people who have jobs - probably well-paid, with benefits – and their job is to find ways to "improve" whatever product.

Those people should go kill themselves before they do more damage.

Morton Feldman, the Godfather
I suggest that some things are as good as they can be [that's not the same thing as "perfect". I heard Morton Feldman say, in a lecture, "My pieces are perfect". I thought that was about the most fucked-up thing such a good composer could possibly say. But I digress…]


This brought to mind what Frank Zappa did with some of his best recordings, early works that I consider true classics, as good as music gets. He "improved" them, by having the drum parts re-recorded, many years after the albums were history.

Frank Zappa with milk and cookies
My teeth hurt whenever I hear Chad [Wackerman] playing drums on Cruisin' With Ruben And the Jets. (Sorry Chad. I know he made you do it.)

Frank said, regarding We're Only In It For the Money, "Some of those snare drum parts were me playing with brushes on a telephone book".

Know what Frank? That's the album we bought, and that's the album we love.

I guess my point is that some things can't be improved. Brings to mind Cage's essay "How to Improve the World – You'll Only Make Matters Worse".

Morton Feldman and John Cage - together via photoshop
I often wonder about composers who need to revise after a premiere, like that's part of the creative process.

I think you're supposed to get it right the first time. Or learn from the experience, and write something else.

Mr. C/H

Rant Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Picture Sources:
The C.D. Stomper
The Morty Pictures
Frank Zappa with Milk and Cookies
The Coke Bottle Building Picture
The Girl With Her Giant Bottle of Ketchup.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Two Composers - One Backyard

While I work on cueing John's Oppie symphony, I present the second in a 2-part series of behind-the-houses-of-composers photo essays. (Here's part one.)

Last month I spent a few minutes in the Altadena backyard of composer William Kraft and composer Joan Huang while Bill spoke on the phone with composer Leon Milo, who was in Norway.

This is what I saw: (click to enlarge)

Bill Kraft Backyard - ships wheel
Bill Kraft Backyard - curvy garden walk edging
Bill Kraft Backyard - steps to swimming pool
Bill Kraft Backyard - hanging Dragon Fly mobile
Bill Kraft Backyard - two blue lights in the bushes
Bill Kraft Backyard - two fence post tops
Bill Kraft Backyard - two chaise lounges
Bill Kraft Backyard - two composers, Bill and Joan with Ginji

Here's Bill's Bio.
Here's Bill Kraft's San Francisco Waltz Toon (It's only one minute twenty seconds long.)

Backyard Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . .

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Lower Case Zappa

Kill Ugly Radio linked to an article entitled Mad Scientists at a blog called Quiet Bubble.

The author discusses a general category of artists called zappas (although he always capitalizes the word) who are super-productive but unpredictably change their genres and styles. Here are some quotes that caught my eye:
[Zappa] willingly pushed boundaries—of form, content, and sense—and stretched rock music to its breaking point, and often beyond it. In the process, he made a sackful of truly transcendent songs, several decent-to-excellent albums, and a whole lot of crap.
Yep, pretty much.

And this second- or third-hand quote from Rainer Werner Fassbinder:
“Should you sit around waiting until something’s become a tradition,” he once said, “or shouldn’t you rather roll up your sleeves and get to work developing one?”
Here's a picture I've been saving as the perfect non-sequitur:

Blue Balloon and Shadows

lower case Tags: . . . . . . . . .

Friday, July 13, 2007

Completely Idiotic?

This book captured my attention as I made a quick pass through Borders Books Thursday afternoon. I didn't pick it up and look inside because I'm not a complete idiot. Maybe I should be. I'm guessing this means that the Complete Idiot's series is nearing the last of their suitable topics.

Here's a list of available Complete Idiot's Music and other Performing Arts Guides.

Complete Idiot's Guide to Arranging and Orchestration

Complete Tags: . . . . . . . . .

