Thursday, November 30, 2006

3 Minute Climax - The Best Thing About Led Zeppelin

My friend and colleague Tom Brodhead visited Southern California recently from his own private hell, Cleveland Ohio. As we were driving through LA's Chinatown, on the way to Walt Disney Concert Hall, Tom began a sentence with these words "The best thing about Led Zeppelin is ...".

California Blue Sky plus Los Angeles' Chinatown and Skyline
Impolitely, I interrupted at that point to say "There is no best thing about Led Zeppelin." The conversation veered off in another direction and I never did find out what Tom thought the imaginary best thing might be.

California Blue Sky plus Disney Hall
Later it occurred to me that if something doesn't exist I'm free to create it myself - so I've written my own piece of music which is The Best Thing About Led Zeppelin.

California Blue Sky with a contemplative Tom
Disclaimer: All music in this work is fictitious and any resemblance between it and any rock music or band, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. This piece was produced in a back beat and fuzz-tone free facility.

Warning: This piece contains gratuitous dissonance, intemperate intervals and unstable formal structures which may cause confusion and disorientation. If you are unsure about your ability to endure over 4 minutes of this please consult your Doctor of Music before proceeding.

Warning Number 2: Leslie calls this "The Scary Piece" and has refused to listen to it a second time.

California Blue Sky with Stop Sign and Graffiti
Still here?

click here to hear The Best Thing About Led Zeppelin.

Copyright (c) 2006 by David Ocker - 243 seconds

Tom - remember that the sky is always blue in California!

Explanation of 30 second spots

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Leslie and The Ackles

My wife and resident Marine Biologist, Leslie Harris, spent most of October hunched over her microscope remarkably free of nausea aboard a NOAA research vessel searching for spineless critters smack dab in the middle of the Northern Pacific Ocean - also known as in the middle of nowhere.

And - she never even left Hawaii. Here's a picture of her at the railing of the Oscar Eldon Sette somewhere in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands.

Although apparently unchanged since they returned to dry land, the project's website is available here if you'd like to know more. Also on the website is a feature article on Leslie's work with Illegal Aliens (er, I mean, Introduced Species).
Leslie Harris aboard the research vessel Oscar Elton Sette, mid Pacific, October 2006
Meanwhile, as promised, back on the homefront, here are some Occasional Cat Photos. This is Spackle wishing she could swallow a fly.

Spackle, flying insect alert system
Here are Spackle (L) and Crackle - now collectively known as "The Ackles" - photographed by Leslie with her spiffy new digital camera.

Spackle and Crackle, our cats, on my synthesizer which I never ever use

Click on either of the larger pictures for a closer look.

Here's a previous Mixed Meters post about The Ackles (with some kitten pictures from when we called them Spackle Puss and Crackle Pop).

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving and Forgiveness

There was a soundbite of Richard Perle, one of the evil neo-cons who got us into our most recent Vietnam, on NPR yesterday as I made yet another trip to the supermarket in a quest for more Thanksgiving calories.

Perle said "It's time to talk about the true price of failure."
He meant Failure in Iraq. The story is called "Cultural Shift Coming at the Pentagon" by reporter Guy Raz.

Perle is an ultra-fervent true-believer idealogue who shares a lot of responsibility for our Iraqi fiasco. When he calls our Iraq adventure a "failure" it ought to be big news. But it's a holiday so no one will pay too much attention.

Our turkey, before dinner

This week America is busy travelling and eating too much and wasting what we don't eat and watching football and shopping for bargains on Black Friday. Since everyone knew in their hearts that Iraq was a failure anyway, saying it outloud is no biggie, I guess.

Whatever the "true price of failure" really is, all Americans will have to help pay the tab. I suspect the neocons are sitting around their Thanksgiving tables giving thanks for having engineered such a resounding failure of a war and gotten us to pay their share.

Meanwhile I'm waiting for just one neocon to apologize.

Yeah, like that's gonna happen.

We, as Americans, should be asking ourselves "What do the Iraqis have to be thankful for this year?" I mean besides the obvious fact that we Americans are stuffing ourselves with stuffing and standing in line trying to save a buck or two at WalMart and they are not.

Is there anything about Iraqi life that is better now than it was 4 years ago back when Saddam was in power? I doubt it.

Is there anything about the American invasion that Iraqis would give thanks for considering their monthy civilian death toll is higher than that of 9/11? Hard to imagine any enthusiasm when the news cameras are off.

Our Turkey, Afterwards
As a nation, the United States of America needs to get our collective nose out of our national bird's carcass and start considering how much harm we have done. Good intentions are no excuse. Instead of celebrating a holiday of excess and waste and ascribing good fortune to invisible gods, we need a Holiday of Asking for Forgiveness.

Yeah, like that's gonna happen.

George II visited Vietnam recently. Forgiveness for the Vietnam War seems possible. The Vietnamese are even doing pretty well adopting our favorite dogma, Capitalism.

The Iraqis, still upset about all those medieval Christian Crusades, are not likely to be forgiving at all. Moving beyond our mistakes and crimes in Iraq is going to take a lot of effort and collective sacrifice and compromise and money and humility from all Americans for a very long time.

Yeah, like that's gonna happen.

Poor Turkey

Here's another quote from Richard Perle:
A year from now, I'll be very surprised if there is not some grand square in Baghdad that is named after President Bush.
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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Follow the Bouncing Balls

This is a very cool music video on YouTube. The accompanying description says this instrument was made of John Deere farm implement parts at the University of Iowa. It also says over 13,000 hours was required to calibrate the performance and that the machine will be donated to the Smithsonian.

As someone who grew up in Iowa, I'm so proud!

No, wait! It's an animation (duh!) - and it came from here. It's included on a DVD of animated music from Animusic. The company is located in Texas. (doh!)

Not fooled? Here's a picture of a typical college practice room instead. Never enough space, right?

A Drummer in a John

I found this picture at Bits & Pieces but apparently it was imported from Belgium.

Speaking of Iowa - here's a high-number Iowa license plate on display in Robins, my local Pasadena barbecue restaurant where the food is good and the menus uninformative.

Iowa license plate #56
The number 64 is the year; 21 is the county which issued the plate. Click here for the complete county list. I grew up in 97.

Here's a prior Mixed Meters post concerning both music and toilets. (Also rich people and prison riots and Ojai and Attica.)

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Schoenberg & Shostakovich for Marching Band

Where would you expect to find this musical program?
"Piano Concerto No 2" by Shostakovich
"Transfigured Night" by Schoenberg
"Symphony No.10" by Shostakovich
Yes, it's music for a marching band competition. Here's an 8-minute Youtube video of SFA Bulldog Marching Band and Angels Dance Team performing "The Fire Within" at the State UIL competition in San Antonio, Texas Tuesday November 7, 2006

Listen for the What Do You Do With A Drunken Sailor? theme in the Shostakovich concerto. Watch for the nymph-like scampering during Verklarte Nacht. Apparently this performance came in 24th.

Yesterday I linked to this study about the effectiveness of programs to develop paying orchestra audiences. Here's a quote:
The research showed that predicting who will buy tickets is difficult, except for one variable: 74% of ticket-buyers had played an instrument or sung in a chorus somewhere, sometime, in their lives. Rather than large-scale concert programs for schoolchildren, it seems to be the active, participatory educational efforts that produce concertgoers.
In other words, the kids marching around in this video are the classical music audience of tomorrow - or rather of 20 or 30 years from now.

Did you know that "ORGAN BELCH DRONES" is an anagram for "Arnold Schoenberg"? No? Click here for lots more.

Scans of the manuscript to Verklarte Nacht are viewable at the Arnold Schoenberg Center website.

As a painter, what was Arnold Schoenberg's favorite subject? (Click here to find out.)I learned about this video at the Soho the Dog blog.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Can Sex Sell the Classics?

Maybe a baroque-style oratorio about a sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly can.

Click here for The premier performances are in January in Seattle. Tickets are for sale online. The composer is Igor Keller.

On the website you can read the libretto which is apparently taken directly from the legal documents - starting with "the complaint", ending with "the settlement". A neat dramatic structure.

Sometimes a Fence Post is just a Fence Post (c) 2006 David Ocker
To get the flavor imagine this little quote from #16 Recitative set to music:
When Plaintiff responded that she never engaged in phone sex, Defendant Bill O'Reilly professed disbelief, and told her that the sexual stories he told were all based upon his own experiences, such as when he received a massage in a cabana in Bali and the little short brown woman asked to see his penis and was amazed.
Arguments abound on how to increase paying attendance at concerts. Click here for a WSJ summary of one interesting study. The same solutions seem to be tried over and over to little effect. Maybe they should investigate increasing the number of sexual references in concerts. Just imagine a rating system and parental warnings for orchestras.

