Saturday, October 31, 2015

Garbage Days of Summer 2015

America is all aflutter over the upcoming Star Wars movie.  Tickets for the first showings are already available.  Merchandising is being tied in.  More importantly, trailers are being released.  Expectations are being thoroughly stoked.

You can learn a lot about a work of art from a trailer.  In the case of Star Wars I'm learning that I'm not too excited about it.  There's no way I will thrill to this movie the way I did to the original back when I was 25.  Science fiction adventure movies now seem formulaic.  Special effects are predictably dazzling and overbearing, the Star Wars musical themes are excessively familiar and overamplified, and the old actors (who still can't act) will make brief appearances before dying heroes deaths.

What's more, in the end, Good will triumph over Evil.  I guarantee it.  Hollywood knows no other way.  There is definitely going to be a happy ending to Star Wars three more movies hence.

Trailers, however, can be used for other art forms.  Consider what a trailer might be like for music.  You could determine whether you'll enjoy a piece of music before you listen to the whole thing by  simply listening to the trailer first.   Then you can rush to judgement the same way I've rushed to judgement on Star Wars.

I've figured out how to create musical trailers for my ongoing daily composition project, The Seasons.  What I've done is excerpt one segment from each week and combined those into a shorter piece.  This gives a good overview in a fraction of the time.

The three minute trailer for Summer 2015 accurately reflects what happens in the entire 18 minute work, Summer 2015, (short version) also known as "(I'm sorry, we're) Out of Time".  Coming soon to this blog.  It's rated U for Undanceable.  (I've intentionally written music you can't dance to; don't even bother to try.)

To increase confusion the trailer has its own title, Garbage Days of Summer 2015.  I chose all the Monday segments because Monday is the day I take out the garbage.  Keep your expectations low and everything will make sense except possibly the music which doesn't require sense.  You don't have to trust me on that, simply trust the force.

click here to hear Garbage Days of Summer 2015 by David Ocker - © 2015 David Ocker, 198 seconds

The long version of Summer 2015 has silences between all the daily sections
Be teased by other Garbage Day trailers:
Back in 2008 I did a 56-second musical trailer for my piece Poof, You're a Pimp.  (I think the full Poof, You're a Pimp is still the strangest piece of music I've ever posted online.)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Summer 2015 from The Seasons

Summer 2015 is the fifteenth season of my endless musical series unsurprisingly named The Seasons.  Lately I've begun posting multiple versions of each season; Summer 2015 will have four separate versions.  This post marks the debut of the long version - the one where each of the 90 or so daily musical segments is followed by a long silence.  Listen to it here.

The title Summer 2015 reminded me of Samuel Barber's famous work for voice and orchestra entitled Knoxville: Summer of 1915.  I can think of two similarities between his work and mine: the word 'summer' and the number '15'.  Beyond those two things Barber's impressionistic tone painting of a six-year old boy's memories of idyllic life in Tennessee just prior to the death of his father could not possibly be more different than my music presented here.  Summer 2015 bears no relationship, connection or comparison to Knoxville: Summer of 1915 - in this universe or in any other.

Summer 2015 is more than one and a quarter hours long and it contains 57 minutes of complete silence.  If you're not a regular MM reader you may well wonder why anyone writes music which is 75% complete silence.  Actually, some Seasons have an even higher percentage of silence.  Answer: I hope that listeners will combine these long Seasons with other music at exactly the same time.  This requires someone to choose which Seasons to play simultaneously with which other music.  Feel free to choose from any music whatsoever.  There's an awful lot of music out there, too much; the possibilities are literally infinite.

(If you want to listen to several Seasons together - something I often do myself - go to The Seasons page and click on several [listen] links in the first section The Seasons.  You'll need a pretty good Internet connection.  Need a suggestion of what to click on?  You might try all the Spring seasons at once or all the 2013 seasons.  Four is a good number.)

Once you make the necessary creative decisions just carry on with life - let the sounds be background.  The result will inevitably be filled with many unintelligible moments, occasional bursts of intense chaos and the periodic bright flare of pure serendipity.  It does not make sense to evaluate the result the same way you would a conventional piece of music.  This is a random process, like life.

