Thursday, August 29, 2013

Trying the Same Thing, Expecting a Different Result

Earlier this summer I met up with my buddy pianist Peter Schmid at Aphrodita Japonica Studio. We decided to record him playing solo piano.  Once he started he didn't stop.  It turned out to be an epic improvisation, over 52 minutes with new ideas cascading one after another. He just kept going and going.  And now you can listen to the whole thing right here on Mixed Meters.

Once he had finished I gave him a beer.  He drank it but said nothing.  Then I gave him another beer which he also drank silently.  Peter is a man of few words sometimes and not much of a drinker.  Finally he said "I think I want to call it Trying the Same Thing, Expecting a Different Result."  What could I say.  Seems like a good title.

Click here to hear Peter Schmid's Trying the Same Thing, Expecting a Different Result - © 2013, 3151 seconds

Later I talked the notoriously reclusive pianist into giving me a biography I could share with my Mixed Meters' readers.
As a child Peter Schmid studied classical piano first with Miss Mabel Filcher and later with Dr. Lester Nordine at Reinecke State College.  He began his professional career playing pop music, most notably as rhythm keytarist for Jerry and the Willows.  
Peter moved to Southern California in 1983 where he devoted himself first to new classical music and then free improvisation. His music often has a sense of wildly free imagination, at other times there's a meandering stream of consciousness.  It has been described as "relentless and hostile dissonance tempered with flashes of unsophisticated austerity."    
For many years Peter supported himself teaching music in elementary schools in the San Gabriel Valley until Republican budget cuts reduced music programs.  These days he ekes out a living as a short haul trucker while honing his true craft by playing piano in what he calls "post-modern bordellos and upscale waterfront dives".    In his spare time Peter enjoys cultivating Bonsai and reading the novels of C. S. Forester. 
Peter has also led an innovative quartet of local musicians.  One reviewer said "They seem to read each other's minds."  They are Cornel Reasoner, bass, Luis 'Pulpo' Jolla, drums and percussion, and  Lori Terhune, guitar.
I like Peter's music a lot and am happy to be able to present some of it here on my blog.  Although it's extremely hard to describe and even more impossible to know how he does it, what I am sure of is that I would love to be able to play piano the way he does.

A few recordings by the Peter Schmid Quartet can be found here.

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

I Don't Know Why This Piece Is Called Whiskey

I like ambiguous and misleading names for my pieces.  The names I like the most are self-referent: the title mentions itself.

For example, I've written pieces called The Name Of This Piece Is, This Is Not The Title and This Is Not The Title EITHER.

It is factually true that I don't know why this piece is called whiskey.  When I started it I needed to save a sound file before I could start composing and for some reason the word "whiskey" popped into my head at that moment.  Maybe I needed a belt.  In any case I saved the sound file as WHISKEY.NKM and assumed that's what I would call the music as well.

Of course, the title of the piece did not turn out to be Whiskey.  The eventual title, I Don't Know Why This Piece Is Called Whiskey, is incorrect on that point; it contains a fundamental falsehood.  I did not end up calling this piece by the name Whiskey.

I did chose to spell the word "whiskey" rather than "whisky" because I do like a bit of single malt now and then.  There's even a bottle of Laphroaig in the cabinet although I didn't bother to pour myself any while I was writing.  Nor did I partake once I was finished.  Thus proving that needing a drink was not the reason I chose that particular name (or rather, didn't choose that name).

I promise you that I was stone cold sober the whole time.  Also I'm sober as I write this spiraling-to-nowhere essay.  I haven't had even a glass of wine for weeks on end.  You see, temperance is one of my many endearingly annoying traits.  I've just never had much desire to over-indulge.

My music also has annoying traits.  While temperance and sobriety are not among them, my music can be quite ambiguous and misleading.  I would love to find a way to make my music refer to itself somehow directly, using only music.  You know: the whole "This Is Not A Pipe" thing.  I haven't figured out how to do that without using words.  Titles always use words.  Sometimes they misuse them.

Click here to hear I Don't Know Why I Called This Piece Whiskey - © 2013 by David Ocker 42 seconds

Apparently John Maynard Keynes' last words were "I wish I had drunk more Champagne."    It would be a good thing if we were to learn from his mistake.

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Tile Patterns

My local Vons supermarket was remodeled just over 2 years ago. Here's a picture of a remote corner of the building as purloined from Google Maps.

Note the stone tiles decorating the building.  They are black, perhaps made out of slate, (what do I know?) with reddish patterns, perhaps some sort of iron (again, what do I know?)

The interesting thing about these tiles, of course, is their abstract patterning.  I took closeups of a handful and brightened the pictures very slightly.  All together, there must be thousands of such tiles throughout the store and adjacent shopping center.  I've noticed that nearly all of them have some design or decorative interest.

Art, as everyone knows, is where you find it, even on the walls of a grocery store.

Click any picture for a better view.

Other Mixed Meters posts about tiles.
Foto-Buster  (a kiosk decorated with hand-made tiles)
Floor Shows (a man with a camera looks at his feet)
Russian Bestiary (scroll down for a tile peacock)

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