Do you expect a more wholesome use of the penis in the arts? Click here for a video about a man called Pricasso who paints portraits with his. (The video is an entendre-soaked Reuters news story. Consider yourself warned - especially if your male children think finger painting is for little kids.)

Tugging: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . .

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

30 Second Spots - That's It, No More

click here to hear That's It, No More

See if you can figure out why I picked that title.

Copyright (c) November 14, 2006 by David Ocker - 33 seconds

The vocalist is Rex, host of Fool's Paradise on WFMU radio. Hope he doesn't mind.

What would you like the phrase "That's It, No More..." to mean?

That's It. No more pot for me?
That's It. No more blind dates?
That's It. No more ironing?
That's It. No more Indians?
That's It. No more Mr. Nice Fence Post Sitter?
That's It. No more Mr. Knife Guy?
That's It. No more Mr. Nice Duck? (from here.)
That's It. No more blogging?
That's It. No more child porn petitions?
That's It, No more anything.

Explanation of 30 second spots

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Fixed In The Mix

Musicians have a dismissive saying "Fix it in the mix". It means that some technical hocus-pocus, long after the recording session, can cover mistakes or improve a performance.

These two videos by Lasse Gjertsen (a Norwegian who might relate to my still unwritten autobiography "Having a Bad Hair Life"), are entirely performed "in the mix". "Hyperactive" shows Lasse singing a drum set and "Amateur" is his piano and drum duet complete with cigarette break. Very impressive, well paced and funny.

Lasse's MySpace page has more of his videos
- but don't go there if you've ever contemplated suicide. I guess too much snow and darkness take their toll on creative people.

I was turned onto Lasse's videos by the blog Music Thing which has links to similar mix-fixed video. And I gotta plug my other favorite video mashup Three Piece Band by Kel McKeon still available at the blog Curved Air. Thanks!

Want to practice the drum kit but you only have a computer? Click here.

Taggggg ... ... ...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

3 Minute Climax - Not So Cuckoo Cuckoo

"In which David Combines Leon Redbone with Tico Tico" is a Mixed Meters post from November 30, 2005. Read that for a better understanding of "Not So Cuckoo Cuckoo".

The WFMU Tico Tico archive is still available. Listen to all of those versions first for the best understanding of "Not So Cuckoo Cuckoo".

In Long Beach California this oversize donut sells coffee.

What's a "Tico"?
Click here for some Wikipedian explanations.
Here is Tico Tico in Finland.

Here is Tico Tico in London.

Click here to hear Not So Cuckoo Cuckoo - my own personal take on the song Tico Tico.
When Leslie heard this she said "You made it sad." Not really what I was shooting for; I just wanted something you can't dance to.

Copyright (c) 2006 by David Ocker - 211 seconds

A thing is a South Pasadena gutter.
Explanation of 30 second spots

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Friday, November 10, 2006

"Air" Jazz Trio

Lee Evans is a talented comedic actor who I remember fondly from This Movie and That Movie.

Here is a short video of "The Lee Evans Jazz Trio" in concert. Pretty funny. Fine "lip"-syncing. (It won't be as funny if you've never used one of these .)

(I found this clip via Kill Ugly Radio. Thanks, Barry.)

More Pictures of Typewriters?

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

California Winners and Losers (Blank Walls #5 & #6)

Based on an exit poll of one person (me) and with almost all precincts reporting I can now accurately predict yesterday's election here in California.

The big losers will be Taxes and Pedophiles. We don't want any one to pay taxes for anything - ever. And we don't want pedophiles to live near children - or anywhere else either.

One big winner will be a geeky tech-CEO who apparently wants us to track pedophiles with his company's GPS devices. He'll be our Insurance Commissioner until he becomes a candidate for Governor.

Other big winners yesterday will be rich tobacco and oil corporations. They'll spend so much money confusing the facts on certain propositions that they might have bribed every single California voter with a nice bottle of French wine instead.

The California election's most shameful moment will have been in the all-important Lieutenant Governor's race. An election-eve television commercial essentially accusing the Republican candidate of murdering people by not supporting stem-cell research, our new political third-rail.

The biggest California winner will be the first female Speaker of the House - just two heartbeats from becoming the first female President. I wouldn't be surprised if Dick Cheney gives up hunting.