Monday, July 09, 2007

Consuming Music - Starbucks, Apple and Old Pasadena


Over the years I've had surprisingly few issues with the music selection in my local Starbucks. Except at Christmas time, of course. Here's an early MM post about that. And another. And here's my own vaguely Christmas-related music.

Recently, however, there seems to be a New Starbucks Music Selection Policy. This began about the time they played one perfectly execrable Paul McCartney album and nothing else for an entire day, Instead of playing a different artist every song for a period of time (usually in related genres) they now play a few songs by one artist in a fixed sequence. And they play the sequence over and over.

Guess what! Those very songs are on albums for sale right there in Starbucks- what a surprise! Starbucks has to make a buck.

Starbucks Coffee, $2.55; Apple iPod, $249; our dog Chowderhead, priceless
One artist in current rotation is Willie Nelson - never one of my faves - but I can tolerate a few tracks every year or so. After several dozen hearings in just weeks I made up my mind to get an iPod of my own. I borrowed Leslie's for a few days to test the idea. I settled on a 8-gig Nano. I'm not an early adopter of tech items but iPod is entrenched enough for even non-trendy people like me.


On Monday I set out for the official Apple Store in the trendy part of town, OLD PASADENA (usually referred to by us locals as OLD TOWN).

Old Pasadena CA
Any capitalist would regard Old Town as a huge success. Years ago it was:
  • dilapidated old buildings,
  • interesting funky shops,
  • cheap restaurants,
  • too few parking places
  • plus a pawn shop and an adult bookstore.
Now it has become
  • elegantly refurbished old buildings,
  • expensive, upscale shops (Tiffanys is the highest note on the scale at the moment),
  • countless trendy restaurants (mostly Italian),
  • too few parking places
  • plus a pawn shop and an adult bookstore.
(Why the pawn shop and adult bookstore have survived while most other businesses have moved out is something I don't understand.)

smoking section - Old Pasadena CA
A few doors down from Tiffany's the Apple Store was a-hoppin' on a Monday morning. There was a line at the counter and activity everywhere in the store. Of course there was a "how to use your iPhone" class in the back.

When I got to the front of the line I told the chipper young lady that I wanted an 8-gig Nano. I handed over my card, told her I preferred a red one and a paper, not email, receipt. She simply reached under the counter and produced my iPod. I declined the shopping bag because I could put the whole Nano box in my pocket. I was back on the street in minutes.

Castle Green points at the moon - Old Pasadena CA
I walked to the Old Town Starbucks (the one which does not provide a rest room for customers because of, they say, historic preservation laws). My Starbucks purchase took longer and required me to answer more questions than I had encountered at Apple. But otherwise it was pretty much the same. The clerk was even happier and more upbeat.
The two purchases seemed identical in style and format even though I spent almost exactly 100 times more at Apple than at Starbucks.
building facade - Old Pasadena CA
I left Old Town in a sullen mood, feeling slightly dirty for doing my patriotic consumerist duty and running the corporate gauntlet. That's also sort of the same way I feel at Disneyland.

Once I was driving past auto repair garages and little shops and churches I've never been been inside of and never will, I relaxed.

wall mural - Old Pasadena CA

As a PC user I find any product that's both elegant and functional seems quite novel. The iPod box boasts "Designed by Apple in California". I hope the design team got extra cookies. And it's so small, easy to use and sounds good. It has reinforced my hope that my next new computer will be a Mac.

The box also says "Like a fine pair of jeans, iPod nano colors may vary and change over time." So my red iPod is going to fade? Would it help if I wash it only in cold water?

super high res picture of Old Pasadena CA taken from space
Initially I picked a couple dozen favorites albums, ones I'm sure I'll enjoy repeatedly, to load into it. I'll use this music to adjust to using my new device. These albums take about one fifth of total memory. The remaining space will be for unfamiliar music.
There is an awful lot of different music out there which I haven't heard yet. I'm still curious about a huge percentage of it.
And I have Willie Nelson and some corporate music flack at Starbucks to thank for this. But I won't be buying albums at Starbucks, of course, and I probably won't be buying mp3s at iTunes. I can only survive so much of that dirty "good Consumer" feeling.

