Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A word that is 3.5 hours long

Though it may be a cheap publicity gimmick, Dmitry Golubovskiy, CEO of Esquire Russia, gives a hypnotic 3.5 hour performance that fits somewhere between Cage's Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse) and SchwittersUrsonate.  It is a heroic recitation of what is disputably the longest word in the English language: the chemical name of the protein Titin. Even if you don't watch the whole thing, it is humorous to skip ahead to see the flower on the left slowly wilting throughout.



Monday, May 27, 2013

REVIEW: LBO's Van Gogh/ Tell Tale heart

On May 18, I went to the Bixby Knolls Expo Center to experience Long Beach Opera's double-header of Michael Gordon's Van Gogh and Stewart Copeland's The Tell-Tale Heart. It was an interesting programmatic bifurcation of LBO's previous presentation of Philip Glass' Fall of the House of Usher, with each piece sharing different traits with Glass' opera.

The What's Next? Ensemble collaborated with LBO, acting as the house band for both pieces.  They did a great job sounding tight among the diverse ecology of ostinati that both composers set up. Last April I wrote about What's Next? Ensemble's performance of Van Gogh at the now defunct Royal/T. All of my previous commentaries on that composition are still true, though the piece gained much from staging. A two-tiered stage was divided into 4 "rooms," with retractable scrims that became video projection screens. Though the projections often felt arbitrary, the final image of Van Gogh disappearing into a projected grassy field was a wonderfully poetic way to end the piece.

In the upper left-hand room, actor Mark Bringelson portrayed in near-silence the artist struggling with his inner turmoil as one only does alone in their room. It was an interesting directorial choice by director/production designer Andreas Mitisek, one that gave the impression that all events outside of that room were merely embodiments of what was happening within that quintessential struggling artist inside.

My favorite musical moment was soprano Ashley Knight's aria in Part 3. It is a surpisingly haunting melody, one in which a listener can't help but infer a Tom Johnson-esque combinatorial process. Unlike Johnson, Gordon obfuscates his method, creating an Apollonian distance that harkens back again to Glass. Knight treats the melody with due delicacy, and when baritone Jason Switzer enters, his transparently contrapuntal countermelody re-introduces an element of the Dionysian. This portrayal of the classical dichotomy was augmented by the sexual tension introduced in the staging. I found myself amazed at the singers' ability to sing so well lying down.

After a brief intermission, it was time for The Tell-Tale Heart. When I told people afterwards that I had just seen an opera by Stewart Copeland, most thought they had heard wrong. Yes, it is in fact the Stewart Copeland that most people know as the drummer for The Police. His Tell-Tale Heart was derived from Poe's famous story, just as Glass' Fall of the House of Usher was.

It seems difficult to approach the 19th century macabre of Edgar Allen Poe without a sense of absurdity. Perhaps we can blame the iconic William Castle/Vincent Price films and the Tim Burton faux-gothic aesthetic that they inspired. Glass' score all but ignored this tendency towards camp interpretation, though in LBO's Usher it was slyly re-introduced by director Ken Cazan. Stewart Copeland embraces it with open arms, and Mitisek set the tale in modern day Los Angeles (the valley, I would venture...). The old man with the evil eye was portrayed by Mark Bringelson, again almost silently, as a reclusive dealer. His placement in the upper left room drew attention to itself as a clear aesthetic commonality between the Copeland and Gordon.

Baritone Robin Buck played the main character of the murderous Edgar, propelling the narrative with a Monster Mash sprechstimme that betrayed Copeland's roots in the world of pop music. Copeland's score toed the fine line between opera and musical theater, while his instrumental writing reflected his experience in film music, remaining as transparent as most film music aspires to be. After hearing Van Gogh, Copeland's vocal writing seemed much less classically refined and much more rock-influenced, with more unison and parallel lines than contrapuntal conceits. As one might expect from this famous drumset player, the percussion writing was the highlight of the instrumental score, with Bartok-inspired timpani glissandi and churning rhythms throughout. Though it might have been imagined, I thought I heard a brief reference to Murder By Numbers as the main character carried the old man's dead body to it's hiding place beneath the floorboards.