You could listen to Summer 2015 and Knoxville: Summer of 1915 at the same time.  I tried this.  At first I put the Barber on repeat play and Mr. Barber dominated the mix.  I was happier with the results when I listened to all four Summers (two of them are based on classical music) and then added Knoxville: Summer of 1915 just one time.    I'm sure Samuel Barber's publishers will spin in their graves when they read about this.

Click here to hear Summer 2015 from The Seasons  - by David Ocker, © 2015 by David Ocker, 4494 seconds

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Two LA Philharmonic Festivals of California Music

Dear Readers - this is the second of three unfinished Mixed Meters posts that have languished in my draft folder.  I'm posting them now to get rid of them in honor of this blog's tenth anniversary.

The line "Only now am I finding the energy to finish." seems quite ironic given the fact that it was written nearly 6 years ago.  (When I spoke of "January 16" I meant the one in 2010.)

This was not really intended as a concert review.  I have no interest in being a music critic.  Instead, I wanted to compare two music festivals, one held in November and December 1981 and the other in November and December 2009.  Both festivals dealt with the same general subject matter, music of California composers.

I have no idea what I wanted to add to this post.  My memory has deleted that information.  I've upgraded the links as well as I can.  Unfortunately the Internet has deleted some of that information.  I've been able to replace a few of them via  

I also added links to each of the composers represented on the 1981 marathon concert.  Curiously, a couple have Wikipedia articles only in Dutch or German.  Finally I've added  a few relevant pictures which I squirreled away back in 2009.   

As always, thanks for reading.  I encourage you to sing along if you know the words.


I started writing this post on January 16.  Only now am I finding the energy to finish.  My subject is two Los Angeles music festivals, one very recent, the other nearly 30 years ago.  Both of these events were devoted to music with a real, direct relationship to California.  Both festivals were produced by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.

The first, in December 2009, was called Left Coast, West Coast.  As far as I'm aware, this was the first time in nearly 3 decades that the Philharmonic had presented a series of events devoted solely to California composers.  The previous festival, in 1981, was called Festival of Music Made in Los Angeles.

In one of many pre-concert lectures he gave, the Philharmonic's Creative Chair, John Adams, indicated that the music of Left Coast, West Coast didn't really allow for any conclusion about California music.  The title itself suggested that our music could somehow be distinguished from Right Coast, East Coast music. That's not going to happen.

Personally, I found two interesting dichotomies of California music in the Left Coast, West Coast programs.  Turns out that it's not the longitude which is important.  It's the latitude.  In other words, the festival revealed differences between Northern California and Southern California composers.  It also displayed a split unique to Southern California composers.

You can still find a full program listing of the festival here.  My comments apply only to the four concerts I actually attended.  Other composers, mostly from the south, were presented by the L.A.Master Chorale, REDCAT and Piano Spheres   Other concerts were devoted to the worlds of pop and jazz.  And my comments should be considered very general - not hard and fast.  Exceptions abound.

The North California composers were John Adams, Lou Harrison, Terry Riley, Ingram Marshall, Paul Dresher, Mason Bates and Harry Partch (well, Partch moved around a lot.)  Their various pieces included elements of jazz, world musics, non-equal temperments, improvisation, found sounds, specially constructed instruments and electronic.  These all are cutting edge new music, valid, on-going trends.  They all have strong Northern California associations.

The Southern Californias were Thomas Newman, Franz Waxman, Leonard Rosenman, Jerry Goldsmith, Frank Zappa, William Kraft and Esa-Pekka Salonen.  These seven names divide neatly into two groups.  The first four are known primarily as film composers.  Except for the Goldsmith piece, Music for Orchestra (which was written specifically for concert performance and had my rapt attention from the very first note), these film-related pieces only strengthened my belief that film composing and concert composing require completely different talents.  I wish we could give a long, long rest to the notion that movie scores are worth listening to as pure music and without the visuals.

The three other Southerners, Kraft, Zappa and Salonen, were just as modern as anything from the North.  But these particular pieces revealed new music trends more attuned to East coast or European ideas.  (Let me note that Esa-Pekka Salonen lived in Southern California about the same length of time as Arnold Schoenberg, seventeen years.  Unlike Schoenberg, his music was strongly affected by California.)

It is good that the Left Coast, West Coast festival pointed slyly to this perennial issue of North versus South in California music.  Possibly, as Gustavo Dudamel comes into his own as music director of the LA Phil, we will see more consideration of North versus South, but on a hemispheric rather than statewide basis.

It's not particularly surprising to discover that Northern California boasts a more experimental music tradition while Southern California still struggles mightily to distinguish real art music from background sound tracks.   Still, for the time being, I see no sign that the South is any closer to resolving this musical schizophrenia than it was back in the days of, say, Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

Mention of Korngold brings up another unique musical cross which Southern California must bear: our history of great musical talents who came here in the thirties and forties to avoid European politics.  The most inescapable of these were Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky.  These days Arnie's and Igor's direct local influences are long gone.  I've said (via Twitter):
If you still think Los Angeles is a great musical city because Stravinsky and Schoenberg lived here, please set your clock back 50 years. 
Maybe I should have said 29 years instead of 50.  In 1981, the LA Bicentennial year, the Festival of Music Made in Los Angeles prominently featured music which both Stravinsky and Schoenberg had written while they lived here.  The two composers were given equal status on two concerts, performed by the LA Philharmonic at Royce Hall.

Back in 1981 it was still easy to find people in Los Angeles who had studied with and devoted themselves to these masters.  Lawrence Morton and Leonard Stein came immediately to mind.

The rest of the festival consisted of one concert - actually a marathon.  It featured music by a wide variety of other composers.  The only requirement for inclusion was that all the music had to have been written in L.A. - or at least nearby.    The list contains some names not often associated with California and, unlike the 2009 festival, few film-industry associated names but many academics.

Joseph Achron
Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Gerald Strang
Leroy Southers
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco
Frederick Lesemann
Gladys Nordenstrom
William Grant Still
Hans Eisler
Paul Chihara
William Kraft
George Antheil
Roy Harris
Dorrance Stalvey
George Tremblay
Robert Linn
Karl Kohn
Henri Lazarof
John Cage
Donal Michalsky
Ingolf Dahl
Ernst Toch
Adolph Weiss
Lukas Foss
Aurelio de la Vega
George Gershwin
Oscar Levant
Ernst Krenek
Halsey Stevens

The only composer whose music was presented on both the 1981 and 2009 festivals was William Kraft, who started his career as an L.A. composer in the mid-fifties.  He's still going strong.  He's also one of the few remaining local musicians who worked closely with Stravinsky himself.

Personally I can remember attending only one of the three 1981 concerts.  I also remember reading the lengthy erudite essays in the program book by Peter Heyworth and Lawrence Morton.  These were devoted to Schoenberg, Stravinsky and Otto Klemperer.

I vividly remember being absolutely bowled over by Michael Tilson Thomas conducting Schoenberg's arrangement of Brahm's Quartet in G Minor.  It's strange to think any piece by such a famous nineteenth century German composer might have even this small a connection directly to California.  Maybe that's enough of a connection to hold a county-wide Brahms festival, which is a much better idea than a Wagner festival.  It's also much less offensive in my opinion.  (Sergei Rachmaninoff lived and died in Beverly Hills.  I'm unaware of any music he might have written here.)

I do strongly believe in holding music festivals which feature strong California associations.  Serious music in California desperately needs some sense of place.  My problem with these two Philharmonic festivals has nothing to do with the content chosen for them.  The differences between them no doubt reflect the differences of the times.  The big issue, however, is the length of time separating the two.

I wonder if anyone planning the 2009 Festival was even aware of the 1981 Festival.  There have been other new music festivals between these two.  Most notable would be New Music Los Angeles in 1985 but that had a nationwide scope.

I can dream than more regular surveys of serious California music, past, present and future, produced by our major performing arts organizations, might lead eventually to a pre-concert lecture at which the speaker would be able to suggest some common aspects of "California music".  Maybe there will be, by then, a proto-california music style.  I should live so long.  In another 29 years I'll be in my mid-eighties.  If I'm around then I will, naturally, voice my disagreements with the programming right here at Mixed Meters.

Here's Mark Swed's review of West Coast, Left Coast
Read two Mixed Meters articles labeled William Kraft