Thursday, December 30, 2004

Quantum Darwinism

According to quantum physics, anything anyone can conceive of is happening in its own quantum reality. There are an infinite number of these realities dreamt up by all of us. So why do we all seem to be sharing one particular reality? There's a theory I just heard about that tries to explain why.

Quantum Darwinism is kind of a natural selection, or survival of the fittest, of quantum realities. The more people experience a certain reality, the more real it is. It seems to make a difference, too, whether the circumstances of that reality are recorded -- the recording seems to stand in for another person experiencing it, raising the number of witnesses.

This explains why a hypothetical couple can disagree about how a certain conversation went, even though they were both there and participated in the same conversation. Since there are only two of them, the reality they experienced is fragile and easily warped by each individual's baggage and biases. However if the couple tape-recorded the conversation, they have another "person" (the recording) to shore up the reality they participated in and help them agree on it. If they have this conversation in the presence of several other people, the reality is going to be shored up even further.

So if you are ever trying to switch yourself from your current reality into another one -- perhaps a reality where you are rich and/or famous, or a reality where somebody you have an unrequited crush on returns your affections -- keep in mind that you may be the only person who's supporting that reality. The mass of humanity may be supporting the reality you are currently in, where you're a working stiff, toiling in obscurity, and/or where even by curing cancer or winning a Grammy award, you could never get that person to give a damn.

Believability seems to be the key. After I delve into this theory a bit more, I'll see what else I can come up with.

It's less than a month before my first recording sessions for Not Made of Stone! The train trip up to Eugene is going to be beautiful and I am practicing really hard. I've written a flute solo for "How Now Is Soon" and a bass flute solo for "Ultralite", and I'm working on bass flute and flute parts for "Blood With Salt". Jeff Davis will play drums, Jim Carr will play bass, Dan Magazin will play piano (I'm sending him up to Eugene as a MIDI file), and I'll play flute, bass flute, and guitar and do the vocals.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Sleep Now in the Fire

So where does Rage Against the Machine fit into the Matrix?

I started wondering today at the gym. I was struck by the immense irony of listening to their thunderous call to revolutionary action (The Battle of Los Angeles) while running in place on an elliptical trainer. Somehow I doubt keeping my heart rate in the high end of my target zone (and exceeding it quite often...this is Rage, after all) for a half hour was really what they had in mind when they created that music and those words.

I'm listening to the same music that was played over the sound system at the Counter-Inaugural I marched in four years ago. I'm feeling so lefty and great but I am running in place on a damned piece of gym equipment. This has got to be exactly what the right is counting on. It has also got to be what Sony, the major label Rage was on, counted on when they released their music -- that it would sell, and make them lots of money, but that nothing would happen, and the corporate/governmental fifth estate would be completely unscathed by it because Rage's listeners won't Do Anything as a result of their message.

They've done their research and they've gotta know that I (a representative of my Gen X demographic) put in massive hours every day trying to get the bills paid, create my art, and maintain my sanity. I work from the moment I get up to the moment I go to sleep and there's no time left over to Do Anything -- and I don't even have kids!

And even if I contribute whatever I can to an org whose mission is to Do Something -- the last election proved that money and mobilization isn't necessarily going to win the day. Donations poured into the Dean campaign, and later the Kerry campaign, from people who realized how high the stakes were and who had never given to a political party before in their lives. And the bad guys still won.

What threat could Rage Against the Machine possibly pose if their millions of records were bought by people like me?

The Matrix has me.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

The first rule of Fight Club... you don't talk about Fight Club. But I'm going to talk about Fight Club anyway! I think it is a really, really good movie. I got a chance to see it on DVD last night. I'm really impressed. It is dark and fascinating and Gnostic. It is right up there with my other favorite movies, which are The Truman Show, The Matrix (the original), and Donnie Darko.

Speaking of Gnostic, I have been telling a few people lately about my trip to Scotland and how the first place I went was Rosslyn Chapel. They ask me why I went there, and the easiest way to explain it to people who haven't studied Gnosticism and Grail mythology in depth is to reference The Da Vinci Code. It seems a great many people have read it and can grok the Grail references. I haven't read it yet but I know what the gist of it is, and I feel good about how the author has found a way to get that mythos into the public consciousness with a work of fiction.

Monica says that they are going to make a movie of The Da Vinci Code, and that Tom Hanks will star in it. She says he is not dashing enough to play the main character, and that she would prefer Russell Crowe in the main role. He' s certainly dashing.

