Saturday, March 31, 2012

Tim Minchin

Here are videos by Tim Minchin. I had never heard of him until yesterday.

He's an Australian living in Britain.  He has unkempt red hair and uses lots of eye-liner.  He writes songs which he sings while playing the piano.  He's a very talented guy.  Also very funny.  Very uninhibited when it comes to discussing sex.  Prudes and Republicans will not approve.

More importantly, his music shows a strong political sense.  If you believe in things like religion, alternative medicine or the paranormal, Tim Minchin is not going to amuse you.

Some of his songs are definitely NOT SAFE FOR WORK since he often deals with sexual topics.  The first video at least makes the effort at a G rating.  It was written especially for television broadcast in the UK.  It's clean - if you ignore the double entendres.

I like self-reflexive art like this: songs about songs.  Here he performs at the Proms, with full symphonic accompaniment.  It's a song about singing the pitch F-sharp while playing in the key of F.

Tim does not mince words about controversial subjects. The Pope Song, for example, deals with priestly pedophilia - a hot button topic. He clothes this delicate subject with countless repetitions of the f-word  Reminds me of Frank Zappa in that sense.

You could compare Minchin to Victor Borge, as a comedian pianist - only with sex.  Or to Tom Lehrer, as a comedian, pianist, social commentator - only with sex added.  Minchin's use of clever wordplay can be really remarkable - I'd compare that aspect of his work to someone as good as Cole Porter - just with lots of explicit sex.

In this last video, an animation of a Minchin monologue, you might sense a resemblance to Ken Nordine.  You might get the impression that Tim is a really smart guy who does not suffer fools one little bit.  Someone who's pretty confident that his way of understanding of the world is the proper one and isn't afraid to get into your face to tell you just how wrong you are.

There's a lot more Minchin on YouTube.  What the heck - here's one more: Some People Have It Worse than Me - which contains this great existentialist line:
But the total non-existence
of colonic animation
Seems to me
the perfect metaphor
for the utter constipation
of my soul.

This just in: Tim Minchin here in Los Angeles on April 10 at Amoeba Records in darkest Hollywood. He's got a lot of work to do before he cracks the U.S. market.

I know it's a pale comparison to Minchin's songs, but you could listen to my own piece which overuses the word fuck: Frustration Etude No. 1.

Fuck Tags: . . .

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Winter 2011 from The Seasons

Why not listen to Winter 2011 while you're reading this post?  It's nearly an hour long but it's easy listening.  That's because 80% of it is silence.  Click here to listen.

Winter 2011 is the first in what I intend to be an ongoing series of pieces called The Seasons.  I would no more call it a complete piece of music than I would call salt and pepper a complete meal.  But, like salt and pepper, you can season other music with Winter 2011.  That's how I use it.

In my recent pieces I've been writing very short "musical events" surrounded by long silences.  Read about the ideas involved here and here.  There are also pieces you can listen to.

Lately, while I'm busy earning a living, I've needed to conserve my creative time.  I resolved to write one short musical event each day.  Just a few seconds of music.  It could be anything I cared to dream up.

Now suppose that I began this regimen on the previous Winter solstice and then wrote one bit every day until the Spring equinox.  All those bits together would become Winter 2011.

Well, I would have started on the winter equinox last December if I had had the initial idea just a little earlier.  Actually I started a couple weeks after the solstice.  I had some catching up to do.  Even so most of the events in Winter 2011 were composed on the day they represent.

If I continue this process for a whole year, beginning a new piece on each solstice or equinox and continuing adding one event each day throughout the season, I'd have a complete set of musical seasons: a cycle of four pieces.

Yeah, I know what you're thinking: Vivaldi already wrote four seasons.   And he's making a ton of money off of them because that music gets used in lots of television commercials.  People love Vivaldi's Four Seasons.  They listen to it over and over again.

Many other composers have aped Vivaldi as well.  Click here to read about my personal favorite musical seasonal cycle.

Don't expect tone painting in my The Seasons.  You will not hear the cold winter wind in my musical winter.  There is nothing in this music to suggest snow - although you're free to imagine whatever you want as you listen.  Where I live there is no snow in the winter anyway - there are barely any seasons.  As a general rule you're free to imagine whatever you damn well please while listening to whatever music you happen to hear.

My seasons (assuming I finish them) are more calendrical than than they are representational.  They're a lot like crossing off each day on a wall calendar as it goes by.  And because they consist of only short moments of music I find that they blend with other music quite well.

You could listen to Vivaldi's Four Seasons and my The Seasons at the same time.  In fact, that's what I want you to do.  That's what I would do.  The musical combinations they produce might be fascinating.  How will you know until you try it?

Longtime Mixed Meters readers might remember that I'm someone who listens to multiple radio stations at once.  Adding Winter 2011 to a mix of several radio stations can produce some fascinating interactions.  It's something I really like.  You have to be open to the shear happenstance of it all.

I know that not everyone can alter their thinking to accept this idea as music.  But I offer it to you in a positive sense of creating something new, a musical landscape only you can access.  Depending on what other music you choose to combine Winter 2011 with  you will have a unique new musical experience.  It's not at all like hearing that same old Vivaldi yet again.  It'll be a slightly different Vivaldi ... yet again.

If you're not willing to try listening to Winter 2011 simultaneously with other music, I suppose you could listen to it by itself.  But I warn you ... it'll be pretty boring that way.  So is listening to Vivaldi the two hundreth time.

Last Tuesday, on the Spring Equinox, I started my second season, Spring 2012.  If all goes as planned it will be finished in June.  It will focus on somewhat different musical materials than Winter 2011.  Eventually I hope to begin Summer 2012 on the Summer Solstice.  And so on.  At least that's the plan.

And you probably already figured out that I'm not calling my cycle "The Four Seasons" because I might well write multiple winters, springs or whatevers.  If you stay tuned long enough maybe you'll find out how Winter 2012 differs from Winter 2011.  I wonder about that myself.

Click here to hear Winter 2011 by David Ocker - © 2012 David Ocker - 3470 seconds

Seasonal Tags: . . . . . .

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Arthur Jarvinen Birthday Concert

There was a time when Venice, home of canals, was an independent city.  Then in 1925 it was swallowed up by the voracious mega-metropolis Los Angeles.  Today the old Venice city hall is the home of the Beyond Baroque Literary/Arts Center.

Beyond Baroque hosts the very adventuresome new music concerts called Beyond Music.  This series is "curated" (to use a trendient word) by composer Daniel Rothman.   Daniel deserves much credit for his programming.  It is cutting edge and it is a showcase for local artists - at the same time.

Daniel deserves even more credit, in my opinion, for making complete videos of some presentations available online on the Beyond Music YouTube page.  These include both works on the Beyond Music Art Jarvinen birthday concert, Conspiracy of Crows (for three oboes) and 100 Cadences (for string quartet).

You could go back and read the two Mixed Meters posts I wrote before that concert.  One was entitled Beyond Baroque, Arthur Jarvinen and Me - about performances Art and I had given of each other's music there over the years.  The other, Preparing to Hear a Concert of Art Jarvinen's Music, briefly discussed the music and history of each piece.

But now, thanks to the combined miracles of consumer video, YouTube and the Internet, you can watch and listen to the performances of Arthur's music right in the comfort of your own ... well,  these days I guess you can listen almost anywhere.

Arthur Jarvinen: A Conspiracy of Crows - Kathleen Pisaro, oboes - January 27, 2012, Beyond Music

Arthur Jarvinen: 100 CADENCES with four melodies, a chorale, and a coda ("with bells on!") - The Formalist Quartet (Andrew Tholl, Andrew Mcintosh, Mark Menzies, Ashley Walters) - January 27, 2012, Beyond Music

The Jarvinen Birthday concert was reviewed by our own newspaper of record, the L.A. Times.  Critic Josef Woodard concluded:
One couldn’t escape the feeling that this meditative lament of a work was looping back to reflect on its very creator, except that his inventive spirit was alive and well in this intimate room. As if to accentuate that notion, after the applause, someone in the back bellowed out “Happy birthday, Art.”
The "intimate room" - it's small, painted completely black, even the windows - continues to host music and poetry events.  There's two Beyond Music concerts next weekend (March 23 and 24) performances by the youthfully intense "modern music collective" wild Up.

To prepare you for that event, you might watch this beyond-hyper performance video from a previous Beyond Music wild Up concert.   It's just one of the gems posted on Beyond Music's YouTube page.  I hope there'll be more to come.

Clarence Barlow:  Septima de Facto - wild Up - November 19, 2011, Beyond Music

Beyond Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Floating Rocks

Los Angeles has been witnessing the movements of a large rock.  A boulder which is supposed to weigh 340 tons.  I wonder how they weighed it, not that it matters.

At a reported cost of $10,000,000 (I calculate that's roughly $1 per ounce, considerably more than first class postage) the boulder just finished a very slow, very public journey through urban Los Angeles, picking up not moss but publicity as it moved towards the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  Public relations-wise the museum must figure the ten mil is money well spent.  We are told this is one of the largest objects ever moved.  A feat of engineering to be sure.  Lots of good pictures of the moving rock here.

Once at its destination, the boulder will be suspended in mid-air.

No, not really.  It will be installed above a trench through which people can walk.  The rock will only seem to be float.  Giving it the appearance of floating is, I guess, what makes this project art.  It will be called Levitated Mass and it is the concept of artist Michael Heizer.

Here's some real art in which a large rock actually does float high in the air.  It's the painting by Rene Magritte entitled The Castle in the Pyrenees.  (click it for an enlargement)

I saw this painting in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.  I was there in 1987 with my Aunt Marion and Uncle Ben.  In spite of rules against doing just that, they photographed me standing next to it.   I would love to post that picture here but, alas, I can't find it.  It is lost in the decades of my accumulated crap.  Maybe the snapshot will turn up someday.

Here is another floating rock in the Middle East.  It seems that some people in that part of the world believe that large boulders can float in midair.  It's probably a Photoshop trick, don't you know.  Still, the mother and child speaking in this video seem pretty much convinced.

The best example of gravity defying stonework, however, comes from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - the original 1980 BBC radio version.

This happens in the fourth episode of the "secondary" phase of programs.  Arthur Dent and his companions Ford Prefect, Zaphod Beeblebrox and Marvin the Paranoid Android land their probability-propelled spaceship in a mysterious white cave with smooth walls.  The cave turns out to be the Nutramatic cup.

Arthur falls from the cave and finds out about its origin from a bird-person on whose back he very improbably falls.  Here's the passage:
Arthur: "It looks like … like … just like a plastic cup hanging in the sky.  It's about a mile long."
Bird: "Looks like plastic.  Carved from solid marble there."
Arthur: "But the weight of it.  What's supporting it?  What keeps it there?"
Bird: "Art."
Arthur: "Art?"
Bird: "It's only part of the main statue.  Fifteen miles high. It's directly behind us but I'll circle round in a moment."
Arthur: "Fifteen miles high?"
Bird: "Very impressive from up here with the morning sun gleaming on it."
Arthur: "But what is it.  What's worth a statue 15 miles high?"
Bird: "It was of great symbolic importance to our ancestors.  It's called Arthur Dent Throwing the Nutramatic Cup."
Arthur: "Sorry, what did you say?"
Bird: "There.  What do you think of it?"
Not enough space or time in this post to explain the entire origin story of the statue of Arthur throwing the cup.  It's quality Douglas Adams.  There's the "Shoe Event Horizon", the Lintilla clones and the Dolmansaxlil Galactic Shoe Corporation publicity film.  Great stuff.

Meanwhile, back here in Los Angeles we will soon have our own floating rock, Levitated Mass.  As mentioned, the rock will be held up by a contraption of concrete and steel. Here's a video showing the trench in its early stages:

The Los Angeles rock will, clearly, not be held up by "art" as Magritte's castle or the Nutramatic cup are. Nor will it float because of any sort of religious faith. It will appear to float by virtue of some sort of optical illusion.  Shortly Los Angeles will discover just how good that illusion is.

It is fair to wonder what the illusion will mean.  I assume that like most art this piece is supposed to have some sort of meaning.  The word monumental is used quite a lot.  Levitated Mass is a monument, I guess.  Monuments are supposed to memorialize things.  And Levitated Mass does.  Here's a quote from a LACMA press release:
It is dedicated to the memory of Nancy Daly, former chair of LACMA’s board of trustees and an influential advocate for children and the arts in Los Angeles.
Nancy died in 2010 and Levitated Mass was conceived of in 1968.  So Nancy Daly is not an intrinsic part of the artistic experience.  She's someone important to the funding.  That's arts reality.

The press release also informs us:
Taken whole, Levitated Mass speaks to the expanse of art history—from ancient traditions of creating artworks from monolithic stones, to modern forms of abstract geometries and cutting-edge feats of engineering.
Ah! So maybe Levitated Mass is a modern day Stonehenge or  Chichen Itza - but one without any astronomical relationship.  That's because you can't see many stars from the Wilshire district.

Maybe it's an abstract geometric work - one which will inspire onlookers to consider its aesthetic form and artistic composition.  Probably not.  It's mostly just a found object - a random, if very large, rock that the artist convinced certain powerful people would look good from underneath.

If nothing else, Levitated Mass will cause us to wonder what we might have done with an extra $10,000,000.

Mostly it will become a conundrum for passers-by who will ask "What's that rock doing there?"  Maybe rock climbers will use it for practice.  It will also be a great target for taggers.

Maybe someday, hundred of years from now, when the steel and concrete under the rock have crumbled, and the people of LA have forgotten the spectacle of moving it through the streets and no one even remembers that LACMA ever existed, and if it hasn't sunk into the tar pits, someone will rediscover the art of stone sculpture and carve faces in the rock.

Those faces could be recognizable ones from late 20th and early 21st century Los Angeles:  faces most likely to survive in popular culture for generation after generation.  I suggest Mickey Mouse, Michael Jackson, Kim Kardashian and O.J. Simpson.

Here's Eagle Rock, an inspiring natural fixture quite near to Pasadena.  The rock doesn't float in the air - but it reminds us of animals who do.  It would cost much more than $10 mil to move.

The picture came from here.

Rolling Rock Tags: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .