Friday, October 30, 2009

Hidden Meanings

These are carefully cropped pictures of various Pasadena signs. This process reveals secret messages.

Partial Signs, Hidden Meanings - rant
Partial Signs, Hidden Meanings - retch
Partial Signs, Hidden Meanings - lies
Partial Signs, Hidden Meanings - vices
Partial Signs, Hidden Meanings - rapes

And here are two in honor of Halloween.

Partial Signs, Hidden Meanings - hell
Partial Signs, Hidden Meanings - coven
The last is part of a church name. Sorry, no pictures of pumpkins this year. You can find some here. One of MM's earliest posts concerned Halloween movies.

Similar silly MM photo essays:
Musical Merchants
Branches Before Blue
Gloves In the Wild
Fence Shadows
Graffiti Animals of California
Buckets for Babies in Pasadena

This one, Taggers With Spellcheck, also deals with words.

Here's a bonus.

Partial Signs, Hidden Meanings - aura

Partial Tags: . . . . . .

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hell Mouth

John Adams, the most successful composer, has been my top client for decades. Hey John, thanks for all the work! (I mean, really.)

But he has shown very unusual lack of judgment recently by starting his own blog, Hell Mouth. I think the picture which begat this strange name must have been taken by John's wife, the photographer Deborah O'Grady.

Hell Mouth is starting at a furious pace: he's written five posts, extensive essays, in a little over a week. Here at MM I feel overworked if I do five short posts a month. But I've been at this for a while (4 years last month) and understandably my enthusiasm has waned.

John is a good writer. His skills have been honed recently by his biography Hallelujah Junction. I like his adjectives.

One of John's posts is entitled: On Surviving a First Rehearsal discussing the composition and premier of his most recent work City Noir (actually his third symphony). The public perception of how a piece of music travels from a composer's brain to a concert stage is a complete mystery to nearly everyone - even to some musicians. My job puts me right in the middle of one facet of that process. This explains why a lot of people have no clue about what I do for a living.

John devotes one paragraph to me.
City Noir is so densely layered that I need two full manuscript pages to embrace all the parts. Hell for the copyist, who is nonetheless unfazed, a total pro. David—started out playing clarinet with Frank Zappa. After 24 years knows my intentions nearly well enough to fill out a line that I’ve forgotten to write out.
Very cool.

Bienvenido Gustavo on a newspaper vending machine
Later John mentions the first rehearsal of City Noir led by boy wonder Gustavo Dudamel in Walt Disney Hall. I was one of very few people allowed to listen. The musicians had prepared for the rehearsal but none of them could have much of an inkling how John intended their parts to fit together. Loud things came out soft. Soft things loud. It came apart. It came back together again. Somehow Dudamel kept it all racing along - the entire piece. When he conducts, his hair subdivides the beat.

The composer, conductor and all the players were hard at work. Their job was to make City Noir sound correct; they had a very limited time for this. On the other hand, my job had been completed weeks before. I was just hanging out, listening in a manner none of them could afford, following the score as it whipped past.

And I was blown away. A roller coaster with breakneck twists and turns could never be that much fun. It was a simply amazing, mind-blowing thirty minutes of music, as if the spirit of Charles Mingus had somehow gotten into the souls of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. It was rough. It was raw. It rocked. Most likely I was the only one there enjoying this experience, it was indeed a great time which I shall not soon forget. At the end I just laughed.

Of course, you could never intentionally make an orchestra play like that. You do not tell a symphony orchestra to "Wail". By the second rehearsal the piece was taking its proper shape. Each rehearsal refined the music a bit more. I liked the finished piece as well. It's also a wild ride. But not as wild as that first reading.

Future orchestras, preparing City Noir, will have recordings to refer to so players will know when to project and when to hold back. The one-time unique experience I witnessed, nothing at all like the piece itself, is lost forever.

Ivy the cat behind manuscript and proof copies from John Adams' Doctor Atomic 2006
John also mentions how the players ask him questions - including about the B Double Sharp. I heard a lot about this note before and during the rehearsals. For you non-musicians, a B Double Sharp is a completely theoretical musical notation - it sounds the same as the familiar pitch C sharp. I can't think of a reason it would ever be used legitimately. Any suggestions?

This particular B Double Sharp is played by the Second Violins, Violas and Second Trumpet in measure 183 of movement one of City Noir. I just checked again. It really is in the manuscript - twice. Had I been thinking more clearly, I would have just changed it to a C#. The music would have sounded identical and no one would have noticed. Even the composer himself.

John Adams & David Ocker, at premier of Transmigration of Souls 2002
Read about how I was reduced to tears by a performance of one of John's pieces.
Read any or all of the Mixed Meters posts tagged "John Adams".

Hell Mouth Tags: . . . . . .

Sunday, October 25, 2009

First Sign of the Holidays

Yes, fresh from the land of cryptozoology, it's a Christmas Penguin.

This one was collected by Leslie in Armstrong's Pasadena Garden Center. She reports that they came in many sizes. This is a small specimen.

Read Stalking the Christmas Penguin
Read Stalking the Christmas Penguin 2
Read Christmas in October (it ends up discussing table grapes).

Penguin Tags: . . .

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Million Dollar Sculpture

Wandering around in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday I noticed some sculptures on a building at 307 South Broadway. You can see four of them in this corner shot.

Million Dollar Theater - South Broadway Los Angeles CA - outdoor sculpture
I snapped close-up pictures of each one. Click them and they get bigger. I wonder why these particular subjects were chosen, although many of them are obviously arts related. The building was built in 1918.

