Sunday, October 03, 2010

Arthur Jarvinen 1956-2010

Art Jarvinen passed away yesterday.  He was a composer and a percussionist and a bass player.  He called himself a physical poet.  He created stuff.  Lots of stuff.  Much of what he created was music.  Other times he created things which pushed the boundaries of music.  Sometimes he pushed those boundaries quite hard.

I considered Art one of my closest friends.  We met in the late seventies.  He performed on Independent Composers Association concerts.  He was in music ensembles (EAR Unit, The Mope, Antenna Repairmen) which played my music.  I was in an esemble (XTET) which played his music.  He started a publishing company (Leisure Planet) which published my music.  We both worked for Frank Zappa.

I didn't always understood what motivated Art.  Nor did I always understand his music.  A performance of a Jarvinen piece could leave you scratching your head.  Sadly, our last few conversations left me scratching my head.  There will always be things about Art which I will never understand.

Art kept a website,  There's a bio and lists of his compositions and recordings.

I'd like to point your attention to three projects which will tell you more about Art than I can.  All of them are well worth your time.

First, The Invisible Guy.  I'm listening as I write this post.  I love the music to The Invisible Guy - although I often find it difficult to reconcile with Art Jarvinen the person.   Art called it:
a real soundtrack for an imaginary spy film
Fifty episodes of music and written narrative,
inspired by the surf music/spy movie genres.
There are dozens of tunes you can listen to (you can also tap your foot or sing along) - while reading about the adventures of The Invisible Guy himself.  You want to know about Art's musical influences?  Try listening to The Invisible Guy.

Second, an interview Art did in 2008 on Kalvos and Damian.  (Look for show #539.) Kalvos and Damian are two guys who are not named Kalvos or Damian.  However, in two hours they covered a lot of Things Jarvinen.   This is the best overview of Arts career of which I'm aware

Third, Mister Composer Head.   Mister Composer Head is a blog.  Well, it was a blog briefly in 2007.  An anonymous blog.  Well, there's no point in keeping the secret now.  Art Jarvinen was Mister Composerhead.   Back then I wrote this bit to describe how the project started:
  1. David asked Mister Composer Head to write some guest posts.
  2. Mister Composer Head did one.
  3. Mister Composer Head then did another. And another. Mister Composer Head REALLY got into it.
  4. David suggested that Mister Composer Head should have his own blog. But Mister Composer Head didn't want to do that.
  5. So David is doing it for him.
I also wrote text for the Mister Composer Head header:
MISTER COMPOSER HEAD.  Being the comments of Mister Composer Head, composer of music, thinker of thoughts, writer of words, player of instruments and teller of stories who says what he wants to say and doesn't care how you react as long as we keep his name out it.
Art told me he really liked that paragraph.  Damn it, Art, you should have written more.

Here is a previous MM post, Independently Celebrating Independence, about a 4th of July pig roast thrown by Art and his wife Lynn and by Robert Fernandez (a fine and friendly percussionist and Antenna Repairman who knows how to do many things, not just roasting a pig, like the Cubans do.)  And here is another, Trixie - the Independence Day Pig, about an earlier similar event.  (It includes video of Art playing a simantron.)

Here is a search of all MM articles which mention Art.  There are a bunch.

Here are excellent tributes to Art by Kyle Gann and Jack Vees and on the CalArts Blog
and on Kill Ugly Radio (a really fine blog).  The last is about Art's work for Frank Zappa and the infamous While You Were Art incident and it quotes from this fascinating interview Art did in 2007.

Mona Hostetler, whose composer son Randy passed away at a very young age and was a close friend of Art, wrote this remembrance of Art Jarvinen.  I like the story of the performance with the toaster.

You can read about and listen to my performance of one of Art's compositions: Arthur Jarvinen - Carbon for Bass Clarinet Solo

Read about the memorial for Art held on October 30, 2010.

Leslie and I send our sincerest condolences to Art's wife, Lynn Angebranndt.  

Art Jarvinen Tags: . . . . . .


duanektmbmw said...

Thank you for that, David. Well said. Very well said. Although I had not seen Art in several years, Art was my friend too, from the late '70s to early '80s, in the Cal Arts and FZ arenas. He was liked and loved -- and will be dearly missed -- by many, many musicians, other artists, and ... family and friends. A true artist, creative master! There is far too much pain and trouble in this world today. Let us all stick together to get through these extemely difficult times. Thank you, again, David.
Duane Livingston.

gloria said...

David, thank you for posting this, and I'm glad you could find words with which to memorialize Art.
You are doing better than I am...I can find no words, only sadness.

John Steinmetz said...

Thanks so much for this post, David, and for the pictures. Nice to see that one with the big smile. I didn't know about the interview or Mr. Composer Head, and I'm looking forward to checking them out.

I ran into Art only occasionally, but the town and the planet seem poorer with him gone.

Phil O'Connor said...

What I dug about Art, was honesty. He found no struggle with speaking his mind. He would listen intently to another opinion. If he disagreed, he would stand on the line, and say how he felt. The world needs more art, produced by people such as Art. We are all lots less fortunate with him gone. Peace to his musical family, and all those around.

Bryan said...

I had Art as my composition teacher at CalArts for 2 years. He was truly an amazing man, with a vast knowledge of almost anything you could think of, not to mention music. What I loved about Art most was his sense of humor. As someone who incorporates humor into my own music, I bonded with Art on a deep level. He was never afraid to tell you what was on his mind and I respected his sincerity and honesty when we had lessons. I will miss him profoundly and will cherish the time we shared.

Scott Fraser said...