And finally, here's a prediction of the biggest winner nationally: the Republican Party. By losing their complete control of Congress they will avoid responsibility for fucking up the country and gain a straw man on whom to blame every problem during their re-ascent to power in 2008.

This election independent voters will have avoided voting for any corrupt, bribe-taking, hypocritical homosexual pedophile Republicans. But in just a couple weeks Ann Coulter will tell us, with her I-failed-High-School-debate-class logic, why the Democrats have already ruined the country again and need to be thrown out of office.

She needn't worry. The Democrats haven't got a prayer in Hell.

(The Ron Calderon sex offender flyer was from the primary election earlier this year. Wanna bet the pictures and Street Addresses are of real sex offenders and were used without permission? Click on the picture to read the addresses. Yesterday Calderon will win reelection hands down of course.)

PS. Before you blow your cool - I'm not in favor of pedophilia. But I'm also not in favor of politicians who get elected by using mass-hysterical paranoia and retribution against any group of people - no matter what crime they've been convicted of.

Either Open Source Voting Machine Software or Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Sunday, November 05, 2006

30 Second Spots - The Manuscript Ends Abruptly, Scherzo for Danny Cariaga

One of the several bad pieces of advice from my graduate education was "It doesn't matter what a review says as long as they spell your name correctly." Wrong!

Reviews with nice things about me always made me feel good. Bad things didn't. I preferred nice reviews. What a review said matters to a struggling composer.

Soon after my education ended I was one of several unknown youngsters trying to hack out public performances in the new music wasteland of Los Angeles. We called ourselves the Independent Composers Association. ICA for short.

One mark of success for such a concert was getting it reviewed by the Los Angeles Times.

Since long before my time Daniel Cariaga was a Times music critic. Over the years we became acquainted and at various times he wrote about my playing and my compositions - and even interviewed me over dinner (I can't quite remember why at the moment.)

He only had limited space to say what he thought of any particular piece - and he could choose a few words very well. Of course if those words were about me I'd hang on them. Meeting him at a concert in later years was always a pleasure, a chance at a similarly short interchange of ideas and support.

Last Thursday the Times carried Danny's obituary. (You might have to register to read it.) Here's Tim Mangan's obituary at

This incident stands out in my memory: the big closer concert of ICA's second season - featuring Terry Riley's In C. Terry traveled to LA to perform it with us. This was in 1978 when performances of In C were not ubiquitous like today. We were thrilled - and petrified - to learn that Daniel Cariaga would review the concert. (Here's a link to the score and instructions of In C.)

He liked it. More than that. Apparently he was really impressed. He wrote
"To one observer, the impressive closing of a second series . . . caused regret that earlier visits to an obviously enterprising impresarial entity had not been made. Clearly, ICA is making some things happen."

For a long time we called this The Revelation Review.

The ICA, disorganized, unrealistic, without resources and hampered with a constantly changing membership, stumbled forward into more concerts the next year. Danny decided to review a "dance with chamber music" event from our third series, a real stinker of a concert held in a barren second floor studio of a Pasadena church.

We couldn't begin to imagine what his reaction would be to the vastly different style and scope of the production values. He stood out in the small audience. At intermission he got up and never came back. No review ever appeared.

So let us give thanks for music critics who can not only pick the perfect handful of good words to describe unfamiliar music but also know just when to keep their mouths completely shut.

In preparing this post I was at a loss for a picture to include. "No," I thought, "not a picture. This blog post requires music." So I trucked my laptop up to Starbucks and returned with a new 30 Second Spot.

click here to hear The Manuscript Ends Abruptly - Scherzo for Danny Cariaga - based on the opening 40 measures of the third movement of Franz Schubert's Symphony No. 8 in B minor - "The Unfinished". This is the actual unfinished part of The Unfinished.

Copyright © November 5, 2006 by David Ocker - 52 seconds

My friend Scott Fessler recently made an off-handed remark about the possibility of writing a half-piece of new music - meaning one which obviously ended half way through. While this is not such a half-piece, it is inspired by that notion. Always start by studying the masters.

At the very end of the Schubert symphony score is written "Here the manuscript ends abruptly". Schubert probably did not write this, but to me it seemed like a good title.

This 30 Second Spot is dedicated to Daniel Cariaga.

I have no idea what he'd think of it, but I'm pretty sure he would find just the right couple of words to tell us.

Explanation of 30 second spots

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