essentialsaltes: (dead)
Fresh off reading about Tough Guy Writers, it was maybe inevitable that a few titles caught my eye. Death in a Bowl, featuring a murder of the conductor at the Hollywood Bowl during a concert certainly punched the right buttons. Sadly, there's not as much local color as I hoped, and a plot that's hopelessly cockamamie by the end. But a few bloodthirsty and cold-blooded nouns and verbs smash together pleasingly every once in a while.

"Do I look like a killer?"
"I never saw a man who looked like one...You look like a liar to me--I've seen them before."
essentialsaltes: (eye)
Last Tuesday, Uzbeki pianist Behzod Abduraimov tore the cover off Rachmaninoff's Third Piano Concerto at the Hollywood Bowl. I can't say that I know the piece that well, but I agree with the LA Times' glowing (and better informed) view. The Times may be a little harsh on the Pictures at an Exhibition.


It was a great experience, and was our first time sitting in the boxes, which definitely had a different vibe. For one thing, the boxes seat 4 or 6, so we had an musician-cum-astrodynamics programmer in town from Colorado Springs for a wedding in SoCal in the box with us. And we also chatted some with the family in the next box, doing a bit more socializing than is usual up in the benches.

Saturday, we went to the Leimert Park Book Fair. Steve Barnes and his wife Tananarive Due had a quick panel on 'Afrofuturism' with two other authors, Deborah Pratt of Quantum Leap fame, and Jodi Baker, a bubbly person with a YA series. Barnes had a good point about the snowflakes upset about 'their history' being torn down -- African Americans are commonly told to forget all about the past history of injustice and focus on the now. (Not to mention the African history and culture that may have been lost from their ancestors).

In the evening it was back to the Bowl for Tchaikovsky & Fireworks. Bramwell Tovey conducted, and he brought more of the talkative and humorous style that John Mauceri used to bring to the Bowl. They performed some works unfamiliar to me, which was interesting, since the program had been pretty set in years past. Some bits of opera and ballet, with the waltz from the Nutcracker Suite being a highlight, along with some music from Sleeping Beauty with a violin soloist. Although it didn't do much for me except in some nice passages, the Rococo Variations certainly demonstrated virtuosity on the cello. And then, of course, the 1812 overture -- with fireworks. Beautiful colors, beautifully orchestrated with the music, a really fine spectacular. The only down point, some of our nearby audience members. Dude, is your conversation world-class? Because that lady up there is giving a world-class performance and you're not paying attention (and you're distracting me). Chit-chat, camera chimes, crunching snack bags... I think the lure of fireworks brings out a different crowd.
essentialsaltes: (wotan)
Saramago won the Nobel Prize for literature a couple years after Blindness was published. A mysterious infectious ailment causes people to go blind. The book focuses on this first group of afflicted people, who are first interned in an asylum, as more and more blind people join them in their new community. Saramago considers himself a pessimist, so things go south pretty rapidly. The strong prey on the weak, the men on the women, and so on and so forth. A few glimpses of human beings behaving humanely glimmer here and there to relieve the awfulness.

Saramago is also something a verbal sadist: none of the characters is named, he eschews quotation marks, and tends to go on long comma splices of dialogue that can be hard to follow. Not too fond of paragraph breaks either -- many's the time you face two unbroken columns of text on the pages. This is particularly bad because I tend to have a mental memory of where on the page I left off -- but not if there are no little typographical details for memory to seize on. These idiosyncrasies may be literary, or they may just be irritating. I tend toward the latter. I didn't care for the ending, and the whole is kind of like a gruesome novelization of a Twilight Zone episode. I don't mean this to demean a Nobel laureate, but to raise up Twilight Zone as also shining a light on ugly aspects of humanity through speculative fiction.

Saw Blow-Up recently. Certainly a great time capsule of authentic Austin Powers-y swinging 1960s London, but I'm not sure I liked it. I guess Antonioni was doing something right if I can't tell for certain whether I was bored or not. It helps that models take off their clothes from time to time. But the most interesting detail was seeing the cameo by the Yardbirds, filmed during the brief period when both Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page were part of the lineup.
essentialsaltes: (aCEG)
Here's the whole schedule.

I'm just jotting down a few of interest to me. Alas, Basement Jaxx & Bootsy Collins is while we're in France.

Tuesday July 14: All Rachmaninoff

Thursday July 16: All Beethoven

T/TH July 21/23: Carmina Burana

F/S July 24/25: Tchaikovsky & Fireworks

F/S/S July 31/32/33: SPAMALOT ('All-star cast to be announced')

F/S Aug 14/15: Bugs Bunny at the Bowl (including the world 'orchestral' premiere of Long-Haired Hare, set at the Bowl ("Leopold! Leopold!"))