Million Dollar Theater - South Broadway Los Angeles CA - outdoor sculpture
Million Dollar Theater - South Broadway Los Angeles CA - outdoor sculpture
Million Dollar Theater - South Broadway Los Angeles CA - outdoor sculpture
Million Dollar Theater - South Broadway Los Angeles CA - outdoor sculpture
Million Dollar Theater - South Broadway Los Angeles CA - outdoor sculpture
Million Dollar Theater - South Broadway Los Angeles CA - outdoor sculpture
Million Dollar Theater - South Broadway Los Angeles CA - outdoor sculpture
Million Dollar Theater - South Broadway Los Angeles CA - outdoor sculpture
Each of the above sculptures have their own buffalo head.

Million Dollar Theater - South Broadway Los Angeles CA - outdoor sculpture
The building is called the Million Dollar Theater. Here's a Flickr photo-set with good pictures of the building itself. There's a Million Dollar Theater Homepage with some indoor shots. More indoor pictures here. And here's a Wikpedia page which reports the name of the sculptor: Jo Mora. Besides these figurative works there's a lot of very neat decorative sculpture as well.

Million Dollar Tags: . . . . . .

Monday, October 05, 2009

It's California's Fault

Last Saturday I tagged along with Leslie as she tagged along with an excursion organized by the Natural History Museum of LA County. That's where she works. The outing was called "Living on the Fault Line; A Day Along the San Andreas." We followed the San Andreas Fault for about a hundred miles in a small caravan of vehicles.

Our guide was Lindsey Groves, a colleague of Leslie's at the Museum. This is Lindsey. When he talks he uses his hands a lot.

Lindsey Groves, Antelope Valley Freeway, San Andreas Fault, Palmdale CA
Behind him, on the opposite side of the Antelope Valley Freeway, just north of the San Andreas Fault, you can see the wall of a freeway cut. A cut is where they excavated a hill to avoid having to build the freeway over it. This one is just north of Avenue S near Palmdale. Notice the vertical lines called strata. These were formed horizontally and then pushed upward by earthquakes. All the pushing took a very long time.

The next picture shows Lindsey in the middle of nowhere at a place called Pallet Creek. He is showing us where layers of sediment in a former lake bed have been toyed with by earthquakes. With his hand he's marking the level of a dark layer of peat which was moved upward by a quake. Notice that the dark band to the left of his hand is lower. An earthquake once broke the earth exactly at this spot.

Lindsey Groves, Pallet Creek, San Andreas Fault, California
When asked exactly where the fault line is now Lindsey would only point out a several hundred foot span. The next time the earth moves on the fault it'll be somewhere within that swath - probably. He seemed to enjoy pointing out structures which just might be straddling the San Andreas Fault.

At one point on the road, not far from this Pallet Creek site and not far from the fault itself, a band of helpful Boy Scouts erected a San Andreas Fault sign. This served as an excellent photo-op. Here's Leslie near the sign.

San Andreas Fault road-side sign
The tour began at Devore where several earthquake faults, including the San Andreas, meet with several freeways and several major railroad lines. Recipe for disaster? Then we moved to Wrightwood a town in the mountains. It sits right on the fault, nestled in tall pine trees.

Near Wrightwood are Earthquake Trees. These trees had their tops snapped off long ago during the earthquake of 1812. They kept on growing afterwards but with two trunks instead of one.

Earthquake Tree Wrightwood California San Andreas Fault
We lunched in an idyllic place called Jackson Lake, thick with green reeds and noisy with ducks. We saw many small lakes on the tour. These bodies of water are the result of seismic movement. Geologists use them as clues to where the fault lines are.

Jackson Lake California San Andreas Fault
Indeed, picking an earthquake fault out of a scenic vista is difficult, although the geologists have their little tricks. But identifying a fault zone precisely takes careful measurements with precision instruments. It may be hard to see but we know it could cause a lot of damage. Preparedness is important.

I thought this is similar to certain medical conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high blood sugar. You only can tell you have these diseases because doctors use their machines to identify them. You can't feel the illness, but it could do you a lot of damage. It's a good idea not to ignore them.

We visited Devil's Punchbowl, just one of several fantastic rock formations caused by seismic shifts. Devil's Punchbowl had been in great danger from the recent Station Fire. A pyro-cumulus cloud was just poking out over the mountains when we visited. A new fire had started several hours earlier somewhere in the area we had just visited. As we watched the cloud kept getting bigger.

pyrocumulus cloud Sheep Fire seen from Devil's Punchbowl California
This new fire (still burning as I write this) is called the Sheep Fire. It has now burned a large area which we visited along the San Andreas Fault.

Yes, there are a lot of dangers to living in Southern California. Earthquakes and fires are just two of them. Neither is easy to predict. Both can be devastating to lives and property. The similarities end there.

On a lighter note, at Devil's Punchbowl some local wildlife was on display - including three owls. Here's Owl Number Three.

Snowy Owl Devil's Punchbowl California
Several of the links above connect to Google maps. In these the fault generally moves from upper left to lower right. There are some clues visible from satellite pictures which can't be seen from the ground.

I also suggest you visit where you can see Google maps with the San Andreas fault indicated using geopositioning data. I couldn't find a way to link to particular locations on those maps, however, so you'll have to navigate manually.

Lindsey Groves works at the Malacology department of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. His interests also include geology and paleontology. He wrote a fantastic article about the San Andreas tour for the museum's magazine. Hopefully I will find an online link to that. Hopefully he'll forgive me for the liberties I've taken in describing his interesting field trip.

Fault Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .