Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Jury Duty - Dirty Story

This post describes the highpoints of my day Wednesday.

The arrow points roughly to where I sat around for the entire day on the 11th floor of the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Courts Building. I was making myself available to serve on a criminal trial jury . They didn't need me.
They also serve who only sit and wait

The white pointy building in the middle is Los Angeles City Hall.

Budget Rent-a-Car 626 831 5244 I took this picture on the drive home. A new low point in real estate advertising in Pasadena. For that price it's probably a condo. I enhanced the sign a bit to make it easier to read.

(Click on either picture for a larger view.)

In the evening Leslie and I watched Penn Gillette's (completely legal) movie The Aristocrats. I loved it. Leslie left the room after about 5 minutes.

CLEAN Aristocrats Video: Here's a the trailer suitable for viewing anywhere. (No actual dirty words or concepts. Lots and lots of innuendo.)

Here's the Aristocrats website.

DIRTY Aristocrats Video - WARNING Do NOT watch the following clips at work, with children or in the presence of moralist prigs.
Dirty Clip Number One
Dirtier Clip Number Two (Card Trick)
Dirtiest Clip Number Three (Gilbert Gottfried at the Friars, the climax of the movie)

A scholarly paper on the legal history of the word "Fuck"
(I found this link on WFMU blog.)


Monday, June 26, 2006

Varese, Zappa & Slonimsky

Earlier this year I received an email from Matthias Kassel of the Paul Sacher Foundation in Basel, Switzerland. He had a few questions about the music of Frank Zappa that I happened to be able to answer.

The Paul Sacher Foundation is mounting an exhibit honoring composer Edgard Varese. Part of the exhibition demonstrates the effect Varese and his music had on later composers. One such composer who was strongly influenced by Edgard Varese is Frank Zappa.

Included in the exhibit is the first page of full orchestra score from Frank's piece Mo 'n Herb's Vacation. Many years ago I autographed that and many other works by Frank Zappa. ("Autographed" means I copied it very neatly in ink.)

Frank ZappaIn exchange for my simple responses, Matthias offered to send me a copy of the exhibition catalog when it was published. I expected something modest. I forgot all about it.

Several weeks ago a mystery package arrived. Inside was an elegant, heavy, 500-page tome dedicated to the many aspects of the life and work of Edgard Varese. It's an Art Book fit for a coffee table. I can't remember ever seeing anything as impressive or complete dedicated to any other composer.

Click on the picture of the cat with the book on the coffee table for a close up view.

Matthias' fascinating essay is called "Frank Zappa and the Idol of His Youth." It discusses how Frank, a teenager in San Diego in the 1950s, tried to contact Varese. And continues with all the efforts Frank made to promote Varese's music throughout his career. Starting with the famous teen-age birthday-present long-distance phone call in 1956 and continuing though the Zappa-supervised recordings of Varese's music by Ensemble Modern just before Frank's death.

My favorite bit: Frank sent Varese a long letter of introduction which included this story: Frank wrote a school essay about Varese but had been flunked by the teacher who assumed Frank was making everything up. Read what Frank Zappa wrote in 1971 about his youthful pursuit of Varese. Of course Varese wasn't the only influence on Frank. Click here to see two pictures and read one sentence which comprise the most concise desription of Frank Zappa's musical heritage that I've ever seen.

Another famous musician linked to both Varese and Zappa was Nicolas Slonimsky. Slonimsky lived in Los Angeles in his later years and I had the privelege of meeting him a number of times. Nicolas had conducted the world premier of Varese's piece Ionisation. Here is a short recording of Nicolas Slonimsky talking about his relationship with Frank Zappa.

I was present when Nicolas, then in his 90s, visited Frank's studio UMRK. We showed him the Synclavier - and I remember Nicolas' childlike fascination playing on a re-tuned keyboard. He played one interval, but a different interval came out. Then he'd play the interval he heard, but of course he heard yet another interval instead. Each time he did this he became more and more excited.

Probably my most educational experience in graduate school was reading the entire "Music Since 1900", edited by Slonimsky. It's a massive chronicle of modern music from the beginning of the 20th century. (Yeah, I know the 20th century really began in 1901.) Slonimsky listed so many completely unknown pieces by so many totally forgotten composers that I gained valuable perspective about my own, or anyone's, long-term prospects as a composer.

After meeting him, Nicolas asked me to recopy a piece of his that was written in large notes on a Mobius strip. In performance he wore the music as a sash, moving it around his stout frame twice so that he could perform both sides. His previous copy had worn out.

Nicholas Slonimsky inscription for David OckerI would accept no payment for the job. When I delivered it to his apartment I got to spend some time talking with him. He gave me a copy of his book The Road to Music - which he inscribed to me. His mind seemed to go blank briefly, then he "awoke" and wrote this short poem.

"For David Ocker
a "heavy" talker
whose mind's so plastic
it is fantastic!
Nicolas Slonimsky
Los Angeles,
November 8, 1982

More information about Edgard Varèse

Here is a not-quite-complete radio documentary Edgard Varese' Sonic Liberation featuring interviews with Louise Varese and with people who worked with him. And, of course, with Frank.

And here's an animated video on YouTube entitled "Varese/Xenakis/Le Corbusier - poeme electronique (1958)"

Picture credits: Varese listening to tape recordings (October 1959), Photograph Paul Sacher Foundation Basel (Edgard Varese collection) Photo by Roy Hyrkin

Read about Varese here or here

Good Slonimsky links at Other Minds - including a video of Nicolas with his Mobius strip and John Cage. (not the greatest video) His picture came from here.

I was going to put a zillion Frank Zappa links here, including where I got his picture, - then I lost all my changes that day. If you need help finding Zappa info on the web, write for suggestions, 'kay? I read the blog Kill Ugly Radio to keep up with news of the Zappasphere.

Over 10 years ago I was interviewed online about my work for Frank. Click here for that. The essay I wrote for Frank's album Francesco Zappa is here.

Quotes On Death and Music

"The present day composers refuse to die."
Edgar Varese (1883-1965) and Carlos Salzedo (1885-1961) From the manifesto of The International Composer's Guild, 1921

"The modern composer refuses to die." Frank Zappa (1940-1993)

"The first requirement for a composer is to be dead." Arthur Honegger (1892-1955)

Blogger spellcheck suggested replacing "Slonimsky" with "cloning".

Other "scintillating" Mixed Meters posts which mention the word "Zappa"
NOTICE: The accented letters in Varèse, Möbius and other words, when posted on Blogspot, seem to dissolve into gibberish on about half of all computers. So, in this post I've replaced as many of them as possible with unaccented letters. Only those people who have inherited the foolish consistency gene will fail to forgive this transgression.


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

30 Second Spots - Model A Mazda

click here to hear Model A Mazda.

The shortest 30 Second Spot ever in honor of the longest day of the year.

Model A Mazda has only one pitch. As always, the title gives no clues to the music.

Copyright © June 20, 2006 by David Ocker - 25 seconds
Explanation of 30 second spots

30 Second Spots

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

30 Second Spots - The Cross Is So Frickin' Cool

click here to hear The Cross Is So Frickin' Cool

Pasadena has a number of seminaries. Sitting near me in Starbucks one day were three young college students, 1 male & 2 female. They were obviously cramming for an important exam on matters of high doctrine and biblical accuracy.

I could only hear what the guy was saying. Words like "Israel" and "Jews" kept appearing. Eventually he said the title of this piece exactly as it appears here. The girls didn't react.

Of course, when he said "Frickin'" I heard it as a transparent substitution for the word "Fuckin'" - and so did you - unless maybe you're a seminary student. It seems to me that the line "The cross is so fuckin' cool" is a rather unique combination of unreasoning dogma and heretical blasphemy. Rare in someone so young.

Copyright © June 16 & 19, 2006 by David Ocker - 64 seconds

Explanation of 30 second spots

Music Video for today - heretical blasphemy for believers in Mozart. Click here to hear someone named Gilles Apap play a cadenza to a Mozart violin concerto.

His cadenza would make an amazing ENCORE piece - but as a cadenza in the middle of Mozart concerto it's like beaming into a different universe, showing off a few tricks, getting a few laughs - and then beaming back home to finish up with boring reality. All that stuff has precious little to do with the music in the actual concerto - unless maybe there are blues and raga passages in some Mozart concerto I've yet to hear.

But the guy sure can show off.

I also wonder why orchestra musicians must wear formal "vestments" when the soloists dress for a renaissance fair.

In his own defense. What Gilles Apap says about this video:
Another free movie if you can get it is called "Gilles Plays Mozart Third Violin Concerto with a little cadenza that will free your mind and will help you unlock your deepest inner emotions by taking you on a journey of transcendence with the help of Polish friends.
The Man Hisself: Click here for Gilles Apap's Home Page

Previous Mixed Meters Posts:
Mozart Becomes a Religion or
A Video Mashup of Crucifixion Scenes
Smart & Dumb Comments About Mozart

Thanks to Alex Ross' blog "The Rest is Noise" for the Apap video link. Thanks to my friend Roger Lebow for sending me Gilles' homepage.

30 Second Spots
Music Video

Friday, June 16, 2006

In which Mixed Meters wishes you a Happy Holiday

Today is Bloomsday - the 102nd anniversary of the day chronicled in minute detail by James Joyce in Ulysses.

Any day can be an odyssey. It took James Joyce to chisel one particular day into a monument made out verbal Irish granite.

Mixed Meters is happy to support any celebration not founded on military or religious principles. However, I really dislike the sacramental wine of Bloomsday - so someone can have mine. Besides, I've given up alcohol.

Not familiar with Ulysses? Here's Ulysses for Dummies which will have to pass for today's video link. (You might also want to read about the legal wranglings over the use of the phrase "for Dummies")

I suppose Bloomsday and Ulysses could eventually become the basis of a religion. Although another religion already has a book centered around a Jewish man. But maybe you still want to be the messiah anyway? Click here.

UPDATE: Ulysses, the movie version!


Thursday, June 15, 2006

30 Second Spots - Oh, Was He Still Around?

Copyright 2006 David Ockerclick here to hear Oh, Was He Still Around? I confess - the title was my first thought upon hearing about the death of György Ligeti.

Copyright © June 13, 2006 by David Ocker - 42 seconds

I've been finding some interesting online reading about composers.

Alex Ross wrote this fascinating article in the New Yorker entitled American Sublime. It's about Morton Feldman. (Alas, even Ross refers to John Cage's piece 4'33" as the "silent piece" - it's not silent, but it is a piece of music in which the performer makes no sound. A previous Mixed Meters article about 4'33" is here.)

Next are two links which didn't fit into the long delayed Mixed Meters post entitled "Varèse, Zappa & Slonimsky" which was nearly finished last Sunday but I lost most of it when my browser crashed. Sigh. Watch for it - soon - maybe.

Copyright 2006 David OckerThis over-reaching and politically correct article by Paul Reale is entitled Los Angeles, 1994: The next Paris? The title has got to be good for at least a chuckle - if you don't live in L.A.

More interesting is this 1984 interview with Los Angeles bassoonist Don Christlieb about new music here starting in the 1930s.

For example, he talks about Monday Evening Concerts and the early Ojai Festival and tells many very humanizing things about Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky - including one story which includes this question: "Mr. Stravinsky, how is it you only live a few miles from Mr. Schoenberg and we never see you two together?" (Alex Ross posted this letter about Arnold Schoenberg's auto.)

Video? You'll have to make a choice - a bit of lip-syncing, sepia-toned opera silliness or maybe you'd prefer more cowbell?

Explanation of 30 second spots

P.S. Blogger's spell checker suggested that I replace the word "bassoonist" with "pessimist".

30 Second Spots
Music Reviews
Music Video

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

30 Second Spots - Flakes (Desiccant)

click here to hear Flakes (Desiccant) - this was an episode in a longer piece - but it was too boring even for that. So here it is as a spot.

Copyright © June, 2006 by David Ocker - 53 seconds

Explanation of 30 second spots

VIDEO: Kel McKeown splices 3 instructional videos…brilliant chops! Brilliant is the correct word for it. A trio - guitar, bass and drums - created out of sampled audio and video and teaching you the basics. Definitely a very cool mashup. A Docker Award would go to this if I were still giving out awards. Click here.

"Remember. Take your time, listen to the sound. Remember. Relax."

Thanks to Curved Air for hosting the video.

30 Second Spots
Music Video
Pictures of Plants

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Inspector Imanishi Investigates

Leslie's book collection has a large number of novels that have been translated into English. Within that category many were originally written in Japanese.

For several years one particular book, Inspector Imanishi Investigates by Seicho Matsumoto, kept calling out "Read me. Read me." (Click on the cover picture for larger view.)