Tu Aug 18: 2001: A Space Odyssey, with live accompaniment.
essentialsaltes: (ACEG)
How Music Works And Why We Can't Do Without It

Finally. I think this is the book I wanted about music. It wasn't Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy, and it wasn't The Singing Neanderthals. This is the one. (Although it's curious that Pinker's dismissive(?) comment about music being "auditory cheesecake" also appears early on in this book, which might be considered a response as well.)

It covers many different aspects of music from the basics of how brains interpret sound, harmonies, melodies, longer structures, emotion, and the analogies between language and music. Lots of accessible examples, from major works of the classical repertoire to nursery rhymes, The King and I, The Beatles and Zeppelin. And even if you can't read music, the book has a nice online site, where you can listen to the various figures in the text. And obviously the discussions in the text may give you ideas for new music to try out. I was intrigued by the description of the use of the prosody of spoken speech in Reich's Different Trains, and despite playing the Holocaust card, it's certainly an interesting experiment.

Another interesting thread that runs through much of the book is the idea that, even if you think you're 'not very musical' you probably have a ridiculous amount of musical ability in unexpected ways. It's maybe not too surprising that after hearing a short piece of melody, you can do better than chance at identifying whether certain other notes played at you either belong or don't belong to the 'key' the piece is written in. But apparently, you can do this for gamelan music, which uses not only different scales, but quite different pitch intervals from those in Western music. From listening to a half second sample of a song, you can do better than chance at assigning it to categories like rock, C&W or jazz.

Back to scales, in some ways the do-re-me-fa-sol-la-ti-do seems so natural and correct, that it's hard (for me) to imagine it not being somehow dictated by necessity. And yet it's a convention. And this book helped explain a lot of the issues around that. Probably old hat to people who have actually, you know, studied music academically, but it was eye-opening to me. I mean, we have 12 pitches in our diatonic scale. 12 slices easily. Why don't we have a heptave of six equal tone steps (with the 7th bringing us back to 'do')? Apart from sounding weird, it might be that there would be no such thing as a 'key' in that system. The hemitone steps in the standard scale provide some texture or pattern that your brain can latch on to, so that it can identify a key, and the key changes, in a song.

By the time I got to the end of the book, I had already forgotten all sorts of interesting things, so I think it will bear a rereading. I was a little surprised that Ball is 'just' a freelance writer (though also an "avid amateur musician"), because he seems so at home with all of the musical terms and all of the research. As someone with musical training, but no real knowledge of music theory or musical 'scholarship', I found it very accessible and entertaining. Being able to read music is helpful, but probably not necessary (especially if you use the website to listen to those excerpts.)
essentialsaltes: (Jimi)
On May 19, 1969, The Supreme Court concurred with Leary in Leary v. United States, declared the Marihuana Tax Act unconstitutional and overturned his 1965 conviction. On that same day, Leary announced his candidacy for Governor of California against the Republican incumbent, Ronald Reagan. His campaign slogan was "Come together, join the party." On June 1, 1969, Leary joined John Lennon and Yoko Ono at their Montreal Bed-In, and Lennon subsequently wrote Leary a campaign song called "Come Together".

That compresses the truth a little, but...

"The thing was created in the studio. It’s gobbledygook; Come Together was an expression that Leary had come up with for his attempt at being president or whatever he wanted to be, and he asked me to write a campaign song. I tried and tried, but I couldn’t come up with one. But I came up with this, Come Together, which would’ve been no good to him – you couldn’t have a campaign song like that, right?" -- John Lennon
essentialsaltes: (City Hall)
It was a really great show. I only wish it hadn't been a long show after a long Friday after a long week, but I still had such a great time.

My flickr set

Can't argue with the Wiltern as a venue. The place is gorgeous. It looked a little different this time, with a half dozen minibars throughout the various lobbies selling Caucasians. Lots of people milling about. Fewer costumes than at the bowling night we went to last time, but still quite a few. We got ourselves a couple oat sodas and found a nice spot in the mezzanine. A bit before showtime, Peter Exline came out and told his story.

The Kyle Gass Band opened up the official festivities, dropping in to see what condition their condition was in. They had to work at it, and they definitely stepped over the line by trying out an Eagles tune, but they soon had the crowd whipped up and plenty of people on their feet at the foot of the stage. Some impressive rock flute.

While they changed gear, a few more of the actors said hello. Coffeeshop lady had just turned 80, and the fest crowd filled that room with "Happy Birthday". Ralphs checker girl. My pic of irate Corvette owner was blurrier than most, but he was there. Liam. And Jeff Dowd, who was the Seattle Seven (with six other guys). He rambled a bit, and perhaps had been less (more?) strict than usual with his drug regimen.