In other news, I've been asked to contribute a track to an anti-Bush compilation CD upcoming from Pax Recordings. I've submitted one, and I hope it will be included. It's short and to the point (1:23) and I call it "Cold Blood". I wrote the words in one afternoon while hiking Sweeney Ridge. I'll let you all know if it is added to the complilation CD and how to get one if so.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Not to be overly dramatic or anything, but nobody alive today remembers how the Romans watched the Senate become ineffectual, and the Emperor become a dictator...certainly I don't, but I read about it somewhere. Seems to me there may have been many, many regular Romans who were uncomfortable with the way the Emperor's military campaigns depleted the treasury and left problems unattended to at home, and with the way the Emperor went on and on about Family Values.
I also bet there were many regular Germans who were puzzled and uncomfortable with the Nazi Party's rise to power, and didn't participate in it, but had to live with the consequences. I bet they wondered, at the beginning of it, what the next few years would bring.

A friend of a friend of a friend, named Paul, sent out the following email which was forwarded to me and I offer it for no reason other than I can't come up with anything near as good, in my present state of shock and hurt. (not awe). It's his advice about how to go forward in this time. Even with the San Francisco Bay Area-specific stuff, I think it's relevant enough to post. Here goes:

1. Everybody gets money. Every payday (if you're lucky enough to still have paydays), write a check, even just a small one. Today I started off the next four years by giving money to a local strike fund (hotel workers are striking here in SF). Next payday, I renew my ACLU membership. After that, it's NRDC, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, etc. The great thing is that once you send that first check, you'll get all kinds of convenient postage-paid return envelopes for next payday's check. Do it; you'll feel like you're doing something and that alone will help.

2. If you haven't already, shift your phone service to Working Assets. It's easy, it costs about the same, and they give part of your money to good progressive causes. Better that extra little bit go to the Sierra Club, for instance, than to SBC profits.

3. Nourish the bubble. For those of us fortunate/determined enough to live in the Bay Area bubble, remember how lucky we are. True, it is a bubble, a veritable echo chamber of progressive viewpoints. True, it is cut off from a lot of the country. But it isn't cut off from all of the country (see below), and there are things we get to do in the bubble, things that make life worth living, worth treasuring, things that point the way to a better tomorrow. You have to have laboratories in order to figure out what will work. We live in a left-wing laboratory. Keep the lab clean, make sure the apparatus are in good working order, check to make sure the supply room is well-stocked, and remember that publishing the results is an important part of the process.

4. Remember that we are not alone. There are at least 56 million people here who roughly agree with you. That's a lot. It's a whole lot. It was almost enough. We Are Not Alone. And because we are not alone, despair, cynicism, defeatism, hopelessness, and withdrawal are Not Allowed. You don't abandon the team just because we lost the game. Show up for practice with your cleats on; there are more games on the schedule.

5. Remember that we are, despite everything, fortunate. We were born and/or live in a very rich country, one with an enormous amount of power in all senses of the word. We have a responsibility to each other and to those around the world to do whatever we can to try to ensure that that power is exercized for the good whenever possible. We couldn't quite make it this time; that doesn't relieve us of the responsibility to keep trying. One of the other side's Big Lies is that they have a monopoly on morality; giving up the game lets them continue to believe that.

6. We haven't lost everything, and it isn't all hopeless. 5 isn't 9. 55 isn't 60. If you don't know what those mean, find out; it's important.

7. Take care of yourself, your friends, your family, and your communities. This is closely associated with Nourishing the Bubble, but even closer to home. Keep volunteering with your theater company, your BDSM social organization, your domestic violence hotline, your gay rights organization. Keep doing pro bono work. Keep holding social events. All of this makes a difference, and usually a bigger difference than most things coming out of Washington.

8. Finally, keep thinking of other ways to survive in the darkness and let people know what you come up with.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

You ARE going to vote today, right?

If you're from the States, that is. You're registered, and you're going to vote? You know where your polling place is? You know when they're open?


Thursday, October 28, 2004

How it all began. Sort of.

Reverse psychology works pretty well on me.

It was 1985ish, if memory serves, and I was home doing homework and listening to the radio. The station was 105.3 here in San Francisco. At that time I had been playing the flute for awhile already (about 10 years). It was about 9 in the evening and the DJ on the air was Steve Masters. He played a song by Men Without Hats, who at that time were trying to make a comeback. The song was "On Tuesday" and it featured a guest appearance by Ian Anderson.

I don't remember much about the song or Ian Anderson's flute solo. Truthfully that was the only time I've ever listened to him. I kid you not. I haven't been purposely avoiding him or anything. I just have never gotten around to hearing any Jethro Tull.
But anyway Steve Masters started talking after the song and he declared, "You know, I just don't believe the flute has any place in rock music. I just don't."

I took that very personally, for no good reason other than I was a teenager and therefore prone to overreact. I sat up really straight and scowled and said, "Hey!" indignantly to the radio.

I wish I could say I started practicing feverishly that very night, and wore my lips out every day thereafter for the next 20 years, trying to become the Next Great Rock Flutist. I didn't. I went right on following the path toward being a classical flute player for quite a long time after that. But at least my mind was open enough to disagree with old Steve Masters.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

The MusicVine

I have a summary page on has a feature called "MusicVine", in which artists orbit around each other in alleged "spheres of influence". As far as I know artists aren't consulted about who their influences are. Somebody else comes up with that.

So if you click on the MusicVine while you're looking at my page on, I come up in a constellation where my closest influence is Steven Halpern. This came as a bit of a surprise since I have never listened to his music on purpose. There was a time when I worked at a metaphysical bookshop, and his music was on sale there, and sometimes we played it over the PA system for atmosphere.

The music industry is just a big alien galaxy. Most musicians just shake their heads over it. But, if you want people to hear your music in any appreciable numbers, you have to engage with it somehow. One of the first things that has to be determined is how to classify you.

I know my music is very hard to classify and that's how I like it. When my last two albums came out, I hired radio promotions firms, and in order to do their job and get me added to radio stations, they had to come up with a way to pitch me. For Summerland, Peter Hay, who promoted me, focused on the Celtic slant of my lyrics and pitched me as a modern folk artist. For Diogenes, Musik International zeroed in on my mysticism and promoted me as a New Age artist. The album even charted on New Age Reporter.

So this is apparently what stuck for, who have me in a sphere of influence with Steven Halpern, and a little bit further over, Gabrielle Roth (who I have listened to quite a lot on purpose). I would rather be orbiting around with my real influences but there's nothing I can do about it. So go listen to my tunes anyway!

Friday, September 17, 2004

Alexander technique. Maybe that will be the ticket.

Tomorrow morning I've got an appointment with an Alexander teacher.

My first experience with Alexander Technique was when I took a masterclass with Ann LaBerge in 1989. She is also an Alexander teacher and that one lesson I had was really eye-opening. So when I was making my list of things I would try in order to treat my injury, Alexander Technique was definitely on the list.

Repetitive stress injuries are common in flute players (and all instrumental musicians). Mine is tendinitis. I suffered with it originally in my left forearm ("tennis elbow") and later on in my shoulder -- bicipital tendinitis. Various practitioners have treated it with prescription drugs, physical therapy, cortisone shots, Chinese herbs and acupuncture. All of them helped somewhat (except for the cortisone shots. Those were an unqualified bust). My forearm pain actually went away. But the shoulder continues to be a problem. I have had pain of some kind, from mild to severe, every time I've played the flute since 1988.

I now have a flute with an offset G key, which has been a goal of mine for years. It's taken the stress off my left arm that the inline flute keys of my old flute used to put on it. Now that the instrument is no longer in my way, I've got to make sure that I myself stop getting in my own way. I hope the Alexander lesson tomorrow gets me on the path.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

He's so sweet with his jet-black stare...

A few weeks back somebody from the SFPD came on TV and warned the public not to feed the pigeons, because, he said, "they're taking over." And I came out onto the street from some building that day and there *did* seem to be more of them. That's really the kind of takeover though that I could get behind. It would be a liberation of sorts. Pigeons have such mellow energy. I think if the pigeons took over and marched in formation down the streets of San Francisco, I would stand on the sidewalk and wave my handkerchief.

On Polk Street I saw a pigeon who had lost a foot and was gimping around on the stump of his leg. I tried to target him with some pieces of granola bar. The others fought him for the food, of course. This went on for a little while and then all of a sudden, a homeless guy appeared beside me on my left. He seemed to come out of nowhere, and I wondered if maybe one of the pigeons, making use of some transformative powers we don't know yet that they have, had turned himself into a homeless guy...he said that he was really hungry, and that he hadn't eaten in three days. I was very impressed and gave him the whole granola bar.

I walked down to the corner and another woman shook her head at me and said, "You really shouldn't feed them." I wondered whether she meant pigeons, or homeless people.

Monday, August 16, 2004

The Nashville biosphere

I'm just now back from the NFA convention in Nashville. I thought last year's surroundings in Las Vegas were over the top but it was tame compared to this year's environment! The Gaylord Opryland Resort is a nine-acre self-contained complex under glass domes. It's all climate-controlled, so that you can walk around during the day feeling like you're outside, but you're not really, and you're protected from the hot and sticky weather outside. When the sun goes down it seems like they dial the air conditioning back a bit, maybe 15 degrees, so that it seems like nighttime, but you still don't have to wear a jacket.

There's a jungle planted in there. There are hundreds of tropical plants and lots of fountains, a river, lots of pools, and waterfalls. Everything is connected by a maze of paths and escalators and stairways. It's very easy to get lost and I did, a few times. It was SO Logan's Run.