stack of compact discs on my desk ready for iPod insertion

At the beginning of Mixed Meters I started a list of "David's Favorite Music" - there are still only two entries - Karnak and Mingus. Hopefully this iPod will prompt me to expand that list. The order of these albums means something - not sure what - but something.
  1. Astor Piazzolla - La Camorra
  2. Karnak - Os Piratas Do Karnak (both discs)
  3. Charles Mingus - Mingus Ah Um (original release)
  4. J.S. Bach - The Goldberg Variations - Glenn Gould (1981)
  5. Cicala Mvta - Ohkuma Wataru Unit - Deko boko
  6. Raymond Scott - The Music of Raymond Scott
  7. Frank Zappa - Studio Tan
  8. Bonzo Dog Band - The Bestiality of Bonzo Dog Band
  9. J.S. Bach/William Malloch - The Art of Fuguing
  10. D.J. Shadow - The Private Press
  11. Astor Piazzolla - Piazzolla Forever - Richard Galliano Septet
  12. Domenico Scarlatti - Sonatas - Scott Ross (first 2 discs)
  13. John Kirby - John Kirby
  14. Spike Jones - Cocktails for Two
  15. Gotan Project - La Revancha Del Tango
  16. Albita - No Se Parece a Nada
  17. Gloria Estefan - Mi Tierra
  18. Ludwig van Beethoven/Uri Caine - Diabelli Variations
  19. W.A. Mozart/various - Mozart in Egypt
  20. Big J McNeeley - Big Jay in 3-D
  21. Joe Newman/Rudy Schwartz Project - Don't Get Charred... Get Puffy
  22. Joe Newman/Rudy Schwartz Project - Gunther Packs a Stiffy
  23. Asleep at the Wheel - Greatest Hits
  24. Leonard Bernstein - On the Town (selections & 3 Dance Episodes)
old shoes on a trash can - Old Pasadena CA
StarPod Pasadena Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . .

Except for the stack of compact discs and Chowderhead with the iPod and coffee, all pictures were taken somewhere in Old Pasadena. Click to enlarge.

The Death of Nursery Rhymes

Read Pop songs threaten nursery rhymes

Pop Tags: . . . . . .

Interdependently Celebrating Independence

Composer and friend Art Jarvinen and his lovely spouse Lynn Angebranndt (Cellist and friend), host a Fourth of July BBQ every year which is held in their backyard usually about the time of the July Fourth Holiday. This year it was the Sunday before the Wednesday.

In the past, the celebration has often included a whole pig, roasted Cuban style. This year reason prevailed and we feasted on creatures that had been converted into foodstuffs by professional butchers. It's delicious either way.

Click here for my previous post describing last year's celebration - where you'll see
  • a picture of Trixie, last years pig,
  • closeups of the pantsleg of Art and corkscrew of Art
  • a short movie of Art performing on the Simantron, kind of like a long wooden jousting stick, only it's a musical instrument. Something that only a percussionist could really love. This year featured a performance of a Simantron trio by the Antenna Repairmen, with Moses Eder, guest artist.
  • an unkind comparison of the facial expression of Art to a now-departed bad guy
Here are some pictures I took this year.

Art Gives the Barbecue Invocation on Tam Tam
- then he gave the benediction "Let's Eat"

Art gives the invocation on tam tam Let's Eat
A Close Up of the Shirt of Art

closeup of the shirt of Art
Animals of the Backyard

calming your Monkey Mind - relax - meditatea pig mask
Technology of Art

some old circuit boards of Artdetail of the train set of Art which is up near the ceiling
Some Times A Phallic Symbol is Just A Phallic Cymbal

sometimes a banana is just a bananasometimes a cigar is just a phallic symbol
Click here for the Homepage of Art

As always, click the pics and they'll enlarge.

BBQ Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .