Sunday, June 29, 2008

Reach for the sky - Part 3

Please visit the previous entries in Mixed Meters series on steeples, spires and other architectural attempts to stand erect: Reach For The Sky - Part 1 and Reach For The Sky - Part 2.

This installment is entitled Lighthouses of the Inland Valleys. So take a guess, where do you think this first lighthouse is located? The answer, obviously, is Burbank California, miles and miles from the nearest seagoing. It's part of some sort of self-storage building. I took this picture from Fry's Electronics parking lot.

Lighthouse on a self-storage business Burbank CA (c) David OckerThe next picture, showing a lighthouse with a fish weather vane, is on a private home in Pasadena. Maybe the original owners were homesick for the ocean.

Lighthouse with Fish Weathervane (c) David Ocker
Most interesting, however, is the lighthouse atop the Bank of the West building in the Playhouse district of Pasadena. It's eight stories high - much higher than any new building.

Here are some pictures I took from various perspectives. Any picture, clicked, will enlarge.

Pasadena CA lighthouse Bank of the West building (c) David Ocker
There appears to be an artichoke adorning the top.

Pasadena CA lighthouse Bank of the West building (c) David Ocker
Here is where someone named Mountain Lovers wrote this note:
This lighthouse is on top of the Bank of the West building in Pasadena, California. The building was the former home of the Independent Star-News, the newspaper of Pasadena. This structure was built in the early 1900's and the light was used up until the mid 60's. As a youngster, I remember seeing the light shining downtown. I grew up about 2 miles north of Downtown Pasadena. The building is on Colorado Blvd., the famed route of the Annual Tournament of Roses Parade viewed by million each New Years Day.

Pasadena CA lighthouse Bank of the West building (c) David Ocker
Pasadena CA lighthouse Bank of the West building (c) David Ocker
I'd love the chance to go up there and take some pictures looking the other direction. The view of the mountains and city is probably pretty darn good.

Pasadena CA lighthouse Bank of the West building (c) David OckerI've seen it lit up at night for some time. Alas, my little pocket point and shoot doesn't take pictures of bright objects very well during the nighttime. This is the best I could get.

Pasadena CA lighthouse at night Bank of the West building (c) David Ocker

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Life Imitates Art on Arroyo Parkway

In this heavily Photoshopped picture you can see some of palm trees which have been added to Arroyo Parkway here in Pasadena. Arroyo Parkway begins where the Pasadena Freeway ends and has a lot of old art deco and streamline moderne architecture.

Row of Bound Palm Trees Arroyo Blvd Pasadena CA (c) David Ocker
The palms have been bound like this for some months.

Single Bound Palm Tree Arroyo Blvd Pasadena CA (c) David Ocker
On Tuesday I walked a few blocks on Arroyo Parkway and noticed that some of the palms had finally been unfurled.

Unfurled Palm Tree Arroyo Blvd Pasadena CA (c) David Ocker
There are a lot of new and very big residential units being built on this street because it is near the Gold Line. Many of them are designed in what I call the "big buildings designed to look like several different future slum dwellings" style. That's very big in Pasadena these days.

This palm tree is in front of the sales office for one of them, The Dalton.

Unfurled Palm Tree DaltonLife Arroyo Blvd Pasadena CA (c) David Ocker
The tag line for The Dalton is "Life Imitates Art". Why would anyone want their life to imitate art? I suppose they want their lives to be Romantic or Classic or Impressionistic or Serial. Maybe there are even people who want their lives to be Mimimal.

Life Imitates Art Palm Trees Arroyo Blvd Pasadena CA (c) David Ocker
Personally I've always preferred it when Art Imitates Life. But obviously that line won't sell real estate.

Here's someone complaining about the new pink and black zebra crossings on Arroyo Parkway.

Here's the most information I could find about the Arroyo Project at the Pasadena city website.

Click the pictures for enlargements.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Art Tatum Performs Live - June 2008

Imagine my surprise to see an announcement that Art Tatum (1909-1956) would be performing live in a few days. This was in a consumer electronics company advertisement in the New York Times West Coast Edition.

Here (in purple) is the exact text of the ad for J and R Music World; New York Times, Tuesday, June 17, 2008, page D8.
Art Tatum will be performing at Harlem's World Famous Apollo Theater on June 19th, 20th and 22nd.

Receive a FREE pair of tickets for the Friday show (6/20th) with purchase of his new CD, "Piano Starts Here: Live At the Shrine"

Price ($12.99) effective thru 6/21/08
Free ticket offer while supplies last.
Art Tatum Plays Live At Apollo Theater in 2008 from NY Times
Click on the picture to read it for yourself.

Returned from the dead to play in public once again!! Wow. I'd like to be there too.

In reality it's a promotion for this recently released album on Sony Classical who apparently forgot to tell the J&R people that poor Art left this mortal coil 52 years ago. The album is a "RE-PERFORMANCE" of 1949 recordings done by this company. Their website has a sample of the process. Seems very cool. I'd like to hear it.

This story is another part of the explanation.

ADDENDUM - added about 5 hours after the above:

Art Tatum - The Piano Starts Here Live At The Shrine
I had to buy pet food this afternoon. The pet food store is near a Best Buy. I went there to look for a new DVD writer for my computer. They didn't have any. I wandered through the CD section. They had a lot of Sony Classical discs. They actually had "Art Tatum Piano Starts Here Live at The Shrine" for $14.99. I got the last copy. It's $2 cheaper at Amazon.

The disc has 13 songs on it but 26 tracks. Each track is provided both in Surround Sound and Binaural Sound. I listened to the binaural ones on my iPod. It's supposed to sound like you're actually sitting at the piano - high notes on the right, low notes on the left. There's audience applause (very fake and annoying) farther off to the right.

The big selling point of this new disc is that they've recreated the exact performance recorded years ago on a living modern mechanical piano using computer magic. Previously they've done the same thing to Glenn Gould. I wonder how they reproduced Glenn's "singing".

I'm sure the sound of this Tatum album is just a sweet wet dream for technoids. But who cares. I'd completely forgotten about all that crap half way through the first track because Art Tatum plays rings around the piano.

He shoots arrows into the strings and transforms them into a great angelic harp. He tugs at the tunes distorting the melodies like funhouse mirrors. He left jabs and right hooks the harmonies until they cry uncle. He tells musical jokes and times the punch lines perfectly. This is absolutely wonderful music.

Granted, I don't know the original Un-Re-Performed recordings. I'm confident I'd react to those recordings just the same way I reacted to this gee-whiz-bang computerized modern value-added re-performed audio technical marvel. I say "Who cares how it sounds. That guy can really play."

I hope he plays a few gigs in L.A. after he finishes his run at the Apollo.

ADDENDUM TOO (added the next day) - Zenph Bloggers

Turns out that one of the people who worked on this Art Tatum album and also Art's live performance at the Apollo has a blog. Who woulda thunk it?

Here's a link to Eric Hirsch posts in the category Zenph. Check it out.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

30 Second Spot - Happy To Be In A Place Where They Still Wear Shoes (for Paul Bailey)

Old Pasadena CA - detail of building facade (c) David OckerYears ago, after a lovely sushi dinner, I remember trailing Leslie as she shopped her way down State Street in Santa Barbara, California. At one point I amused myself by reading greeting cards. One card said:
The most important things in life are the things you do every day.
I put the card back in the rack.

Later I realized what a profoundly wise thing was being said by that card. And I have adopted it as one of the central principles of my life. I've made a short list of things which I try to do every day. There are four of them besides the obvious "eat and sleep". Each of the four is a one syllable word beginning with W.

The moral of this story is that life-changing wisdom can be found in unexpected places.

Old Pasadena CA - detail of building facade (c) David Ocker
Much more recently I received the alumni magazine from my alma mater, The Herb Alpert School of Music. It's a slick book filled with double talk, hyperbole and more double talk, just what you'd expect from an organization experiencing a huge infusion of cash which it hasn't begun to spend.

Deep in an essay by David Rosenboom (he's dean of The Herb Alpert School of Music) is a quote from composer Luciano Berio, who I remember visited The Herb Alpert School of Music once. In David's article Sr. Berio is quoted thus:
The most meaningful analysis of a symphony is another symphony.
Like with the greeting card, after a while the utter unassailable wisdom of this sentence struck me. What an unexpected source for such intelligence. Wouldn't it be nice if every music theorist, professor of composition and music critic has this phrase posted, possibly in needlepoint, above their computer monitors.

Old Pasadena CA - detail of building facade (c) David Ocker
Last week I met composer Paul Bailey in Old Pasadena for caffeine and conversation. I really enjoy talking to him. We know each other because we both blog. It was only our second meeting. There has yet to be an awkward silence. He told me about his ensemble's recent performance at Redcat. He let me try his Kaosillator (a few seconds of fun).