And then it was Jeff Bridges and the Abiders. I found it hard to believe this was actually happening. Hey, there's Oscar-winner Jeff Bridges playing a song from Crazy Heart. Hey, there's the Dude playing the opening and closing songs of the Big Lebowski. Hey, there's the Oscar-duding Crazy Bridges playing Creedence.

Bridges came back to introduce the film, and Duded himself up with sweater and glasses. The crowd went apeshit. This is a terrible picture of a perfect little moment:

Glasses on, introducing the film

My favorite part of watching the movie was seeing that everyone else (at least in LA) recognizes that LA is also a star of this film. When you first see the lights of the city, that got as much applause as most of the other characters when they appeared. Philip Seymour Hoffman was sent off with the longest applause.

It was a given that people were going to shout out lines, but it was all good fun (except that one drunk guy). Another given is that whenever the Dude lit a J, the audience was going to do likewise. You wouldn't think you could make that huge space reek, but you can. If I have a least favorite part, it's that too many guys seem to think that Walter is the hero of this film. He's not wrong; he's just an asshole.
essentialsaltes: (Jimi)
2014 Schedule

June 22: Janelle Monáe
Looked weak in the field on American Idol. A longshot 25-1

July 2-4: July 4th Fireworks Spectacular With Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers featuring Edie Brickell
Still plucky at his age on the PBS pledge drive special. 10-1

July 22 & 24: Beethoven's Triple Concerto & Symphony #5
Crushed a somewhat weak Boston field with a conductor who knows his way around that track. 4-1

July 27: Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana, and a concert performance of Pagliacci
Game as they come and never runs a bad race. On the other hand... clowns. 45-1

August 14: Yo-Yo Ma plays Elgar's Cello Concerto
His fourth-place finish in the Brahms Cello Sonata #1 jeopardizes his chances, but he’s dangerous on breeding alone. 8-1

August 15-16: Tchaikovsky Spectacular with Fireworks
Was able to fight off challengers in the Gotham at Aqueduct to stay perfect. 3-1

August 26 & 28: Beethoven Emperor Piano Concerto, and Mussorgsky/Stowkowski's Night on Bald Mountain and Pictures at an Exhibition
The favorite at even odds.

August 29-30: John Williams
August 31: The Big Picture: Hitchcock
There's a fantastic rivalry between these Hollywood stablemates. Both at 4-1.

September 9: The Planets (with NASA/JPL imagery) & US premiere of Concerto for Drum Kit and Orchestra
Not sure he’s battle-tested enough. 20-1

September 11: Beethoven's Ninth
Seasoned and fast. 5-1

September 12-14: Fireworks Finale / Simpsons' 25th Anniversary
Finished a game third in San Francisco. Also watch out for his stablemate Santa's Little Helper.

Also running: Grease singalong, Sound of Music singalong, Gloria Estefan, Gladys Knight with Kool and the Gang, Herbie Hancock, Pixies, Peter Frampton, The Four Seasons, Elvis Costello...
essentialsaltes: (Jimi)
and I made one.

I made it to bother the women.

And the men.
essentialsaltes: (ACEG)
Really don't know why, but Purcell's "What Power Art Thou" from King Arthur has been stuck in my head. [I gather it was used in the Wolf of Wall Street, but I haven't seen it.] My hindbrain has just seized on that pulsing, stuttering rhythm. Even my brain gets tired of it, but it doesn't go away, it just mutates into different baroque chord progressions.

So as a last ditch effort, I'm trying to infect you all, especially maybe some of you people in chilly places who can sympathize with the Spirit of Cold:

What Power art thou,
Who from below,
Hast made me rise,
Unwillingly and slow,
From beds of everlasting snow!

See'st thou not how stiff,
And wondrous old,
Far unfit to bear the bitter cold.

I can scarcely move,
Or draw my breath,
I can scarcely move,
Or draw my breath.

Let me, let me,
Let me, let me,
Freeze again...
Let me, let me,
Freeze again to death!

essentialsaltes: (spockmonkey)
McKellen played Salieri in the first Broadway production of Amadeus (replacing Paul "A Man for All Seasons" Scofield from the British run).

With Tim Curry as Mozart. And Jane Seymour as Constanze.
essentialsaltes: (Jimi)
Lord Huron was not unpleasant.

