Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Funny Piano (part 1)

Here are some video links with one thing in common. All involve a piano and none of them involve a cat and all are kind of funny. Well, I thought so.

In the first my favorite pianist Glenn Gould introduces the "brilliant German reductionist" composer Karlheinz Klopweisser. In this short promo Karlheinz explains the difference between German silence and French silence. Watch it here or you can download the video from UbuWeb.

Next we have another larger-than-life fictional character, Andre Previn, conducting Grieg's Piano Concerto on a 1971 English television show while he was conductor of the London Symphony.

Finally we have a clip from a 1963 Jack Parr show on which then former Vice-President Richard Nixon performs a snippet of his own Piano Concerto. (Sadly the audio is missing at the end.) Tricky Dick seems very relaxed and even cracks a joke.

Funny Piano Tags: . . . . . .

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wagner with an asterisk

I expect this will be my last Wagner(*)-LA Opera-Ring Festival related post. That's because Supervisor Antonovich's now failed resolution is, most likely, the high-water mark of the anti-Ring Festival movement. The Gettysburg of anti-Wagnerism in Southern California. Another failed rebellion. Mike A.'s totally impractical suggestions lost by a vote of 3 to 1. I'm pretty sure it would have been 4 to 1 if all five Supes had shown up.

I have one final suggestion for the opera company on how they can allay the fears and complaints of people like me, the unwashed non-fanatical normal people who don't care for opera, can't afford to buy tickets, wouldn't have the patience to sit through a whole performance if they were given tickets for free and who number well over 99% of LA County's population. (My calculation for that made-up statistic is in a footnote here.)

My suggestion is simple. It will cost nothing. It will reach everyone who ever sees Ring Festival advertising, promotion or propaganda. It will be understood by all Americans because it is copied from baseball - which was America's pastime before Nascar. This idea will provoke the unitiated to ask the right questions. It will repeatedly remind the fanatics about the downside of their addiction. Not one program or event need be altered or canceled. Any event, no matter how relevant or tangential to the subject of Richard Wagner, be it academic seminar, hip-hop concert or country western musical, can easily be accommodated. This suggestion will in no way impede efforts by our local oligarchy to get Los Angeles recognized as a great European city by producing their very own Ring.

And it will get me to shut up.

To see how overwhelmingly simple this idea is, check out my version of the LA Opera Ring poster. My apologies to the company for modifying what is obviously their property. This is, in my opinion, a great graphic - simple and to the point. I took a very small, postage-stamp size Gif from their website, enlarged and sharpened it by hand so the text was kinda readable. I added only one small element. Can you spot it?

Yep, there's a little asterisk (*) after the composer's name. The asterisk means that some special circumstance of which everyone should be aware affects the name to which it is attached.

An asterisk, just like in the baseball record books. Everyone, at least everyone here in the U.S., understands that when some guy breaks the hallowed home-run record by hitting 756 of them in one season but does it by taking performance enhancing steroids, he gets an asterisk in the record books. And he also doesn't get into the Hall of Fame. Here's the LA tie-in.

I propose that the LA Opera should add the asterisk to the name Richard Wagner each and every time it appears in their publicity, program books, public displays -- everything!! Even on Festival letterheads. .

Put the asterisk on the COVER of the programs, on the huge banners hanging in front of the Chandler Pavilion, on the flags hanging from the lightpoles on Grand Avenue. Put the asterisk everywhere that the word "Wagner(*)" appears. Make absolutely certain that it appears on the expensive souvenir tomes that the Ringnuts and Wagnerds will treasure for years and decades to come.

Think of it as changing the name "Richard Wagner" to "Richard Wagner(*)" You can just edit your word-processor spelling dictionary to make the asterisk omnipresent. I think that the asterisk is sufficient. No footnotes are required if the asterisk really is everywhere. Sure, a footnote would be nice. It could read "Richard Wagner's name is forever stained because of its evil use by the German National Socialist party."