Nothing about the book seemed particularly interesting - it's a "police procedural". I'm not a fan of crime or mystery writing and the reviews on the cover made comparisons to writers I knew nothing about.

But the "read me" voice persisted. About a year ago I took the plunge.

Written in 1961 in a dry 3rd person narrative that reveals fascinating day to day details of life in Japan 45 years ago, Inspector Imanishi Investigates chronicles several seemingly unexplainable deaths and the determination of one police inspector to explain them.

Imagine my surprise when one character is a composer of electronic music.

"Ah," I thought, not really believing it but still impressed by the coincidence, "that is why I was told to read this."

Here is some online discussion of the book. Here is a review.

I won't tell you about this fictional, young, internationally-known avant-garde composer, Eiryo Waga, but I thought of him when this article in WFMU's Beware the Blog had a link to THIS PAGE where you can listen to Japanese electronic music of the 1950's by composers Toru Takemitsu and Toshiro Mayuzumi.

Relevant, educational Video - a modern Japanese composer demonstrates an ancient instrument from a later decade - the Mellotron. Part One What happens inside. Part Two: Changing the sample set

Irrelevant, highly suggestive Video - a Japanese television commercial showing a woman doing . . . you'll have to use your imagination. Probably best if you don't imagine this at work.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Happy Birthday to Kenny G.

I love this joke:

Q. What's the difference between Kenny G. and an automatic weapon?

A. Eventually the gun stops repeating.

How does Kenny cope with bad vibes from non-fans? Read about where Kenny G. lives and about his new gas-saving home not far away from home. P.S. Kenny turns 50 tomorrow.

Video - here's someone "lip"-syncing to a Kenny G. track.

Here are Tenor Sax Lessons in Kenny G's honor -
C major Scale
F Major Scale
D Major Scale (with mystery blues)

WFMU has another Kenny G. a completely different person, a DJ, whose program I would recommend. Click here and give his show a listen.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

In which David Enjoys a Rite

Disney Hall preview concertWednesday night, sitting in the fourth row of Disney Hall, I heard the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, perform Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. In 3 seasons in the new hall I've heard them do it about half a dozen times. I'll happily hear it a half dozen more.

I won't play the critical game of comparing performances or interpretations, but this has become one of my peak audio experiences - like playing a favorite CD as loud as I want. If you get the chance to hear this group play this music in this hall, take it. It'll make your hair whizz back. (I suppose you ought to regard whizzed hair as a positive thing. I know I do.)

Disney Hall Mountains in the distanceIt's more than just the wonderful acoustics - it's how the orchestra has learned to use those acoustics. While the loud passage make it exciting - the soft places make it magical. (A muted trumpet duet being the most magical of all.)

When I told Leslie I was going to hear yet another Rite of Spring, she reminded me how I diss the people who want to hear Beethoven's Ninth over and over. (I've had to sit through TWO performances of that in 4 years - which is two too many. Neither was in WDCH.) Whatever floats their boat.

The L.A. Phil Rite of Spring performances are an inspiration to me - of how well a composer can use a full orchestra - and of how well an orchestra can take that and run with it. Beethoven's Ninth, unfortunately, just reminds me of things a composer should avoid.

Another Mixed Meters post which deals with uses for the Rite of Spring.

If you think Beethoven's Ninth should be 24 hours long, this Mixed Meters post has a link you'll love.

The Video Corner

Thirsty Dinosaurs on paradeI can never hear Rite of Spring without seeing in my mind a line of exhausted dinosaurs crossing a desert. This is probably because my first exposure to the RoS, decades ago, was through the movie Fantasia.

Dinosaurs Duke it OutBut hey - some of the profits from Fantasia probably made their way into the Disney family donations for the WDCH acoustics. You can implant those same visions into your brain right this minute if you're not too worried about crimping Disney's future profits.

Click here (part one, in space)
or here (part two, volcanoes & pterodactyls)
or here (part three, dinosaurs trekking)

(Here are similarly posed dinosaurs in fossil format at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History where Leslie works in the worm department. This particular picture came from HERE.)

And three short clips that are no longer part of Fantasia's Beethoven Pastoral sequence - was the depiction of this little character racist? Is it racist now? One Two Three

Music Reviews
Music Video