At one point he told me about a new member of the ensemble who was glad to be in a group where the music was still written down. He emphasized this point by saying (metaphorically) that she was "happy to be in a place where they still wear shoes." I immediately said "that would make a good title for a piece".

It may take me a bit of time to recognize actual wisdom, but I can identify a good title immediately.

Later our conversation continued fitfully as we walked on Colorado Boulevard looking for a bank teller machine. Among the topics I would have liked to discuss further with Paul were contrapuntal harmony, inexact repetition and the way a composer's music is affected by choice of software.

Old Pasadena CA - detail of building facade (c) David Ocker
Instead I decided to follow Berio's suggestion that the best way to discuss music is by writing more music.

I have composed a short piece entitled "Happy To Be In A Place Where They Still Wear Shoes (for Paul Bailey)" He'll know what it's about, I think.

When I got home that afternoon I wrote his quote on a post-it note. I also wrote down the flute melody of the piece which I had just learned from a passing flock of parrots.

65 seconds Copyright (c) 2008 David Ocker

Having trouble with the little embedded player? Then click here.

I took all the pictures in this post in Old Pasadena on the day I met Paul. It is near the Summer Solstice and details on the north side of buildings are actually getting sunlight. Unfortunately I chose a time a bit too late in the afternoon. Click the pictures for enlargements.

The last picture shows a wall with missing plaster revealing an old painted sign. I've enhanced the letters a bit with Photoshop. It seems to say "The Bargain". The Bargain What, I wonder.

Old Pasadena CA - detail of building facade (c) David Ocker
The most recent Herb Alpert School of Music Alumni Magazine doesn't seem to be online yet. Someday it might appear here. (Update: I found the Dean's article here. It won't last at that url I betcha. Updated Update: the article is now here.)

Mixed Meters has mentioned The Herb Alpert School of Music previously in this post and this post. Be sure to read all the comments to the second "this post".

Paul blogs here. He twitters here. His ensemble PBE is playing in Whittier this Saturday on a concert called RealNewMusic2008 (can't find a link).

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Flag Day

Mixed Meters advocates a careful re-thinking of holiday celebrations in the United States. Click here to read previous MM holiday-related posts.

The big holidays have become infected with far too much uniformity, too much capitalism and too much mindless over-eating and over-drugging.

Meanwhile there are a host of other holidays which really deserve our attention. They would make good occasions to hang out with family and friends. Some of them happen right about now in mid June.
  • The Summer Solstice happens this year on June 20 one minute before midnight. It's okay to celebrate on Saturday the 21st. If you ever wanted to stay up carousing all night, this is the easiest night to do it.
  • June nineteenth is Juneteenth and June twelfth was Loving Day. In a country which I hope will have a partially African-American President next January (and in which gays are gaining the right to marry) such celebrations ought to be more meaningful than ever - for all of us.
  • Bloomsday is Monday, June 16. It's a Mixed Meters favorite because it celebrates a story of modern life told in a modernist style (but with links to tradition) and because it's about a Jewish man who doesn't get nailed to anything. Drinking the sacred wine of Bloomsday, Guinness (which I can't stand), is optional.
Please note - none of these holidays are Father's Day (June 15 this year) which is not a Mixed Meters approved celebration. Any holiday for which companies buy media advertisements designed to get you to buy their products is bogus. If you are lucky enough to have a father you should honor him every day.

from FLAG DAY a video by David Ocker
And that brings us to today, June 14, Flag Day.

Flag Day is usually a celebration only for the "my country right or wrong" crowd. However, I suggest that those of us who want to see improvements in our country should adopt Flag Day for our own purposes.

Flag Day should be a sober day on which we recognize that the symbol of our country has come to represent too many evil deeds committed in our name. Others who see our flag may well think of all the destruction, murder, torture and lying done under the color of the Red, White and Blue. We cannot ignore such associations.

Each time we tell the world that we are "defending democracy" while actually destroying our own democracy bit by bit, the flag shreds, bit by bit.

Here is a short movie - less than 90 seconds - in which I feebly attempt to portray the sorry state of our national emblem with images and abstract music. All the flags were photographed as publicly displayed in Pasadena California.

Copyright (c) 2008 David Ocker

Warning - this video is very iconoclastic. Click here if you're not so sure what an iconoclast is.