Long Beach Opera's next production will be Ernest Bloch's Macbeth, which the LBO website says is already sold out! Hopefully you are one of the lucky few that got a ticket ahead of time...

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Three Squares in the Shape of A. Pärt

Here is audio of Richard Valitutto performing my Three Squares in the Shape of A. Pärt at the Hammer Museum on Sept. 15, 2012! Three Squares in the Shape of A. Pärt is a piece for solo toy piano. It was presented at Richard's Inner Child, Old Soul concert as part of Wild Up's residency at the Museum.

PART 1: Clockwise


PART 2: Static
 

PART 3: Counter-clockwise
 

The score consists of three square images and transparencies with musical staves that are to be layed over the images. There is a variety of image/score combinations and orientations, which gives the performer a choice in how they would like to interact with the piece. Below is an example of one of those ways.




Thursday, May 16, 2013

SASSAS' Blast! [10] on May 19

On Sunday, May 19 SASSAS will hold their tenth annual Blast! fundraiser at a private home in San Marino.

Blast! [10] features music by Lou Barlow, Dos (the two-bass duo comprised of punk rock legends Mike Watt and Kira Roessler), Killsonic, and Dani Tull.

There will also be a silent auction featuring work by Scott Benzel, Andrea Bowers, Rodney McMillian, Chris Kallmyer, Cindy Bernard, Krystal Krunch, Martin Kersels, Michael Smith, Simone Forti, Louise Lawler, Kori Newkirk, Julian Hoeber, Heather Rasmussen, Renée Petropoulos, Roy Dowell, Lari Pittman, Stephanie Taylor, Taft Green, Alice Konitz, and James Welling.

Get tickets and more info from the SASSAS website. Bid on the silent auction at Blast! [10] on Sunday, or if you can't attend place a proxy bid by midnight Saturday.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Marina Abramovic's Manifesto

I've been thinking about Marina Abramovic's manifesto recently. Not her recent MOCA Gala controversy, but the written manifesto itself. Here's a video of her reading it aloud in Florence. Below that is the text, re-posted from Il Grande Vetro



1. An artist’s conduct in his life:
  • An artist should not lie to himself or others 
  • An artist should not steal ideas from other artists 
  • An artist should not compromise for themselves or in regards to the art market 
  • An artist should not kill other human beings 
  • An artist should not make themselves into an idol 
  • An artist should not make themselves into an idol 
  • An artist should not make themselves into an idol 

2. An artist’s relation to his love life:
  • An artist should avoid falling in love with another artist 
  • An artist should avoid falling in love with another artist 
  • An artist should avoid falling in love with another artist 

3. An artist’s relation to the erotic:
  • An artist should develop an erotic point of view on the world 
  • An artist should be erotic 
  • An artist should be erotic 
  • An artist should be erotic 

4. An artist’s relation to suffering: 
  • An artist should suffer 
  • From the suffering comes the best work 
  • Suffering brings transformation 
  • Through the suffering an artist transcends their spirit 
  • Through the suffering an artist transcends their spirit 
  • Through the suffering an artist transcends their spirit 

5. An artist’s relation to depression:
  • An artist should not be depressed 
  • Depression is a disease and should be cured 
  • Depression is not productive for an artist
  • Depression is not productive for an artist 
  • Depression is not productive for an artist 

6. An artist’s relation to suicide:
  • Suicide is a crime against life 
  • An artist should not commit suicide 
  • An artist should not commit suicide 
  • An artist should not commit suicide 

7. An artist’s relation to inspiration:
  • An artist should look deep inside themselves for inspiration 
  • The deeper they look inside themselves, the more universal they become 
  • The artist is universe 
  • The artist is universe 
  • The artist is universe 

8. An artist’s relation to self-control:
  • The artist should not have self-c ontrol about his life 
  • The artist should have total self-control about his work 
  • The artist should not have self-control about his life 
  • The artist should have total self-control about his work 