Devotchka has influences all over the map. I mean Wikipedia lists their genres as "Gypsy punk, dark cabaret, indie folk, indie rock" [to which I would add mariachi]. When they stuck with one genre at a time, they did pretty well, but some of their songs seemed to flip genres midway through. Is this what the world has come to with shortened attention spans? We used to listen to entire operas -- ok, we never really did that -- we'd get bored and flirt with the marquis or contessa next to us -- later we could handle all of Dark Side of the Moon, then we could only listen to one song on shuffle play before we needed something different, and now we can't listen to a whole song before we need it to change.

But still, definitely some better stuff in there, and I give bonus snaps to any band with a female sousaphonist, even if she never launched into that sousaphone solo I was hoping for. Their encore was awesome and sounded realllly familiar, and afterwards the KCRW person mentioned that Devotchka had done the soundtrack for Little Miss Sunshine, so I'm guess it was something from that, possibly The Enemy Guns, or at least something of theirs with plenty of whistling.

Then Rodrigo y Gabriela as the headline act. For two people with two guitars, they filled that place with plenty of sound. Sure, they have amplification, but still...
There's a place where virtuosity edges into the realm of magic and miracle, and that's what they delivered. Uncanny, and the Bowl did a great job with closeup cameras on their hands to put up on the screens. I feel a little guilty that I was disappointed they didn't really do any of their inventive covers. But otherwise there was no disappointment. They came out and worked their asses off with hardly any breaks between songs. And none of their songs allow either of them to just coast. They each took a turn at soloing (I assume so that the other could go soak their hands in a bucket of ice water or something) but for the most part they played like mad.

Getting out of the Bowl was a nightmare due to the protest winding up at Hollywood/Highland right about the same time the Bowl let out. Thousands fleeing the Bowl is bad enough normally. This was ridiculous.

Oh hey look, someone's already got some video up at YouTube:
essentialsaltes: (essentialsaltes)
Neat estate sale in one of the many crumbling mansions on West Adams. First time I've been to an estate sale where they said the building was being considered by the city for historical whatsits status. And therefore any fixtures in use were not for sale. And perhaps related to this, if you took pictures inside the house, they were gonna throw you out.
Hundreds of player piano rolls. Probably a thousand 78s. Three pianos (one a player). Dozens of radios and radio consoles. Smutty paperbacks.
I looked through the piano rolls hoping to find something with some sentimental value. I found a roll of Louis Moreau Gottschalk's The Last Hope. Here it is played from a piano roll, but not the one I have (mine was made by the amusing if quite accurately named Automusic Perforating Co. of NY, NY):

Piano rolls were $2, and off 50% on Saturday, so $1. Tomorrow it'll be 75% off.

78s were a buck each, so fitty cent, so a quarter tomorrow.
There was a jillion of them, so I picked up a couple that caught me eye. Liked the Vocalion label, liked the red color ("Vocalion Red Records are best"), and liked the Spanish theme. I hypothesized that the label specialized in Spanish language music, but that's apparently nowhere close to the truth, though it was true of the only 3 or 4 red discs in this huge collection.

Of course, I don't have a record player, much less one with a 78 setting. But this is the age of the internet. You can hear at least a preview of the Bar Harbor Society Orchestra's version of "Mexicali Rose" on amazon. Though I haven't found the A side -- "The Song of Songs".
You can download both sides of the other disc (and a few more Spanish songs) from a great blog of old music. The disc I have is the one pictured in the post: "La Golondrina" backed by "La Paloma", by The Castillians.

The Loot:
essentialsaltes: (Dorian Gray)
Jason came up and we whipped up some of the best cheeseburgers in the world. We knocked back cheeseburgers, wine, and conversation. After Jason bugged out, we hit a tiny bit of the Inglewood Open Studios. First up was TJ Walker, who had a little space on La Brea just south of us. Nice work and a friendly guy. Then to the largest gathering at the Beacon Arts Building, which contains many artist studios. Plenty of variety from the absurd to the cool. I liked Brian Biedul's figures trapped in their canvas spaces.

Although it was interesting. Seeing the one downstairs in the 'general' gallery made it stand out, but in his studio where there were a dozen of them, they suddenly seemed less special. That and the pricetag that looked more like a salary nipped any thoughts of becoming an art collector in the bud.
Another playful installation was the playable rubber tree:
The artist had installed pickups so that when you thumped the trunk you got a nice percussive sound. In her studio, she had some smaller examples, like cacti, where you could pluck the needles to make pops, or let the needle scratch along your fingerprints in a ripply crackle.
But my favorite was Virginia Broersma's work:
For her, it was about images of women exercising, combined with excursions away from realism. For me, they're beauty leavened by monstrosity.
We also peeked into some corners of the building, where Dr. Pookie particularly liked this warning sign:
essentialsaltes: (Patriotic)
You know who else had a binder full of women...