Thanks to Paul Bailey for mentioning Loving Day. Also thanks to Tom Turner for reminding me of the meaning of the word iconoclast.

If you're a "my country right or wrong" type, this post at the WFMU blog might warm your ever-loving pea-pickin' heart.

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Second Second Story Series - Portraits By Robert Jacobs

A few of Robert Jacobs' polaroids from the Second Second Story Series remain to be posted. These are all head shots of a few Independent Composers Association members. Later you'll see how Robert transformed a couple of them into actual portraits.

These were all taken in 1978. In order of appearance are:
  • Robert Jacobs
  • Lois Vierk
  • Scott Fraser
  • Susan D. Palmer
  • Richard Amromin
  • David Ocker

Robert Jacobs 1978Lois Vierk 1978Scott Fraser 1978Susan D. Palmer 1978Richard Amromin 1978David Ocker 1978The last two Polaroids, of Richard Amromin and myself, are the basis for the next two portraits as recently transformed by Robert.

Richard Amromin portrait (c) by Robert JacobsDavid Ocker portrait (c) by Robert Jacobs
Rob entitled my portrait "Blood, Sweat and Tones". Behind my hair-covered face there is musical notation while blood and sweat stream down from above over the picture and the frame itself. (The sweat is clear and hard to see; click it for a slightly better view.)

This picture hangs in our home. A young son of a friend saw it and asked "Why do you have a picture of a terrorist?" Why, indeed.

Here are more recent pictures of Richard, myself and Robert.

Richard Amromin 2008Find out what Richard Amromin is up to these days at New Town Arts.

David Ocker 2008Robert Jacobs 2008
Back in the days of ICA we called Robert Jacobs "Bob". Now, for some reason, he's known as "Rob". I still think of him as "Bob".

Back in those days he made his living as a photo retoucher. This was before Photoshop of course. His work was done with razor blades, sheets of plastic, paint and an airbrush which I thought was very cool.

Here is an advertising poster for his business. It's entitled "Unwanted Hair Removed". Like the Second Second Story Series poster at the beginning of this series, this was designed by Rob's brother, Ray. I've saved it all these years because I thought it was hysterical.

Unwanted Hair Removed - Robert Jacobs photo retoucher
Click on it for an enlargement. At the bottom of the picture it says:
Robert Jacobs retouches dye transfers and Type "C" prints. Also, black and white. His new studio is located at 7000 Beverly Boulevard. Telephone (213) 931-3751.
The credits are: Photography: Steve Berman, Model: Candy Brown, Design: Jacobs & Gerber, Partners, Lithography: Porter & Griffin.

These days Robert Jacobs no longer does photo retouching. But he uses those talents as a fine artist. His recent work can be found at Rob Jacobs Art and Angels of Protection.

These days anyone with Photoshop can do photo retouching. Here's my original, un-retouched, photo of Rob in 2008. I was the person who retouched the picture above - but Rob gave me some good pointers. I'd really like to thank him profusely for providing all the pictures of those concerts so long ago.

Robert Jacobs 2008
Retouched Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Friday, June 06, 2008

30 Second Spot - Ojai Music Festival - Important Outdoor Concert

Weeks ago I got an email from the Ojai Music Festival inviting me to "Bloggers Night" on June fifth. The invitation didn't actually make it clear that I was being offered a free ticket but it did stress that this event was in honor of music critic Alan Rich's new blog.

Mixed Meters has ragged on both Alan and the festival in the past. You might want to read my posts: In Which Wealth Has Its Privileges and Rich Critic, Poor Critic. I would like you to read them.

The invitation touted before and after concert receptions and a "special bloggers section with wireless capabilities". How cool is that? We bloggers could instantly report on every wrong note as it happens.

Libbey Bowl Ojai Music Festival (c) Gamma Infinity
Mixed Meters announces rather prominently (at the top of "Hey Over Here on the Left") that "This is not a music blog" but it does not stress that Mr. Mixed Meters (that's me by another name) does not fancy himself a music critic. I do like to quote silly things critics write. But that's different.

Mr. Meters does fancy myself a sort of composer - actually a "failed composer" - but still a composer, you know a person who creates music. And he/I believes that his/my time is better expended actually creating music than attending concerts especially those which portend long drives, bad acoustics and music of low interest to me or low relevance to my actual career (as a music copyist/engraver/editor).

In other words, a year from now (and forever after until my memory forgets), I will consider the evening of June 5, 2008 better spent writing one minute of my own music than attending Bloggers Night at the Ojai Festival. I've done this sort of thing before: read this and that.

So ... instead of attending Bloggers Night, I hiked up to my local Starbucks, laptop in messenger bag, and composed music. I entitled the piece "Ojai Music Festival - Important Outdoor Concert". Musically it has nothing to do with the music presented in Ojai. Or the Ojai Festival. Or anything really. I enjoyed writing it. People kept interrupting me to talk about music.

"Ojai Music Festival - Important Outdoor Concert" (c) June 5, 2008 by David Ocker, 67 seconds.

Let me explain the word "important" in the title. It refers to my Theory of Musical Importance. A composer gains a bit of Importance from each commission, performance, recording, prize, award, news article, interview etc.

A composer's pieces are programmed because of the composer's importance not their talent. (Okay, if your blood pressure just soared reading this please go read the MM post which includes my musical manifesto and Flight of the Rhino. Whatever that means.)

Blame Music bumper sticker (c) David Ocker
Here in Southern California the Ojai Festival is now second only to the LA Philharmonic in its ability to award importance to composers or reward them with increased importance. Until recently Ojai probably was neck and neck with the Monday Evening Concerts for second place. (I believe both Ojai and MEC have a common origin in the person of Lawrence Morton - and possibly others.)

Read Lawrence Morton's obituary at the NY Times.

Read about 30 Second Spots.

The picture of Libby Bowl comes from Gamma Infinity.

Oh ... one more thing:
Dear Ojai Music Festival -
Thanks for the invitation. I can't make it that night. I've got other things to do.

Post Script: Here's a link to a blog post about this very concert at Ojai by Brian of Out West Arts (an opera blog). He must have gotten the same invite I did. Brian also talks about importance - but of blogs not of composers. Unlikely that he reads MM.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

In which David votes for Richard Nixon

Tuesday, June 3 was California's second primary election this year. The Presdiential primary was moved way early so California could have an effect on the election. Of course with the Democratic contest being SO close, if California had waited until now for the primary we could have had even more affect on the Presidential campaign. For once my vote might actually have mattered. It would have been exciting.

This election was one hanging chad short of a waste of time. Turnout was abysmal. There weren't many contested elections and only two state ballot measures both dealing with the same fascinating subject: eminent domain.

Most of my ballot was filled with Judicial Elections, many uncontested. It's hard to vote for a judgeship because there is so little information available on which to make a decision. Without doing independent research all you get is a name and a super-short description of their profession.

Qualified people with weird or foreign names can easily lose just because of their name. Mostly the candidates are listed as judges or lawyers and so I try to avoid voting for them on that basis alone. I remember voting for Judge Ronald Schoenberg a couple of times because he was the son of a famous composer.

This time one judicial election caught my eye. Here's a scan of my sample ballot. See if you can tell why I was interested.

California primary sample ballot June 3, 2008 - Richard A. Nixon candidateI made it easy for you with the yellow mark. Click the picture for an enlargement.

Yes, Richard Nixon was on the ballot in California again and I voted for him. I knew only as much as you do from reading the ballot information. He's an "Attorney at Law".

I never voted for the real Richard Nixon nor would I have ever considered it, unless maybe he had been running against George W. Bush. My first ever Presidential vote was in 1972 for George McGovern, poor fellow.

Later I searched the Internet. This Richard Nixon is not related to That Richard Nixon and was rated Unqualified for a judgeship. My vote didn't cause too much harm to our society. Richard A. Nixon lost.

Addendum: Here's an article in Pasadena Weekly by Kevin Ulrich about several judicial races.

And here's a previous Mixed Meters post, Artistic Politicians,involving THAT Richard Nixon (the Milhouse one).

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008


Crooked Gas Meter Protector  Pasadena CA (c) David Ocker
Crooked Wrought Iron Gate Pasadena CA (c) David Ocker
Crooked Posts in front of Shoes Pasadena CA (c) David Ocker
Crooked Wrought Iron Gate Pasadena CA (c) David Ocker
Crooked Traffic Pole Pasadena CA (c) David Ocker
Crooked Traffic Light Control Box Pasadena CA (c) David Ocker
Crooked and Broken Ventilation Thing Pasadena CA (c) David Ocker
Crooked Weather Vane Pasadena CA (c) David Ocker

All pictures were taken in Pasadena California. Click on them for enlargements.

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