9. An artist’s relation with transparency:
  • The artist should give and receive at the same time 
  • Transparency means receptive 
  • Transparency means to give 
  • Transparency means to receive 
  • Transparency means receptive 
  • Transparency means to give 
  • Transparency means to receive 
  • Transparency means receptive 
  • Transparency means to give 
  • Transparency means to receive 

10. An artist’s relation to symbols:
  • An artist creates his own symbols 
  • Symbols are an artist’s language 
  • The language must then be translated 
  • Sometimes it is difficult to find the key 
  • Sometimes it is difficult to find the key 
  • Sometimes it is difficult to find the key

11. An artist’s relation to silence:
  • An artist has to understand silence 
  • An artist has to create a space for silence to enter his work 
  • Silence is like an island in the middle of a turbulent ocean 
  • Silence is like an island in the middle of a turbulent ocean 
  • Silence is like an island in the middle of a turbulent ocean 

12. An artist’s relation to solitude:
  • An artist must make time for the long periods of solitude 
  • Solitude is extremely important 
  • Away from home 
  • Away from the studio 
  • Away from family
  • Away from friends 
  • An artist should stay for long periods of time at waterfalls 
  • An artist should stay for long periods of time at exploding volcanoes 
  • An artist should stay for long periods of time looking at the fast running rivers 
  • An artist should stay for long periods of time looking at the horizon where the ocean and sky meet 
  • An artist should stay for long periods of time looking at the stars in the night sky 

13. An artist’s conduct in relation to work:
  • An artist should avoid going to the studio every day
  • An artist should not treat his work schedule as a bank employee does 
  • An artist should explore life and work only when an idea comes to him in a dream or during the day as a vision that arises as a surprise 
  • An artist should not repeat himself 
  • An artist should not overproduce 
  • An artist should avoid his own art pollution 
  • An artist should avoid his own art pollution 
  • An artist should avoid his own art pollution 

14. An artist’s possessions:
  • Buddhist monks advise that it is best to have nine possessions in their life: 
  1. 1 robe for the summer 
  2. 1 robe for the winter 
  3. 1 pair of shoes 
  4. 1 begging bowl for food 
  5. 1 mosquito net 
  6. 1 prayer book 
  7. 1 umbrella 
  8. 1 mat to sleep on 
  9. 1 pair of glasses if needed 
  • An artist should decide for himself the minimum personal possessions they should have
  • An artist should have more and more of less and less 
  • An artist should have more and more of less and less 
  • An artist should have more and more of less and less

15. A list of an artist’s friends:
  • An artist should have friends that lift their spirits 
  • An artist should have friends that lift their spirits 
  • An artist should have friends that lift their spirits 

16. A list of an artist’s enemies:
Enemies are very important
  • The Dalai Lama has said that it is easy to have compassion with friends but much more difficult to have compassion with enemies 
  • An artist has to learn to forgive 
  • An artist has to learn to forgive 
  • An artist has to learn to forgive 

17. Different death scenarios:
  • An artist has to be aware of his own mortality 
  • For an artist, it is not only important how he lives his life but also how he dies 
  • An artist should look at the symbols of his work for the signs of different death scenarios 
  • An artist should die consciously without fear 
  • An artist should die consciously without fear 
  • An artist should die consciously without fear 

18. Different funeral scenarios:
  • An artist should give instructions before the funeral so that everything is done the way he wants it 
  • The funeral is the artist’s last art piece before leaving 
  • The funeral is the artist’s last art piece before leaving 
  • The funeral is the artist’s last art piece before leaving

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

RIP Ray Harryhausen

When I was a kid, my mind was blown when my family rented a VHS tape of Jason and the Argonauts, featuring animation by Ray Harryhausen and music by Bernard Herrmann. Here it is on Dailymotion:



Harryhausen passed away on Tuesday, and undeniably left a huge legacy behind. Here is The Ray Harryhausen Chronicles, a documentary about him. If memory serves me, it was included as an extra on the 7th Voyage of Sinbad DVD.