If my suggestion is followed every person who comes into contact with the Ring, with the LA Opera and with their Ring Festival will be forced to think about why that asterisk is there. Remember, it's Their Festival not My Festival because, if I had been there, I would not have attended. When the Simple Child asks "Why is that asterisk there?" you can reply "Because Wagner was Hitler's favorite composer."

It's as easy as that.

Of course, like all do-gooder suggestions, this will be ignored. It will be ignored by the Ring fans even if the Opera does add the asterisk exactly as I have suggested.

Come on. Allow me my fantasy. In reality LA Opera will only add asterisks if they are forced to - like the cigarette companies are forced by the government to add a notice about smoking being hazardous to your health. And they'll position them graphically in out of the way places. No smoker really pays attention to those notices - at least not consciously. And no true Wagner fan will see the asterisk. At least not consciously.

We at Mixed Meters like to mix things up. Combining things no one ever expects to see combined is our thing. Along that line, here's a picture of the back of a Brazilian Marlboro pack. This one belonged to our houseguest, Joao. He's a worm-guy from Sao Paulo.

I assume everyone, anyone will get the connection of this picture to my suggestion about the Wagner asterisk. The asterisk is a very simple, subtle idea not in your, er, face like this cigarette ad. Both are warnings that certain actions can have bad results.

The asterisk would show us that the LA Opera has a real understanding of the opposing point of view. Sadly, Supervisor Antonovich has shown that no one can force them to change their plans. And they won't do it just to prove how nice they are.

Or will they?

Want to read more of my blather?

Worm-related posts on Mixed Meters: here, here and here.

Wagner-related posts on Mixed Meters: here, here, and here.

Opera-related posts on Mixed Meters: here, here, here and here. (A couple of these have to do with both Sex and Opera!)

Ring Tags: . . . . . . . . .

Friday, July 17, 2009

Trial and Error

This is a test. This is only a test.

This test takes the form of a little 30 Second Spot I wrote last month. Leslie picked the name, Trial and Error. Back then I uploaded it to Facebook because I could. I didn't upload it here because MOG (where I've uploaded previous audio files) seems to have removed their embedded player feature which you might have noticed in previous MM posts - like this one..

I found another embedded player in the form of a Google Widget. And here it is. Can you play it? Can you hear it? Remember, you heard it here first - unless you heard it on Facebook already.

Comments on this widget are encouraged. Does it work well for you? Comments about the piece are possible too, if you care.

Trial and Error Copyright (c) 2009 David Ocker 48 Seconds

What's a 30 Second Spot? (This is one of the earliest MM posts so be sure to read my update in the comments.)

What's a widget?

Trial and Error Tags: . . . . . .

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Mike Antonovich and the Ring Festival LA

Here is a resolution to be voted on by the five Los Angeles County Supervisors next Tuesday. It is item 6 on the agenda. Read it here. Or read this:
6. Recommendation as submitted by Supervisor Antonovich: Direct the Chief Executive Officer to send a five-signature letter to Marc I. Stern, Chief Executive Officer of the LA Opera, and members of the Board of Directors requesting that the “Ring Festival LA” shift the focus from honoring composer Richard Wagner, to featuring other composers as headliners, to provide balance, historical perspective and a true sampling of operatic and musical talent. (09-1698)
The full actual proposed resolution looks like this:

Click the picture for an enlargement or download the pdf here. Or read this:

JULY 21, 2009

Los Angeles Opera’s upcoming Ring Festival LA, which celebrates the work of composer Richard Wagner, a racist whose anti-Semitic writings were the inspiration for Hitler and the holocaust, is an affront to those who have suffered or have been impacted by the horrors of Adolf Hitler’s National Socialistic Worker Party.

To provide balance, historical perspective and a true sampling of operatic and musical talent, the LA Opera should reevaluate and rearrange the festival’s programming to delete the focus on Wagner and incorporate other composers as headliners including Mozart, Puccini, Verdi, Schubert, Schumann, Meyerbeer, Mendelssohn and others.

I, THEREFORE, MOVE, that the Board of Supervisors direct the County’s Chief Executive Officer to send a five-signature letter to the Marc I. Stern, Chief Executive Officer of the LA Opera and members of the Board of Directors requesting that the Festival shift the focus from honoring Wagner to featuring other composers as headliners.
I've blogged at length about the proposed opera festival in this article: Ring Festival L.A. - Wrong Festival L.A. in which I make a number of suggestions on how the Los Angeles Opera might better represent the various opinions about Wagner held in our community.

I do not think Supevisor Antonovich's suggestion to replace Wagner with other composers is such a good idea. I do think that formally asking the opera company to consider these issues is an excellent idea.

My best idea in that blog post was that the Opera should promote their Recovered Voices program during the festival when visiting Ringnuts might hear operas suppressed by the Nazis.

My wildest idea was to create a fringe festival - celebrating not some dislikable dead German guy, but the creative arts right here in Los Angeles. I wanted to call the fringe festival Wrong Festival L.A. If such a thing actually happened I'd be the first to suggest that they find a better, more positive name.

Carie Delmar, a writer and opera critic, has posted an article (here at Opera Online) about why a Wagner festival is not a good idea for Los Angeles. (I cannot get her article to format properly in any browser, so I just select all the text and copy it to another program for reading.) That article seems to suggest where Mike Antonovich might have gotten his list of alternate composers.

And you might want to contact the Supevisors and tell them that it would be okay for them to write to the Los Angeles Opera with the suggestion that other viewpoints need to be heard during any Los Angeles Wagner festival.

DON KNABE (his chief-of-staff)

POSTSCRIPT: Wanna find out what I wrote after this resolution failed at the July 21 Supervisors meeting? Read Wagner With An Asterisk.

Ring Tags: . . . . . . . . .

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Musical markings

This post was inspired by amusing emails I received. But be warned: unless you are now or have ever been an orchestra musician you're probably not going to get it.

For some reason Gustav Mahler wrote instructions in his symphonies in the German language. Many American musicians need these translated into American. This is a letter to members of some orchestra with a list of Mahler's markings and equivalent English versions. (There's one really good viola joke. Here is an exhaustive compendium of every other viola joke.)

(Following the Mahler is sheet music to Faerie's Aire and Death Waltz (from "A Tribute to Zdenko G. Fibich") a famous opus by the mysterious John Stump, who sells authorized copies of his music here. Other stuff too, if you make it that far.)


Several weeks ago, we sent you a list of translations of the German markings in the Mahler. We now realize that this list contained many serious errors. These sheets contain the correct versions. So we don't waste valuable rehearsal time on this, copy these corrections into your part immediately.

German in bold type (English translation in parentheses)

Langsam (Slowly)
Schleppend (Slowly)
Dampfer auf (Slowly)
Mit Dampfer (Slowly)
Allmahlich in das Hauptzeitmass uebergehen (do not look at the conductor)
Im Anfang sehr gemaechlich (in intense inner torment)
Alle Betonungen sehr zart (with more intense inner torment)
Getheilt [geth.] (out of tune)
Von hier an in sehr allmaehlicher aber stetiger Steigerung bis zum Zeichen (From this point on, the spit valves should be emptied with ever-increasing emotion)
Hier ist ein frisches belebtes Zeitmass eingetreten (Slowly)
Haupttempo (Slowly)
Noch ein wenig beschleunigend (slowing down but with a sense of speeding up)
immer noch zurueckhaltend (with steadily decreasing competence)
sehr gemaechlich (with indescribably horrific inner torment)
Etwas bewegter, aber immer noch sehr ruhig (Somewhat louder, though still inaudible as before)
Alle Betonungen sehr zart (with smallish quantities of fairly mild inner torment)
Gemaechlich (Intermission)
Ganz unmerklich etwas zurueckhaltend (Slowly)
Etwas gemaechlicher als zuvor (Slowly)
Zurueckhaltend (Gesundheit)
Von hier ab unmerklich breiter werden (as if wild animals were gnawing on your liver)
Ohne cresc. (without toothpaste)
immer noch etwas zurueckhaltend (Slowly)
vorwaerts draengend (Slowly)
Hauptzeitmass (Slowly)
Allmaehlich etwas lebhafter (screaming in agony)
Ohne Nachschl[age] (without milk [sugar])
Kraeftig bewegt (Slowly)
Alle (second violins tacet)
mit dem Holze zu streichen (like a hole in the head)
mit Parodie (viola solo)
sehr einfach und schlicht, wie eine Volksweise (Slowly)
daempfer ab (eyes closed)
ploetzlich viel schneller (even more ploddingly)
Den ersten Ton scharf herausgehoben (Do not play until the buzzer sounds)
Am Griffbrett (as if in tune)
aeusserst zart, aber ausdrucksvoll. (radiantly joyful, despite the itching)
wieder zurueckhaltend (increasingly decreasing)
noch breiter als vorher (better late than never)
Nicht eilen (no eels)
Allmaehlich [unmerklich] etwas zurueckhaltend (much faster [slower] than conductor)
Lang gestrichen (heads up)
Lang gezogen (heads back down)
Die werden allmaehlich staerker und staerker bis zum (fp) (In the event of a waterlanding, your seat cushion may be used as a flotation device)
Am Steg (Slowly)