(for those with no time to spare for some fucking culture.)
essentialsaltes: (Jimi)
Then the subcontrabass saxophone could be used in the chick supercollider.

Spotted at Improbable Research.
essentialsaltes: (Larpies)

(awesome 3D photo by Mark Spieckerman)

Zipped down, parked, and then walked under the blazing sun to the brunch. Enjoyed the effort that went into the benediction. I shot some video of our High Priest doing his own riff on "Imagine", but it didn't turn out so hot, alas. Hello, the Future occurred. Next were the author readings. I drew the short straw and went first. I think it went reasonably well, but nerves are an issue. My idea of performance is to peck away at a keyboard in the safety of my own home, with no one around. But I got a couple nice comments about the reading, so I'll say it went well enough. Denise Dumars and Bryan Thao Worra are much better at working a crowd. I think my favorite reading was Denise's poem "EVP".

Then we had our panel, and the above were joined by Cody, Skipp and artist Mike Dubisch. We bandied 'cosmic horror' about, and I think it was really a high point of the brunch. At least for me. People who know their shit had some complementary and contradictory discourse about Lovecraft in the modern age. I said some things that charitable people would consider profound.

During the subsequent schmoozing, I got to make the acquaintance of about-to-be-honored Michael Reaves, who I have just now learned shares my birthday. I started off on the wrong foot, since I was unaware that he suffers from Parkinson's. Production of speech is difficult for him, but through the good graces of his daughter Mallory (whom I know tangentially via Wyrd Con, of all things) we had a good conversation. He was a bit miffed, I think, that we on the panel had not mentioned his script for The Real Ghostbusters. I fell back on the very true statement that it hadn't yet screened at the fest.
Welcome to the beginning of the films )
essentialsaltes: (You're a Kitty)
Dr. Pookie took me to the Hollywood Bowl for my birthday. It was the Brian Setzer Orchestra, backed by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, so it was Brian Setzer and two orchestras. It was a great show, though for the first few songs, I think there was some sort of fight going on at the sound mixing board. They finally settled on some compromise and let things rip. I'm not really a guitar guy... except for videogames... so it's funny that now videogame familiarity lets me say, "Oh yeah, he's playing a Gretsch."
I didn't like his take on Sleep Walk, which should be ultra mellow [it's a sleep walk, fer crissakes], but Setzer turned it into a fiddly-diddly fantasia that has gotten much more fiddlier and diddlier since even this. But most everything else was great. I liked the things the Bowl Orchestra did on its own... the Hawaii 5-0 theme and Soul Bossa Nova [YouTube comments are often derided, but we'll have to concur with "Quincy Jones - the only man to have ever walked this earth who can conduct an orchestra via pelvic thrusts. Period."]
The Bowl orchestra didn't add too much to the BSO, at least not audibly except a few parts where the strings sang out, but the BSO is good enough to hold its own. Other times they stripped it down to him, an upright bassist and drummer for some nice clean rockabilly. A couple fantastic bass solos. He (probably contractually) did some Stray Cats material, and I was impressed by the Stray Cat Strut, interpolating the Pink Panther theme. And it all ended off with Rock This Town with fireworks. Some of the firework effects sent cascades of sparks showering down on the inner circle boxes, and people were flapping at their hair and evacuating [possibly in more than one sense of the word]. A good day to be part of the 99%.

Saturday, we drove up to dad's new place in La Quinta in the Palm Springs area. On the way there, we stopped for lunch at Loco Burrito. It's not haute cuisine, but it well deserves the 4.5 star rating on Yelp. Once at dad's place, we got the two cent tour of the house and the two dollar tour of the area, including a wine tasting at a place near here in the 'old town' of La Quinta:


Dad fired up the grill and made us some great filets. I helped Lois a bit with some of the vegetables, and we had a great meal. In the morning, we went out for breakfast at Louise's, and then pretty soon Dr. Pookie and I were on the road back home. I may have frightened Dr. Pookie a little, but I made it back in less than 2 hours.
essentialsaltes: (Titan)
Nice story of the 'Where are they now?' variety about the Voyager spacecraft. One detail caught my eye: "Each also has an eight-track tape recorder."


Jun. 7th, 2012 09:09 pm
essentialsaltes: (Titan)
Over the past few weeks, I've listened to (Solti - Vienna) and watched (Mehta - Valencia) all of Der Ring des Nibelungen.

My "Death in Valhalla" LARP for Wyrd Con is coming along swimmingly, but I'm getting concerned about my marriage.


essentialsaltes: (Default)

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