There are restaurants and shops. Everything is hella expensive though, and there was very little I could eat. I ate a $4.00 bagel with cream cheese one morning. I didn't really buy much food, relying on the granola bars I brought from home, and using my $10.00 daily volunteer reimbursement to get a salad or equal for dinner.

Volunteering was fun. I threw myself into my duties as door monitor for several events. I shared a hotel room with three very nice women. Katie Zimmer was from Michigan, Carla Holtz was from Ohio, and Angela Heo was from Korea. She gave the Korean flute workshop which unfortunately I didn't get to go to because I had an early flight home Sunday morning.

I really enjoyed Camilla Hoitenga's concert, "Savage Aural Hotbed". I got to see Robert Dick unveil his Glissando Headjoint at the Brannen Brothers exhibitor showcase (yay!!!!). I liked Paul Edmund-Davies' rendition of the John Harbison flute concerto. Shannon Heaton's Celtic flute workshop was very very cool. So was the lecture/demonstration put on by Indian flute boy wonder Shashank.But now I'm back and it's time to readjust and get back on all the tasks that have been waiting for me to finish traveling. I've got the first set of recording sessions for Not Made of Stone set up for January 2005, and it's time to start rehearsing for those.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Fahrenheit 9/11 & Scotland the Brave

Regarding Michael Moore's movie, if you haven't seen it yet, you need to. TRUST me. :)

Now then, I just got back from a wonderful vacation in Scotland, which included Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Banff & Macduff, and the Orkneys. I was very much focused on ancient monuments...which is interesting because my album's going to be called Not Made of Stone, but I was intent on photographing things that were made of stone, in Scotland. I visited Rosslyn Chapel (mysteriously carved stone), 6 stone circles in Aberdeenshire, and 6 ancient monuments on West Mainland Orkney, including Skara Brae, Unstan Cairn, Maeshowe, the Standing Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brogar, and Cuween Hill Chambered Cairn.

It was so moving finally to see Skara Brae, after writing my piece about it in 1995, and always hoping to see it. It's well cared for by Historic Scotland, but that gives it kind of an antiseptic, unreal quality, the way the grass is kept closely clipped, and the way it's surrounded by explanatory markers. I know it has to be done in order to preserve it. I really learned a lot, and there was a lot of energy to be sensed from the ruins themselves and from Skaill Bay. Skaill House, the home of the laird who build the seawall to protect Skara Brae after it was discovered in 1850, is right nearby and can be seen in the background of one of my photos.
The Ben Nevis & Glen Coe area was glorious to drive through. It's quite a thing how the mountains there look as imposing as anything we have in California, and yet when you look at the map, they're all only about 1,000 feet high! When I go back, I'm definitely staying in the Orkneys longer, plus longer stays in Banff/Macduff and Aberdeen. Those were the places I really connected with the most.Having only just gotten over that trip, I'm off early Wednesday morning for Nashville to attend the NFA convention. I'm not performing this year, just hangin' out and volunteering and hoping to sell a flute.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Disavowing humanity

Awhile back I wrote about being ashamed to be an American, because it meant atrocities were being committed in my name. Now, I'm almost ashamed to be human. When the aliens come, I'm gonna tell them I'm not human. I'm not one of those humans doing this.

This is old news in the animal rights community, of course. For decades those who fight for the rights of animals have known that these conditions exist and are commonplace in the factory farms that raise the animals that end up in restaurants and supermarkets. However, nobody wants to hear a bunch of tree-hugging hemp-wearing Green-voting pacifist vegans wail about the animals and the unspeakable things they go through. It's boring and histrionic and we would all rather have a nice bucket of KFC or a burger.

I am not, by the way, weeping and wringing my hands and begging all the people to GO TOWARD THE LIGHT! In case anybody reading this blog doesn't know this already, I am Wiccan. It is my job to know that one cannot light a candle without casting a shadow. I live by "an it harm none, do as thou wilt", but the pure expression of the Rede is as unattainable as any of the Christian teachings. One cannot live on this planet without doing harm. I don't eat meat, and have not done so for 14 years, but that doesn't mean I am not doing harm. The plants I eat are sentient and they had to die in order to become food for me. There's nothing I can do about that. I walk down the street knowing that with every step I end the lives of microscopic life forms. We all do. There is nothing we can do about that.

But when I am celebrating someone's birthday and the celebratory birthday meal has been arranged to happen at the Carrow's in Santa Rosa, I can rely on the fact that nobody at that restaurant concerned themselves about whether the eggs, comprising the veggie omelet which is the only thing on the menu I can eat, were free-range. Undoubtedly they are not, and I've gotta close my eyes and plug my ears and sing "la, la, la" to myself so as not to remember that the same chickens that are having their beaks cut off without anesthesia and are being thrown, stomped, and otherwise terrorized before their necks are wrung, laid the eggs that I am eating.
You folks out there who love your meat, or who are on your Atkins diet or whatever, rest assured that in my ideal universe, everybody gets to eat whatever they want. Really. Honestly. Including you. However, there's one condition: if you are gonna eat meat, you have to kill that animal yourself. That's the only sporting, honest thing to do. If you want that meat, you are going to have to kill that animal yourself. Surely you will welcome that task because you really, really want that burger.

If I'm willing to pull a carrot out of the ground and wash it off and eat it, then surely you are man or woman enough to take the life of the creature YOU wish to consume. Go right ahead; be my guest. Just don't allow a corrupt, polluting, morally twisted, politically connected and otherwise inexcusable agribusiness do it for you. That's got nothing to do with the circle of life.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Luggage Store Gallery

The Luggage Store Gallery is across the street from the Golden Gate Theater, where Hairspray is currently being performed. It's on Market Street at 6th Street, which is a rather, uh, intense neighborhood. Despite this, the gallery has been doing really well.

The gallery itself is up at the top of a steep double flight of stairs and musicians perform at the street end of the space in front of a row of tall windows. Organizers Rent Romus and Matt Davignon told me that normally, there's a big velvet curtain hanging in front of the windows, but that it was taken down recently and they don't know why. They hope it's coming back, since it helps make the space less live, and Rent has a noise show booked for the very near future.

Anyway, Zeke Talbot played first on detuned and prepared guitar, with some looping going on and singing along. He had something very haunting and disturbing going on, like a serial killer in a scary indie film, that I really appreciated. I went next along with Will and Jim, and Peter Nyboer was last with his laptop music. He also did a turntable improvisation that I really liked. We all had the street light and the Golden Gate Theater marquis in the background. Rent told me that he was grateful one of the two street lights was burnt out, because last time they had both been shining in behind the performers and that it was pretty blinding.

Celeste was there with a DAT recorder with which she recorded our set. She'll be transferring it to CD and I really hope it comes out well, because the music felt and sounded really good while we were doing it. You never know though if it will come across in a recording.

In other news Ben McAllister has posted sound files, photos, and commentary from Big Sur on his web site. You can see it at

In other and even better news, I've been awarded a grant from the American Composers Forum's Subito fund. It will help me make my upcoming fourth CD, Not Made of Stone.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Me and the Punk Rock Orchestra

Yesterday I attended a Punk Rock Orchestra rehearsal to deliver the parts for my arrangement of my song "Road Spiders". That's all I was planning to do, but when I got there the director, John Gluck, asked me if I'd brought my flute. Apparently their first flute player, Suzanne, wasn't going to be in for a couple of rehearsals and he asked me to sit in.

It was a blast. The pieces we rehearsed were "Nazi Punks Fuck Off" by the Dead Kennedys, disturbingly morphed with Leo Delibes' Flower Duet; "Mosh of the Toreadors" arranged by John based on Carmen; and an arrangement of "New York's Alright If You Like Saxophones" by Fear. It was a lot of fun.

We ran through "Road Spiders" too. I got to demonstrate the flute part. I took comments from the players who needed changes made to their parts (mostly to make them less long, not so many page turns, easier to read, etc.). Nobody was amplified so we couldn't hear the mezzo-soprano's rendering of the words, but I could read her lips, and I'm sure later on I'll hear them amplified. I know I did the right thing leaving the brasses out of the arrangement because the bass line was quite loud enough with just the low woodwinds and the strings. One brass player who was there said the piece sounded like Vulcan music. A violist gave me a big thumbs-up and Michael Mendelssohn, one of their singers, gave me a high five. John really seemed to like it. So it's a good start!

Will Grant, Jim Carr, and I are getting ready for our gig at the Luggage Store Gallery on July 1. We have sketched out a basic outline for our 30 minutes. I have written all-new words, and the music will be improvised. You should come hear it!

Monday, May 31, 2004

No rest for the wicked

That's what my mom used to say when I whined about my chores as a kid. I was a very literal-minded child and I was always concerned that the remark meant that I was wicked (in the traditional bad way) and that therefore I had to do lots of chores.

Nowadays I know better -- wicked is actually a good thing. :) The part about no rest has not changed. Yesterday's experience at the Big Sur Experimental Music Festival was really, really good. I had a great time improvising with my assigned cohorts. I think it went extremely well. The event is wonderfully peaceful, happy and convivial. It's great to be with so many of one's own kind, and make and renew contacts. The redwoods are beautiful, and the Henry Miller Library helps to create an atmosphere of freedom that feels so good held up against the usual city and suburban grind. This gig is a lot more like vacation than a gig, although I would hardly characterize gigs as "work", exactly; more like a soul's compulsion. It was pretty hot though.

Today I can't give myself a day off. There is a lot to do. There is a press package to send out, articles to write, practicing to do, contact info to be logged in and dealt with, and CDs to listen to. Ben McAllister from Seattle gave me a CD of his music, and Will Grant, who attended the festival and played too, gave me a CD of what he's done with the recordings we made earlier this month. It's all preparatory to our Luggage Store Gallery gig on July 1. Paul, in his role as official photographer, took about 150 pictures yesterday which will need to be developed and gone over. Soon there will be all new photos on this web site.

Celeste and her new girlfriend Nicole were there too. They are a cute couple! I got to say hi to Ken Lee (close friend of Michael Haumesser who engineered Taste the Wall -- who has a baby now, astonishingly) and Jonathon Grasse (my grad schoolmate, now teaching at UCLA). It was nice to see Ernesto Diaz-Infante again and to finally meet Matt Davignon after only emails up till now. I got to meet flutists Marjorie Sturm and Emily Hay. Ben McAllister seems pretty cool. I wonder if he's overflowing with positive energy all the time, or just at festivals. :) Max Valentino played a sensuous and warm bass guitar.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Album name change, again...

Wanted to let you all know that I've changed the name of my upcoming fourth album, AGAIN. It was going to be Exit Stage Wrong. Now, I've found one that is a better fit for the overall concept: Not Made of Stone.

In other news, Will Grant and I got together to do some recording last night at Celeste's Berkeley abode. I got my first look at the Long String Instrument, which is living there with its creator, Ellen Fullman, while Celeste is away at grad school. :) Will and I had to be very careful not to disturb it as we set up recording equipment nearby.

We took stabs at recording the flute part I've written for his piece, Dreams. We also recorded me doing a range of different flute sounds -- multiphonics,key percussion, different percussive tongued and air sounds, etc. -- and some spoken words, for him to process and use as laptop music in the gig we are going to do together on July 1st at the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco.

I'm almost done with the orchestral score for Road Spiders. I have until Thursday to get it finished and printed so I can deliver it to John Gluck after the Punk Rock Orchestra show.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

We interrupt our regular innocuous journal postings...


Can I just step up here for a minute and say I'm ashamed to be an American? Being an American means that atrocities are being committed in my name right this minute. Not only that -- my parents had atrocities committed in their name also. The Phoenix Project, the heinous thing upon which the current program of abuse in Iraq is based, was implemented during the Viet Nam war.

Here's a link where you can read all about it, and hopefully weep:

Here is a link to the official Army investigative documents about the prison abuses in Iraq:

So if anybody tries to wring their hands and tell you that what's going on in Iraq is "unprecedented", that's just not true. It is what happens under any colonial regime when the invader sets about oppressing the native inhabitants of its new colony.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

A Trekker's lament

I've been a fan of Star Trek since I saw my first episode of classic Trek, which was "Plato's Stepchildren". (I was in the hospital recovering from surgery, at a young age. Star Trek was not on the TV menu at home when I was a child.) There has been so much Trek since then. I've watched and been a fan of NextGen, Deep Space Nine, and varying degrees. But it was all Trek. I'm not having such a good time with Enterprise.

Recently it's seemed as though they are belaboring the point that in the pre-classic Trek historical period, humans were not (or won't be) nearly as highly evolved. This point is coming across very well, but I'm not sure how intentional it is. I just saw the rerun the other night where Lt. Reed and the Marine commando major had to batter each other like crazed 11-year-olds up and down the halls of the Enterprise. It was awful.

Paul made an interesting point recently which was that in Stargate SG-1, you can believe Col. O'Neill being a ruthless SOB on occasion because his background is in special ops. Capt. Archer being as cold-blooded as that, which he has been a LOT lately, is hardly believeable because he was a test pilot before becoming a starship captain. The Xindi-inflicted Sept. 11th notwithstanding.

The Enterprise episode featuring Sim, the copy of Trip that was made so that Dr. Phlox could harvest his cloned neural tissue to save the real Trip, was really disappointing in the cold-bloodedness of Capt. Archer and the Tale of Two Cities ending. It would have been so much more interesting if Trip had died and Sim went on to assume his role on the ship.

Besides which...and this seems to be the "early Trek humans are more primitive" thing again...Captain Picard would never have sacrificed Sim for his neural tissue once it became clear that Sim was distinct from Trip, especially after he saved the Enterprise. Both Picard and Capt. Janeway would have said something like, "This man is a member of my crew. Phlox, you're just going to have to keep Trip on ice and find some other way to save him." That could have taken half a dozen episodes and been hella interesting.

Sometimes I wonder if the current writers of Enterprise have ever actually watched any other Trek series, or if they were just hired with resumes full of The Commish and Lifetime movies. Or, perhaps there are just way too many executives from Paramount lurking around the set. I have no idea. I am just a disgruntled fan.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Define "self-indulgent"

I heard a really invigorating concert at Davies Hall Friday night. Esa-Pekka Salonen was the San Francisco Symphony's guest conductor that night, and the whole program was high-energy. They played A Night on Bald Mountain, the Mussorgsky chestnut I remember improvising to as a kid in ballet class; a piece that the conductor himself composed, called Insomnia; Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 1 in D-flat (with Yefim Bronfman playing the solo); and Bartok's Suite from The Miraculous Mandarin. Not even the guy sitting next to me, who clearly didn't want to be there and kept looking at his watch, could have fallen asleep during that gig.

I'm kind of cynical by nature about certain things and I wondered, when I saw the piece Insomnia on the program, whether it would be substantive or just self-indulgent. When the time came, I actually really liked it. Parts of it were really good sonic reproductions of late-night motorhead. Other parts of it were very loud and aggressive and not what I'd automatically think of when I would look back on my own late-night experiences, but I guess they were evocative of severe inner torment. Self-indulgent, though, it was not.

That made me wonder what exactly constitutes self-indulgence. I have discarded or rewritten a lot of lyrics over the years in an effort NOT to be self-indulgent. The standard I've worked with is, if it's likely nobody else but you knows what you're talking about, you'd better rewrite it. I know a lot of lyricists don't bother to do this but I feel it's important. One reason is, if you reveal too many specifics about what's informing your work, the listener may (a) find nothing in it to relate to, or (b) be embarrassed by your revelation, because s/he doesn't know you, and why should you be so familiar with your communication?

I have a very strong feeling that not all journal entries should be set to music. (Especially not this one.;) ) Yet, what the Muse offers you in times of your greatest torment or greatest joy may be the most original, or the most universal, statement you have to offer. On Diogenes I let my tunes be informed by very specific trauma, but I edited the lyrics so that they would be more obscure, less embarrassing, etc. (If you find them over-specific and/or embarrassing now, imagine how bad it was before I edited them!!!) For my lyrics to sound like something written by Staind, would be really wrong, I think.

Chrissie Hynde once said, "Ray Douglas Davies is the only songwriter who can write confessional lyrics without being embarrassing." I think "embarrassing" what I'm offering up as the definition of "self-indulgent". So does that mean "my heart on my sleeve" is also a synonym for "self-indulgent"? I think what I'm trying to say is, the music is more important than the self. I am trying to share my music, rather than just share my Self. It would be inappropriate to share my Self with many, many people I don't know.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Joel Krutt, DJ & now, musician

Joel Krutt is a longtime DJ at college radio station WHUS in Storrs, CT. He was one of the first to play my music on the air on his show, "Pushing the Envelope", back when all I had to give him was a demo cassette, and he still plays my tunes to this day. Now all his years of playing music has inevitably led him to make some of his own. His CD, What Next? arrived in the mail recently and it features lots of found sounds presented in classic ambient style. I was awfully flattered to find myself in the "special thanks" section of the liner notes. That is so cool. :) Thanks Joel!

In other news I'm busy with the beginning stages of arranging my song "Road Spiders" for the Punk Rock Orchestra. I've transcribed the Stewart Copeland-inspired drum track for real percussionists, and I'm making the bass line, which I improvised on a bass keyboard in 1995, into parts for contrabass, cello, and low winds. I'm really excited about this project. I can't wait to hear what the full orchestral assault will sound like.

Will Grant and I are busy trying to nail down a time to record that flute part for his piece Dreams in Berkeley. I haven't had much of a chance to work on the piece yet (apologies to Margery), but I will get to it soon. I haven't forgotten.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Long live Other Minds!

Thursday night was opening night of OM 10, the 10th annual Other Minds music festival. I signed up to volunteer at the reception, which meant I got to open countless champagne, sparkling cider, and Pellegrino bottles. It was literally a case of "pay no attention to the woman behind the curtain", since that's where the ice buckets with all the bottles were, behind the bartenders. :) Despite this I still got to say hello to Mary Chun, Lisa Petrie, Amy X. Neuburg, Herb Heinz, Pamela Z, Ellen Fullman, and Nicole Paiement.

The Thursday night concert was preceded by a symposium featuring composers and performers from the concert. I sat with Ellen and Celeste's dad, Ed. Then came the concert itself. I had come particularly to hear Hanna Kulenty's Flute Concerto No. 1 performed by Anne La Berge and the Parallele Ensemble conducted by my former prof Nicole Paiement.

Anne La Berge played the quarter-tone flute and alto flute. The ensemble backing her up was all winds except for piano, marimba, and electric bass. Most of the winds were brasses, too, which made for an unusual sound. Sometimes they played muted, and sometimes not. The flute solo was amplified and treated with reverb. It was interesting to hear the solo with reverb with everyone else dry.

The piece had a lot of sequences in it. My favorite part was the cadenza, which was slow, haunting, and expressive on the alto flute.

In other news, it looks like I will get to record the flute part I wrote for Will Grant's piece, plus write an article for the poetry site, and start working with the Punk Rock Orchestra as a composer-partner!

Friday, February 20, 2004

Proud to be a San Franciscan

It goes way beyond proud -- I'm deeply thrilled and honored to be a San Franciscan. It is amazing witnessing the next chapter of the civil rights movement.

I'm proud to be able to say that I know Gillian Smith, who hurried down to City Hall with her beloved Sarah, to become the second couple to be married there. I'm proud of Gavin Newsom, who I thought was a milktoast centrist Democrat all this time.
I shake my head at those doofus Democrats who are wringing their hands. Don't they recognize history when it's being made? Don't they know we will look back on this heroic moment in time someday and realize that this is how it began? In the future, when all my friends have the same rights that I do, I will be able to say that I was there and I saw all those people standing out in the rain in tuxedos and dresses two by two in a long line waiting to be married.

I got married once upon a time, and it was something I could just go over to the courthouse and do, get a marriage license. I happened to be born a certain way that made it all right. If we are really all created equal in this country, anybody should be able to do that. The mysteries of life and love are the same no matter who it is steals your heart and inflames your passion.

I did not ask to be born such an enthusiastic heterosexual, but it has certainly provided me with a lot of song material the past few years.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Shaky hands

My doctor ordered me off caffeine in September of 2002. This was a very tough transition marked by splitting headaches, low energy, and all the things you'd expect. Overall it has been a great help though. It's great that in the 21st century in the San Francisco Bay Area, a switch to decaf doesn't mean a taste sacrifice!

Nearly a year and a half later, my body responds very differently when I do consume caffeine. I have to be very circumspect about it on those rare occasions. I forgot about that this morning and added about a third of a cup of regular coffee to my decaf at the cafe I habitually go to on Sunday mornings, and now my hands won't stop shaking! It's really dramatic. On mornings when I don't get enough sleep, I'm tempted to add a little regular coffee to the decaf and along with the alertness, I often get anxiety and other side effects.

Celeste commented a little while ago, in a voice tinged with suspicion, that I was "so clean-living". I assured her it was only because the doctor read me the riot act, and that I used to be as wired as everybody else.

Last night the Lads and I met for rehearsal at Jim's place on the Stanford campus. Jim offered me a bottle of water, and when I opened it I found it was carbonated. I have never been able to drink carbonated beverages, because they always hurt my throat. I have tried them from time to time throughout my life and it's always been that way. Jim didn't know this of course because it's never come up.

When Grant arrived I offered him the bottle of water. He was surprised to hear of my beverage deficiency. I told him it was very sad and it isolated me from my peers. He said I could form a support group for non-carbos, but that I would probably get a bunch of Atkins diet folks.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Returning to SFSU

Will Grant and I played music at a silent art auction last night, which was a benefit for the SFSU Marin Headlands MFA program. The event took place in the Fine Arts Gallery in the new Fine Arts building. When I was attending SFSU (longer ago than I care to reveal), that building hadn't been built yet. It was actually my first time inside it. It is very dramatic how new the new buildings look, and how old the old buildings still look, on that campus. I found I still knew my way around the campus pretty well, despite the huge new buildings taking up what used to be open space.

Will and I dealt with technical limitations and the way the space changed when people came in and filled it up. I had written a flute part to go with his electronics and voice piece, Dreams, which has a text by Rose Lobel. He had sent me an mp3 of the electronic background, and knowing there was also a lead vocal part, I wrote myself something that was still in the background but which complented the electronics. This wasn't hard to do. Will's electronic music was really nice and had dramatic movement to it and it was easy to see where the flute would fit.

We'd both been led to believe there was an input on the soundboard for my mic, so I wrote multiphonics and whisper tones, which are really soft and need to be amplified. It turns out there was no input for my mic. I had to go directly into the back of one of the speakers, but that meant Will couldn't hear the electronics very well when improvising his vocal part. So the first time we did the piece, it didn't go so well. I said, I'll do something that is louder so you don't have to amplify me, and then you can hear better. So we made that adjustment and instead of multiphonics and whisper tones, I played with regular flute tone using notes from the multiphonics, and changed the whisper tone melody to regular flute tone also. It went a LOT better that way, and the piece came together in a way it hadn't the first time.

For never having collaborated before, I thought it was a really good start. I hope the MFA program made some money!