Hi David:
Jim Fox & I had a lengthy conversation yesterday, much of it centered around Art, his exit, & the larger issues of what brings one to lay down ones burden of accumulated regret, disappointment, grief, & tears. As a couple of middle aged guys with more than a passing acquaintance with the hovering bete noire of ennui & depression, we surmise that aging lets us know that not only is everything no longer possible, as when we were 25, but quite likely nothing, or nearly nothing may actually be possible anymore, as regards our youthful visions of career accomplishment, relationships, personal abilities, etc. Jim concluded with the reckoning that Art had one more question for Lucky.

Ann Millikan said...

Such deep shock and sadness I feel today. Art was an incredible human being - one of the most inventive and productive creative people I've known. Whether it was a quirky composition project, a model railroad or insanely hot Thai food cooking, Art did what he wanted and always did it well. He was also a deeply caring mentor and friend to many. My heart goes out to Lynn and the CalArts community.

thingNY said...

Thanks for posting this information. What a shock! I never got to meet Art personally, but did have the pleasure of performing his works: stuff that, no matter how simple or tongue-in-cheek, left its mark and managed to be so fresh. We have a beautiful video of a performance of his Eskimo Piece (from Adult Party Games from teh Leisure Planet) which you can view here:
Thanks for this space to write about him. -Paul Pinto (thingNY)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. Art was so loved and admired by so many people. His unique and often humorous point of view really left a great impression on so many of us CalArts students. This is truly a great loss.

David Leikam said...

Just heard that one of my great Artist friends/mentors, Arthur "Art" Jarvinen (composer, musician, author, excellent cook... ) - just passed us by and he will be featured in this month's the Arts Noticed, tAN newsletter tomorrow morning. A sad day indeed but he shown creatively brightly onto others well while present! -dL

Anonymous said...

we didn't have enough talent shows for him at western reserve high school in warren, oh

Anonymous said...

Thank you David. well said. I enjoyed being a fellow traveler at Calarts in the 70's with Art. We were somehow always trying to figure out technology work-a-rounds, non-obvious ways to use things. He was the first person I had met whose parents were morticians. Or so the story went.
with gratitude for the amazing souls we are blessed to know,
jim gable

Bill Lantz said...

Thanks for posting this David. I enjoyed my brief introduction to Art via the infamous David Ocker Interview and his very cool additions to that, and he later turned me on to a couple of his CD's which still blow me away.

He will be missed.

Stanley Zappa said...

I was sad to hear of Art Jarvinen's passing, sadder still to hear that you two were friends for multiple decades. That kind of loss is never any fun.

I didn't know (from) from Art Jarvinen, but I feel like I spent a lot of time looking at scores and transcriptions he (like you) wrote out for FZ. Bill Dixon used to refer to music on the page as
"calligraphy"--and I've always loved calligraphy. It is too typical that it takes death to delve into an artists work, but that said, now begins my sonic investigations into Mr. Jarvinen and the larger (for want of a better term) so-cal art music schizzle.

So, yes. My thoughts are with you.

Unknown said...

Thanks David, at first I was very angry to hear this news, now I am just very saddened


Adam Frey said...

I've been thinking about Art and the dark, edgy energy of his music all week. I loved the wittiness that lay curled like a snake in his work.

I wanted to make people aware that the Adorno Ensemble of San Francisco presented a concert of Art's music just a few years ago. It was wonderful to see him there. When Lucky Mosko was Music Director of the SF Contemporary Music Players we presented "Philifor Honeycombed with Childishness" and premiered "Chasing the Devil," both pieces I remember very warmly. And who could forget his "Egyptian Two Step" with the spray cans! If he had only written that one piece, he would still have been a remarkable composer.

Unknown said...

I'm directing the percussion ensemble at USC and I wanted to let everyone know about an upcoming performance of Art's work, Trio with Time Machines for 3 percussionists. The concert is on Nov. 1st and it's featuring California composers. I never knew Arthur but do know some of his music. I was hoping to get to know him now that I'm in LA and was very saddened to hear of his passing. I wanted to reach out to anyone who would be interested in seeing this work and ask for help in spreading the word. Thanks and I send my condolences to his family.
joe pereira

David Ocker said...

For those of you following this thread, here is some preliminary information about the memorial service for Arthur Jarvinen:

"The service will be at noon on October 30th. It will be at the Universalist Unitarian Community Church in Santa Monica. It is at 1260 18th Street. There is parking within walking distance, but I don't have that address yet."

This came to me from Dee McMillan, a close friend of both Art and his wife Lynn who is helping to plan the event. When the final details are available I will make an announcement in a special post on Mixed Meters.

Martian Gardens said...

First Stephen Lucky Mosko died in 2005, then Mosko's widow, Dorothy Stone, died in 2008. Now Arthur Jarvinen is gone. None got to celebrate their sixtieth birthdays. It's been a tough decade for the CalArts music community and for the California EAR Unit

robin said...

listen to what can not be heard

Unknown said...

Art was a friend of mine while we were students at Warren Western Reserve High School. I lost touch with him after graduation but thought of him from time to time and I am deeply saddened by his death. He was brilliant, charming and challenging. I will miss his talent and honesty in this world. peter leone

Grg said...

I just found out about Arthur's passing and I'm deeply saddened. Lynn was my cello teacher from about 1998 to 2000, until I moved to Australia, and I had a few good conversations with him. I can't tell you how many times when I was having a lesson with Lynn and I'd hear all kinds of strange and wonderous sounds coming from the other room. He was truly a good man and I am very sorry for his family and close friends.