Want to know what the German really means? Copy a phrase and click here.

Click on the picture to see all the spiffy little details.

Fairie's Aire and Death Waltz by John StumpFairie's Aire and other similar notational nightmares (some of them intended seriously by the most important and impressive of important, impressive composers) may be found here, at a blog called Dark Roasted Blend.

(I guess this is my Tribute to Fairie's Aire and Death Waltz)

I probably created this in the eighties when my work was still done with cheap, reliable pens, ink and straightedges instead of with expensive, bug-ridden computers. Judy Green, proprietor of Judy Green Music, had changed vellum suppliers (that's the translucent paper onto which music was copied). She wanted me to test the new paper.

So I sat down one day with the sample sheet of vellum and proceeded to write this, er, piece of music. There's no real title so I'm calling it by the first tempo indication Moderato non troppo ("not too moderately"). My principal consideration as a composer was whether the paper held the ink well. I wanted to know if it would smear and other similar musical things. (As always, click the pic for enlargement.) Notice Judy's logo and address in the lower left.

Moderato non troppo by David Ocker - hand music copying example
The original of Moderato non troppo hangs in my office to this day - attached to the side of a bookcase with a piece of scotch tape.


Has anyone ever heard of the Doctor Schmutzig Method for Holzblasinstrumente?

I remember a small, comedic musical-instruction pamphlet which I probably saw in college. The woodwind instrument it teaches looked suspiciously like a vacuum cleaner. I cannot find any reference to this online. It's possible that I remember it imprecisely.

Once, after I mentioned the pamphlet to Leslie, she started calling me "Doctor Schmutzig". Not because I know how to play a vacuum cleaner but because I'm so good at making a mess.

I'd like to reacquaint myself with this little "gem". And I'd like to prove to her that I didn't just make it up. (Maybe I did.) Any help in this quest will be gratefully received.

Read Mixed Meters' rant about Mahler Me and Mahler, Me and Iowa.

Notations 21 is a website which has many examples of "innovative notations".

Thanks to David Avshalomov and John Steinmetz for sending the inspirational emails.

Music Marking Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Monday, July 06, 2009


Several weeks ago, while Leslie shopped for bizarre flesh-eating plants at the Los Angeles County Arboretum (located in Arcadia which shares a common, unarmed border with Pasadena), I made video of the peafowl for which the park is quite well known. The results were just too cute not to use in a piece.

When we moved to Pasadena there was a peacock living on our new property. We named him Mister P. He lasted about a year. This piece celebrates one of the several annoyances associated with living near peacocks.

Copyright (c) 2009 David Ocker - 244 seconds

The next time I make a video, remind me to bring a tripod and take more framing shots.

Another picture of Mister P is here. He used to present his full display to the front grille of the Volvos.

You could watch an earlier Mixed Meters Movie Moment about birds: Birds Who Don't Know The Words

Tail Feather Tags: . . . . . . . . . . .