Wednesday, December 05, 2007

30 Second Spots - Flight of the Rhino

Instead of attending another new music concert last night I opted to write another short piece at Starbucks.

The night before I had asked barista Lindsay to name my piece; she called it The Medallion. (go to it) When barista Israel heard us talking he was quite animated in suggesting that the title should have been "Flight of the Rhino". But once I choose a title I don't often change them. It seemed more appropriate to write another piece in order to save Izzy's excellent title.

Reclining Rhino at LA Zoo (c) David Ocker
When I played Flight of the Rhino for Izzy he said (more or less) "It's just the way I imagined it in my dream. He's wearing glasses and a cape." Not that he told me anything about that before I wrote the music.

When I played FotR for Leslie she said "That's painful." Maybe she was responding to the gratuitous use of microtones. I suspect this piece requires a sequel: Landing of the Rhino. Stay tuned.

Copyright (c) December 4, 2007 - David Ocker - 42 seconds.
Listen here.

Meanwhile, yesterday's post The Medallion got a curious response from Daniel Wolf, proprietor of Renewable Music. I can understand his confusion at my blythe concatenation of several of my own issues into the introductory paragraph while glibbly omitting any background.

When Leslie read his comment she said "Honey, somebody takes you seriously." She says she meant it as a joke, but I think she was surprised. I'm always surprised when someone takes me seriously.

The Rhino's Butt at the LA Zoo (c) David OckerHere's Daniels comment in purple prose:

I'm afraid you've completely lost me with this post. You've implicitly criticized music that not only you haven't heard but that you've now gone out of your way not to hear, and along the way used "European" as an epithet and put another composer down just because you haven't heard of him. Can it simply be that somewhere along the line you lost your faith and/or interest in new music? (It happens, so what?) But instead of putting your energy into making, studying, or promoting the music that you do like, you're stuck in the rut of putting down the music you no longer like.

There are too many forces out there there trying to strike down the music that other people happen to like to make, and not enough forces out there simply putting music they cherish out there without acting as if music were a zero-sum game. Music ain't a zero sum game, and playing it that way is needlessly mean-spirited.
I started to write a response but it became instantly clear I would need ages to complete it. Instead, I used my Starbucks time to write down some short declarative sentences about where my head is at in my imaginary career as a failed composer. I'm suspect they will also be provocative.

As I was writing I realized that I was creating a manifesto. Here it is folks, in no coherent order:

  1. I lost my faith in new music years ago. Also my respect for certain "important" composers.
  2. I did not lose my interest in new music although I expected to.
  3. Living with this faithless interest has become the central issue of my middle-age creative musicianship.
  4. I believe music can and should be challenging and involving and beautiful and provocative without being ponderous or academic.
  5. There is a certain existential tension between these ideas and the way I earn my living: as a copyist of new pieces by "important" composers.
  6. I no longer enjoy attending concerts. Exceptions do occur.
  7. I prefer listening to recordings. iPod is good.

    Lion at the LA Zoo (c) David Ocker
  8. My time is limited. Life is short. Too short to listen to ugly music.
  9. I feel fully qualified to predict from the music I already know whether I will enjoy music I haven't heard yet. You can't listen to everything. You have to have favorites. If you don't like something, say so.
  10. The "important" centers of new music are in New York and Europe. California is the boonies and our new music scene is vastly underdeveloped for our size and economic clout.
  11. What hapens in the centers of new music has become of only minor passing interest to me.
  12. The New Music Pie is fixed in size. Maybe it's even shrinking. That would make new music a negative sum game
  13. New music programming is more often based on the "importance" rather than the talent of the composers.
  14. Recent programming by the Monday Evening Concerts and the Green Umbrella has disappointed me as overly Eurocentric.

    Lioness at the LA Zoo (c) David Ocker
  15. Although I may not enjoy or attend new music concerts I support them and hope for their success. I once found them useful and others still do.
  16. I enjoy "making up" music. I never refer to myself as a "composer" without adding the adjective "failed".
  17. The choice between spending my time making up my own music and attending a concert of music by composers from traditions for which I have little tolerance or enthusiasm is easy.
  18. I want my music to derive as much as possible from my immediate surroundings and culture at the current moment. Starbucks is the perfect metaphor for this.
  19. Every piece of music should have elements immediately appreciable by any listener, from novice through professional.
  20. I enjoy giving my pieces misleading titles.
  21. Music is a fundamentally an abstract art and should avoid the overuse of lyrics.

    Antelope at the LA Zoo (c) David Ocker
  22. I want my music to be unpredictable.
  23. I have no interest in being part of an established musical movement or tradition, even as I am probably falling into the traps associated with certain California Maverick composers.
  24. I have no reason, desire or ability to express the eternal verities through my music. Indeed, I doubt eternal verities are eternal, veritable or even expressible through music.
  25. I've learned as much from negative examples and bad teaching as from positive and good.
  26. I want to personally enjoy the acts of writing my music and listening to it later.
  27. Writing about my music is difficult for me. I would like people who hear my music to enjoy it without having to read about it.
  28. I can no longer say I've never written a manifesto.
Chimps at the LA Zoon (c) David Ocker
I doubt I've answered Daniel's criticism. I've probably provoked more. I wonder how many, if any, of these points he'll agree with. And that gives me an idea:


Give yourself one point for each of the above statements you honestly think is also true for you. For example, if you have lost your own faith in new music give yourself one point for number one. Post your total scores in the comments. I'll write a 30 second spot named after anyone who scores either a perfect 28 or a perfect zero. Honesty in your answers is appreciated but not mandatory.

Leslie took this picture at breakfast last Sunday. A Funny Comedian with A Failed Composer Fondling a Coffee Cup.

Funny Comedian with Failed Composer Fondling Coffee Cup
All pictures in this post are of animals held captive in California but not native to it. All but the last were taken at the Los Angeles Zoo. Click any picture to see it get bigger.

Manifest Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . .


JRHlavaty said...

David, love the music. I now know what your up to when your head is buried in your laptop and you have your head phones on. Enjoyed your blog and will be checking back.
See you soon.

John Steinmetz said...

I like that part about faithless interest. Sounds healthy to me.