James Klopfleisch's audio reviews

Responding to a perceived dearth of experimental music reviews in Los Angeles, James Klopfleisch has taken it upon himself to create several audio reviews.

Here is one of the recent Monday Evening Concert:



And here is one for a recent house concert:

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

CONCERT REVIEW: Eclipse Quartet @ Artshare, 04/28

On Saturday night, The Eclipse Quartet played a show at Boston Court as part of Microfest. Unfortunately, I couldn't be there to hear it, so instead I went to their show on Sunday, 04/28 at Artshare. The two concerts had two pieces in common: Lou Harrison's String Quartet Set and Ben Johnston's String Quartet #4 (Amazing Grace). On Sunday they played Ken Walicki's nada Brahma, which was replaced by Kyle Gann's Love Scene on Saturday.

The Harrison quartet, like much of his music, holds my interest in how surprisingly effective it is. When sculpting something so straightforward, austere, and often plaintive, it is the craft and nuanced detail that really gives the music the level of quality one expects from a Lou Harrison piece. His contrapuntal writing is finely constructed, sounding even more so by his diverse contextualizations - couched in medieval Palestinian songs, French baroque rondos, Turkish rhythms, and introverted melodies.

Ben Johnston's Amazing Grace is a fascinating piece, starting as extremely straightforward and slowly drifting down the microtonal rabbit hole through a series of variations on the theme of Amazing Grace. It sounds like an appeal to the mass public, slowly guiding them with extremely familiar melodic material towards the gilded heights of just intoned clouds.

Ken Walicki's nada Brahma had little in common with the other two pieces, though it laid claim to a transcontinental leaning, similar the Harrison. Written for the Kronos Quartet in 1997, it sounded like it was written for the Kronos Quartet in 1997 - incorporating amplified string quartet and and electronic rhythm track to portray the overlap of rock and Indian influences.

I was sad to miss the Kyle Gann, as I find his tuning systems to be quite interesting. If anyone has any thoughts on that piece, please do share them in the comments!

Both evenings sounded like they would be tremendous undertakings, as the Johnston quartet alone is extremely difficult. Nonetheless, The Eclipse Quartet were able to approach the music on Sunday with skill and delicacy. It is exciting and rare to hear some of these pieces live, as it is to hear ensembles like this take it upon themselves to champion this music.

The Eclipse Quartet will soon be releasing an album with percussionist William Winant, featuring music by Frederic Rzewski, James Tenney, and Zeena. Their most recent recording was of Morton Feldman's Piano and String Quartet with pianist Vicki Ray.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

MURAL at Baldwin Hills this afternoon!


sound. at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook features a new composition created for the Baldwill Hills Scenic Overlook by internationally recognized experimental duo MURAL (Jim Denley, Australia and Kim Myhr, Norway). Accompanying MURAL in realizing this new SASSAS commission are 8 Los Angeles area musicians including Matt Barbier, Ted Byrnes, Archie Carey, Claire Chenette, Daniel Corral, Jonah Levy, Heather Lockie, Jake Rosenzweig, and Greg Stuart (South Carolina).

This event is FREE and starts at 5:00PM

Street parking is available along Jefferson Blvd., but come prepared for a steep climb up the Overlook stairs. Limited parking is available at the top of the hill for $6.00. Carpooling is strongly encouraged.

"The Baldwin Park Scenic Overlook is unique in the greater Los Angeles area and California State Park system. A historically complex site, the Overlook offers 360 degree views of the Los Angeles Basin as it resides at the juncture of industry and parkland / preserve. Adjacent to the location of the 1963 Baldwin Hills Dam break and just north of an active oil field, the park was the site of a decade long development battle which was successful in fending off a 230-home development, but failed to stop the flat topping of the hill. Parts of the park have been regraded and in certain ways the land still looks as though it's recovering from the earlier violence."(Christopher Hawthorne, Los Angeles Times).