Thursday, February 23, 2006

60 x 60 - what's it really like?

The 60 x 60 Project had its West Coast premiere this evening at Mills College. I made my way over there and found a parking space and a seat in the Ensemble Room. Agnes Szelak, one of the contributors, was hosting it and she had an analog clock with a sweep second hand projected on the wall by means of a digital camera and a projector. The clock was awfully cute. It involved the anime character Pucca.

I met my fellow 60 x 60 contributor Katrina Wreede. She'd brought with her three of the smallest and best-behaved audience members ever -- Chan, Anh, and Hoa. All of whom are aspiring violinists! So it was appropriate that the show opened up with "Study" by Travis Ellrott which sounded like stringed instruments drag racing.

Eight pieces in, the digital camera started in with a self-test menu with text and graphics that obscured the Pucca clock. So Agnes turned it off and we listened to the show in darkness.

I think Rob Voisey has done a great job selecting the pieces. I say this naturally not just because he selected one of mine. The pieces are grouped by vibe and instrumentation and it is a really diverse set. There were instrumental pieces to start with, including a menacing cello drone and a clarinet and flute piece. Rene Veron's "I'm Not" seemed to depict a dreamlike struggle to speak and it ushered in a set of pieces all involving text. There was even a piece with somebody speaking French that mentioned the name Celeste!

A lot of the pieces were playful and fun and groovy and had me neck-working and chair-dancing. Others were haunting, which is one of my favorite qualities to hear in contemporary music. I got to hear a piece by Alex Shapiro whom I met at Composers Inc. It sounded like a jazzy seductive Los Angeles underbelly song. Harlem Lullaby gone wrong type thing. There were some pieces for piano and harpsichord whose common adjective would have to be "thunderous". Later on there was a set of love pieces. My piece, "Cold Blood", has been moved to #59 in the lineup. It was paired with another anti-war piece in the #60 slot. I really liked that.

I think you'll like 60 x 60 if it comes to your town. There's a wide range of styles and quite a lot of humor in it.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Wonderful weekend at PantheaCon.

Every great once in a while, I need to stop spending every weekend working so damn hard. :) Every year, an opportunity presents itself over the long Presidents' Day weekend, and it's called PantheaCon.

I had a wonderful time. It was my ninth PantheaCon and here are some of the highlights...

- Don Frew, Anna Korn, and Glenn Turner's presentation "Hekate in Turkey: Past Meets Present". The festival of Hekatesia has been revived at her oldest known temple at Lagina, Turkey, and it was exciting to hear all about it.
- Sabina Magliocco's presentation "In Search of the Roots of Stregheria".
- Squadrons of handsome men wearing Utilikilts. :)
- My shopping mission accomplished in the dealer room.
- Sarah Winter's presentation "Hellenismos".
- Hugs from and re-connections with old friends.
- Todd Jackson's presentation "Apollo: The God and his Cultus".
- Dromena ho Asklepios (the Asclepius healing ritual).
- Don Frew, Anna Korn, and Glenn Turner's presentation "Recent Discoveries in Pagan Mesopotamia". WOW. The oldest known ritual center (11,000 B.C.E.) has been found at Navel Hill in Turkey. And this is just one of the great finds these explorers got to visit on their trip to Turkey.
- Philip Heselton's "Gardnerian History". It's wonderful to hear about historical research done by someone who doesn't have an anti-Gardnerian axe to grind. :)

It was all completely fabulous. Now, I can get back to work, rejuvenated and re-centered.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Update on the Fling

My project with Shiloh Burton is starting to take shape. We have figured out the form it's going to take. Over the weekend Shiloh took some photographs and I will be creating a text-sound-poetry-with-musical-sounds piece featuring her voice.

What we're planning is to display the photographs in a space with a chair in it where the listener can put headphones on and listen to the piece.

It will be a very private experience for each individual listener -- no standing around hearing a soundtrack with other observers nearby. This is the way we're hoping to share what was a very private experience for me, which was hearing Shiloh describe how she sees me.

The Fling will happen on March 11 at the SomArts Bay Gallery in San Francisco.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Forms of Things Unknown

I'm grinning while typing this. Forms of Things Unknown (the swell project of my friend Ferrara Brain Pan) will be sharing the bill with me and the Company at our March 16th gig at the Luggage Store Gallery. I really like his music. Check him out:

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Composers Inc.

Last night Composers Inc. hosted its first concert of 2006 in the Green Room on the second floor of the Veterans' Building, across the street from San Francisco City Hall. Paul and I went and we had a bite to eat at Delessio's beforehand, and even had the last piece of their chocolate cake with the lemon buttercream frosting, which I'm sure kept me even more alert than usual through the evening.

While not quite green (hardly any green rooms are), this Green Room is kind of turquoise. It has high ceilings, huge chandeliers, and beautiful decor. It's a great place to hear new chamber music. I'm actually used to hearing new music in more gritty surroundings with metal folding chairs instead of cushioned ones, no name tags on the presenters, no refreshments, and less reliable climate control so this was pretty upscale.

A good crowd had turned out to hear the show, which featured the Los Angeles Flute Quartet. There was six pieces on the program by living American composers. All of them were different from each other, and all of them were fairly short. They said what they had to say, and then they were finished -- my favorite quality in a piece of new music.

It was my first experience with the Los Angeles Flute Quartet and they are extremely fine players. They all switched off on flute, piccolo, alto flute, and bass flute depending on what the piece called for. They played three pieces -- "Up in the Air" by Jeffrey Miller, "Chovihano (Gypsy Healer)" by Christopher Caliendo, and "Bioplasm" by Alex Shapiro.

Sarah Cahill played one of the pieces, "Self" by Daniel David Feinsmith, which was made for piano and spoken word. I do a lot of spoken word and I'd never thought of piano and spoken word together before. I'm not entirely sure it worked, but I always like being taken to a new conceptual place.

The California Quartet played "Dances and Nocturnes" by Stephen Gryc. The piece was made for violin, viola, cello, and piano and it was really beautiful. I talked to the composer at intermission and he was wearing a pin on his shirt that was a replica of the number 7 that's painted on the number 7 subway in NYC.

"Sleepless Night" by Martin Rokeach was for flute, violin, cello, and guitar. Kay Stern, the violinist from the California Quartet, played in this piece as well. She was a rock star. Her playing was fabulous in both the Gryc piece and this one.

The best piece by far of the whole night was "Bioplasm" by Alex Shapiro. I love hearing flutists other than myself play extended techniques, and I'm lucky if I hear one other person do them, but hearing FOUR people play them at once, and play them well, was a wonderful treat. Key percussion, air-timbre effects, and singing and playing were all integral to Alex's piece. I had never heard four people sing and play at the same time before, making eight-part harmony. It was really great to hear. The piece got a great audience response which was even better. It means new music's "polite society" can handle it.

I got to talk to Alex a little bit after the show. She is the chapter director of the ACF in Los Angeles. I got to talk to Lisa-Maree and Peter from the LAFQ and I enjoyed that very much also. Peter has one of those Kotato bass flutes everyone has been raving about and which are $10,000. He says the low register is really really responsive, among other fabulous qualities. He says the mechanism *does* go out of adjustment a little bit though when he does all the key percussion that Alex's piece demands.

So a great evening all around.