Saturday, February 28, 2015

Talking With Bob and MB

Last month, on the birth date of Arthur Jarvinen, I posted an article called An Antenna Repairmen Performance.   The members of the Repairmen were Jarvinen, M.B. Gordy and Robert Fernandez.  The post included a video of their magnificent joint composition Ghatam in live performance.  (Go.  Listen.  Watch.)

Yes, M.B. goes by his initials.  Everyone calls him M.B..  Most people don't know what the letters stand for.  I'm not even sure if I'm supposed to use periods.  Robert usually gets called Bob.  Everyone knows what 'Bob' stands for.

That post prompted the three of us to get together to talk about the Repairmen's history.  We met last Wednesday.  I recorded everything for use in future Mixed Meters posts.  This post is a quickie to say thank you.  Thanks, guys.

Here's an early picture of the trio - scanned from a xerox of a photograph.  Bob said it was taken in 1978 or 79 at CalArts where the Repairmen, all students of John Bergamo, met.

L to R: M.B. with hair and mustache, Art with hair and sideburns and Bob with hair and beard.  (I love the video camera on the left and the shadow of same on the right.)

You may well wonder what these guys are doing.  Certainly not conventional percussion music.  The tall cylindrical object is a resonant metal artillery shell to which long strips of masking tape have been affixed.  The shell was amplified.  The trio slowly pulled the strips of tape away from the shell creating sounds.  Neither M.B. nor Bob could remember a title.  We'll also have to imagine what it sounded like.

I asked about how the group got started.  Bob answered:
We gravitated towards each other.  We were in the new music ensemble together.  We had a lot of likes, our personalities.  Art could see that we had chops, we could play already.  We were getting better.  And he said 'You know, this might be something.'  It was his idea.  He said 'Let's do a trio.  Let's start writing.'  It was wide open.
M.B. added:
And it was going to be not just a percussion trio because it was pretty much going to be whatever it was.  Sort of a Performance-Art-for-Percussion trio because we did plenty of pieces where there wasn't a whole lot of percussion going on.
Back to Bob:
We started kind of sifting what was out there for trios.  Art started writing text, you know, just to push the boundaries.  We knew that text could be involved, that non percussion activities could be involved.  There was theater, how hard could [that] be?
In our discussion we covered the piece Ghatam in detail.  They gave me a lot of information about the history and structure of Ghatam.   Watch for that in some future Mixed Meters post.

After 3 hours of talk and laughter hunger overtook us.  Here's a picture of M.B. and Bob taken later that evening, before the food came.


I'm not very good at telling jokes.  One joke I do tell, however, is about how dancers count to three or to seven.  Musicians often find this very amusing.

Unfortunately the joke cannot be conveyed through written language.  It must be told by someone out loud and in rhythm.  I've mentioned this before in the post Counting to Seven.  Back then I didn't try to tell the joke.

It turns out that this bit of humor is based on reality.  It actually happened to M.B.  Here's audio of the three of us discussing how it happened.  (Note: To protect the innocent I removed some personal details about the dancer from the clip.)

Listen right here:

(If that doesn't work try this page instead.)


Somewhere, back in history, I wrote a piece for the Antenna Repairmen.  It was called Bombed.  I've mentioned Bombed before here.  (That page has a story about how Frank Zappa reacted to Bombed.)

Bombed is in three movements.  Here are the program notes for each movement.

1. Into the Stone Age – Three young Americans, believing the sound-bites of their leaders, participate in the destruction of a less significant culture.
2. Pan Am 103 – Wrapped up in their own problems and fears, they have no conception of what is happening around them.
3. Out of Your Mind – Our heroes, trying to walk home after the bars close, cannot remember the music they heard that day.

Bombed came up in our three hour marathon Wednesday.  Here's Bob talking about it.
That was a fun piece.  That was a hard piece too.  We played it pretty damn well.  You know why I think we liked that piece so much?  Not because it was well written.  To me it epitomized the Repairmen, the kind of weird things that we did, the odd rhythms.  'You're playing seven?  I've got my six in that time.'  It was no problem for us, we got so used to doing that.
You can listen to Bombed here.  You can even download the score here.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

In which David encounters some forks.

Back in 2009 I posted this picture on Mixed Messages

I called the picture Fork in the Road.  Indeed it shows a fork, a very large sculptural fork located on a traffic island.  And there is a road.  However, the road does not fork.  The Robert Frost poem does not apply here.  Drivers have no choice about choosing the road more or less travelled by.  This is merely a spot where two one-way streets merge to form one two-way street.

Anyway, back in 2009 the fork appeared mysteriously and received considerable notice.  The local paper even wrote an article about it:  Pasadena's fork in the road is guerilla art installation.   I was under the impression that it was to be removed pending approval from CalTrans.   I hadn't noticed it for a long time.

Until last week.

On one of my recent walks I was surprised to encounter the fork.  It's been moved away from traffic and more securely mounted.  I stopped to take some pictures.  I saw no plaque explaining the origin of this culinary geographical sculptural pun.  People are left to wonder why it is there.  It's just there because ... well, why not?  Art.  Fork Art.

Google Street View confirms that the fork was not there in 2011.  The story of its reappearance is here.  Also here.  Old news.  Liability Insurance was needed.  This being America, nothing happens until the financial responsibilities are sorted.

Here's what it looks like now.

I know of another big fork in Pasadena.  It's on Holly Street, outside a restaurant.  Which restaurant?  (I don't remember the name.)

Finally, here are two pictures of an actual fork in the road, one with no artistic pretensions and no liability insurance.  You could eat with this fork, not that you'd want to.

You can click on the pictures to embiggen them.

Friday, February 06, 2015

My Day in Paintings

Thursday morning I downloaded a free Adobe IOS app called Paintcan.  It allows you to convert digital photos into virtual paintings just by waving your finger over them.

So here are some paintings from my day.  First there are scenes from my walk; I took the Gold Line to Old Pasadena.  There's also a picture of Leslie at the computer, a selfie of me, our cat Spackle sitting at the window and our dog Chowderhead on my office floor.

The app is simple and intuitive and fast and fun.  Click any of the pictures to see them full size.

Digital cameras have turned everyone into annoying photographers.  Maybe programs like this will make us all elitist painters as well.  Once again the power of personal computing lets everyone become a starving artist.

Compare the next "painting" with the original photo from Mixed Messages.  
(I called it Man in the Moon.)

Wanna see my Doodles?